Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pacifier Clip

The most recent baby shower gift I gave was a purchased item from a gift registry. To add a personal touch, I knitted a pacifier clip and used it as a package topper.

Free Pattern: Flower Pacifier Clip by Susan B. Anderson
Yarn: Tahki Cotton Classic
Needles: US 3 DPNs

The challenge of this project for most people is the finishing. Most of the parts are knitted seperately then sewn together. There are five petals, one center, two leaves and one cord. I found the construction of the petals interesting and clever--bascially, you knit a tube on two needles. Knitting the center of the flower was the most fiddly part for me due to the small number of stitches that must be knit in the round. Even with all the parts to sew together though, I was able to finish this project in one afternoon. I think that's a reasonable amount of time for a gift this cute.

Monday, October 27, 2008


This weekend we had an opportunity to spend the night at the Stanley-Fisher Bed & Breakfast in Matagorda, Texas. Our stay was wonderful and I highly recommend the Stanley-Fisher should you ever travel this way.

This historic home was built in 1832 which makes it one of the first houses ever built in Texas. It was constructed for Stanley Rhodes Fisher, an early Texas colonist, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, and Secretary of the Republic of Texas Navy. It is likely that Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston were guests here from time to time.

Current owners, Rik and Peggy Stanley, have beautifully restored this home. Upon our arrival they greeted us warmly and took us on a tour, relating to us the history of the house and its previous owners. At the top of the stairs just outside the room we stayed in is a cozy sitting area for reading (or knitting!).

Tastefully displayed throughout the house are bowls and baskets of shells collected from nearby Matagorda Beach. Peggy told us of some of her other beach finds, which included two bottles with messages inside. One was launched from a cruise ship in the Gulf and the other was launched from New York as a science class project.

After a restful night's sleep and a delicious home cooked breakfast, we were ready for a little beachcombing of our own. John began his search back in the dunes for sea beans. I joined him later, but first walked along the surf looking for shells.

My best finds of the day were a perfect sand dollar and my first sea heart.

After lunch at Spoonbills, we put the kayaks in for fishing at McNab Lake. The fish were hard to find, but John managed to catch two undersized trout and one flounder big enough to keep. I didn't even get a bite. Oh well, there's always next time...

Friday, October 24, 2008

U is for University

I'm a graduate of Texas A&I University, now known as Texas A&M of Kingsville.

John and I met on this campus. We both began our freshman year in 1978. He was an engineering major; I was a business major. He lived off campus; I lived on campus. So even though our university was small, I guess it's not surprising that we didn't meet until the spring semester of our junior year.

We were both enrolled in a course called The Philosophy of Logic taught by Dr. Davidson. This class was not required by any major on campus. It was an elective course and we were probably lucky it made the cut that year. It was a small class, maybe a dozen students, and very informal. On the first day of class Dr. Davidson had us arrange our chairs in a circle and say a little something about ourselves by way of introduction.

John caught my eye that day, even though I already had a boyfriend. I remember him saying he was originally from Vermont, worked as a night dispatcher and was in a fraternity.

John 1981

Later that semester my boyfriend and I broke up. It turned out to be a good thing, because I was then free to get to know John better. At the end of the semester he asked me out for the first time. And the rest, as they say, is history. It was not all smooth sailing, but it did end in happily ever after. We were married in 1984 and in May will celebrate 25 years of marriage.

This post would not be complete without a picture of me from my university days. I only wish I could have found a more flattering one. I'm front row, middle, in the white jacket.

Tracy 1982

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Socks for John

It's still too warm for wool here, but John has gotten plenty of use out of his hand knit socks on business trips to colder climates. I wasn't quite finished with this pair before he left on Sunday, so he'll be seeing them completely finished for the first time when he reads this post. Hope you like them, Honey!

Basic Short-Row Sock
Worked on 68 stitches
Needles: US 1 1/2 (2.5 mm)
Yarn: Mountain Colors Bearfoot
Color: Granite Peak

Monday, October 20, 2008

Saturday Blessings

This hymn is one of my favorites:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

It reminds me to give God thanks for the blessings of life. As we sang this beautiful song on Sunday, I thought back to the blessings of the day before.

Thank you, God for a loving husband who enjoys spending time with me so much that he taught me to fish so we could spend even more time together.

Thank you, God for the beauty of the early morning.

For the way the light is soft and warm.

For revealing your power and divine nature in what you have made.

Thank you for all blessings, both great and small.

Help me to never take any of them for granted.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Knit and Learn

I set aside the socks I was working on to knit a hat for me.

Pattern: Swirls Hat by Fiber Trends
Yarn: Classic Elite Inca Alpaca
Colors: Navy (1124), Gray (1103), Black (1113)
Needles: US 5 & 6 16" circular, US 6 DPNs

What I learned from this project:

1. I learned I like doing color work, though I could use more practice. The stitches I made with the yarn held in my left hand aren't very consistent in tension and I didn't leave enough slack in some of the floats. This is only the second project where I've used color work throughout. The first, a simple pattern with no floats, was in 2005. I don't plan on waiting as long to start the next project.

