So many headlines come to mind.

  1. Ack. Pbbbpht.
  2. Shut up, Becca. No one's forcing you to knit it.
  3. My four-year-old could have designed that.

The object of my spleen? The "Western Point Skirt" on this page. And then go see what Grumperina said after sample-knitting another, similar design, at the bottom of this post.

As a survivor of the '70s, I'm allergic to burnt orange, but even in calming shades of pale periwinkle and mint, these things would be Un.Wear.Able.

That said, many of the other Fall IK patterns look yummy. And the latest Knitty has me wanting to start about six pairs of socks all at once.

Felting vigin no more.

I made my first felted booties yesterday. I can't show them to you, because they're a gift, but I think they turned out OK.  I usually think that knitting something and then shrinking all those pretty, symmetrical stitches out of recognition is a shame and a waste. But snuggly booties were called for, and I had some stash yarn that worked delightfully.

Now I'm a bit obsessed by a cotton stole, and I want to return to my top-down turtleneck and finish seaming the first sleeve and start on the second.

We painted the bedroom on Saturday and Sunday and went to the beach yesterday. My big plan for the holiday today is to catch up on some proofreading work and catch up on housework. And maybe make an apple tart, and perhaps some focaccia.

Also still to do: Cull through and post more baby bird pictures and edit the video footage I shot of a friend's kids for my camcorder testing. I promised their mom I'd give her a disc of her junior skate kings working out at the local skate park, since they coureously consented to be my video subjects. I've also got portraits of the neighbor kids, taken for the same reason, that I need to print for their mother. And I have one more camcorder to test. I would have taken it to the beach yesterday, but I didn't have the forethought to charge it up. And once we got to the beach, Jane hit the waves and I fell asleep in a beach chair. I couldn't understand why I felt so tired and off-balance yesterday, until I woke up with a sore throat this morning. Grr.
Happy Fourth....

Fresh (sort of) knitting inspiration.

I haven't seen much commentary about the summer '06 issue 1icarusshawl_1of Interweave Knits around, but I actually think it's pretty good--and I'm looking forward to seeing the next Knitscene at the end of the month. I haven't read the lace tutorial, but I don't feel like I need to.  Most of the patterns are attractive and wearable, and I'm tempted to start the Icarus shawl using some laceweight from the stash.  The pattern is simple enough that it doesn't look like a fussy tablecloth, although I bet the knitting might get a bit boring after the border.

And Robin Melanson's Looking Glass top is elegant, but I can't believe that grafting the top and bottom together is the best way to construct the front. Couldn't you just knit the front from the top down and make the twist before closing up the keyhole, then continue to knit to the bottom? I swear I can see a line where the graft is in the magazine photograph.

As per usual (in my opinion), Annie Modesitt's design--the Bias Corset--consists of interesting design ideas and construction techniques that add up to an unattractive garment. Every time I see her work I think, "Wow, cool idea--but it doesn't look great."

Knngcover_1I've been a Norah Gaughan fan for ages, and I really love the Ottoman-style motifs she's been exploring lately, but the short-sleeved  pullover  in this issue doesn't look like it fits very well in the sleeves, and I think it would look better in a finer gauge yarn.

Because I do love many of the Norah Gaughan designs I've seen through the years (one notable exception being the funnel-neck Spiralpull_1Aran from IK a couple of winters ago that had a lovely intricate design and looked like it was strangling the model--actually, I was wrong. That painful design was by Annie Modesitt too.), I've been ready to buy an entire book of Gaughan's designs if one ever appeared; a couple of weeks ago I finally got my chance. I found Knitting Nature  at the bookstore and promptly took it home. I'm right there with her fascination with symmetry and repeating geometric patterns, not to mention fairly classic styles. I think this pullover with the spiral eyelet pattern will probably be my first attempt from the book.  Unfortunately, I've been reading that some knitters have run into problems with the patterns in this book. Considering that I'm not nearly as patient or logical a technical knitter as Grumperina seems to be, I may have a harder time working around hinky instructions. In the meantime I'll just look at the pretty pictures.

GreenmanosActually, one of the patterns might work for a scarf I'm planning for Jane's niece, who will be starting at San Francisco state in the fall. I'd like to make her a scarf and hat from this Manos (I've actually got two skeins of the green). I was thinking of something stripey but I haven't spent a lot of time figuring it out.

I also did buy some midnight blue Malabrigo, size 8 bamboo straights, and a book with basic knitting instructions to rope in my friend. Sccov_1I think she liked them--I'll know for sure when and if she calls to set up a lesson... I checked out the new issues of Knit.1 and the Vogue Knit Simple on the newsstand, but both left me unimpressed, and neither had the kind of designs that I thought would appeal to someone who doesn't want to end up with something tacky for her troubles.

QuechuaFinally, I've been dinking around with some yarn I got about a month ago from Elann. It's an alpaca-tencel blend, which felt very weird when I first started working with it. It's hairy, whereas I thought it would be very smooth, and it feels both soft and cotton-y, linen-y hard. The part that I ripped and reknit felt noticeably less crisp, so it probably will soften with washing like linen does. I've never used tencel before, so I didn't know what to expect. Even on size 5 needles, this is making a fairly open stockinette stitch, but I think it will work for a couple of lightweight cardigans. Though I'm feeling like it will be a boring knit, I could definitely use a couple of basic, throw-on sweaters. The steel gray has a very blue cast to it, which I like, but it certainly doesn't work with the olive, so I'll have to use them for separate projects. I suspect I bought way more than enough, as usual. 

WIP roundup.

I took these photos two weekends ago. This morning I fixed them up. Now I'm posting them and trying to remember what I wanted to say about them.  Other than: "Yes, I do too still knit, see?"

Vanillacravat  Ksneckwarmer I know you can see the resemblance between Casper there and the elegant bit of knitting draped about the delicate model's throat.  I changed the gauge quite a bit, and the instructions in Knitscene don't seem to be correct, so I'm making it longer before I split it into carwash flaps. And I'm tempted to make three flaps, not two. But it's a very enjoyable, easy knit. This was intended to be a gift for my sister-in-law (whose idea of stylish is Disneyland sweatshirts), but I think I'm keeping it for myself.

Pumpkinshell Kstwinset I'm also working on the shell from this twin set, and I'd like to make the bolero as well, since I have some bulky wool in a complementary shade. I love the feel of Elann's Peruvian Collection Highland Silk--it's delightful to work with, but I'd like to see an expanded color selection.

Bulkypullover That's a mock turtleneck, in bulky wool from  I'm now about 9 inches down on the chest and shoulders; I should be able to split off the sleeves pretty soon. Makes perfect sense to knit a heavy turtleneck in late May, no? I've got one giant cable running down the front, and a bunch of jangly stitch markers chained together to count rows. All the clanking stuff made Jane think this was very complicated.

Dulaansocks This is the last Dulaan item I'm going to be able to finish before I have to send the package off to F.I.R.E. later this month. I'm plugging away on the second sock, as you can see. Next time I make these I will decrease in four places simultaneously, not just on both sides, so the toes aren't so pointy. I really like the spiraling rib pattern.

How best to recruit?

A new knitter, that is. A casual friend was over for dinner last night and looking at the toddler sock I'm working on for Dulaan. She said she'd love to knit but hates the idea of starting with giant needles and making an ugly loopy scarf. These were her words--I wasn't leading or hinting in the least. I think I managed to mumble a few words about how you don't have to start with that stuff but didn't push it. I couldn't really tell whether:

a) she was just being polite about knitting being interesting
b) was actually resistant to having to go through the slow, frustrating part of acquiring a new skill
c) truly meant that she'd like it except for having to make an ugly scarf on giant needles as the price of admission.

I  resisted the urge to start dragging out my stash to lure her with irresistible yarn, but I was afraid to reveal the true extent of my mania (and annoy Jane).  It is unfortunate that the one project I left out is interesting knitting, but far from irresistible yarn (ombre acrylic, chosen from the stash for its durability).

But I'm thinking--I just might make her a little present of a hank of Malabrigo (in a glistening, coral-y red, maybe) and a set of Lantern Moon or Brittany straights in size 9 or 9.5.  Alternatively, a couple of hanks of Elsebeth Lavold aran-weight angora, which is so soft that you must rub it against your cheek. *Added: And maybe a copy of the Harlot's Knitting Rules.

Think that would do the trick? What would you use to lure a potential knitter into the fold?

My first Dulaan item of '06.

Ojcloudhat_1 A cloud hat, more or less. It's adult-size, however. It fits me. I'm sure there are cold-headed teenagers in Ulan Bator, so I'm not too remorseful--but I probably could have finished a lot sooner if I'd paid attention to the gauge and cast on fewer stitches.  I spent most of our rainy Sunday on the couch in my pajamas, finishing this.

The yarn is the leftovers from the creamsicle sweater--Lion microfiber in mango, and Patons Diva. I actually had to find my swatch gauge and rip it to finish up; I thought surely I had enough mohair left for one hat. Again, attention to gauge might have helped. The whitish stripe is a bit of leftover Artfibers' Kyoto. I've got a bunch of bits of that from a big scarf I made, but I think I want to keep that for a scarf for myself--and I'm still trying to focus on the WIPs I've got now. (Although I really need a good project for a quick trip this weekend.)

And not that I'm looking for any new yarn, but in perusing, I see that they have Filatura di Crosa mohair (98 yards) for about $3 per ball. Perfect for cloud hats, I think. 

2dsilksockThe second watermelon-pink silk-alpaca sock is also progressing nicely; the heel is done, so now I just have to knit about four inches of leg. And I confess that the stockinette is a wee bit boring at this point.

I did fall off the "no new yarn, no new projects" wagon last week about this time, when I decided that I had to make a hat and socks for the almost-1-year-old who came for dinner on Saturday. So after a visit to Skein Lane I found myself with this:
Katiacotton Machine washable cotton/acrylic, fingering weight. Nice and smooth, but still not much give. I started a hat with it and ripped, because again, I ended up with something that was going to be huge, and the brim wasn't rolling. I think I'll have to cast on with size 5s or something to get the edge to be loose enough. Gosh, maybe a gauge swatch and a trip through the washing machine is in order. I ain't swatchin' for the socks, though. I'm using this pattern. I've also got a pair of these going for Dulaan in some stash yarn. I foresee that quite a bit of the stash could be used up this way.

Did you know that almost-1-year-olds aren't quite old enough to drink cow's milk? Or eat cupcakes or chicken hot dogs? Now I know...

Sidetracked on the way to the venue.

There has been knitting, even some on my declared Olympic project, and finishing--but I'm way out of the running for a medal. 

Landscapescarf_2As I always seem to do, I've prioritized the knitting for other people over finishing projects for myself. The landscapes scarf got done, so it could be worn during the cold weather. It feels like wearing a blanket around your neck. It's a bit short to do the kind of wrapping and tying I like (where the hell did that sixth ball go?), but the thickness kind of precludes that anyway. And Jane isn't much into scarf arranging.
  Silksock And the first Valentine's Day sock got finished (well after V-Day),  but I have a fighting chance of finishing the second before the wedding anniversary in the third week of March.  I gave the cabled I-cord cuff the old college try, but it just wasn't working, so I switched to a mistake rib. The alpaca-silk yarn I used really doesn't like to be reworked; broken fibers keep springing up from the fabric and it was getting really frayed-looking on the second go-round. I finally used some crap yarn to do a practice cuff, at which point I decided the cabled I-cord wasn't going to do. The second sock is started; I've gotten a few inches past the toe.  And a human model would make this look much, much better.

