March 29, 2005

PACKING

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Cue the Stormy Theme Song: I'm a birdwatcher, I'm a birdwatcher, watching the birds go by, my oh my. . . .

So the roosters have been with us about three weeks, now. From time to time I've felt a twinge of conscience and thought, I really should go down to the local feed store and post a "Found Roosters" notice. But I haven't acted on that twinge. I've also thought that whoever lost their roosters ought to be able to find them -- and I know that for at least four weeks the roosters were on the recreational path that runs alongside our yard. So I have not had the feeling that whoever lost their roosters was acting very diligently to get them back.

Then, over the weekend, Scott happened to see a news clip on CNN about a problem that's becoming so severe in Roanoke, Virginia, that they are thinking of making it a crime and issuing citations for it: People are driving their unwanted roosters out into undeveloped areas and abandoning them. When Scott told me about this news clip, I had a little A-ha! moment.

Today I'm packing and getting ready for my trip to Philadelphia and the TKGA national convention. I'll be meeting up with my Knit-bud Anne from Portland. (She and I attended a TKGA national convention in 2000, as well.) This morning, in a rare moment of planning ahead, I've been looking over my homework assignments for the classes I'm taking:

Designer Workshop with Lily Chin: Bring whatever objects inspire you. (Well, I could pack a dozen suitcases with objects that inspire me! Will have to focus on just one or two projects . . . or three . . . .)

7 Things that Can Make or Break a Sweater with Margaret Fisher: When Anne and I attended the 2000 convention, we took several classes with Margaret Fischer, and really hit it off with her, so I look forward to taking a class from her again. Margaret Fischer is not only a marvelous knitting teacher, she's also a Master Knitter. She's assigned homework: the knitting of several swatches. Sounds like airplane knitting, no?

The Long & Short of Knitting Alterations: Also with Margaret Fisher, who's serious about assigning homework. This one requires the knitting of two 4x4" worsted weight stockinette stitch swatches, plus a swatch that's 4"x4", half in ribbing, half in stockinette. Good thing my flight is a long one, no?

Beadaring, Beadelighted, Beadazzled, Bead Knitting! with Lily Chin: Something I regretted a few years ago was not being able to take Lily Chin's bead knitting class at the Gig Harbor retreat that year. But I was teaching full time that year and couldn't take the day off. So taking this class is like the fulfillment of a dream. Remind me to pack Knit and Crochet with Beads by Ms. Chin, won't you? I hope I can get her to autograph it. Homework: Bring colored pencils, white-out, yarns, a stitch dictionary that has both textured stitch patterns and colored stitch patterns. This Harmony Guide is always in my knitting bag.

Color Design in Fair Isle Knitting with Melissa Leapman: I am curious to hear what Melissa Leapman can add to the discussion on this topic. No homework.

I read recently in the Smithsonian magazine that there's a Salvador Dali retrospective happening at Philadelphia's art museum. I would love to see this, although it may mean that I skip one of my classes to do so. But it would be a shame to go that far, and then not see it.

I leave you with a gallery of photos of the knitting that's been on my needles the last two days:

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I've finished the cables and bobbles chart of the Prince Caspian sweater and now am onto the main body, which is all knitted in False Rib stitch. I am not enjoying this stitch pattern. (I think it looks too lumpy.) I may rip back and try something else, like Broken Rib.

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Sandness sweater. I know it doesn't look like there's been a whole lot o' knittin' goin' on here. But pictures can be deceiving. I was this far along on the small size . . . had a serious discussion with the Spouse about fit . . . scrapped the small and started over. So what you see in the photo is the medium that I am now officially working on.

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Agonizing over Agnes. I think Agnes, from Vintage Style, is a darling little summertime sweater. Love the style. Love the yarn. Love the color.
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Two problems have reared their heads, though. First, when I began knitting this top, I wondered whether there was enough moss stitch in between those stockinette columns to keep the stockinette from rolling. Now that I am this far along, it is obvious that the stockinette is going to want to flip up. And to have the bottom half inch or inch of my sweater flipping up on my midsection -- I'm either going to have to be re-adjusting my clothes every few minutes, or I'm going to have to bite the bullet and get my belly button pierced so that the flipping-up looks intentional. So I am thinking of starting over and putting a hem on the bottom of Agnes.

And the other problem? I usually think I am wise to the ways of the magazine photographers and can spot the carefully arranged model who's hiding some unattractive attribute of the sweater with the way she holds her arms, tucks her hands in her pockets, whatever. I've been fooled before, and so I thought I was immune to being fooled again. In this case, it's the artfully draped shawl that's hiding the shaping. Two of the stockinette bands on either side of the sweater are decreased away over the course of a few rows, and then increased back over the course of a few rows, to provide some waistline shaping and a sort of dart effect. (Rather like the Audrey sweater, if you recall that one.) The k2tog decreases on the one side disappear in a lovely fashion. But if you look at the left-hand side of the photo of my knitting, you see some of those ssk decreases on the other side, and they are glaringly obvious. I don't know that my figure really is suited to a dart effect, anyway.

