Friday, December 20, 2013

A Good Day To Stay Indoors

It's been snowing here in NE Wisconsin for about 4 hours now, and there is no hope of it stopping
anytime soon. I was going to run some errands this morning but have decided to put them off until DH gets home with his truck. My car isn't so secure on snowy roads, and the snowplow just came by, closing up the entrance to my driveway.

     Our house is  about 15 feet below the street level, which means that when you back out of the garage, you have to back uphill. The photo on the left is taken from my front porch and looks across the street towards my neighbors. Notice all the cars and vans in their driveway? They must be doing some renovations inside, because the vehicles appear every morning and leave at the end of the day. Their contractor parks on the street just across the street from my driveway. The only way for me to get out of my driveway when it snows like this is to GUN it!. I need a good running start out of the garage, and then I floor it. This is problematic if the contractor parks his car across from my driveway. Like I said, the best thing for me to do today is to stay home today.

I'm quilting. I know - I should be knitting, or reading a book, or whatever, but I'm quilting. Working on a scrappy quilt and it is so much fun to go into the stash and discover fabrics I didn't know I had. Then I cut 2 1/2" strips and start the process of creating the blocks. I don't know why I enjoy making something out of little pieces so much, but I do, and today is definitely a day for some color. Just compare the two photos on this page and a color fixation is completely understandable.

I hope you all are having a good day, wherever you are. If you have to drive on bad roads, take it easy and be safe. Talk with you some more tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seven Days and Counting...

Happily, the cone of black sock yarn that I ordered about a week ago arrived yesterday, which means I can crank the two pairs of socks that have been requested by a customer for Christmas presents. I was beginning to get worried, but all will be OK. I'll crank today, wash them tonight, and dry them on sock stretchers Thursday. Luckily the customer is semi-local, so I will drive them to Appleton on Friday. Whew! I don't like leaving things to the last moment.

In the mean time socks have been flying off the digital shelves in my Etsy shop. I sure wish they sold this well all year around. December is always a block buster month for gift buying, and I guess folks are giving socks as presents this year. The stock is dwindling, so after I finish the black ones I will get started on all the luscious Opal yarn that I purchased recently. If you are a follower of my Etsy shop (see the link in the upper right-hand of this page) watch for new additions.

Section 1, upper left
While waiting for the sock yarn to arrive I have been quilting my fingers to the nubs, and I must say, having a ball doing it. I decided that I would do a scrap quilt out of all my quilting leftovers, and I can tell at this point that this project won't even make a small dent in the supply.

Section 2

One of the reasons I don't write here more often is that I feel pictures are important to a blog, and it simply doesn't occur to me to photograph on a regular basis. However, I do have pics of the progress on this quilt.

The blocks are 4" square and they are laid out 12 blocks across.

Section 3
Section 4,  upper right

It has really been fun playing with the colors and placing them in the rows. At this point of have 2 rows finished, and I think there will need to be a total of 13 rows. Who knew I had so much fabric?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Two Weeks and Counting!

Somehow Christmas is upon us. It sneaks up on me every year, and this year is the worst. I always promise myself to start preparing for the following year early, but for some reason, seem unable to do so. There is snow on the ground, Christmas decorations are up, and some shopping has happened - but not all of it.

AJ and I have received our big presents all ready so Christmas morning will be anti-climactic this year. AJ's treadmill, a Vision Fitness, was delivered yesterday, and in a few minutes I will be trying it out for the first time. He told me to find the best MacBook Air for my needs, and it was delivered last Friday.

That's it! All done! Ah, but there are 5 grand children and their parents and my sister and her DH. All in all, we're not done yet.

Today is the December meeting of the Evergreen Quilt Guild - a super meeting because it is a holiday buffet. Everyone brings a dish to pass, and we play silly games. My "dish" is going to be freshly baked Sourdough Bread, which is in the oven rising as I write this.  It will be ready to bake about noon and still nice and warm when I slice it this evening. At least, that's my plan.

Everyone is supposed to bring a holiday placemat, so I made one last week. Actually, I made four of them. It was a perfect way to use up holiday fabric that had been in my stash for a long time, and it just isn't hard to sew 2 1/2" strips together and cross-hatch them. Then I saw a free project on Carol Doak's website for a cute sewing kit. I love paper piecing so I just had to make it.
Kit rolled up
Kit open with pockets

Finally, I picked up from Quilting Divas the final installment in the calendar quilt that I have been sewing. This is the January block and I think this little guy is pretty cute. I'm not finished with him yet, as you can see, but I have a good start on him.
I know this blog is called Tales of a Knitter, and I have knit a good deal in the past few weeks. The next post will be all about that.