ShawlrestartAs for the Olympic project, I ended up ripping back all the way: my gauge is too different from when I began this project, and twice I restarted on the wrong row. Having released myself from the shackles of what I'd already done, I went down a needle size and changed the pattern from garter stitch (which I kind of hate) to stockinette. The angora-blend yarn (ArtFibers' Oz) survived ripping pretty well, but in the process it shed enough fur to reconstitute an entire rabbit. I'm going to try to alternate the fresh yarn with the recycled yarn, if I can keep track of how much I've used--I may have to try the weighing thing so I'll know where the midway point is, to stop increasing and start decreasing.
I like the look of the stockinette version, although its edges curl, whereas the garter stitch version didn't.  I may have to put a simple border on it when I'm done.

Opening ceremonies tonight--I'm not ready!

Augh.  At Natalie's suggestion, I'm posting shots of the unfinished projects I'll work on during the UFOlympics.  I don't have time to shoot *good* photos, so these are crops from the groups shot of WIPs from a couple of weeks ago. 
PreopeningstatusshawlThe shawl-- argh. As you can see, I really ought to rip back almost to the beginning and fix those mistakes. (Added later: I really appreciated the Harlot's opening invocation and gentle reminder that this is supposed to be fun, not frustrating or overly competitive. I've had some experience with other hobbies that turned into work and ended up in hurt feelings, so the comments are well-timed and well-received. And in the spirit of challenging myself to a personal best, I'm going to rip the shawl back to the first glaring mistake, provided the angora cooperates.)


The neglected Ribby Cardi: I'm almost to the decreases on these sleeves--I should really tackle this first so I can feel some sense of accomplishment.

And in preparation I wanted to finish a couple of other smallish things--and I haven't. Not even done with the first valentine's day sock, although I like how it's coming along. I'm going to look through Knitting on the Edge for a nice decorative ribbing, because when I looked at the instructions for the i-cord cabled top in Socks Soar on Two Needles I thought, "I can't be bothered with that nonsense."

The ribbed scarf is *this close*--almost.  I'm on the last ball of Landscapes, I think. I could have sworn I had six balls total, and the length tells me I've only knit up four, and I can only find one unused. So I may just be losing my mind. I keep thinking I'll bind off after the fifth ball, at a perfectly usable 55 or 56 inches long, and then I'm going to find the errant last ball. Grr.

(Another addendum:  There are multiple WIP-whapping teams! See Team FO--with a great button--and Team Finish the Damn Thing and Team Alien. It's nice to have company.)


UFOlympics -- I'm in.

Aw, somebody's already been there, done that, and made the button.
Ufolympics06 Thanks to Celia for the pointer to Natalie's blog. And of course thank you to Natalie for hosting (slaps forehead).

So I've joined up, and I'll shoot for finishing the angora lace shawl during the competition and tackling more of the Ribby Cardi.  In the meantime I'll get the pink socks done (Valentine's day gift) and the scarf. And the Cloud Hat. Yeah, that's it. I'll finish all that in 10 days. Must focus...

Why I won't go out for no Knitting Olympics.

... aside from wanting to scuttle up next to Ryan and say "me too! I'm not a fad follower too! Lookit, I started a Cloud Hat, and I used your pattern, and it looks like yours!  No sir, I'm no joiner, not me!"

The main reason is that there's no WIP-whapping team, and that is the only game that I am being allowed to play for the moment. I've been sidelined by a bad case of startitis and nagging conscience from old projects. I give you the following evidence:

Wipcatbutt_1 From the bottom to the top of the frame, and in roughly the order of current priority:

  • Orange Boy butt,
  • very simple (boring) scarf in Lion Brand Landscapes,
  • the first sock I ever attempted in cream-colored worsted wool on size 4s,
  • the Turkey Vulture scarf of eternal restarts in gunmetal gray Kyoto,
  • the fourth fifth sock I ever attempted and my first short-row toe in watermelon-pink alpaca-silk,
  • the aforementioned Cloud Hat in eye-searing orange synthetic blends,
  • the cuff of Cinxia (in sage-colored worsted and blending in with the couch),
  • a cravat meant as a Christmas gift that obviously never made it in Elsebeth Lavold Aran-weight angora,
  • 80 percent of two Ribby Cardi sleeves,
  • the neck and shoulders of a top-down raglan pullover in gray-green bulky wool,
  • and finally--half a Beginner's Lace triangle shawl in furry angora-blend Oz. I'd like to wear that someday soon, like before the weather turns too warm again.

So my challenge to myself is to complete as many of these projects as I can by the closing ceremonies, without starting another new thing. I'm allowing myself the option of subbing in some other in-progress project (I have at least three other WIPs up my, erm, sleeve), but I won't start anything new until these have been finished. Wish me luck.

I briefly considered leaving all projects on the couch until the closing ceremonies, but figured that probably wouldn't be a good idea for several reasons, three of them bearing fur, claws, and teeth.


Swatch storage...

Any suggestions on good ways to archive swatches? I never throw swatches away, thinking that they're good reference, but they end up just kicking around with the yarn, needles, WIPs, etc. (Yes, I am a packrat down to the bone. I'm currently sitting on the couch surrounded by a pile of zip-lock bags containing partial projects.)

I'm thinking of some kind of scrapbook-style binder, maybe with plastic pouches; or maybe just a shoebox dedicated to swatches.   Hmmm. Album with heavyweight pages... snack-size zip-lock bags ... double-sided tape or staples. Um. I dunno.

I've started putting hanging tags with notes on the swatches, so they might, theoretically, be useful again someday, but the tags have an affinity for tangling--not a good thing when you toss them into the overflowing beach bag containing seven works in progress.  That beach bag is "just for current projects" like my first credit card was "just for emergencies."

This morning I decided to stash-dive for some leftovers to start a Cloud Hat, and I began pulling various projects out of the beach bag. At the center I found the most unholy knot of yarn, almost all of it attached to needles somehow. I really felt embarrassed, but with 10 minutes of loosening and pulling and unwinding, I got it all separated. Several chunks got bagged and sent to the stash cabinet, but then I had to pull out some other old WIPs to visit them. Somehow, more yarn came out of the cabinet than went in, and one thing is very clear. I really have enough yarn. Really.

I did eventually find the orange mohair and mango microfiber I wanted to make the Cloud Hat, and I rotated a few projects. The truly current ones are sitting, unbagged, next to the sofa and a few old favorites are now in the beach bag to be visited very soon. Some of them clearly need the kind of rethink that involves removing the needles and, you know, removing the stitches (shhh. I'm afraid the Icelandic wool/mohair sock will hear, and know it's going to meet the same fate as the purple & teal manos vest.)

Treats in the mail!

Late last week this came,  courtesy of Stella. Just when I was thinking about making fingerless gloves with self-striping sock yarn! Perfect timing. Thanks, Stella!Giftyarn

And on Saturday I headed over to Oakland to hang out with Rachael and lots of other knitters at the Temescal Cafe. I ran into Christine, and Celia, and Jeni and Becky--and met several new people. I missed seeing Janine, though, who is home recuperating from her surgery. And I thought I recognized Nancy Roberts from Janine's post about dying machine-knit yarn. She was knitting directly from a piece of knit fabric, and the colors were very pretty.

I took some mediocre photos, but in my own defense, it was pretty hard to get the whole huge group into a shot, since it occupied fully half of the cafe.
In the foreground: Rachael, part of Jeni, and Becky's knitting bag. Toward the middle: Christine's pink socks in progress. Much sock knitting was going on.
Here's the eastern end of the group, where most of the kids were congregated (there's a stroller in there somewhere), and also happened to be a largely South Bay contingent.

The view from the far western end of the row (hi, Celia!). I'm sorry that I didn't get everyone in the shot--my shot-composing skills aren't the best.


How to get in your own way ...

or, Design Is 5 Percent Inspiration, 95 Percent Exasperation
  1. Cast on more than 500 stitches on the wrong size needle.
  2. Painstakingly insert stitch markers between all 9-stitch pattern repeats.
  3. Finish casting on but neglect to write down *precisely* how many repeats or stitches you've cast on for.
  4. Panic, thinking that the stitch chart actually calls for 9, 12, 9, 12 , etc.
  5. Reread the chart and breathe out.
  6. Decide that you have to know exactly where the middle of your work is, so count all stitches--twice.
  7. Discover that you've cast on an even number of stitches, so there is no middle stitch around which to increase and decrease.
  8. Remove stitch markers around all 56 repeats in order to knit them, because the pattern repeats borrow a stitch from each other.
  9. Finally get rolling with some real knitting on the correct size needle, two days before intended gifting date, and decide that the fuzzy yarn and the open lace pattern are adding up to something that looks much too froufy for the intended recipient.
  10. Imagine that the nice charcoal-gray Cascade 220 in the stash would have been a much better choice, but the single skein probably wouldn't have been enough anyway.
  11. Figure that it's the proof of concept that matters after all; the perfect gift will have to wait.

My favorite Christmas gift (so far).

Woolwinder From Jane's sister and brother-in-law.  My favorite work-avoidance technique of the past week and a half has been to pull out a hank of the handpainted laceweight, set it up on my vintage swift and this thingy, and wind it into balls--it satisfies something in my perfectionist Virgo heart.

Jane's other sister gave me Perri Klass's Two Sweaters for My Father, which I can't wait to dig into, and she spoiled our beasties--special treats all around.

There was a bit of nail-biting last week, as the crocheted Noro scarf and some other Christmas gifts were temporarily lost in the mail--but they have now been united with their intended owners. I'm still waiting for some gifts from my family to be delivered, thanks to some utterly predictable family dynamics. 

I'm working on a final gift scarf (not a Christmas gift), of my own very idiosyncratic design, which involves working from side to side rather than top to bottom (so I have almost 500 stitches on a needle), and will involve paired increases and then decreases in the center to give it a bit of a V shape. I'm not at all sure it's going to work out--I'll report back.

The hat from hell.

Here's a picture of Jane in the hat. I didn't take this picture, because she's in Anchorage and I'm not.Anne_christmas_2005_006 The photo sort of hints at the fact that the hat is way too big. Wide enough for Hagrid to wear, and so floppy that it looks like it should be worn by a Rastafarian kitchen worker.  I liked it while I was knitting it, until I got to the decreases, some of which I mangled. Now that I see the end result, I hate it.

What I also hate is sitting home by myself over Christmas weekend, meditating on my life partner's willingness to prioritize her family over me. I think I'll rip the sweater I made her years ago, which she stuck high on a shelf and never wears (to be fair, it's ugly and the sleeves are horribly done), and leave the yarn in a giant pile in the middle of the floor. Or maybe I won't go to the trouble. Maybe I'll just toss it on one of the dogs' beds. They'll appreciate it.

Happy Santy.

LeaningtreeThat's me.  My outlook took a turn for the better along about last Friday, and I had a pretty good weekend.  If Typepad hadn't been experiencing some kind of intestinal distress, I would have posted about the foolishness of trying to learn a new knitting technique, with the resultant productivity loss, while gift-knitting on a deadline. And that the phrase "Continental purl" scans exactly like "horizontal bop." I'm pretty sure that's trochaic meter, and why the latter phrase floated into my consciousness, I have no idea.

