August 2007 Archives



angelic little thea.jpg

The yarn was broken in two places and all the knitting had to be ripped, but the skirt has been revived and I've even knit a few rows.

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And lest you all think I hold any sort of grudge towards Thea, fear not. I could never be mad at her for my own poor planning. I do, however, love to give you all a good laugh, and I suspect that you all find Panda's guilty conscience even more humorous than Thea's mischievousness. If we could harvest just their best traits, we'd have one perfectly balanced pup and enough left over parts for one entirely neurotic dog.

I'm guessing it's the latter.

Over and over again, I obviously need to be reminded that Thea is not Panda and probably won't ever be. In my nearly 6 years with Panda, I can think of only a couple of items she has destroyed before she learned that she could only have things that had been explicitly given to her, everything else was off limits. Brilliant, I know. We were spoiled.

Thea, she is loving and sweet and cute in so very many ways. But there are times.


And while her handy work does take your attention away from some of the clutter, I'm not sure it does so in a very aesthetically pleasing sort of way. Luckily, it was nothing important.

That was 3 weeks ago. Except for an odd incident when I found her giving a hex wrench a taste, she's been as close to angelic as she's capable of being. Then, on Monday, Leo and I came home from dinner to this...

Brace yourself.

theagotmyskirt.jpg theagotmyskirt_notions.jpg

Since I last posted about this skirt, I've probably put another 6 hours into it and all that work has been handily undone.

The Inox needle and clover stitch markers are destroyed. She seemed to mainly be interested in those and not the skirt itself. There are only one or two breaks in the yarn and areas where she has pulled out short sections of rows, repeatedly, down several inches, but not across the whole round. It salvageable but it'll be some time before I'm back to where I was.

I think the hardest thing is that my momentum for this piece has been (hopefully temporarily) quashed. A few hundred stitches, worked in stockinette chevron does not for exciting knitting make.

But just when I think I might actually be able to hold a grudge, she goes and makes cute at me again.


I'm such a sucker.

Junk filter gone loco!


Woah, I was wondering why I hadn't really been getting any comments lately and suddenly it occurred to me to check my junk comments folder.

Well, there you guys all are.

If you commented recently and didn't hear back from me, that is probably why. I'm going through the loads of junk to pull you guys out.

A sort of anniversary


A year ago today, Julia and I were in the redwoods on our way from LA to Portland, Oregon.
I had just spent a month away from Panda and Leo, who'd moved up to Portland to start his new job.

After a couple weeks at Julia's house, and much planning we hit the road for our scenic and spinny adventure. There is no event quite like a road trip to get one past the "close acquaintance" stage right to friend. It's hard not to bust out laughing as we regale ourselves and anyone else who will listen, with stories from our adventures.

I'll forever hold a warm space in my heart for the Ravenwood, even though there was no running water when we awoke.

And I still remember the gorgeous fog over the ocean, surrounded by redwoods. Who wouldn't bust out into full dorkatude?

We nearly skipped Crater Lake, after some set backs and delays, but we made it and it's as breathtaking as everyone says it is.

And best of all, I have been able to live in beautiful Portland, Oregon. I love it up here, though I miss all my friends in LA. Julia makes for a great road trip companion and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I've been doing a bit more than my usual reading and all of it has been good, so I thought I'd share my recommendations.

On the nightstand

fsm.jpg guardsguards.jpg

Actually, that's not the current cover for SI. The current one covers AIDS deniers. The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a real hoot and sure to offend almost anyone. I'm glad to call myself a Pastafarian, rAmen! Guards Guards is currently my top reading to keep me from reading too much of what I'm...



Need I say more? I don't want it to end.

Recently finished

sciencegoodevil.jpg middlesex.jpg skeptic.jpg

I really love Michael Shermer's books and articles and The Science of Good and Evil is no exception. He's also the publisher of Skeptic, to which I subscribe.
My mother lent me Middlesex and it was indeed funny, touching, thoughtful and moving. I generally shy away from books that are highly publicized and I'm not a fan of all of Oprah's suggestions, (yes, I'm one of those wet blankets who isn't into the whole The Secret phenomenon.*) but this book is definitely worth a read.

* That is, I don't believe in a magical force that brings luck and money to people who really want it.
However there is evidence to suggest that people who believe they are lucky are more likely to do things like enter drawings and raffles or build their social and business network which can result in more fortunate outcomes.

Thea's out of class and some cartoons


Well, Thea had her last puppy agility class. The last two classes were the best classes she'd had. Instead of focusing on one obstacle and then getting back in line (waaaaay boring for a Cattle Dog mix) we actually worked a series of obstacles for each turn. Thea loved it. I think that being able to chain the obstacles, keeps her from over thinking it. It's just fun.

