on the needles

Friday, March 31, 2006

In Which We Spy a Mermaid

Earlier this week there were vague reports of a Mermaids sighting here at my house. However, I refused to post any more about it until I had photographic evidence. At last, today I was able to sneak up on Mermaids while it was sunning itself on a raffia work table. Finally, we have a photo of Mermaids in it's natural habitat:

Apparently Mermaids are a bit like salmon. They return to the place of their birth after spawning. There are reports that more Mermaids may be invading knitting homes all over blogland. Mama-E did a wonderful job of capturing this Mermaid, which was previously thought to live only in my wildest dreams.

Oddly, Mermaids have an intoxicating vinegary smell. Care must be taken not to become addicted to this lovely scent. The unwary may find themselves keeping Mermaids next to their computer so as to have the occasional snort. Not that I'm doing that or anything....

Thursday, March 30, 2006

My Other Family

Readers of my blog already know I have two sweet Italian Greyhounds. The lovely springy weather today prompted me to take some photos of my other family members. I have four Lady Gouldian Finches and one Society Finch.

This is Sirius:

Sirius is a lovely male. You can tell the males by their brighter colors. When they are in breeding condition the tips of their beaks turn red.

This is Sirius with his lady Rowena:

You can really see the difference in coloration between males and females. When females are in breeding condition the tips of their beaks turn black.

This is Neville:

He is our baby. You can see that his beak has not yet turned red. He is also still getting his adult feathers - "coloring in". He will look like Sirius when he is all grown up.

Neville with Nimbus:

Nimbus is a Society Finch. I'm not sure what color mutation he is but he is not a normal colored Society - he is much lighter.

Nimbus again:

I can tell Nimbus is a male not by his coloration but by his song. Nimbus is in love with me and frequently does the Society Finch mating dance and song when I am around.

Here's Ariel:

Ariel is a dilute mutation. Normal Lady Gouldian males have red heads and very bright green back feathers (like Sirius). Ariels head is bright orange and his back feathers are a softer green.

Nimbus, Ariel and Neville:

My three bachelor boys.

I really love my Finch family. Gouldians are very quiet and have gentle, soft chirps, peeps and trills. On the whole they are not big singers. Nimbus on the other hand can out sing a canary! Wherever I am in the house I can hear soft little birdy noises. It's very soothing, like ocean waves from a distance. Their colorful feathers are a continual inspiration. They come in many more color mutations than I have in my little flock, but all are spectacular! The Gouldians are like little packages of happy. A cage full of Gouldians is a riot of color. I'm so lucky to have them!

Finches - like all birds - require specialized care. You can't just throw birdseed at them. Especially if you want them to stay healthy and in top color. Gouldians are also rather hard to find and a bit expensive - especially when most finch species sell for $50 at the most. But I think they are worth it. To me they are the most beautiful, sweet little birds you could ever hope for.

***Melissa noticed they are all named after Harry Potter characters. All except Ariel who is named after the Little Mermaid because my daughter insisted. :) Does anyone know which character Rowena is named after?***


The Darling Buds of March?

Look what my confused Christmas Cactus gave me this morning:

I think it is happy with it's new, direct sunlight position.

One of my other cacti has been bloomin too:

If you click on the photo you can see all the buds of flowers to be. I love how this cactus gets a crown of flowers every spring.

You can take the girl out of the southwest - but you'll never take the southwest out of this girl!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Secret Underworld of the Suburban Mom REVEALED!

So the time has come when I feel like I must post about why I called my blog "On the Needles". My husband and I were setting up the blog and I had to come up with a blog name and I was all under pressure and it was the best I could come up with at the time. Sort of the first thing I could come up with that wasn't already taken. When I chose that name I wasn't aware of how common that term is amongst the knitting community. So many times I have wished that I could change the name - but that seems like more hassle than it is worth and also, once you have an "identity" on the net you are kind of stuck with it. So for better or worse it's On the Needles.

It wasn't totally a random choice though. I thought "On the Needles" was a term which, for me had several layers of meaning. I have many "talents" that involve needles. I knit and crochet (okay it's a hook but it totally counts). I'm a fair sewer and hand quilter. I have made tapestries using bead weaving. I can do needlepoint and embroidery in just about all of it's many forms. (In fact I spent a good ten years doing needlepoint before my lifestyle changed - I had kids - and switched to the more portable knitting as my main obsession.) So I wanted the title of my blog to be able to cover all of the needles I might use.

