Sunday, September 30, 2007

FFFO: Forest Canopy Shawl

(Another long, image-heavy post. Please forgive me if you view in Bloglines. Until Blogger has a behind-the-cut option that doesn't require programming knowledge and the sooper-secret code word, it's the best I can do.)

Well, it's about time. This Finally F[rea]kin' Finished Object post brought to you by the letters OMG, and the number (US)4.

This story begins, as so many of my knitting-related stories do, with Yarn Enabler Amy. I'd been tossing around the idea of doing a lace shawl for some time, so after several previous e-mails on December 28, the irrepressible enabling individual purchased me a PDF of the pattern for the darn thing.

I ordered the yarn and cast on within a month. From that point until now, I was ill three times in two months, had 10 months of stress from Mostly Unnecessary Insanity at my (really) Very Fun Job, dealt with TechieBK's bout with a Crohn's disease flare-up in June, and started getting ready to move (coming in November). My hands were pretty tied at times...and not in any of the fun ways.

But in and around all that...with much cheerleading from the SnBers, my work girlfriends, and most wholeheartedly, YE Amy...I managed to do this:

My God. It's done.

On the rails.

In the bushes. And OFF MY NEEDLES.

Now, the Forest Canopy was pretty much a breeze. It was designed that way, put forth as an easy first-lace-type pattern. It's stockinette-based, drapey, and light (but not impossibly so). $6.50 gets you written instructions as well as charts, all of which walk you through a simple leaf pattern with a basic point border.


...and mid-blocking.

Other than knit and purl, all you have to do is YO and sl-k2tog-psso at the right places. And also not drop anything...which I didn't always manage, of course.

Fortunately, I'd already learned about lifelines. This saved my ass at least twice; the most I had to rip back was five rows. Amy suggested leaving one previous lifeline when I set each new one, which was great for my peace of mind. And Laura gave me a great tip for setting them, just before I finished the original row count: since I was working on the KnitPicks Options, I threaded my lifeline through the keyhole of the empty needle and knit on. Brilliant.

A few lessons from this one:

- I love Sea Silk.
- Even so, I should not try to knit lace when I am (a) so stressed out I'm vibrating, (b) so ill I can't breathe, (c) so tired I can barely lift the remote, or it is (d) after 10 pm.
- Even on the rare occasions that items (a) through (c) did not apply since the beginning, I was absolutely correct about (d) and always stopped working on it as soon after 10 as I could manage.*
- I can knit lace on slippery needles.
- I really love Sea Silk.


Pattern: Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawl by Susan Pierce Lawrence

Final dimensions (wingspan x center back, in inches): 66 x 27.5

Yarn: HandMaiden Sea Silk in Amethyst – one standard skein, plus somewhere between 2 and 4 yards from a second.

Needles: KnitPicks Options, US 4 (3.5 mm). I started on Clover Bamboo, but found the Options much easier going.

Modifications: Added several pattern repeats to achieve a larger shawl. Pattern was written for sport-weight yarn to be knitted on US8 (5 mm). It’s still a bit smaller than I expected, but thanks to blocking, it will work fine as a shoulder shawl.

Additionally, I shortened the eight-row edging to six rows. I thought that would give me enough yarn to finish in one ball, but alas, going up to US7 (4.5 mm) for the bind-off ate up much more yarn than I expected and I took a couple of yards off a second ball.

And finally, when I knit another of these (and I definitely will), I will change the center stitch. It was written as a k1b right side, purl wrong side. It looks OK, but I preferred how it looks on the wrong side – so next time, I'll be purling on the RS, k1b on the WS.

Pattern difficulty: 2 out of 5 (advanced beginner to intermediate).

Knit it again? Oh hell yeah. This is a great way to build your confidence and discover if you will hate, like, love, or become obsessed with lace. So far I’m at the “love” stage and expect to wind up beyond.

Many, many thanks (as previously mentioned) to everybody involved:

- Amy (who declared how thrilled she was that she was "a part of history" when I called her in the middle of binding off, and who was here to help me get the blocking thing right), Kelly, Laura, and Katharine all helped save me from disasters, ranging from simple missed YOs and lace "reading" problems to tragedies of near-epic proportions. All hail the Lace Doctors!
- Plus a little extra to Kelly, who prevented a total meltdown in my very amateurish pre-blocking attempt (which is better left further undescribed).
- Laura's additional contribution of the brilliant lifeline thing was a HUGE help.
- Everybody else who cheered me on (which was most of the Cafe Express group), especially Jenny (it's very helpful to have real medical help on hand when your lace is melting).