Ornament_1_1We got the tree decorated late last week, and though it's small and leans a bit, it's perfect for us this year.

On Saturday I had coffee with a friend and her nine-month-old son, on Clement Street in San Francisco. The boy was calm, happy, and delightful. Any day that I get to kiss a baby goes down as a good day in my book. We met at Green Apple Books, and I found a book in the bargain bin that I really wanted to read, at a seriously bargain price. Score. We also went into Kamei, a big Chinese housewares/restaurant supply store that has what seems like everything. My friend and I both bought some useful stuff for cheap. Score again (yes, ignoring my own scruples about Chinese imports--it seemed kind of churlish on Clement St., and besides, I really needed an umbrella). I refrained from bringing my knitting, figuring I wouldn't have any time to work on it--but I stopped on my way out of town to give blood, and I forgot about the waiting time at the blood bank. That'll teach me to ever leave the house without a knitting project.Cheezstraws

On Sunday I made these for a dinner party with some friends. They're cheese straws, which are basically butter and cheddar cheese held together with a bit of flour. Sort of like homemade Cheez-Its. So far this is the only holiday baking that I've managed, but I still turned the kitchen into chaos while doing it.Chaoskitchen

CrochetlongOn Monday I got two gift scarves blocked, andCrochetclose Laurie is right: Steam blocking is the way to go. I was going to say "steam blocking is the shit," but in honor of the holidays decided to dial back the vulgarity. On Tuesday I got these wrapped, packed, and shipped off to their recipients along with the rest of the distance gifts, which was less of an ordeal than most people probably had to endure, but still bad. MomscarfLaceclose

On Wednesday I finished the last of my Christmas shopping, and yesterday I got it all wrapped and finished Jane's brioche-stitch hat, in time for her to take it on the Alaska trip (pictures and postmortem another day). And that is why I'm a happy Santy. Happy holidays to all of you.

I might need some knitting Ritalin.

Because I'm pretty sure I have needlecraft ADD. I blame the holidays. I've got four projects in active rotation, and they're all gifts. I'm considering a fifth and sixth. Here's three of 'em:

1. A long skinny crocheted scarf for my favorite niece. I know I've said I hate variegated yarn, but for Noro I make an exception. I don't usually crochet, either. This is about two-thirds finished.


2. The green kerchief-style scarf for my mother, with the lace edging made of handspun. I like this OK and have just a few more rows to do, but I should have made the ends longer, and I haven't come up with a graceful way to extend them now. I think this will need a shawl pin or clasp to go with.


3. A brioche-stitch hat for Jane, made from the same wool as her in-progress ribby cardi--I have about an inch and a half to go before I can start the decreases (and it's going to be a picnic to maintain the pattern, I can tell). This has to get done by Christmas, because she's going to Anchorage (yes, without me. I refuse to go anywhere for this holiday).

Number four is a scarf for my sister's boyfriend, and I'm on about row number four (no photo yet, I'm too embarrassed). It's a cable pattern, and  I haven't even broken out the cable needle yet. That Noro grabbed me by the wrists and won't let go until I'm done.

I'm foolishly considering a quick cravat-style scarf for Jane's sister  (the one who lives in Anchorage--her dog died unexpectedly over Thanksgiving when she was away, which is why Jane and her dad are going up there for Christmas). 

Scarf, swift.

SwiftThanks to EBay, I have an antique yarn swift. It hooks sideways to my desk, but works great. And it cost less than $20, including shipping. I bid on a very old yarn swift earlier, but it sold for something like $185, and there was no way I would pay anything close to that. I still haven't sprung for a ball winder, but I think I'll ask for one for Christmas.

GreenscarfAnd this is the project that's currently on the needles: A scarf for my mom, using the handspun angora/silk yarn from Bolinas. Finding complementary yarn to use with it was not easy--try matching acid greens sometime. This is Elsebeth Lavold Angora, in a 3x2 rib on size 9 needles. I've picked up stitches all around the edge with the handspun, and I think I've found an openwork pattern that will make a nice border. I had something picked out from Knitting on the Edge, except that the pattern goes from the bottom up, and I need to work top down. I suppose I could try to reverse the pattern, but I don't want to think that hard. Picking up stitches evenly was difficult enough.

The Peppermint Twist neck scrunchie.

Voila. Scrunched_1 I went a little nuts with the ruffle at the bottom, because it was really fun to knit,  Jessejames and I was watching that Sherlock Holmes thing with Rupert Everett on Masterpiece Theater and it was really pretty good. So it's kind of got the sea creature fins thing going on. Or maybe it looks like a ruffled lampshade. Or both. I don't know. Scrunchiestilllife But if my friend takes one look at it and says "yeesh, what the hell is that? I don't even see how you'd wear it!" she can always give it to her three-year-old niece who can jam it on her head backward and pretend it's a wig or try to wear it as a skirt.

Yarn search...

I'm on the hunt for a skein of Cascade 220 Tweed, in color no. 7623 (walnut), dye lot no. 3814.  I bought one skein about a year ago, thinking it would be incorporated into a hat.  Now I'm thinking I want to use it for Shirley Paden's Interlocking Balloons scarf from Scarf Style, and one skein won't be enough.  Just thought I'd put it out there in case anyone's  got some in their stash...

More temptations

I just got Elann's newsletter in the mail yesterday, with the wool-silk DK-weight (funny, it's not showing up on their site yet), and the Aran weight wool/alpaca. 

I cannot buy any more yarn for quite awhile, but boy, am I tempted.

Whip out your bookmarks.

(Typepad spit out this post two days ago, and I'm only just now feeling like retyping it.)

Sara has a great list of links and tutorials about short-row shaping for socks, and other sock arcana. I'm impressed with her output of three pairs of socks in a month--and glad I'm not the only one who doesn't always understand Interweave Knits' diagrams and explanations.

And Leslie has linked to some tutorials on non-American purling, for those interested in Continental style knitting, or two-handed knitting. The few times I've done this, I always figured that I was doing it wrong--so the videos really help.

Yesterday Laura showed a book that now I have to have. The Bohus pullover from the back issue of IK is definitely high on my list of sweaters for me, so I am eager to see more patterns.

The Peppermint Twist Neck Scrunchie was finished last week, but I have been under too much of a deadline crunch to photograph it--look for a picture soon. Just to add to my sense of deadline pressure, I joined the Cinxia knit-along. So I need to take pictures of the 4" of sleeve that I've done on that, as well.


A nostepinde is what I need.

Yep, I need a wooden winding-stick thingy, because of 5 hanks of this (I'm thinking jacket-y cardigan): Rustbulky

And  6 hanks of this (I'm thinking turtleneck, maybe cables):Purplebulky

And these (click for larger photos):  Greenlace_1   Graylace three hanks each of laceweight, which comes to thirty hundred yards, I think. And I know my Clapotis is in there somewhere! The gray (it's actually midnight blue ranging to purple and dusty gray) laceweight is in the "Paris night" colorway. I recognize that name as the shameless marketing ploy that it is. Gimme.

So I have begun to wind some of this booty from, slowly, with the back of a chair and toilet-paper rolls. I'm thinking hard about buying a swift, but I can't justify spending $35 on a mechanical ball winder.

So I've been looking around the Web at various nostepinde, and directions on how to use them. The copy and photos on one site, however, were somewhat disturbingly reminiscent of a sex-toy catalog. I mean no disrespect to the craftspeople; I'm sure they composed the page in complete innocence, and the prurient associations all come from me.

Ahem. Yes, well, this weekend I'll be out of town: Jane is taking me to Pt. Reyes for the weekend, as a birthday present. We'll try kayaking for the first time, and hopefully get a water-level view of some wildlife on Tomales Bay. If it rains tomorrow, we'll hunker down in the cabin and read and knit. And we might make a short side trip to Bolinas on Sunday morning, in which case Jane will surf, and I will sit on the beach (and knit).  I'm still working on what is now dubbed the Peppermint Twist Neck Scrunchie, with a deadline of this week. So that's job 1. maybe some of the laceweight will come, too. I'm thinking of doubling it, so I get at least fingering-weight--not sure how dropped stitches will work or look with doubled yarn, but I've got enough that I can experiment a bit.

My Halloween costume's ready.

I'm answering the door as the great pumpkin. You know, the one with all the candy in its belly.

GreatpumpkinI've had this sweater finished for a couple of weeks; in fact, I wore it to the Whoreshoes show at the Ivy Room a couple of weekends ago.

I'm pretty OK with how this cheap 'n' cheerful project turned out; there are a few things I would do differently the next time, so I'll call it a learning experience I'll actually wear from time to time. It's knit completely from Paton's Divine, from a pattern in Knit.1.  I do wish, though, that  I didn't look so blobulous in these pictures--someone should do something about my weight.

Note how enthusiastic the orange boy was about having his picture taken.
So now I'm on to other projects: Even though I haven't posted for two weeks, due to work projects stacked about four deep, I have been knitting. I've got a decent start on the Ribby Cardi for Jane -- and I *will* figure out how to make the sleeves fit correctly on that sweater, or die trying. I'm also working on a neck gaiter for a good friend who'll be visiting in a couple of weeks (yay!). It's in raspberry-pink stash yarn that I've had for something like 14 years. I wish they still made it because it's like my ideal yarn (Filatura di Crosa Sympathie). DK-weight wool/angora/nylon. I had another plan for this yarn, but Jane assures me that this is the right color, and it's perfect for this project. No photos yet, but I should be done soon. Rachael and Janine got a peek at it last Friday when we had a lunch and stitch. I've also started Cinxia.  I'm a sucker for seed stitch.

More picnic pics.

But first, I have to say that I love my new teeth. They're straight and even, and if not pearly white, then at least a uniform color. Of course, if I said I wasn't happy, after 20 months and about 5 thousand bucks, Jane might smother me in my sleep.  I can't wait to floss tonight--my gums are going to bleed like nobody's business, but it's going to be so easy.

OK--now that you know more about my mouth than you ever wanted to, the rest of my knitbloggin', picnickin' photos:

On the not-spinning side of the aisle, Emily (guarded by Tiko) starts a project with ArtFibers' Kyoto. Celia works on her Fair Isle skirt, before heading off for the penultimate performance of SHIFTINGS, at the SF Fringe Festival. I think she was really just warming up her knitting moves before the show. Janine is starting a silk kimono scarf.

Harriet_1Harriet enjoyed burrowing  in the leaves, especially since she was freshly groomed. She and Tiko and Willis also enjoyed barking at the nice police officer who walked up to chat for a minute.

WillisWillis impressed everyone with his sweet disposition and excellent obedience. But he tried to eat a bee and it stung him, so he ended up going home with a fat lip.

It would have been nice to bring Josie and Tina along, but unlike the other dogs present, they can't be relied on to play nicely with others and not steal food from the table, so they had to stay home.  They got lots of treats while I was baking picnic goodies, though, which I hope compensated somewhat.

Tricoter sur l'herbe

Well, actually it was knitting on the leaves,  not on the grass, but pleasant just the same. The knitbloggers' picnic went off on Saturday afternoon, with lots of lovely snacks, delightful knitting projects, and charming significant others, babies, and dogs for companions. There was a bit of spinning, too.


Frith (walking, foreground) brought Michael and their son, Coltrane.


Jeni (above right) brought her daughter Brianna, and Willis.


