Let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him. (Oswalt Chambers)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sweet! The Whole Story

Until the last few days only a few select people knew I was taking trumpet lessons. I wanted to feel confident I could master it in time and with practice before talking about my new adventure in learning.

After a few lessons, I leaked my secret to a couple more people, including my brother Dave Monette, a professional trumpet player and crafter of the best profession trumpets ever made.

Believe me, I had no idea what would happen next.

Dave told me that as soon as possible I needed to get exposed to a good trumpet sound so I would know what I was aiming for. Then he asked what kind of horn and mouthpiece I was playing. The answer: a student rental, which he called a "piece of crap". He said he would be sending me a Monette mouthpiece.

Next thing I knew Dave impulsively decided to fly from his home in Portland, Oregon to Kalamazoo and take me to the Wharton Center in East Lansing to hear Wynton Marsalis. This was Wynton's only Michigan gig for a while, and Dave felt we should not miss the opportunity for me to hear Wynton's great trumpet sound.

Wednesday morning Fedex delivered a Monette Trumpet. A little more than a new mouthpiece and about a million times better than my student rental.

Dave arrived later that afternoon and gave me a trumpet lesson I'll never forget. It wasn't a music lesson, it was a lesson in breathing and body mechanics. Dave works with many of the top trumpet players in the world and it was a lesson in what they do to get sweet music from their horns.

Then it was off to East Lansing. We arrived early enough to have a tasty dinner at India Palace. Highly recommended if you're in East Lansing. It was so delicious I've located a India food restaurant to try in Kalamazoo.

Although I know next to nothing about jazz, I do know a bit about music and totally enjoyed the entire performance.

During intermission, we went back stage where I got to meet Wynton and some of the band members.

Being an introvert, I thought this would be a bit overwhelming. It wasn't. The musicians all know and love Dave and extended that love to his sister with hugs and smiles. It was totally great. And then I got to go back to my seat and hear them play the second half of the concert including the world premiere of Wynton's new composition Two and 3.

Jenn asked if Wynton is as nice as he seems to be. The answer is YES.

Friday, September 26, 2008


I don't have my laptop back yet, but here's a big clue to what I've been doing.

Anybody know who this is? (The woman is me.)

Clue: He's won 9 Grammys and a Pulitzer Prize.

Hope to get my laptop back very soon. I'm not impressed with Best Buy Geek Squad service. Whatever is wrong with it, there is no way it should take this long to get it fixed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Where Am I?

The phone lines have been out again, so I haven't had an Internet connection.

My laptop refused to boot up and as of last Sunday is residing with the Best Buy Geek Squad. Earliest estimated fix date is the coming weekend. I hope they're more competent than they are speedy.

Something fun but time consuming and exhausting may happen tomorrow. If it does, I'll blog about it even though it has nothing to do with anything I've ever blogged about previously.

Other good news: the furnace passed its inspection this morning. No damage from the flood and it's ready for winter.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Chenille and Water Report

The basement has been pumped out (the picture shows the end of the hose attached to the pump), then wet vaced out, and tons of soggy stuff removed. (It didn't weigh tons until it got water logged.)

Nothing related to knitting was in the basement.

The cleaning project isn't done, but it's under control. I plan on knitting tonight for the first time since last Saturday.

Last Friday night and all day Saturday it rained and I knit. This back or front is almost 9 inches long.

The wavy garter band on the bottom is supposed to be that way, the theory being the cable splay will block into a flattering flare. My swatch did block out nice, but I couldn't try it on to see if it was flattering. I hope I don't regret not switching to a more traditional edging.

The cables are easily learned. It only took a few rows before I could ignore all the charts except one. I'm still using the chart for the center cable.

Click on picture for a bigger picture.

Pattern: Set-in Sleeve Aran from Janet Szabo's book Aran Sweater Design.

Simple one stitch cross substituted for three stitch narrow cable that crossed on every row including the wrong side rows. I told myself I didn't want to twist the alpaca that tight, but the truth may be I was just too lazy to cable on the back side. I do like the looks of the every other row twist better.

I'm calling it Chenille because the cable designs are similar to patterns found in old fashioned chenille bedspreads.

