Saturday, April 30, 2011

Citius, Altius

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Feline feet thunder
through the upstairs apartment
kitty Olympics

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Flowering Clematis Scarf Pattern and Tutorial

Blossom time is slow to arrive here in chilly, drippy Wisconsin (just daffodils and hyacinths so far in my area).  But scarf time is always with us.  So here's a new offering for you:

Mrs. Micawber's Flowering Clematis Scarf ~ Turquoise

Flowering Clematis is fast, easy and fun.  Like most vines, it grows quickly (my favorite kind of pattern.)  I also made a second version in a different gauge, just to see if it would work.  It did:

Coral Clematis

Turquoise Clematis, about 60" long, was made with a size I hook and less than 1 skein of Stitch Nation's Bamboo Ewe (bought at Michael's) - a lush, soft, springy yarn that blocks beautifully.  I'll definitely be buying more of this yarn in future.

Coral Clematis, also about 60" long, was made with less than 1 skein of some clearance yarn from Michael's - Loops & Threads Sophie Super Fine, using a size F hook.  It's a decent little yarn, although it splits a bit while working, and it blocks well.  (The color is very saturated.  It's hard to accurately capture in photos.)

You may use any yarn you like, with the appropriate sized hook. Let's crochet!

Flowering Clematis Charted Pattern

See instructions below for special stitch "str-c"

Special Stitch:  I'm calling it the "stepped triple crochet cluster", or str-c.  This is how it's made:

*Yarn over twice, as for triple crochet.  Insert hook into base stitch, yarn over and draw through stitch;  yarn over and draw through 2 loops; yarn over and draw through 2 loops (2 loops left on hook).
Repeat from * 2 times (4 loops left on your hook.)
Yarn over and draw through 2 loops at a time, 3 times, leaving 1 loop on hook.

Scarf with one side border started
Scarf with section of flower fringe

Flowering Clematis Shorthand Pattern

Leaves and Vine Stems:  Ch 10.  Make str-c in 5th ch.  Ch 6, sc in first ch.
*Ch 5, TURN.  Make str-c in sc.  Ch 6.  Sc in space of previous ch-6.
Repeat from * until scarf is desired length.

Side Border:  Ch 3.  Attach with sc in next ch-5 space of str-c at side of scarf.
**Ch 5, sc in same space.  Repeat twice. (equals 3 picots).  Ch 3.  Attach with sc in next ch-5 space.
Repeat from ** to end of scarf, ending with ch 3.

Flower Fringe:

Note:  I made 5 flowers at each end, with stem lengths varying from 3-7 chains.  Since I'm trying to break my habit of symmetry, I purposely mixed up the stem lengths a bit:  5-3-7-5-3.  You may of course make the stems any length you like.

For first stem/flower, sc in end space of scarf.
Ch desired stem length (3, 5, or 7, for example) + 1.
Sc in next ch from hook.
***Ch 5.  Sl st in the two left "legs" of sc (the ones that point back towards the chain--see photo in tutorial below).
Repeat from *** 5 times - 6 petals total.  Ch stem length again (3, 5, or 7 for example)  Attach with sc in end space of scarf.

Repeat above steps, varying stem lengths, as desired.  I would suggest at least 3 flowers and probably not more than 5 or the end space gets too stretched out.

Ch 3, attach to next ch-5 sp in other side of scarf.

Optional (Simple) Scarf End:

Make 3 ch-5 picots as in side spaces.  Ch 3, attach to next ch-5 sp in other side of scarf.


Repeat Side Border up the other side of scarf.  Repeat Flower Fringe at other end of scarf.
Attach with sl st to next sc.  Cut yarn and weave in ends.  Block if desired.

Flowering Clematis Photo Tutorial

Vine: Chain 10.

Starting Leaf / Stepped Triple-Crochet Cluster:  Make stepped triple-crochet cluster in 5th chain.  You're essentially making 3 partial triple-crochets in the same spot, then working the loops off the hook 2 at a time.

Yarn over twice.
Insert hook into 5th chain (Photo 1), yarn over and draw through stitch.
Yarn over and draw through 2 loops.
Yarn over and draw through 2 loops again.

Now you should have 2 loops left on hook (Photo 2).  The first partial triple crochet is made.  It looks like you have 2 partial triple crochets, because those extra 5 chains are sitting next to the one you just made.

Repeat the above steps to make a second partial triple crochet in the same stitch (the 5th chain).
Now you should have 3 loops left on the hook (Photo 3).

Repeat again to make a third partial triple crochet. Now you should have 4 loops left on your hook (Photo 4).

