Friday, January 30, 2009

Something Green

We are well and truly hunkered down for winter here. If the skies are clear, the windchill factor is (appallingly) too many degrees below zero. If it warms up, it clouds over or -- worse -- snows again. Knitting weather. Cabin fever weather. Afghan weather. More accurately, perhaps need-to-knit-afghans weather. I therefore, most contrarily, don't want to.

All of which is why the mailing from the 7 Deadly S(p)ins Club was so welcome. For one thing, it's not an afghan. Even better, it's green.

The yarn is Unique Sheep House Blend, a DK weight merino/alpaca/silk blend. The colorway? Envy (which only I -- and the mumblty-teen other club members -- can get for the next six months or so).

The treats are exciting (I do love a box with treats). This is a beaded project, but it uses a different beading technique than the one I learned in Susanna Hanson's beaded wrist cuff class back at Stitches Midwest a couple years ago. Instead of stringing on the number of required beads at the start of the project, you use the tiny crochet hook to hook the individual knit stitch through the bead as you go.

The last bits of green are a little bit of Soak in Aquae (to help block the mitts, yes?) and a bottle of hand lotion (which I desperately need in these dry radiator days).

The pattern is called the Flower of Envy by Sivia Harding. It's for my most favorite type of small project - fingerless gloves. The only thing that's keeping me from casting on is the lack of US 4/3.5 DPN's.

This is the last shipment from this club. I have to admit to the addiction though. In other words, yes, Diane, I've joined another one. I may join a second. More on that, though, another day.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Short Versions

It's Friday and I haven't gotten over here to post. I had such plans, too. Plans that my non-knitting life just wasn't going to allow. Sometimes even I cannot bend the space-time continuum to my will. I hate when that happens.

This was going to be Monday.

Monday, however, was Martin Luther King's Birthday so the lads were off from school. No posting on Monday.

This could have been Tuesday; the knitting behind having a brown jacket and scarves that only work with black.

Then I got rather caught up in the whole "we're making history" thing that was going on.

Wednesday I actually had a knitting episode. Sort of. I went to Knitche to spend my Christmas gift after reading about this on Knitting Daily.

Everybody say, "Oooh."

Here's what I meant to write about yesterday.

What excuse can I give you for yesterday? Domestic crisis? Armageddon? Coffee with a friend?

Perhaps if I rewind, unwind, unbend, take a breath, I can post the long versions next week?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

When In Doubt

Plan another project. When winter comes, and you know spring is still way too far behind, make the project an afghan. Factor in the monochromatic-ness of January in Chicago and you hear the siren song of color.

I'm particularly intrigued by what the wine-colored yarn does for the three dingy sisters there. It's one of those magical, alchemical transformations that knitting performs. The blue and the green are heathered with grey. Very drab looking. Boring, even. They're a throw-back to the days when I let the name of the color influence me. "Bronzed green" and "Colonial Blue Heather" sounded so much more promising than "dirty mold green" and "washed out grayish blue." It means, however, that they'll work just fine with the charcoal grey heather when they become the dots outlined by the dark wine heather in a Big Dotty Afghan. Add in that all this yarn is stash and I can feel not only creative and inspired, but virtuous and economical.

The "Big Dotty" pattern itself is another throwback, this one to Mason-Dixon I. In the book, the pattern is a piano bench cushion. On the blog, Anne (I think it was Anne, although Kay is the knitted upholstery person, isn't she) used cotton double-stranded for seat cushions. Ravelry has various over-sized pillows, a coffee sleeve and a tote. There's a unifying theme to these projects; they all get stuffed or stretched. A way, I assume, to keep the slip-stitch pattern from pulling in on itself. I think, though, that I'll like the pattern well enough even in its natural state.

I like this project on so many levels. The Mason-Dixon-ness of it. The color magic thing. The getting rid of yarn I thought truly dreadful and with which I would never do anything. The best part though? No assembly required.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Shilly shally

Well, maybe not exactly. "Shilly shally" implies indecision. Like willy nilly and dilly dally. I'm decisive enough about the idea. I'm just not sure I want to proceed with the execution.