Posted by Karen at 11:39 AM | Comments (4)

March 27, 2005

ANNOUNCING --

Why did the rooster cross the driveway? Thanks, everyone who participated in this little contest of mine (even Barb). I hope it was at least as entertaining for my readers as it was for me.

And the winner is . . . (insert drumroll) . . .

Aarlene: "Cause one said to the others, 'Follow me, I know a great place to meet chicks!'"

Congratulations, Aarlene! I will put your copy of Simply Shetland in the mail to you first thing Monday morning. I know you'll enjoy it!

--------------------------

Yesterday, a little dyeing went on around here:
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And Jennie created this bead-encrusted egg:
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Move over, Faberge!

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Knitting-wise, I decided the best way to straighten out my Elfin sleeve cap shaping muddle was to get out some graph paper and graph: (a) how many rows of how many decreases it would take to form the sleeve cap, as per the pattern instructions, and then (b) translate that, on paper, into how many short rows are needed to accomplish the same (or nearly-the-same) shaping. I haven't done the actual graphing yet, but I did get out the graph paper!

Instead, I got tears in my eyes, reading Cuzzin Tom's comment on Ryan's blog concerning how much poverty there is in Mongolia, and how great the need is for the Dulaan Project. I promptly acted on my emotions and started the Prince Caspian sweater, yesterday:

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I've never made bobbles in anything other than swatches before, so these are a learning experience. The lower set have a bit of gaposis between the bobble and the row beneath them, but since this is charity knitting, I am letting go of my perfectionism and, instead, accepting the gaposis. The upper set of bobbles turned out much better. And this is only the back of the sweater -- I'm sure the bobbles on the front will be even better still. Yarn is Jamieson's DK in the color Clyde Blue, and the Prince Caspian sweater can be found in the book Simply Shetland. I am knitting the smallest size.

Pattern calls for using size US 6 needles on the bottom welt/ribbing, and then switching to a US 5 for the remainder of the sweater. When was the last time you knitted the bottom ribbing on a size larger needle than the rest of the sweater? Yeah, me neither. So I used a US 4 on the bottom welt/ribbing, and then switched to a 5.

And I had plenty of time to knit, yesterday. On my to-do list was to add the latest addition, Rowan Wool Cotton, to the Two Swans website. But it poured down rain yesterday. (After weeks of drought -- and just in time for all the PNW kiddos' Easter egg hunts, ain't it always the way?) Consequently, my satellite connection to the internet was veeerrrrrry slow. I had plenty of time to knit while the computer was communicating with the satellite.

Posted by Karen at 10:05 AM

March 25, 2005

CAPS & RECAPS

Over coffee this afternoon with Patti and Kit, the conversation flowed so quick and fast I could hardly get a word in edgewise. Patti is a talented glass artist, and Kit, who's a button fanatic, proposed that Patti create some glass buttons. Stay tuned.

Patti bought two packages of Forest Fudge Brownie Mix, proceeds of which benefit the local chapter of the Sierra Club. And she promptly went home and baked up a batch -- way to go, Patti! Mmmm, I think I can smell 'em from here!

I got a round of Sandness knitted, over coffee. Spent more time poring over knitting magazines than actually knitting. Now that the Mongolian mittens are done, I'm pondering what I might knit next for the Dulaan Project.

Knitting recap: My Elfin cardi is stalled at the sleeve caps. Yes, I've knitted the fronts and the back of this cardi (I knitted it in one piece, and performed a three-needle bind-off on the shoulders, so no seaming awaits me for the body of the sweater). I've knitted both sleeves up to the sleeve caps, and gotten a good run into shaping those sleeve caps. But then I've stalled.

I want to do short row shaping on the sleeve caps, and I know such a thing can be done. But the Elfin sleeves are very fitted, and so the sleeve cap has a very high crown. When I start my cap shaping, I'm good as far as the "decrease one stitch each side every other row," because I know that those decreases translate into a short row on the right side (one stitch left at the row's end, equivalent to one stitch decreased) and a short row on the wrong side (one stitch left on the row's end, equivalent to that second decrease of the row). Thus, it takes one right-side short row and one wrong-side short row to leave behind the two stitches that would -- if one were following the pattern -- be decreased every other [right-side] row.

So far, so good.

I'm in a complete muddle, though, about the later directions: Decrease every third row, and then every fourth row, until x number of stitches remain. My brain just can't seem to wrap itself around how to translate this into short rows. I keep having the hunch that I'll be knitting many, many more rows to accomplish that number of decreases. I'm afraid I'll end up with this horrendously long and misshapen crown on my sleeves.

If anyone can help me, or point me in the direction of some really good written instructions specifically on short row shaping of sleeve caps, please let me know!

To recap the Rooster Contest: When we returned from our recent vacation in Mexico, we discovered that some stray roosters had come to live with us. I was delayed one morning in taking Allegra to school because these roosters had decided that that moment was their time to cross the driveway. Not being much of a morning person, I sat dully and watched and waited while they crossed, wondering: Why did the rooster cross the driveway?