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I'm not saying she was perfect, but she did a pretty darn good job for a 6 month old.

We're taking a short hiatus from school so that Thea can get spayed, but it was enough fun for both of us that I plan to sign us up for more.

I'm going to miss her classmates, some of whom you can see below.

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Pictured are Moose, Bella, Saba and Maggie. Not pictured, but much enjoyed, are Julia and Toby. Hopefully I'll see them in future classes!

In unrelated news, I'm thinking about redesigning the ol' website. My last redesign was in 2005 and while I like it fine, I've been thinking about a little change. I've done a couple of very simple sketches.

thea275.gif panda_300.gif

I think I want to go back to having a clean white background and simple graphics. I'm playing around now and will see if I can come up with something that makes me happy.

Keeping busy


I've been keeping pretty busy, crafty wise. Quite a few hours go to working with the test knitters for the secret Stitch Diva project.

I'm also knitting up a garment for Donna Druchunas' upcoming lace book.


The yarn is Lorna's Laces, Lion and Lamb. Soft and subtly shaded. Who could complain? If you look carefully, you can see some darts in there. I'm hoping this piece comes out as well as I'm envisioning it. And yes, I realize there is no actual lace yet, but it's coming, I assure you.

I have also sneaked in a few rounds in my knit/crochet skirt. I'm trying to be good and focusing most of my energy on my deadline stuff, but I keep this handy for mindless knitting.


Here's a closeup of the knitted portion.


Between bouts of knitting and pattern editing, I'm spinning up more of the yarn for this skirt. So far, this is just enough variety to keep me interested.

Panda on LuvMutt


I've been posting a lot of dog photos lately, mostly because I can't post much else, but look. I have crafting!


Remember those motifs I crocheted? I have been playing around with how to use them. I knew I didn't have enough of the motif yarn to make a whole garment, but I realized that the September Glow Cotswold and Silk yarn I spun, would look nice with the muted peach color of the motifs.

I think I want to make this into a skirt. I have quite a bit more of the Cotswold, that I can spin. I've played around with knitting and crocheting the skirt portion. Right now, the motifs are joined in such a way that they make a natural chevron, which is great for this subtly variegated yarn. I tried crocheting the skirt, but I wanted it to be a little softer and drapier, so I switched to knit instead.

It's actually really hard for me to post a this point, because I'm not totally sure I love it and I might very well rip the whole darn thing out if I'm not satisfied with the results, still, so far, it looks good enough that I feel I can share.

And aren't I doing well, not a doggy in sight.


Urm, well, yes, Thea did sneak her paw into that shot. You can see her little goth pinkie nail. But we aren't looking at puppies in this post, we're looking at handspun yarn working up into a skirt.


*Sigh* I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself. I mean, come on, that's funny, people. Even if you hate dogs. Plus, I think the color really brings out the pathetic expression plastered on Panda's face. Don't you agree?

Like we needed an excuse


Our backyard is elevated slightly, and surrounded by a short rock wall. You can see what I mean here. Instead of taking the stairs up and down, to get to the grassy area, Panda likes to simply leap.

Well, yesterday, Panda misjudged the wall a bit and slammed her front paw very hard on one of the protruding rocks. She stopped dead in her tracks.

I called out, "Panda, are you OK?"

She looked at me, limped over to me, sat, and held her paw up. My heart just sank. She looked so so sad. Of course, I showered her with kisses and coos and scratched her head.

After determining that no bones were broken and that the cuts were largely just surface abrasions, I lead her back out, slowly, to do her business and then brought her in to take a closer look at the damage.


See those red marks? Poor thing. Just breaks my heart.

Leo suggested that this was as good an excuse as any to pack up the girls and take them to the beach. It would take Panda's mind off of any discomfort and they were really getting stir crazy, anyway.

Our first stop was in Manzanita. The wind was intense but that never phases the little ones.


Panda showed no signs of even remembering she had hurt her foot. She didn't limp, didn't shy away from the water and had a great time, so we decided to keep going.

We headed south, following the ocean, and ended up at Manhattan Beach. There was far less wind and we were able to find a nice spot to play fetch with the pups.


It was all fun and games until the little stink pot decided she'd rather run off and play with other people, instead of hanging out with us.


Leo had a talk with her...


But you know how adolescents can be.

After that, we decided to explore a bit more. We ended up at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company, which also boasted a petting zoo, wine tasting, chocolates and other sundries. We bought some cheese, wine and baguette, and headed back north, towards home.


