Friday, September 28, 2007

Oh, The Cleverness of Me

Note: This isn't going to make any sense, unless you've read the previous post.

Rube Goldberg. adj., of, relating to, or being a contrivance that brings about by complicated means what apparently could have been accomplished simply (according to American Heritage).

Not only that, it can help stave off senility. I can feel those brain-cells firing and those new neural connections forming.

For those of you who thought I had lost it entirely and would be spending an eternity rewinding 1 1/2 lbs of Jaeger Zephyr 4/8, behold the one, the only, I-really-should-apply-for-a-patent-for-this, de-coning/re-skeining machine. (The DVD player is an essential component. A pound and a half of yarn is a lot of yarn.)

Featuring something a straight needle can do that a circular can't.

Not only that, it works.

There now. That's better, much, much better.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Unreasonably Disappointed

I once heard someone say that owning a boat was like standing outside in the middle of a violent thunderstorm tearing up 100 dollar bills. You're cold, you're wet and you're throwing money away.

Back at the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Show, I came across, lusted after and succumbed to the lure of Jaeger Zephyr 4/8. A merino and silk blend in worsted weight. Absolutely beautiful. Sadly, the vendor didn't have sweater quantities left in the color I craved. I ordered it instead. I came home from Fiber and Folk empty-handed, but filled with anticipation.

It was soft. The color is cinnabar and it's my most favorite version of red. I'm in love.

The anticipation went on for rather longer than I had expected. Cinnabar was on back-order, and I would have to wait my turn while Jaeger presumably filled other outstanding orders from people who were, I have no doubt, as filled with yarn lust as I was.

There was great joy in Mudville when Barb from Weaver's Loft emailed to let me know the company had sent her a shipping notice for my yarn. Within a day or so, Barb in turn sent me a shipping notice that my yarn was on its way from Indiana.

I regularly logged in to USPS Track and Ship. I calculated days. Second-guessed how soon the Worst Post Office in the Country would deliver. Periodically checked out the window to see if that motor I heard might be a mail truck nearby.

The yarn arrived yesterday.

It's on cones. I hate cones. Knitting from cones is like knitting from a brick. The yarn catches. The cones don't give. They're too heavy to put in a yarn bag and too big to leave set up on the table. Most importantly, you can't fondle the yarn when it's trapped on a cone.

I came to a horrifying realization. One of those blinding moments of self-knowledge that I really would rather do without, thank you very much. I will never knit with this.

I'll be spending my non-knitting time working a different kind of fiber transformation.

Otherwise, I might as well stand in the middle of a flock of sheep, tearing up twenty dollar bills.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


'Nough said.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

To Infinity (and Beyond)

Are you as sick of these baby booties as I am? Of course you are. Time to broaden my horizons, wouldn't you say?

Had I mentioned I might have been debating trying my hand at a Baby Surprise Jacket? Well, maybe more than debating. Maybe I've been considering one very seriously. Contemplating one.

Or maybe two.

Maybe I had even started to do something about it (them?) while we were in Virginia.

Given my less than stellar performance with a simple pair of baby booties, what, you may be asking, has caused this upsurge of optimism? Why and wherefore this renewal of confidence? This willingness to dare the unknown? To boldly go where no man has gone before? Oh. Wait. That's something else.

The six page email from Clare couldn't possibly have anything to do with it. Could it? (Whew. She's alive. She's well. She's reasonably happy.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

They're Winning, or Third Bootie Syndrome

Living in the moment has never been my strong suit. I'm always looking down the road, three steps ahead of where I am now. This may sound far-sighted and wise, but the truth is, I usually end up tripping over the here and now and landing flat on my face.

This stupid bootie is a case in point. Okay, okay, okay. I am aware that the bootie fails the Sesame Street Test For Being Alive.

(Really,watch this. This isn't the bit I was thinking about when I Googled "sesame street something is alive", but it's Robin Williams.)

Anyway, like Mr. Williams, I am aware that footwear is inanimate, not sentient. Thus it is incapable of stupidity. I am not going to pursue the implications here. Still. In the space of 20 rounds I managed first to reverse direction on my knitting, ending up with 8 rounds of reverse stockinette. Rip. Then I reached the end of the foot, except I was kitty-corner from where I should have been. Rip. In fact, no matter to what point I ripped back and re-knit, I still ended up wrong. I'm sure it had nothing to do with trying to knit while watching Danny Kaye in The Court Jester ("the pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle, the flagon with the dragon has the brew that is true").

Finally, this afternoon, I admitted I had befuddled myself to the point of no return. I conceded.

