Thursday, January 31, 2008

"No Pleasure Endures Unseasoned by Variety"*

It's the monogamy that's getting to me, isn't it? I've slipped into this after a large project before, haven't I, that combination of habit and let-down? I'm so used to focusing on one thing, working to the goal. Then it's done. I've pulled it off. All of a sudden I think I don't feel any interest, when it's really just a matter of taking on some small, interesting project or two until I decide on the next big one - in the immediate future, presumably whatever I decide on for the latest Dream in Color acquisition.

I'd like to tell you this bit of self-knowledge came from deep and meaningful introspection. That it marks recognition and growth on my knitting Pilgrim's Progress. That I have weathered the Slough of Despond, gone through the Wicket Gate, climbed Hill Difficulty and, if not entered into the Celestial City itself, at least managed to reach House Beautiful.

Nope. I figured it out while shopping. All of a sudden I realized I was lusting after Tudora from Knitty (I linked over to the designer's blog. I like her, too) and the Fingerless Rovaniemi Mittens from the newest Piecework.

Also the Composed Mitts featured in the Fall 2007 issue of Interweave Knitting.

There may have been a few side trips over to Fetching and some flirting with the Teva Durham's Leaf Cravat from Interweave Knits Winter 2002/2003. Possibly a little dallying with the Victoria Fingerless Mittens from Louisa Harding's Knitting Little Luxuries.

Any or all of these could probably be knit from yarn I have stashed. Note the implicit conditional of "could." Did I mention I have, not one, but two, (two!) gift certificates from Knitche?

Note further that none of my fragile and fickle attention landed on the Endpaper Mitts. Better yet, don't.

Yeah, yeah. I know I know. Another quote. How feeble. This one from Pubilius Syrus.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Eternity is Really Long"*

Also a ham and two people. And yes, I know that has nothing to do with knitting. I just like it. What would this blog be without the occasional non sequitur?

My non-knitting life has been impinging on my knitting life lately. Someday I will wax eloquent about my feelings for anything that requires a drill, varnish and sandpaper. For the nonce, all I'll say is - anything requiring a hinge should come with pre-drilled holes.

So, what do I have to show you? Not much. The 7 Deadly S(p)ins doesn't start until March (I'm calling it a birthday present).

The yarn is beautiful (China Apple in Classy from Dream in Color). The quantity sufficient to make pretty much anything I could think of. But there's the rub; inspiration is lacking. (Hence the club thing, but it doesn't start until March. Right.)

The sleeves on the Seamless Hybrid Sweater? Well, yes, insofar as I've been knitting, I've been knitting them.

That problem with the increases? Turns out, despite my notes on the pattern page and the evidence of my own eyes, I was persistently doing them backward - M1L where I should have been doing a M1R and vice-versa. My initial solutions all involved shifting where I placed the increases. Which is why, no matter where I put them, they always looked wrong. Because they always were.

With that resolved, I am now pondering the fact that I am deliberately knitting a sweater to not fit the recipient. The reverse side of the nightmare where I knit for all eternity in Cascade 220 Olympic Rainforest is that I make the sweater in such proportions that it will accommodate one of my 6 ft. plus/200 lb. brothers. Possibly all of them. At the same time. This will give John approximately 40 years before he could reasonably expect the sweater to fit.

Not quite an eternity, but long enough.

*Woody Allen, who goes on to say, " . . . especially near the end."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


According to my American Heritage Dictionary:
"pl. n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
1. a. A period of stagnation or slump. b. A period of depression or unhappy listlessness.

2. a. A region of the ocean near the equator, characterized by calms, light winds, or squalls. b. The weather conditions characteristic of these regions of the ocean.

ETYMOLOGY: From obsolete doldrum, dullard, alteration (influenced by tantrum ), of Middle English dold, past participle of dullen, to dull from dul, dull ; see dull"

A more detailed and interesting description is here. Yes. Now. Really. Go read it. It's not like the rest of this post is all that interesting.

They're early. They don't usually arrive until February. That exasperation with greyness. The ennui. The restlessness. The vague malaise. The inability to rouse up enthusiasm, even when I figured out what I was doing wrong on John's sweater.

The solution? Provided courtesy of
Eat. Sleep. Knit. No, not yarn. Well, yes, first there was yarn.