Yarn over and draw through 2 loops.  Do this twice more (yarn over, draw through 2 loops, yarn over, draw through 2 loops), leaving 1 loop on hook:

Your first leaf is made!  (The rest will go much faster.)

Starting Vine Stem:  Chain 6, single crochet in very first chain.

Regular Leaf:  Chain 5, TURN.  Make a stepped triple-crochet cluster in the single crochet (follow the steps above to make 3 partial triple crochets in the same stitch, then work the loops off your hook 2 at a time).  Now your vine has 2 leaves.

Regular Vine Stem:  Chain 6.  Single crochet in space made by previous chain 6.

Make another regular leaf (chain 5, TURN, stepped triple crochet cluster), then another regular vine stem (chain 6, single crochet in last chain-6 space).  It's pretty simple:  leaf, stem, leaf, stem.

Look, your vine is growing.  Pretty, isn't it?  (You could even make your scarf with just the vine section, skipping the side borders and flowers at each end.  The choice is yours.)

Keep making leaves and stems until your scarf is the length you want, ending with a stem and a single crochet in the chain-6 space. Remember this single crochet.  It's where you'll attach the last stitch of the scarf later.

Now you're ready to make the first side border.

Side Border:  Chain 3.  Attach with single crochet in the chain 5 space of first leaf at side of scarf.

Picots:  Chain 5, single crochet in same space at side of leaf.  First picot made.  Do this 2 more times to make 3 picots in leaf space.

Chain  3.  Single crochet in side of NEXT leaf.

Make 3 picots in this leaf space (chain 5, single crochet, 3 times). Chain 3 and single crochet in NEXT leaf.  Keep going down the side of the scarf until you get to the other end.

Now you're ready to make the flower fringe.  Or, if you like you can just make 3 picots in the end space, chain 3, and continue up the other side of the scarf.    But if you want that dancing little cluster of flowers, here we go:

Flower Fringe:   Note:  I made 5 flowers at each end, with stem lengths varying from 3-7 chains.  Since I'm trying to break my habit of symmetry, I mixed up the stem lengths a bit, on purpose:  5 chains long, then 3 chains long, then 7, then 5, then 3.  You may of course make the stems any length you like.  If you want your flower cluster perfectly balanced, you can do a pattern of 3-5-7-5-3 on the chain stem lengths.

First Stem and Flower:

After making picots in last leaf, chain 3.  Single crochet in end space of scarf.

Outgoing Stem:  Chain desired stem length (3, 5, 7, for example) + 1 extra chain for turning.  I started with a 5-chain stem, so I chained 6 total.

TURN and single crochet in next chain from hook.  Stop and look at your single crochet.  Find the 2 left "legs".  This is where your hook will go to slip stitch the flower petals.

Petals:  Chain 5.  Slip stitch in the two left legs of  the single crochet.

Do this 5 more times (chain 5, slip stitch in same spot) to make a total of 6 petals.  Now you have a flower:

Return Stem:  Chain your desired stem length again (this time it was 5). Attach with single crochet in end space of scarf.  (Be careful you don't twist the scarf and attach in the chain-3 space instead).

Make more outgoing stems, flowers, and return stems this way.  You can choose whatever stem lengths you like and make however many flowers you like.  Change it around a few times if necessary, to get a combination you like.  The flowers are pretty quick to make.

My yarns worked best with at least 3 flowers, and not more than 5, or the end space got too stretched out.

Remember, always add 1 chain to your outgoing stem chain to allow for turning.

Here's my scarf with the 5 flowers and stems done:

A cluster of clematis blossoms

Now you're ready to go back up the other side of the scarf.

Return Border:

Chain 3, attach to next chain-5 space in first leaf of other side of scarf.

Make side border as before (chain 5, single crochet in side of leaf, 3 times total, chain 3 and attach to next leaf space), all the way up the second side of the scarf, ending with chain 3 and single crochet in other end space of scarf.

Make flower fringe as before.  Slip stitch the final return stem single crochet to the single crochet you made way back when, just before you started the first side border.  Cut yarn, weave in ends, block scarf if desired, and enjoy your new Flowering Clematis scarf.

You may do whatever you like with the items you make from this pattern, but you may not sell the pattern.  (That handy phrase came from Snowcatcher. Check out her amazing crochet/cycling/quilting blog. It will make you want to move to Colorado.)

Thanks for viewing, and happy crocheting!

P.S.  If you have any questions, or find any mistakes in this tutorial, please let me know by commenting below, or send me a message in Ravelry.  I try to double-check everything, but after a while it all becomes a blur.  : )

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Friday, April 29, 2011


Watching the royal wedding coverage this morning made me homesick for London.  (Yes, I'm an American, but my heart has always lived in England.)

