29 May 2013

Those 10 Questions

In recognition of tonight's 250th episode of "Inside the Actor's Studio", I am providing my own answers to the Pivot Questionnaire* asked at the end of each show:
  1. What is your favorite word?    Serendipity
  2. What is your least favorite word?    Can't - whether used as an order, instruction, or defeatist statement.  It's a challenge, either for the person who says they can't do something (especially if they do not try), or the person who says that I (or someone else) can't.
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?  Sunshine, sunlight.  And really clear, crisp night skies when it is so dark all you see are the stars.
  4. What turns you off?  Closed-mindedness and small-mindedness.
  5. What is your favorite curse word?   Oh!  I don't really curse.  I tend to use made-up things like "Jiminy Christmas!" and "Holy Moses" and "Poot" and stuff like that.  Or I do the Shakespearean Insult sort of thing, sometimes in non-English langauges.
  6. What sound or noise do you love?   Laughter, especially of children.
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?   The screech-BANG! of a car accident.
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?   Astronaut.
  9. What profession would you not like to do?   Oh, lots.  Pediatric oncology would be a really, really tough one.
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?  Heaven is not a concept my religion has.  But I think I would like to hear "sorry, we made a mistake and are sending you back - you have more things to do." 

How would you answer these questions?

* Created by Bernard Pivot, based upon the Proust Questionnaire.

PS:  Today is the 60th Anniversary of the date on which Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed to the top of the world and touched the sky.

25 May 2013

Progress Report on knitting and crocheting

Despite having a 60+ hour workweek (my timecard said 59, but we have to file it on Friday morning so I estimate eight hours on Fridays and adjust as needed - and this week, I need to do it) I managed to make some progress on the items I showed last week.

First, I had to un-do a lot of progress.  I took the shawl on a retreat last weekend.  And I realized I wasn't terribly happy with the result:
Oh, it was growing nicely and I liked the feel of the fabric, but I didn't like the contrast between the stockinette and garter spaces.  I thought it would look better with bigger stockinette.  So I ripped it back, to the shock of people around me, and started not quite over, but from the end of the first stockinette panel.  This is how it looks today:

It has about the same number of panels but is much bigger.  I do have some more yarn, that I will use for the applied I-cord border.  You can see the difference in these close-ups, before and after:
I do like the new version better.  As you can see, I've made some good progress on it this week, thanks to a lot of meetings that filled part of my days.  And with those hours, I didn't go out much in the evening, although I did knit on a chemo cap (just basic ribbing, hardly worth showing) for an organization called PatPat's Hats while I went to a movie and post-film discussion at the Wadsworth Atheneum on Thursday night.  A bit of a treat for me (almost-)after a LONG week of work.

In the evenings, I had time to make progress on the tunic, which required more focus than I could manage in the meetings, at least until I was well into the body:
Next stage will be the border, again requiring much focus, so I will work on it this afternoon.  I'm almost glad the rainy weather will keep me inside!  But I have to come up with something portable and simple to take with me to Manhattan tomorrow, where I will roam one or two museums and dine on Peking Duck with friends.  Maybe it will be a scarf for a veteran, I have some yarn in stash just for such purpose.  And I even know where it is!

16 May 2013

Whence all this pink in my knitting and crocheting bag?

I've never been really fond of pink, so was surprised to realize that I have three projects going on that all contain pink.  First, after getting all those sweaters knit and mailed, what do you think turned up as my "idiot" or when-I-don't-want-to-pay-attention knitting?
 Yup.  Another Steppe Sweater, this one about 26" around so approximately size 8.  I may send it to Afghans for Afghanistan, which is doing a campaign to get 500 wool sweaters for girls by sometime this summer.  The yarn is Bernat Felting (a discontinued yarn) so 100% wool roving.  Or I'll keep it for the Mittens for Akkol fall campaign, which is mostly socks but also other clothing items for the smaller children.

When I went to visit my grandmother last weekend, I wanted something easy that she (one of the people who taught me to knit) would appreciate.  I had been thinking for some time that this yarn - Gedifra Fashion Trend Fino Stripe, also discontinued - would make a nice baby blanket:
It's the 10-Stitch Blanket pattern worked on fifteen stitches and with a longer starting strip so it comes out as more of a rectangle.  That is only the second ball, so with each strip being about 3.5" wide this could end up fairly large, or have a matching sweater or something.  We'll see what happens by ball four, since of course the rows just get longer so the balls don't go as far the more I knit.

Then I made the collar of a tunic that will go over the torso I am decorating for a breast cancer awareness event.  I photographed it over a black T-shirt so the pattern is more visible:
It's going to be a whole tunic and luckily those are the only hearts involved.  I really had to pay attention to get them to work properly!

