Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Back to the Grindstone

Reminds me of the old saw, grit your teeth, put your nose to the grindstone, your shoulder to the wheel and then try working in that position. Still, it is time for a return to reality. That's it. The party's over. No more fun stuff. Get out your acrylic. The Special Olympic scarves are due January 15.

I was in a bit of a sweat because I couldn't remember where I'd hidden stuffed put my scarf when I embarked on the Great Red Shawl Odyssey. Then, once I'd found it, it was a lot shorter than I expected. Hard on the heels of this dismaying realization came another couple. I couldn't remember the pattern and I thought I'd buried the book (Scarf Style by Pam Allen) behind the Christmas tree. I hadn't. (Well, it was buried behind the tree, just not very deeply ).

I'm all over this scarf now, though, like Ivory on soap. See that bit of white yarn? The one near the top of the white stripes? Okay, maybe not. Scroll down to the next picture. Below that is all I'd accomplished up to the point when I ditched it, sure that despite my exhortations I would be the one to fall down on this project.

The rest is what I've done since I picked it up again on Monday.

But wait. There's more good news. According to the Special Olympics website, the scarves only need to be about 50 inches long. I thought I was barely half. It turns out I'm more like 75% done.

Ha! Even acrylic can't defeat a truly disciplined knitter, the one with her shoulder to the wheel and her nose to the grindstone. I bet if f I grit my teeth I can even finish this by Saturday.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Lesson In Manners

I was raised that gloating is not good manners. That "politeness is to do and say the kindest thing in the kindest way" and that rubbing one's good fortune in other people's faces has nothing to do with kindness.
Consider yourself warned.
I, after all, number knitters in my family. Admittedly, my big knitting gift arrived early, due to my sister's inability to hold onto a good thing. This is not a complaint. (Note to self. Remember to ask for shawl pattern). She is further not able to allow anyone to go without a gift on the day itself, so I got more. A lavender sachet - the result of her latest class.
(Second note to self. I'm thinking that if I made this in linen, possibly without the beads, it would make a nifty soap sack for the parish fund-raiser. Remember to ask for pattern. Remember to get better about remembering to ask for patterns in general.)
There's more. A knitter 's stitch-marker that serves as a row counter. I am a sucker for anything that calls itself fabulous. Once assembled this clever little thing will sit on my needles, marking the right side of my work, and count off up to 99 rows.
It's rather like an abacus for knitters. You slide the beads from one row until they're all down the bottom of one bit of yarn, then slip them back to the top and slide one down from the next string and start again. This seemingly little bit of a kit will make three row counters. Arguably, I could combine them all on one large project and keep track of up to 999,999 rows (like a sweater or an afghan; a really, really big sweater or afghan).
I even got ornaments, nattily decked out in head to toe knitwear.
Add in a little knitterly post-it holder, which accompanied my now-annual gift certificate from Knitche (because my mother can't just hand over an envelope fro Christmas, she needs to have something wrapped to give), and you can see why I'm like a dragon with a hoard. Or like Gollum with the ring (My preciousssssss).
Well, I didn't say it was a lesson in good manners.

Friday, December 26, 2008

What Happened

I didn't get my Christmas cards out. I may get that done today and be one of the first Americans to send Merry Boxing Day cards.

With the help of Clare and John I turned the dining room into an explosion at the wrapping paper factory.

I didn't bake anything. Clare did it all.

I attended my last grade-school Christmas Concert.

I didn't finish the fingerless mitts (I'm justifying this by arguing that the giftee didn't know they were coming anyway and besides I always have next year).

I had all my gift shopping done by Saturday morning.

I didn't finish the Mason-Dixon II Golightly rubber gloves. These were a surprise for the niece who recently let on that she occasionally reads this blog (as in, left the comment that has me rethinking my stance on argyle), so I maintained blog silence. I figured she'd be perfect for them since she'd moved into an apartment this past fall and has a sense of humor. I was so sure I'd at least finish these that I made no other provision for her and so had to give my first knitter-ly promise ever.

Please note that I managed to find pink rubber gloves with a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" sort of model on the box in the black dress and heels that all us Audrey Hepburn wannabe's wear while washing our dishes.

I went to the CSO's Welcome Yule concert with my family and then walked down Michigan Avenue in the "wintry mix" with them and watched the ice-skaters skate to Pachelbel's "Canon in G." I love Pachelbel's "Canon in G."

I didn't blog. Well. I suppose you knew that.

I finished the red shawl.

I didn't take any pictures of it.