The score is now booties: 1, me: 1 sort of - if I decide to keep the first one. Or more humiliatingly, booties: 2, me: 1/2 - if I allow myself a partial score for the learning experience.

Keeping in mind my recent experience with what happens when you try to reuse yarn you've knit up and ripped out, the 2nd bootie is now a small mass of wet yarn.

Although, considering the number of stitches I've knit, it may be I've gone passed third bootie syndrome and this is the beginning of 4th.

9/24/07. Edited to Add: I meant to hit publish and post this on Sunday, which is when I wrote it. On looking it over this morning, I really have nothing to add, except that by now, of course, the 3rd bootie is a small mass of dry yarn. It will shortly be rewound, and thus will disappear from my immediate surroundings, as if it never were. If only I could empty my brain of it so efficiently.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I Had Nothing To Do With It

I'm going to blame this one on Diane's comment on yesterday's post. It makes a handy scapegoat. It was, after all, that comment that caused the knitting gods to look down on me. In it, she offered there wasn't such a thing as second bootie syndrome. We'll ignore that qualifying "I don't think" part.

After all, it couldn't be due to my inexperience at picking up stitches which left me with the wrong side of the cast-on edge on the outside of the bootie.

The fact that I am less than enamored of the way the yarn is knitting up is completely irrelevant.

My conviction that, while I expected the booties to be fraternal, I still expected them to be twins, or even oldest and youngest of a family of 12, rather than completely different generations, has nothing to do with my waning enthusiasm.

And then I have this problem with the not-so-fine line between the variations expected and accepted of any hand-made item and downright, outright mistakes imperfections.

Part of me is inclined to soldier on, finish the 2nd one and see if I have enough yarn left to make a third bootie.

For some strange and unfathomable reason, ripping out and recovering the first seems unduly onerous. I realize this make no sense - a third bootie is a third bootie no matter how I get it. Calling a skunk cabbage a rose doesn't change the fact that it's skunk cabbage.

Part of me is thinking of calling the first one a swatch. I do, after all, have other yarn.

The lesson here? Be careful what comments you leave on this blog. Someone is listening. It's probably me, but you'll never get me to admit it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


The robe worked so well to get me through, I was tempted to start another one. I started researching wool-silk blends (Cascade's Venezia). I had even added it to my online shopping cart, then had second thoughts (I hate those). Did I want another robe? And if the answer was not really, what was it about the robe that I crave? Obviously, it's not the Pima Tencel.

I want something reasonably straight-forward, with enough plain knitting to allow for day-dreaming and enough fiddly bits to occupy the front of my mind when I don't want to pay attention to what I'm thinking. Like those stretches of stockinette and 1x1 ribbing combined with the short rows and non-assembly construction provided by the clever details of the robe.

I want something with rapid, visible progress - I could almost see the robe grow stitch by stitch.

I don't want to knit for myself right now.

Soft and beautiful as it is, the blue Red Scarf is out. The OFA has asked for machine washable scarves. Blue Sky Alpaca Melange is not. I could use this as an excuse to indulge in retail therapy - my stash is lacking in super-wash and wool/acrylic blends -- but not today. Besides, I've figured out the pattern, so it's become mindless knitting, which I don't want. I do need to get cracking, but, thank heavens, Norma is asking us to think quality instead of quantity this year.

I'm a little surprised by my choice. The parish Christmas Market has asked for hand-knits (among other things). Hence Clare's starfish colony.

I figure anything baby-oriented has got to sell, right? So, ta-da and all that.

Do you think they'll qualify as socks? I think it's as close as I'm ever going to get. Motivation only gets me so far.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Made It

It wasn't even a race at the end. I finished off the 2nd sleeve Sunday morning. We sent it through the washer and drier - twice. No one told me Pima Tencel sheds like cottonwood trees in June.

At that point it would have been wearable, but we still had to address the loop-and-button issue. When push came to shove, the pattern directions weren't quite as helpful as I remembered. "With 2 strands of yarn, make a 2 1/2" loop...taking care to attach the loop firmly to the robe" didn't quite give me the detail I was craving. I wanted the knitterly equivalent of that most basic of cooking instructions "stand facing the stove." In the end, I did something completely different anyway. I hauled out my trusty size G/4 mm crochet hook.

Instead of making a triple-strand loop (triple, because the Pima Tencel is thinner than the yarn used in the book), I made a chain much shorter than called for (1 1/4"). Instead of working buttonhole stitch, I single-crocheted along the chain.

I was pleased with the end product.

While we're on the subject, there are a number of things I would have changed had I been a braver knitter or had I been making this for the second time.

