Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Altruism Is Not Us

I got the call from Loopy Yarns. The Cascade Pima Tencel for Sweet Indulgence is in. Now I have to make a decision. Am I going to follow Diane's advice (it's in the comments for this post), call the swatches afghan squares, and find a charity for them?

Or am I going to use them for my own selfish projects and desires?

What was the question?

Blocked - 52
On the board - 0
Completed - 54
On the needles - 55, 56, 57.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Shelly asked about the yarn I'm using. Diane was wondering how many squares I'm planning on making. It occurs to me I haven't posted any hard facts in a while. I know it's all back there in previous posts somewhere, but frankly, I've written about this so often that I don't want to try to mine the archives for the information, and it's my blog. Besides, I'll do anything at this point to keep you all from noticing that I still have not sewn one single square to another.

The miters themselves are not those used in The Book. Those are knit in stockinette. These are the "Weird Partial Garter Miters" from Kay's post, "Clip 'n Save for Miterheads". She's right about the garter stitch part. With a mere double decrease at the center, it moves much more slowly than the stockinette part, which has a triple decrease. I just love them, so it seems worth the effort.

I am, however, following the traditional Mason-Dixon mitered square assembly pattern, the one that calls for the centers of the blocks to point to each other (go back and look at the pictures in "Clip 'n Save"). The length and the width, therefore, have to be an even number of squares. The afghan will be 8 by 10, or 80 squares. I prefer to think in terms of blocks of 4. That makes it 4 by 5. Much less intimidating.

In another departure, the yarn is Cascade 220 (the originals are cotton). All the colors are from what Cascade calls "The Heathers." Left to right, top to bottom, from upper left: Celery - 9407, Provence - 2425, Satine - 2434, Pumpkin Spice - 2453, Mallard - 2448, Shire - 2445 , Kansas - 2437, Charcoal - 8400, and Mahogany - 2454.

The needles are US 7 Addi turbos. I probably should have used US 8's, but I started this before I realized just how tightly I knit. The squares are blocking out to 7.5 inches instead of 8. I could -- I know because I tried -- force them into 8" squares, but it struck me as cruel and unusual punishment. Give the rack a twist, and all that.

There's a lot of blocking involved. The squares come out looking like slightly deformed, demented bird-bills (that tendency of stockinette to roll in on itself). I decided I didn't want to spend weeks on end with wet towels draped about on every available surface. Meet the ideal mitered square blocking team.

A blocking board marked in 1 inch squares, a ruler whose width measures exactly 1.5 inches (very important for that .5 part of 7.5), pins, pin holder. Please note the most important members of my blocking team: A squirt bottle filled with a no-rinse wool-wash solution and a no-rinse wool-wash that doesn't smell like eucalyptus. No soaking squares in sinks, buckets, dishpans or basins. No pile of damp towels from squeezing out excess moisture. No memories of trees that look like vertical diseases (we got married while Marc was at Stanford).

Pin, squirt, let dry.

There, I bet you completely forgot that I'm supposed to be sewing this up by now.

Blocked - 46
On the board - 6
Completed - 52
On the needles - 53, 54, 55.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Things To Come

I had to pick Marco up from school. He's sick. This will, therefore, be a very flying entry. Instead of boring you all to tears regaling you with the latest on the miters, here's a little something I got from Flying Fingers this weekend.

Admittedly, it's looking ahead to another afghan, but isn't it pretty?

That's Colinette Skye and Mohair in Copperbeech.

This is Colinette Prism in Morocco (in case I decide Skye in Copperbeech is too dark).

Now I just have to figure out what to do with that Malabrigo Bulky and the Colinette Merino Tape.

Blocked - 42
On the board - 0
Completed - 49
On the needles - 50, 51, 52.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I Am NOT Procrastinating

I am not delaying. I am not avoiding. I want to start sewing up the mitered squares. I've got 40 blocked. That's half. Time and past time to start. I like sewing up. I do. Really.