I did and do hope that whatever winter holiday you celebrate, it's the stuff of treasure.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On The Horns of a Dilemma

Which always sounds to me like I should only have to choose between two things. Like a cow has horns, or an antelope. In my case, my dilemma is more like a Jacob Sheep. It has a more horns than it knows what to do with. Not unlike the redistribution of wealth on Monty Python (Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore riding through the land . . . he steals from the poor and gives to the rich. . .") this shopping for knitters is trickier than one might think. Yarn and needles seem the obvious choices.


What kind of needles? Not everyone shares my obsession with Addi Turbos you know. Some people prefer Denise Interchangeables. Or Knitpicks Options. Or those fancy-dancy ones with the custom tip that they advertise in Interweave Knits. Some people even like wood. If they like wood, do they like straights or circulars? And what kind of wood? Do you realize how many varieties there are? Bamboo, of course, but this is supposed to be a gift. Ebony? Mahogany? Surina wood?

Don't even get me started on yarn . I always assume wool and sweater quantities (and yes, I know where "assume" gets me). Clare loves merino and socks, but I'm not looking for Clare. So. Maybe I should be thinking fancier? Like silk or cashmere? Or funky? Am I supposed to buy (gulp) eyelash yarn - which has a double dose of unpleasant courtesy of acrylic and those cilium-like extrusions? Or fur? I'm such a stick in the mud. I don't know if I can do funky, even allowing for the fact that a gift is not supposed to be all about me.

Maybe a nice tape measure. No. Wait. Tape measures stretch. A ruler. That's it.

Oh sure, that'll get me a place in Knitter Heaven.

I (obviously) have no pictures, since, stymied, nay frozen, amidst this plethora of choices as I am, I (obviously) haven't been able to actually buy anything. You'll have to settle for a progress shot of the Red Shawl.

36 inches and counting (days until Christmas, not inches anymore).

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Eternal Question

It's Friday. Time to be foolish. I find this one peculiarly appropriate to a knitting blog.

You Are an Argyle Sweater

You are contemplative, brainy, and serious.

You don't take much lightly - life is too important for that.

You are a very determined person. You don't let anything stand in your way.

You think out your actions and act deliberately. You don't waste time, money, or resources.

So, is the message here that just because I'm a fruitcake, doesn't mean you shouldn't take me seriously? (Just for the record, I hate argyle.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In Which Wiser Heads Prevail

Okayokayokay. I won't attempt to re-engineer a neckwarmer. The vote of confidence is overborne by supremely non-committal and "Tonto, don't go to town" (although what makes you think I'm ever anything other than red-eyed and bald at Christmas?) by a factor of 2 to 1. That's a pretty hefty majority ("There are lies, damn lies, and statistics").

Besides, I already have issues. I had the clever thought to look up the pattern page on Ravelry. Pattern pages on Ravelry give you all the good stuff so you can plan your project while you wait for your LYS to get the book in for you or for Amazon to deliver it (or for your daughter to bring it home from college). Recommended needles are US 6/4 mm, US 5/3.75 mm and US 3/2mm. Recommended gauge is 24 sts per 4 inches on "largest size needles." Recommended stitch gauge on the yarn? Well, it depends on the yarn. Louisa Harding Impression? 22 over 4 inches using US 6. Louisa Harding Glisten? 20 over 4 inches with US 8/5 mm. The kicker? Louisa Harding Grace (that which is the recommended yarn if you are making the single color variation) 22 over 4 inches using US 6 - the aforementioned "largest size size needles" with which I am expected to get 24 stitches over 4 inches.

I swatched.

I get 22 stitches over 4 inches with US 6's with the Debbie Bliss, which is the recommended gauge on the label and on the recommended yarn for the project, just not gauge for the project itself. To get 24 spi, I have to go down to a US 4/3.5 mm. Which would mean I'll need a US 3 and a US 1 to finish the job.

This just strains credulity. I am a tight knitter. I can get 4 spi with bulky yarn on size 10 needles without batting an eye. Yet I'm expected to go down not one, but two needle sizes to get pattern gauge?

I think it's time to split the baby. I'm going to cast on with a "middle size needle" using the US 4/3.5 mm. That will make my "larges size needle" the US 5/3.75 mm (23 spi and the middle section of the swatch, in case you were wondering) and my smallest needle a US 2/2.75 mm. The deciding factor on needle size? I already have a pair of each.

