Friday, March 30, 2007

In Pursuit of Color

Having established that I need to bring my knitting into the technicolor century, I spent most of last evening trying to find a project. I thought I didn't want to knit a scarf, but I got an email from Clare telling me that I left my favorite - a beautiful hand-dyed red silk from our local artisan cooperative - in Urbana. It's chilled a bit here from our 70 degree days, so maybe I want to knit a scarf after all.

My first thought was to shop the stash and make a spring-like Scribble scarf. I surfaced with Euro-flax linen in a pale mossy green and Louisa Harding Kimono Ribbon in I don't know what colorway.

I'm just not entranced with it.

Cogitation seems to be in order. I think the wise move is to take the latest Netflix delivery and ponder something to make with this while I finish winding it. "This" is Handmaiden Sea Silk in the grossly misnamed "Autumn" colorway. Maybe something in a simple linen stitch?

I could be on to something, here.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


So. Diane, good practitioner of the Corporal Acts of Mercy that she is, came over to cheer up the poor sick knitter. Over coffee, I confessed I felt stupid blogging about my knitting because, while I'm excited about the sweater and the curtain, they don't make for interesting blog fodder.

About an hour ago, Fed Ex came by. Look what I got!

They're from relatives in Michigan. Looking at them, I realize what my knitting is lacking these days. It's called color.

Nothing like the epiphany you get when your blinding revelation is of the obvious.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fever Dreams

I'm knitting on miles of dark-green stockinette for John's Hybrid Sweater. The eternal stockinette is supposed to be broken up with little knitting projects like the fingerless gloves. What has this got to do with any of that?

Down the dusty roads and far away, when the world was young and Marc and I were DINKS, we bought this condo as, I thought, an investment. Three bedrooms, 2 full baths, 2000 square feet, and I managed to convince myself we would be out of here long before any then-hypothetical children could notice there was no attic or backyard. There are none so blind.

One of the disadvantages of moving from a 1 windowless bathroom apartment to a two bathrooms with windows apartment is what to do with the windows. We solved the front bathroom (the one company gets to see) with a couple of Laura Ashley flat sheets. Our bathroom, however, has spent most of its life like this.

Enter Mason-Dixon Knitting and the Bubbly curtain. Measure the window. Exit the Bubbly curtain.

Come this past Thanksgiving, we finally did the Target thing.

Better. At least you can't see the ancient textured glass. But not quite what I want. Although I am fond of Clare's clever pin-it-at-the-top-to get-it-to-the-right-length solution.

Enter the Bubbly curtain. Price the yarn. Exit the Bubbly curtain.

Which brings us to now and the realization that I may sicker than I thought.

I was happily swatching away with my Maggi's Linen for a second pair of fingerless gloves. One thing led to another. I checked my gauge, 5 spi; just the gauge for the Bubbly Curtain. Throw in the Yarn Harlot's 1 week bedroom renovation, Diane's playing around with her blogger template and her project list, the time spent with Mason-Dixon Knitting while I debated various I'm-tired-of-being-sick projects, and too much time in cyberspace. Combine all of the above with the obscene amount of white Maggi's Linen I bought at less than cost when one of my favorite yarn stores retired.

I measured my bathroom window again. It's still 30.5" by 54". Yet this looks nothing like a pair of fingerless gloves.

Ann is very clear; the Bubbly Curtain is for "any small window." I don't think anyone would call 2-1/2 ft. by almost 5 ft. "small." The fabric may be too heavy. The window may overwhelm the curtain. I, however, am convinced that the Bubbly Curtain was designed to solve my 23 year dilemma. Don't bother arguing with me. I'm delirious.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Not Quite Back in the Saddle

I knew I was on the mend Saturday when my kitchen table starting looking like this.

I was searching for a convalescent project. I wanted something different from green stockinette, something easy. I looked at scarves. I don't want to knit a scarf. Maybe something not flat. I looked at socks. I don't want to knit socks. Something clever? I looked at lace. Nope. I picked up the Endpaper Mitts. I put them down.

A scarf is too easy. I don't knit socks (kind of like I don't do windows). Lace is too complicated. So is two-color knitting. My brain is still cotton wool. I need to knit without too much thinking. A project for my sadly reduced stamina and nearly non-existent attention span.

Ta Da! Behold all of the above.