Have a good day and try to stay warm!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Victoria Jicha's Tales of a Knitter: Sales Are a Good Thing!

Victoria Jicha's Tales of a Knitter: Sales Are a Good Thing!: I sold three pair of socks yesterday from my Etsy shop. (There is a link to the shop in the upper right hand corner of this page.) What a ...

Sales Are a Good Thing!

I sold three pair of socks yesterday from my Etsy shop. (There is a link to the shop in the upper right hand corner of this page.) What a treat. Months seem to go by without any activity and then, all of a sudden, sales happen. I'm not complaining, mind you! I love to sell socks, because it means I can buy more yarn to make more socks. It is a vicious circle, I know. I have been cranking out a pair or two a day for the past couple of weeks trying to build up inventory for the craft fair this weekend, so luckily, I had the socks the buyers wanted and now have some to replace those. After the fair I will put those that didn't sell up on Etsy as well.

Tonight is the Bay Lakes Knitting Guild meeting for November and the program is on Ravelry. Everyone is bringing their laptops so that we can explore the website and introduce those members who are unfamiliar with the site. It should be fun, and I am looking forward to it.

By the way, I heard a new tip a couple of days ago that might be helpful to those of you who sew. If your sewing area is carpeted, go to a Dollar Store and purchase a toilet brush. Yes - I said a toilet brush. Then you can use it to brush the area around your sewing machine. The brush will pick up all the little threads that conveniently fail to make it into the dust bin. I thought it was a cute idea, and I am going to the store today to get a brush.

Well, the garage door folks are coming in a few minutes to fix our door - it refuses to close, so I'll make it short today. Have a good day, and keep us in stitches.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sturgeon Bay YMCA Folk Fair is Coming

I'm really excited. Socks by Victoria, my sock company, is doing its first ever craft show, and I'm doing it at the Sturgeon Bay YMCA Folk Fair on November 17.  It's a one-day event, so it shouldn't be too taxing. I'm taking the Erlbacher Gearhart sock knitting machine so I can crank socks all day.

I also have an old-fashioned clothes dryer, the accordian kind, from which to hang all the pairs of socks that I hope to sell.  That's a lot of equipment to move and schlepp, but I hope the results will allow me to buy more sock yarn.

A friend is going with me to sell her beautiful beaded scarves, which are to die for.  All in all, it should be a fantastic day.

I still need to crank more socks to build up my inventory. Did I mention that many of my socks are available in my Etsy shop? You can go here to see them. The beauty of these socks is they have no seams to rub on your toes or give you calluses, and they feel warm and comfy all winter. Most sock yarn these days is made of something called Superwash, which is a blend of wool and polymide. Why is this important for you to know? Because it means you can throw them in the washer and dryer, although I never put these socks in the dryer. I do run them through the washer, however, and they become even more soft.

Well, I'm off to crank a few more pairs. Hope to see you in Sturgeon Bay (Wisconsin) on the 17th of  November.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Memory Lane Ain't So Bad

In 1988 approximately 50 young from the Soviet Union and 50 young musicians from the US came together at Oberlin College for a week of rehearsals that were followed by a tour of the US and a tour of the Soviet Union. Most of the musicians were college age, and among them was my son, Rick Graef (now Asst. Principal Horn in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra).

We lived in the greater Chicago area at the time, but Chicago was not on the American tour. The closest the orchestra got to Chicago was Brookfield, Wisconsin. I don't know where else they played in the US with the exception of Carnegie Hall in New York City. I will never forget the opening of the Brookfield Concert, which started with Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. I teared up with pride and the awesomeness of the music.

When the American Soviet Youth Orchestra played in New York, the concert was taped and a CD was later made available. Today I moved my little CD player into my knitting studio and started listening to my CDs as I cranked out socks on my circular sock knitting machine. The CD by the ASYO is what prompted this post. Once again, I got emotional, mostly during the performance of Copland's Appalachian Spring. What is it about his music? I know I miss that part of my life. . . performing great music and being part of a all-enveloping blanket of sound.  It was a good life, and I am retired now. I have to remember that. But music - there's just nothing quite like it. Some claim that it is a form of meditation, and I suspect they are correct.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Sewing Bug

Yesterday I got the sewing bug. Actually, when we were in TN in June I bought some patterns for bags that you can make. There was an entire store devoted almost exclusively to purse/bag patterns. So I got those patterns out yesterday and dove into my stash. This is what I came up with.

