Friday, May 27, 2005

It reached 92 degrees here today. Let me repeat that... NINETY-TWO DEGREES!! What the heck is going on? It almost never gets above 85 here, and anything above 70 we feel like we're going to melt. It's only May. This does not bode well for the rest of the summer.

And of course, today would be the day that Shaun got a ride in to town for early-morning swim practice, taking his keys with him because his gym pass is on them, and my keys are in the diaper bag I forgot at the babysitter's house yesterday. So Emma and I are at home with the car but no keys, Shaun isn't answering his cell, and Emma and I have to get to work/babysitter's.

So I slathered us up with sunscreen, packed Emma in the stroller, put on a hat and sunglasses, and off we went. Now the walk to the Lab isn't long at all, only about two miles, but it's NINETY-TWO degrees out! Way. too. hot. By the time we got to the babysitter's, I was dripping sweat and ready for a nap, or possibly a quick jump off the Lab's dock into the freezing cold Puget Sound.

Hopefully it'll cool off a bit before we have to walk home this evening. I'm going to make something special and yummy and cool for dinner (haven't figured out what yet), because five years ago today, Shaun and I were married in a lovely outdoor ceremony at the Lucerne Inn in Maine.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Busy busy! Tuesday night and Wednesday morning I spun up another four bobbins of singles and rewound them for plying. I just love this color.

Last night and this morning I plied two skeins of three-ply. Lovely soft, bouncy yarn!

The top skein is 3.7 oz/222 yards, and the bottom one is 2.7 oz/135 yards. This used up all of one bobbin of singles and 3/4 of two others. I still have enough on the bobbins to do at least two more skeins of three-ply. The five bobbins above represent a full pound of the roving, two-fifths of the total amount I have.

This spinning is going really fast. Commercial top (this commercial top, anyway) is so easy to draft that I don't even have to think about what I'm doing, the singles just appear on the bobbin. It's like magic, like the singles are already there in the unspun roving, I'm just drawing them out and feeding them onto the bobbin.

Fiber into yarn. Magic.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I finished the little aran sweater on Saturday night. I'm quite pleased with the way it came out, especially considering I was making it up as I went along. It fits the (tall for his age) 5 year old boy I babysit for, who I sort of had in mind when I was estimating the size, pretty snugly though, so I'll probably sell this one at the county fair in August and knit him another one so he has room to grow. This would be a better fit on a 4-year-old or average 5-year-old.

After I finished the sweater, I felt like spinning, so I dug around in the closet and found this colonial top, purchased off Ebay, in a pretty heathery violet purple color. I don't think this wool is quite as soft as the turquoise colonial top I spun up a while ago, but it's still very soft and yummy. The main color is vibrant purple, but it also has royal blue, magenta, and lavender in it.

I spun one full bobbin last night, about three hour's playtime. This morning the bobbin and Emma and I went for a nature walk around the yard to find a photogenic spot to show off the singles. We discovered that when this top is spun, the color deepens to the exact shade of the lupines in my front yard.

I love the way a multicolor top spins into a yarn with so much life. The colors swirl around each other, and it really gives the yarn depth. I have 2 1/2 pounds of this top, and I think it will become either a sweater or shawl for me-me-me.

While we were walking around, we encountered this lovely Western Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio rutulus) nectaring at the lupines:

And this California Darner dragonfly (Aeshna californica) perched on the grass nearby.

As you can see, the grass is fairly tall, but it makes better wildlife habitat that way, rather than scalped into a golfcourse lawn!

Friday, May 20, 2005

As promised, here's a shot of the sweater-in-progress. I decided not to post the one I was going to post yesterday, since I've done more on it since then. I finished the front, attached the shoulders, and started a sleeve last night.

This is a very basic sweater, just rectangles front and back with a little neck shaping in front, and then sleeves picked up and knit in the round from the shoulder to the cuff, decreasing a bit along the way. Easy peasy. I just needed something relatively mindless to keep my hands busy while waiting in the hospital, but still with enough stitch variation to keep me interested. Since I left home without any yarn or needles or anything (I was a little distracted at the time- actually, I'm a bit surprised I managed to pack anything useful at all), my sister and aunt and I made a trip to a Jo-Ann's near the hospital in Bangor to get supplies.

I ended up with Wool-Ease in a pretty heathered blue color and a circular needle. I didn't want to spend a lot, and I've got a complete set of Addi circs at home, so I only got one needle, though I prefer to knit in the round with two circulars. The yarn is pretty, but it feels plasticky to me even though it does have some wool in it. I prefer Encore as an acrylic/wool blend. Apparently I am a bit of a yarn snob after all. Who knew! It's machine wash and dry, though, and that's the important thing for a kid's sweater that will get worn a lot.