Like most of the country, it's cold here. Factor in the wind chill and, well, I would never be so gross as to suggest it will freeze the snot in your nose, so let's just say it's rather unpleasant. With the weather at the forefront of my mind, and not entirely ignoring the fact that Clare's scarf really does have to be done before she heads back to Urbana, I started the Aran Isle slippers.

I was determined to follow the pattern exactly as written. I was good, I swatched first to make sure my yarn and needle choice would be enough to accommodate the size change I need to make. It looked like I might be about 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch short, but these are knitted slippers; I figured they'd stretch that far, even if they didn't bloom a little in blocking.

On the theory that there are less than 60 rows to knit here and that if all else failed I could call it a swatch, I've knit the first sole. It's perfect. The next step is to bind off the sole and then, starting at the center front (the toe), pick up stitches all around, ending back at the center front and knitting the sides in the round. Once that's done, the instep is knit up separately, blocked, and then sewn onto the slipper.

This is where I got into trouble ideas.

Remember the Not-so-stupid Booties? Also the Stupid Booties for that matter? Let me refresh your memory. For these particular booties, you knit the sole flat (starting to sound familiar?), pick up stitches around and knit the sides (ringing any bells besides mine?), knit the instep back and forth, attaching it as you go, leaving the remaining stitches live and then knitting around for the ankle.

I'm thinking, instead of all this binding off (once you knit the sides and shape the back of the slipper with short rows, you have to bind off all that) and sewing on, why not use the same construction principle as the booties and not have any assembly? Right?

What if I don't bind off the sole? What if I start to pick up stitches across the front instead of starting at the middle, placing the stitch markers as indicated? I could still knit back and forth when I get to the short row shaping at the back, and bind off those stitches leaving the instep side stitches live. If I turn the cable chart upside down (okay, and work the written instruction in reverse) shouldn't I be able to knit the instep from the toe up, picking up the first stitch of each side, to attach it? Just like Jane's Baby Booties specify. This should work, right?

The trick is, I can't quite forget how long it took me to pull off the Stupid Booties, or the fact that I had to knit three of them. Besides, it sounds too good to be true.

So here I sit with cold feet, literally as well as metaphorically.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Snow Snow Snow

It's boot weather here. It has been boot weather here. It will continue, apparently indefinitely and ad nauseum, to be boot weather here. Snow yesterday. Snow the day before. Snow tomorrow and the next day. When I think of all the years my children's boots sat in the closet gathering dust, I'm a little irked at the outpouring of precipitation we've had to deal with this winter.

We are all rather past the roll in the snow and make snow angels age here. Which is, I suppose, a little sad, but there it is. If we've put on our boots it's to shovel out the car (again) or slog to school and the grocery store (again). Try to get by without them and you end up with snow for ankle socks (again.)

Of course, one of the advantages of having children this age is that everyone remembers to take off their boots at the door. The tricky part is then avoiding the pools of melting snow and rock salt that gathered while you struggled with your laces or yanked on that stuck zipper. I confess this is a skill I lack. I inevitably find the biggest, meltiest pile and place my stocking feet squarely in the middle of it. I stand there for a moment, staring at the complete un-doing of what I put the boots on for in the first place - to keep my feet dry and warm - before I strip off my now sopping socks and pad barefoot over the cold floors to dig out another pair.

It's a gift.

It's also another answer to my undetermined knitting.

Not only must I obey the mandate of the Three Wise Guys and knit Clare a scarf (in Handmaiden Lady Godiva, Silk and Merino in colorway Renaissance), I really need those Aran Isle Slippers from Interweave's Holiday Knits.

The problem (you thought there wouldn't be one?) is none of us fit the slippers in any of the sizes given, so I can't just knit up a test pair and give them to someone, and I don't want to play with math. That's not really an option, though, since the directions alternate between "work such and such for so many rows" and "work X number of inches." I've opted for the simple math, and converted inches to rows based on the pattern gauge. My plan is to use bulkier yarn (Tahki Torino Bulky instead of Tahki Zara Plus) and bigger needles (dictated in part buy the paucity of 16 inch circulars in my needle stock) to effect a gauge disaster miracle.