Nope. I have enough to deal with here as it is. Not reinventing the wheel. Not making a neckwarmer. Not even the Luxe Neckwarmer from Knit 2 Together (I own the book). Not the Flirty Merino Silk Neckwarmer from Luxury Yarn One Skein Wonders (I own the book). Or Mermaid (also from Luxury One-Skein Wonders. Except I could just make it a keyhole instead of a button and then repeat the lace pattern from the mitts along the edges and I already own the book . . . ).

At least, not until after I finish the mitts.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reality Check

I've gotten into this mindset lately. I can't, or more properly, may not (as in, am not allowed to) blog unless I have knitting, and I think I don't have any knitting. This is manifestly untrue. I have a raft of knitting. A queue. Oodles and bunches. I'm even actually knitting some of it, and what I'm not yet knitting I'm planning, scheming and buying for. So, how about I tell you about A Plan?

I'm not, officially, doing a lot of Christmas knitting (and how is this different from last year? never mind). The red shawl is only a Christmas gift in my head - doesn't count. The Not-Quite-Blessingway Blanket, which, since I missed the whole Baby finally comes home from the hospital moment now needs an event of some sort to keep it from being rather an over-the-top kind of gift, is also lurking. One brother, one nephew and one niece have all requested sweaters, but not with any particular occasion or deadline. Marco, being immediate family, is at the bottom of the knitting queue. The Aran slippers may get moved up because they're for me and my feet are cold. None of these, however, are actual, honest-to-God, Christmas Presents.

I do, however, have one plan. One expanding plan.

It started out simple enough. Knit a small, feminine sort of gift for one of my husband's sisters. She's the frilly type, likely to be pleased with some confection or other, especially if knit with oh, say, a cashmere blend. While Clare was home over Thanksgiving and knitting happily away on a pair of Louisa Harding's Victoria Fingerless Mitts from my copy of Knitting Little Luxuries, we were both struck with the same brilliant idea. They would be perfect for My Plan. Not only that, I already knew how to knit them and have, I hope, already performed the requisite number of mistakes. I should be able to make them without succumbing to the desire to strangle myself with my circulars.

Okay, so they are a little more elaborate (3 different needle sizes) than some of the fingerless mitts out there. That's okay. I can cope. I've opted for Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK in, well, the label says 18005; too dark for pink, not quite rose (although not as dark as the photographs are making it out to be).

I'm expecting the combination of merino, microfiber and cashmere (especially the cashmere) to make the knitting sing. I should be able to knock these off in a few days. Therein lies the rub. Also the culprit in my expanding plan. Maybe they're not enough.

I've fallen victim to the three most dangerous words in my lexicon, "If I just..." Wouldn't a nice neck-warmer be the perfect complement? Something soft, warm, easy to get on (not over the head, no row of buttons)? Maybe a keyhole scarf. Maybe one with an edging that matched the mitts. Maybe, in the interests of saving my sanity, something that would complement the edging on the mitts. After all, we know what happened the last time I tried to change a pattern. (All right, the "last time" is the red shawl which is working out to be a howling success, but we can go back to the time before that and the whole triangular knitting thing).

Besides, the copy of the pattern Clare left me when she absconded with my book has some problems. It's missing a couple of lines of the pattern (well, yes, I could probably figure them out). And the pattern is for the striped gloves, not the plain ones (I suppose I could get around that by ignoring the parts where the yarn changes) . Oh! Oh! And she left off the part with the gauge and recommended needles (ha! pretty inescapable, that one). If I supplement the mitts with a necklet, I could start knitting now. After all, it's a Christmas Present.

Maybe Teva Durhams' Lace Leaf Scarf. Except shorter. With a keyhole.

Oh, please. Somebody stop me already.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Caveat Knitter

Are you old enough to remember "Lost in Space?" Do you remember the robot? The one that used to flop its arms about like a demented, maimed and therefore bimanual octopus while sounding the robotic equivalent of a klaxon, "Danger, Will Robinson!" or "Warning! Warning?" I need one of those.

The pattern is worked in an even number of stitches, with an even number of decreases in each round. This means that I should never, ever have an odd number of stitches on any needle. If you take a close look at that top needle, you'll see 17 stitches. I've done this twice now.

To make matters even more humiliating, this is as far as I got on the second hexagon after two-and-a-half hours of movie knitting because I managed, again twice, to knit in the wrong direction, thus ending up with the wrong side of the knitting where the right side should be.

Don't let the rhythm of the pattern deceive you. This is not the project to knit while watching the Disney "Prince Caspian" for the first time.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside.

It's December. This is the view from my window.

I think that's a clarion call for Friday Foolishness. While I debate indulging myself with knitting the slippers from Interweave's Holiday Gifts or the Eternal Island Embrace Afghan (the latter having the added advantage of providing insulation),

herewith I offer:

So you think you know carols?

