Monday, July 30, 2007

Slow Going

The sweater-shawl is bogging down. That's the problem with a triangular-shaped garment - each row gets longer and longer and longer. I'm up to 205 stitches and it takes me almost 20 minutes to knit one row, purl one row. Progress is slowing to a crawl.

The striping sequence on the Magic Stripes sock is definitely repeating, so that is good news. I have discovered a "new" way of knitting, so to speak: since the widths of the stripes are variable, instead of thinking "I'll knit three more rounds," I pull out all of the next color and knit that up, then decide if I want to do another color. It's more fun that way. (Like I've said before, we knitters are easily entertained.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wrongway Peachfuzz

My proclivity for making at least one wrong turn on road trips has become a family joke, and it looks like I am continuing the tradition with my knitting. On Magic Stripes sock #1, I managed somehow to cast on only 54 stitches instead of the 56 the pattern calls for. Part of the blame lies with the missing DPN, as I think if I had been using 5 needles instead of 4, I might have detected the problem before I reached the gusset. No do-overs, though. I will just continue with 54 stitches, and adjust the toe decreases accordingly.

The sock colorway is called "Denim Stripes" and I was thinking it would be nice to make the socks match. I knit round after round, without seeing a repeating pattern to the stripes, though, until - at last! - nearly done with the gusset, I think I see the right color sequence coming up.

This sock is knitting up really quickly, and I was wondering why. Well, duh, the sock yarn is not fingerling but sport weight.

Oh, and an FYI on anyone using the Magic Stripes sock pattern from Lion Brand: the number of rows for the heel flap should be 38, not 28.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Lost in Space

Ordinarily, I do not lose things. I may not be able to put my hands on something right at the moment I want it, but eventually whatever I am looking for turns up. Until now.

I inadvertently dropped a CD into the book return at my local library branch, a CD that did not belong to the library and did not belong to me. I didn't realize it did not belong to the library until later, when I told my SO I had returned it to the library. Well, it was his CD. No problem, I thought. I will just get it back from the libary. But over a month has passed and it has not turned up. (And the last librarian with whom I spoke about the CD got a little huffy when I hinted that someone may have "wanted to listen to it", as if all library employees are above reproach.)

About this same time, my clip-on sunglasses disappeared. Since I paid $80 for these, I am usually anal about putting them back in their case when they are not on my face. I think I may have left them by the stamp machine at work, but by the time I figured this out, they were not there. If they had ever been there. I put the word out at work, cleaned out my purse and my car, checked sweater pockets, etc., but never recovered them. I have been wearing a big goofy pair that came with a plastic beach pail and shovel, black with lime green stems. Their advantage is they fit over my regular eyeglasses. But maybe I should just give up hope and buy some new (cheap) clip-ons.

And now I find I lost a bamboo DPN, so the set of 5 is now a set of 4. It may have crawled away when I was switching from the bamboo needles to metal ones - the bamboo ones seem to pick up moisture when it is humid and yarn sticks to them. I looked under the couch cushions, under the couch, under and on top of the coffee table. Nada. Did the dog chew it up? Did it fall into the waste basket? It seems to have vanished into thin air.

But having only 4 DPNs did not stop me from using them on a new pair of socks. It's not like I was enjoying the last sock, which is still matchless. But I just feel better having a pair of socks in the works. And these are from Lion Brand Magic Stripes yarn. Magic Stripes is not the most beautiful self-striping yarn around, and from what I understand, it is being discontinued, but it is what I had on hand and I've knit the pattern before so it shouldn't be too challenging. And there is just something about self-striping yarn that makes it fun to knit. (Knitters are so easily entertained!)

I'm hoping to match up the stripes between sock 1 and sock 2, but I am halfway through the cuff and haven't seen a pattern repeat yet.

And the menopause shawl is tootin' along. Working the Cascade 220 yarn on US7 needles in 99% stockinette stitch has been a simple pleasure. It is an easy project to pick up and put down, and there is no stitch counting except the occassional check to make sure I haven't forgotten a YO. After the initial rush, when the rows started to become a bit long and boring, I was tempted to introduce something fancy here and there, but resisted the urge because I really want this to be something non-challenging.