I decided that this would make a good question to pose to my blog readers. I'm offering a prize for the wittiest answer. The winner, if a knitter, receives a copy of the book Simply Shetland. The winner, if a non-knitter, receives a package of Forest Fudge Brownie mix, my sister's secret recipe. The contest closes at midnight tomorrow (March 26), PST. The place to post your entry to this contest? In the comments, of course!

Posted by Karen at 08:50 PM | Comments (1)

March 24, 2005

MONGOLIAN MITTENS

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Mongolian Mittens (formerly known as Maine Mittens). If one pays attention, one can pick up stiches for the thumb while maintaining the pattern on the palm, so that the solid stripes (in this case, a pink stripe and a gray stripe) continue down onto the thumb. Clever, eh? Okay, so what if it took me until my second cup of coffee this morning to pay sufficient attention to this detail. So what if I ripped out my first attempt at a mitten thumb. These mittens are done.

What else is happening around here?

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Mugsy says, "Where's my grain?"

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Lady says, "Roosters! Get over there!" She's one happy puppy, now that these roosters have come to live with us. She was getting bored with herding Cappucino the cat. (Not to mention the relief Cappy is feeling, now.)

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Why did this rooster cross the driveway?
The wittiest answer will win a prize. And, I think it only fitting, that if the winner is a knitter, the prize will be a copy of the book Simply Shetland, and if the winner is a non-knitter, the prize will be a jar of Forest Fudge Brownie mix. You have until midnight (Pacific Standard Time) March 26th to enter, by posting in the comments your wittiest answer to the question Why did the rooster cross the driveway? Can't wait to read your response!

Posted by Karen at 01:05 PM | Comments (4)

March 20, 2005

DULAAN KNIT-IN

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White Tara, the female Buddhist deity of mercy, compassion, and altruistic activities, watches over a Maine mitten-in-progress. The white thread at the side of the mitten is holding stitches to be picked up later for the thumb.

The White Tara postcard is a gift from Ryan's Cuzzin Tom. He sent a packet of them for those attending the Dulaan Knit-In at Mary B's yesterday. I think she's beautiful. (Cuzzin' Tom, for those of you who may not know, is a Buddhist monk who is going on a mission to Mongolia; the purpose of the Dulaan Project is to benefit homeless street kids in Mongolia's capital city.)

I started a pair of Maine mittens, but got only the cuff done during the Knit-In. I've continued working on it last night and this morning. I'm using the instructions from Beth Brown-Reinsel's class from the Gig Harbor retreat. Her instructions are so incredibly clear, that thumb gusset practically knits itself. Not to mention how fun it is to whiz around on those 52-stitch rounds. The yarn is some stash yarn I'd intended for a felted bag (a gray bag with a pink outer pocket, I'd planned), but never got around to making.

I had just the most fun time at Mary B's! Here are just a few photos of some of the knitters who dropped by (I didn't manage to photograph everyone).

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June shows off yarn she dyed with Kool-Ade. That's a sock in progress. June is one of the faithful Feral Knitters, and is the woman responsible for teaching me the German twisted cast-on.

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Ryan tries on one of the donated hats. (I should know who knitted it, but I can't remember! Likewise, the baker of the tasty muffins -- that's a muffin on the plate Ryan's holding -- remained anonymous, as far as I know.)

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Devorah, another Feral knitter, settles in for an afternoon of hat knitting.

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June and Diana work on their projects.

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It was an afternoon of socializing with old friends and new. I met Patti and Melinda for the first time. Patti brought a couple of finished hats to donate. On the table in front of Melinda is a hat she finished off that morning.

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Supergirl Rebecca (left) is knitting with one of the most gorgeous colors of yarn I've ever seen. She was knitting a hat from a Yarn Harlot pattern -- only 32 stitches per row. Look at the size of those needles! Ellen holds up hats that she's donating.

Sorry I didn't get a photo of hostess Mary B! Mary has already knitted an awesome 15 items to donate to the Dulaan Project, and was working on the 16th item yesterday. (Yes, she counted her pair of chartreuse-and-blue Maine mittens as one single item -- she's no cheater!; she'd also knitted a chartreuse-and-blue striped sweater!) She is urging knitters to reach the goal of 1,000 hand-knitted items to donate to the cause. The current tally is somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 items. Mary and Ryan spread out on Mary's dining room table all of the items that were brought to the Knit-In yesterday -- the entire table was covered.

Posted by Karen at 12:28 PM | Comments (7)

March 18, 2005

GIRL TALK

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Girls just wanna have fun . . . talking on their banana phones.

That's Allegra, on the right, wearing my chartreuse shirt in honor of St. Patrick's Day -- and you'll appreciate her color sense, with the complementary red cardi over it. You may not recognize Jennie, on the left, now that she's cut her long blonde hair and dyed it brown -- and pierced her tongue. What a little college education will do for a girl . . . .