It's just that I seem to have mislaid my Mason-Dixon book. Yeah. That's it.

Oh, and Clare needed my Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques so she could choose a bind-off for the fingerless mitts she invented. Right.

Okay. So Clare's done binding off for the moment. We'll ignore the additional fact that she's at work and would probably be perfectly happy if I used the book in her absence. Let me think. There has to be another reason. Oh. She's still trying to integrate her college life and accumulations with her non-college life and accumulations and I fear to disrupt what I am sure is a delicate, complex and organized state. It's called her room. Sure.

I suspect the real reason is that I want to figure out a pattern. Something that will make the blanket less haphazard than trying to have all 9 colors represented in every set of 4 squares - a physical impossibility, since each set of 4 squares can only hold a maximum of 8.

Sewing up is so permanent. Having once attached one square to another, I suspect I will never detach them. So I want something harmonious. A unifying theme. I've been playing with my interpretation of Diane's idea of opposing the repeated colors diagonally. It could work. (She may have meant me to continue the diagonal across the whole blanket.)

I think I'm making too big a deal out of this. Time to stop thinking and start doing. Where are my Chibi's?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Made The Cut

Here's a nice change. Not only is it not about mitered squares, it's not even about Mason-Dixon, except indirectly.

I made the 200 knitters running (knitting?) in the dish rag relay race. Emily at
Yarn Miracle came up with this. I read about it in Kay's post here. Sign ups were indeed limited. I was 191 out of a maximum of 200.

The rules specify no knitting until Tagged (that is, until you get The Box in the mail), but I can plan. I've been digging through my books.

Mining the Web. I'm particularly intrigued by the one called "Idiot's Dish Cloth." There's also "Last Night's Dish Cloth", "Mable the Mock Cable Cow", a "Skull and Crossbones" cloth, and one called "I Can't Drive Fifty FIVE" which turns out to be just a dishcloth with a number 5, but I love the name.

I have Barbara Walkers.

Or (chortle) I could always make a mitered square.

Oh. This is gonna be fun.

Blocked - 36
On the board - 0
Completed - 45
On the needles - 46, 47, 48

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

They're Really More Like Guidelines

This is where it gets good. With 30 mitered squares blocked and 6 more on the board, I think I have enough to start playing with color combinations.

Luni commented that no color repeated within a block of 4 might be too strict a rule. Math not being my strong point, I suspect she might be right. Nine colors probably just aren't enough to enforce that one. Much as I like the idea, it's starting to feel like a non-starter. While a rule that you get to break may be fun, a rule that you have to break is just a chore.

I'm thinking of taking a leaf from the Lord High Chancellor's Book. If I "allow an old Equity draftsman to make a suggestion. . . the insertion of a single word will do it. Let it stand that every fairy shall die who don't marry a mortal." No. That won't work. I can't think of any sentence construction that will allow me to insert a single word. Rather, I can, but they're all terminally convoluted. It will have to be the substitution of a single word. Instead of "no" color repeated, "one" color repeated within every block of 4, with the understanding that it's flexible, Carved in wet sand, as it were.

I'm sticking with no adjacent repeats, though. That one's set in stone.

At least I think it is.

Iolanthe, or The Peer and the Peri. Gilbert, W. S. & Sullivan, Arthur. 1882. [It has come to my attention that there are those with intellectual pretensions who set themselves above G & S. All I can say is, lighten up.]

Blocked - 36 Hmm. That may be less than scrupulously honest. How about:

Blocked - 30
On the board - 6
Completed - 45
On the needles - 46, 47, 48

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Moving On

You may not think it to look at it, but this represents progress.

It is the knitting equivalent of performing without a safety net. Of "live" TV. Of inviting your in-laws over for dinner and introducing a new recipe. I have ripped out the original Bubbly Curtain. Not only ripped it out, I have re-wound the yarn.