But then there was the 7 Deadly Spins. Finally, a yarn club for that select few of us who find the idea of knitting a sock a month shudderingly antithetical to their knitting mindset.

Okay, there will be some socks, but I can give those to Clare. It should be fun.

Like a fresh and non-baffling wind from the west.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Amphibious Knitting

One would think, with the frequency with which I make them, that I would have no problem replicating a mistake. Mistakes are so easy. So omnipresent in my knitting. Never actually biting my fingers when I make them, of course. Yet wagging their spiteful little heads at me from 2 inches back. So why can I not duplicate whatever it was I did on the sleeves of the Hybrid Seamless Sweater? I've ripped both sleeves twice now, trying to do for the next 6 sets of increases what I did for the first 7.

Did I switch my M1L's when I meant M1R's? No. Well, yes but only when I made the note, not when I did the actual knitting. Did I do the increases in the stitches before and after the (unnecessary only if you're an Elizabeth Zimmermann reincarnate) stitch markers? No. Did I do the increases into the stitches set off by those very (necessary for me) stitch markers? Apparently not. Yet somehow, long ago and far away, I managed to preserve, inviolate, the 3 stitches I was supposed to leave untouched. And now I can't.

So, here's a grim thought. Unless you want to come over and try to read my knitting for me, I might have to try to figure out what I did by doing some undoing. I might have to actually rip down a few rows further and pay attention. I might need to remember the difference between tinking and taking a dip in the lily pond, even thought the lily pond is so much more fun. I might have to remember I'm a mammalian knitter.

Monday, January 21, 2008

An Astonishing Capacity

That would be for self-delusion. A clear and complete lack of anything that remotely resembles a grasp of the obvious. Given my last post, wouldn't you think I would know better than to go skimming Internet yarn shops? Just because it happened before I'd noticed the results of tossing the stash, was that any excuse? Did I not have my suspicions? Were there not intimations that the yarn was encroaching? Infringing? In short, attempting a coup? Think 6 to 8 skeins per afghan variation. Consider how many permutations I went through to get to the final combination. And yet, there I was, Googling "Dream In Color."

How did I justify this? (Pay attention. I'm good.) Well, I found Pick Up Sticks. They had Dream in Color semi-solids. One of them was a Cloud Jungle semi-solid. The other was from a combination called Deep Sea Flower. I'm knitting in a Cloud Jungle variation, right? And we've established that I'm knitting The Sea, right? Well, there you go. Q.E.D. It's the obvious solution. So I bought a couple skeins. Each.

It's not that I'm enabling the yarn takeover. I'm buying yarn to eliminate yarn. It's a preemptive reaction strike. Sort of like spending money on sales to save money, even though you end up with less money, because, well, you've spent it.

Hey. Works for me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How Did I Get Here?

I have completely lost my place on the moral high ground; down the slippery slope and I don't even know when it happened. All I know is, I have fallen and can no longer hide from the fact.

Yesterday, in order to get the pictures I wanted of John's sweater, I had to hunt. I don't know why one sleeve and most of the yarn had decided to go AWOL, but AWOL it/they was/were. While I was tearing up the stash, it occurred to me that I, in keeping with a vague and undeclared New Year resolution to do "something" about my yarn, had picked up 4 collapsible canvas boxes from JoAnn Fabrics. I could de-collapse those 4 collapsible boxes and, instead of flinging yarn hither and thither and willy or nilly, I could put some of it, I don't know, away?

I was thinking I could set up a box for the Dream In Color yarns. And then one for Lorna's Laces. Both had accumulated alarmingly during the search for afghan quantities of washable wool yarn. I could use one for the Fleece Artist yarns purchased in moments when I willingly and smilingly succumbed to the lure of eBay. That would leave one for the odd-but-beautifuls, like the Schaefer Anne I bought in New Hampshire before I processed what sock yarn really is.

Or the skein of Briar Rose Fourth of July I ordered after I had seen their booth at the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair.

And the Cherry Tree Hill Twister.

Let it be noted that I have no spatial sense. Those IQ things we had to take as kids? The ones where you looked at the outline of a disassembled, flattened box and had to figure out what shape it would make up into? I had to think way too hard before I got those. I wouldn't know how to estimate a yard to save my life if I didn't know the nose to fingertip trick. All of which means I thought the dimensions listed on the package would make up into bigger boxes than they did.

