Sunday, September 30, 2007

Honor has its own rewards

Hockeyboy is in the throes of tryouts for the regular season teams. It is a nerve-wracking time for him, the DH and myself. It is his last year of Bantam hockey and he has a desire to play on a higher level team this year. My heart is tender for a young man with high aspirations but is in an incredibly tough and competitive association with room for only 15 A team players.

In the midst of the stress and anxiety, though, there has been a bright, shining moment of joy. A few of you may remember the Match Penalty ejection that ended last year's season on a very sour note. Although many high ranking officials made an extraordinary effort to overturn what was deemed an unfairly harsh penalty, the appeal didn't pan out as we'd hoped. Although we did receive some unexpected support, which encouraged us immensely, we had resigned ourselves to the fact that this suspension would carry over into this year's season and Hockeyboy would need to sit out 2 more games before being reinstated.

We received word last night, however, that as a direct result of Hockeyboy's situation and his manly stand before the district officials, the Minnesota Hockey Association has changed the rules regarding kicking penalties. We haven't seen the official rules yet, as they have not been posted, but our Association President was present when the vote was taken. Furthermore, he has taken it upon himself to contact the district officials with one last appeal to overturn the match penalty and allow Hockeyboy to play the entire season this year.

I have no idea if the appeal will work or not. I have already accepted the fact that he'll likely sit out 2 games. But I am so thankful that as a result of our situation, the bad rule change was reversed and no one else will face such a patently unfair situation ever again. What is more, I am thrilled with our great hockey Association President, who didn't just give up on this but has worked in the off season to see that justice was served.

Most of all, I'm proud of my Hockeyboyman's courageous and honorable behavior in the face of adversity and that his maturity and integrity has changed the game of youth hockey for the better.

Now, if I can only survive try-outs . . . If you think of it, say a little prayer for Hockeyman - and his mom and dad!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Another thrum bites the dust . . .

Thrummed Mittens pair 3 goes into the FO pile, the fleece for Thrummed Mittens pair 4 is selected and awaiting the dreaded thrum-making process. You'll notice, that with DancingDiva's consent, a loop and knotted button were added to facilitate mitten maintenance and retrieval. Wasn't the color a dead-on match, too?

In the meanwhile, I'm getting some whimpery whiny indications from the ol' knitting bag that a certain relationship is being neglected. In an attempt to avoid a written communique, expressing said discontent, I've made a sincere promise to devote any available knitting time this weekend to reaffirming our commitment to one another.

With heart-wrenching honesty and sincerity, I've reiterated over and over again that those other projects meant nothing to me. They were meaningless, just ships passing in the night. My heart and hands belong to Dickinson, now and forever until it is finished.

Think Dickinson believes me?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I'm in, I'm in, I'm IN!

It's Awana night tonight, so I only have a moment to post but . . .

I MADE IT! I'm in with the in crowd! I'm part of the clique!

(insert mental image of happy dancing - just don't use my middle aged figure in the dance - use, oh say, Hannah Montana?)

I just got my invite to Ravelry in the mail. I can already tell it's going to be a big time commitment at some point in the near future but, for now, I'll deal with it in small, manageable bites.

I'm known as Lorraine there, so come befriend me, if you're so inclined.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mitten Marathon Update

The Mitten Marathon is continuing here at Chaos Central. A weekend of stomach distress resulted in some unexpected knitting time, which brought the total to 5 completed mittens by last night.

This morning saw the start of mitten 6. By now, I've got the whole thrum manufacturing process down to a science and have modified the mitten pattern to include a thumb gusset and a slightly different way of knitting the thrums into the body of the fabric.
I have to admit that I'm much happier with the shape of the mitten with the gusseted thumb (the lavender mitten), although sacrifices of symmetry needed to be made. If you look closely, you will see that the thrums line up on the same wale up the thumb, instead of being staggered. However, I decided that since these mittens are completely utilitarian and meant to be used in the snow, the likelihood of anyone noticing the variation in thrum placement was remote. If they are paying that close of attention while my kids are building snowmen and throwing snowballs, I'm going to have to call the police, because that kind of behavior would be downright creepy.