I found something different, easy, not flat and clever in Weekend Knitting. Something, moreover, where the yarn can do the work for me. The pattern by Anne Budd is perfect, just what the doctor would have ordered had I gone to a doctor. Filled with those cleverness-es knitters do so well. They're knit sideways. Short rows add width across the hand while keeping the wrist end narrower. The thumb is a buttonhole. The three needle bind-off makes for a nearly invisible join. The instructions include variations for multiple gauges and sizes, kind of like what she does in the Book of Patterns.

Even at my stage of not-quite-recovered knitting, I finished these in a weekend. Significantly less than 1 skein of Mountain Colors 4/8 Wool in, I think, Pheasant. The yarns was intended for the Red Scarf project, but felt too heavy. The label is long gone.

With the directions for the different gauges, I'm wondering. Maybe a strictly decorative pair out of this?

I may, after all, be convalescing for quite a while.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Fugue in Green or Sovereign Remedies

First Voice.



I have plague. See you Monday.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Knitting in the Midwest

Exciting times here. First of all, though, let me state that, despite the following evidence, XRX is not paying me anything. It's just that Clare and I spent the morning poring over the Stitches Midwest 2007 brochure. This is all Diane's fault. She introduced me to Stitches last year.

In the heat of our enthusiasm, we've even registered. Sweet angels of mercy, $140.00 for 6 hours, with the Early Bird Discount. Admittedly, the rush to register was, in part, reinforced when we saw how many classes were already sold out - including most of our second and third choices.

So, if we get the classes we want, Saturday we will go our separate ways (very important precept for mothers of adult daughters - they'll be fine out of your sight). She, as the more adventurous knitter, has Design Your Dream Sweater on Saturday morning. I, in my desire to take a class - any class - from Susanna Hansson (she of Bohus Stickning fame) have signed up for Off the Cuff: Beaded Wrist Warmers, on Saturday afternoon. This offers the opportunity for solo shopping. I won't have to explain, rationalize or justify, and neither will she. Sunday morning we'll share, both in the Joy of Finishing and in tandem shopping (translation: I'll pay for what she chooses. After all, she's a college student.)

As if all this weren't enough, the Windy City Knitting Guild sent off an email yesterday:

"FROM: Nina L. Savar
President, Windy City Knitting Guild
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Brooke Prewitt Vane
Chicago Office of Tourism Public Relations
312.742.4983 (phone)
312.744.2359 (fax)

Hello all!

I am pleased to inform you that the Stitching Salon will be featured on "Chicago Tonight" tomorrow night (Wednesday) as part of a story on knitting. The program begins at 7:00 and will feature interviews from our own Penny Brown as well as Stitching Salon representative Cameron Lane and Windy City Knitting Guild President Nina Savar. Please forward this message on to any interested parties.


Further scoop from Diane is that Loopy Yarns will be featured as well.

I tell you, this is a good time to be a knitter in the Midwest.

P.S. In rereading this, I can't help but note the dearth of knitting pictures. I persuaded Clare to make a guest appearance in the Perfect Sweater.

She agreed only if I promised to cut off her head. I suppose that makes me the Queen of Hearts (speaking of axes).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

In Which All Is Forgiven

I don't want to draw the attention of the knitting gods. I have had quite enough of that lately, thank you very much. But I can't let John's sweater continue to live in infamy.

My strong sense of justice compels me to admit that we reconciled yesterday. Apparently all it wanted was to be taken out in public. Clare is home. This necessitates a trip to Target. While she shopped, I knit. Lo and behold, a sleeve took shape beneath my hands. As an added benefit, I didn't feel the need to go ballistic while Clare dithered.

Jess suggested that maybe Elizabeth used a different increase, and she's right. In fact, Elizabeth's increase was at the root of the problem. I couldn't keep straight which way to twist my loop, even after watching EZ on the Knitting Workshop DVD. I felt sure, however, that Elizabeth would understand if I switched to an increase I knew and liked. The hubris part was thinking I could remember the M1R and M1L from the Perfect Sweater without checking.

It progresses.

Still, I'm feeling a little shaky about my sweater knitting chops right now. Maybe I'll go make Clare wear her Perfect Sweater for the rest of the day.