Before you worry about me knitting only for others, or only in pink, I'll show you this:
The color is slightly more blue than it appears in the photo, and it's a handdyed yarn (wool and maybe silk) I've had for a long time.  At the bottom is my first test piece, using US#13 needles.  I didn't like it - drapey enough, but the stitches were too big to make me happy.  So I switched to US#10, and after a couple false starts, it's moving along.  The original pattern is called the Flying Geese Shawl, but of course I am doing it my way.  I am alternating garter and stockinette in each "V", and I plan to do an applied I-cord border.  One of the false starts was trying to figure out an integrated I-cord and it looked too weird, so I am leaving it for after.  I do have a WIP with integrated I-cord borders, but couldn't remember how it worked so decided I'll just add it later.

Thanks to some long meetings, the shawl is growing nicely.  I have to focus on the tunic to get it done by the end of this month, because the decorated torsos are due by June 1st.  So that is my quiet at-home project, when I can focus on the pattern.  I'll post more pictures when these get bigger.

12 May 2013

I Splurged on Sunshine

The first weekend in May had glorious weather here.  It's always a treat when the good weather appears on the weekend, instead of teasing us miserably on Tuesday and Wednesday before fading into dreariness and damp by Friday.  So like a lot of people, I spent a lot of time outside, which did cut down a bit on my ability to knit, even though I had a deadline looming.

Friday night I had planned to go to a local coffeehouse to hear a jazz band and then home early.  Of course that didn't happen!  A couple days earlier an SOS went out for a driver to take one of our elder congregants to Friday night services.  I knew her and had driven her before and why not?  Someone else was available to drive her home.  So I picked her up and we went, then I figured I'd stay for the service which was the annual Teacher Appreciation celebration.

Instead of the jazz concert, I ended up at a pop-up flea market at the Hartford Denim Company.  It is close to my temple, and I figured that if it was not fun I could still get the back half of the jazz concert on the way home.  As soon as I walked in someone was calling my name - we'd been in a show together earlier this year, and she was one of the vendors.  So I ended up hanging out and shopping, taking home a few vintage clothing items; a stack of vintage SF magazines that I firmly told the vendor I was planning to read, not buying to resell; and a gift for one of my best friends that I cannot mention here because I haven't given it to her yet.

I'll confess that part of the reason I went was because I'd heard the Hartford Hot Several was out that night, and at an event last month they performed and at the end of the night their accordion player started to chat me up a bit.  But we misconnected (he asked if I was coming to the bar next door for the after-afterparty, but when I got there the music was techno and I knew I couldn't take a couple hours of that and still function as early as I needed to the next day) and I thought that if they came to the flea market I'd get to chat with him some more.  However, they hadn't arrived by the time I left (wearing week, too many 5:00am and 6:00am meeting - my "late day" began at 7:30am), although I saw a few members during the evening.  Oh, well!

Saturday was flat-out.  Yoga class (I have graduated back into all-levels) and then bible class, then I went to the ReCreate event in Elizabeth Park.  I found out later that this had been pulled together in three months, and couldn't believe it!  The event was full of speakers on various topics (although the one speaker I really wanted to hear was a no-show), a field full of vendor booths, yoga and zumba classes separated by some great band performances, an ongoing community art project, and so much more.  All under a brilliantly clear sky and healing sunshine!

Y'all know me - I went to see what it was about and told a friend who was vending that I would sit her booth to let her take a break, and of course ended up spending most of my time helping with the art project:
That's the artist on the left - we're adjusting some ties after she reloaded one of the hoop looms.

After helping my vendor friend and the artist pack up their stuff, I headed out with my friend the photographer and we ended up sitting in her car for an hour catching up and planning concert-going for the summer.  Regrettably, one I really wanted to do falls on a night of a show I am stage-managing this summer.  Why don't these organizations check with ME before confirming their schedules???!!!

Of course I didn't go home after that, except a quick change out of my Star Wars T-shirt (it was May the Fourth, after all, and I had to let my nerd flag fly!) into something more presentable so that I could attend a performance of As You Like It in which two friends were performing.  Still are, this weekend and next, and I highly recommend you see the show if you can.  They asked me backstage for the evening's cast party, which was mellow and fun but of course I didn't get home until something wee-o'clock.