Since my answer to that questions is, "Why yes, yes I do thank you," I took up the challenge. And what do I get ? Insult added to injury. Let me quote:

"You got 96% correct. You know your seasonal songs! Treat yourself to an extra slice of fruitcake."

Again with the fruitcake.

(ETA: Here'a a hint, "Turelurelu" isn't just an Irish Lullaby.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Blogging In The Dark

It has occurred to me that I didn't actually tell you much about this new knitting venture of mine. I may have left you scratching your head, wondering. What yarn? What pattern? What is this thing anyway? Inquiring knitters may, perhaps, want to know some of these details.

The yarn. Jojoland Melody Superwash in colorway MS14. Not, apparently, the most popular choice for this work, since the stock of other colors, as I recall, was significantly diminished. Not being a big fan of shades of aqua or the red/purple/greenish gold/teal that is actually featured on the pattern, I was not distressed.

The pattern. The Swirl Shawl from Jojoland. Free, actually, not bought, from (I think it was) Yarn Barn of Kansas with the purchase of sufficient yarn to complete the project. Designed by Lijuan Jing. You knit 82 of these 4 inch hexagons, in the round, on three needles, picking up stitches to join them in rows as you go.

I expect the later stages of knitting this shawl to present interesting logistical challenges.

Truth be told, the early returns were not promising. It looked like a bit of nothing on earth. Later phases were not much better. Get it off the needles, though, and the little thingie is kind of cute.

Except it actually measures 4 inches across, which it is supposed to do.

Except. Except that's before blocking. This has holes in it. (Note that I'm not calling this lace. I don't do lace.) It's going to stretch out when I block it. Admittedly, the pattern doesn't explicitly say gauge is "4 inches across the widest part after blocking," but it's sort of implicit, isn't it? I'm confronting the almost unheard of possibility that I may actually get gauge with the recommended needle size. Time, I think, to liberate a set of those size six DPN's.

There you go, details and a little knitting progress. Think of this as a supplement to yesterday's post. In the future, perhaps I would be wise to confine my blogging to the hours between sunrise and sunset.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Knit Another Day

Well. That was a bit of a scramble. I was so sure I would get a couple more posts out of the Noro scarf. I was expecting to rhapsodize over the color combinations, expressing delight at the unexpected harmonies arising out of the apparent discord of the 2 colorways. Eight inches of knitting later and the whole plan was tumbling about my ears like a two-year-old's block tower.

This is why one needs a stash, for when your brilliant knitting plan fails and winter comes too early and you've done your every-muscle-tensed, wait-is-that-another-car-in-a-ditch driving for the decade. In my stash is the yarn I from this year's Stitches Midwest. I was smart and bought a pattern for that specific yarn at the same time. Furthermore, it has occurred to me that I never actually knit any of the yarn I buy at Stitches.

This may be just what I need. An odd but engaging little pattern. Yarn that changes color while I knit. Modular, but self-assembling; no sewing required. Even a bit of drama when I realised that all of my larger double-pointed needles had disappeared. An email to that infamous knitting daughter of mine confirmed that the US 6's/4 mm needles had made a break for freedom and fled to Urbana under cover of her current knitting projects, but that doesn't explain what happened to the 7/4.5 mm's, 8/5 mm's and 11/8 mm's.

Hope blossomed today when, in a daring (if unknowing) rescue, a friend suggested a field trip (I wasn't adverse to getting in a car, just to driving with another winter storm watch looming on the horizon). The tension built with the sad and sorry discovery that the LYS was sold out of 6's in the brand I like. A few minutes actual thought, however, and I remembered that I Knit Tightly. They had 7's.

Further, I can even provide the requisite comic relief. I pulled the yarn for its photo shoot this evening and, lo and behold, there at the bottom of the bag?

Two sets of size 6's (not in the brand I like, but this is real life, not a James Bond movie), which I , of course, discovered

after I had started knitting.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Problem With Bandwagons

First there's the whole falling on part. The "50,000 French men (or, if you're a knitter, however many thousands of Ravel-ers) can't be wrong" mindset by which one lets oneself be seduced. That siren call, "But Mom, everybody's doing it/getting one" that leads one over the cliff while the rest of the lemmings stand there, pointing fingers and mocking one. One feels a curious affinity for the mosquito in Bug's Life who flies into the bug zapper because he "can't help himself, it's so beautiful."

Which bandwagon have I in mind? The Noro striped scarf.