Monday, March 19, 2007

"Oh the Doing and Undoing"*

"Oh, the sighing and the suing." *

You know, I could get a complex. I don't think Elizabeth likes me. That or I deeply offended her in a former life and she has been waiting and watching. "Nyah - a- ah! Now I have her! She thinks she's going to knit a seamless sweater! Hah! and hah! again!"

It's the sleeves this time. No, let me correct that. I have not progressed to plural. It's the sleeve. The one and only, at the moment. If it doesn't shape up soon, it will remain so. John will have a dysfunctional sweater.

Note that it's all the sleeve's fault, not mine. I can so do stockinette. Also increases. And I know how to count. Just, apparently, not all at once. At least, not on this sweater.

This is where the sleeve was when I went to bed last night. Flushed with the success of joining those 44 stitches onto a 16" needle, I powered through the cuff ribbing. It all got ugly when I reached the first increase row. Hubris, you know. I thought I knew how to increase. I thought wrong. When my stitch count was off by 1, I thought I just kept forgetting one of the increases. Ignoring the warning bells and flashing lights going off in my brain, I thought I could drop down and correct it. Last night, I thought I was the victor.

I think my knitting is developing an adversarial attitude. This is what I found this morning. Right where the increases are supposed to be, it's as hole-y as a slice of Baby Swiss. And the stitch count is still wrong.

If my sleeve could talk, it would be saying "Sorry, sweetheart. You have not internalized increases." Why didn't I look it up? Well, I suppose I've already answered that question.

This is what the sleeve looks like, now.

Adversarial, huh? I'm so going to unearth my crochet hooks.
* Gilbert and Sullivan. Yeoman of the Guard.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

44 Stitches

I had my doubts. Grave reservations.

Using a 16" circular needle, cast 0n 20% of body stitches, very loosely. That's the gist of the directions Elizabeth gives to start the sleeve in KWT.

We are entering the realm of Believing in Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, where Elizabeth is the Red Queen and I am Alice. Forty-four stitches on this?

Loosely. Loosely. I figure she isn't talking about the stitch itself so much as the space the stitch is going to have to stretch, the yarn between the stitches. I'm convinced this can't possibly work. Forty-four stitches cannot span a 16" needle. It's got something to do with Physics and the Fabric of the Universe. I have my size US7 and my size US8 DPN's on hand. Everybody needs backup.

Ah, but I have evidence. Documentation. Irrefutable proof. Elizabeth is right.

Oh me of little faith. Still, you've got to admit: it really shouldn't have worked.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

Remember the Ab-Fab 6-in-1 afghan from a few posts ago?

Remember my chagrin at finding these colors as part of the kit?

I trotted out to Knitche this morning and consulted. This is what we came up with. The question is, which one, which one? The ecru mohair is a given. The choice is between the Malabrigo (the dark red) and the Colinette merino tape (the, well, the other one).

The Malabrigo is probably more in keeping with the original yarn - dark, semi-solid, at more or less the right end of the spectrum. I love the color. It's the safe choice.

The Colinette, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing in common with the yarn it would be replacing. Noticeably variegated, so far removed on the spectrum it bears no relation to the original. Even the texture - flat tape compared to plied - is at odds. At least the Malabrigo is round, sort of.

And yet, it's the merino tape I'm drawn to.

A decision must be made. Unless (given how slowly I knit) you want to spend the next few weeks looking exclusively at dark-green stockinette.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It's a Mystery

"I'm in love with my Elizabeth Zimmermann Hybrid sweater. It's occupying all my knitting time. It does not, however, make for interesting blogging. It's beautiful, but its beauty is in its simplicity."

That's as far as I got yesterday. The course of knitting never does run smooth, at least for me, so I should have been expecting something.

Right about that point, it occurred to me. I could make the knitting more interesting, at least for me, if I cast on the sleeves. I've done enough knitterly navel-contemplating. I am aware that if I work sequentially through a project, I feel the creeping dread of not being done yet. I cringe at the idea of casting off one part only to have to cast on another. I don't know why I don't just start off with everything at once and get all the casting-on done at the get-go, but I don't. Part of the charm of Elizabeth Zimmermann is her recognition, her encouragement, of this tendency. She tells you flat out to knit on all parts of a project at the same time. With confidence in her support, I reach for Knitting Without Tears, just to reassure myself on the sleeve technique. It's not there.