Yarn: Elann Peruvian Pure Alpaca, 100% fine grade alpaca, worsted weight.

Color: Creole Pink

Needles: Options #5

Gauge: 5 stitches/inch, 7.5 rows/inch

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Blogging Time Out Until We Dry Out

Here's the headline from the Kalamazoo Gazette:

Kalamazoo County May Seek Federal Disaster Declaration for Flood Damage

Photo taken from the 5th floor of the Medical Office Pavilion at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo Monday afternoon by Mark Bugnaski, Kalamazoo Gazette.

Kalamazoo County is about 3 miles East of our house. The picture was taken about 20 miles east of our house.

Here's the headline from Paw Paw, about 8 miles west of our house:

Weather Experts Confirm Paw Paw Tornado
A team of National Weather Service meteorologists has confirmed that an EF-1 tornado struck Saturday in Paw Paw, damaging several homes and businesses.

Here's the headline from Our House:

5 Inches of Water in Basement. Phone Line/Internet Connection Not Working.

Even though we live in a wetland, the creek/pond has always protected us from water in the house. This is the first time in our 17 years here the creek overflowed into the pond. The ground water rose past the level of our basement (which is only three feet underground) and came up through the drains and the floor.

We are actually lucky. Many many people had multiple feet of water in their lower levels. And/or tornado damage.

I'm trying to remember that we are lucky as we pump water out and clean up the mess.

That's what I'm doing. It's hard work and seems endless - but we're fortunate our damage is self-manageable. So time to get back to it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Samples Skeins for September

When I subscribed to Elann Sample Skeins, one of my goals was to knit up each sample skein, including yarn I would never dream of buying. Because who knows? I might fall in love with a yarn that I otherwise never would have tried. Or, in short, I wanted to experiment a little and expand my yarn exposure.

The following are my impressions of the September sample skeins. These are NOT comprehensive yarn reviews. They are my opinions reflecting my personal preferences and prejudices.

These swatches have not been washed.

Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Astrakhan. 60% Merino Wool, 30% Microfiber, 10% Cashmere. Aran weight. Swatch knit on #6 needle.

My gauge: To get an accurate gauge on a boucle, one needs to count the stitches when they're cast on and count the rows as they're knit. I didn't do that. I'm guessing the gauge is approximately 4.5 stitches/inch.

This is the nicest boucle type yarn Elann has sent so far. It is possible to knit if one is highly motivated to knit a boucle item. I'm not.

Rowan Classic Yarns Soft Tweed. 56% Wool, 20% Viscose Rayon, 14% Nylon, 10% Silk. Bulky weight. Swatch knit on #11 needle.

My gauge: 3 stitches/inch, 4 rows/inch.

This yarn has a felted feel to the strand. Overall it's soft and too warm for most of us to want to wear indoors.

My little skein had a knot and a place, marked by the pin in the picture, where the yarn turned into a thread. Thought I've never bought any Rowan yarn, I think of it as being high quality, so those two imperfections were a surprise.

Louisa Harding Impression. 84% Nylon, 16% Mohair. DK weight. Swatch knit on #6 needle.

My gauge: 5.5 stitches/inch, 8 rows/inch.

This is my favorite of the month's offering. It's a ribbon yarn in gorgeous jewel tones with a slight halo. Easy knitting and soft results.

Note that I'm a complete sucker for variagated yarns and usually regret that choice after actually knitting up. This yarn sure is pretty. I'm going to admire my swatch and save my money.

Gedifra Fashion Trend Gold. 49% Wool, 48% Acrylic, 3% Polyester. Polar weight. Swatch knit on #11 needle.

My gauge: 3 stitches/inch. 4.5 rows/inch.

If anyone is tempted by this pretty yarn, make sure you consider that the result may be a short term fashion choice. The metallic spots are painted on. Even though I didn't wash my swatch, I can't imagine they're going to last through too make wearings and washings before looking ratty or disappearing completely.

Plymouth Outback Mohair. 70% Mohair, 26% Wool, 4% Nylon. Bulky weight. Swatch knit on #10 needle.

My gauge: 3 stitches/inch, 4.5 rows/inch.

