Thursday, January 25, 2007

I Hate Borders

Borders used to be my favorite store. Books, music, coffee - what more could a body want? Well, last night I discovered that a little organization would be nice.

What happened was this: Upon the recommendation of forum readers at Knitter's Review, I went in search of Sensational Knitted Socks. Borders' online inventory indicated it was in stock, and I checked again when I got to the store. But, even with two of us looking, we could not find the book.

Actually, we were lucky to find the right shelves. The in-store computers used to have a map of the store on them, but if they still do, I could not find it. So we wandered a bit and found the right area, then the right shelves. That's when things got really ugly.

Borders used to shelve books in order, by author's last name. This wasn't a perfect system, because (just like at the library) people put books back in the wrong place. But generally, you had a good chance of finding what you were looking for, and all one author's books were highly likely to be grouped together.

Well, no more. I don't know if it is because the store is short of shelves or short staffed, or because the staff is overworked or lazy, or if it is store policy or company policy, but now the books are shelved willy-nilly, with many books wandering into neighboring topics. As a lover of books, I found it sad, and as a shopper, I found it frustrating, and as an anal retentive, I found it maddening.

I don't like Barnes and Noble, either, and I avoid the mall (where Walden Books and B Dalton reside) like a pustulating sore. The local library system is excellent about ordering anything I request, but frequently it is weeks before the book is available for checkout. I order from Amazon a lot, but sometimes I just want to look over a book before buying.

As my brother often says, Whaddayagonnado?

Friday, January 19, 2007


I like to knit. I like to write about my knitting. I lure visitors to my knitting blog by leaving its url at various and sundry forums across the Internet. But StatCounter indicates most spend less than 5 seconds at my site. Presumably, they glance at the photos, then click their way back from whence they come. After starting KnitLit (edited by Linda Roghaar and Molly Wolf), I now know why no one reads my blog - reading about knitting is, well, let's just say, less than riveting.

Maybe it is just me, but why read about knitting when you can be knitting?

And yet I do read about knitting. I frequent a few knitting forums, keep up on certain knitting blogs (even though too many of these blogs feature yummy, calorie-laden baked goods as well as knit goods), and check out armloads of knitting books from the library. But forums can be skimmed, blogs can entertain (apparently, mine does not), and knitting books are eye candy. It is not often that one really reads knitting stories.

What makes a good story? Usually, a storyline that includes conflict is a primary trait. Strong character development can make up for a lack of plot, as can humor. Robert Frost said good poetry "begins with delight and ends in wisdom" and the same may be applied to any writing. (Hmmm. Maybe I need to keep that in mind with my own writing.) Too many blog entries are "Here is some beautiful yarn. Here is what I made with it." (Mine is more that latter, since I can't afford the former.) The cardinal sin of writing is to bore the reader. (Moi?!?)

(Okay, I've wandered afield. I started out reviewing KnitLit and wound up critiquing my own writing. I didn't start out delighted, but hopefully now I will end up a bit wiser.)

Back to KnitLit. As I said, knitting stories are not the most exciting thing to read, but each one in this book has a little pearl (purl?) hidden within. And, in this world of in-your-face entertainment, these gentle stories are heartening and refreshing, if sometimes a bit corny.

Sometimes we need a little corn in our diet.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Rainbow Legwarmers

So, what makes a pattern original? I started with this pattern and changed the colors and length and sizing a bit, and added instructions to improve the color changing, but while I am proud of the results, I would not call this a design of my own making. But aren't those colors fun?

These legwarmers are slouchy and will fit very loosely. Directions are for small (medium, large) sizes.


Yarn: Plymouth Yarn Encore Knitting Worsted Weight (75% acrylic, 25% wool), one skein (100g/200 yds.) each in the following colors: purple (1384), red 1386), orange (1383), yellow (1382), green (054),and blue (133).

Needles: 4 double-pointed needles, size 8 or size to obtain gauge.

Gauge: 5 sts = 1" over St st.


