Friday, October 21, 2016

Life Snapshot

When I look back at my last post, I see it was in early September, and that indicates why I haven't written since.   We resumed homeschooling again around that time, and started the last stretch of my daughter's pregnancy (resulting in the birth of a darling second granddaughter, and the normal activities that follow such an event), and things stepped up at the church as I became officially the musical director and thus entrusted with several new responsibilities.

We also had several of our regularly scheduled medical appointments with AMR, all of them each a 100 mile round trip and one a 400 mile round trip.    And the boys went back off to college.  And needed my help for various college-related things.

We also thoroughly emptied out our garage which had been waiting years for such a project.   And got 3 cords of firewood which we are in the process of stacking on our porch.

Listing this helps me take a deep breath and realize that it's not so strange I am behind on everything, including blogging.

I hope to get back on some sort of blogging frequency, but the fact is I can't count on it, and so I'll have to be somewhat content with writing WHENEVER, and having one of those little unsystematic blogs.  And there are worse things, for sure.   The blogs on my feed are almost all sort of unsystematic that way.     The fact is that writing is on my simmer burner.   I give it a stir every now and then, but that's all.  

I have a lot I could write about at the moment.    I think I'll just link to a post by my husband, though.   September 30/October 1 is Aidan's transplant anniversary.   He went in that night and came out the next morning, the next month.   My husband writes about it every year, often just a Facebook mention.     This one is more complete.   Interesting how his memories are different from mine.  Not contradictory -- just different.   I don't even remember saying "I think Aidan is dying."    But I do remember how Aidan convulsed, how the nurse slapped the code blue button and how all the doctors and nurses came at a run as they do when there is a code, how I backed away with my hands on my face, just as they do in movies.   We had been through a multitude of very difficult things over the four months since his birth, and I had kept it together -- stayed in control, mind over matter, even through the turmoil of hope, despair, grief, shock.  But at that moment, I lost it.  I didn't scream or anything, but I could hardly walk to tell my husband (who was in charge of the other 5 kids ages 3 to 13) what I guess I did tell him.  

 I wouldn't have left Aidan there with the code team of my own volition, but someone told me I had better leave, and in that circumstance my tiny vestige of sanity actually agreed.   It seems to me when I think of it that someone should have gone with a mom in that state to make sure she was all right, and perhaps someone did.  I don't remember, but if someone did, I must have convinced her I was OK enough to be on my own.   I wasn't really, but I didn't want someone there trying to help me out.  It would have only distracted me from pulling the exploded universe back around me again.  Anyway, I made that walk to my husband and kids alone with two alternatives in my mind:  one, they wouldn't be able to revive him; two, if they did revive him, they would never embark on a transplant with someone who was basically on the edge of death like that.

It turned out the choice was number three, the one that didn't occur to me.   The liver was there, he had been transfused so his liver-failure related coagulopathy was temporarily minimized, and he wasn't going to get any better.  There was no better time for a transplant, grim as the chances looked.  So once they resuscitated him, they went ahead with it.  And he made it, in spite of the odds.   There was some good work done that night.  If you want more of the story, read my husband's blog.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Autumn Shawls and Everyday Life

It's cloudy today with the smell of rain on the ground.   Nice reminder of autumn, without severe cold involved.

A busy week is ahead.   I am taking today easy.   No biking, though I may take a walk with Inryllm later.  Maybe do a little lesson planning and looking through church music.   I have a couple of emails to write.    Actually, thinking about it, there are a lot of things I want to get to today.    But I hope in a leisurely way.

Here is the self-designed shawl I made last week:

You can find the panel stitch pattern here.

I used Kriskrafter's method of starting at the center and increasing in both directions.  You simply cast on a given number of stitches at the beginning of each row.    It made it easy to add on the stitches for new panels as I gained enough extra stitches.

Here is my modified Zaria.

I was uneasy about it, but I'm fairly OK with how it turned out.  You can see a mistake where I accidentally allowed a garter ridge to show up.    I made a kind of mesh stripe on the wider part of the shawl to integrate the lilac and brown colors and I was glad I did.   It's nice and drapy and soft to wear.

This photo shows the whole thing but also shows too much background.   The box on the ground is my son's collection of Hot Wheels.   He had them arranged on a board as a "traffic jam" complete with police cars and an ambulance on the side handling an accident scene.   I had the board in the bathroom because his toddler niece was tempted to make the accident even more catastropic.  But eventually it became part of the landscape, and we took it down until he gets inspired to build it again.