I also liked the fact that if I were referring to writing about any of my needle centered life I would be writing "on the needles" ie. writing about whatever I was doing with a needle.

I also thought that if you were hooked on a needle centered craft you could be termed to be "on the needles". As in an addiction. Which I'm sure we all agree that it is!

But the reason for my post today is because Chittavrtti aka Nancy Alice, my friend from KTC, posted that she was researching tattooing for a melodrama character. Her post prompted me to reveal my other, jokingly secret, needle related talent - I'm a trained tattoo artist. I also did body piercing as well. So I'm outing myself! The secret life of a suburban soccer mom revealed! LOL!

I haven't tattooed in a long time. I chose not to make it my career (and believe me you can make serious bank as a tattoo artist) because I didn't want to deal with the rampant sexism in that culture. Also, I didn't want to spend 90% of my time tattooing Tazmanian Devils on obnoxious frat boys and teeny weeny shoulder roses on the girls and only 10% of my time creating real living art. Not too many people are really into tattoos enough to give you very much of their body space and if they are, you have to cross your fingers and hope they have good taste, hope they are willing to listen to you about what works and what doesn't work on skin, hope they sit well etc...

Oh well. I'm sure I haven't done my last tattoo. I still have all my equipment and someday I will fire it up again. Tattooing expanded my life in a lot of ways and I do miss it a bit.

BTW - my hubby was my first victim. Long, long before we ever dated each other. But I guess those hours he spent being tortured by the tattoo needles were successfully blocked out of his mind by the fact that I was leaning over with my cleavage in his face the whole time! LOL! There is a whole set of mythologies in the tattooing world about the bond between the artist and those on whom the artist makes a mark (going under the needle) - well maybe the myth came true in my case. :)

Elizabeth Woodville

There is no knitting content in this post! I do have a lot to catch up everyone up with in my knitting life but I couldn't find the camera today and I refuse to post without photos.

Except for this - go on over and vote at Mama-E's. She's got a poll going where you can vote for your favorite colorway of her new yarn. I got my skein of Mermaids the other day & it is fabulous so go over and vote for it! It was winning last time I checked. :)

So today's post is largely for Carrie who, as far as I know is the only other knitter who seems as interested in British history as I am! Give me a shout if there are more of you out there!!

I finished Arlene Okerlund's Elizabeth Wydeville: The Slandered Queen and it was oh so good! The author has done her homework and does much to dispel some of the myths about Elizabeth Woodville's character and actions. I was surprised to see how unsubstantiated so many of them were - in fact much of what has been repeated as fact is blatant fiction. Most of the accusations against the Queen and her family came from the Warwick camp and at various times from Edward IV's brothers Clarence and Gloucester. In every instance it was a case of power hungry men seeking to grasp at even more power. Throughout history the one sure and easy way to undermine women has been by to accuse them of being either witches or whores. Elizabeth Woodville (and many of the other powerful women around her) faced both of those accusations at various times throughout her life. But look at the source - Gloucester, when attempting to secure the throne for himself accused his own mother of adultery, conveniently leaving only himself as the "legitimate" heir. Is it any surprise that he came up with a trumped up charge that Elizabeth's marriage to Edward was invalid - thus she was a whore and all of her children bastards.

And when Warwick lost his bid for control of the King one of his sneers was that Edward IV had married inappropriately beneath him, having been "bewitched" by Elizabeth and her mother Jacquetta and that the Woodville family had gained all they had through "their wives" (ie. marrying into money and status). The author does a good job of showing the prominence and status of the Woodville family and that they in fact gained very little through their sister's marriage to the King. Indeed Warwick is truly calling the kettle black since he gained the Warwick earldom through his own marriage.

