Thursday, February 28, 2008

Moderately Anxious

I'm sorry, but this just gets weirder and weirder. Absolutely brilliant, but weird. I'm through one saddle and the back yoke. I have marked off the stitches I expect to need for the 2nd saddle. Of course, then there will be grafting -- fine, it's all of 19 stitches, but I've never grafted anything -- and Elizabeth has already warned me it won't match up. With a guaranteed mistake already part of the progress, can you imagine what I'll make of it, even if I practice at the underarms first?

The past 24 hours have seen me poring over Knitting Without Tears (Knit across 44 rows? Why? I'm not using the same stitch count. Is 44 magic?), moving on first to an assiduous study of Knitting Workshop (Oh! It's 1/3 of the stitches. Wait, which stitches. The sleeve? The remaining stitches? The original body count?), then to the KW DVD ("Lesson 1 Seven Seamless Shoulder Shapings" "You've made it to the Master Class .... I'm not going to go too much into the details of these, because I've never had complaints about the directions so they must be right." - Wait, the what?). All of which have led me to the same sort of leap of faith I had to take with the BSJ, and of course it's all working out. So far.

It doesn't look nearly as odd as the un-assembled Baby Surprise Jacket. There are intimations of sweater-ness about it. Indications, even. This is encouraging. But then there's the part where it looks huge (pronounced with a hard "g") to me. Telling myself that the intended recipient if 5 inches taller than I am isn't as helpful as you might expect. I'm thinking this could fit Hagrid. This is less so.

All I can say is, good thing others have knit before me. Special awards to my new best friends, every Zimmermaniac who ever knit any version of the Seamless Hybrid, especially Brooklyn Tweed, for posting enough to get me my gumption back. There are the fake seams up the sides and the ribbing across the bottom (Elizabeth says the best way is Ktbl,P) to do as well. Still, March 20 is looming uncomfortably closer. I can't allow John to go to England in the Spring without this sweater, now, can I.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cast Iron

You might think my reason for knitting has something to do with the transformation of this (yesterday),

to this (today).

You'd be wrong.

How was I supposed to know the amaryllis would try to grow inside the bag?

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Return of the Hybrid

I take the thundering lack of interest in the last few posts to indicate you are waiting with bated breath for an update on the Now Shirt Yoke Saddle Shoulder Hybrid Sweater. My life is but to serve. So, where were we?

We left our intrepid heroine in the throes of another decrease disaster. This one discovered when she realized her decreases weren't working out with the symmetry she expected. Note the failure to get matching stitch counts between the front and back and the left sleeve and right sleeve. See Diagram 1.

She hoped to rectify this by the simple readjustment of possibly misplaced stitch markers. Despite her increasingly desperate attempts to count in groups of 20, this approach failed. The significance of this led to a more complete count and the painful reality exposed by the math recorded in Figure 2. On the right, the stitch count I should have had. On the left, the actual count. Fiddling with stitch markers was not going to fix this.

Neither did having a go with a crochet hook at the joins between the sleeves and the body pieces. A diligent search for long ago dropped and forgotten stitches was similarly unproductive.

On the plus side, Knitting Workshop had somewhat more specific instructions which, if I frogged this first nine rows of the yoke, I would be able to incorporate. The fact that the nine rows represented over 3000 stitches, well, let's just not go there. The picture of our heroine as a puddle on the floor is not a pretty one.

Frogging also let me change the stitches set aside on waste yarn. I had opted at first to include the first stitch of the round as part of the held stitches. I think I had some muddled notion of keeping the transition from 3 pieces to 1 a subtle one. It was not muddled, it was just plain bad.

I won't go into the grief when I found, after frogging, realigning, replacing and counting, counting, counting, that my decreases were still not symmetrical. This time it really was a dropped stitch (the, in my mind, now infamous first stitch of the round), perhaps better characterized as the stitch I somehow failed to knit up at all, and a miscount. An attempt with the crochet hook failed miserably. So did the next one. And the next. I finally bit the bullet and pulled out a set of DPN's and did some real re-knitting a la what I learned on the BSJ. It worked this time, too.

I've tamed the cephalopodic tendencies by pulling the sleeves inside out and containing them in the body of the sweater. I've got stitch markers to the nth degree, but this time they reflect the construction of the sweater. Now I am a mere 5 sets of decreases away from where things should get really interesting: forming the shirt yoke.