After I finished those, I made a quick modified colonnade shawlet.    I realize that shawlets or head kerchiefs are my way of experimenting and making swatches -- something I do not have the patience to do.    Also, my way of stashbusting -- getting rid of those half-skeins of yarn from earlier projects.  I used Lion Heartland.    I think I'll try a real colonnade sometime.

Now I'm working on a Dandy Neckerchief also with a remnant of Heartland yarn.    I am making a modification to make it longer and narrower at the top -- casting on 5-stitch increases every time I cycle through a 10-row repetition.  

After I finish that, I'm thinking of making a more voluminous shawl/scarf type thing.  The weather is definitely chilling out.

The next post will be about something besides knitting -- I hope --  maybe a homeschooling update.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Shawl Talk

I'm not sure whether I am going to turn from knitting shawls to something else -- newborn baby clothes perhaps? -- but in either case I wanted to write a little about different types of shawls and what I've learned in the last month or so.

First of all, there is a super simple type of shawl where you just knit back and forth increasing on the second or third stitch of every row.   It makes a basic triangle.    I knitted a shawl like this when I was first learning how to knit, in garter stitch.   I ended up frogging it, though, because I didn't wear it.  The shape made it too hard to keep on over my shoulders.

I did use the same pattern, however, to make a few quick head or neck kerchiefs.   If you grow it outwards towards the end of the work, at the top, by increasing at the beginning and end of every row instead of just the beginning, you have an easier time tying it around your head or neck.

Even simpler is the rectangular prayer shawl, where you just knit back and forth until you decide you are done.  And of course there are simple rectangular scarves.   I made several of the latter when I first learned to knit, too.

You can knit rectangular scarves either sideways (up and down) or across (horizontally).   You can join them to make cowls or infinity scarves.    I learned that you can shape them to make them more like shallow shawls, by working sideways -- starting with less stitches, grading upwards to the maximum width by increasing as quickly or slowly as you like, then decreasing in a similar way at the end of the work.   I used this form to try out lace stitches because I didn't have to do the math involved in a horizontally symmetrical shawl with lace.

Then I learned how to do the other kind of triangular shawl.  In this one you cast on an odd number of stitches, and place markers around the center stitch.   Then, you increase on the second or third stitch at the beginning and end, and also increase (usually with a yarnover) before and after the center stitch.     This makes the beginning and end of the rows into the top of the shawl.   A triangle forms outwards, which means you can make lace borders or other things at the end of the work instead of the beginning.      You can also make the triangle shallower by increasing at the beginning and end of the wrong side rows (which you don't do if you want a deep traditional triangle).

These are not my favorite kind of shawls, but they make it possible to have some beautiful effects.

I generally like the thinner more flowy type of shawls, that you can make into head scarves.   One type that I have done is the crescent shape.   Often you start with a garter tab, presumably to keep the center stretchy.  The ones I have done start from the top, like triangular ones, except that you increase evenly rather than just at the center.  You can border them with lace.

I really like the type of shawl that starts at the side with 4 stitches cast on and then go at a bias.  You increase at the beginning of the right side and then decrease at the end of that same row.  Then, on the way back on the wrong side row, you increase at the end of the row.   So your work ends up with an assymetrical shape between a triangle and a curve.  It grows in one direction and decreases at half the speed in the other direction.

Finally, there is a way of doing a simple bottom up triangle that has the virtues of the more shallow, wide, flowy types of shawls.   In this method, you cast on a given number of stitches at the beginning of each row -- say 4, or 6, sometimes more.   If you have a stitch pattern that is worked over that number of stitches, you can have very pretty results with very little counting or calculating.  Kriskrafter has several very pretty and easy to work patterns using this method.

There are a few other methods that I would like to try.   Elizabeth Zimmerman has a "Pi" type circular shawl.  It is worked in the round, but regular increases similar to what you do for a top-down beanie or beret keep it lying flat.    Another thing I would like to try is to bind off the edge of a shawl and then work a lace edging back and forth by picking up stitches.

Something I have learned is to use larger needles than called for by the yarn.  That makes the fabric looser, which is not good for things like socks, but is very good for most shawls.   I also learned you can usually adjust the size of a shawl pattern easily by using more or less yarn.   That means you can use the spare skeins hiding in your stash.   I learned that it's fun to experiment with different types of yarn than called for by the pattern, but your results may vary.   Sometimes color combos or yarn combos that look great in my imagination look shoddy on the needle.  I usually start over if I'm not happy with how something is going.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Alternate Universe Travelling

The last few days have been unconventionally busy.   For several of them I have had to go to TWO places per day, when I usually try to keep things to one trip per day with quiet days in between.   (Where we live, most outings involve travel time of 40 minutes up to 2 hours).    When I speak of two places per day, I mean two separate times of day to two different locations, not just a cluster of errands, which would be routine for us.  