So I thought I'd share just a few (out of 488!) pictures from the Micawber 25th wedding anniversary trip there last  March.

Looking down Whitehall from Trafalgar square

Piper on Westminster Bridge

Westminster Abbey, South Front

Lion at Somerset House

Bucks House (Buckingham Palace)

Someday I'll go back.  Sigh.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Recently Finished...

I'm sorry to say it's still scarf weather here in Wetsconsin.  Or do I mean America's Drippyland?  Sorry, Wisconsin (can you tell the weather is getting me down a bit?)  Really, it's almost May.  It will be time to plant flowers and veggies in a few weeks.  Enough with the chilly temps already!

But when life gives you scarf weather, make scarves....So here's my next pattern, probably called "Flowering Clematis" (still dithering a bit on the name).  It should be up on Ravelry by this weekend, with the pattern here on the blog.

I finished and blocked a second version last night, in a much thinner yarn, just to see how the pattern behaves in a different gauge.  I'm pretty happy with both.  Now to photograph the steps, write the pattern, and chart it!

P.S.  I'm sorry for griping about the weather.  I have NO grounds for complaint.   We are not devastated by tornadoes.  I should be grateful.  Pray for Birmingham, Alabama, and all the other towns/cities/states who are suffering so cruelly right now.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011


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Avian choirs sing
hallelujah to the day
morning counterpoint

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Garnets for Judy's Daughter

This was a pretty straightforward project.  My friend Judy bought the pendant on sale somewhere (JCPenney, I think) and ordered the garnet beads. Simplicity was the rule of the day... the earrings are very minimal as well.  Just garnets with a few Swarovski crystals to mimic the diamonds in the pendant.

Judy's daughter is nuts for jewelry too (just like mom).  Hope she likes this set!

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Simple Pleasures: A Basketful of Yarn

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"Colour is the fruit of life," said Guillaume Apollinaire.

Maybe that's why the basket of yarn looks so right on my dining table. (And if only my camera would see the colours as I do, my pleasure would be complete.  Maybe some things just aren't meant to be duplicated.)

The real fruit lives in the kitchen.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Thanks, Julia!

My sister was hosting Easter dinner.  I asked her what she wanted me to bring.

"Well," she said, "I was flipping through the channels the other day and caught an episode of Julia and Jacques.  They were making gratins.  One version had onions and chicken stock, and the other one had cream.  They both looked really good.  How about a nice potato gratin?"

So after work that night I Googled "Julia Child gratin" and struck Yukon gold with the first 2 hits:  Julia Child's Gratin Dauphinois at (where else), and Julia Child's Gratin of Potatoes à la Lyonnaise at Soup of the Day.

(By the by, I consider myself a pretty decent cook, but these serious food blogs make me feel like a lowly hash slinger at some dive of a diner.  Reading them is a very humbling experience.)

Decided on the Gratin Dauphinois, mainly because the à la Lyonnaise involves putting the baking pan on the stovetop and bringing things to a simmer.  I was planning to use a stoneware pan and was not comfortable with the stovetop thing.

So here's what I made:

Julia Child's Gratin Dauphinois à la façon de Madame Micawber
(Julia Child's Gratin Dauphinois, Mrs. Micawber style)

Heat oven to 425°

Thinly slice and soak in cold water:
2 lbs. Russet potatoes (mine weighed a bit more and--quelle audace!--I did not peel them)

Other ingredients:
1 cup grated Swiss cheese (about 4 oz.)
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 Tablespoons butter
1 clove of garlic
1 cup boiling cream

Not too complicated, is it?

I decided to add some fresh thyme as well (which I chopped after taking this photo).

Julia says to rub the pan with a cut clove of garlic.  I didn't want to affect the flavour of future fruit crisps yet to be baked in this pan, so I saved the garlic to put into the boiling cream.  (We all love garlic in my fam and a soupçon is never enough anyway.)

Butter the pan with 1 Tbsp. of the butter (it will be pretty thick in the pan.)  Cut the rest of the butter into little chunks and set aside.  Drain the potatoes and dry them in a towel.

Layer 1/2 the potatoes, and half of the salt & pepper, cheese, butter, and thyme in the pan.  (I started heating the cream at this point.)  Spread the rest of the potatoes over this layer and sprinkle with remaining salt & pepper, butter, cheese and thyme.

Looks beautiful already, doesn't it?

The cream should be boiling by now.  Crush the garlic into it and pour over potatoes.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and the top is nice and crusty and golden.