You might be wondering how we celebrated St. Patrick's Day around here. Well, for 21 years, Scott has asked that I make corned beef and cabbage. And for 21 years I've made, instead, beef stew and called it Irish Stew. One year I found a recipe in one of those 30-minutes-or-less kind of cookbooks called "Bubble and Squeak," which I tried out. But that was not even close to corned beef and cabbage, in Scott's opinion.

We've developed some rituals, in so many years of marriage. Every year for Christmas Scott gives me a cookbook. Last Christmas I got The New Best Recipe. Not all of the cookbooks I've received from him over the years have had recipes that were worth making. But I got up from unwrapping this one, promptly made buttermilk pancakes for Christmas breakfast using a recipe from this book, and have kept using it ever since.

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I didn't grow up eating corned beef and cabbage; I didn't know how to make it; I didn't think I wanted to learn. Cabbage just isn't something that gets me salivating. (My mother made plenty of other dishes that I would consider equally folksy, equally awful: liver and onions, for example. She did make corned beef hash, but from canned corned beef. But she never made the boiled dinner of corned beef and cabbage that Scott remembers his mother making.)

So, I thought, this year, if The New Best Recipe has a recipe, I can at least try to make corned beef and cabbage. Sure enough, it did have one, although it was called "Corned Beef Brisket and Cabbage, New England Style," not "Irish." Whatever.

The New Best Recipe weighs in at a hefty 1,028 pages. But not all of the pages are recipes -- each individual recipe is preceded by one to two pages of explanation about the testing that went on to come up with the best version of the dish. And I can't help myself -- I read those pages. The corned beef would turn out most tender, I found out, if cooked at a "lively simmer" rather than a full boil. Remove the meat to a warm oven when done, so that it can rest before cutting. While the meat is in the oven, cook the veggies in the broth. And cook the veggies in steps: carrots and potatoes go in first and cook longest, add cabbage and onions later for a shorter cooking time. Well, the dinner was quite a success. Scott especially praised the cabbage, which ended up more like a steamed vegetable than like a mushy mess. (The girls, of course, had a different opinion.)

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My eldest sister, Shirley, is quite the gourmet cook. She and her husband are very active in the local chapter of the Sierra Club. Shirley has developed her own "Forest Fudge Brownie" mix, which she sells as a fundraiser for their club. The mix results in a rich brownie -- superb! You can see that we are pretty fond of it, chez Campbell. I've promised to buy a whole case, and earlier this week I picked up from Shirley the first installment. Aren't these beautiful? She not only takes the time to package the ingredients in layers, but she tops off each jar with a circle of fabric cut from a sweet little forest print of birds, berries, acorns and puts that on the mason jar lid, and ties it off with a red ribbon. A feast for the eyes as well as the tummy. Guess what I'll be taking to Mary B's Dulaan Knit-in tommorrow?

Over lunch, Shirley reminisced about our mother trying to teach her to knit when Shirley was 13. Shirley recalls Mom trying to teach her to cast on, but the stitches Shirl created just bunched up and got tighter and tighter on the needle. I can explain why that was -- Mom only knows one kind of cast-on, the knitting on way.

But what's most surprising to me about this conversation is the puzzle about Mom as a knitter. Mom always said that she couldn't knit. She did teach me and the other girls in my Girl Scout troop to knit, when I was 11, as part of merit badge for needlework. The type of cast-on that Mom taught us was the knitting-on one. And I recall as a child wearing hand-me-down mittens, three pairs each in sequence as I grew out of the smaller ones and into the larger ones. (I have three older siblings, and Mom had made them each their own pair of mittens, some time before I came along.) So it has never made sense to me that Mom always said that she couldn't knit. Shirley distinctly remembers Mom knitting a maroon sweater that each of my sisters wore, in turn, handed down from Shirley to our other sister. And Shirley also remembers Mom knitting a pair of socks for our Dad "that wore like iron." But some time after those mittens, Mom gave up knitting. She resumed it only long enough to teach the Girl Scouts. She always did beautiful embroidery and crocheting -- her eyesight prevents her from engaging in these activities now -- but there was something that happened with her knitting that made her give it up and claim that she couldn't knit. It's a mystery.

I leave you, Dear Reader, with this piece of wisdom:

My mother always said about cookbooks, "If they have one recipe in them that's good, that's all you can expect, and that makes it worth the price of the book."

I often think the same holds true for knitting books -- don't you?

Why did the rooster cross the driveway? -- this contest continues for another week. I'll be giving away some wonderful knitting goodie. For your chance to win, post your wittiest response to the question "Why did the rooster cross the driveway?" in the comments.

Posted by Karen at 04:50 PM | Comments (5)

March 16, 2005

THE INVISIBLE HAND

Dear Reader, perhaps you read a title like "The Invisible Hand" and it conjures up memories of the Ghost of Economics Classes Past, Adam Smith, and the dismal science.