A little difficult to knit because of the fuzz, but soft and colorful.

The swatch is wider toward the bottom because I did a row of eyelets there to see if a lace pattern would show. It doesn't.

In my younger, skinny days when I didn't mind endless stockinette, I would have snapped this up to knit a new fall sweater. But not until I made sure the swatch still looked great after washing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Buzzing Goldenrod

Most of the spring and summer our field has a variety wildflowers. By September it's totally yellow with goldenrod.

I've never cared enough to identify the goldenrod species growing here. There are at least three. The tallest is five feet tall, the flowers just at my eye level.

The Goldenrod is covered with various bees and wasps gathering the rich golden pollen and nectar.

Honey bees with loaded pollen sacks on their hind legs.

Bumble bees are also pollen collectors.

The Bald-faced Hornets don't have pollen sacks on their legs, but they still like to visit the goldenrod and suck the sweet nectar.

Bald-faced hornets are not real hornets. They're wasps in the same genus as Yellowjackets.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Painful Pearl Finished

But not washed and blocked yet because we've been having water problems.

Once again I opted for the easy way and knit the sweater all in one piece with drop sleeves, small underarm gusset, and square neckline.

The yarn is 70% silk, 30% linen, giving it a nubby texture. I had to knit slower than usual because the yarn wasn't smoothly sliding on and off the needles due to the tight gauge. Still I managed to enjoy the process and I like the results.

The neckline lace triangle is repeated on each sleeve. That resulted in the sleeves being fun to knit instead of the usual big bore.

As previously reported, I repeated the horizontal lace across the shoulders on the back because I was weary of knitting stockinette. The result is pleasing to me.

Pattern: My own creation. I'm calling it "Painful Pearl" because knitting this yarn hurts my hands and the yarn color is Seed Pearl.

The horizontal lace pattern is the Garland Pattern on page 252 of A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker. Two rows of stockinette have been added before and after the start of the lace.

The lace triangle is adapted from the Idella Seamen's Scarf in Stahman's Shawls and Scarves by Myrna Stahman.

Yarn: Elann Soie Lin. DK weight. 70% silk, 30% linen.

Color: Seed Pearl.

Needles: Options #4.

Gauge: 6.25 stitches/inch, 9 rows/inch after washing.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Thoughts on Alpaca

Kristie asked . . .
I have a question about alpaca. How do you find it washes? The only thing I ever knit out of alpaca, a hat for my son, grew to almost twice the original size after I washed it! And that was a handwash in Soak wool wash. It has scared me off alpaca. It was not a huge issue since it was just a hat, but would have been a disaster if it had been a sweater.

Alpaca is a soft soft yarn, a joy to knit and a pleasure to wear next to the skin. It does not have the same characteristics as wool and can be a big disappointment if a knitter thinks "wool" while selecting a pattern.

In general, alpaca has mediocre to poor stitch definition and is not suitable for Arans and ganseys.

Janet Szabo's Set-in Sleeve Aran is an exception - at least I hope so because I'm knitting it in alpaca.

I believe I can get away with using alpaca for this Aran because:
  • There is no ribbing. Alpaca ribbing does not hold it's shape when washed - or even before it's washed. When wet, the ribbing flattens out, expands, and stays that way.
  • It's not heavily cabled. I know my cables aren't going to "pop" with alpaca, and I don't care.
  • I will be knitting worsted weight alpaca on #5 needles, not too tight but tight enough to give the fabric some body so the cables will have some stitch definition.
  • I knit a large swatch, half the width of the sweater plus the entire center panel. Then I washed it, blocked it, and carefully measured it. The sweater will be knit using the measurements from the washed swatch so I don't need to worry about what the alpaca is going to do when it's washed. I do this wilh all my sweaters, but it's more important than usual when knitting a soft yarn such as alpaca.

Painful Pearl is done except for weaving in the ends and blocking. This is a busy week, but I plan to cast on this Aran no later than this coming Saturday. Next week is also a busy week, so it will be a while before I catch up with Dorothy.

Dorothy is knitting her Aran with a worsted weight 100% wool. Pop over to her blog and take a look.