Now that I know that lace doesn't have to be a big bunch of drama at all times, there will be more – much more. I'm hooked and I can't stop staring. There's a big bunch of Sea Silk hanging around waiting for me...not to mention that Claudia lace silk (which is still trying to hook up with my MacBook – it's getting embarrassing).

Finally, one more photo for the road...because Pablo just loves being covered up (no, seriously).

He is so very metro. Though he did let me know in subtle gestures that the Amethyst isn't quite him and that he rather prefers the Sangria – more striking against the black and white, don't ya know.

On that note: Happy 10th birthday to patient Pablo (aka The Buddy, Buddrick McFatStuff, and Big ‘un) and his darling sister Pandora (aka Fuzz, Darlin’ Girl, and Sweetness). They don’t look a day over two.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go knit some stockinette.

* Well. Except for the night I finished the knitting...because I was gosh-darned determined that I was going to finish before I went to sleep. I finished the last stitch at the stroke of midnight.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Comment. Ary?

It's quite a business, this blogging thing. I am quickly realizing that there are far more of you reading all.this.rambling than I had imagined. And a lot of you have been commenting recently too...who knew?

Being that I'm still breaking bad correspondence habits, and that I don't have a lot of utilities at my disposal for quick replies, I've been really lazy about saying hello to some of you when you give me a shout. Pretty shameful, really - it's not like I have hundreds of e-mails to wade through.

In lieu of making excuses or promises, I just wanted to take a moment to say HI BACK, and thanks for every time you make the effort to type something in. I am always oddly thrilled at every comment I receive, particularly if I don't know you very well (or at all) but you still found something I said worth responding to.


Ever the f*#&ing apple polisher, I've started something else to make my readership even more attentive. Beginning with this post, I'm going to run an ongoing, semi-invisible, randomized contest. Winners will receive a nice little reward.

Here's the official rules:

- Every reader who is willing to provide a working e-mail address and accept a shout-out is eligible. You may win up to twice.
- To enter, you MUST e-mail me at plumtexan at earthlink dot net with your answers. Please include "Plum Texan Random Secret" in your subject line. In the event that I receive more than one correct answer, it's first come, first win.
- Do not enter by submitting a comment, and if you figure things out, PLEASE don't reveal the overall contest idea.
- No hints as to the nature of the game or the winning answers will be provided. Prizes will vary slightly in value depending on the game installment, but all of them will be good.

That's right: y'all have to figure it out for yourselves, heh heh heh. Again, please note that the contest begins today and runs until it doesn't amuse me any longer. Going forward, I'll announce when someone has won, but I won't tell you what or how.

So read well, my peeps. I'm really, really hoping that some of you actually win - for it will reinforce even further that in the blogosphere, truly, I am among my people.
Speaking of anybody watching Heroes? I LOVE THAT SHOW. Give me a holler if you do too.

And finally, be prepared, because next week is going to be a plum humdinger. (Sorry, couldn't help myself.) The Sunday Evening Post will be a BIG one (if you happen to know why already, please keep it a secret until then!), and there will also be baking on Wednesday. (I've promised Amy my legendary pumpkin bread for her birthday...the first pumpkin bread of the cooler seasons!)

I wish everyone true autumn weather and a very, very enjoyable weekend.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


(Warning: image-heavy and very long. I *know*!)

Not exactly original, I know. But if you'd had the time I had last night, you'd feel that way too. There just wasn't much that sucked that one couldn't expect of Houston, really (count 'em: heat, humidity, mosquitoes, and traffic).

Enough of that, then: I am ready to move on to the fun.

For those of you unfamiliar with the sprawling purgatory of concrete that is the metropolitan Houston area, I'm providing map links. It won't quite do it justice, but perhaps you'll gain some understanding of the lengths to which we'll go for the Harlot (and, of course, for great yarn sold by great staff).

I begged an early afternoon off weeks ago, even though this is the last week of hell for this particular work season - and got it. (Believe's been earned.)

So I left the Hobby area just before 3:30 and headed for the Rice campus to grab Everwhelming Liz, then to Montrose for Meredith. Rush hour considered, we fairly sailed all the way out to Spring and Twisted Yarns, grabbed a quick dinner, and found a parking spot just as Stephanie was walking in. I'm really, really glad I didn't run over her.

I couldn't quite believe my eyes (or my luck) when I saw him in the parking lot, so imagine my surprise when, a mere few minutes after we arrived, a comfy chair opened up in the vicinity of:

David, all the way from San Antonio - replete with sweater, kilt, Marshmallow kilt hose, cute knees, kick-ass camera, and...well. You get the idea.

