Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Treck Across the South and Ms. Walker's Page 19.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to drive my mother from Houston, Texas, to New Orleans, Louisiana.  The occasion was my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary.  Now, I know I said that this was an opportunity but really, it was more of a directive from my mother.  It went something like this.

Me: "So, mom, should we meet in New Orleans for Mimi and John's party?"
Mom: "Oh honey, you know how much I don't like flying."
Me:  "Mom, it's a 45 minute flight."
Mom:  "I know but it's still hard on me."
Me:  "Are you thinking about driving."
Mom:  "Well, I was thinking you could fly here and then we could drive to your Aunt and Uncle's party."
Me:  "...................................... Uh........................."

Yup, that's about it.  There was much more to the conversation after that but I won't bore you with the details.  It was pretty much me stumbling around trying to figure a way out, knowing that my mother had trapped me into a visit and a 12 hour round trip drive.

Now, if you have followed my family adventures, you know that my mother is a very healthy, active 74 year-old (I know this because I've talked to her doctors).  However, she will make you think that she's about 92 and, apparently, people who think that they are that old cannot possibly fly.

I did try several times to get her to fly but nothing worked.  The closest I got was when I suggested that she chose a favourite pill, from her impressive collection of sedatives, with me in tow on the plane.  However, even the lure of a chemical haze while being supported by a loving son was not enough.

So, the stage is set; my mother and me driving across the South in August.  What could be more fun?  Well, I have the answer for you.  My mother, my sister and me driving across the South in August.

Enter, the Sister, my baby sister to be exact.  You know, my sister isn't all that bad; she's just on a different plane than the rest of us.  This is mostly due to her job as a professor of gender studies.

If you don't have a college professor in your life, then you probably don't know that they really do live in an ivory tower.  Universities tend to be little islands of liberal academics, all of whom have perfect politics, and a comfy collection of Berkinstocks.  Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge my sister any of it.  She did, after all, work really damn hard for many years to get to this point.  However, I do wish she would come down to the real world on occasion.

Now, let's think about the conversation in that car for 12 hours.  Here are the players again,  my mother, who thinks she's too old to do anything, my super liberal, super vegan sister and me, a loser mo who likes meat and potty humour.  Well, like any other self respecting loser mo, I saw the potential for trouble early on and decided that a constant barrage of potty humour would save the day and my sanity.  Guess what, it did!  Both my mother and sister are very critical of potty humour; however, if you don't cave, and continue to be inappropriate, they eventually quiet down so as not to elicit more fart or poop jokes.  Works like a charm.  I just need to figure out a way to use this method at holiday meals.

The drive wasn't all that bad in reality.  Texas is a hot hell hole and Louisiana is a hot hell hole.  However, at least Louisiana is a pretty hell hole.  It's true; everything is really ugly as you drive through Texas.  Then, about a mile into Louisiana, it's pretty.  I don't know what gives but Texas really needs to take a cue from their neighbour.

We left early on a Friday morning and got to the North Shore about seven hours later.  For those who are not familiar with New Orleans, the North Shore is across Lake Pontchartrain, basically, the burbs.  It's a very pretty place.  A bit steamy and jungle like but pretty.

Now, the next bit o'fun was the hotel.  My mother decided that we had to stay at the La Quinta near my aunt's house.  While this is not my favourite hotel chain, I was okay with the choice for two nights until my mother informed my sister and I that we would all be sharing one room.  (Enter memories from childhood of being crammed into a hotel room with your parents and siblings. Me trying to sleep while while I listen to my dad snore and fart in his sleep and me being kicked by my sleeping sister.)

Mom:  "I got a suite.  It has a king bed and a pull out sofa."
Me:  "........................Uh....................."

Okay, so crammed into a car only to be crammed into a hotel room with a bathroom as the only private space.  All I can say is that Prince Valium and I were very good friends.

I survived and my Aunt and Uncle's party was a hit.  Here are a few pictures.  The first is my Aunt and my Uncle dancing.  Aren't they cute!  Next is my mother, her sister and their cousins.  My mom is the one sitting and my Aunt is standing behind her.

Next up, me and my sister with our aunt and a picture of the cake.  Now this cake has a neat story.  The bakery that the cake came from was the same that my mother got her wedding cake from back in 1961.  The bakery is run by the granddaughter now but, Mamma says that the cake tastes just as good and that the layers were the same as her cake.  How cool is that?  My sister and I got to taste our parents' wedding cake in a round about fashion.

Okay, enough family fun.  On to Babs and page 19 of her book.  Now, page 19 has several patterns on it.  One set goes onto page 20.  For this installment, I stuck with those patterns that were on page 19 only.  Those that are on 19 and 20 both are saved for next time.

Swedish Block Pattern and Squared Check Pattern.  So, I always end up knitting these backwards.  The Swedish Block Pattern is the bottom half and Squared Check Pattern is the top half. 

These two patterns weren't too bad to knit.  I actually think both have uses.  The sample is not blocked.  Now that I look at the pictures, I wish I had blocked it.  I think blocking would really bring out the patterns' qualities.

