Friday, July 27, 2007

We're Off!

And just to keep you company while we're gone, here's the best damn train song ever written, sung by the Chicago folkie who wrote it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

It's a Gift

I decided that before we leave for the east coast, I need to have all things mitered ready for however I end up assembling. With that in mind, I blocked out 6 more squares last night.

I realize I was pushing toward the end there. I was getting a little distracted. I have to admit to doing the whole decreasing on the right side and the wrong side a lot. I thought I had caught myself every time, though.

I noticed as I was pinning this set out that one of the blocks took more stretching than the others. I wrote it off to gauge issues and tightening my hands as the finish line came in sight.

I took a closer look today. Oops.

Unlike the mistake I'm going to incorporate, I don't think I can live with this one.

I'll just knit this last, little, miter. Except this time I'll do it right. Really.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sleep Deprived

No spoilers here.

My copy came yesterday. I like this version, and had to wait for it to get here from the UK (besides, John and Clare had first dibs on the US copy).

But I was up way too late (way too early?) to be coherent now. You wouldn't believe the number of typos involved in that last sentence alone.

Marc theorized that it would all be resolved with a pie fight between Harry and Voldemort involving coconut cream and lemon meringue. Clearly, the man spent too much time watching the Three Stooges in his youth.

Even having finished the series, my favorite ending is still this one (scroll down to "I know how it all ends").

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Train Knitting

It's getting closer. 17 hours on an Amtrak train to Washington D.C. What was I thinking? I'm feeling the need to release endorphins. Something to keep me from snapping the noses off the various members of my family (they'd look so odd). Something to keep me from dreading the whole enterprise.

In recognition of the fact that misery loves company, and on the theory that train travel was worse in the 1800s, I tried reading a train novel from my youth, Abigail Goes West (out of print). Girl finds self and True Love when she travels by train from Pennsylvania to California during the California Gold Rush, complete with a derailment when the train hits a couple of cows. I sort of expected it to get me in the mood. I can't imagine why it didn't work.

I was feeling increasingly cranky. I could empty a room by walking into it. I didn't actually see my children flinch at the sound of my voice, but I could swear I saw their eyes widen afterward.

In this glutton for punishment state of mind, I decided to pull the final swatch for Sweet Indulgence out from the clean laundry. (Did I tell you that in my desperate attempt to avoid knitting math I knit one more on US 10.5 needles? No, I don't think so. Well, I did.) Just asking for it, right? Imagine my gobsmacked-ness when I found . . .

. . . I got gauge.

After 2 rows of k1 ribbing, Sweet Indulgence is 171 stitches in stockinette. For a long time. Enough, I think, to get me through. Then it gets a little interesting, but by that time we should be in Williamsburg (the final destination of this escapade expedition).

Where there's Knitting Sisters (it's a yarn store).

Monday, July 23, 2007


Clare and I shook the dust of responsibility from our heels yesterday and headed out to the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair, over an hour away from Chicago in Crystal Lake (north central Illinois). You're off the edge of the map, here there be dragons (Sorry. Sorry. It's just I'm such a parochial urbanite. I get nervous outside my normal habitat). We planned this trip in part as retaliation (did I ever say I was a nice person?). We have to cancel at least one of our Stitches Midwest classes since Marc will be in San Francisco for the ABA convention. Sometimes being able to manipulate guilt is a good thing. Did I mention that Marc brought this to my attention after the no-refund deadline?

Being good little fiber artist wannabe's, we set out in time to check in by 9:00 AM. Which meant we were on the road by 7:30 on a Sunday morning. That was painful. Next year, we'll be a little more relaxed about it.

Well, piffle. I meant for you all to be able to go to the website but it's pretty much shut down. This link might work, but just in case, I'll try to fill in. It's outside -- I have the mosquito bites to prove it -- in a park. A really beautiful park. There were workshops all three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday: basket weaving, spinning - wheel and drop spindle, felting, dyeing, jewelry, weaving on at least three different types of looms, rug-making, woodcarving, beading, felting, quilting, tatting.

There was a food court with real food (Stitches Midwest, are you listening?). And ice cream.