Good thing, too. I've set myself a deadline. I'm sending Himself and John off to the UK over Easter Break to see Clare and do a little father-son bonding. But that's another story.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Is it just me or does this look like watermelon now? Can I blame it on the return of grey skies?

Of course, I've been absolutely convinced I had the right color combination before and been absolutely wrong. Twice. Maybe this time, since I'm dubious, I've got it right.

I've finally started Dante's Inferno (No, I didn't read it in college. Hush.) I think he's missing a circle. And I wonder what I've done that I've been condemned to it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Green Enough

You would think I'd have enough green in my knitting at the moment. Especially when you consider my claims to dislike many of its variations. Which perhaps both explains yesterday's immersion in retail therapy and - doesn't.

I need some space from the eternal Olympic Rain Forest that is the Hybrid Sweater. (Which, by the way, has undergone another metamorphosis. It's now a Shirt Yoke Variation of the Saddle Shoulder Hybrid.) I decided to spend some of my free money at Knitche (Two! count 'em, t-w-o gift certificates). I came home with Option 1/two skeins of Cascade 220 in Redwood, the new Interweave Knits, another Lantern Moon bag (don't start, they had new colors), and Option 2/three balls of Rowan Wool Cotton in, and I kid you not, "Rich," a.k.a. shade 911.

Option 1 is going to join the ongoing Cascade Party. I'm going with Option 2. It isn't green, but it could be said to be enabling green. Having determined that colors from the cool side of the spectrum fade right out next to the Not Quite Cloud Jungle, and with the amazing transformation wrought by crocus-color on the Real Cloud Jungle, I've decided to go with this.

It's too light to be red, right? So no one would look at this and think, "Oh, what a nice Christmas decoration. A little large to hang on the front door, isn't it dear?" And too dark to be pink, right? Right?

Maybe it will stop being the Sea and I'll pretend I'm knitting Spring.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Not the Hybrid

The plan was to fill you in on the Hybrid Sweater. It's too painful. Think me, Elizabeth Zimmermann and decreases. If you need to refresh your memory, you can go here. Or here. Or, for that matter, here. Not that I managed to repeat any of those. No. In my own inimitable fashion, I have found a whole new way to screw up the decreases - a combination of over-confidence, over-think and whatever the opposite of over-think is. Add in that it's not unlike knitting a mutant cephalopod, all floppy body and unwieldy appendages, and I need time to recover. Instead, let me dwell on the cleverness of my family knitters.

Himself and I went on our belated anniversary date. (Which reminds me, I didn't write about Hephaestus at Lookingglass Theater. Think the offspring of a marriage between Ringling Brothers and Cirque de Soleil meets Homer. Seventy-five minutes of aerial derring-do -- taking place at roughly the height of your ceiling -- and astonishing acrobatic exploits couched in epic narrative. Amazing. See? It's made me go all alliterative. And it's been extended through March 9.) Cate came down to keep the boys company. She brought an additional Christmas present.

My favorite size needles (US 8) by Crystal Palace, only better. Rather than contemplate the single-digit temperatures we're experiencing instead of the thaw we are due (at least the sun's out), or, worse, the reclamation of the Hybrid Sweater, I'll enjoy my knitting flowers.

Can you still be phobic when there's reason for your fear?

Monday, February 18, 2008


It would seem I've invented a word. Even Google couldn't find it. And my spell-checker is deeply distressed. But that's what I have.

Let me explain.

Marco chased me out of the kitchen so he could feed his addiction to the portable DVD player. I intended to shift my base of operation to the dining room for the duration (they go back to school tomorrow). There's a -- and I use the phrase for its ironic restraint -- slight problem.

Hence my diagnosis. Enono: Greek for "consolidate, link, join, unite." Phobia: Greek for "fear of." It's always a relief to know, isn't it?

I am struggling to overcome it.

That's for tomorrow's post, though. Can one be phobic and manic over the same thing?

Thursday, February 14, 2008


The Victoria Mitts are, to all intents and purposes, finished. "To all intents and purposes" (as in "not really" or "not quite but never mind") because the knitting is done and the thumbs sewn up, but the side seams, not.

I have moved on. And you can blame Diane a little bit, because I mentioned this to her and she made encouraging noises. The fact that she was in my kitchen drinking coffee and sharing left-over Dinette Cake had, I'm sure, nothing to do with her response.