Janine brought her husband, J., and managed to go mobile across the lawn to get to our picnic tables. I had hoped to get a more wheels-friendly spot, but the Alameda County Probation Officers Family Picnic beat me to it.
Jane and Lala talked about Bolinas.


Jeni, Rachael, and Lala spun. Elizabeth knit on a cool cabled cardi from a Japanese knitting book. Miss Idaho sat on Rachael's lap, but she also made fast friends with Celia.

I have more commentary and more photos, but Typepad is being a bastard, my cat is being a desk-hogging asshole, and I have to run and *get my braces removed*! More later (and hopefully I can get the captions next to the photos), I swear.

What Clapotis taught me.

1. I've been making knit stitches wrong for my entire knitting career. Those ktbls were not resulting in twisted stitches, so I tried reversing the way I was throwing the yarn, and then got the desired twist in the ktbls--miraculous.  So "from back to front" doesn't just mean holding the yarn behind the needle ... duhhh. I think this means I've been doing combined knitting all along, but when I tried to read the descriptions and diagrams in Confessions of a Knitting Heretic my brain checked out and I glossed over it. As usual, I'll go back and read it carefully if and when it's necessary.

Retraining myself to do knit stitches under-and-over has loosened up my gauge and opened up yarnovers so that they make visible holes.  Great, but when I go back to pre-Clapotis projects, like the Beginner's Lace Triangle, I'm going to have to do it the old way or have some problems.

2. I don't like variegated yarn. I knew that before, but I was seduced by the Over the Rainbow sock yarn and hoped it would overcome an irrational bias, since it looked so nice in the skein.Twinkle1_2 But knitted up, the colors in this yarn look like yard clippings that have been through a blender, to put it delicately. To put it indelicately, I think it looks like cat barf. I couldn't persevere with Clapotis in this yarn, knowing I hated the way it looked and would never wear it.Russet_clap

3. I need a little gleam in my yarn. Flat color doesn't really do it for me, and this yarn doesn't really have the glossy sheen that floats my boat.

So the yarn has been ripped, and is back in the stash cabinet awaiting some other inspiration. It may become socks at some point, or maybe it will become something for one of the nieces who weren't even a gleam in someone's eye in the 70s and therefore don't react violently to mottled color.

I do have my eye on some laceweight at, where the shading is all in the same color family. And Wendy's Clapotis in Noro is lovely.  So I haven't given up on Clapotis, and the lessons learned were indeed worthwhile.

Stash visitation

On Wednesday one of my procrastination techniques was to visit the stash in my cabinet. I've been pretty disciplined about having only three or four projects in the big beach bag, and keeping the rest put away. But every once in a while I have to pull it all out and look at it, think about the waiting projects, touch a little bit of it. Some of them I just want to carry around for awhile, or knit a few rows on then put away again, like the white Oz shawl.

Instead, I pulled out the worsted wool for Jane's Ribby Cardi and began swatching, and made her pick two out of the three colors I bought. I think she chose well, and it leaves the moss green for me to make a sweater for myself from. I think I'll be able to cast on before we leave for the airport tonight for the big birthday weekend in San Diego. Jane's dad turns 80 on Saturday, and I turn 41 on Sunday.

Manosvest_1I also pulled out a languishing old  project that's been rattling around in my head lately.  Years ago I bought three colors of Manos (I see from the receipt that it dates from 1997, from Straw into Gold--7 bucks a hank!) with the idea of making a scarf out of alternating blocks. But I never developed a satisfying pattern, so instead I decided to make it into a vest, with each piece out of a single color.  I finished the pieces and without blocking or basting them together, gave up. I don't know if the idea of picking up for the ribbing intimidated me, but I decided a) I would never wear something so color-blocky, and b) I probably screwed up the neck and armhole shaping.

So I shoved it to the back of the cabinet of greed and sloth, with the plan of ripping later. I put that off because I've never wanted to do the work of soaking and de-crimping the used yarn.

But lately I've wanted to get my hands on that Manos again, so I pulled the bag out. And those knitted-up pieces don't look so bad. Now I don't know whether to tear it up or try to finish it. Those two purples on the back are from the same dye lot, according to the tags.  Feh, I really don't know, but in all probability I would never wear it--in public. Now that I work at home, it could become part of my freelancer uniform, along with the slippers and pajama bottoms.

Officeview_1Remember that shot of my pristine desk from about a month ago? Well, here's the office now. I, um, have a lot of things going on. And a little bit of filing to do.

Orange sweater update.

As soon as I finished the second front about two weeks ago, I decided to reknit one of the sleeves, since I overbought yarn, again. But this way I won't have to use the sleeve from the lumpy reknit yarn--so the whole thing will get lumpy and pilly at the same rate. Here's another sleeve shot: woohoo.  Orangesleeveagain

So now that I have only about 8 inches of knitting left to go before I can start assembling and picking up stitches for the ribbing, I am itching to ignore it and work on something else.  Probably Jane's long-delayed Ribby Cardi.

In the lead: Sat 9/17

Currently Saturday 9/17 has the most votes for a knitblogger's picnic at Lake Chabot.  If that's a good date for you and you haven't yet RSVP'd, let me know!

Knit(blog)ers' picnic.

Anyone else like the sound of that? Particularly if you're in the SF Bay Area? It'd be nice to socialize outside, and take advantage of the summer weather. It would even be possible to include non-knitting family, friends, significant others, etc.

Mebbe in about a month? Potluck? At a park in southern Alameda County, like Del Valle or Sunol or Joaquin Miller, to make it easy for Peninsular people to attend?

Addendum: Here's what I'm thinkin'. Lake Chabot Marina, in San Leandro. Very close to 580, not far from 92, so it's accessible from the other side of the Bay.  Josie, Tina, and me checked it out this afternoon, and it's a nice little spot.

Here's what it has, in addition to picnic areas with grills:

  • A bike path around the lake
  • Paddle boats for rent
  • Fishing
  • Volleyball courts
  • Horseshoe pits (Whoreshoes venue?)
  • A snack bar, which they rather grandly call a cafe. But still, cold drinks, in case you forget them.
  • Plumbed toilets

I like me a developed park. A park with amenities.  I'm thinkin' I'll reserve a picnic area for Sunday, September 18.

I'd be happy to organize, if there's interest. Leave a comment if you're up for it, with preferences as to date and location, if you have any.

Birthday gifts, now belated.

I snapped this photo in a hurry on Saturday morning,  Minibags right before I tucked iTunes gift cards into each of them, wrapped them, and tucked a birthday card into gift bags along with. You see, I was headed for a double birthday party, and both birthday girls have iPod minis.

Then, with almost just enough time to get to the dock for the party boat, I dashed out to the car--legs shaved, hair blowdried, makeup on, dressed up. And the frigging car didn't start. Wouldn't even turn over. The car that had been to the mechanic's for service not two weeks prior. I swore and slammed the garage door, believe you me. And since Jane had the other car parked at the Oakland Airport, I was just plain shit out of luck. All dressed up and noplace to go--with birthday gifts in the front seat. That I had made myself.

So I got out of the car, dithered awhile, then walked my dressed-up self downtown and went shopping and to a movie. I couldn't stand to be in the house by myself when I should have been socializing.

The iPod mini cases are made out of Louet Sales' Euroflax.  Size 2 needles, 16sts wide. Basically, they're envelopes, knitted in one long strip, then seamed up the sides. I made what I'm calling a prototype first, because it turned out not so pretty. I knitted my long strip, then held the yarn and elastic thread together to single-crochet sides. The iPod mini is only a half-inch thick, so I figured about three single-crochet stitches would be easy to pick up and would make fine stretchy sides, as long as I put something elastic with the linen yarn. 

In practice, this makes a stiff, bulky block that pulls the whole little thing out of shape and looks like hell. (I didn't bother to photograph. The prototype is picking up lint and dust in my knitting toolbox.) So on version 2 I just widened the strip by a quarter-inch on each side and did a regular seam.  I would have liked to see how well I did on fit, but I'll have to deliver the gifts some other time. 

You want to know what's boring? 72 inches' worth of I-cord--that's what's boring. Over July 4 weekend, while Jane drove (the so-called "reliable car" as opposed to my shitball beater, which got her to the airport *just fine*) I knitted I-cord.

So now I can resume work on the furry orange thing (I have, and I now have two-thirds of two sleeves), or the springy green baby hoodie, or Jane's snowflake hat. Her birthday is in two weeks, and last week I was thinking that I'd finish that and surprise her with it.
J_hat I was bombing along, switched colors, working happily through the chart, when I realized that the stitches weren't bunching up on my 16-inch needle, meaning that the hat couldn't be much more than 16 inches around.  So after admiring how well the colors work together, Hatclose I ripped out and untwisted every stitch.  When I let go of being pissed off about the whole car thing, I'll cast on again on needles two sizes up, and add a pattern repeat. (Nope, I will not make a gauge swatch. And yes, I know it's not her fault that the car broke down when she wasn't home.)

Honestly, I'm getting burned out on gift-knitting. I'd like to finish something for myself for a change.

Not exactly waiting by the mailbox, but still.

I wonder if my copy of the fall Interweave Knits will arrive *today*?  And it'd be a nice start to the weekend to see a check from a client amongst the bills, charitable come-ons, and junk mail that I keep vowing I'll call to stop.

But since I've seen the preview photos of the IK designs now, it takes a little of the anticipation away.  So far, Kate's Union Square Market Sweater is the one that really calls my name. 

This weekend I'll be headed to Reno to visit my parents, my sister, and a great-aunt whom I've never met (I have to take my mom's word on this). Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be anyone remotely interesting playing anywhere in Reno or Lake Tahoe while we'll be there. However, the town is plentifully stocked with dive bars with video poker machines.  At a quarter a pop, we won't be in danger of gambling away the roof money, as we would if I took it into my head to, say, learn to play poker.  (But if Aunt Lucia's up for it, I might be persuaded to try some poker or blackjack.)

Earlier this week I met my friend Kate (not Needles on Fire Kate--book-writing Kate, who doesn't have a blog yet) at ImagiKnits in the city.  It was my first visit, and I was very impressed.  I didn't realize that it's just up the block from an apartment I lived in about 15 years ago. After 11 years away from the city, I've sort of forgotten my way around. But anyway, ImagiKnit! Floor to ceiling yarn! Yarns I haven't seen in every other yarn store! KnitWhits hat kits that I'd actually want to make! I was so engrossed that I forgot that I need some buttons--I didn't even look at their buttons.  I also wondered whether I could sell them some of my old knitting magazines, since they seem to have a library of them. The next time I need to play hooky and gain some inspiration, I'm definitely going back.

But I have to say that I feel a certain loyalty to my longtime LYS, Skein Lane. They've recently reorganized a bit--they moved their studio across the street, making more room for yarn in the store, and they've added some really great stuff.  And they were nice and exchanged some needles for me, even though they're usually not returnable. (It was a wise move, since I spent significantly more money in the transaction, but nice of them all the same.)


Oh yeah. The mailman came, and both IK and a nice little check were in the mail. As a bonus, the mailman didn't jam the magazine through the tiny mailbox slot and tear up the cover. At first glance, I really like the Classic Elite pattern on the back cover. It's very similar to some Kaffe Fassett diamond patterns, but perhaps a little simpler. My mother would counsel against those broad horizontal blocks of color though ("cut you right in half, and you're short-waisted..."). I almost always like Classic Elite patterns--I have a couple of books that collect a lot of their older patterns.

OK... putting the magazine aside now to go work.