What, you may be wondering, has that to do with the loss of high ground and some odd skeins of yarn?

I'm going to have to go back to JoAnn.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I Don't Think Elizabeth Would Mind

Boys grow. This is a fact that, despite the evidence of the Growing Stick, has somehow caught me by surprise. Snuck up behind me. Thwapped me on the forehead and bellowed, "Look already!"

I started a Seamless Saddle Shoulder Hybrid Sweater from Knitting Without Tears for John last March. Back then, he was shorter than I was (and still am, for that matter), barely. In the meantime, and while I was otherwise engaged, he has sprouted. Shot up while I wasn't looking. In a word - grown.

A lot. Three inches since then. Over 4 inches in the last year. This has made me nervous. I don't see how I could possibly knit fast enough to keep up. It's going to take all the knitting I can do to stay in the same place. If I want him to wear the sweater even once before his elbows shoot out of the cuffs and the -- as yet unknit -- ribbing rises to the middle of his chest, I'm going to have to knit twice as fast.

I have this vision of a never-ending sweater, one that I keep knitting and knitting and every time I think I've reached the point where I can join the sleeves to the body and knit the yoke, he's going to have grown another two inches. Years and years of knitting Cascade 220 in Olympic Rain Forest. Wearing out the cable on one pair of Addi Turbo's after another.

Suddenly, adding the ribbing to the bottom of the sweater doesn't seem so odd. If I'm willing to do some plain old invisible seam type assembly, adjusting the sweater as he grows becomes possible. Even, almost, painless. All I would need to do is remove the ribbing, pick up the cast on edge, knit to the new length and reattach the ribbing.

I wonder if I could figure out a similar trick for the sleeves (preferably one that doesn't involves frogging).

It would be a hybrid on so many levels, just not the seamless one.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Plain Vanilla

Have you ever had a sundae made with really good plain ice cream? Just your basic sundae, maybe hot fudge with whipped cream. Or a cup of coffee made with really good coffee? I'm not talking fancy roasts or exotic blends here. Not lattes or espressos or cappuccinos. Just a plain cup of good coffee. Gloria Jean's Special Blend, for example. When one has committed to spending large chunks of time head-down in a project for someone else, there's something to be said for that simplicity. Even so, I am somewhat amazed to confess I'm still enamoured of this afghan.

As promised, pictures taken while the sun was out. These, at least on my monitor, are accurate. This yarn is beautiful stuff.

Yarn. Main color: Six skeins of Dream In Color Classy in 370/Cloud Jungle. Contrast: Just a few yards over 2 balls of Filatura di Crosa Zara in 1706. One of the websites calls it deep plum. Clare told me when she chose it that it's crocuses.

Needles: US 13/9 mm Addi Turbos for the stockinette sections. US 9/5.5 mm Addi Turbos for the garter-stitch.

Pattern: Nicky Epstein's "Fluffy Afghan" from Melanie Falick's Weekend Knitting.

Blocked using the old squirt it with Soak solution and stretch it out on a beach towel on the floor with a fan running on "oscillate" over night. Final dimensions, 48 inches by 69 inches (yeah, surprised me, too).

Comments, generalization and observations.

- It's so stretchy, you could probably block it wider but shorter. Or longer but narrower. All in keeping with the chameleon heart of this project.

- The pattern was amazingly easy to adapt. (Consider all the variations I tried; I know whereof I speak.) Pick out your yarn, knit a garter stitch gauge swatch for the contrast color, because the width is determined by the contrast color stripes. Decide how wide you want the blanket. Multiply that by your gauge. Cast on twice that number in the main color. Go to town.

- It confirms my lurking suspicion that, in my heart of hearts, I'm simple. I want to knit plainly, with beautiful yarn, from a pattern with just enough detail to set the yarn off. I miss this project already. I can't believe I've let it go so far away. I am determined to figure out the right combination for "The Sea." Perhaps I'll make the sacrifice and drag myself out to String Theory today.

Some things you just don't get tired of. No cherry pecan caramel custard knitting here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

And Boy, Are My Arms Tired

I know. I know. I know. That's the punchline for " I just flew in from *fill in the blank* . . .," but you get the point.

It's done.

It's wrapped and gone.

That disoriented woman in front of you at the post office? The one who clearly pulled her turtle neck on after she brushed her hair? That would be me.