I could blame that need I feel to write about a variety of knitting projects in a feeble attempt to keep you all from falling asleep before you reach the end of a post. I could fasten on Brooklyn Tweed, Now Norma Knits and the Yarn Harlot as enablers of the most dastardly sort, the good knitters. I could make all those Ravel-ers who have managed to churn out Noro scarves that are truly works of art into guilty parties to my fall. I could point a finger at Kay for bringing striped scarves in general into the forefront of my consciousness.

In fairness, Brooklyn Tweed's instructions are clear and clever. I especially like the way he figured out that if you slip the first and last stitch of every other row you'll get the same effect as if you'd slipped the first stitch of every row, except the slipped stitches will match the stripes. Well, I did once I figured out that I was supposed to move my yarn into position for that last purl stitch before I slipped it.

Norma's advice to wind the yarns into balls instead of arguing with them and the way they fight both coming off the skein and each other was brilliant. I wish I had read it before I started knitting.

The sad truth, however, is that Noro and I just don't get along. Never have. Never will. I don't like the feel of the yarn. I don't like the long stretches where it looks like it was spun out of rags. I don't like the knot I've found in every skein I've ever knit with. I despise how it clings to itself, twisting and tangling into the nastiest snarls it has ever been my misfortune to swear at.

With such an attitude, is it any surprise that I have achieved the dubious distinction of being the only knitter on the entire Internet who has found a truly ugly combination of colors for her Noro Silk Garden striped scarf? Christmas, meet pressed lint.

In fact, I have achieved something further. I have done it twice.

And there you have the other problem with bandwagons, the falling off part.

I wonder if there's much call for Noro Silk Garden striped nose-wipes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Little Change

Having reassured you all yesterday that I do still knit, I'm changing directions on you again. I've gotten a request for Marbleous Ornaments. All right, the woman thought my daughter made them (this despite the fact that she was in England at the time, but there it is) and wanted to know if she would make some this year. These are fun, not particularly difficult, a little time consuming but always different. I agreed.

I usually make a 10 or 12 of these. Taking the answer for granted but wanting to give at least the semblance of courtesy and cooperation, I asked, "How many?"

Three dozen.

Well, it will give me something to do while I try to figure out a few small knitting projects to keep you all entertained while I work in the background on the big stuff.

After all, I'm sure you want to hear from me sooner and more frequently than you would if I held off until I had actually finished the shawl and sweater. Right?

I said, "Right?"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

There Was Even Some Knitting

I can hear you in my mind's ear. "Well, so. You've been busy. That's all well and good. But this is a knitting blog. We come here for the knitting. Surely you have something to show us?"

Yes and no. That elusive object, that will-o'-the-wisp, that ignis fatuus, a finished piece of knitting still escapes me. Yes, it's kind of getting on my nerves, too. That's the "no."

There has, however, been progress on two fronts.

Behold, a bit less than 3 skeins worth of red cabled shawl. Only 12 more to go. Which sounds dire, except there's only about 87 yards per skein.

I've settled down with the Classic Elite Ariosa in Lipstick Red. (I'm having the dickens of a time getting the color and the stitch detail in the same photograph. Check WEBS to get a better idea of the color). The yarn splits if I cross my eyes, but it is soft. I'm running the pattern along the length of the shawl, so the cables will be on the top and bottom. The large cables are the mirror imaged angular figure-eight knots from Elsebeth Lavold's Viking Patterns For Knitting. I've centered them between two two-stitch cables twisted to the right on every right side row.

Behold some more. Almost two skeins of Marco Blue sweater. That's the gull stitch pattern from Barbara Walker's First Treasury of Knitting Patterns (the blue book).

Those are the "yes."

Perhaps it's time to add some smaller projects to the mix.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Once Is Enough

Where to begin?

Well, there are the bookcases that went to Texas (twice, I think).

There was the Science Fair Experiment (7 jars of plants, six pollutants, 3 soil tests to be run for each jar every other day, each test requiring mixing and a 5 minute reaction time, 7 soil extractions run on days when we weren't actually testing the soil).

There were parent teacher conferences. Twice.

There were days off. A lot.

Then the bookcases (there are three of them) made it here from Texas. So there was bookcase assembly followed by the reading of the note in the manufacturer's instructions informing me that natural cherry bookcases will darken over time and not to put anything on or in them for two weeks unless I wanted to permanently mark the wood. The two weeks will be up next Wednesday.

There was the plumber. Twice. I have not quite gotten hot water to run full blast in my kitchen, but it's better than the mingy little trickle I've been coping with.