A medium-size bag o' happy.

Thursday I received my first order from KnitPicks. I've decided to do the Polka Purl Dots wrapped tank from spring '04 IK. I started a swatch yesterday, and it looks like size 5 needles will do the trick.

I thought I ordered a darker blue (the River color),

but this is OK. Bluecotton_1

I'm working with it and like it well enough. But I have to say that KnitPicks' colors are off on their Web site. I ordered some Wool of the Andes at the same time, to bring my order up to the amount that qualifies for free shipping, and I really wasn't happy with the actual colors of the yarn. Here's what I thought I was getting.
Here's what I got: Purplewool_1

The swatch photos look the same on both my computers, so I don't think it's my monitor calibration. And I've never had that kind of surprise when ordering from Elann. So the Knitpicks non-advice about color accuracy is really annoying.

Since exchanging the wool would effectively double its price, I'll just add it to the stash for the inevitable kid gifts. I'm sort of obsessed with blue (really?), but I dislike midtones and jewel tones. And I want some depth and shine. But I guess that's what expensive yarn is for.

And since we're paying almost $9000 for a new roof this coming month, I really have no business buying any yarn at all....

I'm also about finished with the hood for the baby pullover, and today I'm mailing off my little Dulaan contributions.

Photo problems fixed.

Not that you were holding your breath, but here are the pics I was struggling with yesterday. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been dallying. There have been dalliances with types of yarn that I ordinarily shun, like ribbbon in variegated colors.

Ribbondrop I was intrigued by the Frutti tank top in Knit 'n' Style (terrible name for a magazine, dated page design, awful photography). And I thought it would work with the Bandeau that I got at ArtFibers when I returned some leftover Kyoto when I finished the very long scarf. Completekyoto Kira charmingly kept a straight face when I said I wanted to "step outside my comfort zone" and experiment with ribbon yarn for a change. Having made the swatch, and bought size 10.5 dpns for the I-cord straps, I decided the top would look terrible on me, even if I did make it long enough to reach my waist. I dropped by ArtFibers last week to see if another yarn would work better -- hence the smaller swatch in another yarn whose name I forget. What's left of the emerald-green Bandeau is going to be a ribbed hairband, and I'm going to leave the ribbon yarn alone, henceforth.

I also finished a second item to send to F.I.R.E. -- a hat made out of stash yarn. I bought the yarn to make a baby jacket that was never finished. I'm going to the original intended recipient's 11th birthday party next month. The decreases are a little kludgey, but I think it's cute. Pixiehat

The orange sweater is still in progress: Osleeves and here's a gratuitous shot of orange boy with his double. Napcat

And the baby pants are seamed and drawstringed. They turned out OK for a first try, but I'm not sure I'm going to repeat the experiment. And I'm not crazy about the Lamb's Pride Superwash worsted-weight I used. It wasn't very soft, or very tightly twisted. The plies kept coming unraveled. But I hope it will be sturdy enough to be worn a lot. Pantsalfresco I'll deliver these next week, when I see mom and baby.

I've also been working on the hood for the baby hoodie pullover. Rather than just knitting a rectangle and sewing it together, I decided to make a point at the tip of the hood, so now I'm doing endless increases in garter stitch. Babyhood

There are a few other things in the project basket, but they're mostly being ignored for the moment.

Made with love and cat hair.

I think I should get labels made with that motto on them. Last night I was sewing up the blue baby pants (photo tomorrow, or maybe not until Saturday), and Orange Boy decided he needed some love. So he shed clouds of pale orange hair on the navy-blue pants that are an animal-hair magnet.
I was going to wash them before blocking anyway, but now I have to go over them with a lint brush, too--probably before and after blocking. Kitty thinks that knitting is very nice to sleep on--a big lapful of a large project is always an improptu kitty bed. We've had fights over whether he was going to get into my knitting bag or not.
This week is all about finishing things--I finally trimmed the million ends off the six-foot Kyoto scarf and blocked it, although it didn't need much. And I finally bound off the toes of the socks I started around Thanksgiving. The heels and toes look terrible, and the gauge (so size) is inconsistent. So that makes them my socks, not a gift. They feel great, though. I'll get back to socks eventually. I didn't graft the toes, I used a three-needle bind-off--and it doesn't look that bad. The toes are just way too long and pointy, since I blindly followed the directions, and just kept knitting until most of the stitches were gone. So I'll go with a different design, when I get back to socks.
I also tore up the big orange mohair thing on Saturday, and started again. I did a few too many raglan increases, so it was going to be even bigger than I envisioned. Instead, I'm using the yarn to make the sweater from the cover of the new Knit.1, with the single button and cutaway hem and neckline. I've knit a few inches of the sleeves, and it looks like the gauge is pretty close, so it should work fine. The yarn doesn't like to be reknit, though (big surprise)--it looks a little lumpy on one sleeve. If I have to knit one sleeve again from fresh yarn, that won't be too much of a hardship, but this doesn't bode well for how it will wash or wear. And I remembered, too late, that synthetic fabrics hold odors. I guess I can't expect too much from yarn that's about $5 for a 140-yard skein.
The other thing I'm finishing this week (by end of day Friday, if it kills me) is the 950-page editing assignment that has been holding me hostage for more than a month. I can't wait to be done with it so I can do something more fun. Remembering terms and rules for this project is sucking up brain cells I was using for important things, like remembering what movie I saw the weekend before last.
This weekend, after I've gotten this behemoth out of the house, I'll upload pictures of the finished products, plus show you what else I've been fooling around with.

After a weekend of knitting ...

the orange furball (and one of its siblings) looks like this. fluffy.jpg I've found that it's possible to drop stitches with this stuff by knitting into the fuzzy halo and not the actual yarn.

Temporarily taken leave ...

of my excruciatingly good taste. I just bought me a big bag of synthetic-fiber yarn, including this: Odivine It's Paton's Divine, in Orangina (and looks much pinker than in the photo, which I horked from the Paton's site). I was browsing through Michael's, looking for the right blend-yarn to make a baby pullover with (I had some already purchased and even swatched, but now I hate it--for this sweater). So I was actually looking for some Cotton-Ease, or Wool-Ease or something like it. And I find that my local Michael's has greatly expanded (and improved) its yarn selection. It still consists overwhelmingly of econo-priced acrylic, but there are some novelty yarns and tapes that I was actually tempted to use. Have you seen Paton's Pooch? Poochie Quite humorous, I thought. And I'm going to try the Lion Brand microfiber on something.

Anyway, I picked out some Wool-Ease and TLC in colors that are probably way too grown up for someone just eight weeks old, but his mama will like them. So I'm browsing around and run across this Orangina yarn and am seized with a desire to make a pullover that will make me look like an apricot-colored abominable snowman. But in a knowing, ironic kind of way.

Finishing projects and thinning the stash is way overrated.

What rubber bands are good for.

Rubber bands are good for holding your hair out of your eyes.
They can also declare your allegiance to a cause (or just make a fashion statement).

They can hold the strap on your perfectly good watch when the little plastic keeper thingie breaks after only 6 years.

And in the past month I've learned that rubber bands are an effective deterrent to between-meal snacks, when they're holding your jaws together and must be replaced every single time you eat. (Iris knows what I mean.)
Smallbands Kinda disgusting but fascinating, huh? You can hear them squeak in the back of my mouth if you get close enough, but, to paraphrase Janine, if you're that close you'd better be whispering sweet nothings in my ear... When the ortho's assistant was showing me how to hook them onto my braces, she was all encouraging: "Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it." And I thought, "Girlie, I'm a knitter. I have the manual dexterity thing down."

They hold knitting needles together:

They're also good for keeping knitting on dpns:

Here's what they're not good for:
They make crummy stitch markers. A couple of years ago I read somewhere that those little rubber bands you use for braids make good stitch markers. I gave my sister a pack along with Folk Socks for Christmas that year, because she had just started knitting, and her LYS owner had encouraged her to make socks as her second project (who would tell someone to graduate from a scarf to socks?). Then I bought some for myself.
They don't slide, they stick. I've even had them slip underneath stitches, completely defeating their purpose. I guess I owe my sister a pack of real stitch markers...

Thai food fix.

That's what I just had, because my dear wife is away this weekend. She's allergic to some mystery ingredient in Thai food, so I only get it when she's not around. And I rented *three* french-language movies. One must seize life's opportunities when one may.

But. This is not a culinary post, nor a cinematic post, nor any sort of cultural post. It's about my Saturday: Where I was not, where I wanted to be, where I might have been, and where I actually was.

Where I was not (most unequivocally, as in "no snowball's chance in hell of being"): MDS&W. Even if I didn't feel (thanks to some slow-paying clients) like a child on a tight allowance, I would not fly across country to ogle sheep, fondle fiber, and hork boutique yarn. I haven't crossed that line yet, but maybe I will next year.

Where I wanted to be: In Los Angeles, at the Revlon Run/Walk for Women's Cancers with Jen and La et al, trying to walk and knit at the same time, all the while keeping my head on a swivel, searching for celebrities to gape at. But due to pressing deadlines and a scheduling mishap of my own making, I could not fulfill this commitment. I'm bummed, because I love LA, a little road trip would have been the perfect picker-upper, and I desperately want to party with Jen and La, and pick Tortuga's brains about owning whippets--or greyhounds--whichever.

Where I might have been: In Santa Barbara with my dear wife. She's there on an unfortunate mission--attending the memorial service for a friend from her college days (rest in peace, Carl). While he is someone whom I admire and care for, I was not nearly as close a friend and so begged off, for the reasons mentioned above. She's bidding Carl farewell, seeing friends, and surfing, but she'll be back tomorrow night. Before she gets back I have to vacuum up the ankle-deep drifts of animal hair and clean the bathroom.

Where I actually was: fulfilling a volunteer commitment when what I need more than anything else in the world right now is a day of unscheduled, unsupervised playtime. I'm pretty sure I've worked four out of the previous four weekends, and if I know what's good for me, I'll do some work tomorrow, in a futile attempt to dig out from under impossible deadlines.

Back in late March I was called about doing a rather bullshit stint of volunteer work, and I tried to get out of it--but arms were twisted, and I agreed to serve again this year as a "host" at Audubon Canyon Ranch, in Bolinas.

Basically, this means hitting visitors up for money and telling them what they can't do while they're visiting. I hate both of these tasks. And because I've had a bad time previous years, really need some time to myself, and didn't want to do it anyway--I had a toweringly bad attitude about the whole thing. As in a huge chip on my shoulder. I made a half-assed attempt to change my attitude this morning before I arrived, but it didn't work very well, particularly when I was stuck behind a truck-with-trailer for approximately 10 miles.

But -- I got there and had a surprisingly good day.  All the wonderful things about  West Marin were present in spades, and all the bad/irritating things didn't happen. In previous years, the hours dragged because there were too many volunteers and not enough to do, and officious old bitches biddies appointed themselves my boss and gave me shit. Today there was none of that--and I had a secret weapon. I brought my knitting. 5705socks It seriously made me feel like the day was not a waste, even though I didn't get to work on it much. I was too busy extracting money and addresses from people prior to their mediated, interpreted nature experience.

I did have some time to take pictures during the day, and on the drive home I was relaxed enough to appreciate the beauty of one of my favorite places on earth (you know, one of those low-key paradises where the bungalows go for a million or so, and if not for tourism, there would be no economy). I'm miserably cynical, but if I'm lucky my spirit will get to live in West Marin after I die.  Here's the slide show.
Everything in West Marin is green and moist, even after other places have dried out and turned brown in the summer. It smells good (like laurel and lavender), too.