Although I am using a one-skein shawl pattern, this will take at least two skeins because of the smaller needle size.

Summertime and the knittin' is easy....

Friday, July 27, 2007

It Will Fit Somebody

My friend L planned to knit each of her children and their SOs hats this past xmas. She found appropriate patterns, carefully selected fine yarns, and set to work. But the projects were a bit beyond her skill level. I helped her (via email) through hat #1, which she knit about six times before getting a lumpy finished product. This struggle reduced her to tears, which she took to another friend, who asked her, "What are you really trying to give your children?" which produced even more tears. Her friend made L promise to put the knitting away until after the holidays.

But for those of us who force our knitted projects upon our loved ones, it is a very good question: What are we really trying to give them? And then there is the question of whether we give them what they want or what we think they should have. Or, in my case, what I just happened to have knit.

Sometimes I am knitting something I simply want to knit, because of the pattern, the yarn, the techniques, etc. If it is something I don't want/need for myself, should I try to force it onto someone else? Like the lime green baby hoodie I gave my hairdresser? (I still think she was pretending to like it. I haven't had the nerve to ask her if she ever actually used it.)

And then there is the surprise factor. I am learning to let go of expecting the recipients of my knitterly goods to be thrilled and to feel blessed with my largesse. At most, I hope they will use the item, and if not, will pass it on to someone who will appreciate it.

Sometimes things turn out better than expected, though. My son expressed an interest in having a pair of slipper socks, but he was not available to participate in the selection of pattern or yarn. I wasn't sure how he would like the ones I made, but he does like them, made good use of them this past bitter winter. I also knit him a scarf, hat, and fingerless gloves; those he has not mentioned.

When I signed up for a basic sock class, I decided the first pair would go to my daughter. She did not seem too excited about the prospect of handknit socks, until she tried on an unfinished one and it fit her foot very nicely. The same thing with a second pair that went to my SO; he raves about the fit. (Their blatant surprise over the fit grates a bit!)

But usually I bring home book after book from the library and force my loved ones to look through them, and rarely do I detect much excitement. That is, until my daughter saw Glamour Knits. "I like this. And I really like this. Oh, and I love this!" Hence, the lacy top that is giving me fits (so to speak!)

None of this has stopped me from starting a pair of socks, for a mystery recipient. And if the intended recipient does not like them, well, they will fit somebody.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Easy Does It

After the angst of toe-up sock #1, I decided I wanted to knit something easy, something brainless, something I could start right now with yarn onhand because my LYS went out of business.

When said LYS had their going-out-of-business sale, I glommed onto some Cascade 220, so I grabbed a skein of black and rolled it into a center-pull ball (without the fiasco I went through before). Then I started a lacy shawl from a pattern in the 2007 Knitting Pattern-a-Day Calendar (the April 25 entry). This pattern calls for Fiesta Boucle, and I tried it once using Lion Boucle, but the two yarns are obviously not interchangable and I didn't have enough yarn and I quickly abandoned this project. But, really, a lacy shawl can be knit from about any type yarn; you just get different results.

To make a long story short, I tried the Cascade 220 with different size needles until I found a result I liked, but the more I knit, the less I liked the result. The photo in the pattern made the shawl look rectangular, but for some reason mine was coming out at a diagonal.

And one edge looked like this...

... while the other edge looked twice as thick.

I really like things to look symmetrical, so this shawl bugged me enough that I ripped it and tried to figure out some way to get the results I wanted. My knitting stitch skills are not up to creating my own lacy shawl pattern, though. So I switched to a one-skein shawl pattern I found here. Again it took me a while to decide on needle size, and I decided that it was okay by me if I wound up with a sweater-shawl hybrid.

So this shawl will consist primarily of stockinette with lacy borders. Since this is meant to be my "menopause shawl" - something I can take off and put on with ease as I cycle through hot flashes - I think it will do just fine.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

That Damn Sock!

