Saturday, August 29, 2009

I Got This Idea

And it didn't work. Let's state that right up front. But when has that ever stopped me from writing?

After I posted Friday, I sat and looked at the project so far, with those 21 cast-on stitches and 20 picked-up stitches and I began to wonder. There had to be a way to knit this the way I wanted to. Some way that would that keep my diagonal pointing in the right direction and keep the top of my knitting consistent.

Question #1:What if, after I cast on and picked up the stitches from the top of square #8, what if I kept going and picked up the stitches I need to join the new square to square #3?

Answer: Think about it. If I cast on and then pick up stitches across the two adjacent squares, where will my yarn end up? That's right. At the top of square # 3, 20 stitches away from where I need to start knitting.

Question #2: Okay Fine. What if I pick up stitches down square #3 and across square #7 and then cast on. Huh? What about that? Could I then knit on the 41 right-most stitches - that is, the cast on stitches and the picked-up stitches from square #7 -- and knit the last stitch together with the picked-up stitch from square #3?

Answer: Oh honestly. Think about it. All the decreases -- and thus the pattern -- would end up on the wrong side of the work instead of the right side.

I'd like to tell you I figured this all out in my head and therefore held fast to the recognition that Erin really meant me to pick up one leg of the last stitch in each row to join the sides of squares #3 and #8. I'd be lying.

I'll be good now, though. I promise. This whole thinking thing is over-rated.

(Oh, and before anyone asks. Yes, I picked up the wrong leg for the first two rows. No. I don't intend to go back and fix it. I've knit those 8 rows so many times the yarn is starting to turn back into roving. Enough is enough.)

Friday, August 28, 2009


It's the po-tay-to po-tah-to of knitting. Pick up and knit versus pick up a stitch. This time I'm feeling confounded. I thought the two phrases we synonymous, at least more so than less. But Erin want me to "pick up and knit" stitches when I'm joining at the cast-on stage, but pick up and knit together when I'm joining row by row, if you know what I mean. Maybe not.

Okay. Here' what I think pick up and knit at the cast on edge looks like. I'm pretty sure this is right.

I'm stuck when it comes to joining this square to the rest of the blanket. I'm supposed to knit to the last stitch of a right side row, then pick up a stitch from the adjacent square and knit the two together. In practical terms, I thought this meant, slip the last stitch to the right hand needle. Insert the left hand needle into the slipped end stitch of the adjacent square and pull up a loop of the working yarn. Slip the stitch on the right hand needle back to the left hand needle. Knit the two together, as in knit two loops of the same yarn. That felt pretty awkward and besides it didn't actually work right. I ripped it out before I thought about taking a picture.

I decided to try something else. I knit to the end of the row. Picked up a loop of the working yarn through a stitch from the adjacent row to join. Turned the work. Knit the two together (on the wrong side). Decidedly less cumbersome, at least for the way I knit. Except I didn't like the result, again. I ended up with these horizontal squash colored bars encroaching on the variegated squares (you can see this at the bottom two rows of the square in production).

I came to the conclusion that, for this pattern, pick up a stitch is not the same as pick up and knit. Now I think maybe I need to slip the last stitch to the right hand needle. Insert the left hand needle into the last stitch of the adjacent square - without pulling the working yarn through. Slip the stitch on the right hand needle back to the left hand needle and knit one leg from the end stitch of the adjacent square with the last stitch from the square still under construction. This is, I'm pretty sure, what the pattern requires, especially considering that the next (wrong-side) row begins with slipping the first stitch. Only I don't like the way it looks, either (that would be the top two rows of the square in production).

I've frogged back to the cast on, and I've got one last trick I want to try. Jane's Booties use a similar technique to join the instep to the sides, admittedly while knitting in the round.

I've threaded a smaller dpn through the loops I need to join and want to see if I pick the stitches this way if I can improve the the finished product. We'll see what things look like once I finish a square. Maybe (she said with a desperately hopeful note in her voice) it will look better then?