Yesterday was a trip to town (2 hours travel time) to see Krylak's teacher.   It ended up not actually happening, because she had a schedule conflict and our communication slipped up.   But I dropped off his papers at least; and Inryllm went to the grocery store and we managed a detour to the donut store and Starbuck's so it wasn't a completely wasted trip.  I also got to spend some off-task time with my youngest, which doesn't happen often enough.

Then we were supposed to have the small appliance guy show up to fix our freezer, which deluges water instead of making ice like it is supposed to (we've turned off the spigot, so presently it doesn't do either).    And a guy was supposed to haul off the dumpster thing where we've been piling our green waste (pine needles and branches etc).   But neither of those happened, and we didn't hear from either of these two usually reliable contracters, which made me wonder if we have taken a side turn into an alternate universe.    But there are probably explanations more compatible with the lex parsimoniae.

Onrylak made pizza at night.   I stayed in the kitchen as adviser so I got to spend some time with this fifth child as well.

In the evening I had a church board meeting, which is also slightly Twilight Zone like.   My first ever, and I have to say it was pretty lively.   I got voted in as music director.    This music thing keeps growing, in a sort of ridiculous way considering what an amateur I am.     I got another possible music venue, which involves more travel, so Inryllm is opposed.

The board meeting lasted 2 and a half hours and involved 40 minutes of travel time.  When we got back all the lights in the house were out.   More Twilight Zone!   It turned out my granddaughter and her parents were playing a mild prank on us.   Anrylak thought it was hilarious when the lights went on (turning them off is one of his favorite jokes too) and went hopping upstairs chuckling insanely.     ARA kept telling me about the "dark" and "gamma come home mass".     I like the way she recasts every experience into narrative.   Right now I hear her talking about the tree that Grandpa felled with the chainsaw back on Labor Day.

In down moments during these past few days I finished a shawl I designed myself with Van Dyke panels.    I'm blocking it right now but I hope to take a picture and write some notes on the construction.   It turned out all right.   It was an amazingly fast knit using Kriskrafter's cast-on method of increasing and a Deborah Norville cotton-silk blend worsted in aubergine.

The one I am working on right now is a modified version of this Zaria.   I have mixed feelings about it.  The yarn is delightful (Knitpicks fingering weight comfy cotton blend) .   But I decided to make the shawl in stockinette stitch and let it grow assymetrically (increase on one side, decrease on the other), and I'm uneasy about the decision.   Probably should have done it as written.

Time to get lessons ready for the boys.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Changes and Relatives

This Labor Day weekend has brought a turning point in the weather.   A definite chill in the air in the morning and evening, though the afternoons are still warmer than comfortable.

A few other changes to make note of -- ARA is incessantly verbal.   Her vocal pattern of  conversational jargon interspersed with comprehensible terms is shifting so there is now often a mostly understandable sentence with a few placeholder syllables where she knows that a word belongs (a preposition, conjunction or article usually) but can't quite bring it to mind.   At least that is what I imagine is her strategy, though a baby's mind is mysterious.

My boys, ARA's uncles, mostly learned language differently.   They picked up nouns first and then verb-noun combinations.     They didn't create the mock-up sentences and discussions that ARA does.    They seemed to view language more functionally while she seems to delight in the process of making vocals happen.

It is clear that she has learned past tense verb forms because she makes the common but astonishingly intellectual mistake of putting -ed at the back of irregular verbs.   I have heard her say "getted" and "eated".   I wish I knew what mental process occurs around 24 months of age that allows this.

I remember John Holt talking about this but I can't find the quote.   While looking though, I remembered that the whole back issue archive of his newsletter Growing without Schooling is available online.

I was thinking the other day about unschooling.  I think I am happy I discovered the concept.  I really doubt if I would have started homeschooling without it.   It was the only method that really explicitly observed children rather than focusing on what to do with children.   However, its benefits have been mixed for my family.    It was like discovering fire.   I am sure one of the first fire-users in the human race, whose name has been lost, found out that fire also has its dangerous side.    Perhaps they wished at times they had never heard of it.