Cast on 64 (72, 80) stitches. Divide across 3 needles.

Knit a color band in each color (see directions for color band below). To create the rainbow effect, alternate primary colors with their composite secondary colors, i.e. blue, green, yellow, orange, red, purple. For longer legwarmers, knit additional color bands to desired length.

Bind off in pattern.

Color band:
Row 1: K all around. (If using long-tail cast on, cast on row counts as first knit row of first color band.)
Row 2-8: K2, P2 ribbing all around.

How To Make a Jogless Color Change:
When changing colors, on the first stitch of second row of the new color, pick up the first stitch of the old color from below, place it on the left needle, and knit along with first stitch of row 2.

How to Add Laces to Make Them Stay Up

If you don't like legwarmers that puddle around your ankles, here is one way to modify this pattern to make them stay up:

On the last (top) color band, knit row one, k2 p2 rows 2-4, create eyelet in row 5 (*k2,p2,yo,k2tog,p2,repeat from *), k2 p2 rows 6-8, BO; knit 2 3-stitch i-cords long enough to thread through eyelet and tie in a bow.

Friday, January 12, 2007

So Many Projects, So Little Time

Knitty Otter mentioned cast on fever in a recent post. I know exactly what she means! I obsessively start project after project, until the livingroom looks like a yarn explosion, then slowly start wrapping up a few, just to free up the needles so I can start some more.

First, there are the two stalled afghans and one half-done baby blanket. One of the afghans has taken up residence in the recliner; if I sit there, I will have to crochet.

Then there are the dishcloths. I have been working on a couple for a housewarming gift. I finished one, started another, decided I did not like the color for this particular person, so started a third. (I happen to have two sets of size 7 SPs, so I didn't have to move number two to a spare needle.) Number two will become a cabinwarming gift, but I hate to give just one, so I will probably knit up one more, then hopefully call it quits on dishcloths, for a while at least.

I started a baby hoody for an expecting friend who does not know the gender of the baby. Initially, I thought orange or red would be a wild choice, and after starting the orange, changed my mind and started over in lime. The color is so luscious I have a hard time putting that one down.

Meanwhile, I'm almost done with the rainbow legwarmers for my daughter. Fun colors! If she does not like them, I will keep them for myself. She wants armwarmers, too, but requested them extra long, like up to her elbows, so if she feels like wearing a tee around the house, she can keep her arms warm without resorting to a sweater.

My brother's scarf is done, except for weaving in the ends, blocking the garter stitch edges, and stitching his name on the ends so that other family members don't "borrow" it. Cow-orkers opined the colors sucked, but I think they are manly, yet whimsical.

I'm starting my three-day weekend with a yarn orgy, but hopefully I will settle down and take care of some housekeeping chores, too. You can knit only so much, right?


Monday, January 08, 2007

A Complete Ensemble

I finished a hat for my son, to go with his scarf and armwarmers, all in Saluki colors. And, unlike the arm warmers, the "make 1" stitches are correct, so there are no eyelets. And, unlike the slipper socks, the color changes are jogless.

The pattern is from here, and isn't a pattern in the usual sense, but rather a description of how to knit ribbed caps. This is the "Snug Garter Rib Cap" with an initial caston of 82 for the 1x1 rib, increased to 92 for the 2x2 rib.

The top was a little confusing and I frogged it once because I thought it wasn't right, then reknit it the same way because I convinced myself that it was right the first time. (Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Nate's Slipper Socks

I signed up for a basic sock class at my LYS, but since I like to be prepared, I decided to practice sock-knitting before hand. (Actually, the class is not until March and I just couldn't wait.) So I knit these "Scrunchy, Slouchy Slipper Socks", using a free pattern from Lion Brand.

These knit up quickly and I was able to follow the instructions for the heel and toe with a minimum of head scratching. They look HUGE because of the super bulky yarn, but they are comfy and warm. I'm guessing they will be a cat hair magnet, though.