I would have knit it to the blocked length - about 6" shorter than the unblocked (which, incidentally, may explain why I ran out of yarn). I could have sworn that, unlike the swatches with the various fancy border yarns, the straight Pima Tencel swatch shrunk lengthwise but not widthwise. Clearly I was wrong, and swatches lie.

Given Clare's body type, I should have placed the waist shaping either directly below the armholes or left it out entirely. We compensated some by placing the button several inches higher than shown in the book.

I would have used a silk-wool blend, although presumably that would have disqualified me for the KAL.

Of course, the only way for me to figure this out was to knit it the first time. It's a tricky thing. You have to get through hard first, before you can get to easy, or less hard. Still, it is a beautiful thing and Clare looks beautiful in it. More importantly, she loves it. So hats off to Deb.

Nitty Gritty:
Pattern - Sweet Indulgence from Amy Singer's No Sheep For You, designed by Deb White of "Not Pretty to Watch."
Yarn - Cascade Pima Tencel in 7478/Wine Red, double stranded except for the border at the bottom of the robe and at the cuffs where I triple-stranded.
Needles - Addi Turbo's 10 3/4 (Pattern used 9's. Bad tight knitter, bad, bad).

The robe has been packed up and Clare is on her way to her great adventure.

I suppose I could add something here, about how the whole experience has been a metaphor for the process of lettting go. There. Consider it added.

And we were hardly even out of breath.

Friday, September 14, 2007

This Is No Time To Panic

Just because it took 2 skeins of double-stranded yarn to get just over 11 inches on the first sleeve.

Just because the instructions call for a 17 1/2 inch sleeve. Just because I only have 2 full skeins, 4 partial skeins, and a handful of bits and bobs left to work the remaining 6 inches - that's 27 rows - and the entire second sleeve. Just because this has got to be double-stranded. This is not the time to start running around in circles like a trapped squirrel.

Actually, after further deliberation, with all due and just consideration, I have come to the conclusion: this is the perfect time to panic.

Oh. And vote for Robie House. Okay?

12:28 PM Edited to Add: Okay. Everybody breathe. Vicki Sayre at Loopy Yarns (where I ordered the yarn in the first place) is my new hero. She still had 4 skeins of the same dye-lot left. Since Marc has been strong-armed agreed to pick the yarn up on his way home tonight, I guess he can share the accolades.

See? No need to panic. I knew that.

9:16 PM Edited to Add: Forget the importance of bringing home the bacon. He brought home the yarn.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

All Politics Is Local

You all did such a good job in the last election, I mean, contest, that I'm calling on you to do it, or rather something very like it, again.

We have this local paper that we subscribe to but I don't often read. This week was an exception. Twenty-five Chicago-area landmarks are up for some National Trust money. Two of them are in Hyde Park. While I don't much love the neighborhood paper, if your curious, the story is here: "Vote For Local Landmarks."

Then you need to go to the Partners In Preservation website, register, and vote for Robie House.

Don't let yourself get distracted by the Viking Ship, or the Chicago Cultural Center (The original Chicago Public Library Building. It has this mosaic Tiffany dome.), or Ragdale. Robie House. You want to vote for Robie House. This is another one of those early and often deals. You can vote once a day until October 10th.

Why? Well, it's here. Where I live. In Hyde Park. When I was a first year student, my window looked out on it. Even more important, when I was a 3rd and 4th year student, I had a job at the Office of Special Events (now defunct, I think). The Office planned things like the Nobel Prize Dinners when the University (not, please note, the actual faculty member) won another one. We also gave tours of Rockefeller Chapel, the campus, and Robie House.

Did you know the bricks used in Robie House are special? They're longer and thinner than ordinary brick.

Did you know Wright specified the pattern for the mortar between the bricks? It's white along the horizontal, but brick colored on the vertical. It's one of the reason the house seems so long.

Did you know that Frederick Robie made his fortune making bicycles? Or that the Robies lost their fortune when Frederick's father died and the family only lived in the house for a little over a year?

Did you know that Wright designed, not just the windows, but the furniture? The dining room table and chairs are on display at the Smart Museum of Art (also here in Hyde Park). The lamps are part of the table. So is a bell to summon the servants.

The way he got the roof to float?

It's cantilevered.

And if you're looking for a knitterly tie-in, surely someone could design a cable pattern based on the windows.

It can be like that shampoo commercial. I tell you, you tell 10 people and they tell 10 people and so on and so on...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I Am Nike

Not the swoosh. The swoop? Whatever. This one: the daughter of the Titan Pallas and the river Styx. Her My brothers Rivalry (Zelos), Strength (Kratos) and Force (Bia) may have visited. (Yup, I actually looked them up before I started this post. Geeks 'r' Us.)