And live music. And demonstrations. And knit/craft togethers (which we missed). And a silent auction (which we also missed). For those not inclined to play hooky, there's a great beach/park nearby and kid's crafts at the Fair itself.

And a Marketplace - 4 tents full.

Big tents. Over 100 vendors.

The Fold was there. So were Interlacements from Colorado and Sit & Knit from New Buffalo, Michigan. Buttons, baskets, books, rovings, wool, alpaca, silk, corn fiber, spinning wheels, looms, hand-dyed yarns, hand-spun yarns. Mountain Colors, Fleece Artist, Blue Moon, Socks that Rock. I may have bought something.

Oh, and knitting. Lots of knitting. I found out about the fair in time to get into "The Grand Finale: Finishing with Professional Results." The instructor was Nancy Schroyer of Nancy's Knit Knacks. Do I need to repeat that? Nancy of Nancy's Knit Knacks. That gives you an idea of the caliber of the instructors. I love classes like this. It was like finding a really expert knitting mentor. I now know how to customize and put in a zipper. How to make a sturdy one-row buttonhole. How to adjust a hem so it doesn't flip up. Why it's important to end your ribbing with knit stitch. Plus, we got presents. They were, I suppose, part of the materials fee, except the materials fee was only $5.00. The Knit Kards alone retail for $10.00.

We had such fun. It was like Stitches without the insanity. This was, no doubt, in part because it was the first year. Of course, next year everyone who missed the Fair will have figured it out and the place will be mobbed. Maybe I should delete this post?

Edited to add: Artisan Amy sent this link. It works. Thanks Amy!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Celebrate! Celebrate!

Guess what I did last night?

Guess what I did at about 4:00 this afternoon (except Clare needed to get online to do stuff about her student visa, so I couldn't tell you)?

Guess what this is?

Here's a hint:

Completed - 80
On the board - 0
Waiting to be blocked - 10
On the needles - 0

Damn. Marc always says there's a song for everything. I need some theme music here. Dancing in the Streets? The Hallelujah Chorus? I'm So Excited? It's the End of the World as We Know It?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Oh, To Be 12 Again

Having established that I'm so normal it's cause for alarm, I would like to state that I am rather attached to the condition. Once the school-year is officially over, Marco goes head-down immediately into a summer program. Clare goes to work. Which leaves John to stretch the sometimes tenuous hold I have on my patience, my sense of proportion (this, too -- like labor -- shall pass), and my sense of humor.

John requires a Summer Activity. Remember the Latin Comic? It's inspiration was the series of comic books John and his friends have written over the years. Hold that thought.

Here in my neighborhood, we have a wonderful resource known as the Hyde Park Art Center. It's stated mission is, and I quote "to stimulate and sustain the visual arts in Chicago. It is the oldest alternative exhibition space in the City and boasts a long record of education outreach in the community." More to the point, not only do they come out and play at the 4th on 53rd Parade and Picnic, they run the Art Club at Marco's School.

They recently opened the doors of a brand new facility, which just happens to be a few blocks from our home.

Guess what one of their summer youth courses is? Cartooning! Guess where John is spending his Saturday afternoons? We get to be members; he gets homework.

Now that we're members, I decided to explore the website a bit. The HPAC offers knitting classes. Knitting qualifies as art under "Textiles & Printmaking". Adults get to take Knitting, or if that's too much of a commitment, there's the mini-course. Should there be need, there's a Crochet mini-course, too. There were even one day workshops, Knitting and Crocheting with Wire (which maybe doesn't interest me so much; wire is entirely too intractable) and Knitting With Beads.

All of which is very exciting, but the kids' course is better. Kids get to "knit something brilliantly creative and unique to keep [them] stylish in Chicago." Not only that, they get to make their own knitting needles and dye their own yarn with Kool-aid. It says so, right here.

No fair.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Only Possible Response

Scene: My kitchen this evening.

Clare's side of the table.

My side of the table.

Question: So, what are we doing about dinner?

Answer: Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Followed by a trip to Leona's.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Taking Liberties

Well. That was a change.

I have the good fortune to know how to crochet as well as knit. Back when I was learning that "purling" meant you had to rip out your stitches, I had no difficulty learning how to wield a hook. When the miters decided to repeatedly bite the hand that knits them, I decided to re-connect with one of my other fiber skills.

