Friday, May 30, 2008

All Better

It worked. Peace in the valley has been restored. I'll go be good and reclaim cables now.

Yarn: Less than one skein of Rowan Purelife Organic Cotton in 980/Madder from Chix With Stix.
Needles: Addi Turbo's, US 5/3.75 mm (Imagine. Me knitting with something smaller than a US 7. I'm astonished I was even able to lay my hands on them).
Pattern: From Seven Deadly S(p)ins "The Opposite of Wrath" package

More details:
Interestingly, the chart didn't exactly match the written instructions. The latter had more detail than the former, so I went with them (besides, I was feeling pretty charted-out yesterday), adding a few modifications. To wit: the pattern calls for 3 rows of garter stitch border at the top and bottom, I went with 3 ridges; I wanted my cloth to be more square than the 8.5" by 9" the pattern specified, so I added rows of stockinette stitch just inside the garter stitch border, before and after the patterned rows.

Cute. Very cute. Enough cute. I'm ready to have fun again.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Spitting Nails

Really must say damn. My lovely seed stitch border, the one that had developed that case of K1P1 ribbing, did not take well to repair. Cotton yarn just doesn't snap back the way wool does. That or (more likely) I'm just not as good at repair as I think I am and the cotton won't disguise the fact for me. Worse, before I had the opportunity to learn this lesson, I decided to be a perfectionist, drop down further, and repair a mistake that didn't show particularly, but that I knew was there.

The irony -- that the cause of this set-back is the seed stitch border, not the cables -- has not escaped me.

I've ripped back all of yesterday's work and some from the day before. I don't think I can bear to face the cable charts again at the moment. Yet I find I need a diversion that engages rather more of my brain than yesterday's Quilt Squares.

Do you think a pink sheep would do the trick?

Anything to reduce the amount of ironmongery now scattered throughout my home.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Opposite Land

First, an update: I'm half way there on the green panel. I'm contemplating the wisdom (or idiocy) of mirror imaging my way up the rest of the piece. Since this will, in all likelihood, involve more graph paper, I'm contemplating hard.

I am somewhat surprised to discover that cabling is fun. The problem with fun, though, is that if you do it all the time, you get funned-out. When my seed stitch border has deteriorated into a K1P1 rib, I figure the fun is over, or at least, suspended. Opposite Land is where I go these days for relief from all this fun.

Finding all that time wallowing in pastels has you wondering if the rods in your retinas have staged a revolution and usurped the cones? There's a cure.

Size 9 needles starting to weigh you down? Making you slog as though walking through mire in clown shoes? Size 2 wooden dpn's lighten things up considerably.

Charted to death? Barn Raising Quilt squares offer a two line repeat; one increase row, one work even row.

Much cabling making thee mad? Ah, the glorious simplicity of stockinette titch in the round.

I don't even need to switch knitting books.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

1,2. Buckle My Shoe

"1,2,3,4, Mary's at the kitchen door. 5,6,7,8, eating cherries off a plate. "

I need to learn to count.

"1 is for bad news, 2 is for mirth, 3 is a wedding, 4 is a birth, 5 is for riches, 6 is a thief, 7 is a journey, 8 is for grief."

It's clearly something I have trouble with.

"1,2,3,4,5. Once I caught a fish alive. 6,7,8,9,10 then I let it go again."

Counting is very important when you're trying to substitute cable patterns.

"This old man, he played 1."

There's an important fact you need to keep in mind when you're working across 38 stitches, 8 of which are border stitches.

"1 little, 2 little, 3 little Indians. 4 little, 5 little, 6 little Indians."

28 is not the same as 36. Not only that, it never will be.

"12 lords a-leaping, 11 ladies dancing, 10 pipers piping, 9 drummers drumming, 8 maids a-milking."

Happily, it is still a multiple of 8 plus 4.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Or, Playing With Your Food.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Aversion Therapy

Remember back when, when I said I had formed a not-resolution to get my burgeoning stash under control? Remember my dismay that the boxes I picked up at JoAnn Fabrics were a) too small and b) not enough even had they been twice as large? Have you noticed the thundering silence about that enterprise? It's astonishing what wrestling cables, graph paper and higher mathematics will drive you to. They drove me to the Container Store. I bought Serious Supplies. I donned my hazmat gear and waded in started this morning.