But not before another detour to Manzanita...


As the sun was starting to set, Leo thought it would be fun to put some of our food to good use and suggested a picnic. We headed over to Cannon Beach, picked up a beach blanket, and caught the last few glimmers of daylight, over a couple sips of wine and cheese.


Since we had a bit of a drive, we didn't really have much wine, but we put a nice dent on the bread and cheese. YUM. And unlike So Cal, where you have to pay to use beaches that allow camp fires and late night picnics, Cannon Beach was alight with fires set by families keen to roast marshmallows and make the most of the gorgeous evening.


After it got dark, we reluctantly packed up for the trip home and we listened to Harry Potter XII doh! VII the whole way.

I would say that's a most excellent way to coddle a doggy's boo boo. See more pictures over at Flickr. Leo's already declared that we'll be doing many more beach picnics in the future.

Feelin' the love


Do you love mutts?

If so, LuvMutt is having a little contest for the best summer mutt pic. Both Panda and Thea are represented, but honestly, you should vote for whomever you like best of the bunch.

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Head on over to vote now.

And if that isn't love enough, check out Goofy Dogs, a new site devoted to great pictures of dogs. Do you have a dog? Is your dog goofy? Send your pictures in and feel the love. Panda and Thea are there too!


You know I'm a happy doggy mum.

When is three less than one?


It's funny, when we got Panda, she was 9 months old and a very gentle and timid sort. You could give her a stern look and she'd tuck her tail and hide in a corner. Teaching her what is ours and what is hers was a breeze. She quickly learned, "leave it," and anything that was ever dubbed as such was unharmed.

Thea, she is much younger, much more confident and far less concerned with the repercussions of her mischief. She's a good girl, don't get me wrong, but she lives in the moment and runs a little fast and loose with the law of the house. One must be ever diligent to catch her before she slips up, which is why I have only myself to blame for this.


I closed the girls out of the office, during an important conference call, and when I came out, Thea had her handiwork on display. It's that delicious baby camel down that Thea so beautifully modeled, a little while back.

She tried to look sorry


But then something interesting passed by the kitchen window


As you can imagine, it was no small feat to untangle the mess, but the yarn was salvageable.


Only two breaks, leaving me with two small and one larger ball of yarn. So, while my three little balls might not be quite as good as my one larger skein, it could definitely be worse.

Now, tell me again about how lucky I am to have such well behaved little girls. I think I need a reminder. Oh wait, here's one.

Using Excel for Complex Lace Charts

Cross posted at the Create Along

This tutorial is the 4th in my set of Excel tutorials. You can see the others here:

And, if you happen to have any tutorials of your own, please let me know.

In my last tutorial, I cover creating simple lace charts in Excel. Today, we'll approach a more complex lace pattern and introduce the no stitch. The lace pattern, I'll be covering, is most of the Peri's Parasol pattern I used in Chapeau Marnier.

What is a "no stitch"

More than any other single question, I get this most of all and I think it boils down to a lot of over thinking from the knitting community. Often, people ask if it means a stitch should be slipped. A no stitch, in fact, simply means there is no stitch in that spot. Some lace and cable patterns, change stitch count from row to row. The chart can be made a little more intuitive by distributing the stitches in a logical manner and spacing them with "no stitch" blocks. Generally, when using a "no stitch," one should format it in such a way that it can easily recede from focus. I usually shade mine in gray or black.

Format your spreadsheet

I begin, as always, by adjusting my cells so that they are approximately stitch like in proportion. See the tutorial on colorwork for more information about this step.



Select all the cells, go to the FORMAT menu and choose CELL


Set the alignment to be centered both horizontally and vertically. This will ensure your symbols are centered. Set your font size and add borders to all your cells.

8 random things


My friend Kat tagged me for the 8 random things. I've done 100 things about myself and some other memes, and covered a lot of ground, but since this is "8 random things" I'm not going to talk about my idiosyncrasies, per se, instead, I'm just going to tell you 8 random stories from my life. If you know me well, in real life, you've probably heard some or all of these, but I think they will all be new to most of you. Some of them are sort of sad, some are funny, they all stick with me as meaningful moments in my life; times when I learned something about myself or about other people.

  1. As a very young child, my parents had cars with vinyl seats. In the hot days of summer, sans air conditioning, we'd drive to various and sundry locations and, inevitably, my skin would adhere to those seats. When time would come to exit the vehicle, extracting myself from the seat was often painful.