The "that" that I chose is the "Boteh Scarf" from the Spring Issue of Interweave Press Crochet.

I didn't exactly follow directions. For one thing, while the designer and I speak crochet, we speak in different dialects. Mine, I assume, is less refined, more colloquial. She doesn't consider turning chains stitches. I do. In fact, she would ignore them once they'd been made. (Which made no sense to me, because the way the pattern works is based on how you use the turning chains. At the end of the even rows you make a hdc into them, at the end of the odd rows, you skip them. That's how the triangle gets formed. Skipping the turning chain means you're decreasing up one side.) She would write about 15 dtr's, I would keep getting 16. We finally compromised. I would count "15 dtr's plus a turning chain equals 16 stitches". And I never did figure out how she meant me to end a triangle. I finally just made something up.

We also had some basic differences in yarn choice. I looked at Boteh and saw a very frivolous scarf. It's all flowy and ruffly and hole-y. The reason for it's existence is decoration. The designer chose a very restrained yarn, 2 skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd's Sock in Chino. I suppose, artistically speaking, you could argue it made for interesting contrast. It probably was easier to work with than what I chose. The stitches are certainly easier to see. I found it, well, not inspired. Not to put too fine a point on it, I thought it a mismatch not made in heaven. Besides, I don't own any sock yarn, much less any Shepherd's Sock. I substituted Handmaiden Sea Silk.

While we're here, perhaps you would like specifics/details/applications?

Yarn: 1 skein of Handmaiden Sea Silk in Autumn (although anything less autumnal I think you'd be hard-pressed to find). As an added benefit, one skein means two less ends to weave in. I figure I'll be doing plenty of weaving in in the near future.

Hook: Size US G/UK 7/4.5MM. The pattern calls for an F/8/4 but mine had all gone on walkabout. I didn't feel like hunting. Or waiting.

This led to another change: 14 triangles instead of the 16 the pattern calls for because a bigger hook meant bigger triangles.

Time - A couple of days, on and off, as the spirit moved me.

A further heads up: there is a mistake in the written directions, although the chart is right. Make sure you go to Interweave Crochet Corrections before you start. Unless, of course, you think you'd like to crochet one less row per triangle and have them swoop in the opposite direction. You could call it a design element. In that case, be very careful to not follow the pattern diagram.

Interestingly, it seems that while I am a product knitter, I am a process crocheter. My gauge is all over the block. The second triangle, where I internalized the pattern, is so far beyond wonky it's crossed over into wopperjawed. Yet I feel no need to go back and fix it.

Different yarn, different hook size, different number of motifs. If I'm going to frivol, I'm going to frivol big time. I haven't a clue what I'll do with Boteh, but bending all those rules to get here sure was fun.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Have you ever heard the one about the Old Sourdough, the Tenderfoot, and the donkey? In the days of the Alaska Gold Rush, miners by the hundreds crossed the Coast Mountains using the Chilkoot Trail. When I say "by the hundreds", I mean, at the same time.

The story goes, the Tenderfoot couldn't get his mule to go. Looking at the picture, you can see where this might have been a problem. After much cussing and swearing, both on the the part of the Tenderfoot and the Klondikers behind him, the Old Sourdough came up to see what the problem was. As soon as the Tenderfoot explained, the Old Sourdough picked up a handy sledgehammer and hit the mule square between the eyes, at which the point the mule stamped its foot, shook its head, and started plodding up the trail. The Old Sourdough turned to the Tenderfoot and said: "First, ya gotta get their attention."

Despite the fact that I have only 13 squares to go, I can't deny that the mistakes are outstripping progress. Even though the end is so nearly in sight, in thinking over the general snottiness the mitered squares exhibited yesterday (okay, and the day before), it seems prudent to take a break. A change is as good as a rest and all that.

Shelley, Deb, and The Yarn Harlot have all been writing about crochet lately. I've decided to take it as a portent. You can't get much different from knitted mitered squares in wool than crocheted swoopy triangles in Seasilk.

Some people you have to hit over the head with a brick. Some you have to hit with a big brick. Some of us need a sledgehammer. Twice.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I did it again! Sigh. Just go re-read yesterday's post.

