Friday, August 18, 2006

Running Amok

Is what my children were doing while I was feverishly trying to sort out the basement.

And since the World's Best Real Estate Agent is going to take care of getting the place painted and scrubbed and polished while we are gone, all I have to do is have it tidy by the time we leave. Piece of cake. Perhaps we could use this as a selling feature, instead: "Two story house brimming with creative energy." Who wouldn't be charmed by that?

Also by the end of today, I must finish packing and not-forgetting every critical item we will need to live for 6 weeks, start the kids in school in a new province, etc. (I have this fear of getting to BC and finding out my daughter can't start school because of a single piece of paper sitting back in Moose Jaw. Yes, I am a worrier.) Also everything I don't trust the moving company with:

After the little debacle two moves ago in which they turned half my (extensive) collection of cotton prints into a sodden mildewy mass, I have less than complete faith in their care and concern for my possessions. So, coming in the car is - the yarn stash, my irreplaceable little Elna sewing machine, the knitting reference books I can't live without for 6 weeks and, not pictured, the tools and supplies of my jewelry business.

Since blogger is now going to let me upload photos, I will also mention that I solved the problem of the bulgy bag bottom before posting the pattern yesterday.
This, thanks in equal part to a tip on casting on for round medallions which I picked up from String or Nothing's blog, and my own blindingly brilliant realization that twine is bulkier than crochet thread or laceweight merino, consequently one can not run the mathematical sequence backward to a point of infinite density at the centre. (I realize that this makes no difference to the functionality or even, when in use, the appearance of the bag, but it mattered to me.)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Tomorrow is our Last Day in Moose Jaw, Also the Pattern is Done

So - while taking a short coffee break from generating garbage bags yesterday, it occurred to me that I could just try setting down the string bag pattern while it was fresh in my mind. Lo and behold, it was not that difficult to do, and here it is:


Materials: This bag takes a little less than 400 yds (I'd estimate 375-ish) of DK to light worsted weight cotton or cotton blend twine / string. (I actually used Aunt Lydia's Denim Quick-Crochet, which I found at Walmart for around $5 for 400 yds - it is 75% cotton, 25% acrylic, looked and felt just like the cotton blend twine at the hardware store, but a bit cheaper).

Needles: I used 3.5 mm (US 4) dpns for the base, with a gauge of 4.5 stitches and 7 rows to the inch in stockinette. I switched to a 4 mm (US 6), 24 inch circular for the sides. I wouldn't worry overly about gauge, as long as you're close.


Using the half-hitch technique (and no slip knot at the beginning) cast on 8 stitches and divide between three dpns, preparing to join in the round. The cast on will be counted as round 1, to make the mathematical sequence clear.
Rounds 2 & 3: knit - at this point, pull firmly on the tail to tighten up the cast on.
Round 4: *yo, k1; repeat from* - 16 stitches
Rounds 5-7: knit
Round 8: as round 4 - 32 stitches
Rounds 9-15: knit
Round 16: as round 4 - 64 stitches
Rounds 17-23: knit
Round 24: *yo, k2; repeat from * - 96 stitches
Rounds 25-31: knit
Round 32: as round 24 - 144 stitches
Knit 6 rounds.

Lace pattern:
Round 1: *k2 tog, yo, k2; repeat from *
Round 2: *p2, yo, p2tog; repeat from *
Repeat these two rounds 32 times, or until desired length is achieved.
Knit 3 rounds.

Round 1: *yo, p4tog; repeat from *
Round 2: *(k1, p1, k1) into yo of previous round, k1; repeat from *
Round 3: knit
Knit 2 rounds.

Picot bind-off:
*Insert right needle knitwise between first 2 st and pull through a loop as for cable cast on, placing it on the left needle. BO 3 st, sl rem st on right needle to left needle; rep from *

Make a 3 stitch I-cord as follows: using 2 dpns, CO 3 st, *k3, do not turn. Slide sts to right, pull yarn to tighten. Rep from* until cord is long enough to thread through the eyelets of the fully opened bag, plus another couple of inches. (If you are petite, and plan to carry heavy items, you may want to make the cord shorter to ensure it doesn't drag on the ground when stretched. It's just right as is for my 5'10" frame.) Thread the cord through the eyelets before binding off, and graft or sew the ends together. Keeping in mind that this join will bear a considerable load, it would be prudent to reinforce it, and leave long tails embedded within the cord.