I finally finished toe-up sock #1 and bound off, but - huh - the sock would not go over my heel. A little research revealed that you can't bind off a toe-up sock in the usual way, but must use a more stretchy method. (Too bad the book did not mention this. Many sock knitters rave about Sensational Knitted Socks, and it does have a lot of good info in it, but frankly, I would not recommend it to a beginner.)

I found some directions for a sewn cast-off here, and redid the bind off.

The top of the cuff looks frilly but it's not when on the foot.

The fit is a little tighter than I wanted and the cuff a little shorter than I expected, but it's okay...

... until I take a closer look at the short row heel from hell and discover a hole. A hole caused by a dropped stitch. Argh!!!

So I am taking a little hiatus from sock knitting while I decide just what I want to do about this damn sock.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Saga Continues

All I wanted was a new air conditioner and a new furnace with a humidifier. And I did get a new air conditioner and a new furnace with a humidifier. But the story just won't end.

As reported earlier, there was a mishap. The result of the mishap was a broken attic ladder. The contractors said they would replace it. And they did. But, silly me, I assumed I would end up with something close to what I had before.

What I had before was nothing special, just one of those folding attic ladders you find in some houses. There was a string on a trapdoor that you pulled to reveal the ladder. The ladder was easy to reach and unfold, easy to refold, and with a little push, the door holding the ladder and covering the hole to the attic would return to its rightful place with a nice, neat fit.

Now I have this lovely example of drywalling:

And here I am, standing on tippy toe, trying to get the ladder down:

And here I am, trying to get the ladder up, but - huh - it doesn't quite fit without some near impossible gymnastics:

And this is how the door fits in the hole:

You are probably wondering how I let this happened. I did peek out in the garage a time or two, enough to gather that things weren't going well. But I'm a trusting soul. I believed everything would be okay in the end. But apparently the end occurred at 4:55pm, when the worker bees took off like it was quittin' time.

And that's not all. Because the room with the gas furnace and gas hot water heater is actually a large closet off my bedroom, the building inspector told the contractor I would need a new door, one that would seal off any smoke were there a fire, one with a "closer". A closer is something that automatically closes the door so you can't accidently bypass the smoke seals. But guess what? My door does not close unless I push it and bang it shut a few times, and it won't latch without some fiddling with the door knob.

And that's not all. The contractor's scheduler called to set a follow-up appointment, to check on the air conditioner and furnace. Since nothing had been said about this before, I was a little perplexed. And suspicious. You read about contractors concealing cameras behind vents so they can record people doing private things. Or maybe one of the installers was fired for cause and now they were checking up on his handiwork.

So I had a few things to discuss with the sales guy after the fact. And I did my best to state my case in a reasonable and sane manner. Afterwards, though, I did get a bit hysterical over the whole thing, venting to friends and family. Today I am calm, though. And I still have a new air conditioner and a new furnace with a humidifier.

But they have my money.

But I have butterflies.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Short n Sweet

Last Saturday I was going shopping in Indy with my daughter and needed something easy to knit in the car. This meant not the lacy top, not a sock ready for heel-turning, not an afghan. This meant something new, but not another baby hoodie because I haven't finished the last one, not the yoga mat bag because that is a lace project and I refuse to have two lace projects going on at the same time, ditto for socks, not the baby blankets that require wrangling four skeins of yarn at the same time, not a dishcloth because I am tired of cotton, not a hat because I just finished one. So, what did that leave me?

How about a little eyeglass case for my sweetie? He made this request an embarrassingly long tme ago, expressing an interest in the "Serendipity" SWTC bamboo I've been playing with, the OLD bamboo that produces a fabric with the texture of loofah. (My understanding is they have redesigned this yarn to be softer.) I cast 48 stitches onto US2 double points and basically made a little sock top, with 4 rounds of 2x2 ribbing to keep it from rolling and the next 6 inches plain old stockinette, closing with kitchenette. He has bamboo growing in his backyard (yes, Virginia, bamboo does grow in Indiana, and can be purchased here), and now he will have bamboo in his pocket.