I added cords to the mittens for the two younger girls. I've debated adding them to the older kids' mittens as well but fear an all out boycott of the mittens if I do. These teenagers of mine are a bit finicky (go figure). Then again, there is nothing worse than orphaned hand-knit mittens. Any other suggestions for preventing the loss of mittens that would meet with teen approval?

After all, the goal here is to keep the kidlet digits warm long enough for a decent winter recess - long enough for them to burn off excess energy . . . and to give Mommy a well-deserved coffee break.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thrums, thrums and more thrums

The change in the weather has brought about a change in knitting priorities around here. The wild fluctuations in temperatures, including a fleeting flirtation with frost last weekend, has induced me to set aside the two sweaters for myself and start the winter mitten knitting marathon I've been putting off all summer.

I pulled this pattern from Interweave Knits, Winter 2006. I knitted a swatch from the pattern sometime last winter but never quite got around to making them. Mostly because the wool yarns I had on hand were a bit scratchy and not quite the right colors to please the three finicky females who reside in this domicile. I just didn't feel the impetus to make something for girls who might not wear them because they weren't the "right" color.

The new yarn, though, is a soft as the proverbial baby's bottom and the girls all picked their favorite color, as well as the fleece for the thrums. With adequate feminine approval and an internal sense of impending doom cold weather, I cast on yesterday morning.

I love how quick to knit the first mitten for little Peeps turned out to be. Making the thrums turned out to take nearly as long as the knitting itself. I made a big pile, counted them, then doubled the size of the pile. As I work on the second mitten, though, I am quickly running short of thrums and will need to make more before I can finish this pair. I intend to count the total number of thrums on the first pair in order to calculate more accurately how many I'll need for the next pair. Since I had to modify the pattern slightly to accommodate the miniature hands of pixie-sized Peepster, I'll have to make even more thrums for Bubba's mittens, since hers will be full-sized. Alas, I fear I'll be making thrums for days and days, since each pair of mittens will get larger, as I work my way up the child "size" ladder.

Beyond the time consuming nature of thrum making, I also have to admit that I am not fond of the afterthought thumb design on this pattern. While I concede that it is easier to maintain the thrum patterning without taking gusset increases into account, it just doesn't fit as nicely as I would like.

Needless to say, I will probably redesign the next pair of mittens to include a thumb gusset. I'll need to do some calculations to figure out the thrum placement but beyond that, I don't see any reason why it would be difficult to re-work the pattern to suit me.

Now, for some comment housekeeping:

Trek asked how large the Hemlock Ring Blanket measured. It is just over 3 feet in diameter. It wasn't quite as large as I'd hoped but when it is bunched up on a circular needle, it is kind of hard to figure out how large it will be. It was the full charted size of Brooklyn Tweed's pattern adaptation but my gauge was different. It is a nice size to toss around my shoulders while sitting in my knitting chair but too small to be an actual lap blanket. I'm even thinking it would make a great baby blanket for a little boy.

Guinifer asked what pattern I was using for my latest sweater project. It is from the latest Vogue Knitting Magazine. The pattern doesn't have a catchy name but is on page 144. I've been looking at a couple sweaters that have this unique construction technique and was anxious to give it a try. The ribbed background seem to be the most flattering style for my rather buxom physique, so I'm giving it a shot. I have no idea, really, how flattering this will be on me but the yarn was really cheap, so I might as well experiment. If it doesn't look good, all I've lost is my time and I will have gained a lot of understanding of this unusual garment construction technique.

Well, off to school my munchkins. The hamster wheel never stops around here. If the squeaking sound you hear stops with a noisy crash, that'll be me falling off. OY!