You have no idea what a milestone this is. My desire for a Bubbly Curtain is so great that I have overcome the dislike of lace knitting engendered by "Branching Out" to re-enter the world of "yo, k2tog." Lace means a stitch marker for every pattern repeat. Lace means lifelines. Lace means a lot of tinking. Lace means I start wondering what possessed me to think I wanted to knit. Anything. Ever.

In fairness, the Bubbly Curtain has not aroused this highly allergic reaction. It has, to be perfectly truthful, been a lot of fun to knit, at least so far. While the breaks from miters have been few and far between, when they happen, I pick up the Bubbly Curtain.

A brief pause for station identification here. This is weird yarn.

It's Maggi's Linen by Maggi Knits. It's not cheap ($5 to $7.50/skein), until you compare it with Euroflax Original ($18.00.skein). Then it's practically bargain basement. What's odd, is that it's stranded, not plied (?). The 3 strands don't wind around and about each other. They lie parallel. One of the strands (the cotton?) has these fuzzy, lumpy bits. As a result, my Bubbly Curtain won't, probably, have the crispness of the original. It will, however, be big. And $200.00 worth of linen for my back bathroom was more than I was willing to spend.

So, I am now flying solo. This, the second curtain, is now the only Bubbly Curtain. Proof of my faith in the pattern and my knitting ability.

Well that, and that I held it up to the window and confirmed it will stretch, I mean, block, to fit.

Blocked - 30
Completed - 42
On the needles - 43, 44 and 45

Friday, June 15, 2007

Where Are Those Elves When You Need Them?

I need a visit from the knitterly version of those marvelous guys who bailed out the shoemaker. I've fallen behind. I doubt this is a surprise. I should have been well past half by now. I'm still on 39, 40 and 41.

With so little knitting to report, I thought I'd write about logistics. The whole how am I going to get through this with my wits intact (preferably more than less so.)

While the Weird Partial Garter Miters aren't miles of endless, mindless garter followed by acres of stockinette -- that double decrease in the middle of the garter stitch and triple decrease in the middle of the stockinette prevent that sort of numbness -- there is enough to allow time for thought. Some of the thoughts are, admittedly, bizarre. (Late last night I found my self naming color combinations in a truly scary stream-of-consciousness kind of way. Provence and Mallard had me thinking cookery thoughts. Of course, that may have been due to an excess of closet clearing and all the dust I inhaled. Who said housekeeping is good for you?) But some of them are productive.

Unlike Diane, I am a product knitter. It isn't enough to knit. I don't want to have someone admire my work while I bite my tongue to keep from pointing out what I could have (should have) done better. If I'm going to indulge in alchemy, I'm going to do it well. I tried when I started this project to let go and do the whole random thing. Not going to happen.

Once I realized a condition of the number of colors and the number of squares I needed - specifically that I was going to have to repeat color combinations - I found rules piling up. No contiguous duplicates was the first, so I figured out the placement for the 16 repeat squares.

More rules are popping up. No color repeated within a given block of 4 may be one.

No matching colors side by each may be another.

These are not carved in stone. I'm open to suggestions, or at least discussion. I think.

The only thing I'm sure of is that I don't want to have to sew strips of 5 blocks/10 squares together and will plan the assembly accordingly. In fact, I hope I won't have to sew any seam longer than 6 squares (and I'll keep to 4 for as long as I can).

Meantime, any of you with entry into elfdom, put in a good word for me, yes?

Blocked - 24
Completed - 38
On the needles - 39, 40 and 41 (still)

Edited to add: I know this is a shameless example of trolling for comments, but would the sky fall and the heavens tumble if 2 more of you pick a number between 1 and 72? Please? Pretty please? You know if you don't comment the terrorists will win. It says so on Splindarella's Blog.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Where Did It All Come From?

What to do? What to do? There's precious little knitting content today. The Light Of My Life has gone all Thoreau-ean and is walking up and down doing the 21st century equivalent of the "Simplify, simplify!" speech. This, coinciding as it does with the arrival of the St. Vincent de Paul truck this weekend, has me tearing apart closets, mining cupboards, delving into the backs of drawers and the top shelves of the pantry, but not knitting (much).