In case you didn't notice, I was too impatient to take 60 seconds to look up how to do a jogless color change - after all, the point of this exercise was to practice sock-knitting skills, not color-changing skills - there's always time to do it over, never time to do it right. But this time I did not do over, as I am practicing being less anal retentive about knitting mistakes.

I'll do better next time. I promise.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Knitting with Dog Hair

Instead of sheep, I have an angora lop rabbit. Rabbits make nice pets, but I obtained mine with an ulterior motive: angora yarn. So far, I have gathered a small Ziploc and a half of combings. It will take a long time to amass enough to spin.

But what if I added my cat's long hair and my dog's short hair? The cat is the color of toast, the dog mostly black, and the rabbit silvery gray. That would be an interesting yarn.

And before you scoff at the idea of spinning pet hair, you should read Knitting with Dog Hair by Kendall Crolius and Anne Montgomery.

Did you know Baryshnikov's leg warmers are supposedly made from his dogs' fur? And did you know that dog hair is warmer than wool? And once it is washed, it won't smell doggy?

This short book provides a primer on carding, spinning, and finishing pet yarn, as well as some patterns and resources and summaries of which breed produces what kind of fur.

I haven't actually tried making pet yarn, but it is an idea worth playing with. Besides, I have to groom my pets anyway; why not collect the fur and see what I can do with it?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Chloe's Cool Cats

I started the SnB Alien Illusion Scarf a while back, but instead of using Brown Sheep Nature Spun, I went with Plymouth Yarn Encore. You wouldn't think it would make much difference, but it did. The scarf was too wide and too stiff, so I frogged it.

When I decided to give illusion knitting another try, I went with the Brown Sheep yarn but chose a different pattern: Cats in Shades. The yarn made a huge difference, and I like the cats better than the aliens.

Here we are, starting out. Already you can see the curl at the end of the scarf. As the knitting progressed, the sides curled a lot as well. And, as this photo shows, the side I carried the yarn up is a little tight (my fault - I tugged too hard when changing colors).

Consequently, I blocked the sh*t out of it, giving the scarf a full twenty minute soak, then smoothing the sides and pinning the ends. If I were to do it again, I would try heavily spritzing the edges instead, as the scarf really stretched.

Not that the results are all that bad. The colors are "spring green" and "snow".

BTW, I purchased the yarn online from Flying Fingers Yarn Shop. They were very accommodating.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year Resolutions - 2007

The Parade section of this past Sunday's newspaper had a short, amusing article by Ellen Generes about making resolutions. The serious point of the article was to make resolutions you will keep instead of the usual self-improvement promises that result in a sense of failure by mid-March. What a good idea!

The only resolution I am making this year is to do something fun each month this year. So far, I have January through May covered:

January: Women's Weekend. Ordinarily, a bunch of us get together twice a year for a weekend of no kids and no men. We eat chocolate, drink wine, smoke cigarettes, watch R-rated movies, play cards, etc. This started when our kids were little, and now that most of us have empty nests, instead of being easier to get together, it just gets more and more difficult, especially in the fall. This past fall, we failed to get together at all, so now we are planning a makeup date this month.

February: John Prine, at the Embassy. I'm not big on crowds and crowded places, but when the performers I favor bother to include the Fort on their itenerary, I gotta go.

March: Basic sock class, at the Cass Street Depot. I'm sick of scarves and hats and fingerless gloves, but I don't want to do something big (still burnt out from that shawl and I have some afghans that have stalled), so socks sound like a good alternative.

April: The Fiber Event in Greencastle. If I can't have my own sheep, the next best thing is a fiber festival.

May: A writer's conference, "Zen Connection for Writers," at the Christine Center. I haven't actually signed up for this yet, but will, as soon as I find the brochure. The Christine Center is in Wisconsin, not too far from where my ancestors settled upon coming to this country. So, while I am in the neighborhood, I will visit a few gravesites.