(edited to add: Rani, thrums are little tufts of unspun fiber. You start with a 6 or 8 inch long wisp of roving, fold both ends to the middle and roll between your fingers. I added a little moisture to semi-felt the center strand that was created. You end up with a 3-5 inch long "bow-tie" of thrum. You then knit these tufts into the mitten at pre-determined pattern, keeping the fluffy ends to the inside of the mitten. These tufts will insulate the mitten. You can see a detailed description here or here.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pictures - at last!

Just a quick post today. We have a hockey game in a little while, so my blogging time is limited.

Here is the new sweater in my life. The color of the yarn isn't quite accurate, as you can tell from the Vogue Knitting Magazine cover. But I wanted the cable and ribs to show up a little. That way, you can understand why I found this challenging pattern just too irresistible. More cabling without a cable needle, combined with knitting in the round - delectable.

If you look real close, you can see some ladybug stitch markers I whipped up a while back. I love them, although they are so heavy, I don't use all of them at one time.

Just to prove that I'm still paying some attention to the Dickinson Pullover, here is a current progress photo. I'm nearing the end of the raglan shoulder shaping of the back. This has become a great portable project because I've memorized the patterns involved and I only need the pattern for the shoulder shaping.

Finally, some clearance stash enhancements. These 100% wool yarns were just too yummy not to come home with me. Having 3 girls, we see a lot of pastel colors around here. Fortunately, Dancing Diva likes pink, Bubba loves lavender and Peeps adores every shade of green, so arguments are kept to a minimum. If I get a chance yet today, out will come the rovings and I'll spend some time preparing the thrums for some thrummed mittens.

Given the cold temps we've started logging at night around here, the girls may need these mittens sooner than I expected. Brrrr.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Random thoughts

It has been a very wild and woolly week - literally.

The school routine is just beginning to become just that - routine. We are still not getting all the subjects covered for the little girls yet but it is getting more streamlined every day and we should, with some luck and grace, start history and science next week. I have gotten so far that I actually had a little fiber time during the school day. Yay!

I dug out more wool and started a new project . . . yes, I know, yet another affair, while still carrying on with Dickinson. I am steadily working on Dickinson but it is becoming quite mindless and I was looking for a new challenge for those times when I was just plain bored with my first love. While I love the fact that this rather complex looking pattern was so easily memorized, it does leave me longing for something along the lines of "extreme knitting".

And to compound the increasing faithlessness, I picked up some wool yarn today on clearance at Joann's to start mittens for the girls. All the wool was very Spring/Easter/Pastel-ish, so Hockeyboy will not be getting anything out of this batch of yarn but the colors will look fabulous with thrums of brighter primary colored rovings that are languishing in the stash. Hockeyboy will have to settle for the charcoal grey yarn/black thrum combo that is also cluttering up the stash already. Stay tuned for photos in the next post.

And on a truly positive note, the DH and I went out on a date last night. A real, live date, don'cha know! We went out for Thai food, which we both love and then we wandered through an office supply store, looking for some storage and organization items to make school a little more manageable. It was so nice to have some grown-up conversation, without quarrelling kids and rampant environmental chaos. What a blessing!

To quote Hockeyboy's favorite catch phrase, "Good times, good times!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Welcome to Chaos

Although I like to portray myself as the ultimate in Super-Momdom and frequently gloss over my numerous faults as a homemaker and mother, there comes a time when brutal honesty is absolutely mandatory.

My life is in utter shambles.

There, I said it. This whole juggling thing, which I truly thought I had mastered with incredible finesse and grace, has come crashing down around my ears.

On the homeschooling front, the advent of a new satellite dish from which we record the various and sundry classes our 4 children must take was supposed to the be ultimate in time-saving devices. Push a button to record the appropriate class, do a little presto-changeo editing and burn to DVD. Voila, a teaching assistant to free me from the sole responsibility of trying to teach 5 subjects to 4 different grade levels in the space of 6 hours (you do the math).

However, we have discovered that the process to set up the DVR to record all the different classes for all the kids takes about 4 hours of intense research and programming each quarter. That is, unless there is a black out because of weather conditions, which means that an additional recording session has to be scheduled and that increases the time significantly. Then there is the whole editing and burning process, which is currently taking 8 to 10 hours a week.