Clare can tie the bow. Details tomorrow. I'm going to read a book.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Time to wind the last skein of Cloud Jungle, so I'm grabbing a break before I do.

Very quickly, and just to make you jealous keep you entertained, I thought I'd show off you what Clare hauled home for me for Christmas.

It's whispering "stranded colorwork" to me. Which I interpret to mean "Finish the dratted Endpaper Mitts and try something new, already."

Now, however, I have 48 more rows to knit today if I want to even pretend to block this thing in order to ship it tomorrow. Just to add to the pressure, the sun has finally come out and I'd like to try to get some pictures in natural light before it's gone (I meant the afghan, but I suppose the sun, too. Antecedents. Huff.). None of the photos I've taken so far show the colors well. And I don't think it's due entirely to my lack of skill or the chameleon-like nature of the yarn.

Meantime, ponder the logic that has my iPod placing the Boston Camerata singing 17th and 18th century Christmas songs in a preconfigured playlist called "90's Music." I am.

Monday, January 07, 2008


It was very sad. Marc took the offspring to Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo. Marco took my camera along. It got dropped. Again. This time was once too many. The little door that holds the battery broke. The camera is functioning only by the grace of God and the strength of the spring.

I fully intended to ask your advice. If I didn't get a Sony (I loved my Carl Zeiss lens. Not that I know anything about lenses, but even I've heard of Car Zeiss), I fully intended to get a Canon. (Everybody in cyberspace seems to have a Canon. It's the camera that bloggers swear by.) I didn't do any of those things. I went out and bought a Fuji.

Ive been playing. It has this rapid-fire double-shot thing where it takes a non-flash picture followed automatically by a flash. A feature which clearly works better when your subject isn't mobile.

Mind you, I'm not quite sure of the point, but it's kind of fun. Playtime is over, though. I have an afghan to mail on Thursday.

I'm on the tenth repeat, halfway through the second to the last skein of yarn. I promise, I'll take pictures.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Proust May Have Been On To Something

Kay wants pictures of recipe boxes/whatever's? Way ahead of her. Okay, a little ahead of her. Except that doesn't reveal the astounding cleverness and beauty of the whole thing. Let me expound (expand?).

I used the box system. I still have a very pretty wooden one with stencilled baskets of cherries, or maybe apples. It was stashed in one of the kitchen cupboards. I could never find anything in it. One year, after I thought I had lost my husband's favorite Christmas cookie recipe (Walnut Cookies from Good Housekeeping's Christmas cookie issue, circa 1980 something), I got fed up and decided to put together a system that worked for my brain. Behold. Cute winter picture, because it started life as a repository for Christmas cookies and cardinals not only hang around in the winter, they're the Illinois state bird.

It's flexible. Pockets for original cards/articles/napkins/torn off scraps of paper. Some recipes are copied into the book. I can leave space to make notes. Like the one we made this year when Clare used dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar in the Walnut Cookies and everybody was so impressed with them that we actually ran out.

The most treasured recipe I have though, is not the Walnut Cookies, happy as I was when the original resurfaced. That accolade has to go to Pineapple Cookies. I suspect this was typed up by my uncle, but the second sheet of handwritten notes is my Grandmother's writing. She must have enclosed these in a letter to me when we were living in Stanford, the first year or so we were married, because she died a month before we moved back to Chicago.

That would be my mother's mother. She lived in Detroit and would make the cookies for my Dad when we went to visit. At least, she did if it wasn't too warm. The dough is so "short" that it would melt on a hot day. (That's "short" as in "shortbread" or "shortcake." Not height or lack thereof). Family legend has it that these were originally more of a sweet roll. I don't know how or when the transformation was worked.

I'm sure my mother made them, too, but the memories I have are of my Grandmother's kitchen. Watching her hands as she rolled out the dough, cut the squares, dabbed the filling, folded the ends over, and transferred the cookie to the cookie sheet. The economy of movement was grace itself. This year, Clare made them for the first time.

Recipes hold almost as many stories as knitting.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

All Things Considered

It's not that I don't think I have accomplishments from this past year to point to,

but I've some promises I need to keep.

Top to bottom: the Weird Partial Garter Mitered Square Blanket, the Endpaper Mitts, and John's EZ Hybrid Sweater (I'm sure there's a picture of one there somewhere).

It's that looking forward while trying to make sure I don't let go of what's behind that gets me every time.