The Victoria Mitts have a 3 color striped version. I actually have in my possession a ball of Louisa Harding Grace in blue and one of the Rowan Kid Classic in black. I also am the proud possessor of 2 skeins of Mountain Colors Twizzle - the yarn that Sherry sent from Madison as described in what must be the single most looked at post on this blog (I really should quote from Hamlet more often). I could use some of the Twizzle and make myself a pair of striped mitts.

Remember the Not-a-Huckleberry Scarf? The one made from that very same Twizzle yarn? The one that I've been hiding from because I wanted to do something different with it? As in not bobble the ends?

What would happen if, with the Grace and the Kid Classic, I lifted the garter stitch/eyelet/picot edging from the mitts and used it on the end of the scarf? I'm pretty sure the picot bind-off will work with any multiple of 3 plus 1. The pattern for the Huckleberry Ascot has you pick up 115 stitches to make the end of the ascot ruffly. Since 115 is a multiple of 3 plus 1 (trust me), I could make it lacy and ruffly. And the scarf and the mitts would match. You know, as in a set. For me. That's what would (could) happen.

And even though the original pair was meant for me, somebody else will want them, won't they?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In absentia

Today is Clare's birthday. This, believe it or not, presents a challenge. What to do when the object is afar, yet said object's siblings (okay and parents) still feel the need to celebrate?

The present thing proved surprisingly easy. Not wishing to weigh her (and more particularly her suitcase) down come June, we've gone largely digital and down-loadable. Of course, being something of a Luddite, I felt the need to supply non-digital ones as well. I'm particularly excited about this one - the perfect thing for a likely to be apartment bound for the foreseeable future gardening knitter. I expect to reap the benefits in the form of permanent moth chasers - provided I can keep it alive until Clare gets home.

The celebratory aspects, though. Those took thought. So, should you, yourself ever be in a similar situation (one with young -- developmentally, chronologically or maternally -- family members who do not wish to miss out on a birthday party), I give you "The Missing Person Birthday Celebration."

First off, do not be afraid to maintain traditions. Birthday doughnuts are of particular importance in this family, and any and all Lenten practices are suspended for birthdays. (If the Pope hasn't authorized this he needs to.) The lack of a real bakery in Hyde Park doesn't stop us; Marco is particularly devoted to Dunkin' Donuts strawberry frosteds (known here as "pink doughnuts.).

This particular tradition arose from a workaholic Dad who didn't always make it to dinner, but could be relied on to stick around for breakfast. Admittedly, once high-school schedules involving 6:00 AM bus pick-ups reared their ugly heads, this transformed into a bridge between when the kids got home and when the cake could be cut. Honesty compels me to add, himself now makes it home for the blowing out of the candles.

Speaking of which, it is a truth universally acknowledged that birthdays need cake. An absent birthday, however, seemed to call for, well, less. We compromised with the Dinette Cake from Betty Crocker, using cake flour and substituting butter for shortening. It's a real home-made cake, but not a fancy one.

Finally, birthday's need music. Since singing Happy Birthday to someone who's not here is even more silly than I'm willing to be, we will limit ourselves to one more family tradition. The singing of the official Unbirthday Song.

Happy day, happy year!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Then Again

It would seem I don't give up as easily as I think I do. Behold, slightly (very slightly) revamped Victoria Mitts. Well, revamped from what I had already modified. I quite liked how the ribbed cuff looked knit on the US 5s. I knew I wasn't as happy with the hand when I knit it on US size 6s, while the edging, knit on US 8's, was way too floppy. So this time I kept the US 5 ribbing, used US 6s for the edging, and US 7s for the hand. I knit the ribbing until the cuff measured 4 inches (22 rows instead of 20). I shortened the hand itself by 2 rows after the final thumb gusset increase. Chose the smaller needles for the garter stitch/eyelet/ picot trim at the wrist and fingers to pull it in a bit. I'm thinking of blocking these to get the picots to settle down. So, ta-da.

I may even be tempted to try these out in the recommended silk-wool blend (Louisa Harding Grace).