Mostly, I see these patterns used for sweaters.  These combined with traditional gansey patterns would definitely liven things up by adding a new twist to the patterned sections.  Also, I think that they would look much better knit with finer yarn.  The yarn I'm using is a pretty fat worsted.

Here is the backside.  I am always interested to see if a pattern is reversible.  In the case of Swedish Block Pattern, I'm thinking not so much.  However, with the Squared Check Pattern you may be able to get away with it.

Well, off to work on page 20.  My next post will be a fun combination of a recap of the Men's Fall Knitting Retreat and the opening of school.  That's right; it's back to work for me and more middle school antics.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Knitwear, Poodle Love and Babs Walker's Page 18.

How is it that summer, generally a time to relax for teachers, is always so damn busy?  Oh, that's right, I take on way to much.  Why the hell do I do this to myself every summer?  I have a list of a ton of projects that I want to accomplish yet I never get to them because I do so much other stuff for other people.  Now, here I am, less than two weeks away from going back to work and I finally have time for me.

My biggest issue this summer was designing a garment for a certain, yet to be named, yarn company.  Of course, this is totally James Bond land and I can't say who, what, or when.  However, I can say that this project drove me a bit nuts and the only thing that would make it better is if Adel would sing a theme song about it like she did for Skyfall (yes, I love Adel).

The other great task I took on was flying to Houston and driving my mother to a family function in New Orleans.  More on that fun fest in a later post.  What I can say now is that I survived and mother is very, very happy.

The nice thing about traveling is coming home to your dogs.  As you may recall, my partner and I have six standard poodles.  Currently, we have five at home.  Libby, our youngest is  being shown by a professional handler in California.  We call it "Doggy Boarding School."  The girls go away for a few months, get their degrees (championships) and then they come home to get married and raise children (have puppies).  Anyway, my girls have been super clingy since I got  back from Texas.  It's so wonderful to be so appreciated by another creature.  Dogs are such a gift.

Ack!  When did I get so mushy.  I can't believe that I just let emotion get in this post.  Next thing I'll be doing is hugging people, God forbid. 

Okay, back to poodle love, sans emotional rhetoric and touchy feelly stuff. 

We have one girl, Goldie, who has never been to boarding school.  Jeff decided that he needed to show our own dogs af few years back and he did so with Gracie and Libby but they ended up being a bit of a handful; so, off to school they went.  However, Goldie's temperament in the show ring has been just right (pun intended).  It's rather interesting having a standard poodle in show cut around the house.  Actually, it's not interesting at all, it's a pain in the ass.  I'm sure you can guess why but if you can't let me tell you in one word, hair.  Yup, it's all about that damn hair.

Most of the world is familiar with the poodle show cut; you know, giant hair, teased up so that it touches the heavens and may even come in contact with God.  Well, we have that in our house.  I blame the French for my woes.  That poodle cut, 200 years ago was about two inches long; after all poodles are bird dogs.  You can't have all that hair when your fetching dead birds.  Next thing you know, the French are on the scene and that hair got really big really fast.  I'm sure the French would blame Texans but big hair in Texas was just few years down the road.  (By the way, having just been in Texas two days ago, I can affirm that big hair is still very much alive and well in that state.)

Well, our girl Goldie got all teased up this last weekend and here is the result.

Check out the size of that do.  I almost feel that my dog should bark with a Texan accent because that hair is so damn big. 
Now, what's good about all this, is that she won last Sunday, and, like her hair, it was big win.  In the show world, they call that a "Major Win."  In this case, she was selected as the best poodle out of all the girls and all the boys.  Jeff was thrilled, as he should be because he showed her.  The other nice thing about all of this is that when Jeff is thrilled, life around the house is so much nicer. 

Okay, enough poodle love.  Let's talk about Ms. Walker.

About a year ago, I set out on a mission to knit each of the samples from Barbara Walker's first book.  I'm still all about that mission even if I took time off to do a bit of design work.

This sample comes from page 18 (yes, I know that I'm not far along but I'm working on it), Double Basket Pattern and Elongated Rib Check.

So, here you have it and here you could probably leave it.  I'm not thrilled with this particular set of stitches.  On top is the Double Basket.  It is pretty elastic and might make an interesting rib and Ms. Walker is much more complimentary of the pattern than I am.  This sample is unblocked; so, you can see what she describes as "a series oh highly embossed waves." 

On the bottom is the Elongated Rib Check and its variation at the very bottom.  This is a pretty   straight forward pattern.  The variation adds a garter stitch row between rows of ribbing.  While this pattern was not all that interesting to knit, I can see where this would look nice on a gansey.

There is one benefit to all of this knitting, both patterns are reversible.  Here is the backside.  In my opinion, the backside of the Double Basket resembles basket weave more than the front.

Well, that's about it for today.  I'm almost done with page 19; so, expect a Walker update soon.

Peace Out and Poodle Love.