There were some things that were left somewhat unexplained. But this is due to the author's refusal to build speculation into fact. Where there was not enough actual evidence, the author offered a reasonable opinion as to what happened and left it at that. An example is, why did Elizabeth choose to leave sanctuary after the disappearance of her sons in the Tower and place herself at the mercy of Richard III, whom she must have strongly suspected of the Prince's deaths? The author tells us she had little money and was dependent upon charity. Richard III had been compelled to put his name to a very detailed public declaration which guaranteed the safety of Elizabeth and her daughters. And sanctuary must have been an unpleasant place - cooped up with several daughters of marriageable age. Perhaps Elizabeth felt she could secure their futures more easily on the outside. She may also have already been plotting the marriage of her eldest daughter to Margaret Beaufort's son Henry Tudor. This would have been easier to do outside of sanctuary as well. In the end, she probably knew she would have to come out of sanctuary at some time and maybe she felt it would be more advantageous to do so when Richard's hold on the throne was still unstable, leaving room for her to maneuver. but this doesn't explain why she allowed her eldest daughter Elizabeth to take such a prominent position at court, although it was probably far less that what has been previously portrayed, it was obviously enough to raise the common talk that Richard III planned to do away with his wife and make his niece his next Queen. Although Richard was compelled to publicly declare that he had no intention of marrying Elizabeth - this seems to have been a response to the criticism rather than a convincing denial that he had ever planned to do so. Elizabeth Woodville's role in all of this has never been fully explained. Was she really contemplating letting her daughter marry her own uncle? The man who had murdered her own brothers? Was it a ruse to distract Richard from the true scheme to unite the Tudor and Yorkist claims? Or was Elizabeth powerless to stop the marriage if Richard willed it? We may never know.

In all the book was a very good read. I appreciated the information about the Woodville family as a whole, and also what happened to the rest of Elizabeth and Edward IV's children, who aside from the vanished Princes in the Tower and their eldest daughter Elizabeth who married Henry VII are usually totally ignored. Plus, the book has tons of genealogy tables, maps, a chronology and a decent section of illustrations (regrettably in black and white). And better yet, this book was the first in what is to be a series of serious biographies of England's forgotten Queens! Yay!! The next is Anne Neville: Queen to Richard III by Michael Hicks. The crappy part is that these books are only available at present in England so I have to order them & pay the $$ for shipping. :( But you can bet your booty I will pony up the cash anyhow!

So I decided to stick with the era and have started The King's Mother which is about Margaret Beaufort. I was intrigued by some remarks (with evidence) in the Elizabeth Woodville book which suggested that the two women were actually friendly with each other. This is totally not what other authors have portrayed but I haven't read a book totally dedicated to Margaret Beaufort yet so we will see.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Take a look at Mama-E's new sock yarn. She put a shout out for suggestions for colorways. I sent in one and she dyed it up for me. It's called Mermaids because my daughter is obsessed with mermaids. The colors of green and pink are what she thinks of as mermaid colors. So guess who will be getting a pair of socks knit out of that yarn? :)

I'm just about done with the Besotted Scarf. Of course I was just about done last week when I had to frog half of it because I missed a few rows. But this time is for real so I hopefully will block it this weekend and get pictures up. I really like how it has turned out.

Next up - Skull Illusion Scarf!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Stashalonger down - new knitter up!

First of all I want to say a big thank you to everyone who expressed concern for me when I posted about feeling so stressed. I feel kind of bad because I really don't want to worry anyone! I'm not trying to purposely be mysterious here but I don't feel like I can or should post about things that involve other people then just myself. But rest assured that it's not anything life threatening, just stressful. The situation is somewhat resolved for the time being but a final resolution remains in a sort of limbo. But the immediate source of stress is gone. So that's good!

However - I have well and truly jumped ship on the Stashalong. I still haven't been able to decide which of the Poetry in Stitches of Norsk Strikkedesign kits I should get. I go back and forth all the time. I did get the color card for the Hifa 2 yarn though. It's not at all as scratchy as I thought it might be but I'm still leaning towards a cardi. My skin can be pretty sensitive. It looked like the "Andie McDowell" model black and white sweater got the majority vote. I may go with that if I choose not to get a cardi kit. I think it would look really striking done in a bright blue and a purple.

But in the meantime... I got another kit. Well, three other kits actually. Yep, when I go over board I really go overboard. (You've seen my stash right??) I bought a Northern Nights blanket kit

from Fleece Artist in this colorway of Rainforest:

I'm going to use this kit to learn the mitred squares I was talking about.