Weave in the ends.

I did proofread this a whole bunch of times over the course of the day, but please email me if you happen to find anything amiss or unclear. I have a brand spanking new gmail address: robruth dot cox at gmail dot com
Eventually I would like to have this all polished up in a nice downloadable PDF with the link in the sidebar, but that will be later. Quite a bit later.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Two: String Bag

All of a sudden, there it was - long enough.... and here it is:

It has quite a large capacity (although we are presently a little short on groceries with which to demonstrate).
Stretchy but sturdy:

The (all-important) details:

Pattern to follow, perhaps even before the weekend. Maybe. I've pretty much reached system overload, vacillating between paralyzing anxiety to the point of nausea and bouts of feverish activity. Knitting has been soothing, but I may put off finalizing the written pattern until my brain settles down.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


What happened to Four? It was, so to speak, a moment of silence.

Thank-you so much to everyone who commented yesterday with words of comfort and sympathy - it did mean a great deal. The whole affair was fittingly peaceful and dignified, and there are no regrets, although the empty spot is somehow bigger than I anticipated.

Deep breath - and back to work.

The string bag is making progress:

I think I'll knit this guy to the point where he comfortably cradles a 4L jug of milk and then finish off with big eyelets and I-cord. Don't know if I'll get the pattern posted before we move, though.


My daughter called me in to her bedroom the other day, excitedly insistent that I photograph her creation: "You could use this for one of your knitting pictures," she said. "Or even jewellery!" She's quite right, of course. It's great fun to watch her developing an eye for form and colour - and I found the "familial" nature of this little group completely charming. (My son, on the other hand, would have divided them into "good guy" and "bad guy" pinecones, with the bad guys strewn in bits at the feet of the victors. This, despite the fact that we have employed a studiously anti-violence, no TV, gender neutral toy philosophy of child-rearing. I guess some things really are genetic.)


It occurs to me that it might be prudent to mention exactly what we are doing with this move, since it is happening in stages, which will, to some degree, discombobulate my computer activities.

August 19th we get up very early, finish loading our truck to the rafters, stuff in a couple of kids, a Wolfhound, and a cage containing one very motion sensitive cat who may or may not be white and sweet smelling at journey's end. We then drive 12 hours to my parents' home in Creston, BC and spend a couple of days recovering and eating far too much. (At this point, I hope to post a few photos). August 22nd we again get up very early, load the truck with all the aforementioned stuff, plus a few Mom goodies and drive 12 hours to Whistler.

Rob has three weeks of leave to spend with us, and then flies back to Moose Jaw to finish up his last month of work. (Sadly), the computer stays in MJ to keep him company while he finishes up whatever I didn't get sorted, and the house gets sold. First week of October, the moving truck picks up the remainders, he flies back to BC and life assumes a semblance of normalcy.

What this means is that for six weeks I will be blogging from an Internet cafe, minus the files and bits of software I take for granted - most grievously, the photoeditor which allows me to play with charts and pixels - and just when I am finally surrounded by amazing subjects of inspiration. I do, however, have a box of Prismacolors, a sheaf of graph paper, and a camera, so one way or another, the show will go on. I'm a firm believer in viewing obstacles and limitations as catalysts for creativity and invention. It will also be a prime opportunity to spend more time surfing and researching for the collection of links and tutorials.

Of course, there will be knitting and designing. I have several exciting projects taking shape at the moment - they simmer away half-consciously while I sort and clean, and every so often I make a dash for pen and paper when something gels. (At least that's how I see the creative process - my DH thinks I spend an inordinate amount of time standing motionless over half-finished tasks, staring blankly at the wall and drooling ever so slightly.)


Speaking of half-finished tasks, this is starting to look suspiciously like avoidance blogging. The basement awaits!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Five: Requiem For A Good Dog

Lightning was born in January of 1992, on a lovely acreage just outside of St. John's. His mother was a Newfoundland-Lab cross, and his father a purebred Black Lab, but Lightning got a goodly helping of the Newfie genes, growing up to look exactly like a Lab-sized Landseer Newfoundlander.

The breeders were a lovely couple with young children. The father was a University professor and still mourning the loss of his beloved dog the previous year. They had me in for tea, and we spent a pleasant afternoon chatting and playing with the puppies, because it was vitally important to them that I take my time to choose exactly the right one. As it turned out, there really was no doubt. There were thirteen puppies, and twelve of them were just dogs - cute and frenetically wriggly, but just dogs. The thirteenth however, climbed into my lap, snuggled under my chin and settled in as though there was simply no question to whom I belonged.