At this point in my knitting career, I may not be slavishly devoted to the pattern, but once I've started it, I want it where I can find it. Now I feel compelled. I can find every other Elizabeth Zimmermann book I own. Knitting Around? Right there. Knitting Workshop (book and DVD)? Right where they should be. The Opinionated Knitter? Yep, present and accounted for. Knitting Glossary DVD? Got it. See?

Knitting Without Tears? Nowhere. Slipped through a weakness between the dimensions, Buckaroo Banzai style. Lost, perhaps, in the space-time continuum. Creation, as Randall observes in Time Bandits, "was a bit of botched job, you see. We only had seven days to make it," and so is full of holes. My copy of Knitting Without Tears has fallen through.

At this point I really don't care that there are seamless sweaters in the other books. Frankly, I wouldn't care if there was one on every page. It is immaterial to me that all the seamless sweaters are pretty much the same up to the point where you join the sleeves to the body. The fact that I remember perfectly well that I need to cast on 44 stitches for the sleeves is completely beside the point. I want my book. And my book is gone.

The possibility that the book will not be found begins to niggle at my back-brain. I decide there's nothing for it but to buy another copy. I rationalize that I can, after all, send the spare off with Clare if (when?) it turns up, thus justifying the purchase while holding on to the hope that my book will return from wherever it's roaming. It's out of stock at both my local bookstore and the neighborhood Border's. I'm sorry, this is just piling injury onto injury, if you ask me.

Last night, rather dispiritedly, I joined the second skein of yarn to the body. I am prepared to admit defeat. In fact, I have. There is no joy in this knitting.

So, please explain how this got here? With yesterday's mail? I hadn't even gotten the mail when I noticed the book missing.

It wasn't there yesterday. I know. I checked. Repeatedly. I did.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Think Spring.

It may be grey and gloomy out there, but it's over 50 degrees F. I decided to bring Spring inside while I wait for Mrs. Thaw to clean up the rest of Winter's detritus.

Then it occurred to me, maybe I need to be even more proactive. I do, after all, know the power of knitters. It is clearly our obligation to get the sky in sync with the thermometer.

I've added sunshine to my kitchen and a little green to my knitting. I think it's helping.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

NOW, dammit

I've been in a knitting rut. Or maybe a fog. Yes, that's it. A knitting fog.

I have tamed the wild Hybrid Seamless Sweater. Now it's just that restful around and around and around. After all the trial and travail it caused me, wouldn't you think I'd be content? Success is reasonably certain. John is, quietly, so pleased. He smiles when he sees it in my hands. Inspects how the yarn is revealing itself in the knitting. Smiles again. Notes, "That's my sweater."

And yet.

None of the growing number of unfinished projects is calling me. None of my knitting puzzles can hold my attention. I want something. Something new. Something different. And I want it now. Which may be why I thought of this.

Long, long, ago, back when I first started Clare's afghan, the yarn store had a Colinette afghan on display. It was beautiful. I loved it. I couldn't knit. Almost a year ago now, in celebration of my non-trapezoidal knitting, I dragged my children with me to act as consultants and ordered my "ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS HAND-DYED THROW KIT SIX styles in ONE kit!" in Versace. (It has apparently been discontinued. I couldn't find it on their website.) I couldn't do anything but garter stitch, mind you, but I had hope. I took it home and set it aside for the day my ability would be worthy of this long coveted object. I barely even allowed myself to look at it. It was a project for "someday." Best not to get too close. I could wait.

I forgot about it. Lured buy the siren song of the Internet, Stitches Midwest, and the new yarn stores opening up, I pursued my skills with other projects, other yarns.

So, here I am in now. I want something, but don't know what. It occurs to me that this is precisely why one maintains a stash. When even a trip to the yarn store takes too long, and because of the amorphous nature of my desire, is likely to be unproductive. Possibly even frustrating.

Unburying the "AFH-DTK," I realized that I could do this. I know how. The time has come, at long last, to make my work of art.


Do my eyes deceive me? Is that purple? And, almost worse, pale pink? How did that get in there? That can't be right. Even in my Barbie days I didn't like pink or purple.

What do I do, NOW?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Those Whom the Gods Wish To Destroy

Okay, forget refreshed and rejuvenated. My knitting stinks these days. Allow me to present the evidence.

