Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Number 1

Marco backslid a bit. When I took him in Saturday, the x-ray showed an "infiltration" in his left lung over his heart, indicating an "infection." He's been on the Enola Gay of antibiotics, an inhaler and nuclear cough syrup for 5 days now. I think he's feeling better. The doctor Saturday said "pneumonia;" when the primary care called, he studiously avoided the term, hence the description above (which sure sounds like pneumonia to me)(I think he thinks I'm an alarmist.).

This whole show has been going on for 13 days now. I've reached the point where a distraction is called for. Besides I've finished the second sleeve on Marc's sweater and need to avoid the whole cable thing for a bit.

Teva Durham's Leaf scarf (which seems to have vanished from the web) to be knit double stranded on US 13/9 mm needles. The yarn is Malabrigo Silky Merino in Teal Feather.

And I quote" The intermediate knitter can complete the project in 2 - 4 hours."

We shall see.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Good News and Bad News

I know, I know. Trite. The problem with trite is that it so often describes reality. I really do have all sorts of good news and bad news.

I thought I had gotten back into the swing of blogging, especially after last week. It's not my fault, though. The first bad news in Marco's got the 'flu. The good news is, he only has the 'flu.

One of the constants with Down Syndrome is a less efficient immune system. With Marco, this manifests itself not so much in the frequency with which he gets sick as in the severity of the symptoms that manifest on the rare occasion when he does catch something. Four days of mounting fever -- and it was pretty high to start with -- a complete loss of appetite and a cough that could drown out the seal chorus at Lincoln Park Zoo at feeding time had me spinning pneumonia, hospitals and antibiotics delivered via I-V scenarios. I blame some of my over the top response on sleep deprivation. The cough is a 24 hour thing that nothing works on, leaving me fantasizing about the good old days when cough syrup meant codeine.

Let me also mention my bemusement that anyone exhibiting those symptoms could belt out The Proclaimers cover of Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World" at the top of his lungs while simultaneously performing the percussion on the way to the doctor's office or conduct Walt Disney's Fantasia with an energy and verve that would put Leonard Bernstein to shame later that evening. Going by his behavior, he was healthy as a horse.

The doctor's visit was reassuring - no other, underlying infection (good news), too late for Tamiflu (bad news). He's on the mend now, obviously or I wouldn't be writing. Still running a temp, but it's been dropping for the last two days. All I have to do now is manage to remain vigilant enough to notice if he backslides.

All of that has reduced all knitting to the plain vanilla variety. All those little projects with which I hope to entertain you until Christmas are back-burner-ed. I have absolutely no progress to report. The tricky thing about little projects is that, while quick to knit, they take concentration. There's no long stretch of mindless knitting to occupy your hands and soothe your soul when your attention must be focused somewhere else. That's the second bad news.

The corresponding good news is that what's bad for the little Christmas projects is good for the big one. I've been just churning out rows and rows on Marc's sweater. The sleeves are almost finished. The whole knit two at once thing worked really well. I switched over to one at a time once I'd knit to the end of the respective skeins. With only the shaping for the sleeve caps left it didn't make much sense to use 2 balls of yarn. I doubt there's more than a few hours knitting left and these are done.

Which in turn brings us to the third set of good news/bad news. The good news is that I can cast on for the cardigan fronts.

The bad news is I can't put off figuring out where to place the cable pattern for much longer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

False Start

If a marathon is distance and endurance, and a sprint is speed, what would a long distance speed race be? A Mint? A Sprarathon? Whatever you want to call it, the fact remains that I'm looking at a big project and short time-frame, at least if I want to deliver it in person.

The yarn arrived Saturday. Just because we somehow forgot to check the mail doesn't change that. Come Sunday morning there it was, leaning against the door-frame. It's for a housewarming gift and the housewarming aspect looms large (and soon) in my mind. A day or two earlier and, while a not a walk in the park, it would have been excitingly do-able. As of yesterday, I would have said it was fraught but do-able.

One day's knitting left me with three results.

Ten inches of blanket, the realization that "deep blue" isn't always the same as "dark blue" and the conclusion that, however much I liked it, it wasn't right for the person I was making it for. Which, I thought, puts the project right over into the impossible. The extended sprint. The high speed marathon.

Time to regroup. Do I really need to be there when she receives it? No. No, actually, I don't. In fact, all things considered, I'd rather not be around when someone opens something I've made for them.

