Fingerless glove

looking for what's missing... I'm a knitting, spinning, mother of teenagers with a big dog, a small cat, minus the lovely rabbit Meliflua.

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Location: Virginia, United States

Right now I'm listening to "An Irish Country Village" by Patrick Taylor, reading "Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake" by Anna Quindlen and knitting Wisconsin Wintersocks. And casting off the lace shawl I've been working on since I last posted.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dear Cokie,

Tonight the Country Mouse went to the City for a Caps to the Capitol reception at the Textile Museum. Cokie Roberts was the keynote speaker. She wears her celebrity well; she seemed very approachable, with a nice smile, a very nice dark taupe suit (90% of the women there were wearing black. It was practically a uniform. You'd think being knitters and crocheters we'd have been a little more colorful) and a passion for simple health initiatives to help low birthweight babies. Since I liked Ms. Roberts so much, I won't post the photo I took; you can go here if you want to see her.

Here are just a few of the caps sent from Wisconsin: (we loved the little Santa thing; it was especially well made. Can't you just imagine a tiny baby in Bangladesh wearing a Santa hat?)

Somewhere along the line, I might have claimed that 250,000 caps in so short a time was too ambitious a goal for this first cap effort by Save the Children.

I had to eat my words. 288,000 caps were donated from all across the country. I am here to tell you, knitters and crocheters are a force. And don't mess with Cokie. She's got a big bunch of people on her side.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The very last cookie

When I was in high school and dabbling in forensics, I signed up to compete in storytelling and chose to tell a Frog & Toad (Arnold Lobel, not the other one) story called, The Very Last Cookie. I didn't tell it very well, but it is still one of my favorites. When the Kids were little, I used to sneak it in between other stories they chose. The short version is, Toad has some wonderfully tasty cookies he doesn't want to eat all at once because then he won't have them anymore. He tries hiding them from himself all over the house.

I won't spoil the ending for you, but I have just eaten the very last peppermint cookie from the Christmas stash Mom sent me. These are butter cookies with crushed candy canes for flavoring. Chocolate chip, oatmeal Scotchies, sand tarts, Girl Scout Samoas or Scotch shortbread -- all very nice, but none can compare to the buttery-pink-peppermint-goodness of the very last peppermint cookie. Thanks, Mom.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Something's Gotta Give ...

Or “If you don’t put your dirty socks in the hamper, they will NEVER get washed.

I haven’t been knitting much this past week because I’ve been sewing. A lot. Two major projects, both with short deadlines that happened to coincide. I didn’t even have time to procrastinate. (Yes, thank you for asking. I did meet both deadlines with hours to spare. I even managed to get some sleep.) I just can’t squeeze in any knitting in my sewing room. The in-between-sewing time gets filled with cutting and pressing and picking all the stray threads from my clothes.

I had almost forgotten how much I love to sew. I enjoy fiddly sewing projects with tons of detail, seen and unseen. As long as I have a well-oiled machine, lots of time, lots of space and lots of underlining, I am happy. (Usually the “lots of time” and "lots of space" factors are missing. I will NOT show you a photo of my sewing room to prove my point. Just imagine "Ten pounds of sugar in a five pound sack.") The sense of satisfaction when I finish is tremendous, even more so when the dress fits.

I remember Mom teaching me to sew. I remember the first time I used The Machine -- a Czechoslovakian made Lada -- “sewing” sans thread along pencil drawn curves on a piece of notebook paper. (Lassie was on TV.) With a large family, half of them little girls, sewing was more a necessity for Mom than a pleasure; although she tells about elaborate maternity clothes with darling piped Peter Pan collars she made BC (Before Children). I guess each of us finds our own way to nest.

This past year, knitting has fit into my life better than sewing. Knitting is portable. It’s quiet. Its accoutrements take up less space. It nestles into the odd moments of things, into little blocks of time….

Which brings me to the dirty socks. My house tends to fall apart when I sew. I don’t notice hunger, so I don’t cook. There is no clock in my sewing room. I spend big blocks of time, measuring time’s passage only by the number of cassette tapes played from my early 80’s collection.