When we left our heroine, she was having her knitting chops handily busted. No more. With a little help from the above members of the pantheon and I have achieved short rows on the purled side. The fact that having achieved this meant I was completely unable to process short rows on the knit side for the right front will be shrouded in silence. It was a temporary condition. We'll call it an aberration and forget about it.

Not only are the short rows done, so is the collar. All 10 inches of K1, P1 rib.

More impressive is that with 6 whole days until take-off, I am about 3 inches into the first sleeve. Has anyone noticed yet that I will have no assembly to do? Once I finish that second sleeve, it's weave in the "nasty, stinky ends" (I quote here for your edification from No Sheep) and I am "olley olley oleson home free."
I still have other concerns. The robe goes on for miles at this point. It stretches like taffy. Or Silly Putty. Or over-chewed gum. The whole washer and dryer experience had better tame it, or Clare will literally be tripping down the halls at East Anglia.

Under the circumstances, I suppose it's no surprise that my first (and possibly only) scarf for the Red Scarf Project is blue.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Impossible to forget.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Not Vanquished Yet

Although it's a near thing at this point, so this is just to reassure you that I haven't forgotten you. As long as I'm here, though, for the record: I have worked short rows before.

I worked them in the Doctor's Bag. (At least, I think I did.)

I worked them in the Perfect Sweater.

I worked them in the Fingerless Mitts.

So why they are absolutely kicking my butt in Sweet Indulgence has me both baffled and annoyed.

I may have lost a lot a few some battles here, but I will emerge the victor.

Get those laurel crowns ready.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Less Than Firm Grasp of the Obvious

All you knowledgeable knitters, go away.

I have a question for the rest of you: Do you know what "short rows" means? "Short rows" means you have a different number of stitches on one side of your knitting than you do on the other. "Short rows" means that if you are working on Sweet Indulgence and you have completed the shaping for the lapel, and you are counting to make sure the left front armhole has the same number of rows as the left back armhole, you count the rows at the side where you will be joining the sleeve. This happens to be the side on which you worked the short rows. It will have more rows than the lapel side.

This is why, depending on from how many places you choose to count your rows, you will end up with a different number, possibly every time. It also explains why, if you count back from the armhole side, you will get the number you expect. It explains why the math works when counting stitches doesn't. Most especially it means don't count your rows anywhere along the lapel ribbing. Figure this out before you rip out your work.

Leave out, for the moment, how many times you knit and ripped out while you tried to figure out how to purl the wrap together with the stitch. Let's not talk about how you ran out of yarn 7 stitches from the place where the ribbing takes over from stockinette (had I mentioned that the pattern calls for joining yarn at the ribbing stockinette/junction?). We'll just forget that ribbing apparently eats yarn like hamburger buns pop sesame seeds, so that the piece of yarn you joined the first time was so pathetically inadequate that it didn't even make it to the end of the row. Those were the speed bumps you expect to encounter when you're figuring something out.

Although why the editors thought a diagram of the yarn in front of the slipped stitch and then in back of the slipped stitch was necessary, but a diagram showing how you knit through the back of the wrap while purling the stitch itself on the subsequent row was not, is less clear. I can figure out how to move my yarn from front to back, thank you very much, but do I put the right needle through the back leg of the wrap from the back? Through the front leg of the wrap from the back? Through the back of the wrap, but from the front?

To complete today's learning experience, let me reiterate. The most important thing about short rows is, don't rip out your work before you figure out where you should be counting. That way madness lies.

A late epiphany may be better than no epiphany, but at the moment I can't think of anything more annoying. I'm going to go, sit quietly, have a cup of coffee and court sensory deprivation.

Then, I am so going to knit something blue.

Edited to add: To "Anonymous" who left a comment on "I Changed the Rules." The pattern is the Scribble Scarf by Debbie New as written up in Mason-Dixon Knitting. The yarn is Handmaiden Sea Silk in Ebony and Louisa Harding Kimono Ribbon in #8. Sorry you didn't win. Maybe if you had commented?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Despite all my attempts to deny it, summer is over. We spent most of the weekend pretending summer was endless, but the piper came today expecting payment. School started.

The end of summer means its time to break out wool. I found this looking for Meg's Sea Silk. It's Blue-faced Leicester Aran weight in Deep Autumn by Fleece Artist. I should be able to start something with 1500 yards, shouldn't I?

The end of summer also heralds Clare's imminent departure. We're counting days now. Sweet Indulgence is, in a word, big. Good thing, too.

There is more to it than that, but you'll have to wait. I'm only doing beginnings today.