Christine was also on hand for the circle of comfy chairs (and throughout the evening). I pulled out the Red Shawl Dammit, and Liz nestled herself into the Cotton Corner:

as Meredith (and I'm pictures of you were sub-par) did a bit of shopping. We whiled away a good 30-45 minutes before taking a "short" walk over to the Wunsche High School. Folks, let me just say: this was not a high school, it was a mini-mall. New construction, fabulous decor, an OPERATING coffee for the knitters, and most importantly: killer air conditioning. Aaah.

Then, check-in, door prize tickets (plus a hug from Janet), and row stakeout. I gave Meredith an extra chair on my left due to my significant seated arm span, and two very cool, very vocal characters took up residence at the far end of the row. We soon spotted Amy and other SnB denizens, who chatted at the entry for a bit, leaving an empty seat to my right...

...just long enough for David to ask if he could occupy it. How could I refuse? ;) In short order, he'd semi-unpacked, offered to buy me coffee, ended up sharing his water, and laughed heartily at my witty repartee.*

Amy took a seat by Liz, and we soon saw Jen and her cute mom, plus Jenny and Sarah. During the door prize giveaways, it quickly became apparent that our entire section was a bit rowdy, and I thanked my lucky stars, because the smartasses are so much fun. Liz lucked into some Cotton Yarn of Orange Randomness, I whimpered at others getting the Lexie Barnes and Della Q bags, and the color commentary grew more and more colorful. Then, some intro from Twisted owners Eve and Shelley, and finally:

HARLOT. (Yes, she's blurry. Blame me if you must.) There were Traveling Sock photos. There was (briefly) a curly head on my shoulder (that didn't belong to me). There was a lot of laughing (especially at shared knowing looks with Amy, and at David's well-placed cough). There was a lot of nodding in agreement. There were a few "amens." People, it was Knitters' Church, and Stephanie is well and truly the traveling preacher. We all seemed to love every minute. (I did so while trying desperately to neither sweat nor blush too profusely. I was only somewhat successful.)

Afterward, I discovered that Melissa was now a *former* colleague (but she landed on her feet and is employed again), and that Amy was parked at the school so that she, Jenny and I managed to avoid walking back. Thank God. Because the humidity had multiplied...and I swear it was hotter at 8:45 than it had been in broad daylight. We gathered at the Twisted Yarns door:

Tried to figure out what the hell this bug was:

Queued up (and P.S. - I'd love to know if the really adorable ladies from Austin who were behind me in line ever stop by - give me a shout, I was too goofy to catch your names!):

Obliged each other some photos:

(Jenny at left, Amy at right.)

Got the giggles:

(That's Melissa on the right.)

Realized that the Harlot reads our blogs:

and completely lost our shit and turned into blithering idiots. (Well. I can only speak for myself on that one. Bless Melissa for catching the moments for me!)

Oh, and gave her presents (Brown Paper Chocolates and Central Market honey-roasted pecans):

The "reads my blog" part was reinforced when she asked if I wanted a sock picture. I said yes, but that I couldn't touch the actual sock. She said, in that very astute Stephanie way: "I know."

I held it by the needles instead.

Beyond that, there was blerphing, a little milling, a lot of repressed squeeing, and a shit-ton of driving. Not to mention not nearly enough sleep, which I seem to be repeating** in the interest of avoiding as much blog-heckling as possible.

And would appear I've done it. I've made a photo-laden post only one day after an event. Is that a plague of locusts outside my window?

No, wait: I live really close to a major side street. And there's still traffic at midnight. That's Houston for you.

*Nice work if you can get it. Though the Divine has a wicked sense of humor to not let such things happen to me for most of my life...until after I'm married.
**Confidential to one anxious reader: 15 hour...what's the difference? :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Oh yes, my faithful few, it is now that I recall what a complete pile of DORK I become when too many awesome things happen in one night. I may have been a squeeing fangirl in the presence (and due to the kindness) of not just one very famous knitblogger, but also other very lovely knitbloggers with varying degrees of notoriety.

For the title? Is what I heard coming out of my mouth when I met the Yarn Harlot for the second time tonight. And she remembered me. And what I gave her the last time I saw her (Texas dishcloth and St. Arnold's beer, for the record). And there's more, too.

It's also what was running through my head off and on throughout the evening, for a variety of reasons. Considering my second instance of serious intoxication due to Harlot influence, yarn fumes, kilt happiness, and camera envy, I think I'm saving most of the rest for tomorrow.*

So let me keep this simple, lest I embarrass myself still further: many thanks to Liz and Meredith for fun carpooling; Amy and Jenny and Jen and Sarah for being good company as always; David for being a great row-mate, providing a great deal of mirth, and tolerating my silliness; Melissa for photos with the Harlot; the passel of knitters with whom I chatted at random, most notably the two adorable ladies from Austin who were behind me in line.

Pictures and more stories tomorrow. Seriously - this time it will actually happen.