On the plus side, there has been a lot of ,"Ahah! I knew I had more of this." and, "Ooh! Pretty!" and "Dang, I forgot I had that."

On the negative side, I've started my second bag of failed experiments and "Dear God, what was I thinking?"

No, I am not going to entertain you to pictures of how things stand right now. It's appalling (My word, what a lovely collection of receipts and packing slips). I am stumbling about in the darkest hour before the dawn (Who knew I owned so many plastic bags?). At best I am only approaching the moment when chaos tips over and cascades into a new and higher level of order (I've been hoarding USPS Priority Mail boxes?).

I will, however, testify to the success of short term aversion therapy. Because I'm bailing. I'm going to go knit cables for awhile, perhaps for, oh I don't know, maybe months.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Change is as Good as a Rest

And I need a rest from cables. Let's go back and talk about the Bedtime Story, a.k.a. The Pillow of Sei Shonagon from Knitalong. There has been head-scratching over my choice of text, displeasure for leaving you with a cliff hanger, puzzlement over why that particular part of the story.

Well, for one thing, I like the middles of things better than the ends. For another, it includes most of the characters, even the ones I tend to forget about, like Hark. For a third, it lays out the main conflict and the nature of the hero's quest. Finally (imagine evil laugh here), maybe I want you to read the book. It's only about 100 pages, it wouldn't take much away from your knitting time. The upshot is, I've decided not to change it.

Will it help if I tell you that the Duke gets eaten by the Todal (which is a "blob of glup;" when it comes into a room there is "a smell like old unopened rooms and the sound of rabbits screaming?") That one of the characters is the Golux in disguise ("the only Golux in the world and not a mere Device")? That the Duke is wrong and there is a way to get 1000 jewels within nine and ninety hours (it has to do with Hagga and what she weeps, although everyone is pretty sure that "Hagga weeps no more.")? That Princess Saralinda, who is "warm in every wind and weather," can unfreeze the clocks? Would you be surprised to find that the Duke is not Saralinda's uncle? Would knowing all that satisfy you?

Hmm. Somewhat, but not enough?

I guess I'll just have to knit a back so I can tell the end of the story.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I'm Not Crazy

Remind me. Knitting is fun. I want to learn cables. Making this blanket is a good thing. Visiting yarn stores and increasing my collection of knitting doodads is the reason for existence. Adding books to my knitting library is a worthwhile investment and a wise use of my available financial assets. Ravelry and the Internet are wonderful resources.

I do know all that. The problem right now is, I keep coming across these people who casually mention how they adjusted this cable or substituted that pattern as if it's easy and straightforward, which, from where I'm sitting, is like comparing the search for the Holy Grail to a neighborhood game of hide-and-seek. All together, it's enough to make me wonder about my overall mental stability.

Well, no, not really. I know such episodes do not call a knitter's sanity into question. Trying to get multiples of a 28 row repeat to replace multiples of a 44 row repeat could make you a little "Unwell," though.

(Why, yes, I do have a 13 year old in the house and, yes, of course the whole point of this entry was to get his current favorite video onto The Blog. Why do you ask?)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Nothing Hard Is Ever Easy

It occurs to me I may have been a bit hasty when I started the corner motifs for the Blessingway Blanket. Going from slightly more complicated but still straightforward single cross cables to the intricacies of Hannah Cuviello's Celtic motif just might have been akin to attempting surgery after that college anatomy course. Perhaps the wise would-be cabler should attempt an intermediate design first. Enter Barbara Walker, A First Treasury of Knitting Patterns (the blue one), and the Serpentine Cable.

Ms. Walker assures me that the pattern looks more complicated than it is. I know Ms. Walker wouldn't mislead the innocent cable knitter. There are, however, two problems. None of the patterns in this, the first Treasury, are charted. Then, the pattern calls for a multiple of 8 stitches plus 4, which I can easily adapt to fit the 36 stitch pattern that runs down the middle of the Blessingway Blanket, but I have to figure out how to work in the beginning and ending cables, the ones that run down to the points. Oh, make that three problems (and no one expects the Spanish Inquisition), because I have to take a 28 row repeat and figure out how to fit it into the space of four 44 row repeats. Guess how I spent my weekend.