People come to Audubon Canyon Ranch (below, view out to Bolinas Lagoon, which is part of Tomales Bay) to see the egret and heron rookery there. Every year a large colony of birds nests and raises young.


Before a coalition of local Audubon Society chapters bought the property in the sixties, it was slated for development. Now Audubon Canyon Ranch is an independent nonprofit, and does a lot of environmental education.

People come to see great egrets, but there are other birds nesting in the ranch as well, like this cliff swallow.


Or these great blue herons (impromptu digiscope shot). The chicks are in the lower right of the picture:

If you are in the area and haven't been there before, you need to visit.

5705qdrpicnic_1 5705acrbirdhide

In my fantasy life, I live in a farmhouse that looks like this (part of ACR's staff facilities). 5705acrfarm


I am officially effin' impressed.

And by impressed, I mean a bit envious. 

I was paging through the NY Times during breakfast a short while ago, and noticed an ad in the front-page section: for the Harlot's event at Lord & Taylor on Thursday night. In my little bohemian-bourgeois worldview, having your name in the Times is a big deal. Having a department store take out an ad with your name in the Times is mind-blowing. (My idea of professional Valhalla would be editing for the Times.) Way to go, Stephanie. I'm sure you'll be mobbed with fans.

S05_2_22Other things I've learned from the newspaper this week: 1) Mariko is trendy as hell (in a good way, I mean): The style section last Sunday showed a cute little running skirt remarkably like the one Mariko made. 2) I am hopelessly bourgeois--the pink shawl-collar sweater and ruffly chiffon skirt in the Ralph Lauren ad (also in the Style section) called my name.  Only about $5000 for the ensemble...

The Harlot's Coming! The Harlot's Coming!

Check this out (toward bottom of page). Woo. Hoo. Steph, we'll forgive you misspelling Berkeley just because you're going to be here, although August is a *very* long time from now. 

I checked out Stash yesterday (because I'm a freelancer and I set my own hours, you know). It's a lovely little shop, and conveniently located next door to a bakery/cafe (which has way too few tables). There's all sorts of lovely, fondle-able yarn, including a wall full of hanks of Manos. What really caught my eye, though, was the large, large selection of Lorna's Laces, and a Clapotis sample hanging with it.  I examined closely--I was not pawing or fondling. I didn't take down the Clapotis and try it on. Very adult of me, I think. Sadly, I left the store without buying anything--not even needles.

More on my own Clapotis later, after I do some work (because even though I set my own hours, I do still have deadlines).

Progress report.

I'll pretend that I just finished what I'm about to show you, even though I mentioned it three weeks ago:

It's a neck gaiter (around here we call them neckups, pardner).

It's a hat:

It's convertible, and it's destined for Mongolia. It's not as dense and therefore warm as Norma exhorted us all to strive for, but it's smooshy and soft, and can be scrunched up around one's neck and drawn tight against the cold. So I'm OK with it.

Here's what happened when I was frantically tidying up on Friday morning:

A tragedy. It was such a pleasant surprise to find that I had bought 16-inch, size-9 Addis at some point last year, and then I go and destroy them while slamming the door on the stash cabinet of greed, sloth, and procrastination (actually, these days it's *two* cupboards of deadly sin, and I can't even fit the box of knitting tools in there anymore). Yarncupboard_1

Here's what I've actually been working on but not finishing (intended for the SIL of half-marathon fame--she's not among my 10 readers).
P4170285 There isn't a strange fog in our den--I just don't know how to take pictures. But the color is reasonably true. Only three more color blocks to go, and her birthday was only three weeks ago. Eery symmetry, no?

And these, for the critter who was born about four weeks ago. So close, and yet so far...

When I get done with these, I am so jamming on Clapotis. And I'm not giving it away, either.

Big TV night tonight.

*Two* episodes of Scrubs, one of them not a rerun. Yahoo yippity--I finished the frickin' book edit, and I can perfectly well ignore my tax return for one more night.  Tonight, my ass is settled into my corner of the couch. I'll deal with the next set of looming deadlines (and the dirty house) tomorrow.

Bay Area knitters--any interest in a KIP session?

I've been organizing knitting sessions about once a month on Sunday afternoons here in the northern East Bay, which have not been wildly successful--in fact, I'd say just the opposite. I'm not sure whether it's the location, the time, people's overscheduled lives, or preferring any activity to hanging out with me that's hindered its catching on.

At any rate, I'm giving it one more shot here: If you're interested in a semiregular knitting afternoon/evening in the Berkeley/Albany area, leave me a comment--along with suggestions as to time and venue if you'd like. If this doesn't work I'll take the hint, and be content to do my knitting and drinking alone.

Kyoto photos.

Not the city, the yarn.

Here's what I've been doing with it:

It's going to be a scarf with a lace pattern. I like how it's working up so far. After I complete another pattern repeat I'll change colors and do another block. It's a butterfly lace pattern I found in Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls. I was tempted to switch to another lace pattern for the next color block, and maybe do a different lace pattern for each of the five colors, but I think I'll limit the aggravation factor by sticking with this one simple stitch pattern. Although I've been having a little trouble keeping my tension even on the purl rows, I think I'll end up with a consistent width all the way through.

I also think I'm going to have to fold out the futon in my office and lay this on it crossways when I get to blocking, since I want it to be about 65 inches long. I wonder if blocking wires would work for a long, rectangular piece.

More photos as I progress--unfortunately, I have to work today, not spend all day knitting.

Here's where I've gotten to on the baby pants, which should also be done by the end of the month:
I'm not really having fun with the long, size 7 dpns needed to knit the legs. I've got the second leg onto the dpns since this photo. I'm also not terribly worried about missing my end-of-month deadline, since they're too big for a newborn.  I'm also planning to fold over the waistband and put some elastic in it, to make sure they'll stay on. Sewing, yuck.

Maybe Clapotis?

I swore I wasn't going to be assimilated by the Clapotis craze. Drop-stitch patterns aren't my style, and neither is variegated yarn.  But I keep seeing so many beautiful ones, and then I saw this yarn. I think Clapotis is more than the sum of its parts, and I think it's fated. I might have to get busy with this real soon.
On my trip to Skagit County (rhymes with gadget, not snag-it) last weekend, I did not have a suitable scarf and hat.  Actually, I had a hat that had shrunk a little, and it stretched back out soon enough. And the scarf problem resulted from not being able to find the neck gaiter I planned to take. Nonetheless, I think it's imperative that I set aside the gift knitting and work on something for myself, no?

I'm psychic.

I told you I had baby knitting in the works, right?  Well, I've been swatching my ass off, and if it weren't 0-dark-thirty right now, I might even take a boring photo of my swatches to show you. My fascination with the difference between my straight gauge and circular gauge on the same needles aside, I actually have a point related to my headline.

So yesterday I was thinking about the problem of baby hats.  Most of the cute ones are brimless, and babies need their faces shaded from the sun.  A couple of years ago I made a brimmed baby hat by picking up stitches along the bottom and increasing energetically around for an inch and a half or so, then adding a picot edge. I ended up with a brim so curly it reminded me of a cuttlefish. (Oh my god, I'm in love with this guy. What a face--how could anyone eat them?) I can't find the analog snapshot of the hat right now, or I'd show you. Anyway, I never went back and perfected the pattern, although somewhere in the depths of my stash cabinet is the beginning of another one.

So yesterday I was thinking about baby bucket hats, and since I saw someone on BART wearing a very nice-looking crocheted bucket hat I considered crossing the aisle, just this once. Then I thought, "if the stitch is open enough, I could thread a jaunty little ribbon through for a hatband, and if I wanted to make it truly practical, I'd make I-cord ties to fasten it under the chin. ..."  After a little more thinking about what stash yarn I might use for this hat, and the fact that I'd really prefer to knit it, I went back to finishing the swatches for the already-planned baby gear. (I know about Bonne Marie's bucket, and there's a pattern in last winter's IK that I could adapt ... both were also possibilities.)

This morning, I find in my e-mail, that someone has designed the perfect baby hat.  I'm not proud.  I will adopt Miss Dashwood happily.  The baby boy who is the object of all this fervid planning probably won't get bobbles and a picot edge, and I think I'll skip the earflaps. But this could be my new favorite pattern. I'll report back.

Mitt's Mate

I know you've been waiting with bated breath, so here it is: the second Noro mitt, which is now winging its way to my sister, along with a few other treats. (I hit ArtFibers Tuesday, strictly to buy her a couple of balls of amusement. How all that Kyoto found its way into my arms I really don't know.)

This picture betrays the fact that my row gauge changed on the second mitt--it's more of a gauntlet.  Do you know what changed between mitt #1 and #2? I changed *one needle.* I switched to working on two Addi circulars, vs. 1 set of Addis and something else. It seems weird that it would cause the cuff to grow so much.


Handsome boy modeling.

The squirt formerly known as Sparky showed off his wonderful handknit sweater last weekend, and Dad was on hand to take pictures.


These shots may not be the best illustrations of the sweater, but they do show that a) the squirt looks like his mom, and b) he's very advanced for his age (his dad swears he's smiling, not yawning).

The hat doesn't fit the kid any better than it did his dad. The cast-on edge is too tight, and the moss-stitch border isn't stretchy enough. One of these days I'll learn what size babies actually are...

Bendy straws and Latvian braid.

As usual, I've been piling up items to report, and taking no photos at all. And starting too many things and not finishing enough. So. Last week I received Folk Socks (courtesy of a Christmas Amazon gift certificate) as well as The Sweater Workshop. I've begun reading Folk Socks, and shoot--it really rocks, just like the Harlot said. I wonder if Kate knows there's a pattern for Scottish kilt hose in the book. Finally, the narrative explanation of sock construction that I've needed all along, although I still want a diagram of sock anatomy and construction. When they say pick up stitches and knit across the instep, I want to see it. Don't make me picture needles #1 and 3 in my head--show me.

This week has been all about two things: preparing for my half-marathon on Sunday, and Macworld Expo. Last Saturday, before it really started raining again, I did my last long training run and strategized about how I'll handle the actual run. It really helped with the jitters I was feeling, and helped me put it into perspective. I have a really solid endgame strategy now: It consists of handfuls of Advil, washed down with margaritas drunk through a bendy straw while lying on my side in the fetal position. This will follow my strong 8-mile run and refreshing 5-mile walk.

On Sunday I got a deep-tissue massage at the Claremont Hotel, courtesy of a birthday gift certificate I hung onto. I have to say it's a wonderful splurge--after they get done kneading the knots out of your back, they put a hot towel on you and cover you up with a blanket--then they start on your neck. I can't afford to do that very often, but I think I can come up with an excuse about once a year.

I made some progress on the second Noro mitt, as well as making a mistake in the pattern--but I'm not going to rip back. I'd like to think that the pattern deviation provides some welcome variety. I'm no slave to convention or rules.

