Thursday, April 30, 2009

Clearing the Decks

My Dad served in the Navy during WWII. I suppose it was inevitable that the occasional naval catch-phrase should find its way into my vocabulary. "Clear the decks" was what you did to prepare for battle.

My adversary? The gansey sweater. Well, that and two graduations, but it's the knitting you all want to hear about, right?

That which needs clearing? Two projects. Once they're done, I can ship them off to Afghans for Afghans.

The green blanket. Allowing for the roll-under stockinette borders along the sides, it looks like it will block out at 40 inches wide. According the the a4A guidelines, it should then be 45 inches long. I need 6 more inches, including a 7 row stockinette border finished off with 2 rows of garter stitch. This is not a problem. I love the green blanket. On days like today, when the cloud cover is so thick it looks like twilight in here, the green blanket is an especially welcome and cheering companion, calling forth recognition and recollection of all the new leaves budding on all the trees up and down my neighborhood.

The yellow sock. Ick. I have to find the needles. For that matter, I have to remember what size; was it US 2 or 3? I have to find the yarn. I have to remember which pattern I used. I have to find the online video for the twisted continental long-tail whatever cast-on that I opted for based on Diane's recommendation when I complained that I thought the cast on for the blue socks wasn't as stretchy as I wanted. (Yes, I know that was a run-on sentence. I did it on purpose. It gives dramatic emphasis to my extreme and signal distaste for sock knitting.)

Guess which one I'll be working on today.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Ta lah-di da.

Done, right down to the braided bow tassels for the corners. Except I don't like it. Three colors was just a bad design decision. Worse, there's a mistake. Well, there are several, but there's one that even a non-knitter will find hard to miss.

Too bad. The baby's almost a year old and this has got to go. Besides, Marc has issued dire threats if I do anything to this beyond the final blocking.

Pattern - A sort of free verse variation on the Blessingway Blanket by Hannah Cuviello from Knitalong. With help from Barbara Walker (center panel cable) and Elsebeth Lavold (cable technique and inspiration for corner panels).
Yarn - Blue Sky Dyed Cotton, 2 in 616/Sky (the light blue), 2 in 628/Azul (the green), and Blue Sky Organic Cotton, 3 in 80/Bone.
Needles - Addi Turbos, size US 9.5.5 mm.

Meh. Unless I want to do yarn reclamation, I'm out of the light blue yarn anyway.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Getting Things Done

Guilt disguised as superstition is a powerful motivator.

I have two projects that have my husband's stamp on them.One involves the current, fruitless and, I have discovered, hopeless search for non-Rowan indigo tweed yarn. The Project Which Must Not Be Named is the second. The one where I achieved triangularity and then promptly abandoned. The only thing he has ever actually asked me to knit.

What, you may wonder, has my failure to progress on the second have to do with my complete inability to find an acceptable yarn substitute for the first?

First, you need to hear the yarn story. I will not even pretend that I wouldn't gleefully sacrifice my brother's sweater if I had enough of the Scottish Tweed Aran to make a cabled-cardigan for a former wrestler, but I don't. I only bought enough for a plain EZ pullover, about 400 yards short of the cabled cardigan requirement.

The Debbie Bliss Donegal Tweed Chunky, which I misidentified as "Indigo" (or Denim or something) came closest. I went on repeated searches trying to locate a stockist who had Indigo Aran weight on hand. My frustration was a benediction from the knitting gods. The Chunky Donegal Tweed was actually "Navy" and the color isn't available in the Aran weight yarn. Other navy or indigo tweeds are either too dark, too light or involve lavender.

While still in the throes of that frustration I had an epiphany (I know, out of season, but there it is. One cannot always control these things). Clearly, I had failed to find the right yarn because I had squirrelled away the Not Quite A Blessingway Blanket. If I want to make any progress on this newest sweater project, I must get the Blessingway Blanket done. I needed the closure.

Of course, first I had to find it. It's knit in pieces and there was good reason to fear that they were scattered. The stash has been tossed repeatedly since October, when I abandoned, I mean, last worked on the project.