But the Invisible Hands that I have in mind are these, sent to me by Bunjie:
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You'll recall Bunjie as that Canadian glove knitter. (I called her "Bonnie" in my blog entry of Feb. 17 -- but Bunjie she is, and so Bunjie she'll be.) She's been in search of the elusive glove blockers. Glove blockers proved to be so very elusive that she finally resorted to having some custom-made for her. (The best part is that, since they are custom-made, they are crafted exactly to her hand proportions.) And she was kind enough to have an extra set made, to give to me. Thanks, Bunjie!

(Dear Reader, if you are interested in glove blockers, please drop me an e-mail, karen@twoswansyarns.com. There is a possibility that the manufacturer of Bunjie's glove blockers could produce them in quantity.)

Plenty of opportunities for social knitting are on the horizon, here in the Pacific Northwest:

First, tonight is the monthly meeting of Seattle Knitters Guild. It's the annual Fiber Frenzy, where members sell off portions of their stash at bargain-basement prices. I've been a member of the Guild since at least 2000, perhaps even earlier -- but I've never been to Fiber Frenzy. And despite the urgings from other Guild members this past week, I won't be going tonight. Since I already own a yarn store, it feels kind of silly to go buy yarn.

This Saturday, Mary B will be hosting a Dulaan Knit-in to benefit the Dulaan Project, and I'll be there. I plan to get at least one mitten made that afternoon for the Mongolian street children.

And next week on Monday, the Feral Fair Islers will meet again!

Posted by Karen at 04:26 PM | Comments (3)

March 14, 2005

MORE ABOUT MY MEXICAN VACATION

Since The Other Caroline expressed interest in Chichen Itza, here's another story from our recent vacation.

Chichen Itza was a walled city, and covers quite a large piece of ground. Our Mayan tour guide has worked on the digs and reconstruction for some 20 years, so he had lots of first-hand experience to share with us. One of the first sights we stopped at was a small temple or pyramid that had carved snakes coming gargoyle-like alongside the lower steps. Our guide explained that the Mayans had invented a very durable cement -- the Mayans chewed the sap, called "chicle," from the trees and this chewed gum, mixed with ground limestone, was strong enough to hold the stones together through these many hundreds of years. (Today the Yucatan Peninsula, where Chichen Itza is located, exports annually some phenomenal number of pounds of chicle, which is the base for chewing gum.)

When we arrived at the main pyramid, our guide told us how the ancient Mayans had created a calendar more accurate than the ancient Europeans' -- the steps of the pyramid represent the 365 days of the year, and the steps are divided into 18 terraces, and these represent the 18 months of the Mayan year. Inside the great pyramid is a smaller pyramid that is accurate for the lunar calendar. The Mayans observed four directions, and the great pyramid is aligned to the north. Just next to the great pyramid but offset from it by 18 degrees is a smaller ceremonial pyramid, and this one is aligned to magnetic north -- so, our guide said, this shows that the Mayans discovered magnetic north, which is 18 degrees different from astronomical north.

Here's our guide showing us the carving in a wall at the ball field:
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To play the ball game at Chichen Itza was to be at the pinnacle of the sport -- it was the Superbowl, the World Series, the ultimate contest of the season. The type of game that was played, according to our guide, was a precursor to tennis, jai alai, soccer, and basketball -- so you might say that the Mayans invented tennis, jai alai, soccer, and basketball. The game pitted two teams of seven players against each other. They played with a large rubber ball that they kicked or moved forward using their hips, thighs, legs, or a handheld racket. The object of the game was to get the ball through a ring affixed to the wall.

To play at Chichen Itza, one must have beaten all of one's competitors in the territory. And for the captain of the winning team at Chichen Itza, it meant that the only ones left to challenge were the gods. So the winning captain would be sacrificed at the end of the game, so that he could go to the next world and play against the gods. But the winning captain wasn't sacrificed by the Chichen Itza king or a priest. No. For losing the game was such a humiliation that it fell to the captain of the losing team to decapitate his opponent. How do they know this? The carving on the wall that our guide is pointing to, shows the players in their headdresses and anklets, holding their rackets. And it shows, in blood-spurting detail, the most important player kneeling, and his opponent wielding a knife and holding an upside-down head. (Actually, the stone that would show the knife in the hand is one stone that is missing. But the rest of the carving is intact and . . . well, a picture is worth a thousand words.)

And so it was, all day long, our guide touting the benefits of Mayan culture, past and present.

When we arrived back at our hotel room that evening, I had the urge to check my e-mail and to update my blog. "I want to use the computer," I said.

Scott, without missing a beat, said, "The Mayans invented the internet."

We left Chichen Itza too early, though. The time to make a pilgrimage there is March 21. That day, the first day of spring, the rising sun casts shadows down over those terraces on the great pyramid, and reportedly those shadows give an undulating appearance to the snakes carved on the pyramid. The whole light show is supposed to take about 45 minutes. Thousands of people come to see it every year. Caroline, get your ticket now!