Because we're headed out on a long road trip this weekend (the half-marathon is in San Diego), I cast on for the second Mer-Made sock, so I'll have something brainless to knit in the car. We'll see if my new-found understanding of sock construction translates into a better-looking sock.  And because I have no self-control, I also cast on for the colorwork hat for Jane. The two main colors are a dark brick red and a pale, heathered sage; it will have charcoal-black accents. I had to buy about 8 different colors of Cascade 220 to settle on this 3-color combination--and the purple skein that's about the shade of boysenberry yogurt, I don't know. I don't think I really like it. We started with a purple-gray-black color scheme, but I rejected that right quick.  Since I bought the yarn at different times in different states, I found that my preferred local yarn shop's prices are on the high side, but I guess you do pay something for convenience.  And the Latvian braid that borders this hat kicks butt--I'm in love with it. I'm only partway through the first colorwork repeat, though. When I have more done, and when it's not the dead of night, I'll take pictures.

For the past two days I've been at Macworld Expo for my job, meeting with hardware and software makers, and seeing what's new for Macintosh. It's rather more interesting than a typical computer trade show, mostly because Macs are used in publishing and other creative professions, so the products are aimed at media professionals--it's often products that I would use in my day-to-day job.

Anyway, between work deadlines, travel, and the race, it's likely to be another several days before I post again. Wish me luck and stamina on Sunday.

Those pictures I promised.

I did not get a shot of Carrie, the guest of honor, unfortunately, or Nathania or Elizabeth. But here are Yvonne, Rachael, and Joanna:

And Janine and Joanna:

And Lala starting a sock while Miss Idaho stands guard.

Sock accompli.

Yes, still sock singular. 

And as usual, I'm unsatisfied. I cannot gift this sock because the toe and heel are too dorky looking, and I'm afraid I don't really have enough of this yarn for a whole second one.  *But* I would unselfishly be willing to wear it myself. (Yes, I will knit a second one, and if I have to use another yarn for the heel and toe, OK. It's going to kill me to repeat the too-small eyelets for a whole nother one, though. I think I'll rip back the toe on this one and bind it off a few rows earlier to get rid of some of the pointiness.)

Now I'm jamming on the Noro mitts, and they are coming along.  I will be done by Christmas Eve, I will!

I had a pretty busy weekend, between seeing Jonathan Richman at the Ivy Room Friday night, checking out Rachael's lovely, cozy new home on Saturday night (thanks for hosting, Rachael!), and spending almost all day yesterday doing the Christmas Bird Count in my area.

It was really fun to meet some new knitbloggers, including Carrie, and see some people again. Nathania's scarlet feather-and-fan scarf is beautiful, and I too am in awe of Janine's fair-isle design chops.  I know who I'm going to call when I tackle that Norwegian stranded pattern again.

Carrie, thanks for the emergency stitch marker, and there is a lovely apartment for rent across the street from me in Berkeley.  (I'm not trying to influence your decision or anything, just offering information....)

Joanna, a cross-country road trip is the perfect excuse for a new car. I can identify with the debate about buying a new one: My car is 13 years old, though it hasn't passed 100k miles yet.

I have a few photos of the knit-out, but I'll need to post them tonight.

Two weeks, one sock (almost)

Sigh. Why can't I knit faster? I feel like I've been knitting on this one sock forever. I tried it on yesterday morning, and it only comes to my arch! I must have about five inches left to go on it, but at least it's straightforward until the toe.

I had to rip the heel turn after I totally misinterpreted one of the short row techniques from Interweave Knits--I tried the Japanese method and ended up with a dozen split markers at all my turns, then wondered, "When do I go back and knit up those stitches? Oh. Shit."  I fretted over ripping, too, since the yarn feels a little delicate (what's that going to mean about wear?) And the heel feels too narrow to me. Argh.

On Saturday I didn't knit much at all, I confess. I had a 12K race on Angel Island. I finished in 1:31:40 or thereabouts, and felt pretty good about it. I have not been training since Thanksgiving, so I'm glad I did as well as I did. The weather was beautiful, and the views from middle of the Bay helped take my mind off my knees. I also thought about Rachael, getting ready for her marathon as I was running my race. Addendum: OMG! I came in 16th in my age group! I was probably the youngest in my age group, but I'll frickin' take it. Forgive me, but I feel proud of that. And it was 1:31:06. Hee.

For the very short ferry ride, I took along Priscilla Gibson-Roberts's Simple Socks Plain and Fancy, so I could puzzle over the short-row-loose-yarn problem. I don't know what this mental block about the heel turning is all about. I need a sock mentor who can watch what I'm doing and correct me. Since I can't ask Cari, I guess I'll have to take a class.

Yesterday I had grand plans for baking, wrapping gifts to ship, writing all my Christmas cards and printing photos to send with them, and of course finishing the first frigging sock and getting a good start on the second one. I spent most of the morning trying to simultaneously knit and read the paper, with the cat balanced on my lap. It really does just slow down both the reading and the knitting. I need someone to read to me while I knit.

I did finish my column for work last night, on my new notebook. I decided it's time to upgrade, so I got myself a 15-inch PowerBook. I love the display and the performance, and the keyboard even feels better than the iBook's, but damn, do Apple's navigation keys suck. I keep telling myself I'll get used to not having a "forward-delete" key.

10 Strategies for completing my Christmas knitting

I'm quite concerned about this, as I'm less than halfway done with two projects, and I have at least three more planned. Add to this the fact that my wrists have been complaining, and I think a realistic estimate is that I'll be doing well to finish the two works in progress. So here are the alternatives I've been considering.

  1. Quit my job. This one is *very* appealing. Alternatively, I could announce that I'm taking three weeks of vacation, starting *right now*, but I suspect it would be easier to quit.
  2. Pull all-nighters from now until Christmas. Seems like a good plan, except it would result in not-very-pretty gifts, and Christmas with a migraine for me.
  3. Forswear all holiday baking. It could happen, but I'd be sad, especially since I just gifted myself with a couple of cool new baking books.
  4. Abjure holiday card-sending. This has happened before, and it will probably happen again.
  5. Give up reading the newspaper so I can knit in the mornings before work. Unfortunately, I cannot knit and read at the same time. I can barely watch TV and knit at the same time, because I need a hand free to flip channels constantly.
  6. Learn to use voice-recognition software so I can talk to the computer while knitting with my hands. This might result in some very strange knitting and/or garbled documents. My brain doesn't really multitask well.
  7. Teach my dogs to heel, so they can walk off-leash while I knit.
  8. Teach the cat to hold a hank of yarn while I unwind.
  9. Buy socks from the store, pull a few stitches out of shape on each pair, and claim that I made them.
  10. Gift-wrap hanks of yarn and patterns and call them either IOUs or knit-it-yourself kits.

As for progress on the two projects I've got on the needles, I'm about to turn the heel on the sock (note the use of the singular). The yarn is very soft and nice to work, and the pattern is pretty easy to use. But because of the way I've knit into the yarnovers, the eyelets don't show up very well. I think I need to investigate whether I'm making them right, or whether the world would end if I decided, henceforth, to knit into the back leg of yarnovers to make bigger holes.

The mitt has been set aside temporarily because it's going to need some undivided attention. I had to rip back after trying to modify the pattern. I wanted a solid-color thumb in a third color rather than the stripes called for in the slip-stitch pattern. When I tried a couple of rows, I understood that it wouldn't work unless I wanted to entirely rework the pattern. Considering that "gusset" is still a shaky concept for me, that seemed irresponsible, particularly since I'm working with Noro Cash Iroha that goes for $13 a skein, and I believe I have *just enough* (crossed fingers). Now I've gotten the stitches back on the needles a little bit wrong, and I can't get them lined up correctly. I may have to rip back another row or two to get it right.  I was feeling so confident, since I'd worked up to starting the thumb and the mosaic pattern was coming out right.  I'll get back to the thumb construction, but it may take me a weekend morning.


Thanksgiving in review

Hey, I had a pretty good Thanksgiving weekend, did you?  I realize it was a whole week ago now, but I like to let things, er, digest awhile before I comment on them.

I consider it a success because I was allowed to do a little of the cooking, and wasn't climbing the walls with boredom and irritation at any time during the four days we were out of town. I got in my two training runs and did all the miles I was supposed to. (We won't talk about the ones I missed on Sunday, Tuesday, and today--I'll make it up.) We drove the route of the half-marathon that I'm running in about 45 days (holy shit, it's long). We went to the beach. I sat on the sand and read and knit while my beloved surfed to her heart's content.

On Wednesday night we relived our youth at a show by one of our favorite bands, X. It was a nice surprise that they were playing at a local club. All the original members were there, they played all their great songs from 20 years ago, and we howled and sang along. Feel free to roll your eyes--it's what works for me. And I picked up this T-shirt:


It's girlier than I normally wear, but I had to have it.

I also made progress on the mosaic mitts, but I can't show you a photo because it's Christmas knitting. I started the straight-laced socks from I'd show you my progress, except that I took a crummy, blown-out photo that shows neither the color nor the eyelet lace pattern. Later.

I can show you this: an afghan that was intended to be a warm, comforting shawl for my beloved's mother. It's too big and heavy to wear as a shawl, but it works nicely as a sofa afghan. I started it after my mother in law was diagnosed with breast cancer and gave it to her about a year and a half before she passed away. Before this weekend the only photo I had of it was a distant shot of it with its owner, on paper. I created the pattern myself. Like the Knitting Curmudgeon, a kindred spirit, I'm an Aran fanatic. There was a time in my life when I wanted to collect every pattern Norah Gaughan ever wrote.


Blocked, seamed, delivered.

Yep, I got your genuine finished object, right here.

I finished the bobbly dumb baby sweater on Sunday, as well as the bobbly baby beanie of my own, none-too-artful design. (The dumb baby sweater is so named because it came from the so-named instructions in Maggie Righetti's Knitting in Plain English. Which is truly almost the only how-to-knit reference anyone ever needs. A really great basic reference.)

I delivered these FOs to the new parents last night, at a little office baby non-shower that I organized. And I delivered them before the baby was delivered--I'm getting better at meeting my self-imposed knitting deadlines. I have a feeling I'm going to go down in flames on the Christmas gifts, though. The best part was when my colleague plopped the tiny hat on his head. I hope my boss got pictures.

Here's what I made/brought to eat for the party:

  • tuna spread for crostini -- it kicks ass, and I'm not going to reveal what cool cookbook it's from, because it's one of my signature party contributions.
  • gorgonzola spread for crostini -- from the same page of the aforementioned mystery cookbook.
  • crudites with ranch dip
  • cold cuts
  • sliced baguettes
  • crackers
  • cheese slices
  • fruit plate with brie, which no one touched.

Here's what I recruited my colleagues to bring:

  • cake
  • tortilla chips and guacamole

Tonight or early tomorrow morning I need to do some of the same thing all over again, because tomorrow is my last day of hawk-watching for the season, and we always do a little potluck thing. I had decided I would bring my signature spreads. I will try to also do some crudites. Thankfully there are a lot of crackers left over from the party--so it's mostly there. And I just accepted another small translation job that has to be done by midnight tonight--so I'm going to have a long day.


Thanksgiving starts now

... that is, my Thanksgiving vacation starts now. So I'll start being thankful now, for time off to spend with family, and the prospect of cooking and knitting time, plus the luxury of being good and ready before going out on my training runs on Thursday and Saturday. (I'm running a half-marathon on January 16. Ask me how many full workouts of my 8-week training plan I've gotten in.)

I've been in something of an emotional slump for the past couple of days--brought on mostly by a serious midcareer crisis. I'm doubting my professional and personal attractiveness, but I will set it aside and be happy. We're spending Thanksgiving with Jane's family and Christmas with mine. Everyone asked me whether married life felt any different, and I said it didn't really, except it does in one respect. For some irrational reason, something clicked over in my brain and my in-laws truly feel like family now. Whether that means I can start arguing with them, I don't know. Haven't tried it yet.