Or blocking. Or assembling. Heavy sigh.

They'll not only take the clothes the kids have outgrown, they'll take "household goods." Finally, it's time to admit that just because it was an engagement gift is no reason to hold on to the yellow polyester table runner with the brown lace trim complete with matching napkins received from the dear but aesthetically-challenged college friend. Or the copper-plated trivet in the shape of a basket of fruit. It's okay to say good-bye to the lettuce keeper. We haven't eaten iceberg lettuce since the kids "discovered" romaine. That ceramic basket with the blue geese painted on the front (so last century, I'm all about chickens now)? Gonna be gone. Also the Tupperware celery keepers (note the plural) and spice boxes.

My bed has become the staging area. My back hall is now temporary storage.

This doesn't include the books and toys that need to go out. God help me. I live in a condo.Can you imagine what it would be like if I had a basement?

Blocked - 24.
Completed - 38.
On the needles - 39, 40 and 41.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hootenanny Knitting

As James Thurber's Prince Zorn notes in "The Thirteen Clocks", "I am no longer ert. I have lost my ertia." I could swear I've been working non-stop on the mitered squares.

The yarn is going down. I need to set up my swift and spend some time singing "The Turning Song."

Yet the score card reads:

Blocked - 24.
Completed - 37.
On the needles - 38, 39 and 40.

This puts me seriously behind schedule. I was supposed to have passed the 40th square over the weekend. I think I need another, tangible proof of progress.

It may be time to start putting things together. Now I have to face the fact that I just don't do random well. I have established some rules (Kay says you have to have rules, otherwise you don't get the fun of breaking them): No repeating a color in any given block of 4 squares. Only 8 pairs/16 squares of duplicates. The borders on the pairs have to represent 8 different colors. Since I don't want any of the pairs to be too close to their sibling, the 16 pairs have been assigned specific places. The colored squares on the diagram represent where they go.

I need to choose 6 more squares to duplicate. This is where the "Hootenanny" part comes in. For those too young to know, "Hootenanny" aired on ABC in the 60's (and blacklisted the likes of Pete Seeger as too left-wing).

The point, however, is that it always closed with an audience participation number. What are the chances I can get 6 of you to choose a number from 1 to 80 [Edited to add: 72, that should be 72, not 80. 73 through 80 are the spots I need to fill. I am so sadly numerically challenged] , excluding 4 and 20 (because I've already got two of those combinations)?

I don't promise to abide by the choices. After all, you may all choose a number with the same color border, and that's against the rules. Still, given the level of indecisiveness I'm demonstrating, it just might help me find my ertia. So, here's your chance to join in. All together now, "I-rene goodni-i-ight, I-rene goodnight..."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Last time Diane came over for coffee, she commented she had "googled" herself and found there were several people bearing her name. I commented that there had to be another one of me, else how had all this yarn gotten here? I certainly wasn't responsible for it.

I was getting caught up with Deb's blog and found this. Guess what?

"There are 301,966,290 people in the U.S.
How many have your name?"

LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

See? See?!? I was right. I do have an evil twin.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Nothing Hard is Ever Easy

Some anniversaries are harder than others.

Twenty years ago today, when he was only 64 and Clare was not quite 3 months old, my Dad died.

My children have no memories of him. How do I make him real to them?

He was quietly, dryly, fun.

He was smart.

He was out of town the night Marc called from Stanford and took us both by surprise by asking me to marry him. Family legend has it, that when my mother talked to him that night and told him I was engaged his response was a very calm, matter of fact, "No she's not."

He called my mother every day from work.

He would eat the last tablespoons of cereal when no one wanted to finish the box.

He listened more than he talked.

My mother once told me there was never a day that she didn't look forward to his coming home

My senior year of high school he called me in absent. He told them I had "Spring Fever."

He helped me with my
"New Math" homework.