As the pieces started surfacing I had to face a series of dispiriting facts. I had worked barely two inches on the second ecru panel. In my fantasy world it was about half done. I couldn't find the triangle. Let's just say the temper tantrum I threw was rewarded, but it did the stash no good, no good at all. Worst, I didn't write down the final formula for placing the short rows, hence all the little row markers from my attempt to read my knitting.

For posterity, let me note here that I did them every other right side row starting at row 15 until the apex of the triangle, where I worked a short row for three consecutive right-side rows, that is, the apex and the right side rows immediately on either side for a total of 31 sets of short rows. It took me three days to knit the second triangle, where I only needed an afternoon for the first one.

All things considered, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when the weather warmed up outside, which means the radiators are off inside, which means the second triangle is taking forever to dry (it's cotton, after all). I had so hoped to finish it today.

While closure may still elude me, I had a second epiphany. It came after I finished the second ecru panel (just in case you think superstitions are superstitious). There is no substitute for Rowan Scottish Tweed Aran in Indigo. I'm going back to Cascade 220 for Marc's sweater. I'm thinking 2448/Mallard.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Prepare To Be Amazed

I know I am.

(Of course there's a story. Today, though, I'm just going to wallow bask for a while before I have to face attaching everything. In the meantime, please note that I chose Earth Day to blog about my organic cotton project.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Going International

It's Friday. Today is not so much foolishness as, maybe bemusement is the word I'm looking for.

You may not be aware, but you read what I have always considered one of the most obscure knitting blogs out there, making you one of a rare and priveleged group. Imagine my amazement, then, to find that I've been picked up in Iceland.

There I am, number 32, the very bottom of the list, at

At least, I think I am. Anyone speak Icelandic?

Oh, and because it's not a real blog entry unless there's some real knitting.

I understated the progress on the green blanket.

A lot.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Real Knitting

I realize that posts have been rather thin on the ground these past few months. So sorry. I thought you all might be rather sick of how I go into mind-numbing detail as I work my way out of my various knitting quagmires; that not posting was preferable to droning on and on about how I get there from here. Truth be told, except for the 18 or 20 inches of green blanket, most of my knitting is still in my head. If you all want to see what that looks like, though, I can certainly give you swatches.

My brother's eventual sweater. Swatched in the round because he likes John's yoke-back Elizabeth Zimmermann sweater (which was, of course, knit in the round, and the only way to get an accurate gauge swatch for a sweater knit in the round is to - knit in the round). I'm dithering over a couple of cabled rib variations down there at the bottom. The very bottom is twisted every 4th row, the section above the garter stitch line is twisted every other row.

The yarn is Rowan Scottish Tweed Aran in Indigo (the yarn and color that Marc approved for his sweater and which is out of stock, special order only, or back-ordered every where I look) on US 8/5 mm Crystal Palace dpn's, 4.75 stitches per inch.

Family portrait of Marc's sweater.

Attempt #1 of Scottish Tweed Aran substitutes: Debbie Bliss Donegal Tweed Chunky in Denim on US 8/5 MM needles, with a cable experiment. The combination chosen because the Bird's-Eye Cardigan from Knitting For Him is knit in Rowan Scottish Tweed Bulky (which does not come in Indigo) with US 8's. Above the ribbing is a 3-over-1 cable which was absolutely hideous to knit. The top cable is a standard 2-over-2, which wasn't much better. I absolutely and unequivocally refuse to knit this yarn with these needles. I don't care that I got gauge or how good it looks. Oh, and the cables are too far apart.

Attempt Number 2: Tahki Donegal Tweed, Aran weight, in Denim. Knit on US 9/5.5 mm Addi Turbo's, which are entirely too large for this yarn, even as tightly as I knit. Abandoned because I hoped Denim would again correspond to Indigo. It doesn't, unless your looking at that beloved 5 year old pair of jeans that you really can't wear in public anymore but are so comfortable that you can't bear to throw them out. That, and the cables are too close together.