Then we have 4 kids who can't seem to figure out how to operate the DVD remotes and keep jumping forward or backward out of the current lesson and have to spend umpteen minutes fast forwarding and rewinding to find the spot where they should have hit the pause button instead of the skip button. Frequent bellows of, "MOM - I NEED HEEEELP!" can be heard by most of my neighbors on the block on a distressingly regular basis.

Add to this the fact that we have 3 televisions with DVD players and a portable DVD player, scattered throughout 3 floors of our home and I spend an inordinate amount of time running up and down stairs, in answer to the calls for help. Where I used to sit at the same table with all four kids, helping them on an individual basis, either doing chores or knitting/crafting in the quiet interludes between active teaching, while seat work was completed, now I am on the run from 8:30 to whenever everyone is done with their schoolwork. By that time, I am extraordinarily worn out and have no energy left for the household work that needs to get done to keep a family of six in clean clothing, home cooked meals and a semi-clean, healthful environment.

So, on the homemaker front, I'm chronically a load behind on dishes, 6 or more loads behind on laundry and I can't seem to get to the grocery store before we have run completely out of toilet paper or, worse yet, peanut butter every week. I cannot see my bedroom floor, for piles of clean laundry yet to be folded and put away and I don't even want to mention the scummy stuff that is appearing on every bathroom surface throughout the house.

On the blogging front, I've had no time to catch up on my favorite blogs, no time to work on projects for my own blog or to even answer the queries that have be posted in my comments.

Now, I am a big one for silver linings. Although it has been a bit more challenging than usual to find those glimmers of positives in the hard times, there are a few good things I see coming.

1) According to a friend experienced with the whole satellite/DVR thing, it will get faster and easier, especially since we won't need to re-record the classes we've already burned. When Dancing Diva hits 9th grade, all the DVDs will be done already and Bubba's 3rd grade DVDs will be available for Peeps in the future. By the time Peeps is ready for high school, all the DVDs will be done and ready for her.

2) The kids are all getting better at managing the DVD players and remotes and the time spent on each DVD is decreasing rapidly. Given that my older kids are already more technologically savvy than I am in other areas, this doesn't surprise me. In time, the DVDs will save me time and effort, if I can just survive the adjustment period.

3) All the running up and down the stairs has got to count as exercise. If it continues for awhile, I will have a great looking A**.

4) The utter lack of progress on basic house cleaning and maintenance has gotten so serious that my kids are starting to clean on their own, without being asked. While it is embarrassing to admit that the house is so dirty that my rather slovenly kids can't stand it, it is so exciting to see them take the initiative and help out more.

5) As far as the blogging, there just doesn't seem to be much positive about not having time to stay current with my friends. But, with time, perhaps that will mend itself, as the kids continue to get familiar with their new curriculum and continue take on more housework for me.

In the meantime, I haven't forgotten you and will do my best to get back into the routine again, soon.

Have I completely shattered all your illusions about me?

Friday, September 07, 2007


I am still in love. It is an enduring love that will see me through until the end of time I finish it. I have no doubts that the Dickinson Pullover will be completed and worn with pride.

But realistically, you all should have known that I wouldn't necessarily stay true to my first love. While I am an absolute believer in marital fidelity (adulterers should be shot), such faithfulness to one knitting project is just not in my nature. Were not the moniker "Yarn Harlot" already taken, it would be my alias, for, alas, that is what I am.

Therefore, while still in the throes of first passion with Dickinson, this little item caught my eye.
Brooklyn Tweed's Hemlock Ring Blanket.

Always up for a fling, I whipped out some coned Mary Lu's Schuss Plus wool from my stash and cast on. This was a short-lived affair, with cast on beginning on Friday and casting off beginning on Monday. However, due to the start of our school year, it took me several days of "a minute here, a minute there" knitting to complete the cast off process. After all, by the time you reach the last rows of this knit-in-the-round project, there are over 500 stitches on the needles. And the looped edge cast off, while fun and interesting to do, was very time consuming.