Two Swans news: Today, at last, the Shore Lines book by Di Gilpin arrived. It has a very artsy feel to it, quoting lines of poetry and having rather atmospheric photography of the models (all friends of the designer, and all, apparently, real people) wearing the garments. The subtitle of this book is "Inspirational Knitting," and that is what it aspires to be. The designs call for Harris Aran and Harris DK yarns. (Harris 4-ply is not used in this book, after all, which is a good thing, as the Harris 4-ply has been delayed.)

I like the Caspian Jacket . . .
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. . . and I am fascinated by this Herringbone Kilt . . .
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such a wee little thing shouldn't take long to knit. Although, at my advanced age, I would wear the longer version of it. Check out those stockings and coordinating boots!

And here's a sedately solid sweater. The same sweater also has a two-color version, with intarsia motifs worked between the cables.
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Most of the sweaters in the book are intarsia designs. Caspian is, I think, the only one using stranded colorwork.

Why did the rooster cross the driveway? Keep those answers coming, folks! Wittiness wins!


Posted by Karen at 08:20 PM | Comments (4)

March 12, 2005

MAKE WAY FOR ROOSTERS

It was a scene right out of Make Way for Ducklings yesterday morning. I was driving Allegra to school, but before I could leave I had to wait while first one, then the next, and finally the next visiting rooster strutted across the driveway right in front of my car. These birds are as glossy and brightly colored as any of those porcelain chickens you see decorating a French country kitchen. But these birds have their own sense of time and timing.

I'm a night owl, not an early bird, so I just waited and watched and wondered dully: Why did the chicken cross the driveway?

Could not think of any smart answer. But I know my readers are clever people who probably have some very interesting answers to that question. I'm interested to read the comments for your replies. Why did the rooster cross the driveway? Will award a little prize for the wittiest answer posted between now and March 26, 2005 (and may it not be a blog-spammer who posts the wittiest reply!).

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Scott, in his heart of hearts, is a gentleman farmer. He went to the feed store today and bought Chicken Scratch (smaller and more chicken-friendly than the grain we feed to the horses), and the little trough to feed it to them in, and the little watering trough that looks like a kettle that you see behind the roosters in the photo. And he got all of this set up in the dog kennel. Whatever will Lady think about sharing her kennel with chickens? I know what I think: We need laying hens, not roosters.

Speaking of roosters and French country kitchens, I am saddened to report that the last day of business for Le Petit Poulet will be tomorrow. Long-time readers of my blog will remember Le Petit Poulet as the little drive-through espresso stand not too far from my house. It's a lean-to, cozied up against a home decorating business called Three French Hens. It's two businesses run by one family, a mother and her grown children. The mom runs the Three French Hens, and her four kids (ranging in age from 25 to 18) are the baristas at Le Petit Poulet. They lost their lease last fall, due to a road widening project. The Three French Hens relocated in February to a strip mall on the Maple Valley Highway, but the espresso stand may be history. I've so enjoyed the baristas, who've been an integral part of my morning routine this past year-and-a-half, with their banter, practical jokes, and good-heartedness. In honor of their final days of business, all week I've been leaving a wacky tip alongside my regular tip: pesos, Cadbury Easter eggs, a miniature rubber chicken.... I will be sad to see them go, and hope they can set up a similar drive-through in Maple Valley, but I also know that they are up against competition from similar enterprises already located there....

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Le Petit Poulet, in happier times. The big pots of lavender and other flowers all around the building were the work of Shira, the eldest daughter.

Knitting-wise: I am continuing to knit on the Sandness sweater, but it's not very photogenic right now. In our little corner of the US spring is definitely here, and my usual longing to be a seasonal knitter has kicked in. I've had startitis really bad, and yesterday I gave in and cast on for the Agnes sweater in Vintage Style. It's sooo pretty!

Yesterday I met with the group of Master Knitter Wannabes from Seattle Knitters Guild. You might guess that I have not touched my Level II swatches in ages. Every now and then I give myself a pep talk about getting with the program, but I've just been having too much fun with my other knitting projects. Our group has agreed to focus our attention on the argyle sock, first and foremost. Stay tuned, Dear Reader.

I leave you with this shot of this gorgeous sweater, the Mossbank, knitted by my friend Anne in Portland in just four weeks' time:

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Anne writes: "My first impression of the Mossbank pattern was skepticism, as the math wasn't accurate on the body increases. However, once I did the math myself and got going, I really enjoyed the knitting. I really love being able to spit-splice the 2-ply Jamieson yarn (acquired, of course, from Two Swans Yarns), which made finishing a breeze. The pattern emerged beautifully, and the knitting went very fast. Because I wanted the knitting to be portable, I did a provisional cast on for the sleeves, and knit them from the shoulder down, reversing the chart so that the patterns would match up. Then, after I did the steeks, I picked up and knit stitches into the shoulder steek to correspond with the sleeve, and did a 3-needle bind-off on the smaller sized needles. This was very painstaking and fussy, and I did not enjoy the process, but the end result looks good, and it was nice to be able to carry the sleeve around and not the whole sweater, while knitting it. I did two color substitutions, brightening the red to Crimson, and the blue to Cobalt. The sweater is definitely brighter this way, and I am really happy with it. I was afraid that it might be too short, but on blocking the row gauge went from 32 rows/4 in to 29 rows/4 in, and I think it will be fine, now. The neck came out great, and I think the final sweater is quite lightweight and comfortable looking. I think my husband will love it. (This is a present for our 20th wedding anniversary in April.) This was my first Fair Isle knit for him, but I don't think it will be the last. Now I am looking at the Sandness that Karen is working on and thinking, Hmmm! Fair Isle is pretty addictive, because although requires attention, it is not difficult, and the results are amazing."