For now, I am happy to get back to my knitting and Criminy Jickets' Garterlac dishcloth.

Knitting works with my life. It doesn’t seem to take any time from anything else. It takes the edge off and fills up what would otherwise be irritating, wasted waiting. Knitting is the lubrication that keeps everyday friction from catching the house on fire. That big pile of socks could spontaneously combust.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Today is my first blogiversary. I still haven't cast on the twined knit sleeves I told you about when I started last January, but I have done a fair bit (for me) of knitting this year. As much as I love lists, you would think I'd keep a better record of what I have knit, but no-o-o-o. (Maybe this is for the best. I move forward to the next good thing?)

So here, from memory and I am sure with glaring gaps, is what I have accomplished this year knit-wise:

+Two High Country Knitwear cowboy hats
+a felted Kool-Aid cloche for Cassie's teacher
+a felted cat bed
+a hat for Larissa's meathead knit-along
*a baby cap for Caps to the Capital
*a felted Fibonacci cap, a red Aran and a green cap with hair for Caps for Kids
*a red scarf for the Red Scarf Project
*a white and blue and green scarf for the Red Scarf Project (figure that one out)
*2 7 x 9 blocks for group afghans
*a pink alpaca shawl for breast cancer fund raising
*at least 5 dishrags
+7 more inches on the Eternal Socks
*2 pair of baby booties
almost a whole Shapely Shawlette (I put this on the list because I actually knit more than an entire shawlette, since I made it bigger, but I confess I haven't figured out what I want the edge to look like)

Everything with an * was a charity project. Everything with a + was a gift.

I think I see a pattern here.

I have been invited to a knitting reception later this month -- not a formal reception, but not a blue jeans & turtleneck event either. There are two things keeping me from slipping into something slinky to schmooze the night away: 1) I am not a night owl. It is in DC. At night. and 2) I don't have a single cool knit thing to wear. No elegant shawls, no artful hats, no wild socks, no colorful sweaters. The knit mittens I wear and treasure were knit for my Grandma by her sister.

I do not believe I am unique. While most of the knitters I know probably have a thing or two in their closet that they've done for themselves, I'll bet they have given more away than they've kept. Knitters are kind hearted. Just look at the Yarn Harlot's sidebar total for Knitters Without Borders (her very own Doctors Without Borders "spin" off. That's where the money goes.) On December 15, 2006, the total was about $120,000. Since then knitters have answered Stephanie's challenge by adding over $200,000 to that total.

Maybe it's not such a bad thing, not having any knitted chic in my own closet.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Compatibility Questionnaire

First, I'd like to say that just because I was reveling in the 22 degree (Celsius) weather the other day, doesn't mean it's my fault that today it's 22 degrees (Fahrenheit). I realize that I am a Mom and Mom's are very powerful, but I do not control the weather.

Classes started this week. I've switched campuses, and the syllabus said that at the new campus, we'd need an actual lab coat (as opposed to one of Dad's old shirts) for lab. With 4 days to work and a 50% off coupon for JoAnn's Fabrics, I decided to make one. Besides saving a money, there was the added advantage that the coat would actually FIT. I found the perfect white, bleachable fabric, shortened the pattern all around, et voila! 10 hours and $10.36 later, a well-fitting, well-constructed lab coat (with my initial embroidered in pale blue on the undercollar where no one would ever see it.)

When I got to class, I found out that the campus bookstore sells Tyvek lab coats for $7 --wear it for one semester and pitch.

Was your response:

a) Bummer.

b) You poor thing. All that effort for nothing.

c) You wasted all that time on a stupid lab coat when you could have been sewing an 18th century noblewoman costume for me!

d) Now you have a cool new lab coat (that doesn't swish when you walk)!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

January 14, Windchill 22 Degrees

That's 22 degrees Celsius -- 71 degrees Fahrenheit. Warmer than room temperature.