(Amy. I can hear you all the way from the island. You are NOT allowed to laugh that loudly at me.)

* Note that there is no mention of the late hour. It is presently 12:24 am, whatever my post time might say, and I doubt my ability to sleep for a while to come.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An acceptable time

Wind, unicorn, and boy merged into a single swiftness.
- A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Madeleine L'Engle knew how to make children believe in magic. Scientific abstractions, thin veils between worlds, mythical creatures...she knew them all, and how to tell their stories.

She also understood young girls awkward in their adolescence, little boys isolated by their genius, children whose parents or personalities or looks make them stand out in ways that they'd rather not. And she knew that the magic she spun was something these children needed - something that made them less lonely, that let them know that someone else in the world could see life through imagination's eye.

I don't know if she imagined that millions of people would adore her for the love and sadness and wonder she poured into every word - but we do, and always will. Madeleine L'Engle wrote books, raised a family, won awards, and lived a very long life...and in my world, that may be the greatest fantasy of all.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Feast or famine

I just realized that's how it's going to be around here, at least for a while. Right now we're at the "famine" stage. You see, I just put in something approximating 2/3 of a workday in time, but thanks to the magic of being at home closed in a quiet room with no one interrupting me, it equals at least a full day, if not a day and a half, of actual work.

With, of course, the added benefit of delivered Indian dinner, plus an adorable husband and cats to cuddle on stand-up breaks.

All this to say that while my interest in keeping all dozen of you informed about my latest snoozeathon goings-on has not waned, my ability to do so is hampered for at least another three weeks. Last week's photo fest was an anomaly inspired by two solid work-free days (you'll note that I didn't actually get an entire holiday weekend) and sufficient sleep. I'll be bucking to hang on to the sufficient sleep, but my brain will still be a fritter until the last weekend of the month.

I'm rather itching to give y'all more, and it's available! Cat pictures. Yarn pictures. Pictures of more yarn molesting my MacBook. Progress updates. I'm going nuts to cook and bake again, and I'm getting through even more of the clutter, a little bit at a time. If my workload were normal, I don't think anyone would recognize my house, much less this blog...for I would be achieving previously unimagined levels of productivity.

But alas, all I can do is yammer. And also mention that since my brain is rather taxed, I took the Red Shawl Dammit back up temporarily, and managed a lovely non-wool new-ball join thanks greatly to TECHknitting's advice in several posts (yes, I'm being lazy about this part). Having something to keep my hands busy also satisfied my need to multi-task and helped prevent me from becoming distracted by the Internets as I worked. Now if they'd just let me do it at the office...'course, I might be tempted to use my sharp-pointed sticks for endeavors not related to fiber artistry...

And to my Thursday-night knit sibs (tm Brenda Dayne) - believe me, I was not fit for public consumption or any kind of knitting last week; I hope this week is different, but it's not entirely likely. So the Forest Canopy sits, still missing a YO and not getting any more finished.

Rest assured that y'all will be the first to know if another anomaly comes along. Oh, how I miss my rather limited sanity.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The many loves of Plum Texan

This post brought to you by my newest love affair, an as-yet-unrenamed MacBook whom, I think you will agree, is quite the luscious lovely.

Yes, despite the recently-mentioned work insanity, I find myself in love with a number of things these days. Work itself, for example - Friday was two years since I first walked in the door. No matter how much it wears me out sometimes, I'm really lucky and really grateful.

I also don't have a great photo you haven't already seen for the next one: adorable Thomas turned three on Friday. No, I didn't miss it; I left his mom a voice mail to play for him, and now I just hope they all survived the weekend (two parties yesterday, I was told). It just seems remiss not to pay Interweb tribute to the first (and so far, only) person whose birth I attended. Happy belated birthday, darlin!

Catching up from last week, a little more love:

The gorgeous Claudia silk laceweight from Twisted Yarns, in the Last Night's Wine colorway. It would also seem that the Claudia and the MacBook have developed a mutual admiration society:

They sure do look cozy. Now that's a pile of pulchritude I could really go for.

Oh...did somebody mention birthdays?

Yep, you guessed it: the last love for tonight is the love of my life. Here, my freshly-groomed TechieBK Bryan holds forth during dinner at Saltgrass (mmmm), all in honor of his third turn through the Chinese zodiac, also known as his 36th birthday. Amy, my parents, and more friends - Bryan's BFF Kirk and his wife Patty - joined in for a nice long sit-around, replete with jokes and inappropriate humor, how-we-met stories, and it's-a-wonder-we-made-it-through-childhood stories. The best kind of evening, in my opinion...and, it seemed, in his too.

Happy birthday, handsome. You're another year goofier and I love you for it.