I also bought two kits off of Ebay. They are Rowan patterns which are being kitted up with Harrisville Designs Yarns. I got:

These are the yarns:

And this pattern which I have loved for a long time:

With these yarns:

Really purty huh? When I quit I quit big! I think I may be set for colorwork for awhile...:)

Except....that I also sort of accidentally won a copy of Tudor Roses on Ebay. I say accidentally because I bid on the book not realizing I was bidding in British Pounds. So I had put in a much higher bid than I intended. Ooops. I decided to just go with it and let the fates decide. I didn't end up paying anymore than those books usually go for so I guess it was meant to be. My first St*rmore book! I'm sure I will fall in love with at least some of those designs....

In actual knitting news - I almost finished the Besotted Scarf. Until I realized I had skipped two rows about a foot back and decided to rip it out. I just can't live with giving something flawed as a gift. Mostly because I'm thinking I will give this to my sister and I know she wears the things I give her to work and shows them of to her office mates. I have a reputation to uphold here! There must be no flaws! I've used up four skiens from the stash so that's good too.

I also did three more squares for the KTC WTW blanket. I have seen many other members mentioning on their blogs that they are making contributions as well. I can't wait to see the finished result. I've never been a squares maker before but I have been enjoying these quick fix little knits. Plus - another skien gone from the stash!

The best news of all though is that my daughter aka Princess Ariel, has learned to knit! Keep in mind she is only four. First she sat on my lap and held the needles while I manipulated her hands to form the stitches for one of the easy squares I was making. She loved it! She has always been asking me if she could learn to knit so I thought this was a perfect way to teach her. Pretty soon she said she wanted her OWN knitting. So I got her a skein of Red Heart, some size 11 straights (the short Susan Bates ones with the nice pointy tips). I cast on about twenty stitches for her, knit the first row, then sat her on my lap and showed her how to form the knit stitch. (Push the needle through, wrap around, pull it back and pop it off.) She caught on so quickly I was amazed. She can do everything to make the stitch except wrap the yarn around. So right now her knitting is a two person job. :) But other than that she can do everything all by herself. I even notice that she has intuitively figured out where to put her fingers on the needles to help hold the stitches as she works them. She is so darn smart. The crazy thing is that the knitting actually looks good. The tension looks pretty much perfect. The yarn is a pretty aqua color so I think Ariel might be knitting herself a scarf! I'll take a picture when she gets a bit more done.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I just HAD to post this!

Ok - this is so cool. Glow in the Dark yarn!!! On sale too. Someone must knit with this. Imagine the Alien Head Scarf but with skulls instead - skulls that GLOW IN THE DARK. How cool would that be?? :)

Unexpected Knitting

Look what I found over here:

Lego Knitting Machine

Rarely do we come accross something so interesting yet odd, take a look at this fully functional knitting machine made entirely out of Lego pieces.*

*Oddly enough - thats the same Red Heart I just knit the WTW squares with.

Still hanging in there with the Stashalong...real post to follow!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Newsy Bits

1. I noticed that Ram Wools had the James Brett yarn I used for the WTW baby blanket in their latest catalog - so there's a source for anyone thinking about carrying it. The color I used looked bluer in the catalog than it is in real life though. It's more of a grey blue.

2. I'm planning on abandoning the Stashalong ship. I have been dealing with one of the most stressful times in my life lately and I feel like I need a reward! I'm considering buying a kit from either the Poetry in Stitches book or Norsk Strikkedesign book. Wanna do some vicarious yarn shopping with me and help me choose a design? Keep in mind my favorite color is blue and I've got red hair (okay - the hair color comes out of a box but it's red nonetheless). From NS I'm liking this, and this, and this but maybe with a bright blue background instead of the dark color, and this also possibly replacing the dark color with a blue. From POIS I like this and this possibly in other colors as well. Oh and did I mention that I've never done a large colorwork project and don't know how to steek?? Obviously the stress I've been under has driven me insane but let's just go with it and see where it leads ok?