That other problem? Well, a little thought and common sense suggests that if I sew garter stitch together by abutting the seams, and stockinette by stitching between the first two rows, never the twain shall meet. That pucker is what happens when I move across the stitch. I need to move one of the seams, so the join happens in a straight line. Since I didn't slip the first stitch, my end rows are from hunger, completely unpresentable; shifting the mattress stitch out is not going to work. Choosing a different seam for the garter stitch section, now that has possibilities. This is what happens when I switch to back-stitch on the wrong side.

This is close, very close, to what I want. I just wish the back was more presentable. I'm having a hard enough time accepting that the blanket won't be reversible. I don't think I can accept something this wopperjawed.

Then again, I have only 3 of the 16 new squares started.

I have time to think some more.

Friday, February 08, 2008


From Middle English confounden, from Anglo-Norman confundre, from Latin confundere, "to mix together, to confuse"; from com-, "together" + fundere, "to pour". (American Heritage again.)

I was expecting many things of the Weird Partial Garter Mitered Afghan. Warmth. A sense of accomplishment. Years of Chicago Winters made bearable. Perhaps (dare I breathe the hope) even the elimination of the annual plastic wrapping of the windows.

I think it may be mad at me. Who knew it would resent these months spent in a knitting bag. It was a very nice knitting bag. I thought it was comfortable. Who knew it was harboring a growing resentment. Plotting revenge. (Did you know we anthropomorphize that which frustrates us? The greater our frustration and lack of comprehension, the greater the number and degree of human attributes we assign the non-human. Hence our tendency to talk back to our computers. Who says college is a waste of time?)

I sat down today sure in the knowledge that I had figured out how to make the mitered square afghan reversible. I was wrong. The attempts looked so bad I couldn't bear to photograph them. Full disclosure is one thing. Some things, on the other hand, are best left undocumented.

Okay fine. It can't be -- or, more accurately, I can't make it -- reversible. This is actually freeing. The back won't have the polish I'd hoped for, but I can make it tidy. Clearly this is the way to go. Sometimes the easy way is the right way. No more fancy finishes. No more flourishing the crochet hooks. Plain, straightforward seaming. I can do that.

I can seam garter stitch.

I can mattress stitch.

Apparently, however, I can't do both on the same item, whether I start at the outside and work in.

Or on the inner edge and work out.

This may be a bit unreasonable of me, but after all the knitting, I would like it to not look like a disaster barely warmed over when I finish it. I know it's possible. Just go look at Kay's weird partial garter miter back in the archives. (That's September 2006 you want. The 8th, to be precise. The 4th picture. Not that I have it burned into my brain or anything). Maybe someday she'll come to Chicago and give a tutorial.

Until then (in recognition that we're probably going to watch one of the Star Wars for Movie Night and to quote one of my least favorite characters), "My give up. My give up."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At the Time

It's dangerous for me to be housebound. Cabin fever breaks out in strange and unexpected ways.

Before I delve into that, though, let me say, we're shelving the Victoria Mitts. Too many improvisations. I should have ripped the whole thing and started over (product, not process). Instead, I left the original cuff and edge, knit the hand on US size 6's instead of the US size 5's I got gauge with, decided to do the top edging with the same size needle I did the bottom.

In a word, "Eh." Add in that I liked them better at the wrong gauge and they're so yesterday.

Meanwhile, doing and redoing the stockinette gave me plenty of time to think. Well, let's be honest, you can't really dignify the twisted path my stream of consciousness took with the name "think." There was plenty of mental meandering, though.

This seeming wandering led me irresistibly to one particular UFO. My perhaps not so random mental walk may have been led in part by Mason-Dixon Kay's progress with applied i-cord and the diagonal square afghan, which I have been following with an attention that borders on the obsessive.

Add a vague and nagging sense that if one's offspring has devoted considerable time and talent on this particular UFO, helping you arrange a seemingly random pattern that wasn't actually random (because she knows your sanity is on the edge and she prefers you at home rather than unkempt and drooling on some street corner), if you should suddenly get inspired to completely revamp said arrangement, it behooves you to do this while she is far enough away that, should she choose to wax indignant, the only havoc she can wreak is at long (very long) distance. (In my defense, she has been fore-warned.)

Now to unite all that. Cabin fever plus time to meander think plus a distant child equals:

It's still not quite there, though. You know what it really needs?

16 more squares. Like I said, dangerous.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Even More Unexpected, Especially in February

This is the view from my front room window today.