Posted by Karen at 08:28 PM | Comments (6)

March 08, 2005

HOUSEGUESTS

Arrived home from Mexico to find these three gentlemen staying with us:
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The westernmost edge of our property borders on a 10-mile path for jogging and horseback riding. Over the last four weeks or so, if I've woken up in the night, I've heard roosters crowing. A time or two we've spotted this little group out on the path. Now, it seems, they've decided they like our horse pasture. Coq au vin, anyone?

Vacation's over and with it that leisurely pace. Put together the Guild newsletter in record time, so that my Feral Fair Isle knitters could prep it for mailing at our meeting last night. This coming Friday, my Master Knitter group meets. I have new books and colors of yarn to add to the Two Swans site (Scarf Style, and the Kidsilk Haze color called Meadow, just to name two). Just before I left for Mexico, I met with a Harley-riding knitter who creates beaded stitch markers, and you'll soon see some of her markers on my site as well. Later this month, I'm headed for Pennsylvania with my friend Anne, to attend the TKGA national convention.

Knitting update: I completed the Sandness ribbing:
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Yes, I did put this project aside until I returned home to the Rosewood yarn. The Rosewood is such an interesting heathered color (teal mixed with rust, and flecked with browns and golds) that I really wanted to include it in its rightful place in the ribbing.

I did deviate from the pattern in one respect, though, by adding 20 additional stitches to the ribbing. The pattern called for 300 stitches, and I originally began with that amount. A few weeks ago, Felina Schwarz saw me working on it and expressed skepticism that increasing from 300 stitches to 352 (as the pattern instructs you to do) would look good; she thought it would cause a blousy effect. Her skepticism rubbed off on me, and I consulted the EZ percentage theory, which recommends that ribbing be 90 percent of the body stitches. Since I am the Queen of starting knitting projects over, it was just par for the course for me to begin this one over, as well. I think I will be getting a better result, proportion-wise, with the 320-stitch rib.

What I worked on, during the bus ride out to Chichen Itza and back, was Jennie's sock:
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Posted by Karen at 12:19 PM | Comments (6)

March 03, 2005

WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN

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The pyramid at Chichen Itza.

I'm not very comfortable with heights. But when I heard that this will be the last year that people will be allowed to climb the pyramid, what else could I do but go to the top? Don't believe me? Here's proof:

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The view over the top of the jungle was breathtaking. That is, the view took my breath away after I managed to catch my breath from climbing the 91 steps to the top. Can you tell that it was very hot at Chichen Itza? It actually felt cooler on the top of the pyramid than on the ground.

What goes up must come down:

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Allegra and her friend were much more confident than I, who chose to do as our tour guide recommended, and take those first 10 or 20 steps sitting down:

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Scott couldn't resist taking such a totally ridiculous shot of me.

This was our best day of vacation yet. The drive from our hotel on the coast in Cancun inland to the Chichen Itza was two-and-a-half hours, one way. Our visit to Tulum had just whetted my appetite to see more Mayan ruins, so I signed us up for the tour last night. Then I wondered whether I had done the right thing. Would Allegra and her friend enjoy 5 hours on the bus? Would they be happier playing on the beach at the hotel, or in the hotel swimming pool? I encouraged them to pack Travel Yahtzee (a gift from Auntie Shirley), books, their CD players. Scott brought a novel. I brought band-aids, Lomotil, kleenex, insect repellent, sunscreen, bananas, bottled water . . . oh, and some knitting. I discovered, rummaging through my suitcase last night, that I had brought along the sock I am designing for Jennie. Well, here was the perfect thing to knit on for 5 hours, if I wasn't going to knit on that Fair Isle project. After all, if I got stuck or finished Sock #1, I could always start Sock #2 -- no way would I run out of knitting today. And I am pleased to report that I got several inches knitted on the sock.

After our trip to Key West in January, our advice to travellers would be to get off the beaten path. It is very hard to get off the beaten path in Cancun, as its sole reason for being is to draw tourists.

I won't claim that our trip to Chichen Itza was off the beaten path. It is a tourist draw. But driving two-and-a-half hours down a plain two-lane road to get there, going past Mayan villages consisting of wooden, thatch-roofed huts with no electricity was a glimpse into a not-so-touristy Mexico. Our tour bus's itinerary included a stop at a Mayan cooperative where handmade goods are sold. (We bought hammocks and some silver jewelery, as well as some ice cream.) Then our tour of Chichen Itza, which was even more fascinating than Tulum, and included seeing the ruins of the ball field, the temples, a marketplace, and more. And, on the way back, a stop at a rustic little restaurant for a late lunch. We ate roast pork tacos, fixed in the Mayan way -- delicious and highly edible. Oh, and the fresh papaya and watermelon were also sweeter than what we ever get at home.