Attempt number 3 (I'm starting to feel like Monty Hall on Let's Make A Deal, "What have we got behind Door Number 3, Carol?"): Plymouth Tweed, worsted weight in color #5317 on US 8/5 mm Addi Turbos (which explains why the Tahki got knit on US 9's, all my other hundreds of US 8's having apparently gone on retreat to some remote mountain hideaway). Chosen because by now I have bitten the bullet and accepted that I am not going to be able to use any extant pattern for the sweater Marc wants, anyway. Rejected because, while it doesn't show up in the photo (at least on my monitor), it is entirely too peacock-y for me. Marc kind of likes it and argued that from a distance no one would notice the purple and teal running through it. Since I have to actually knit the stuff, I vetoed it anyway, though I had to bring in the heavy artillery (a.k.a. The Princess) before I could beat him into submission wring acquiescence out of persuade him. The fact that Clare might have a project for the yarn had, I'm sure, no effect on her decision to support me, whatsoever.

You think this was bad? I've got another yarn option arriving by UPS today.

Just wait till I take you on the Grey Sweater Odyssey.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dwelling in Possibilities

One of the joys of being a humanities type with a fourteen year old is, all that science and math stuff I hated? I get to revisit it. A while back, I was at odds with the scientific definition of work, the one that says you only work when you pick the box up, not when you carry the 50 pound sucker across the room (which reinforces my attitude that science generally makes no sense). A discussion of work from the scientific perspective, however, involves things like potential and kinetic. Stored energy versus energy in use, or motion. This I can relate to. This moves science from the merely annoying to the realm of possibility.

I've got possibility, or perhaps potential, to show you. (You know, it took a lot of work to get that segue. Unscientifically speaking.)

I like to knit sweaters. I had always vaguely assumed that the sweater requests I had received from various relations, however, were mostly of the "humor the lunatic" variety. Admittedly there was a bit of excitement when my youngest brother tried on John's sweater and the various non-knitting members of my extended family were jaw-dropped impressed. A sweater is a real knitting accomplishment, after all. One that would cover one of my 6 foot-plus brothers was worthy of astonished veneration. (I took said brother's request for a sweater seriously enough to buy the yarn -- any excuse to buy yarn, right? -- but that's where it sits. I figure on knitting another yoke- backed Zimmermann sweater for him, but eventually. Which is why you don't know anything about it. It's still in my head, ergo, it cannot be blogged.)

Anyway. I still believed the younger generation smiled kindly to my face ("Sure, you could knit me a sweater, Aunt Julie") and rolled their eyes and sighed when I wasn't around. My oldest nephew managed to disabuse me of this notion.

It took awhile. There was the initial request. My attitude? Not unlike what I assumed theirs was, "Sure, I'll knit you a sweater. What color?" I figured the color thing would stop him cold. Wrong. Gunmetal. He wants a gunmetal grey sweater. At this point I went ahead, pulled some skeins of grey yarn out of my stash and started playing with them. The next time I saw him, I presented them for his edification. They weren't what he had in mind. "Hah," I thought, "Vindicated!"

I expected to go along for quite some time before the sweater came up again - like maybe when he had had children and they were old enough to go to college. Instead, he came through with a color sample. I am now in possession of one of his favorite scarves, provided to me with the observation that any color that would go with the scarf would work. This got my attention. I began to suspect he was in earnest. He convinced me when he further provided one of his favorite sweaters to use as a model. No one gives up a scarf and a sweater unless they're serious.

I committed to a real yarn search. I have to admit, I was a little less than excited about knitting with grey. I figured I was going to have to find a yarn with a little something extra to it. Something that would give it some oomph. Something that would lift it out of the nether world of neither black nor white nor good red herring that gray yarn represents to me. I picked up any gray yarn I could find (and there weren't many) that I thought would knit up into a fabric that would entertain me for the duration. Rowan felted tweed in grey. Cascade 220 grey heather. Grey Silky Wool. No, and no, and no, again. I have reached the unexpected conclusion that grey mixed with anything else is dryer lint.

If I'm going to knit with gray yarn, I have to commit to gray. Plain gray. Gray straight up, no chaser.

So be it.