I think I may have just bought some time. If I change the deadline, doesn't that work out the same as getting a better starting position? On your mark. Get set.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Three Skeins or Less

I need to finish some things. Anythings. My success rate for larger projects has been nothing short of abysmal lately. I long for afghans and sweaters, but my frustration level is rising. Even when, like today (and the rest of this week for that matter ) circumstances (broken storm drain and resultant plumbers) conspire to entrap me at home, I still feel too pulled in too many directions. The Knitter as salt-water taffy. And while I remain determined to finish Marc's sweater for Christmas, I think the a4A debacle was trying to tell me something.

Smaller projects. Much smaller projects. Many much smaller projects. A veritable raft of reward knitting to save a drowning knitter. So I have devised a plan. No snickering.

Over the past few days -- in between providing keys, observing broken pipe, talking to local small-job moving companies, organizing the emptying of one of our storage lockers (thank God for older children with strong backs and legs) (I don't want to even look at my dining room right now), cancelling local small-job moving companies, viewing new pipe -- I have searched for, downloaded, and planned out a series of small scarves, cowls, shawlettes, smoke-rings and neckwarmers for some of the female family members on my Christmas list. Not those who read the blog from time to time, because I don't want to raise hopes (or dread, "Oh no, Aunt Julie's knitting again! Can't we go to Paraguay for Christmas? Please?")

The operative word here is "small." Most take one skein of yarn; the largest calls for three. Of course, none of them involve simple rows of stockinette in the round, so I may still be deluding myself. In my favor, I have no plans to alter, improve or personalize these pieces beyond yarn choice. I've even limited myself there. All will be made from Malabrigo Silky Merino, thus saving myself from the endless knitting it take to get an inch of anything in sock yarn.

The last of the yarn came yesterday.

I can't deny that the lure of the big project is still there. Besides all the ongoing stockinette there are those other two sweaters lurking, the ones for my brother and nephew. They both have winter birthdays, which, as the result of some convoluted thinking on my part, is an added reason to knit for them for Christmas. I'm not letting myself even consider casting on, but honesty compels me to disclose that they're there in my mental peripheral vision while I'm trying to keep focused on more attainable goals.

Three skeins or less. It's kind of like the old "Shoe" cartoon from back before Jeff MacNelly died, about the way to get lawyers under control: "Shorten their pads." Except knitterly.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stocking Stitch Tales

Okay, so the title is a flagrant rip-off of James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking tales, none of which I have read. Not only that, I haven't even seen any of the movies, not even the one with Daniel Day Lewis. How can you take seriously a series of stories where the hero is named Natty Bumpo? Sometimes the search for a good title takes strange paths.

It does reflect what's going on around here, though. Stockinette stitch is the sum of my current knitting.

Actual stockinette in progress:

Marc's sweater (I've finished and bound off the back) (is that redundant?)?

And the eternal purple sweater for the next a4A Youth Campaign. The latest lame excuse for its still unfinished state is that I have to wind another skein and splice it on.

The promise of more stockinette to come:

Swatch for the afghan I have to finish in two weeks and for which the yarn has not yet arrived but over which I am refusing to panic. Because of course the USPS will ignore that fact that yesterday was a federal holiday and will still deliver the yarn -- which was shipped Tuesday priority mail from Maine -- today (hey, if we can put a man on the moon . . .).

Woefully neglected, but the exception:

The Fenna Shawl (remember when all I was knitting was shawls?). What does it say when your reward knitting is garter stitch?

I am reminded of the knock-knock joke that ends "Orange you glad I'm not a banana?"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


"Noun : A small specialized mechanical device. Synonyms: concern, contraption, contrivance, gimmick, jigger, thing. Informal: doodad, doohickey, widget. Slang: gizmo."*

I was all set to follow Diane's advice on the stitch marker system for knitting two sleeves on one circular when I remembered a clever little thing I got for Christmas last year. I've used this portable abacus on any number of projects, but just as a straightforward row/round counter. Once I started thinking about the complications that could arise out of color-coding stitch-markers with tallies -- locating a pen or pencil in the appropriate color, losing one of said pens or pencils, losing the tally -- it occurred to me I could use this thingumabob a little more creatively. I could make it do double duty.

Perhaps I should mention first off (and it's so obvious I hate to admit it) but I was surprised to notice that just placing a marker at the start of the knitting helped me keep track of whether I'd knit across both sleeves. If the marker is in the middle, I haven't. If it's at either end, I have. That was one frustration eliminated right there.

Here's where it gets really ingenious, though. Almost convoluted, but in a good way. I have devised A System.