No sleeping in on Sunday, except maybe by comparison.  I had a meeting to attend, then participated in the Walk Against Hunger with a team from my temple:

That's not all of us, some people were running late and arrived just before we stepped off.  I took a few pictures of the crowd as we walked:


It's hard to see in these pictures, but the crowd stretched halfway around Bushnell Park.  They had a couple of water-and-juice stations in the park, with COLD water for us to drink, and at about halfway a local marching band gave us energy:

I didn't get pictures of everything: The crowd gathering to walk, many in matching shirts such as we wore (you can see a lot of them in the random shots), the drummers sending us off, the dancing afterwards, and so forth.  You really have to be there to appreciate the energy of all the different groups who are there to support Foodshare and other organizations as we try to wipe out hunger in the greater Hartford area.  There were no ideologies here:  Christian (LOTS of flavours: Methodist, Lutheran, Quaker), Jew, Muslim, unaffiliated, and all ages from fairly wee ones to fairly older ones.  We all had one purpose, and we walked TOGETHER.

We all shared in the Popsicles and paletas waiting for us at the end of the walk:

I had to make another fast change after that into something pretty because there was a great two-congregation concert, and I was one of the greeters for the portion at my congregation.  It was a marvelous afternoon of music!

After that, I went home and worked on the Extra Boy Sweater I mention in my other post.  Luckily I didn't have to work on the weekend (although I did check email a couple of times), and Monday was a bank holiday in the UK so the team with which I work there was off, and I didn't have to work too early or late.  I was glad to have had as much time outside as I did, over the weekend.

This year's grad sweaters

I know that I have been neglecting the blog terribly, but I have been knitting a LOT and work is LONG hours and I wanted to have some social time (see other post), so blogging fell by the wayside.  Now that the knitting is done, I thought I would post about it as I did last year.

Once again, the main and hard deadline knitting for this spring was for Mittens for Akkol.  I became involved with them after I had a very bad experience with another charity and needed a new outlet for woollies.  A friend who had heard about them through church suggested I look into them.  They are a good group which is very hands-on - no shipping overseas and hoping for the best, they have people who actually go to the orphanages and other locations and hand-deliver all items.  Here is the farewell message from Nanci, the person who goes or leads a group twice a year:

I am happy to announce our visas arrived today (Friday). That was a little too close for comfort! Today I went to the bank and picked up new money. In Kaz, they won't accept money that is marked in any way or creased, so new money is pretty much the only thing they will take. The bank had to order it ahead of time for me. We have enough money now for the grad gifts and parties. Thanks to everyone who helped make that possible!

Dave and I packed 2 boxes, 1 duffle bag and a suitcase on Thursday. Friday it rained all day, so we didn't do any packing. Please pray for a dry day on Saturday!! We figured out it would be better to pack in boxes rather than suitcases because boxes weigh less (3 lbs. vs. 15 lbs. for a suitcase or 6 lbs for a duffle bag), so I can take more hand knits. BONUS: boxes can be left behind. YEA!! Also, it is much easier to get the big vacuum bags inside a box than a duffle bag!

While packing, I came across several checks. THANK YOU!! I have emailed everyone who sent a check to let them know I found their check. If you sent a check, but didn't get an email by now, please let me know.

I picked up 793 photos from Walgreen' s yesterday and have sorted them by orphanage. When I get to Kaz I will sort them by group/family. Then I will visit each group and pass out the photos. That is one of my favorite things to do. The kids are always so excited to see their photos. :o)

One of the little girls who was in Akkol was moved to Urupinka three years ago. A few months ago, she was moved to a home for invalids. She is unable to speak and has learning difficulties. I am going to try to visit the invalids' home to see how she is doing and also see if they need any help. I am sure they do. I think it is going to be very difficult to visit, but no doubt it is harder to live there, so I will see what I/we can do for them. If you pray, please pray for all of the people in that home as well as the kids in the orphanages.

I have been able to score some cheap (less than $1) or free eye make-up and nail polish for the older girls by shopping with coupons at CVS and Walgreen' s. I will put these items in their grad gift bags. They all asked for mascara and nail polish at Christmas, so I think they will like these. The make-up is small and light, so it is easy to squeeze into the bags. (There are lots of great videos on youtube.com and tips on websites if anyone else is interested in learning how to get free stuff to send to the orphanage or just for your personal use.)

We are supposed to have a sunny day Sunday after a week of rain, so Dave won't have to wrap everything in plastic to drive it to the airport in the truck. Our flight leaves at 12:15 pm eastern time on Sunday and we land in Astana at 2:45 am on Tuesday which is 3:45 pm on Monday at home.

In May, she takes sets of sweater, hat, mittens, scarf, and two pairs of socks (one thin, one thick) to each teen graduating from the orphanage.  She also collects money to buy them basic sets of toiletries and household items such as a blanket and towel, as all the items they have been using need to remain in the orphanage for the next children.