3. I needed some escape knitting so over the past few days I knit up two squares for the KTC Warm the World blanket. One is 7" in moss stitch and one 14" in diagonal garter. Both are in boring but dependable old Red Heart. I'm too lazy to take a photo. But I enjoyed the knitting and had my daughter on my lap helping me knit the garter stitch. She held the needles and I guided them. Now she is bugging me 24/7 to hang out an knit with her. I see oceans of garter stitch squares in my future. :)

4. I cast on for a new project. It's getting springish enough out here that the gradual abandonment of the winter knitting has begun. So what am I making? A scarf. Nothing says spring is coming like a scarf right? My husband asked what I was making and I said I was getting a head start on my Christmas gift knitting. He seemed to think that was kind of crazy seeing as it's only March and all. But we'll see who is kickin back and eating bon bons while all of knit blogland scrambles and develops carpal tunnel syndrome trying to crank out gifts come December. ;) I'm knitting the Besotted Scarf from Hello Yarn. I dug some red Gedifra Fashion Trend from out of the depths of my stash - so despite plotting my defection from the Stashalong I am continuing to use up stash yarn. That counts for something I guess. I estimated I have used up around ten skeins of yarn (in terms of projects that I have finished - I've used up more on ongoing projects) during the Stashalong.

But.....phooey on the Stashalong! Stephanie needs yarn therapy. Give me your opinions, help me spend some $$! :)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Do you think I'm an Anglophile?

Does anyone know a good book which teaches how to do mitered squares? Is the mitered square technique the same as domino knitting? If not, what is the difference? Thanks for any help anyone can give me. I have been curious to learn these techniques. Always looking for something new.

I finished The Perfect Prince. I won't spoil the ending because I know Carrie hasn't read it yet. :) But I can say that the author offers a plausible option to explain who "Perkin" was. It's not a theory I have heard before but it seems to be backed up pretty well with evidence. This story is a true historical mystery and we will never really know what name Perkin was born with but the story of his life was fascinating! I enjoyed reading about the various courts of Europe that he moved through. It was a good perspective on the European scene at the time of the early Tudors. In some ways this book read more like a novel but that seemed to fit with the somewhat dreamlike surreality that surrounded Perkin - the style of story telling didn't take away from it's scholarly weight in any way though. If you are into British history then you will probably really like this book.

I did come away from the reading with even more of a desire to learn more about Henry's Queen Elizabeth. Who was she?? She really comes off as a cipher in the history books. How did she feel about her marriage to Henry Tudor? What about her relationship with her mother Elizabeth Woodville? What about her brothers who disappeared in the Tower? What about the rumors marriage to her uncle Richard III? How did she feel about Perkin Warbeck, the suddenly reappeared long lost brother? What about her relationship with the formidable Margaret Beaufort, her mother-in-law? And what about her influence on her son Henry VIII? I really hope someone will write a good book about Elizabeth. She was situated at the intersection of so many interesting people, stories and events. How could her life fail to be anything but fascinating?

I started a new book about Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of one of my other favorite Kings Edward IV. Her story is just slightly earlier than The Perfect Prince (indeed she was still living during those events) so I am continuing in the same vein. When I read an interesting story I tend to want to keep exploring the same type of thing - hence my current Tudors reading jag. :) I'm also psyched because a new book just came out about Anne Neville, Richard III's Queen. Can't wait to get that one!

My Elizabeth Woodville book came all the way from England courtesy of my sister. For my birthday she bought me a bunch of books that I wanted which aren't published in the USA. I also got books about Lizzie Siddal, the 8th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Bess of Hardwick, Prince Eddy and one about the Wars of the Roses and the Paston family. Do you think this means I am an Anglophile?? ;)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Warm the World Blanket finished :)

My Warm the World Blanket - All finished!

Not the best picture but it was all I could get because our camera was out of memory space!

The Yarn: James C. Brett "Marble" in shade MT3. I used 4 100g skeins or about 960 yards. This yarn is 100% acrylic. It's very soft and cuddly. I thought it was inmportant to use a durable, washable yarn for this project. I got this stuff at AC Moore. There are quite a few shades - some of them really pretty. I think this is a great alternative to Red Heart or Lion Brand if you are looking for an inexpensive acrylic yarn.

The Needles: size 4.5 mm Addi Turbo circs.

The Pattern: My own pattern! I used a lace pattern called "little diamonds" for the center and a 2" garter stitch border. This pattern was very easy to read while on the needles so there were minimal mistakes. I got used to the pattern really quickly so even though it is a 12 row repeat it didn't feel so bad to knit. I can post the pattern if anyone wants it. The finished blanket is 35" x 35". I didn't bother to block it because I think it looks okay without being blocked and from what I have read it probably wouldn't hold a blocking anyway.

My hope is that this blanket will become a cuddly friend to some child somewhere who needs one. My own daughter has a snuggly friend she has slept with since birth and I always feel like every child needs the same thing - a security blanket really.