Since we're flying to Southern California, we won't bring food with us, but I'm hoping that I can make one of my signature side dishes: cranberry-cherry relish. The recipe is from a years-old Gourmet, and it's great cranberry sauce. I may sneak some cinnamon sticks into my luggage for this recipe, since I have an absurdly large hoard of them in the cupboard. I've also got lots of great music loaded up on my MP3 player (three Chuck Prophet albums), plus a sock pattern to use for the violet-blue mer-made wool from Blackberry Ridge. Between that, the mosiac mitts, and the bobbly baby beanie, I'm set for knitting.

Dinner last night didn't go so well. I was feeling terribly smart about my multitasking skills, and it bit me in the ass. The lentils didn't cook on time. The turkey got overcooked yet was sitting in a puddle of liquid. We had a third the amount of spinach I thought we did, so my beds of sauteed spinach were piddling little blobs. I had a snit about it, to be sure. I believe I've learned multiple things from my mishaps, but still. I'd prefer a nice dinner.

Let me be the first to wish everyone a happy US Thanksgiving.

Stash enhancement

I went on a little yarn-buying jag, and I don't feel a bit of remorse.  Late Friday the loot came, and boy am I happy about it. Two skeins of sock-weight icelandic wool & mohair (cream & gray) from Tongue River Farms, as well as the Peruvian worsted-weight wool from I ordered enough for three sweaters, in malt heather, dried herb , and chocolate truffle (no color swatch on the site anymore). My wife will get one of the sweaters, possibly the Ribby Cardi from ChicKnits if she likes it, and I am getting at least one raglan cardigan out of the deal. I'll start those sometime in late winter after the sock- and baby-gear-knitting orgy. Someone else at work (whom I like and have worked with for years) has just adopted a baby. Damn.

I think she's getting the half-done, no-brainer baby afghan I set aside. It's garter stitch, done in Lion Brand Homespun Baby. Yes, acrylic. I'm not opposed to acrylic baby things for a number of reasons. I think it's silly to spend a small fortune on a garment that you expect a child to wear more than once. It will be outgrown quickly, and it should be durable and easy to keep clean. If it's not a christening gown, it's not meant to be an heirloom.

The Homespun Baby yarn, bought last winter, was a rash impulse buy. There's basically little you Homeyafghan_1can do with it besides garter stitch or stockinette because it's so chunky and crinkly. No pattern would show. I might try to make a kid-size jacket out of the leftovers, but first I've got to get this done. I think I'll put fringe on it, just to gild the scrunchy, candy-colored lily. Here's a picture:
And yesterday I finished the knitting on the bobbly dumb baby sweater. It's tiny. It may need a hat and booties to match. I'll weave in the ends and block it by the end of the day, and put the buttons on this week. I caught a cold that actually sunk in, so I'm laying low this weekend. Unfortunately, the weather is beautiful outside, and I feel like I should be working in the yard.

Sock progress

I have made progress on the sock. I've gotten past the heel frustration, and having read several other patterns, I've begun to see the commonalities. The description that made the most sense was Elizabeth Zimmerman's narrative description of making moccasin-socks in her Knitter's Almanac. So now I'm decreasing and getting antsy to move on to the toe. Then I can start in on something like the Retro-Rib Socks from the new Interweave Knits. The pattern looks pretty simple, and the instructions look clear. I think I'll definitely use dpns, and see whether that feels more intuitive than the two-circulars method.

And I have some lovely sock yarn -- I got an order from Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mill last week with some variegated blue-violet and some greige sport weight. I generally don't like variegated yarn, but this is beautiful.

Just ripping

Yesterday I got an inch done on the incipient sock while I waited in line to vote (it took an hour to get to a booth). Hereinafter it shall be known as the practice sock because, while I had thought that it might become a pair of socks for my pops, I'm already displeased. So even though I haven't knit the whole length of the leg that I was planning to, I'm going to just start turning the heel.

Here are the mistakes that make this unfit for wearing (and I know the picture is blurry--the camera didn't want to get in this close): Startersock The hole in the middle I seem to have made when I switched needles and moved some stitches from one to another--I had added a purple stripe that made it look like a mass-produced crew sock. While Pops might like that, I hated it so I ripped. I think that's where the hole came from.

But the little horizontal yarn-bar at the top is from joining the stitches on the first round, and I think it looks like crap. The first time I saw this, I thought I had accidentally knit the first stitch with the tail, and since I didn't like the gauge anyway, I was happy to rip. This time, I'd like someone to please tell me how to avoid it, or I'm going to go back to joining rounds by just knitting across, as I've always done. I prefer the little jog, which I can fix by using the tail to sew up the corners, to that big misshapen stitch.

Here's another one, on another brewing Christmas gift. Also, coincidentally, about to be ripped again.Messedupmitt This cuff was too tight when knit at the number of stitches called for in the pattern (the Mosaic Mitts from Interweave Knits Summer '04), so I went to bigger needles and cast on a couple of extra stitches. However, the ribs are uneven now, and there's the ugly stretched join stitch, so it's back to square one.

The bobbly baby sweater is going swimmingly, however. The sleeves are finished and seamed, so now I just have 3-4 inches of straight stockinette and a few increases to do. Then it will be back to socks and mitts, and hopefully finding the answer to the eternal question "qu'est-ce que c'est gusset?"

Kerry is about to concede. Shit. I promised Jane I would get dressed and go to work, but I'm tempted to call in sick, say I'm busy planning our emigration. There is a baby shower this afternoon at work, and I contributed to the knitted afghans for the twin babies--so I'd like to see the finished products.

Requiem for Grover

I've been wanting to post for a week now -- and this isn't going to be the outpouring I've been composing in my head since last Thursday night, and I won't bother to type out the string of excuses I've also been composing. But. On Tuesday night, riding home on BART, I saw Grover's pelt around some woman's neck, for real. Royal blue-purple, fuzzy ... I almost cried. If I had a camera phone I would have been tempted to take a surreptitious snapshot.

And in other news briefs, the sweet boy's sweater fits! I'm thrilled--I finished something before the kid got too big to wear it, and the sleeves aren't even horribly short. Cruising through the blogosphere, I get the impression that I'm the slowest knitter in the world. Here's the photographic evidence.

And just because it amuses me, here is another member of the sweet boy's family, staking out his territory before the baby was born:
Tomorrow, at the latest, I will post about the incipient socks, and my fretting about them (it, really, at this point).

Finished Object, Fo' Real

This afternoon I sewed the buttons on the (not) Best Baby Sweater for the sweet boy in western Mass. So it's well and truly done. Since I'm a slob, I refuse to block it. I started over on this bugger enough times, it is not getting any more pampering from me.

My only real regret is that I didn't paw through my stash and find the quarter-ball more of the blue yarn, and make each of the sleeves an inch longer. But I figure it's less sleeve for him to drag through his strained carrots...

Now I'm on to the bobbly dumb baby sweater for a colleague whose wife is due in a couple of months. All the Christmas knitting will have to take a backseat until this is done:

I hung out at the Pub with another colleague of mine and her cousin this afternoon, and the weather was suitably gray to feel good about being inside knitting. And I separated the sleeves from the fronts and back of the dumb baby sweater, so it's farther along than you see in the photo.

Posting when I should be running...

but I'll take my stuff to work and run at lunchtime (yeah).

Here's a work-in-progress that I'm ashamed to say I was knitting when I first met Rachael. That was a couple of summers ago, I think.

It's "Beginner's Triangle" from A Gathering of Lace, knit in Artfibers' Oz. Ozcloseup
A case of impulse-buying the yarn, then finding the pattern to work with it. There are two reasons that this project, which I really like, has been crammed into the stash cabinet: First, a spate of babies have come into my life, and I feel compelled to knit for them. --And then there's my crackpot decision that I'm going to give everyone hand-knit socks for Christmas this year, to um, save money. But first I have to learn how to make socks.

The second reason the shawl got put away again was that it's now a little too big to easily be taken places, and the yarn sheds like you wouldn't believe. I like to be a good neighbor on BART (actually, I'm terrified of strangers' disapproval), so I try not to waft bits of angora in all directions when on public transit.

Last winter I was knitting on it furiously to try to finish it before my marriage in March (album coming later). But it was OK not to have the shawl then, because the lace would have caught on the beads on my dress. In fact, at the reception I had a small wardrobe malfunction with the dress and the fishnet stockings I chose to wear:

Who knew that fishnets and beads don't mix? I needed a fairy godmother to tell me these things.

Knitting and drinking in public

For you Bay Area knitters, my fledgling knitting group meets again this Sunday afternoon at the Pub on Solano Ave. in Albany. If the weather's as nice as it has been, we'll be out on the front porch, watching life flow by on the street. If it's drizzly (I'm not believing that chance of showers forecast, but you never know), we'll be in the front room, hopefully monopolizing the chairs around the coffee table. And if that's the case, I will be happy (or smug, to be honest) that it's knitting weather.

The Pub is pretty low-key, especially on Sunday afternoons. They might have an espresso machine behind the counter, but I've never seen anyone order a coffee drink. And they don't have a Web site, so you'll have to take my word that it's a cool place. It's been one of my favorite places to hang out for several years. I'd make knitting trips to the Albatross, too, if it were better lit. I believe that anyplace that has board games should be a fine place to knit, but the Bird is just a bit too cavelike. I actually love that there's a bar in Berkeley (still in operation) that opened the year I was born.

I'd knit at Triple Rock, but the vibe is a bit too masculine, so Triple Rock is reserved more for drinking beer and eating burgers--and spending quality time with my wife. We've gotten into the habit of going there for lunch on Saturdays, when she gets home from surfing.

Some quick-and-dirty street cred

OK, for several days now I've been meaning to post some proof that I actually knit--but this weekend I was too busy starting two new knitting projects (on top of the dumb baby sweater that I started midweek) -- as well as cleaning up the yard, and doing usual weekend errands. I did attend the Knit-Out that Rachael arranged in Oakland, but "Knitty with Kitty" was rather a bust.

And now I've made the faux pas of taking a translation job (covering an industry I know nothing about) that's due in about 2.25 hours.

So in true procrastinator fashion, here's a little visual evidence of my knitting bona fides.


This is the "Best Baby Sweater," which appears in the Fall 1990 Vogue Knitting as well as Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac. This being the third version of this pattern I've knitted (though the only photo I have in digital form at the moment), I can tell you I'm over this pattern. No more round garter stitch yokes....

As soon as I sew on the buttons, this will go off to the sweet boy in Massachusetts (pictured with yours truly). Candy1

OK, back to furiously looking up French construction terminology. Tomorrow, when the translation agency has kissed me off, I'll post some more projects-in-progress pix.

I think I'm a knitting-group slut

... or maybe dilettante is a nicer word. At any rate, I really love knitting in public, and it's way better when someone else is doing it too. I've done the knitting Meetup thing, I've got my own little knitting group started (every third Sunday at the Pub in Albany), and I keep an eagle eye out for other opportunities to knit with like-minded folks.

And I think this weekend I'm going to overindulge--since there's Knitty with Kitty at Mama Buzz Cafe in Oakland on Saturday afternoon, and the Knit-Out at Article Pract on Sunday afternoon.