It's supposed to get worse. The weather report says only(!) 4 to 6 inches of snow accumulation, but the NWS has revised it's Winter Storm Warning to 8 to 10 inches by evening. That's a lot of snow. A lot of greyness out there. A lot of not seeing the sun for way too many days now. Yes, I know it's worse farther north. Minnesotans and Canadians think Chicagoans are wusses about winter. Well, it's your own sore thumb that hurts, isn't it.

February is when I start craving spring. I usually succumb close to March, when the pots of miniature daffodils prove irresistible. At this point, though, I just persist in the greyness. Pretend I like the isolation of cocooning. Tell myself it's knitting season.

Then Marco came home from school yesterday. Look what he brought home.

He's taking "Botany" (the Chicago Public School System, in its infinite wisdom, has decreed that all the Special Ed. courses offered at RGTC must be named to match accepted course names as used at Regular Ed high schools; no, it makes no sense to me either). In the Fall, Botany involved a lot of digging and watering in the school garden and discussion of seeds and basic plant structure. I knew the class had moved inside to the greenhouse as the weather turned into Winter, but I rather took for granted they were still mostly digging and watering.

I wish you could have seen his face as he came down the steps from the bus. I wish, I wish, I wish I had a camera that could photograph my memory. He was so proud he was shining with it, lit up from within.

I can wait for the sun.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Unexpected in February

Well, unexpected anytime, really. I got gauge on the Victoria Fingerless Mittens using smaller than recommended size needles. I cannot tell you how flabbergasted I am. This never happens. Whether I substitute yarn (which I did) or not, I never get pattern gauge until I've sized up my needles. Bigger needles, that's the magic I use to tame my knitting. This is so much a given, so indelible a part of my knitting credo, so fixed and immutable a star on my map of the knitting heavens, that I don't even try anymore. I knit tight. Ergo, to get gauge I will go up 2 needle sizes. End of story. Which is how I ended up knitting with a US size 8 instead of the recommended size 6.

I had some warnings, had I been attending. The direction say something about knitting 22 rows of K2tbl,P2 ribbing and something something 4 inches. I finish that part and look at about 4 inches of ribbing. Excellent. I dutifully change needles according to directions (you use 3 different sizes, one for the picot and lace edging, one for the ribbing and one for the hand; I sized up for all of them) and watch blissfully as the pattern emerges. I am terribly pleased with my yarn and color choice. I finish the thumb and start on the palm. I am, at this point, considering skipping the part where she tells me to sew up the thumb, thinking I could do all the seaming at once, but after a few or 10 rows I realize she had a reason for that particular direction, so go back and seam.

That's when I decided to check the fit. It was huge. The thumb of the mitt extended past the tip of my thumb. Fingerless mitts are not supposed to do this. The whole point of a fingerless mitt is to leave you with your dexterity intact, to keep your digits free so you don't need to fumble for that quarter for the parking meter and can find your keys by feel and button your coat. You cannot imagine my astonishment when I measured and found I was off in my row gauge (row gauge? who worries about row gauge?) by about 2.5 rows per inch.

I frogged down to the ribbing, swatched and made the amazing discovery noted above. That's when I went back and checked the directions for the cuff. "Four inches from CO."


Friday, February 01, 2008

Faint Heart

Yesterday, I had to drive in what, before this morning's 8 to 12 inches of snow, seemed like foul weather.

As a reward, I stopped at String Theory, ostensibly to return the pastel green yarn from the (so far) failed Weekend Knitting Afghan, but really to exchange it for the supplies for the Fingerless Rovaniemi Mittens. I had decided I would be bold. I would be daring. I would knit in technicolor.

I'd read the directions. They seemed fiddly, but fun. Intriguing. Interesting, but in a good way. Something that, with a little patience and a firm desire for the result, I could do.

Then I read Diane's comment. A big project? These? Really? She clearly knows something I don't. Worse, she could be right. I went back and read the article that accompanied the mitts. Oh. Maybe they are too ambitious. Besides, I really should knit from my stash, at least occasionally, shouldn't I? And I have this Rowan Kid Classic in Peat that I'd bought with Art in mind, but had decided was too dark.

Which is how I happened to rationalize myself into the Victoria Fingerless Mittens.

Of course, one more try with this picot cast on and I may change my mind back. (What, you thought I would make them in pink?)