This represents one week worth of knitting. That's seven (count 'em 7) days. I cannot express how exasperated I am. The humiliating difficulties I chronicled with the casting on didn't stop there.

I had gotten this far, and realized I was knitting on the wrong-size needles. Given how tightly I knit, if I left this it alone, there is a good chance John's next growth spurt would render the sweater obsolete, probably before I finished.

I thought I had an idea. Why do I allow myself to do that? The theory was, use this part for the hem, transfer the stitches to the larger needles, purl a row to mark the fold-line, and go on my merry way. I completely bollixed the transfer.

Some of us never learn that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." I had another idea. Run the needle through a row of stitches lower down, like a mega-lifeline. I'd lose some of my work, but not all. Of course, you need to be consistent and pick up all the stitches from the same row. I managed to jump down a row about midway. Something I didn't discover until after I had frogged down.

I looked at the mess in my hands and admitted defeat. Rip. Start again.

Need we revisit my previous post? No, I think not. Suffice to say, it wasn't any prettier this time.

It's gotten so bad, that I'm using work as reward for knitting, instead of the other way around. The voice in my head goes something like this: "All right, I'll just get half-way through this round and then I'll cover X amount of what I usually really don't want to do. Then, once I finish that, I'll pick up the knitting and slog through another half-round. Once that's over with, I'll get to go to Y. ('Y' being the next step after 'X')."

It's working. I've recovered what I'd lost, and may even be a little beyond. I still love the yarn. The knitting is mindless, which is good, since I shudder to think what would happen if I tried anything that involved skill. Or thought. Or any of the higher mental functions.

In the meantime, if any of you have any influence with the knitting gods, I'd appreciate it if you get their attention off of me. I'm sure they find me hilariously entertaining at the moment. I can hear them cackling when I stop my inner dialogue.

Friday, March 02, 2007

And Your Lucky Numbers Are

It's Friday.
It's been a long week.
The invoice for yesterday's time has come due.
I need some silliness.
This seemed to fit the bill.

My Fortune Cookie told me:
A satirical sheep at sunrise is nobody's friend.
Get a cookie from Miss Fortune

Do you think that's another warning about knitting before coffee?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

I Meant To Do My Work Today

Do you know this poem? It's been running in my head all day, a counterpoint to what little I've gotten done.

I Meant to Do My Work Today

I meant to do my work to-day -
But a brown bird sang in the apple-tree
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand -
So what could I do but laugh and go?

Richard Le Gallienne

It certainly has nothing to do with today. Outside looks like this. No birdsong, no butterfly, and certainly no leaves.

This is what Shakespeare had in mind in Lear: "all's cheerless, dark, and deadly." So why do I feel so optimistic? Especially when you consider today's precursor, a.k.a. yesterday's knitting.

This may not look like much. You have no idea what it took to get me here.

Miscounting (hence the return to stitch markers. Elizabeth Zimmermann says she never uses them. I am so clearly not in her league.) Did I mention, miscounting repeatedly?

Misjudging. My most even cast-on is still the long-tail. I ran out of yarn. Twice. Is anyone surprised?

I finally got my 220 stitches on, and knit about half-way around. By this time, I had two boys doing their imitation of the ravening horde. I'm a reasonably responsible parent. More practically, I know the dangers of low blood sugar - dinner can get ugly if it's late. Dinner delayed is dinner denied.

Imagine my chagrin when I turned from the stove to find Marco "knitting" and, well, chortling. There's no other word for it. He was so taken with himself. Except he lost half a dozen stitches from the cast on. I don't know how to pick up those stitches. Now, I may have been a little hypoglycemic myself. I have knitting books. I'm sure somewhere I have instructions for how to do this particular repair. Last night, I could care less. I yanked the whole bloody thing off the needles. Sad but true.

What a difference a day makes. It stinks out there. The most mid-winter of all possible mid-winter days. Hail. Thunder. Rain. Wind. Flood watches. Turning back to snow. I certainly have none of the excuses Le Gallienne had. But I turned my back on all my responsibilities, well, as many as I could. Wrote to Clare. Read. Untangled my yarn and accomplished this.

No, it sure doesn't look like much. I know I'll have to pay the time back. I am still strangely refreshed and rejuvenated.

Maybe it's March?