2. I learned how to knit a braid. It's turns out that it's really easy to do. It's a three round process. I'm glad the pattern explained that the yarns would twist on round two, but untwist on round three. It saved my sanity.

3. I learned to trust the pattern, especially if you're knitting to gauge. I started this hat with the recommended 120 stitches and after knitting the rolled brim and the first braid, I began to think it was too big. I tried it on to check. Sure enough, the ring I had knitted was huge! It fell around my neck like a cowl. I reduced the number of stitches by one pattern repeat and started over. It fit just right...until I finished the lower band of color work.

4. I learned that a mistake in knitting isn't necessarily a bad thing. This hat, though too small for me, will be a perfect fit for someone. A child somewhere will be a little warmer now, because I messed up. And, I'm happy about that.

Friday, October 10, 2008

T is for Texas

I like that Texans are proud of their state and flag. Did you know Texas has a state pledge?

"Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible."

The Texas Pledge is routinely recited in schools after the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States. The phrase "one state under God" was added in 2007.

Texas pride is what makes Texas special and different from any place I've ever lived. A Texas flag painted on the side of a building is a common sight.

Anything can be turned into a Texas flag and often is.

T is Texas--the place I'm proud to call home.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Up Next

I'm not finished knitting for John yet. Up next is a pair of socks in Mountain Colors Bearfoot yarn. The color is called Granite Peak.

If you knit socks for very long, you will probably settle on a technique or pattern you go to over and over again. My favorite is Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts' short-row technique that she explains in her book Simple Socks Plain and Fancy. In the preface of the book she states:
When the technique is understood, the execution thereof becomes mindless. This allows you to knit plain socks mindlessly (even when brain-dead) or to put your energies into the design of the sock when an elegant accessory is the goal.

I wasn't sure about that statement the first time I tried short-row socks. It was all so unfamiliar and took lots of concentration. But the next pair was easier and soon after, I could knit a short-row sock without thinking about it. Now I can pick up a ball of sock yarn, grab a set of needles and knit a sock that fits well without ever having to look at a pattern.

Just because I'm sold on short-row socks doesn't mean you will like them too. Judging from the sock patterns out there, more people prefer heel flaps. It's good to experiment to find out what suits you best. Some people like to knit socks toe-up; some like top-down. There are those, like me, that prefer double pointed needles and others that like circulars. What's your favorite way to knit a sock?

This simple pair of socks is knitting up quickly since it's the only thing on my needles. I'm almost to the toe...short-row, of course.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Kayak Fishing

I had a chance to take a picture of John modeling his hat.

It's going to be a while before the weather is cold enough for him to wear it for real, but it will come in handy for late night fishing from the pier or early mornings in the kayak this winter. It is yet to be seen whether I will be joining him on his famous extreme weather fishing trips. I'm not sure I'm that obsessed with fishing yet, though I might be. For now I'm happy to keep the wool packed away and enjoy the gorgeous, warm (but not hot) weather we've been blessed with lately.

Saturday we spent most of the day kayak fishing in the marsh.

It can be a bit tricky to manage the boat in the wind and current and fish at the same time, but I'm getting much better at it. Even though the wind was blowing steadily, I was able to maneuver the boat and hold it where I wanted it most of the time. The fish weren't very active, but were biting just enough to keep it interesting. When we broke for lunch at Spoonbills, we didn't have any keepers to brag about...yet.

We returned to the marsh later in the afternoon and paddled down a different channel that brought us to a small lake we had not been to before. I had a good feeling about this place and sure enough, a few casts later I was rewarded with a pretty one.

"Pretty one" is my name for speckled trout. I call it that because it's such an elegant looking fish, so wonderfully designed. Its colors are gorgeous: iridescent green, silver and gold freckled with dark spots. Not only is it pretty, but it's a feisty fish on the hook and exciting to catch.

The day ended with a beautiful sunset and a fish on the stringer. What could be better than that?

How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is a sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number--living things both large and small. ~ Psalm 104:24-25

Friday, October 03, 2008

Cooking Up a Hat

A couple of weeks ago I showed you some yarn I had John pick out for a hat and asked you for pattern ideas.

There were some good suggestions:
I liked them all, but it was really more what John wanted that mattered. I had him look through patterns one afternoon and Ascutney Mountain Hat from Green Mountain Spinnery was the winner. I was all set to order it until I realized the shipping would cost more than the pattern. Nope, I couldn't do it. I'd have to see if I could come up with something similar on my own.

This is what I cooked up.

I started with the Cabled Headband from The Knitter's Book of Yarn, picked up stitches around one edge, knit until it seemed right and then finished with decreases inspired by Knit A Square.

Needles: US 7
Yarn: El Coyote Ranch 60% Wool, 40% Mohair
Color: Dark Gray

John tried the hat on last night and said with a smile, "It's just what I wanted."

Since I didn't use any of the light gray yarn, I have a little more "cooking" to do. Maybe something for me...