I think part of its mixed impact was similar to that of other methods I researched and tried to apply in my homeschool.   I think part of it is my filtering process.   The only way I can accomplish anything is by theorizing and researching, yet it is a big step from that part of my brain to the part which actually makes it happen in real life.   So I made an abundance of mistakes.  Sometimes I listened to advice I shouldn't have; and other times I probably didn't listen to advice I should have.

Another change observed is with my youngest son Ckrylak, who has suddenly decided to make several significant life changes.    He is sitting down with his schoolwork in the morning and spending a lot of time walking.   He's also trying to make healthy food choices.  These are things that he was advised to do last year by several people involved in his life.   At the time he did not seem attentive to their wisdom but either he internalized it or decided on his own that these habits made sense.

 I am getting slightly bored with making shawls, but am not sure what the next project will be yet.   I know that now that the weather is colder, the cottons are going to migrate to the back of my closet and the bulky yarns are going to move forward.

Still working on The Brothers Karamazov.    My husband Inryllm, to use his dragon name, has finished The Picture of Dorian Gray (he was not impressed) and is now embarked on Frankenstein.  He is reading concurrently with a Great Courses lecture series called Classics of British Literature, which he acquired for a giant discount.    These lectures are fun, not as strenuous as some of our other picks.

Today is our Aristotle discussion, and we are on Chapter 7 of Categories.  It's about relative terms.   Relatives are things that make sense in reference to something else.   "Greater", "older" "similar" etc.  It has to be "greater than" or "simlar to" or "knowledge of" or whatever.

Relative terms:
Are sometimes but not always contrary.  Eg virtue to vice, knowledge to ignorance.
Sometimes but not always receive "more" or "less".   Eg "like to unlike", "equal and unequal"

Are always reciprocal, even if they don't seem to be.  In other words, a term like "master" or "boss" always reciprocates to "servant" or "employee" but even ones like "wing" to "bird" reciprocate in a sort of indirect way.   So, "wing" reciprocates to "winged creature", and thus to bird (or bat) because it's a winged creature.   A fun one is that "head" reciprocates not to animal but to "headed creature" because he says some animals have no heads.   I suppose it's true, but I wonder what the set of headless animals was comprised of back in his day.

Many relatives are simultaneous, but some aren't.  For example, double and half are simultaneous because one couldn't exist without the other.   They can be mutually subverted -- if one did not exist nor would the other.   But other things, like "science" and the object of the science, are only unilaterally subversive.  If the thing known did not exist, neither would the knowing of the thing.    But it doesn't go the other way.  The thing in reality does not seem to depend on something knowing it (though that raises some interesting questions.....).  So some relatives are prior to their correlatives.

First substances can't be relative.   So he seems to say.  IE,  A certain man (Socrates) can't be relative to something else. Our rats don't correlate with anything else.   It sounds like you could say that a pet rat was in the possession of someone, or my head belongs to me, so these are not relative terms, but are possessive, which presumably isn't the same.

I guess that my head would be a relative term in the sense that I am a headed animal, but my particular head insofar as it is a substance does not correlate to anything else; does not reciprocate, so can't be relative.   But I'm not actually totally sure about this.    I am not sure if he completely is, either, because at the end he says there is some doubt, but nevertheless it's beneficial to make the inquiry.

He says "hence it is clear, that he who knows any one relative, definitely, will also know what it is referred to, definitely."

In all these categories Aristotle moves from the obvious things, like double and half, to the trickier ones, like the sense in which head or hand is or is not relative.    My son pointed out that he also often moves through different possibilities for a definition of the category, to a final explanation where he says what is peculiar to that category alone.   For example, with quantity it was "equal" and "unequal".   For this one I think it is reciprocality?

I know that when we discuss it, my relatives (all of them very much younger than me, younger being one of those straightforward relative terms) will think of many things that haven't occurred to me in relation to this topic.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dragon Brothers and Insect Brothers

I finished City by Clifford Simak -- elegiac -- and started right in on The Brothers Karamazov.    I tried to read this great Russian novel several years ago, before I had a Kindle.   I got up to the famous Grand Inquisitor dialogue and then got tired of lugging the monstrous tome around.    So I am starting again from the beginning.   I'm just past the part where Dmitri confesses his insect-like nature to his younger brother Alyosha, and then the back story of Smerdyakov is presented.   I expect I will not have to choose out another novel for perhaps a month.

Second son BC left early this morning to return to college.  AM is consoling himself by talking about and planning the future occasions where he will see his absent siblings again.

There is definitely a fall crispness in the morning air these days, and I have started bringing out my fleece-lined tights, though there will be little occasion to wear them for several more weeks because the afternoons are still plenty warm.