The pattern calls for increases at each end every four rows. At the gauge and for the size I'm knitting, these four rows get repeated 18 times, so I'm counting by 5's instead of 10's. No really. This makes sense. This way, since there are nine beads on each strand, I can track different things. I'm using some of the beads to keep track of where I am within a given set of a 4-row segment and some to keep track of just how many segments I've done. Beads moved toward the top count rows; the larger beads count the left piece, the smaller beads count the right. Beads moved toward the bottom count sets of rows, that is, how many increase rows I've done. Small beads count single rows, large beads mark sets of 5. Once I have 4 beads at the top of each strand, I move them back to the middle and move a small bead to the bottom. Once I have 5 small beads on the bottom, I move them up to the center group and move one large bead down.

My head knows that I could do this by moving fewer beads. For example, while I would probably still want to move the 4th bead up on the first sleeve, instead of moving one up for the second I could just move one down to mark a completed set of 4 rows. I could do the same thing for the increases. My head knows, but the rest of me just doesn't trust me. Maybe after a few more repeats I will. Of course, looking at the beads, I'm half-way through the 13th out of 18 sets of increases, so in a few more repeats I'll be done with this part anyway.

I can't help but notice I've gone far and beyond "knit a few more rows before I give it up as a bad lot and return to a more conventional way of knitting sleeves." Admittedly with so many increases done, two sleeves on one needle knit an awful lot like the entire back of a sweater. I suspect the knitting equivalent of the Theory of Relativity is to blame here. I would have to knit two sleeves one way or another and knitting them on two needles would not, in fact, reduce the actual time spent knitting them. I anticipate the moment -- probably not until I actually bind them off-- when reality hits me over the head and I discover (no doubt to my astonishment) that the sleeves are done.

All thanks to the contraption, contrivance, jigger, doohickey, clever little device.

*American Heritage Dictionary.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Friendly Reminder

String Theory Yarn Company will sell hand-knit (by you ) scarves to benefit DuPage PADS starting the Friday after Thanksgiving. Clare and I went out to drop ours off on Saturday (as if we need an excuse to go yarn shopping). I'm parting with my least favorite learn-a-skill project: Branching Out.

Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, on I forget what size needles and can't remember what colorway. I blocked it and, while it truly blossomed, I still have too many bad memories of how much I disliked knitting it to want to keep it.

Clare knit specially for the cause.

The pattern is from (I think) One Skein Wonders, although it might be from 101 Designer One Skein Wonders or even Luxury Yarn One Skein Wonders. She rid the house of one of the too many odd skeins of Blue Sky Alpaca Melange that I acquired when I thought I would be making Huckleberry Ascots for the entire city of Chicago.

While we were browsing (really, within 5 minutes of handing over our scarves) two separate groups of customers came in looking to buy shop models for Christmas gifts. I think String Theory will be able to sell all 50+ of what they have so far and then some, so send yours along to :

String Theory
477 North Main Street
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Theory vs. Practice

As I approach the bind-off for the back of Marc's sweater, and as I continue to avoid the commitment to cable placement that casting on the fronts for the cardigan entails, I'm thinking about sleeves.

I find sleeves are kind of like what other people tell me about socks. The first one is all gratifying and quick. The second one is just work. My standard method for dealing with this, and I regularly offer up thanks to Elizabeth Zimmermann for the idea, is to cast on both sleeves and knit on whichever one comes to hand. It works reasonably well. There are, however, always some issues. Separating sleeves for one thing. It's uncanny how often they end up at opposite ends of the condo. Keeping track of where I am on which sleeve is another. I believe I have already indicted myself on the whole failure to keep adequate notes, or to keep track of the notes if when I do make them. I want some clever and efficient trick for sleeves.

Clare is a sock knitter. Last year, her Christmas book was Antje Gillingham's Knitting Circles Around Socks. She churns out socks by the pair on a regular basis these days. I doubt she will ever have to pair up two one-of-a-kind socks as some kind of unholy odd couple again.

That is not the non sequitur it would seem to be.

Inspired by Clare and her two-at-a-time socks, I looked at the two sleeve cuffs I recently knit. Might it not be easier to knit them both on the same circular? Each sleeve would then always be knit at the same tension as the other. Both sleeves would always be at the same point of completion. They would always be in the same place. One set of tallies to track increases would suffice. I would never again confuse which tally went with which sleeve, thus ending up with one sleeve an inch or so longer than the other, depending on how long it took me to notice that I had over-knit one and under-knit its companion.

This sounded like such a good idea. You know what, though? It's, not to put too fine a point on it, not. I still seem to forget whether I've knit across both sleeves or one and now I have to juggle two balls of yarn. I've only knit four rows or so. I'll give it a few more before I admit defeat. Maybe I can figure out something clever with stitch markers. Meantime, I'm open to suggestions.

Honestly though, wouldn't you think reality, just this once, could run congruently with the ideal?