This bag has 3 outer pockets on each side and I am using it for my leftover sock yarn lap robe project. I followed the pattern to a T, but if I make it again, I will substitute a heavy craft foundation for the quilt batting to give the bag more structure.

I also made a Couch Caddy -  you know, one of those things you put over the arm of a couch or chair to hold the TV remote, pencils, etc. This one is for my recliner and I like it a lot.

DH returns home today, and I think the house is ready, although I have no idea what to cook for dinner. Haven't had to worry about that for about 10 days. I guess my vacation is over. Time to do dinner diving into the freezer!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

What I Did on my Vacation

Trillium in Door Cnty
It's been an interesting week. I baked, put away apple slices for winter pies, cleaned the house, visited a friend in Waupaca, took a day to Door County, and did mending that has been hanging around for years ... yes folks ... that's years. I started a new black top but ran into a roadblock with it. Can't understand the pattern. Maybe some of you will be able to decipher it. It appears that there should be a zipper, although the pattern doesn't even mention a zipper.

My vacation ends tomorrow, as that is when DH returns. Actually, I'm ready for him to come home. He takes this trip every year, and I always enjoy the first 2-3 days he is gone. Then I start to feel rudderless, without the centering that a spouse provides. I don't feel guilty saying this, as he says the same thing. He enjoys his time away at first but begins to miss me in the middle of it. I think he just tires of all the potty humor a group of men seem to produce.

My sewing room/office/studio
The Bay Lakes Knitting Guild is holding a design contest for its members, and I started that this week. I chose the stitch pattern - Flame Chevron from one of the Barbara Walker books - and knit a swatch. Blocked it for gauge and then unraveled it for yarn amount. A 6" X 3" block requires approximately 14 yards of lace weight yarn and I have 1600 yards available so I think I will be good. I have cast on and started a sweater vest/tunic. I'll post pictures when there is something worthy of a picture.

And for one more picture, let me share my favorite beach in the whole world. It is on the Oregon coast just south of Seaside. Now known as Oswald West State Park, when I was growing up, it was called Short Sands. There is about a mile hike down to the beach through old growth forest, skunk cabbage, and fallen logs that have been there since I was a kid. Love that place!

It is in a cove so the winds funnel in there, which attracts surfers today. A stream runs into the Pacific at this point, and as a child it was fun to play in it, dam it up, float logs in it .... you name it. If you are ever in Oregon you should go see this beach. The most serene place along the coast.

Monday, September 23, 2013

While the Cat's Away...

Fascinating how much you can get done when you are alone. Somehow planning your day around another person's schedule eats up time like nobody's business. DH left on his fishing trip Thursday night, and over the next 3 days I cleaned the house, baked 2 loaves of sourdough bread, sewed a new nightgown (what a treat to sleep in something new last night), and went to an apple orchard for apples for pies.

Yes I did some knitting too, but mostly spent the time "taking the house back." It hadn't really had a deep cleaning in 6 weeks, as the surgery left me without the energy or strength to do anything but the bare essentials.

I also completed the October calendar quilt this weekend. The crosshatching seemed to take forever, but in reality, it just took a lot of time to tie all those little knots on the back. As per usual, I did it all backwards: appliqued the large pieces first and THEN did the crosshatching. Duh!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Once a Year He Goes Fishing

That's right! Every fall the DH goes West for fly fishing with a bunch of guys who have been traveling to Idaho/Montana area for decades. He takes a week off from work plus the weekends on either end, and he drives out - does the trip in 2 days. That's a good bit of driving.

I mention it because it is a vacation for me too. No cooking, no planning around someone else's schedule - just me. I always look forward to this week, and once it arrives, I spend the entire time feeling like a ship without a rudder. I have a mental list of all the things I hope to get done while he is gone, but imagine they will not take more than a couple of days.

I cleaned the master bedroom, 2 bathrooms, and the sewing room today. It felt good to do some housework after not being able to do much for the past 6 weeks. Time to get caught up. I didn't write about the fact that I had a total knee replacement early in August, and it is only now that I have felt up to housekeeping. We have a dog, so the dog hair was ankle deep - well, not really - but it seemed so. Tomorrow I will take on 2 more rooms.

I'm not excited about any of my knitting projects at the moment. Don't know why - they are just there and need to be finished. Maybe this week...maybe....