I was running late at this point, and FORGOT TO TAKE A PICTURE OF THE BEAUTIFUL FINISHED GRATINQuelle folie!  By the time I thought of it, this was all we had left:

And boy, was it good.

Everyone had seconds.  Most of us had thirds.

If I were allowed only one word to describe this dish, it would be "unctuous".  In a really good, creamy, buttery, melt-in-the-mouth kind of way.

Would I make it again?  Oh, yes.  When I do I will probably use more cheese.  The middle layer just melted into the potatoes (which is a good thing), but the dish would have been even better with a bit more crusty cheese on top.

The best part, besides the sublime flavour and texture, was the ease of this recipe.  Simple, elegant, delicious.  Thanks, Julia.  Mille mercis.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Priorities...and Three Great Things About Today's Ride

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Blue sky is calling
put away the crochet hook
come outside and ride


So I did, and here's what happened...


The startled plop of a frog in the ditch
A hawk floating over a fallow field
The minor triumph of cresting a hill

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Saturday, April 23, 2011


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Blackbird antiphon
echoing from tree to tree
the soundtrack of spring

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Friday, April 22, 2011

With Gratitude

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What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners' gain.
Mine, MINE was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Saviour!  'Tis I deserve Thy place.
Look on me with Thy favour;  vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend,
for this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

Attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, translated by James Alexander, 1830

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Use It Up....

Next time you cut up an old t-shirt for dustrags or t-yarn, save the hem section.  Doubled up, it makes a great headband for facewashing, makeup application, or just getting the bangs out of the eyes:

If the band is too loose, twist it a few times (at the midpoint) before doubling and putting it on.

And speaking of cutting things up:  I love knee socks for our cold Wisconsin winters, but the toes wear out so quickly.  I usually try to stitch them up a few times, but there always comes a day when I can't mend them any more.  I just hate throwing away a sock that is still 98% good.

So I've started to keep my hole-y socks and cut them up for other purposes.  A ribbed sock is great for, well, ribbing:

Felted thrift-store sweater mittens with sock ribbing cuffs

Sock strips also make super soft hair scrunchies (especially comfortable for headache-prone people like me who can't stand having their hair pulled tightly).

Cut a piece 1/2" to 1" wide from the ankle/leg portion of sock

They stretch out quickly, but you can always just put another  loop around the ponytail.  I carry a few of these in my purse, and if they get misplaced I don't have to feel too bad.  Plenty more where these came from.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Necklace for Judy's Doctor

My friend Judy LOVES jewelry - buying it for herself, and giving it to others.  She's a staunch supporter of Home Shopping Network, and there's always a stack of Avon and Ross&Simons catalogues on her coffee table.

When Judy found out, some years ago now, that I like doing beadwork, she immediately hauled me off to the nearest bead store and spent several hundred dollars on beads and findings which she promptly handed over to me.  She had a year's worth of Christmas and birthday gifts in mind, plus several projects for herself.  And I was the lucky one who got to make them.

It was the beginning of a happy partnership and the first of many trips to the bead store with Judy.  She buys the beads, chooses the primary stones and length for each necklace, and I do the design and assembly.  The system works for both of us:  I get to use better materials than I could normally afford, and she has the pleasure of getting and giving something custom-made.

Judy likes big, bold necklaces, preferably with sizeable pendants, and long complicated earrings to match.  My tastes are more minimal and run to the small and unobtrusive.  So designing for her has been good for me.  It pushes me to try different things.  Sometimes I simply can't work with the particular combination of stones/shapes/sizes she asks for, so I follow my instincts and dig something else out of her stash.  Usually we both end up happy with the finished product (only 1 remake in about 7 years, not counting a few length adjustments).

Our latest project is a case in point:  this necklace for Judy's cardiologist (did I mention that Judy is in her 80s?).  Judy had picked out the amethyst chunks and wanted them paired with some moonstone.  I played with the beads for a while and nothing seemed to work, so I did a little stash-diving.  Pulled out some citrine and green quartz, and baby amethyst rounds left over from another project.  Bingo!  A necklace that looks like spring.

(Aren't amethyst and citrine lovely words?   They look as nice as they sound.)

Earrings to match.  All set!

Judy must have liked what I did.  The day after I delivered this set to her, she called and asked for a matching bracelet.  I hope her cardiologist likes it as well.

This post will be linked to Masterpiece Monday at Boogieboard Cottage.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April is the Cruellest Month...

...especially in Wisconsin.

It's 31 outside.  3 to 6 inches of sleet and snow by tomorrow night.

My poor chives!

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