Oh, and the Lego in the picture? Emma very carefully carried it over and put it down there as I was laying out the sweater. When I moved it to take the picture, she said, "NO-NO Mommy! No-no-no." Then she put it back, patted it, and said "Good." Who am I to argue with creative genius?!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Today I added the 40th bird species to my yard list- the Black-headed Grosbeak. This was tremendously exciting because not only is it new for the yard list, it's new on my Life List. That makes 378 total bird species seen, 122 of them in Washington state, and 117 on the island where I live. I believe I mentioned that I am a geek. Shaun thinks it's hilarious that I keep multiple bird lists. We won't even go into the lists for butterflies, moths, dragonflies, damselflies, frogs, salamanders, reptiles, fish (freshwater and salt, with a separate one for darters), wildflowers, mammals (terrestrial and marine), seaweeds, marine bivalves, marine snails, freshwater bivalves, freshwater snails, and on and on. My Excel "Life List" workbook has 36 spreadsheets in it.

In fibery news, I have resumed knitting on the child's aran sweater I started in the hospital last month. I had gotten the body done (in the round) to the underarms, and most of the back (knit flat above the underarm). Last night I finished the back, and got to the neck shaping on the front. I'm not using a pattern for this, I was just making up the sizing and cable pattern as I went along. I think it'll fit about a 6 or 7 year old child- the body circumference is 28". This should be a quick finish, hopefully by the end of the weekend. I did take a picture of the progress so far, but silly me forgot the camera at home today. Tomorrow for sure!

Monday, May 16, 2005

After finishing the bookmarks-that-weren't-hardanger, I felt the need to make something that was hardanger. This is what I came up with:

It's pretty simple, but I think it'll look nice as the top of a sachet, filled with lavender from my garden. It's about eight inches across.

It took about 12 hours to make- four evenings. There are a lot of woven bars and dove's eyes! I haven't done hardanger for quite a while, and I've lost the callus on my right index finger, where I kind of "bounce" the needle off to redirect it back up through the fabric while weaving the bars. I kept poking my finger, and even with a blunt tapestry needle, that hurts after a while. The results are worth it, though.

I think the reason hardanger appeals to me is that it's so geometric and tailored. It's lace-ish, but not frou-frou.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Well, I finally finished the three bookmarks. They took just one evening each, including the designing, and the only excuse I can think of for why it took me so long to finish is that I’m lazy. But they’re done, and mailed out. The hemstitching took far longer than the actual embroidery.

I called them “hardanger bookmarks” in a previous post, but they aren’t truly what I think of as hardanger. They do use traditional motifs and pulled-thread eyelets, but there’s no cutwork. To me, it’s the cutwork and filling stitches that make it “hardanger.” Here are a few examples of original design bookmarks I did last summer (that won blue ribbons at the County Fair!)

Those are hardanger. However, I needed quick gifts, and bookmarks like these take more time. Simple embroidery won out.

Oh, and the first stripey petunia opened today!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Emma and I have been doing some more gardening. In the past few days, we have planted four boxes for the back deck rail

with petunias and verbena. When we were at the garden center, Emma gravitated right to the purple petunias, just like she did to the purple pansies last month. This girl likes purple! I got some white verbena and purple and white striped petunias (which aren’t blooming yet) to balance them out so the boxes wouldn’t just be solid purple.

We also planted a large round pot of petunias to go next to the pansies on the front porch and two hanging pots of fuchsias to flank the front door. These don’t look like much now, but hopefully they will fill out nicely.

The garden center had pre-made baskets of fuchsias that are already blooming, but I didn’t want to pay $28 each. Besides, it’s more fun to plant them myself! Each of mine cost $5 for the hanging pot, about $1 for the potting soil, and $.50 each for three fuchsia plants. Two hanging pots for a total of $15, rather than $56. Much better.

While we were outside planting all these and doing some weeding, I was able to add more birds to my yard list, bringing the total to 35 species seen in the yard since December. The ones I added recently include the Yellow-rumped Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Black-throated Gray Warbler. Warblers were one of my favorite parts of spring in North Carolina and Maine. There is nothing like the springtime warbler migration on the East Coast. The west coast just doesn’t have the diversity of warbler species that the east does.

Birds are hard to take pictures of, but I was able to snap a couple of other critters we saw in the yard…

This is a Pacific tree frog (Pseudacris regilla), a very cute little fellow. These are amazingly noisy for their size (less than two inches).

And this is a Pacific Forktail damselfly (Ischnura cervula), very dainty and delicate, one of three species I’ve seen in the yard so far.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Since I still haven’t finished the three hardanger bookmarks, and therefore have no fibery pictures to show here, I thought I’d show what I have blooming on my kitchen windowsill right now. These two

were presents from Shaun when we moved into our house in December. The white Phalaenopsis orchid only had one flower open when I got it, and has since opened four more. It must be happy! There are at least six more buds developing, so this should be in flower for several more months. The African violet got very dehydrated and completely wilted while I was away in Maine last month, but has now recovered.