I think they should change the local forecast. It should call for a Severe Weather Alert with warmer feet.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Throwing in the towel on the Special Olympics Scarf has changed my perspective. Now I'm a lady of knitting leisure, I' don't quite know what to do with myself. With no deadlines to knit for, and everybody back to their pre-Christmas routines, my knitting has acquired a certain lack of urgency. I've seem to have developed a rather dilettante attitude. I flip through a knitting book here. Dip into a stash bin there. Debate the merits of something quick. Consider the value of casting on for something big. Wonder if I'll get as big a rush if I finish that UFO.

Don't misunderstand; I'm not bored by any means. I still have that list of knitting requests, to which has been added another sweater. I just don't have that put your head down, don the blinders and knit to the exclusion of all else that I've been dealing with these past weeks. The lack of tunnel vision is refreshing and the view, now that I'm looking around a bit, spectacular. Of course, life hasn't actually stopped. It certainly has slowed enough for me to breathe, though. Such a luxury.

Yesterday was Twelfth Night. Epiphany. The Feast of the Three Kings. I know because these three guys in funny clothes came bearing gifts. I think they may be trying to help me decide.

It turns out they promised Clare I'd make her a scarf.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

"So Shines A Good Deed in a Naughty World"*

That Will Shakespeare sure had a way with words.

Yes, the Scarf Project for the Special Olympics World Winter Games topped 14,000 last week. The Ravelry group alone has accounted for over 1000. It's my understanding that, while SO may not actually refuse to accept scarves, they would be really happy if people didn't send any more.

An outpouring of generosity of this magnitude is a good thing. Speaking as the mother of a local Special Olympian, and thus one who sometimes looks at the world from the outside, I am awed and gladdened. Knitters are good folk.

On the other hand, there may be a crack in my charitable facade. In my selfish little heart I may be thinking dire thoughts about all those knitters who not only knit scarves by the truckload, managed to do so in an insanely timely fashion. I must confess to particularly uncongenial meditations when I consider knitters who contributed scarves by the dozens. Scores of scarves, all winging there way prematurely to Idaho, leaving me with what?

A lapful of acrylic.

In fairness, even had I not frogged the original, I wouldn't have finished before the total received overwhelmed the number needed. I like the way this scarf feels, though, much more than my first effort. Either the yarn, or more likely the combination of the pattern, my tight knitting and perhaps not large enough needles, made for a very dense fabric. One with no drape at all to it. That combined with the extra inches left me with a stiff, unyielding, uncomfortable swathe. The thinner scarf is much more wearable, or will be.

Eh. I'll save the rest of the yarn for String Theory's next sidewalk sale. The scarf I can finish. I'll add it to the Salvation Army pile. Perhaps it will cheer some other anonymous soul whose needs are special in their own way.

Oh, and yes, Diane, that means you're off the hook on this one.

* Portia, The Merchant of Venice, Act V, Scene 1.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Three Strikes

We usually go out to see a real movie in a real theater on New Year's Day. This year, we were afflicted with a sever case of stay-at-home-itis. Instead, we held a private screening of "Field of Dreams" for the kids (who had never seen it), which accounts for my baseball metaphor.

Strike one. I had the clever idea to knit 8 white stripes to represent the year, '08, on the Special Olympics Scarf.

The scarves are for the '09 Winter Olympiad.

Strike two. The specifications for the scarf recommend a width of 4.5 inches.

Mine is almost half again as wide.

Neither of these might have induced me to frog. No one but me would have to know I screwed up the year. In some universe 7 inches might be close to "about 4 1/2." Even still I doubt the Special Olympics Committee would have rejected the scarf. Then I came up against Strike Three.

I like it better thinner.

It's no use trying to berate me or threatening to beat me with a crowbar. It's already too late. This one is out.

7:54 PM. ETA. Kathleen of the Comments did some further checking. Coats and Clark (the sponsor of the SO World Winter Games Scarf Project) has posted a pattern for a SO scarf that measure 5 3/4" by 60," so my 7 inch scarf probably would have been fine. Ah, the dangers of insufficient research.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

May you fulfill all your knitterly resolutions.