He told us we should help our mother "will-in-gly and smil-in-gly" (emphasis on the hard g).

He expected us to be good, and not just in the sense of not being bad.

In my memory, he is not larger than life, dominating whatever was going on. That role belongs to my mother. He's there. In the background. Quiet. Steady.

Miss him.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Drat. Caught.

I am not as generous as I like to pretend I am. In my personal mythology I am altruistic to an extreme, but in reality, my giving is personal and not all-encompassing. No Dulaan. No Afghans for Afghans. No preemie hats or blankets. No prayer shawls.

I will now admit to being the blogger who snapped up the signed copy of Mason-Dixon Knitting when Emily ran her eBay auction for breast cancer research. It was strictly acquisitive. It meant I had a great Christmas present for my sister. My mother being a breast cancer survivor had nothing to do with it.

Well, yes, I did knit for Red Scarf 2007, but that was in recognition of something from my early youth that snuck up on me. Besides I had all this red yarn to get rid of. No, I will not admit to how much red yarn I have bought since in anticipation. I'm only going to knit for RS 2008 for the comments.

Now that I think about it, Catholic Charities Hurricane Katrina Relief is still pretty happy with me.

Then there's Special Olympics.

(In the local Spring Games this year, Marco got a bronze in the 100M and a silver in the Long Jump.)

But the bottom line is, I am never looking for an opportunity to do more for charity. (Ouch. Truth hurts.) It was with some reluctance that I followed the link from Jess's blog to Claudia's. In fact, I delayed for days. I knew once I got there I was going to be in trouble. Claudia is raising funds for Multiple Sclerosis. Marc's sister has been living with MS for over 10 years now. This one is too close to home to ignore.

If you donate. Maybe you'll win this.

This is 8 skeins of Cascade 220 in Japanese Maple Heather. It's enough for a Mason-Dixon Perfect Sweater, up to a 2XL. The bag comes with. It's from Tangled Web in Oak Park, back when there was still a Tangled Web in Oak Park. The store had knitting bags custom made for them, and this is probably one of the last sold. It has a doodad pocket inside.

Nice long straps. Big enough that the 8 skeins of Cascade don't fill it up.

Plus, it has a hand-made butterfly applique.

I'll be donating, too, but this is my contribution to the prizes Claudia is offering. I had to do it. There were way too many prizes for the sock knitters and not enough for the rest of us.

Blocked - 12.
Completed - 35.
On the needles - 36, 37 and38.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Moderation In All Things

I can feel it. The small universe comprised of those of us who read this blog is cringing. Of the 10 of us (I'm feeling optimistic today), 9 are worrying, "All mitered squares? All the time?"

Well, no. Let me make some reassuring noises here. The mitered squares are just at the top of the queue. Where previously they provided a break from bigger projects, they now have been officially designated The Big Project. I expect this to last at least until the yarn comes in for Clare's robe.

You see, though we be few, we be dear to me, and I do not wish to bore us. This morning I was envisioning what would happen if I let myself go live completely in Mitered Square Land. Weeks of posts, all endless permutations of, " Here's the square I knit today."

I would probably throw in a few "Ooo! See what I blocked?" or "Guess how many ends I wove in this week?" for variety.

Can you imagine? Soon the lurkers who I hope are out there would abandon ship. We'd be down to 7. Then even the avid Mason-Dixoners would leave. Pretty soon, Bobbi, Jess, Shelley and Amy would drift away. A few might hang around out of the same horrified fascination that makes for gapers' block during rush hour. My sister would evade my phone calls. Then Diane would start ducking invitations for coffee, knowing she would be met by a wild-haired woman, drooling and with a twitch in her left eye, who would open the door and cackle, "Want to see my latest mitered square?"

So, I promise to keep my sense of proportion. I'll exercise some restraint. Use my common sense. I promise to knit other things. I promise to take pictures and post about them.