It turned out that Lightning (for that was the temporary name they had given him because of the crooked white streak down his forehead - and it stuck) was the odd dog out in his litter. He never quite fit in with his siblings, never got the hang of doggy culture - always on the fringe, prefering instead to play with the humans in the home. Suffice it to say, we understood each other.

A few days after he came home with me, I attended the end-of-year weekend retreat for my residency program. It began with a series of lectures and presentations, held in a country hall, and since they told me I couldn't bring Lightning inside, and the day wasn't hot, I parked my little pickup in the shade and left him in the back, with a blanket and a water dish, and the screen windows open. A few hours later, I heard a little scuffle of feet and there he was, pleased as punch to have found me. He had clawed through the screen, wriggled out, and found his way across the parking lot, into the crowded hall and straight to my feet. He won a reprieve from the powers that be, and spent the rest of the day snuggled quietly on my lap.

In June of that year, Lightning and I took the two day ferry ride to Goose Bay, Labrador, to begin the next adventure. He came along on my very first date with Rob - we went to see the canoe regatta at Northwest River (the big event of the year) and Lightning gamboled in the rushes by the lake while we began the happy process of acquaintance and attraction. In fact, since there wasn't much to do in Goose Bay but hike about in the bush, Lightning was an integral part of most of those early dates.

He was a tolerant traveller - by plane or by car, and since my life in those days was pretty much summed up by the Tom Cochrane song, we did plenty of travelling. In the summer of 1993, Rob and Lightning and I drove from St. John's to Victoria in my little red pickup, my (still unculled) possessions crammed into every available inch. Lightning gamely wriggled into the little cubby left behind the seats and on top of the luggage and spent two weeks happily barking at cows across Canada.

He had an exceptionally deep and sonorous bark, which he particularly liked to display with startling suddeness in the car at farm animals we passed. It was just bravado, though - if we lowered the back window, his mouth snapped shut and he curled up in the corner looking crestfallen, apparently concerned that an offended cow would hurdle the fence and fly through the window at him. Lightning always did have a bit of an Eeyore-ish suspicion that things were out to get him. One of the reasons I have very few decent photographs of him is that he hated the camera and would slink away looking deeply offended if ever it were pointed at him. The low point came when a friend of ours held a Belgian endive to his eyes, and Lightning shot him a filthy look and skulked out.

Contrary to every legendary trait of his ancestry, Lightning was not fond of swimming. He did eventually work up to paddling around cautiously in shallow water, but if Rob or I went swimming, he would stand on shore, barking furiously to alert us to our imminent peril. He did love to run, and gamely accompanied me during training for my first marathon. When the mileage got up around 30 km though, he took to hiding under the bed on long run days.

He was loving and loveable and loyal, and charmed everyone he met with his happy, quirky personality. When I ran into old friends from Newfoundland at a national medical conference recently, Lightning was all they wanted to hear about. Since Rob and I both worked long hours, we got him a couple of cats for company when we bought our little starter home in BC, and they spent hours playing and snuggling together. In Winnipeg, we finally had enough room for a second dog, and Guinevere joined the family.Despite her vastly superior size and strength, she always deferred to Lightning. On occasions when they needed to stay at the kennel, she stuck to his side like glue, never letting any other dog near him in the exercise yard, especially as he became unsteady with age. In return, he taught her to bark, and to dig enormous holes in the lawn (neither of which are sight hound traits.)

Lightning got a bit stiff over the last few years, particularly in the harsh prairie winters. Many's the morning one of us would have to stagger out through the snow in our housecoat and slippers to help him back onto the deck after his morning constitutional. It never seemed to bother him - he was as waggy and bouncy as ever, although a little miffed if we didn't appear on the first bark.

We always knew we couldn't bring him to Whistler, but the idea of euthanizing him on a schedule other than his own seemed unbearable. Thankfully, I suppose, he has begun to decline over the last two weeks. He doesn't seem to be in pain, but where he always used to stagger gamely to his feet, wagging and smiling for attention, of late he just seems too tired to bother.

So, our vet will come to the house late this Monday morning, and Lightning will go to sleep one last time in the peace and comfort of his own home, with Rob and I by his side. And even though it is the inevitable outcome of letting a dog into your heart, it still seems so terribly hard.