Yesterday we found out our dragon names.  You take the last two letters of your first name, the first two letters of your last name, the last two letters of your mom's name, and the first letter of your dad's name.  Sort of like a knit/purl rib stitch.   My dragon name is Larylar, which actually seems like a good female dragon name.   Or, it would be Lafolar, if you took my maiden name.  I like that one too.  I think I might like it better. My youngest is Ckrylak, which also seems good for a dragon.   It turns out that 3 of my boys have exactly the same dragon name (Anrylak) and two more have very similar ones (Onrylak and Amrylak).   Who knew we had such a theme going with our boys' ending syllables.   My husband would be called Inryllm.   That's also a nice name.   But the problem with the identically named boys seems to prevent me from being able to adopt dragon pseudonyms for this blog.   (If I used their confirmation names though, two would become Isrylak and Elrylak,  Better.)

The rest of this post is going to be about shawls, so please be warned.


This is the Nurmilintu I just finished.   I wanted to use a multi fingering yarn I found from childhood in my old trunk a couple of months ago.   But it was incredibly rough to the feel (acrylic) probably because I bought the least expensive I could.  I used to knit for my dolls sometimes, and they never protested about harsh yarn.   So I decided to use the acrylic for the lace part of the shawl and a soft sport weight yarn from Knitpicks for the garter part.    I did some rows of acrylic in with the sport weight garter just to make it blend better.   Considering this experimenting, I am happy with the way it turned out.  I would like to make another Nurmilintu sometime as it was easy and the results were satisfying.    With this project I finally learned to do a picot bind-off.


This is the Arrowhead Lace Shawl.    I used a Yarn Bee cotton/acrylic blend called "Denim in Color" but weirdly, I can't find a single thing to link to.  But anyway, it is a soft and somewhat bulky yarn and nice to work with.    I like the way it turned out even though the lines are broken. The broken lines make it look like a bunch of conifers, which seems suitable since our house is surrounded by the things. I modified the pattern to add the rib up at the top for extra texture.  But I realized while knitting this that I am not fond of triangular shawls because I want something to wrap around my neck or head, not something to rest on my shoulders and get in my way.     If I do this again I will try for a shallower shape.


Here is the Silvretta crescent shawl I finished a while ago.    Probably the most demanding shawl pattern I have done yet, but it was delightful to work on because of the yarn I used.   When I get through my stash (ha ha) I want to get more nicer yarns to work with.

I like crescents.  And I have learned how to make a garter tab.


Here is a quick shawl I am presently blocking in a weird improvised way.     It is called Quite Simply Scarf.    I used a bulky, tweedy acrylic yarn but it didn't have its documentation so I don't know what it is called.      I like Kriskrafter's method for shawls.    She has you do a cast-on at the beginning of each row, so it grows fast horizontally but is straight at the top.  

Finally, this is another experiment in progress.   I am using the Unilintu pattern, and holding two strands of size 10 crochet thread together.    It's another triangle, but designed to be thin enough so that I may be able to wrap it around my neck.  I like the way triangles look, just not how they wear, but with thinner yarn and a quicker increase outwards it may be all right.

I've actually made a couple of other scarves recently but that's probably enough for now.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Yarns of Different Sorts

Yesterday I finished the Jefferson shawl.   It was an easy knit -- I had to shorten the purl/slip part of it (on the top...) because I only wanted to use one skein of yarn.

It was Belle yarn, from DROPS.  

I like the Kriskrafter patterns.   They are simple to do (important for me, because I knit when I'm doing other things, so I don't like to count out); but they have a lot of visual impact.    And generally speaking I prefer thin shawls -- crescents, boomerangs and slender triangles -- because then you can wear them different ways -- as a scarf, as a head-wrap, and in the traditional way around the shoulders.

Today I'm working on this Easy Lace Scarf.    I elongated the ends so they are less like a scarf and more like a thin shawl.

Since I wrote the lines above, some time has passed.  I've finished a couple more mini-shawls, and done some lesson planning.   The past week was busy, but I don't want to stop blogging, so this post is just a placeholder until I have the focus to do a real one.

I started reading Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard, and am reading a science fiction series of stories by Clifford Simak, called City.    My oldest son said he was reading it, so I thought I would try to read along.   It's about the human race being superseded by rational canines.   The commentary between the stories is written by the dogs and is somewhat like the historical-critical method of Biblical exegesis.     Fear and Trembling, as you know, is about Abraham and Isaac.    A very different sort of exegesis indeed.   I've only read the first bit, so I do not know what to think.