I am not the only one confused by our unseasonable weather. Hail, Forsythia, harbinger of Spring (at least around here). This is usually the second thing to bloom, after the crocus and we all know they'll bloom in the snow if they feel like it.

I'm sure we'll get some seasonable weather sooner or later, but that's no reason not to glory in T shirt weather in January.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

See? I do finish knitting projects.

I just don't manage the photography end of blogging very well. Here is my beloved Oliver modeling a cat bed originally intended for The Great and Impressive Budders. ( From Cat Bordhi's The Second Treasury of Magical Knitting. Page 82, I think.)

He's grown rather attached to it. It's not especially cushy, and when I first finished felting it, I thought, "Big deal. Cats probably couldn't care less."

But he likes it -- enough that now I have to knit another one. It must be the flexible, just-his-size, envelope-like nature.

Me, I like the dread locks around the edge.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Letting Go

My name is Gail and I am addicted to Free Cell.

You know, the solitaire card game that comes preloaded on your computer. I'm not sure what attracts me, but I suspect it's some subconscious quest for perfectionism. (I have conscious perfectionism issues, too, but that's another story.) Rumor has it that -- unlike most low percentage solitaire games -- every single, possible Free Cell layout is winnable. And there are thousands. I have yet to find one that wasn't winnable and I've played thousands. (My current winning streak is 817. I am not far off when I call this an addiction.)

It's like the satisfaction you feel from untying a knot. You work at it for a few seconds, poke and prod a bit, see what's holding things up, then suddenly all the cards go flying up and you're home free.

I rationalize that it's not a complete waste of time. It's good practice for seeing patterns, for keeping part of my brain tuned up. And it's great for when I want to think about something that's bothering me, but I don't want to think about it too hard, so I use the extra brain power for Free Cell.

It could be worse. I could be doing it in Vegas.

But like any exercise, if you run too long, you get shin splints. Or carpal tunnel syndrome. I'm not surprised that we've come to the second week of January before I was able to distill my New Year's resolution. (Or as MamaCate and January One suggest, "Intention.") This year, in a thousand tiny baby steps, I am letting go: letting go of clutter both real and imagined.

I've already waded through my stuff once for my knitting guild's soon to be annual Stash Swap & Sale. Once I had the few extra dollars in my hand, I realized (with some help from wise Mary Ann), "What I really wanted was just to get the stuff out of my house & hopefully to someone who'll use it. Should I give this to Knitters Without Borders or the Heifer Fund?"

Do you have yarn in your life that you don't really love? If you make a mistake in your knitting -- a white stitch where there should have been a blue one, a twisted stitch or a contrary cable --127 rows back, does your eye go straight to that spot instead of to the rest of your beautiful shawl? Do you torture yourself over missed opportunities? Do you proofread your blog 3 or 4 times? Do you save things you don't really want because "you might need them someday?" Do you wear dull clothes because they are perfectly serviceable?

Life is not too short; it is too precious. I am letting go.

I think I'll start by giving up Free Cell.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I love my space

I love my office space. It's not fancy. It's home to two cats, two dogs, occasional doggie visitors and almost no human visitors. It's usually a mess. I save too many things so, even though I could pull up the information on a house that wasn't built three years ago, there is absolutely no need to.

And I don't always take good care of it. So for this new year I've made a resolution. Catch up on the filing (AKA shift the rubble), take out the recyclable paper, and defrost the refrigerator.

I've already done the third, thanks to a squirrel.

One simple invention -- the doggie door -- makes having office dogs a breeze. It releases me from the toddler-like interruptions of, "Mom! I have to go to the bathroom!" The downside of the doggie door is that it doesn't discriminate between creatures that belong inside, and those that are just looking for, say, a warm cozy bookshelf to curl up on.

Enter the Squirrel. He decided to settle BEHIND the books.

He was chased out fairly quickly (Did I mention I share space with two dogs & two cats?) with a liberal amount of ruckus. In that ruckus, the refrigerator's connection to electricity was severed. Two days later, as if by magic, I have a completely defrosted office fridge. Who knew squirrels were so useful?