    Come Christmas season, my parents put a cute little dress on me and brought me to the mall to sit on Santa's lap. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I got it in my head that, because I was wearing a short shirt, I would end up sticking to Santa's lap. The thought horrified me. As we neared Santa, I burst into tears. My parents had no idea what had come over me./li>

    More after the bump

Cross posted at the Create Along

People run pretty hot and cold, when it comes to the topic of charts. Personally, I'm a big fan of them, and when it comes to lace, I find it nearly impossible to work without a chart. If you saw my knitting notebooks, you'd see that, no matter how simple or complex, I always chart my lace patterns out. If you enjoy working from charts or if you ever need to create a chart for a pattern, you can produce good clean results with spreadsheet software like Excel. I've created several tutorials in the past, which you can access here. This tutorial will use some of the same techniques I've covered in Using Excel to design colorwork and Using Excel to aid in writing multi-sized patterns. If you haven't seen those tutorials and you aren't comfortable using a program like Excel, I suggest you browse them to get the basic concepts of working in Excel.

The lace

I've chosen a very simple lace stitch pattern, designed by Dorothy Reade, which I'm using in Donna Druchunas' upcoming book.


Here are the verbose instructions.

Multiple of 6+7
Foundation row: k1, *kbl, yo, ddc, yo, kbl, k1* repeat to end of row
Even numbered rows: Purl
Row 1: ssk, *yo, kbl, k, kbl, yo, ddc* to last 6 stitches, then, yo, kbl, k, kbl, yo, k2tog
Rows 3, 5, and 7: ssk, *yo, k3, yo, ddc* to last 6 stitches, then, yo, k3, yo, k2tog
Row 9 and 13: k1 *kbl, yo, ddc, yo, kbl, k1* repeat to end of row
Row 11: ssk, *yo, kbl, k, kbl, yo, ddc* to last 6 stitches, then, yo, kbl, k, kbl, yo, k2tog

These instructions could be compressed even further, as the foundation row, 9, and 13 are all identical and 1 and 11 are identical. Even so, I find it hard to use these instructions to visualize what I'm doing. I also find that it takes me longer to memorize a lace pattern if I can't see it charted out.

Set up your workspace

Select all the rows and cells in your Excel sheet and adjust the size of the cells to mimic the shape of a knit stitch. If need be, refer to the colorwork tutorial for more information on how to do this.

Based on the verbose instructions, I see that the +7 is made up of one stitch at the beginning of the row and 6 at the end and that there is a foundation row and 7 public side rows. Because I know this, I can number my rows and add grid lines.

If you can't determine this from reading the instructions, just begin charting your lace, and go back add the row and stitch counts and your grid lines, later.

Inserting the first row of symbols

Foundation row: k1, *kbl, yo, ddc, yo, kbl, k1* repeat to end of row

There is no need to download fancy schmancy knitting fonts. You can communicate with your standard set of characters. See the key above, to see how I've translated the stitches to letters. Use characters that will make sense to you. I like a blank stitch for knit, "t" for "twist," "o" for "yo," and slashes and a carrot for the decreases. Don't like that? Do something different. I won't hate.

The first row with a modified last repeat

Row 1: ssk, *yo, kbl, k, kbl, yo, ddc* to last 6 stitches, then, yo, kbl, k, kbl, yo, k2tog

The first row in which we have a reason for those extra 6 stitches at the end. While the main pattern repeat requires a double decrease, the first and last decreases of the row will be single decreases. You will be able to see this more clearly when we get to the end.

Convert remaining rows to chart format

Complete the pattern as indicated in the verbose instructions. Whenever I can, I like to copy and paste, duplicate stitches and rows. Do whatever works best for you.

Double check your work, going stitch by stitch from text to chart.

The end results are neat and clean, but would probably cause confusion. It's not clear where the pattern repeats begins and ends.

Outline the repeat

Select the stitches that make up the repeat. In some patterns, this is very intuitive based on how the pattern is written, but some patterns are harder to distill down to a repeat, especially those where the location of the repeat shifts for one area to another. Lucky for us, this pattern is expressly written to make the repeat obvious, it's everything between the two asterisks [*]

Just select the stitches you want to outline, and choose a thick border to outline it. You can choose a custom border by going to the FORMAT menu and choosing CELL.

Shading for clarity

Finally, to make the repeat really obvious, shade everything that only gets worked once per row. This makes the repeat really clear and visually indicates the secondary elements.

I think that you'll find that many lace and knit/purl stitch patterns can be worked up this way. Have fun with it.

In the next tutorial, I'll cover doing more complex lace charts and discuss the ever-confounding "no stitch."

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