(A note about our diet, here. Scott and I both have had digestive difficulties and have become very tentative about what we eat and drink here. Traveling with children is always interesting, though. My mother always had a rule for her children when we traveled: We had to have at least one glass of milk each day. Usually on trips I enforce this rule on my kids, too. Well, our first full day in Mexico, I ordered glasses of milk for Allegra and her friend. The glasses that the waiter brought were huge, far larger than what I would serve at home; both girls took a sip or two and declared that it tasted funny. Since I'd already joined the "frequent flushers club," I couldn't see insisting that they drink the milk -- I would trust their instincts. So it's been Coca Cola and Fanta for them ever since. The girls have had French fries, watermelon, and ice cream for every meal -- oh, and a sweet roll for breakfast each day -- and they haven't had a bit of the troubles Scott and I have had. C'est la vie.)

We ate our lunch on a pavilion under a thatched roof. The food was served buffet style. While we were eating, the rain began to fall. An absolute downpour all during the two-and-a-half-hour ride back to the hotel, including thunder and lightning. It had rained, and rained hard, all day in Cancun -- so we would not have been able to enjoy the beach, had we stayed at our hotel. So we truly enjoyed a very satisfying day -- and how often do travel plans turn out so well?

Posted by Karen at 07:48 PM | Comments (3)

March 02, 2005

WWAD

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Allegra and her friend play in the surf at the Tulum ruins yesterday. Oh, to be twelve years old again....

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We were among the many tourists at the ruins. In the foreground you see the stairway to the beach. There were many iguanas sunning themselves on the tops of the ruin structures. According to our tour guide (a native Mexican, and of Mayan descent), iguanas are Mexican fast food. He claimed that at the local taco house, you can order American tacos or Mexican tacos. The American tacos are chicken with jalapeno peppers. The Mexican tacos are iguana meat and habanero chili peppers. "Tastes better than chicken," he said.

Swan sighting, in our hotel:
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Every day the maids fold our towels into different figures.

About that Sandness ribbing: I should have double-checked my yarn bag when I packed. Last night I discovered that I did not bring the next color that I need.

Lately, when I come up against a knitting obstacle like this, Scott has taken to asking me: WWAD? That stands for: What would Anne do? (Anne is the most prolific knitter I know.) And Anne, I suspect, would make do with the colors on hand, and just keep going. (I'm sure she'll let me know, in the comments, if my hunch is right.) When I was looking at the pattern last night, not all of the sweater's colors are used in the ribbing, anyway. So who's going to know, in the finished garment, that I didn't switch from Pine to Rosewood in the ribbing?

It's a challenge to me, to just keep going, rather than wait until I get home, where I've got plenty of Rosewood.

What would you do?

My alternate knitting projects that I brought with me are to finish the Elfin sleeves, or to work on the old shawl. I brought the chart for the shawl, but not the pattern, so that requires brain work.... And I'm in the middle of the cap shaping on the Elfin sleeves, so that requires brain work, too....

(Note to self: Gotta pack that knitting bag the night before, so that you can be sure to get in all the yarns that you need, and complete copies of the patterns. Pack at 5:00 AM, as you did this time, and suffer the consequences.)

Posted by Karen at 09:28 AM | Comments (2)

March 01, 2005

BUENOS DIAS

I know it's been looking like there's no activity here on this blog other than from those fools who leave spam comments on blogs.

You see, I am currently in Cancun, Mexico, on vacation. Yes, it's true, here I am, away from home again.

And in Mexico, a foreign country, things are done a little differently from what we are used to at home. So it has taken us a few days to figure out our internet access. (We still can't figure out how to get cell phone service here.)

Today we visited some fascinating Mayan ruins at Tulum. The ruins are comparable to Stonehenge, in that the buildings had windows in them that were directly in line with the rising sun at the longest day of summer and the shortest day of winter. These ruins are right on cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea. And the colors of that sea were enough to inspire thoughts about color knitting -- the waves at the shoreline were full of tan sand, and edged with white froth. Slightly further out, the water was green-blue. And further out, the sea turned distinctly turquoise, a clear delineation marked by a barrier reef. Farther out still, at the horizon, the color of the water was cobalt blue.

These are all so different from the indigo-blue and so-green-it-is-nearly-black waters I am used to, from my hometown on Puget Sound and from times spent in the San Juan Islands. Of course, those waters I am used to are much, much colder than here!

Knitting-wise, I've been working on the Sandness pullover. Incredibly, I am still working on the ribbing. Have knitted on the flight down here, knitted poolside, knitted on the tour bus today . . . hope to at least be beyond the ribbing by the time I get back home!

Posted by Karen at 06:23 AM | Comments (2)