If I've done the math right (and that's a big if), I can make this work if I start the single cables two rows earlier and end two row later than the pattern calls for (another big if). Multiple calculations and charts later, I thought I had it figured out. Note the verb there, "I thought." Past tense. Then I started knitting.

I thought wrong. More graph paper is called for. The only way to get to easy is to go through hard.

Friday, May 16, 2008

When In Doubt

Start over.

Knitsmith assures me the double increase in purl on the wrong side as described for the Blessingway Blanket in Knitalong is possible. She's done it on her Durrow sweater. I checked her blog. Her Durrow sweater doesn't scrunch up right at the start of her cables.

Insert sigh here. In fact, insert heavy sigh. I am reminded of Caddie Woodlawn: "If at first you don't fricassee, fry, fry a hen."

Send chocolate.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Getting There From Here

I couldn't do it. I just couldn't pull it off. The instructions want me to pfb, then purl into the vertical strand running beneath the "stitch just made." I could swear that's exactly what I did. Repeatedly. On both swatch and actual piece. The problem came in the next row, where I had to fit 2 M1s in among those 3 purl stitches. No amount of contortionist knitting on my part could get that needle into what I thought I was supposed to be knitting into. Let's not even go into my complete and utter bafflement at trying to figure out what constituted the bar I was supposed to lift up to make either of those M1s.

I Googled. I Raveled. I Knittinghelp.commed. I gave up. I Pfbf.

I suspect this will come back to bite me. It may have done so already. I'm fearful that the reason the knitting puckers right at the start of the cables is because I couldn't figure out how to execute the correct purled double increase on the wrong side. That would be the set of stitches that establishes the cable, which strikes me as a rather crucial place to get things right.

I'll keep at it, for the next project if nothing else. I'm sure I'll get it. Eventually. Right after I learn how to get to Grand Rapids from Chicago as the crow flies without a boat.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Playing It Safe

I am not the daredevil type. Too old, too staid, too resistant. I therefore start every new pattern with no sense of the rhythm of it at all. It doesn't matter how many times I read it, or how doggedly I try to integrate the instructions and/or the chart with the picture. I begin by slavishly, almost obsessively, tracking the pattern, not only row by row, but stitch by stitch. I got this far on the Blessingway Blanket and decided I was out of my mind.

No right thinking person would attempt cabling, much less cabling while working on the diagonal and incorporating increases at the same time. It was time to throw in the towel, give it up as a hopeless task, admit defeat and switch to the Pinwheel Blanket.

So I ordered this from Eat.Sleep.Knit.

Dream in color Classy in Lunar Zazzle. "Hah!" I said to myself, as if I had scored some great victory instead of contemplating an ignominious defeat, "That 'll show 'em." Who I thought I was showing what to, I have no idea.

Then something happened while I was waiting for the yarn (which wasn't long). I don't want to say I've conquered cables. Hubris, don't you know, a.k.a. my besetting knitting sin. Yet, once I got into the rhythm of it, even accommodating the increases wasn't too traumatic.

Now I've gotten into the straightaway, I'm thinking some more. I picked up a couple extra sets of US 9/6 mm needles, set my swift spinning and started the first corner motif. I have 11 more rows before I have to face the chart.

I think maybe I just don't like the idea of sky-diving without a net.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Proverbs 15:1

My Spin Club package arrived today, shipped out from Eat.Sleep.Knit. Wrath is the second "Deadly S(p)in." You might think that was ironic, given my response to the first shipment. Except there's a "spin" in more than one sense of the word. Rather than send a package red with rage, they've "spun" around to the opposite of wrath. The theme for this shipment is peace. Perhaps we should all pause here and hum "Sheep May Safely Graze." I guarantee, you won't be able to help yourself. Look at all this wonderful sheep-ly stuff.

The patterns for this month are a soap bag and a sheep washcloth. The yarn is enough Unique Sheep Pima Petite yarn in the "Peaceful" colorway to make both. Treats, you wonder? Yes, there are treats. Hand-milled soap to put in the bag, bath crystals, bath soak, teas, unscented Soak Wash, a sheep stitch-marker by sunneshine, a beeswax candle and a chocolate lamb from Cranberry Sweets & More.