Oh yes, I made three trips to the hardware store in order to complete the reclaiming of the dining room. Necessitated by the generally inconvenient location of electrical outlets in my charming but antiquated condominium, the three prong plug on one of the audio components, the lack of compatible extension cords and outlets and my refusal to run cords across the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room.

Somewhere in all that we went to the Symphony (Lang Lang and friends) and a high school open house (when did my youngest get to be in eighth grade?).

The best, though, is the one thing that only happened once. We had a Confirmation (part of having one's youngest reach eighth grade). Admittedly the one event involves a deal of concomitant running around (it may have had something to do with the Great Dining Room Reconfiguration).

A Confirmation requires one sister (his) home from college for one celebration. Don't they clean up nice?

Which in turn required (and be prepared to reclaim your eyeballs after they pop out at this picture)

One fabulous cake. I want one for my birthday.

There you have it. Or most of it. At least, what of it I can remember. I should almost have time to catch my breath before Thanksgiving.

Tune In Later

I had intended to spend some time today bringing you up to speed. Any and all of my attempts have left me staring blankly at what I wrote, wondering why it's not coherent. Sleep deprivation will do that to me, and we have just come off two very late nights finishing up John's science fair project. In fairness, let me note that my contribution was pretty much limited to hole punching. Oh, and I got to format the text for his safety sheet. I just couldn't bring myself to abandon a 14 year old to the wee hours.

Since unlike Inigo in Princess Bride, I find it's too much to even sum up right now, let me just note that I am still among the living by providing a little yarn pr0n. It seems I've lost track of my 7 Deadly S(p)ins, so I was surprised to get a shipment today.

It doesn't specify, but I think the sin is Avarice.

Tune in next week to see if I have managed to reacquaint my brain with the written word.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

We Interrupt this Knitting Blog

"The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected. . . ." (Article II, Section I, Paragraph I of the Constitution of the United States).

Vote today.

Monday, November 03, 2008

It's Called Experimenting

I've been being sensible in spite of myself. After three failed tries at finding pattern and yarn compatible with my vision for a red shawl, I've admitted that all I've been doing is swatching.

The original yarn had a lovely weight and feel, and made the cables the size I wanted, but the alpaca content meant they (the cables) were rather flat. Further, this is the yarn that, when knit up, looked like something had spilled on it.

Paging through the holiday Knit Simple (the same one where I found out about the Special Olympics scarves), I stumbled across a bit about this yarn. There's a pattern for a cashmere sweater and the editors sensibly decided to include some suggestions for alternates.

This is a merino and cashmere blend, with so little cashmere it doesn't actually cost the earth, just a good size landmass.

This is how it looks knitted up on US size 9/ 5.5 mm needles.

The cables look nice, but the reverse stockinette feels really . . . firm. I'm also not sure I like how the pattern is playing out.

It was when I decided to frog this that I ran into trouble. This yarn is not plied. It is, in fact, barely twisted. I'm knitting with roving here, and roving (at least, this roving), doesn't take well to frogging, because roving (at least, this roving), splits when I'm not looking and tangles around itself. I end up with little bits fraying, pulling off and attaching themselves to other, random sections of the yarn. It behooves me to tread a little more cautiously here. Rather than rip this any further (I may still decide to use this combination of yarn, needles and pattern), I'm swatching for real.

Knit on US 10.75/6.5 mm (below the pin) and US 10/6 mm (above). I think I'm happy with the fabric on the size 10's, but I want to play a little more with the pattern before I commit.

And all the while, for some reason, "The Fair Maid of Amsterdam" is stuck in my head. "Oh I'll go no more a-roving with you fair maid, A-roving, a-roving, I'll go no more a-roving, Since roving's been my ruin."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I'd Rather Be Knitting

We are rather Luddite-ish in our electronic audio choices. The iPods tend to get used for cleaning sessions and car entertainment and hence are filled with songs you can sing, or at least hum, along to. We still have a huge collection of vinyl (although we are turntable-less and have been for longer than I'm going to admit here). We were late to the CD parade. This last is what I've been struggling with the past couple of days.

You see, the CDs sort of snuck in. They slipped through the door in ones and twos. Sidled into the occasional Amazon box. Smuggled themselves into Borders bags in dribs and drabs.

As they entered so slowly, storage options were not much of an issue; a stack here, a pile there, part of a bookshelf dedicated another where. This trickle, however, continued. The stacks and piles grew deeper and the parts of shelves more numerous. We indulged now and then in CD storage, but never often enough to bring any sort of unity or coherence. In a word, nothing matched, nor was it ever adequate.