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Last Inch or So

Have you ever noticed how the last inch of a project seems to take for ever? Why is this? I am so close to finishing the pieces for a new sweater - a kimono style sweater where the pieces are all rectangles. The sleeves have been in the works for about 2 weeks, and the end seems never to be reached. As they are set-in, drop shoulder sleeves, they are to measure 12". It seems as if they have been measuring 11" for about 10 days. Why don't the last few inches finish as quickly as the first?

This  pattern is a free to download from Caron that I found it on Ravelry. 

I am doing it in green and will knit the collar, which is added after the pieces are seamed together in a lighter color green.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Victoria Jicha's Tales of a Knitter: In-Patient Therapy Has Begun

Victoria Jicha's Tales of a Knitter: In-Patient Therapy Has Begun: Just home from my first appointment, and they are going to work me hard. The PT says I have made good progress, but she wants me doing more ...

In-Patient Therapy Has Begun

Just home from my first appointment, and they are going to work me hard. The PT says I have made good progress, but she wants me doing more for strength and stamina. Sounds good to me, as I tend to wane towards the end of the day.

On the knitting front, I started a new super-long lace cowl that can be wound around the head two or three times. It's an easy knit and easy to take along for work in the car or appointment waiting rooms. I didn't have anything that was easily transportable, so this fills the bill nicely.

Over the weekend we went to an Estate sale in Sturgeon Bay, and I wish I had been a weaver. The sale included 2 looms, a table top and a floor loom, and shelves and shelves of yarns for weaving. There was an Ott light floor lamp that I scooped up for $25 and two bags of beautiful, quality yarn, one of mohair and the other wool, that I bought for $5 each. All in all, it was a good Saturday shopping spree.

One of our Door County activities is to take Jessie, our dog, to Murphy Park just south of Egg Harbor. She loves chasing a ball in the water and retrieving it. Needed a picture for today's post, so you get DH and Jessie. She runs out and fetches the ball back until she is too tired; then she brings the ball back but takes it up the beach into the grass and lies down. Then we know she is finished and ready to go home. If we try to quit when we want to quit, she refuses to get in the car. Smart dog! She has us well trained.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Strange Knitting Summer

Yes, it has been a strange knitting summer. The yarn shop where I used to teach closed the end of May and suddenly my motivation went out the door with it.

I had several projects in the works, and those are the ones I have been working on. Sometime in May I started a lap robe out of leftover sock yarn. I have now used samples of all of those, and because I don't want to repeat any, am waiting to exchange LOs with other knitters.

I had knee replacement surgery early in August, and took this project to the hospital with me. Needless to say, I had to rip out everything I did there because the anesthetic and pain meds made it impossible for me to focus long enough to complete a square. Each block consists of 16sts cast on on 2 sides, central decreases on every other row, and uses about 8-10 yards of yarn.

I've also spent a good deal of time at my sewing machine. It's been years since I enjoyed quilting so
much. This is the fruit of my labors. Actually it is 1/12th of my labors. The larger frame encloses an inner quilt that represent each month of the year. This is August's quilt. This is a Block of the Month project generated through Quilting Divas in Green Bay, and they started the BOM in January. As I started it in June, I have been playing catch up all summer. So far I have done 5 months worth. Yea! More pictures for future blog posts.

Have a super day!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Off to Tennessee

I'm beginning to get excited about our 10-day get away. First we are heading to Zionsville, Indiana for our grandson's high school graduation. The ceremony is on Sunday, but we are driving down on Friday, helping my son Rick get ready for the open house he is hosting for Austin on Saturday, and then the graduation on Sunday.

On Monday we drive south to Tennessee, where we have rented a cabin located between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Here is a picture of that cabin.

Very cool, right? We are taking Jessie, our dog, with us, and I know she will enjoy the views from the deck. On Thursday we drive south to Cherokee, NC to meet my sister and her husband for lunch. Cherokee has a casino (Harrah's), so I'm sure I will have a good time.  Also coming along for the ride are various knitting projects, and DH is encouraging me to bring the hammered dulcimer. He says its no problem, and I probably should, as I play the Door County Renaissance Faire shortly after we return to Wisconsin. 

In the mean time and through all this anticipation, I have been updating knitting patterns and putting them up on my Ravelry store page. Most of the patterns were designed for my lys, Monterey Yarn, which unfortunately closed its doors on May 31, thus freeing me to publish the patterns. There are some nice ones there. You might want to check it out.