But that's it. No more mixing Monk with knitting.

Excuse me, I have to go fix things. I despise maintaining the status quo.

Completed - 67
On the board - 6
On the needles - 68, 69, 70.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hey Presto

I have some superstitions. They're a little idiosyncratic. None of the Friday the 13th stuff --Clare was born on Friday the 13th, on a full moon no less. No issues with black cats -- I had one and may again, someday. Nonetheless, I hold my particular old wives tales dear. I was especially disconcerted this morning, therefore, when two of my dearest, most reliable irrational beliefs failed me at the same time.

I am firmly convinced that once I've blogged about the multiple ways I screw up any given knitting project, I am supposed to be safe, if not from any more screw-ups, at least from any new ones. I am equally sure that if I mark the right side of the knitting with a stitch marker, I will be able to keep straight what I'm supposed to be doing on which side. While watching back-to-back episodes of Monk with John this morning may have had something to do with these bits of personal dogma bailing on me, I'm not sure I forgive them.

There are too many ends here. That would be because I decreased on both sides, right at the point where the pattern calls for breaking the yarn and sliding the work around the circulars, effectively knitting the right side twice. I was two rows short of where I was supposed to be. I, of course, did not discover this until after I had broken the yarn.

As a result I spent a chunk of my time un-knitting, re-knitting, spit-splicing and finally recovering lost ground.

All of which led me to wonder why I was bothering. Ignoring the fact that anyone who's still reading this is desperately wishing I had never learned to knit (or at least never read Kay's post), shouldn't any sane person whose convictions have been so rudely confuted take it as a sign to stop the project already? What is it that keeps me so engaged? Why do I want to keep telling you all about it in such excruciating detail?

Before I could knit my way in to another lapse, I went off to research (I can't help myself; I went to a Really Good College). I knew I had read something in the past year that explained it. I found it in the latest Yarn Harlot book (Yes, that one. By the way, did you know it's out on CD?), and it validates what I thought when I started this whole knitting adventure (she just says it so much better than I do). It's because knitting is magic and I find the mitered squares to be particularly so. They start as a straight line and (do you realise this people?) bend in on themselves. Every row is different. They're multi-colored and multi-textured and have that pattern of decreases down the middle. Blocking them turns them from comical to elegant.

Under the circumstances, I think superstition is the only valid way to deal with them. Well, that and incantation.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Complete Opposite of Presumptuous

It's too hot to blog. I have not, however, done a "there but for the grace of God go I" post in a while, and those are always pictures without the burden of wit. I'll try to be clever next time.

There was, of course, this one from a few days ago.

Which makes this one even more infuriating.

Still, they were fixable. [Edited to add: Oh dear. As if this wasn't embarassing enough. But Luni's comment means I have to be more explicit. This is not the result of breaking the yarn. This is the result of knitting with the wrong end. Twice.]

I was told, somewhere/sometime, that the original Shakers never made anything perfect. They considered perfection the province of the Deity, and that to attempt it was presumption. They would, therefore, always incorporate a mistake in their work. Admittedly, this is contrary to everything I can find out about Shakers, but it makes a good story and a nice segue into my most recent find.

See it? How about now?

Right. There.

One lonely little stockinette stitch in a field of garter.

Presumption is the least of my worries.

Friday, July 06, 2007

See. I'll Be Back. Someday.

My family, extended (How big is this going to be?) and immediate, are not reticent (Whoa, Aunt Julie!). Lately, they have joined those who seem to think I'm going a bit over the top on this whole miter thing (You've knit what?), who seem to fear that I may never find my way back (You do realize this covers the bed), in short, that I may have finally gone off the deep end (How many?).

As my friend Oscar the Grouch would say, "Eh, Wrong!"

You Are 4% Abnormal

You are at low risk for being a psychopath. It is unlikely that you have no soul.

You are at low risk for having a borderline personality. It is unlikely that you are a chaotic mess.

You are at low risk for having a narcissistic personality. It is unlikely that you are in love with your own reflection.

You are at low risk for having a social phobia. It is unlikely that you feel most comfortable in your mom's basement.

You are at low risk for obsessive compulsive disorder. It is unlikely that you are addicted to hand sanitizer.