While I was researching yarn, I started researching patterns. With somewhat less success. But that 's a possible post for another day.

Another possibility occurs to me. What if his siblings weren't kidding, either?

Edited to add: Another possibility! Larissa of Knitalong fame is collecting Barn-raising Quilt squares for a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders. These are fun and clever and endlessly engaging. Details here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Life Is Just a Chair of Bowlies

I can tell already. It's going to be one of those days, mostly making up for yesterday. I could have recovered fairly smoothly from the round trip to Urbana in a downpour (I do so love that Clare is again close enough to come up for occasions). I might even have been able to process John's 6 page essay. It was his belated recollection that the essay was supposed to be in 12 pt type and he had written his in 14 pt that did me in. You'd be surprised by just how much an essay can shrink under those circumstances. Well, maybe you wouldn't, but I was, not much given to considering the relative size of Times New Roman under the best of conditions.

With all that apologia, let me point out that at least I'm posting. Briefly and possibly frivilously, but posting nonetheless.

Without further ado, let me just state: I got the best Easter basket this year.

I do Easter baskets well as a general rule. Christmas stockings and St. Nicholas Day shoes and Epiphany, too. (Anyone with any sense wants to be a member of my household at holiday time.) This year, mine was the best.

It's a yarn bowl.

Note the clever little curlicue cut-out that Jennie the Potter devised so the ball of yarn doesn't leap out and race under the couch like spilled Cheerios every time I pull out some new yarn.

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and a yarn bowl. And yarn. Life is good.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

All Manner of Thing Shall Be Well

Loud are the bellls of Norwich
and the people come and go.
Here by the tower of Julian
I tell them what I know.

Ring out Bells of Norwich
And let the winter come and go.
All shall be well again, I know.

All shall be well I'm telling you.
Let the winter
Come and go.
All shall be well again, I know.

Whatever you celebrate this Season, may it be well.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thinking Green Thoughts

We're at that time of the year, again; the back and forth of the weather time. We warm up and all the snow melts, then we freeze over again. It rains. It thunders. Then it snow flurries. I remember a story I read to my children when they were little, Ollie's Ski Trip, by Elsa Beskow. King Winter rules (he's a good guy, remember this is about Ollie's first set of skis), but eventually loses out to drab, ragged-looking Mrs Thaw, who comes with her broom to sweep away winter and clean up for Spring. I feel like we've spent a disproportionate amount of time in Mrs. Thaw's company lately. Yes, the crocuses are up and the tulips are starting to show, but the radiators are still running and the nights still dip into the 30's.

Which perhaps explains why, in between swatching sundry blue tweed yarns into various cable patterns, most of my knitting time is spent on this.

I am liking knitting this, which is fairly astonishing to me. You have to realize, I peered down into that box of yarn, off and on, for weeks, debating what to do with it. Try to return it? Add it to the String Theory box for this summer's sidewalk sale? Bury it as if it were toxic waste?

I still look at the remaining skeins and flinch. Much as I like lettuce, I'm less than enthralled when it is interpreted in wool. In its blanket incarnation, though, I am entranced. Astonished. Held captive once more by the magic in knitting.

That, and I'm convinced that the more I knit on this, the sooner Mrs. Thaw will finish her housekeeping.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


When I was growing up, we used to work puzzles. Really tricky ones, Like "The Yellow Bird" and Pieter Brueghel's "Proverbs". It's a tradition Marc and I have carried on. We've worked puzzles featuring the artwork of Gustav Klimt ("The Kiss"), Magritte ("Le Chateau des Pyrenees") and Edward Gorey (an untitled theater piece). Back in those growing up days we had a puzzle. Round. Erte. Seven Deadly Sins. Apparently the only one ever produced, since I can't find an image no matter what combination of words I use (it's not the suite he did in 1983). I remember it was a gift to my mother from a friend, and I retain the impression my mom didn't altogether approve of the subject.