The next four are orchids from a Home Depot sale, brought home in mid March. The first is a Paphiopedilum:

Paph. Emulate ‘Mishima’ x Dragon Flag ‘Green Ching Hua’

This was a very tight bud when I got it. I didn’t know exactly what it would look like, but was fairly sure it would be only green and white with no purple. I have wanted a green and white Paph for years, and did a little jig right there in the store aisle when I saw this one.

Since the orchids were on sale, I also picked up these:

Two unlabelled Phalaenopsis, both with two inflorescences each. These were in full bloom when I got them, but should last another couple months. The one on the left is a small-flowered but branching and quite floriferous plant, while the one on the right has larger but fewer flowers. I love the purple stripeyness of the one on the left and the beautiful deep raspberry of the one on the right.

Last but not least, I got this second Paphiopedilum:

Paph. (Pulsar x Black Cherry) ‘#1’ x fairrieanum ‘Super Red’

It’s a lovely deep wine color, and as you can see it has two flowers on the same spike. I would guess that either the Pulsar or Black Cherry cross has a multifloral species in its genetic history, and hopefully it will continue to throw multi-bloom spikes. Both buds were very tight when I brought the plant home, but it also seems to be happy here. The second bud just started opening Wednesday.

Orchids are so fun. I had a whole bunch (more than 60, mostly small species and crosses) when we lived in North Carolina, but when we moved here to Washington the house we were renting was a dark cave surrounded by large trees. My orchids were not amused. There was no place for me to put up the grow light, and the only window that got sun (about an hour a day) was right next to the heater. The heater made it warm and very dry on one side, but the window was drafty single-pane glass so it was cold nine months of the year on that side. Dark + low humidity + cold drafts = dead orchids. I decided that perhaps I should take a break from houseplants for a while.

The kitchen windowsill in our new house is perfect for plants. It faces south, the sill is about seven inches wide and is made of slate, and it’s out of reach of little hands. Hopefully it won’t get too hot in the summer. Right now it’s so pretty with all the blooms!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who left comments with well-wishes and sympathy over the past month. I didn't reply, but they were all appreciated. I think it's amazing that people I've never even met can be so warm and caring.

I'm slowly fitting back into life at home. I feel sort of like a puzzle piece that's lost one of its "arms." Being away for a month puts everything out of kilter, and having everyone here tell me they're so sorry doesn't help. They all look at me like they expect me to burst into tears at any moment, but I think I'm pretty much past that stage. (All bets are off this coming Sunday, though, what with the Hallmarkiness and everything.)

Fiber-wise, I've just been working on three little hardanger bookmarks to enclose as thank-you gifts to people up in Maine who helped out my dad and me while Mom was in the hospital. I haven't done any knitting, spinning, or anything else since I've been home. I haven't even worked on the little child's aran sweater I started in the hospital.

I really should get back to Dad's sweater since it's almost done, but I haven't felt like it. I was thinking about this lack of interest in knitting last night, and realized that I may be putting off finishing the sweater because I was working on it when Dad called to tell me about Mom's accident. Negative associations, there.

I think I need some quiet spinning time.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


On April 23, 2005, my mom passed away. Mom is gone. I keep hearing that in my mind, and I still can’t believe it. Even now more than a week later, it seems unreal, like a bad dream that I can’t wake up from. I don’t think I would have ever been ready to go to the funeral of either of my parents, but this was so sudden. She wasn’t old, she wasn’t sick, there was no long-term health problem that we could come to terms with; she was just taking a short drive down the road to have lunch and knit with a friend when the accident happened.

The past month Emma and I spent with my dad in the hospital was one of the longest of my life. It was so hard to be there with him every day, to try to support him in our desperate hope that Mom would recover, or at least open her eyes, and still take care of and play with Emma. She was wonderfully behaved the whole time and brought a lot of smiles to my family and everyone else in the ICU Waiting Room. While I was glad she was there, it was heart-wrenching to look at my smiley happy girl and know that she had no idea what was going on.

What I regret most about this whole senseless tragedy is the lost time. Emma will never know her Grandma. She’s still too young to even remember her. Mom and Emma should have had maybe 25 or 30 more years to enjoy being grandma and granddaughter. They will never sew together, never bake a pie, never pick beans and pull up carrots in the garden, never watch the phoebes build their nest on the porch beams at the house in Maine. Mom won’t be there when Emma starts kindergarten, is in a school play or art show or concert, graduates high school and college, and won’t see her as a bride. There will be no more three-generation mother/daughter photos.

Mom and Dad had planned to come out to Friday Harbor and visit us this spring, and were looking forward to seeing our new house. April 20, the day they were planning to arrive, was the day my dad, sister, and I had to decide to discontinue life support and let Mom go.

Emma and I planned to spend a month on vacation in Maine this summer. Mom and I had hatched a plan to make a quilt together. I had even started looking at patterns and color combinations. I can’t even express how much I was looking forward to this.

I just keep thinking “This isn’t fair.” I know the corollary to that is “Life isn’t fair,” but this seems almost too unfair to bear.