Bamboo eyeglass cases. Can bamboo pocket protectors be far behind?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

So Far, So Good

The AC and furnace are installed, all the gas appliances are working, and the new system provides not only a new level of climatic comfort in my home, but a much more quiet atmosphere. It's a little eerie, in fact, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. All this was not accomplished without at least one more mishap: a step on the ladder to the attic broke while one of the worker bees was climbing it. I heard a crash and shouting, and ran into the garage to find the poor man hanging practically upside down from what remained of the ladder. Fortunately, he was not hurt, just shaken up.

Meanwhile, I picked up a copy of Family Knits, by Debbie Bliss, from the library. Debbie Bliss is a familiar name in the knitting community, but I hadn't seen her patterns up close and personal. As is usual everywhere, the garments for the rugrats are the cutest, and several are generously sized so the wee ones can wear them for more than four weeks before outgrowing them. But there is one item for grownups, the patchwork aran jacket, that will defy boredom in even the most jaded knitter. The photography throughout the book is lovely, and there is even a picture index in the back, so you can find a given pattern easily.

Which brings me to the question of just how often patterns in books are actually knitted by the knitting lay public? I have knit many things from the Stitch and Bitch series, but I pick up most patterns for free online. The only current exceptions are projects from Glamour Knits, by Erica Knight, and Sensational Knitted Socks, by Charlene Schurch. Oh, and some from Mason-Dixon Knitting.

And in the Knitty Coffeeshop, there appears to be support groups for No Sheep for You, Big Girl Knits, and Knit Wit. I guess that answers my rhetorical question.

*sigh* So many projects, so little time.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

It's a Conspiracy

Wednesday night I did not sleep well, anticipating two days of burly men with tools making big changes to my house. Thinking thoughts like, They said they would be here at 7:30 but last night was fireworks night so they might be late how late can they be before I call and complain what if there was a miscommunication and they aren't coming at all and I've wasted two vacation days what if they need to use the bathroom I'd better clean them wish I had fixed the toilet that runs it's too easy to just turn off the water when you live alone and have two bathrooms they will probably need to get into the attic and under the house but the accesses to both are in the garage and the garage is so full of crap I'll need to clear some stuff out of their way at least I took a shower tonight but what if I'm on the john when they arrive I hate making big changes to the house it feels like I am compromising the basic integrity of the structure and it is going to cost so much but I've been saving my bonus just for this and I was without heat a couple of times last winter and the AC unit is 35 years old but what if I lose my job and need that money to keep from eating cat food and becoming homeless....

Etc. etc. and so forth....

(Three in the morning is the perfect time to "musterbate" and "awfulize" every cotton pickin' little thing. A co-worker says one of my super powers is the ability to worry about anything and everything. I've been working on this - better living through hypnotism - but sometimes the mind demands free rein.)

After sleepwalking through Thursday, I decided I needed a little pharmaceutical help to sleep that night, so I took one Excedrin PM. (I've learned that two is one too many.) And with no AC, I opened the windows and turned the ceiling fan on high to stir the air. Sleeping conditions were actually quite pleasant... until 2:00am when I was awakened by the doorbell and someone shouting outside.

First thought: Must be a prank. This is a very quiet, staid neighborhood for the most part and middle-of-the-night disturbances are rare. Second thought: Maybe the house is on fire. This has happened to me before, someone ringing my doorbell to tell me my house was burning. So I get up, then realize my sleeping attire is not what one should answer the door while wearing. Find robe, then creep up to the front door and peek out the window to see just what is going on. (Note to self: Keep a baseball bat by front door for future middle-of-the-night visitors.)

By now, the visitor was across the street, banging on their door and yelling, so I (perhaps foolishly) opened my door and stepped out on the porch and started yelling, too. What's going on? The twenty-something guy, wearing nothing but shorts and tattoos and carrying a backpack, came running back, asking me to call the police because his "significant other" had attacked him. He held out his hands to show me, but since he was still in the yard and it was dark, I couldn't see anything unusual (like blood). Then he starts running back down the street. Wait, what's your address? Why don't you stay here? He gave me a house number (of which he was uncertain) and took off.