And sometimes I think thee is a little mad.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Reviewing the Situation, Again

We have paraded. We have picnicked. We have observed Youth play Monkey-In-The-Middle with Hacky Sacks and terrorize one another with giant bubble wands. Three of us have knit in public. Truly, a lovely 4th on 53rd. Back to the real world.

In reviewing the layout and diagrams for THE PROJECT (yes, it is beginning to assume capital letters in my mind), I find depressingly few complete blocks. Admittedly, this is better than some of the other trials. One in particular I remember only had one. This --the so-called final, final version -- has six, enough to get started.

This leaves me with only one, last, decision.

Mattress seam, three needle bind-off, or crochet?

I am so glad I didn't assemble as I went along.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hardly Anything Progresses When Your Technology Gets Hissy

I don't mind that the world in general ignores me, as long as my world in particular is willing to give me the recognition I deserve. So I don't, as a general rule, mind when someone asks, "Oh, could you devise and print off stickers for the 4th on 53rd Parade and Picnic? We only need about 500." I'm as flattered as anybody when they come back and say "Oh, we like those. How about a name tag to identify the volunteers?" Or, "Gee, we really need vouchers for the Food Court, so the volunteers don't have to pay to get something to eat at the picnic, so could you do it? We want each voucher to be worth $1.00, and each volunteer to get $5.00 worth and we only have between 50 and 60 volunteers. Oh, and one of the other organizations wants to do the same thing, but we need to be able to tell the difference between theirs and ours, so could you . . . ?"

These are usually, truly, deeply tedious tasks, once the design is in place. Toss a stack of label sheets in the printer and hit print. Check periodically to make sure there's no paper jam, or the color cartridge hasn't run out. This year, for a change, I was looking forward to this part because, of course, this year, I can knit. I could just sit at my desk and churn out mitered squares while everything else went off like clock-work.

Let this be a lesson to all local do-ers. Technology never works the way you want it to when it matters. I know it's bad when I start anthropomorphizing my printer. This year it has decided it doesn't care for the taste of the label stock, thank you very much. It prefers to be hand-fed each sheet individually, if you please. It accuses me of force-feeding it when I try to give it say, 5 sheets at a time. And then it starts spitting up on me.

Instead of sitting by my printer and knitting, I have to sit at my printer and make sure it eats nicely. One sheet of 30 labels is just about enough to pick up my knitting and make a mistake before I have to feed the printer again. Then I have just enough time to half-way undo the mistake and feed the printer. Then I get to repeat it, lose my place, find my place, a-a-a-and -- it's time to feed the printer again.

If this keeps up, it can just forget the hot fudge sundae for dessert.

Monday, July 02, 2007

So Far From Random

It's not that I have control issues. Really. It all started so simply. Keep the duplicated squares away from each other. Assemble as you go. Other than that, let the chips fall where they may. Version 1 was free-spirited. Insouciant. Light-hearted.

Then, as I felt that "I need to be in charge here" feeling coming on, there was the pick-a-number scheme. It was an attempt to maintain randomness by removing control from my, well, control.

Then came the rules: No contiguous colors, no repeats within a square.

There were suggestions: Use diagonals, too few colors for the rules, consider them guidelines, let one color repeat per block.

The number of completed squares mounted. The ends devolved into increasingly complex tangles. My embarrassment at not having sewn together a single block increased in exponential increments.

Then came this weekend. This weekend I sent the crew off to the zoo while I took over the bed.

There was version 2 with post-it notes to account for missing squares.

There were labelled diagrams that were overlaid by full color diagrams.

I ended up with 81 squares to account for, marked by the mysterious self-replication of the Satine/Celery square. I think I may have mixed up which squares were missing. This necessitated new post-it notes. Also version 3. The crew got home from the zoo. There may have been some shrieking at my husband that he didn't need a nap.

Optimist that I am, at one point I had a final version -- I thought -- with a final diagram -- I thought. The knitting gods snickered. I roped Clare in.

There is now (I know you've been waiting with baited breath for this), a final, final diagram.

Just what this project needed. An iron-clad plan.

Random is for sissies.

Blocked - 52
On the board - 6
Completed - 58
On the needles - 59, 60, 61.