I know I was, *ahem*, disappointed in the first shipment. I had contemplated pulling out of the club. This shipment has certainly smothered any smoldering ire.

"A soft answer turneth away wrath."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Word That Means the World to Me

M is for the many things she gave me.
O is for the other things she gave me.
T is for the thousand things she gave me.
H is for the hundreds of things she gave me.
E is for everything she gave me.
R is for the rest of the things she gave me.
P is fore the presents that she gave me.
Put them all together they spell "Motherp."

Ah. Well. I guess you had to be there watching Madeline Kahn on Saturday Night Live the day before Mother's Day. (And would someone please track it down and post it to youtube?)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Wait. What?

Well, that was unexpected. I swear this swatch came out of its bath looking so nasty I was close to panic. No. Scratch that, I was panicking. I've never before had knitting actually look worse while it was blocking. This just looked like, well, kitchen string. That the cat hacked up. Like the twine you use to tie back turkey wings, or wrap around the "please bag and tie" paper recycling. In fact, dishcloth cotton may have looked better.

Which is why I started making serious plans to convert Himself to the Pinwheel Blanket. I was going to make eloquent arguments in favor of washable wool. Economic arguments pointing out how much less 700 yards of yarn were compared to 1200. Practical arguments regarding the speed with which one can knit a blanket using a significantly smaller quantity of yarn.

Then I looked at the swatch after it dried. I measured, intending to add the "look how much it shrinks, honey" argument to my arsenal. I now get 15 3/4 stitches per inch.

I think I'll block it again.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Plenty of Nothing

Except deadlines. Besides the knitting is only gauge swatching, and plain white cotton gauge swatching at that. I'm getting 4 and 1/8 stitches per inch instead of 4.

Across a blanket that supposed to be 35 inches, that's over 4 inches short. Add in that the yarn is cotton and I don't even know why I'm bothering to wash and block the thing. In my experience, cotton shrinks.

So instead, here's something to play with.

Your Hidden Talent

You are both very knowledgeable and creative.

You tend to be full of new ideas and potential - big potential.

Ideas like yours could change the world, if you build them.

As long as you don't stop working on your dreams, you'll get there.

And here I thought I was just happy spring had arrived.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Besides the good advice and encouraging comment, Alpineflower sent me an email (most courteously, because she didn't want to monopolize the comments), reassuring me that cables are "fiddly" but not hard. Armed with that email (Literally. I printed it off and read it repeatedly while I went over pictures, instructions and charts, and a few times more once I started knitting.) and a skein of Lion Brand Organic cotton (I was not going to use the Blue Sky for my self-conducted tutorial) I have attempted cables.

Behold. Lessons one through eleventy-seventeen. Let me dissect this a little.

Did you know that cables are mostly illusion? Sleight of hand? Mess around with a few stitches in one row and the rest is just straightforward knitting? That's the good news. There are still an astonishing number of things to screw up. One might, for example, misread a symbol and knit a 4-stitch cable instead of the required 6-stitch. The first clue would be that one has more stitches on one side of one's cable than the other.

If one should decide to persist in this madness, one may find one's cable disappearing before it's time to twist again. Presumably the result of letting too narrow a cable wander on for too long.

Once that little problem is addressed, one might then find oneself falling into the pit of over-confidence, and decide to incorporate additional design elements. One will wallow there indefinitely, ripping out the tiny cables that don't line up, since one decided to flip between charts rather than mark up the book. When learning to cable, having the entire pattern in one place is A Good Thing.

Once one has bitten the bullet and found a pencil and drawn the symbols in, one will still have to learn to count. After that indefinite, interminable time down there in the pit -- time which will include a lesson in how not to knit into the back of the stitch to twist a 2-stitch cable (don't insert the needle between the stitches to reach the back, go around the first stitch) -- one may find that one has, at last, internalized the pattern and can produce a basic 6 stitch left-leaning cable flanked by 2-stitch cables. One will then assume that one can create a right-leaning cable, although one will not tempt the Furies by actually admitting this hope.

Since this is the compromise I had decided I wanted to achieve for the 2nd and 4th panels of the Blessingway blanket, this "one" was very happy.

I am, however, looking forward in dread to the swatches I will have to make for the center and corner panels.