You say pomme de terre and I say po-tay-to.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Following the Rules

For this newest baby blanket campaign, the a4A website reminds us, and I quote: "Please avoid white and very light colors that soil more easily. Afghans like all colors. Mix up a bright and cheery palette."

Bright. Cheery. Not light. I'm doing my best here. The Malabrigo project certainly fulfills those criteria. The yarn slides through my fingers and I think, "Ooh. That's a pretty stretch of color." I knit a little farther and think, "Hmm, maybe I should see if there's a semi-solid in this shade. Just in case I do need to widen the border."

Well, for the record, that may not be what I think when knitting the solid; the gold is just a little too reminiscent of squash for me. Autumnal as all get out, I grant you, but still, squash. (I hate squash. Really. Even if it's been prepared properly.)

Still, the knitting is entertaining. I do love me a pattern that decreases to transmogrify itself. I finish off a variegated square and start a squash gold one. I'm engaged with the whole knit-it-all-together-at-once-and-watch-the-afghan-grow experience (as opposed to the whole knit-a-pile-of-squares experience).

Then I step back and actually look at the thing. Cringe. It's still bright, cheery and not light. So how is it that something can follow all the rules and still be so - unappealing? That green border had better work a miracle.

And it may. I can't help noticing that the photograph with the black background isn't nearly as off-putting as the one from my kitchen table. Of course, if it doesn't, it will certainly be a joy to send this one off. No second thoughts at all. The peace of mind that comes with knitting according to Hoyle.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"What if I Just . . ."

I think it's fair to say we have established that them is dangerous words around here. Still, sometimes one just needs to keep busy. Sometimes one is just nervous and excited. Sometimes repeated losses at computer Solitaire are just not enough to keep impatience at bay. Sometimes one has a severe case of that Mr. Roger's song "Let's Think of Something to do While We're Waiting" Syndrome.

Clare has been in England the past two weeks. She is en route home and has, in fact, achieved North America at this point. She has a layover in Ottawa, though, and then has to get into O'Hare Field on a Saturday Afternoon in August. I need to keep busy. (Oh. Ahem. Yes. Full disclosure compels me to admit that, in between all those loser's hands of Solitaire, we've been logging into one of the online flight trackers since her flight left Heathrow).

Before life went haywire, Clare did two things for me. She emptied all the mystery boxes out of Fibber McGee's closet, and she replaced the completely useless (and therefore total waste of money), so-called "student desk" that has occupied space in her room since she was about 8, with a clever college-student construction involving crates from Michael's and a table top from Ikea. The original plan was to send the useless desk off to Salvation Army. Then we looked at my so-called kitchen desk.

Yes, well, and ahem again. Perhaps you can see why her desk just sat in the front hall under all the mystery boxes for lo, these many weeks. Stoically enduring getting banged into whenever the front door was opened. Suffering patiently while I found all sorts of excuses to just not get on with things.

Today, it was rewarded.

Isn't that better?

(Before I go, is this the point where I hope Cathy is still reading and admit that one of the things excavated from the kitchen desk is her baby sock kit? This week. I promise!)

Friday, August 21, 2009

New Campaign

The problem with neglecting the blog is that I forget things. A couple weeks ago now, I got the email from the a4A group. It's time for another baby blanket campaign for CURE Hospital in Kabul. Details are here. New KAL blog is here.