I closed the door (and locked it!) and got the phone and then debated. If this were a prank, I doubt he would have been running from house to house, shouting for help. He didn't seem drunk or high. If the address was the house I was thinking of, several young people had been having a good time there this past week but nothing over-the-top. So I dialed 911, but then disconnected, still not sure about the whole thing because it just didn't feel right. (Later, I surmised it might not have felt right because it didn't happen the way it would have been portrayed in the movies or on tv. Not enough angst or something.)

If you call 911 and hang up, they call you back. I explained the whole thing to the dispatcher, and she said they would send someone around to see what was what. Still clutching the phone, I then parked myself by the bedroom window, to see what I could see, which wasn't much. Some (police?) cars (and an ambulance?) drove down the next street over, but I couldn't see where they were going. Then a cruiser came down my street and stopped in front of my house. I went back outside and the (very short) officer (don't they have a height requirement at the police department?) said they found the guy and did I have anything to add to what I had told the dispatcher? I tried to get some details from him but nada.

Of course, getting back to sleep after all that was next to impossible. And since the worker bees were going to do the attic work in the morning, they wanted to start even earlier. So Friday I was not much perkier than Thursday. But I did manage to do some ironing (a huge rarity but actually a pleasant chore since I chose to do it in the Florida room which was cool and clean for a change) and I applied several Minwax products to the andirondack chairs I had bought (cheap!) from Joann earlier this season. ("Natural" stain is a synonym for "nearly invisible" stain, but it did make a difference.) And I watched "The Pursuit of Happyness."

As to more knitterly topics, I finished the "no hair day" chemo hat, but it seems more like a candidate for What Not to Knit. For one thing, I chose to make a size large but did not swatch (the it-will-fit-somebody philosophy) and it really is large. I envisioned a salt-and-pepper result but it turned out quite stripey (which is why Fun Fur calls the colorway "Stripes" you dope!) When I modeled it for my daughter, she said it looks like a shower cap, and my SO likened it to a wig from SNL.

But today, while trying to photograph it in all its hideous glory, I realized that it doesn't look so bad when it is not pulled down as far as possible, so if someone (with a very large head) wears it more wiglike, i.e. so the bottom edge lines up with where one's hairline would be (if one had hair), it doesn't look too bad.

Or does it? Your honest opinion please!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

All About Color

It's been a good news-bad news kind of day.

I am taking today and tomorrow as vacation days, because I am having a new furnace and AC installed (yay!) but the AC was lacking freon, so tonight I have no air (boo!)

The latest incarnation of the toe-up sock looks right (yay!) but, with no AC, my hands get too sweaty to knit (boo!)

I watched "Billy Elliot" this afternoon (yay!) because I didn't sleep well last night and was too tired to do anything else (boo!)

The flowers in my yard are gorgeous (yay!) but it still has not rained so I spend a lot of time watering (boo!)

But something I have noticed about both knitting and gardening, frequently it is all about color.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Taking a Break from Socks

Well, that boxy toe from my previous post did not work. Once I had knit enough to try it on, there was obviously going to be 'way too much sock for my toes. So I just stopped.

Instead, I have been working on a "no hair day" chemo hat (pattern here). Last winter, during a manic phase, I bought up a bunch of Fun Fur that was on sale (10 for $10!!!) with no idea of what to do with it. It has come in handy for this project. I'm using up the Stripes: Night Sky skeins first, thinking the result would be a nice mixture of black, gray, and white, sort of like my own hair. But the yarn is definitely striping. Eyelash yarn is not exactly my favorite - no give, difficult to see what you're doing, 100% polyester - but I hope the recipient has fun with it. I'm planning to send it to Kaps for Kendall.

I have also been working on my daughter's lacy top from Glamour Knits. I have started this pattern multiple times, managing to screw up royally over and over again. I finally got smart and started adding life lines every 6 rows, and of course, have not screwed up once since then. I also have learned to knit a couple of rows, then take a break, because if I knit too long at one time, I am about 1000% more likely to make a mistake.