Those cables tread the Labyrinthine ways. The twists shift across the knitting. The cables change direction. They entwine and interweave in a manner that would make an 18th century dancing master dizzy. I can envision cheerfully changing the center panel to something less knotty, but the corner motifs have me stumped. I'm going to have to figure this out and it's not going to be pretty.

Lesson eleventy-seventeen-one coming up.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Way Outside My Comfort Zone

I know I'm all about Knitalong these days, and I promise to post the details on the pillow this week, (I have to pick a new section of the story, Diane did not approve the cliffhanger I left you all with) but for now, I have a new assignment.

Through a series of unanticipated decisions -- and it's not my story, but the chapter that included me unfolded along the lines of, "Okay. I guess we'll send a gift later, oh hey, honey, in that case, could you make something?" -- I've got the chance to make a baby blanket. No deadline, because the baby was premature and because a blanket is onesizefitzall.

I planned to make the Pinwheel Blanket. Cute. Different. Well within my abilities. I could use stash yarn. I showed it to Himself. He thought it was okay, but then Himself paged farther in.

He found the Blessingway Blanket. This is the blanket he really, really wants us to give. The Blessingway Blanket means cables and assembly. The assembly part I can handle; I don't do cables. I have figured out that I can opt for simpler cables for the center three diagonals. I expect to swatch a lot, and I'm telling myself that making the blanket will up my skill set considerably. What intimidates me out of all reason are the Celtic knots in the corners.

Still, I found the yarn at the first yarn store I looked. I mean the actual, what the pattern calls for, Blue Sky Hand-spun Organic Cotton yarn. Admittedly, there weren't enough skeins of the same dye lot to make the blanket one color. I can never leave a good thing alone, though, so I don't see this as a problem. By expanding into Blue Sky's Dyed Cotton line, I can make the different sections in different colors - the green for the middle cable, the natural for the two sections flanking that strip and the blue for the two corners.

Now, anybody know a good "learn how to cable in one fast, easy, lesson" cable book?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Bedtime Story

"I give you nine and ninety hours, not nine and ninety days, to find a thousand jewels and bring them here. When you return, the clocks must all be striking five."
"The clocks here in the castle?" asked the Prince. "The thirteen clocks?"
"The clocks here in the castle," said the Duke, "the thirteen clocks."
The Prince looked at the two clocks on the walls. Their hands pointed to ten minutes of five. "The hands are frozen," said the Prince. "The clocks are dead."
"Precisely," said the Duke, "and what is more, which makes your task a charming one, there are no jewels that could be found within the space of nine and ninety hours, except those in my vaults, and these." He held his gloves up and they sparkled.
"A pretty task," said Hark.
"Ingenious," said the voice of Listen.
"I thought you'd like it," said the Duke. "Unseal his sword." Invisible hands unsealed the Prince's sword.
"And if I should succeed?" asked Zorn.
The Duke waved a gloved hand at the iron stairs, and Zorn saw Saralinda standing there. "I wish him well," she said, and her uncle laughed and looked at Zorn. "I hired a witch," he said, "to cast a tiny spell upon her. When she is in my presence, all that she can say is this: 'I wish him well.' You like it?"
"A clever spell," said Hark.
"An awful spell," the voice of Listen said.
The Prince and Princess spoke a silent language with their eyes, until the Duke cried, "Go!" and Saralinda vanished up the stairs.
"And if I fail?" asked Zorn.
The Duke removed his sword from his sword-cane and ran his glove along the blade. "I'll slit you from your guggle"

Which is where I ran out of room.

The Thirteen Clocks, James Thurber.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

One More for Clare

I'm in a race today to accomplish all the things I thought I would have done while the boys were home sick. It has to be today, because tomorrow is already filled. All I'm doing today is fulfilling promises. Now I can cross this one off.

The shaft is approximately 11.5 inches/29.6 cm. The whorl is approximately 3.5 inches/8 cm. The fleece roving is combed and carded. The company is Historical Folk Toys, Nashville, Indiana, 47448. Purchased at Greenhow Store, Williamsburg, Virginia.

For those who are curious, "the title/question/enormous topic [she's] writing to is: What were Norwich textiles, and how and why did they change over time."

When am I going to do something with this? No idea.