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.