Anyway. I like knowing things and I like words. Throw in a little parental disapproval and it was inevitable that I try to memorize the Seven Deadly Sins. It became a game for me, like trying to remember the names of the Seven Dwarves (everyone forgets Bashful). All of which, I suppose, explains why The Seven Deadly S(p)ins was the first yarn club I joined. Well, that and they promised it wouldn't be socks.

This (really) is the last shipment. It's Lust .

The Unique Sheep Luxe, light fingering weight 75/25 superwash merino/tussah silk, in Lusty Pink.

Luxe in Leafy Green.

The Unique Sheep Verve, light fingering weight superwash merino, in American Beauty (like the rose).

While I think the individual yarns are a feast for the senses, I'm just not quite sure what I think of them combined in the actual project.

Makes nice yarn pr0n, though.

Oh. I did finally memorize the Seven Deadlies by sorting them. The World - Greed, Envy. The Flesh - Lust, Sloth, Gluttony. And the Devil - Pride, Anger. With so much of the World and the Flesh taken up with variations on desire, it's no wonder I lost track of my S(p)ins.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Puzzlement

As in, "There are times I almost think I am not sure of what I absolutely know."*

This is one of those times that I feel great empathy with the King of Siam. I've been, and I use the term advisedly, the beneficiary of some revelations about Marc's sweater. Flush with confidence, I decided to reveal to himself the state of his -- not incipient, perhaps eventual -- hand-knit sweater-ness. It was blue. It would be (once I got the knitting and my nerve to the point that I could cut it) a cardigan. I was delighted with myself. Expectant. Ready for his awe, wonder and praise. What do I get?

"Isn't it kind of - dark?."

Excuse me? Isn't navy blue, by definition, by it's very existence, dark? Have you ever heard of "light navy blue"? Of course not. If it's light navy blue it's something like "faded denim" or "cobalt" or "Copen blue" or "cerulean" depending on how "light" it is. Dark, indeed. I'll give you dark, sport.

Recognizing his error, the impending breakdown in diplomatic relations, his imminent verbal annihilation, he back-stepped pretty quickly. This would not have saved him, except in the course of things he revealed that the extremely ugly olive green and red sweater that I had stolen from his side of the closet and set aside for Goodwill had migrated to his office and he was actually wearing it in public. This is a sweater of such cheap manufacture, such skimpiness, such shoddy wool, that it looked threadbare when it was brand new (and no, I didn't buy it for him; it's not my fault). This sweater achieved new and appalling heights of knitted hideosity the like of which I have not seen in lo, these many days. And this is what's living at his office. The realization is all that saved him. Poor me, I have to knit another sweater.

Deciding that there was no point in assuming I knew the man didn't keep me from paging through pattern books. Clare and I between us found the ideal cardigan, his perfect sweater, in Rowan's Knitting for Him.

I didn't and don't care for the variations in cable size, but figured that would be an easy alteration. So, despite all prior experience, and fully expecting to have my selection validated, I presented him with the book and told him to pick out his sweater.

He chose this one.

Except he wants it in one color. Without pockets. And maybe with two cables running up both sides of the front. In this yarn,

of which I haven't enough because I bought it for my brother's sweater and which is, incidentally, the exact same yarn in the exact same color used in the sweater Clare and I picked out and that he doesn't like. I can't help but notice that he chose the only cardigan modeled by the greying, balding, short-haired guy with glasses.

The male mind - truly a dark and befuddling place.

* Oscar Hammerstein, The King and I, 1959.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Hurried-er I Go the Behind-er I Get

It's just been too eventful around here lately. No sooner did we come out of stomach flu than it was time for John's spring break.The week after that it was Clare's. Somewhere in there I think there were a couple meetings. Factor in a birthday, a little residual viral activity (not of the computer variety), an IEP staffing and two report-card pick-ups and, well, there you have it. I really do have an actual, honest-to-God knitting post started but it's just being obstinate and categorically refusing to write itself (I hate when they do that).

Can I tide you over with this? Well, not Diane because she was with me when I bought it. In fact I'm not at all sure but that it isn't her fault entirely, since she forced me to go to the yarn store in the first place. It's not yarn pr0n, but it's close.

I bought myself a birthday present.

It has pockets.