It is such a typical story - meet someone on Friday, spend a passionate weekend and then a rather messy, week long break-up to end the affair.

But at least I'll always have my memories. And a great throw.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Should I jump on the bandwagon?

Oh my goodness. I am so tired. Today was the first day back at a full homeschool schedule and I feel like that little puddle of goo left over after having a steam roller flatten you.

Since Sheepish Annie instituted the Bullet Point Wednesday when she was taking a night class, a few of her readers have started implementing their own versions of this brilliant blogging solution. I'm nothing if not a "joiner", so here goes my version of this stream-of-consciousness style, even though it is not Wednesday yet.
  • I have a six year old whom I do not understand. This child spent the better part of 3 hours last night doing somersaults. I first observed this phenomenon in my bedroom, where I discovered my bed (completely stripped of pillows, blankets and sheets) being used as somersault central. Being somewhat amused (and knowing it was high time to change the sheets anyway), I sat down and just watched. This girl rolled from the top of the bed, to the bottom of the bed and then back flipped off the end of the bed onto the pile of pillows, blankets and sheets on the floor. Then she did it again . . . and again . . . and again. For 3 episodes of Suite Life of Zack and Cody on Disney Channel (it was a marathon), this repetitive motion occurred.
  • A few hours later, after supper, I sat down in my favorite knitting chair and noticed that more somersaulting was taking place. This time a back flip over the arm of the love seat, a full backwards somersault across the length of the love seat, then a back flip over the other arm of the love seat, into a handstand and a quick flip to a 3-point landing. A quick rotation and another somersault over the footstool and onto the chair, then a back somersault back off of the footstool to another nailed landing. A double-time sprint to the end of the love seat and the ritual started again. Another 1.5 hours of flipping transpired, while various and sundry family members wandered in to watch in bemused awe this amazing display of perpetual motion.
  • This almost obsessive-compulsive situation would alarm me more if she didn't have a mother who has similar tendencies regarding knitting and other fiber arts.
  • I wonder if there is a way to harness such boundless energy and convert it to electricity. After all, our electric bill has been horrendous the past few months and we could use a cheap, inexhaustible source of energy around here.
  • It is hot outside. I actually burned the soles of my feet running out to the mailbox this afternoon. Which is why our electric bill is so durned high.
  • I'm so glad I don't have to teach in a school without air conditioning. Today would have been miserable, had I not had my luxurious, high-priced, air-conditioned "school house."
  • Did I mention I'm tired?
  • Someone asked where I learned to cable without the cable needle. I actually learned from an episode of Knitty Gritty with Annie Modesitt as the featured guest. I'm a total dive in there and learn from books, videos and internet person. I've never taken a knitting class in my life but am basically self-taught.
  • In all honesty, a friend did show me how to do magic loop knitting but since I didn't pay her, does that count as a "class?" And I signed up for a sock knitting class years ago but it was cancelled, so that wouldn't count either, right?
  • HGTV's schedule has changed and now Knitty Gritty will only be on once a week. I'm going to miss my morning ritual of knitting with Vickie Howell and friends.
  • Golly, I'm so tired. Is anything remotely coherent coming out of my mind anymore?

For those of you who know me well may wonder at the complete lack of comments on fiber art production. Well, although there was significant progress on a brand new, never before blogged project over the weekend, I didn't manage to finish it before the start of our little homeschool today and it just won't photograph well in its current state. And there is the little issue that not one stitch of knitting, sewing, crocheting or even mending took place today. Between introducing a new curriculum to all four kids and doctoring a very sick Hockeyboy, there wasn't a minute to even pick up the needles. :-(

Alas, I hope this is NOT a sign of the year to come. I'm already suffering from fiber withdrawal symptoms and it's only been 24 hours.

Must. Fondle. Fiber. NOW!