Eventually,we succumbed to the lure of a good, basic music system. Not an audiophile's dream. Not a needs-its-own-room, mega-woofer, spend the children's entire inheritance, home-theater. We're technophobes living in a condo, after all. Something better, however, than the one-box, tiny-speakered, shelf systems we had been going on with.

Now the trickle grew to a fairly steady stream, fueled in part by the closing of Tower Records here in Chicago. We acknowledged that we had to formalize the storage for our now-burgeoning (for us) collection. In what I can only, in retrospect, call massive denial, we bought a couple of low shelves that could double as speaker stands. They weren't enough, so we reverted to our rather lackadaisical ways. CDs landed in baskets, piled on the dining room credenza.

Last week, in growing exasperation and in an attempt at dealing with reality, I decided I had had it and ordered up a shelf that would hold what we had accumulated and still leave room for expansion. I have no spatial sense, so it was bigger than I expected, and the wall that I thought was five feet wide is four. I have reconfigured my dining room three different ways just since yesterday. I still haven't reclaimed it. On the plus side, there is not a single dust hippo, and the baseboards haven't been this clean since we refinished the floors.

If you remember the pantry incident, you already know the rest of this story. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."*

*George Santayana, 1863 - 1952.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tickled Pink

I am recovering from plague - one of those where your brain hurts so badly everything seems to ache. Wearing my watch hurt. Annoying, although it does explain why last week felt so grueling. I intend to huddle up with my knitting and Harrison Ford until the boys get home from school. Before I do that, though, I thought I'd check in, since I have something nice to tell.

I was a good person (Stop snickering, I am sometimes, you know). I was one of those who sponsored Amy Artisan when she walked here in Chicago for the cure for breast cancer. She offered a prize, but I had used my favorite pseudonym, Anonymous. (As Virginia Woolf observed, "For most of history, Anonymous was a woman." I figure I'm continuing a fine tradition.) I didn't think I had a chance. Imagine my glee when Amy announced I'd won. The yarn arrived yesterday.

This is Hill Country Yarns Sweet Feet Sock Yarn in their, appropriately, Breast Cancer Awareness colorway. I have 400 yards of 100% merino wool to play with. There was a time when a skein of sock yarn would have left me feeling pleased but bemused, since I don't knit socks. That was back when I thought you had to knit everything according to Hoyle: baby things out of baby yarn, cables out of Aran yarn, socks out of sock yarn. I know better now. I can make scarves out of sock yarn and fingerless mitts and afghan squares. Something from Knitting Little Luxuries seems particularly suited for this.

Good deeds may be their own reward, but sometimes, if you're lucky, you get yarn, too.

Friday, October 24, 2008

News. Really.

First off, in the interest of full disclosure and all that, I probably should report that short rows alone will not solve your triangular problems. So much for the scientific method and isolating your variables. Someone should let people know that "scientific method" is just a fancy way of saying "do it again."

The latest "do it again" added back 6 extra increases, one done every other row at the start of the reverse stockinette. This got them all out of the way before I had to start the cable pattern. It also placed them immediately next to that single knit stitch detail - a good place to hide a M1P, since this organic cotton yarn seems to show everything.

Yesterday, as this emerged, it was all I could do not to run over here and beg you all to hold my hand, first pleading, " Does this look like it's working to you?"

then exclaiming, "Is it working? It is, isn't it? Look, it's working!"

After all the alarums and excursions I've been through, I knew - no matter how many thousands-year-old Greeks stood behind me -- that this wasn't supposed to work either. If you wonder at my crisis of confidence, let me refer you to this. Oh, and this. Also this, this, this, this, and, oh yes, the one that started it all. There's more, but you get my drift. Trust me, however sick you are of this project, I am more so.

Having achieved triangularity, there is no way on God's green earth that I am knitting this two more times. By a conservative estimate, I figure I have already knit 99 of these. I'll knit it once more for an even hundred. This baby is getting the blanket with light blue corners. That's it. No expostulations, challenges, arguments or objections will change my mind.

(But it worked.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Biting the Bullet

My delft blue yarn arrived today. All of my other projects are making rude noises at me. I suspect circumstances of combining against me.

The red yarn pools in such a way that it looks like something spilled on it. Knitting it in wider sections doesn't really help. Diane pointed out that alternating skeins usually fixes this type of problem. Except, if I alternate every row I'm going to end up trying to cable from the wrong side. And knitting two rows at a time just makes it look stripy, which is different than pooling, but not, by any argument that I'm willing to entertain, better.