There will also be more Women's Weekends, maybe another fiber festival, a vacation or two (my SO wants to go west this year), and hopefully some other good times in the near future.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Nate's Armwarmers

Unlike the Ladylike Lace gloves, I had to knit only three of these armwarmers to get one pair. But I unknit and reknit the bind off several times, then unknit and reknit the top inch on each before being satisfied.

This is the start of the first one, which I knit 'way too tight. (Frequently, when I knit something for the first time, I tense up and knit tightly.) Since the pattern is a nice 2x2 rib, armwarmer #1 stretched enough for a nice fit, but after wearing it a while, my fingers grew numb.

Armwarmer #2 knit up just right, so I frogged armwarmer #1 and knit up armwarmer #3. Done, right? Wrong. See how the tops bell out? They were much too loose, and they would probably stretch with use, so I kept trying different bindoffs to tighten them up. I eventually settled on purling the bindoff stitches.

As much as Nate loved the armwarmers, he left them behind xmas day. I tried them on one more time before mailing, and decided the tops were still too loose. What to do? I decided to rip back an inch or so on each one, and reknit, using smaller needles. Thankfully, this worked well.

BTW, I knit these in Plymouth Encore worsted, using this pattern from Gaea Creations. Besides the above problems, I struggled with the "make one" stitches, never quite getting them right, hence the eyelets along the thumb gusset. I have since learned how, from Knitting Help.

Janine's Dishcloths

The last time I met my friend Janine for coffee, I pulled the Bauhaus dishcloths from my knitting bag, just to show her. The look on her face told me that she needed some dishcloths of her own. She loved the colors ("maize" and "seaspray" in Lion Brand cotton), but I didn't like the pattern.

Living in a small house and blessed with a wonderful public library system , I don't buy very many books, but I make an exception for reference books, especially reference books about knitting. One such book is The Knitting Stitch Bible, by Maria Parry-Jones. I purchased this without a clear idea of what use I would make of it.

Light bulb moment: I could play with the stitches in the book while making dishcloths. So far, this scheme is working out well. I practice a stitch in colorful but inexpensive yarn, and by the time I get sick of it, the dishcloth is nearing completion. Then I have a small but useful gift.

Here is the double moss stitch.

And here is the basket stitch.

Another source of stitch patterns is the Lion Brand Stitchfinder. That's where I found the "purl ridges" stitch I used in the following piece.

Janine and I met for coffee again a couple of days ago, and she was thrilled with her new dishcloths. Unfortunately, I had goofed up the bind off on one, which I didn't notice until it was laid out on the table before us, so I had to confiscate it to make corrections. But she has two out of three to start the new year.

How To: Knit a Dishcloth

I like to edge my dishcloths in garter stitch, so I add 2 stitches for the left side and 2 for the right; I use placemarkers to remind me about the edging. Also, I favor the long-tail method of casting on, and thus either start with Row 2 or knit a row before starting the pattern.

How To: Double Moss Stitch a Dishcloth

Cast on in multiples of 2, plus 4 for the garter stitch edge.
Row 1: K2, *K1, P1, repeat from * to last 2 stitche2, K2
Row 2: K2, *K1, P1, repeat form * to last 2 stitches, K2
Row 3: K2, *P1, K1, repeat from * to last 2 stitches, K2
Row 4: K2, *P1, K1, repeat from * to last 2 stitches, K2
Repeat rows 1-4 until height of piece is approximately the same as the width.
Bind off. Weave in ends.

How To: Basket Stitch a Dishcloth

Cast on in multiples of 6, plus 3, plus 4 for the garter stitch edge.
Row 1: K2, *K3, P3, repeat from * to last 5 stitches, K3, K2
Row 2: K2, *P3, K3, repeat form * to last 5 stitches, P3, K2
Row 3: K2, *P3, K3, repeat from * to last 5 stitches, P3, K2
Row 4: K2, *K3, P3, repeat from * to last 5 stitches, K3, K2
Repeat rows 1-4 until height of piece is approximately the same as the width.
Bind off. Weave in ends.