Although, it's a little scary. I could have sworn I didn't knit yesterday. Maybe a little first thing in the morning. Maybe a few rows at the Latin Gala. (During which I lost major mom points. John's last performance -- he was Brutus -- and I forgot the camera. The revocation of my license may already be in the mail.)

Yet somehow I now have 33 mitered squares instead of 31.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

We Interrupt the Knitting

Anyone whose been on either end of the parent equation knows that its only constants are its vicissitudes. We are never the children we expected to be. We are never the parents we meant to be. We never have the children we thought we'd have. Parenthood is an unequivocal blessing and a mixed damnation.

John has made me particularly aware of this this year, from the missing honor roll because he didn't take enough Accelerated Reader tests, to the hair down to his shoulders, to the blowing off of 4 math assignments. Teachers and friends keep assuring me that it is all part of being a 12 year old boy. It's a year of metamorphosis. It's the pushing of the envelope year. The exploration of limits year. The "do they really mean what they say?" year.

Case is point is what we thought was going on when John decided to enter the Latin Olympics here, and what was really going on. Suffice to say, John did not participate. His parents withdrew him the day of the event. In addition, we imposed a Herculean Task. To wit: create the art project he was supposed to have done and finish it time for the end of year Latin Gala and Play. I would undertake the technical aspects, he had to do the creative bit.

I don't think he realized we were serious.

The Latin Gala and Play is tonight. I have spent my knitting time scanning the images in and devising a workable comic book format.

John has produced 38 illustrated panels, in Latin, of the adventures of Hercules and the Cretan Bull.
I don't think I realized he was serious.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I'm a woman on the edge. There's no other explanation. I could argue that it's good sense. I could tell myself it's an indication of just how high my "g" level is. But deep down in my secret heart of hearts, I know it's desperation.

Forget the "all knitting is good" stuff. Lose the whole "knitting is Zen" thing. It's not anymore. I need to finish. I don't much care what, but I need to call something done. And not some fiddling, little, one-skein, knit-it-today-wear-it-tomorrow something. Something real. Something earnest.

I picked the mitered squares - all 80 of them.

In the past four days I have gone from sporadic, lackadaisical mitered-squaring to fiendish, constant, compulsive mitered-squaring. I finished the 28th. That's more than one third of the way there. The 29th, 30th and 31st are on the needles.

By Saturday, I intend to complete the 40th and celebrate the half-way point.

I have started blocking. I've emptied my pin-holder.

I can only fit 6 on my blocking board. I'm debating getting another one.

Or two. (I can justify anything. I'll tell myself I need them in order to block a whole sweater: one for the front, one for the back, one for the sleeves.) If I got three more I could block 24 at a time. Multiples of 4 are good. I have to assemble the squares in sets of 4.

This is serious (stop laughing, Diane). I have devised a countdown chart and a plan for assemby. Well, sort of. The blue squares mark where the duplicate squares will land.

For the rest, all right, I admit I'm still debating. Not for long, though. I will start assembling in a matter of days. Yes, I will. I'm just waiting until I have enough blocked.

This will become Henry Ford style knitting. I'm going to become a one-woman assembly line, simultaneously knitting, blocking, sewing up, and sewing in ends. I may try to deceive you that I'm doing other things, thinking other thoughts, knitting other projects. Imposing order and organization in other parts of my life. I will be lying. Just so you know.

If not now, when? When the 80 squares are done and I'm more than desperate, I'm buried? No, by Harry. I'm going to make Kay proud of me. Maybe then she and Ann will come to Chicago for their new book tour. Desperation can make me believe anything.

Friday, June 01, 2007

May I Have the Envelope, Please

In the category "Most Original Use of a Straight Needle for a Non-Knitting Purpose" the winner is -

-Julianne McCauley for her arrangement entitled "How Long Can I make My Mother's Day Flowers Last or Gerbera Daisies Get So Floppy So Fast."

Official Disclaimer: Diane and Clare both told me there was a blog entry here. Biddable type that I am, what could I do but comply?