In frustration, and desperate for success and blog fodder, I went all the way back to last year when I was trying to knit the sea. I don't like this color combination either, although I despise it somewhat less than anything else I've tried, so perhaps I'll finish it and add it to the charity box. (Dream in Color Classy in the off-dye-lot of Cloud Jungle that only I, in the whole wide world, possess, this time with DIC Classy in Gothic Rose as the contrast stripe.)

What is it about this yarn that it changes every color I've ever tried to combine with it? The Gothic Rose looks all reddish brown wound up, until I sandwich it between the off-lot Cloud Jungle and it turns purple.

Bottom line? I suspect the knitting gods want me to work on this.

This scarf is going to be one of the longest projects I've ever knit. (For the record, the yarn really does squeak. At least, it did while I was casting on.) I think Cathy put it very well in her comment. I am going to align myself with her as a discerning knitter, and I am going to knit this (and knit it well) despite myself.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Dang. Knit Simple had the colors for the Winter Games wrong. Rather, they had the right blue, but the wrong white. Special Olympics want scarves made with 885 Delft Blue and 311, White (not Soft White).

Now you can order your yarn.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Can You Knit With Acrylic?

If you can, the Special Olympics wants you.

You may already know about this, but it's the first I've heard about it, so I'm sharing. This year the Special Olympics wants 5000 scarves for the World Winter Games, which will take place February 9 through 13, 2009 in Boise Idaho. That's one for every athlete and their support team, as well as the various dignitaries who will attend. Knit Simple reported in their latest issue that as of press time, the committee had 1000 scarves in hand.

The stumbling block is that, as Coats and Clark is sponsoring the project, the scarves have to be knit of Red Heart Super Saver yarn, specifically in 885, Delft Blue and 316, Soft White, the official colors of the winter games. If we buy regular size skeins, that's just 320 yards of worsted weight acrylic yarn. If we bought one each of the economy size skeins we could maybe even share. I could knit one and send the rest of the yarn on to you.

Anyway. Scarves have to be submitted by January 15, 2009. Send them on to:

Special Olympic Scarf Project
3150 West Main Street
Boise, ID 83702

Knit Simple has a pattern. So does Coats and Clark, but you can use any you like. Yes, it is acrylic, but it's only a scarf. Just one scarf. If I can do it . . .

The Special Olympics motto is, "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." Come on. Be brave.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Planning Is Its Own Punishment

I bet you've been thinking that I've been showing an astonishing level of knitting monogamy lately. I bet, as you discreetly hide your yawns, you've been wondering what's come over me. Little do you know what machinations and plotting have been going on behind the scenes.

After her field trip with us at Stitches Midwest, my mother had expressed a desire for a shawl. Both her knitting daughters thought this was a Good Thing. My sister has already completed one in beautiful shades old rose, gold and pale olive (it's the pastel version of La Boheme - N.B. There's another reason to go to Loopy tonight). While that was still in the works, I asked my mom what other colors she'd like. Mom said she's always liked red (which surprised me, since she tends to choose lighter colors for her wardrobe, but hey, her choice).

I admit, I may have gone a little overboard. I decided on a Faroese shawl. I pored over Folk Shawls and A Gathering of Lace. I bought Best of Knitters, Shawls and Scarves. I searched online and found patterns here, here, and here and a website with worksheets and graph paper (because it involves, surprise! Math).

I got to work. I opted for a diamond motif, but didn't like any of the work-ups in any of the resources. I decided on the method from Folk Shawls and 2 of the diamonds from A Gathering of Lace. I charted my little heart out. I ordered the recommended yarn from Schoolhouse Press. I held the actual knitting out as a reward for finishing the current Project That I Am Studiously Ignoring (which no, is still not finished, and no, I still don't want to talk about it). I cast on my 421 stitches using the cable cast on. I placed stitch markers, some to keep the count straight, more to mark the borders and gusset. I was ready to roll.

We had a chance to see my Mom this weekend. I brought my -- admittedly minimal -- knitting to show her. She liked the color. All the rest? I believe her reaction ran something like, "Oh, just knit it and be done with it already." There may have been a comment to "Forget the lace, just plain knitting, all of it." I think there may have been a recommendation to "Just be fast, already." That's a lot of "justs." There may have been a few more "Ohs" in front of them.


Well, after all, the woman is 83. Considering how long it's taking me to get the PTIASI done, she may have a point.

How about this?

Except in red. In a different yarn (Alchemy Wabi Sabi is pretty thin on the ground).

Without all those twining cables in the middle. Maybe cables just at the top and bottom instead. With maybe a 2 or 4 stitch cable on each side.

Yeah. That could work.