Mostly, I knit sweaters.  There are a lot of people who like to do the accessories, and thankfully who like to make socks, so I can do sweaters.  This year, I did get to sign up for a couple of full sets, this one for a girl:

They always need a few extra sets for kids who were not around at measuring, or who have gotten ready for graduation since measuring was done the previous November.  So I had a bunch of yarn and decided to use last year's measurements to estimate the size, and just made it when I wanted something to do.  Because the multi is long out of production, I decided to make a full set to use it up as much as possible.  The buttons are roses, the colour doesn't quite match but I thought they are very pretty.  Together it makes me think a bit of spring.

I did get to sign up for a set for a boy grad:
When Nanci is there measuring the grads-to-be, she asks them to choose two or three colours they like.  Many of the boys want Germany or Spain colours because they follow the soccer teams, I usually look for kids who want something else.  This boy chose light brown, grey, and deep red.  My idea for this set was inspired by the Tychus hat pattern, which I made several stitches shorter because I wanted to give it a red edging, not the turn-up.  I knit the mittens by doing the wrist in striped garter stitch to echo the hat, then the red on an edge, and one strand each of the brown and grey for the hand.  I borrowed the yoke pattern from a baby sweater for the yoke pattern on this sweater.  The scarf is crocheted, and I had thought to do a red border on it but ran out of time.

For the other grads I just did sweaters.  You sign up for the items you "Commit to Knit" and the smaller items fill up very fast!  All of the other grads for whom I knit are boys, the girl sweaters filled up very fast this year.  Mostly I use one of two basic patterns:  the Steppe Sweater (straight up the body, split at the underarms to do the yoke, then sleeves from underarms to wrist) and an Icelandic model (body and sleeves up to the underarms, join for yoke).  I love these because sewing-together is minimal.

The grey-and-turquoise is based slightly on an old Lion Brand pattern, the black-blue-yellow one has just a touch of texture at the top to keep it from being completely boring.

This sweater I knit in about two-and-a-half weeks.  It was a model for a class I taught at DFW Fiber Fest this year on adding cables or swapping out cables.  So to the plain sweater pattern, how to add cables without pulling in - I think I did pretty well:
I'd forgotten to take the pattern I wanted to use, so winged it.  I thought it would be too plain with just the front cable, so added the cables at the underarms and knitted the sleeves down.  It took a bit of re-doing, especially when I realized that I had too many stitches on the first sleeve when it was almost finished, and had to reknit almost the whole thing.  His other colours are red and yellow and some people were knitting very intricately patterned hat and mittens using all three, so I didn't feel badly about doing the sweater in a single colour, especially with the cable pattern adding texture.

Another sweater design was based upon the gloves someone knit for the grad.  We post pictures so people can see what we're doing and coordinate as much as possible.  So you can see that I adopted her Greek Key design, even though I had only two of the three shades in my stash (and the colours are closer than you might think from the photographs):

I had offered to do one last sweater for an Extra Boy set, and hoped I could skip it because I was already down to the wire and people had mentioned sending extra sweaters.  But Nanci said they really needed it because all the extras she had received were for girls not boys, so I decided my only hope - since this was just over a week before her flight and I had maybe a couple inches on the needles, with no hope of taking a week off to just knit! - was to unearth my knitting machine.

In theory, I could do a sweater in two days.  It took four, because the weather last weekend was so spectacular that I didn't want to be inside more than I had to, and as my other post will tell you, I had a lot of other things to do!  So it took me parts of four days to knit this:
I'd planned a gansey so had only plain brown yarn.  I thought that would be too boring, even with striped mittens, hat, and so on - the other knitter was using "cinnamon" and cream yarns.  So I pulled out a skein of multi handdyed yarn to work the trim, and also some saddles for the shoulders.  I did have to sew seams, but could pick up the sleeves on the sides so it was just adding the saddles, and then afterwards doing the side and underarm sleeves.  All of the trim is knit in the round on live stitches (and isn't really as uneven at the bottom as it appears in this picture, I was in a hurry when I laid the sweater down to photograph it) so no seams and much faster to knit.  And the sweater arrived in time - WHEW!

It does seem appropriate to write about this group today, which is Mother's Day.  First, because they work to be surrogate mothers, in a way, to the kids in the orphanages of Akkol and Urupinka, and their knitting book is called "Dear All The Mothers" from a thank-you one boy wrote a few years ago.  Second, because it was my mother and grandmothers who taught me to knit, and so I am carrying on a family tradition in knitting for others.  Both my mother and grandmother have mostly given up knitting due to arthritis in the hands, so I guess I am knitting on behalf of all three of us now.  I spent most of the weekend with them and feel so blessed that they are in my life and that they taught me a skill that I can use for the benefit of others, as well as passing it along to others.