Okay, that's the important part. Here's the fun part. I've mentioned off and on that I joined the Malabrigo Club at Eat.Sleep.Knit (have I mentioned how much I like E.S.K.?). I think it absolutely serendipitous that this month's package was, once again, yarn I would never buy for myself in a million years. In fact, I think I would back away, slowly so as not to encourage an attack, forming a cross with my two index fingers. Why then, you may wonder, is it all wound up and ready to go? Why would I call its arrival serendipitous? (And - what about Naomi?*)

Well. Look at the pattern Erin designed (have I mentioned how much I like Erin's designs?). It decreases steadily, so the colors of the variegated yarn won't pool too much. It's garter stitch, so the squares will actually come out, you know, square. And, because it's all ridges all the time, each color will be broken up further by the subsequent rows. It's assemble as you go, so we won't be seeing that Other Issue I have with mitered squares. All right, so it means I have to use the backward loop cast-on. I despise, not so much the cast-on itself, which is easy and fun, but the first row knitting into it where I have to knit so slowly and carefully and not yank my yarn too hard (tight knitter!) or else end up with all this extra yarn that came from I don't where.

Is this perfect for a4A or what? Bright colors. Green border. Okay, so the finished size is 32 by 36, which is too small. I feel sure even I can adjust that without screwing up. All I have to do is make a wider border. If there isn't enough green I can either use my (anticipated) left-overs from the squares or mine the Stash.

Not only that, it's fast.

I realize I'm giving you more garter stitch, instead of the promised saga of stockinette, but at least it's bent garter stitch.

* I just threw that in for all us old Electric Company fans. The one with Morgan Freeman, Bill Cosby and Rita Moreno.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I don't feel at a loss for words very often, yet here I am. So many sketchy posts in a row make me feel incredibly out of step. The equation is supposed to be: knitting+life=posting. There's supposed to be a balance, isn't there? Instead life kind of took over and while knitting has been happening -- I have, after all, come pretty clean on the "Yes, I'm still knitting and yes, I'm still screwing it up" bit (which is, you must admit, rather the theme of this blog) -- I haven't done a very good job of checking in with anything substantive, have I?

Well. Time to re-connect. What would you like, life or knitting? Yeah. I thought so.

I think this latest batch of knitting can be traced back to the Red Shawl. No. I take it back. It goes back to Stitch-A-Palooza 2008, where we saw all those knitters swanking about in shawls made out of fabulous yarns and where my terribly smart and generous knitting sister got me my shawl kit. (Note to self - ask for another copy of pattern to replace copy apparently filed away too thoroughly). I do have shawls to show you; just not that one.

Fenna. I am deeply and irrevocably in love with Fenna and by extension Myrna Stahman.

My infatuation remains staunch and abiding, both for it and Fleece Artist Blue Face Leicester. I think I may need to make another with this color-way. I'll convince myself that it's not greed, it's stash-busting.

The Not Quite Tweedy Ruffle/Not Exactly the Wool Peddler's Shawl is All Better.

Everything is lining up and the knitting is proceeding with a straight spine (the shawl) and a happy face (me). I still haven't decided on what color to make the border/ruffle. I had been thinking brown/neutral (Cascade 220 in Pumpkin Spice comes to mind). Clare suggested pink? I am, shall we say, open to other ideas.

It occurred to me, however, that what I have to show you is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, garter stitch. Can I hope to woo you back with garter stitch? Even with fabulous yarn and knitting idiot stories? I fear not. I've pattern-hunted and stash-tossed and come up with (drum roll and trumpet blast) another shawl: Ilga Leja's Lake in the Woods capelet.

Since I don't live in the Canadian woods, I chose a yarn to march my lake. My lake is moody. It glimmers silver. Glowers thunderhead gray. Gleams deep cadet blue. It doesn't glow in the vivid and lighthearted blue expressed by the colorway the pattern features. My lake is best reflected in this.

Handmaiden Lady Godiva in Stardust, purchased during a love-at-first-sight moment from Eat.Sleep.Knit.

Is this the point where I mention that my other knitting is all stockinette all the time? Maybe not. That will give you hope that I have something else to write about. It would seem word-less-ness, for me, is a transient condition.

So. Didja miss me?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

It Should Have Worked

But it didn't. Several times.

Then it went downhill.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Straighten Up and Fly Right

Diane, looking at my poor deformed green shawl,

questioned my statement that the repair would be ugly.

"Really?" she wondered.

"Yes. Really."