Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Neverending Afghan

Did you ever have a project that, no matter how much you work on it, just will not progress? Everytime I measure what I am now calling the Neverending Afghan, it seems there are always 6 more rows to go. It was the perfect thing to work on tonight, though, with the ghosts and goblins ringing the doorbell every 2.5 minutes.

I did manage to get through the gusset on one Jaywalker sock, which seems to have exhausted me on that particular pattern for now. Also, even though I can guess what the foot holds in store, I cannot find the instructions. Since I grew tired of my livingroom looking like a cross between a yarn explosion and a petting zoo, I rearranged things a bit. The TV and the rabbit switched places, and the yarn is shifting to the family room, which now looks like a cross between a yarn explosion and a petting zoo, plus there's the breakfast bar from hell. Horizontal surfaces in my house fill up quickly. Anyway, the Jaywalker instructions disappeared during this flurry of activity.

An alternative to the Jaywalker is knitting through the homestretch on the IU socks, which is b-o-r-i-n-g, so I will save it for lunchtime at work because my job is even more boring.

Maybe the lace shawl needs some attention.

(Can you tell I am doing everything in my power NOT to cast on a sweater, the red- red-red yarn for which is calling me as I write? All that is really holding me back is trying to decide whether to follow the pattern and make it with a zippered front, or to listen to my aversion of purling and knit it in the round.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Best Laid Plans

The plan was to finish crocheting the afghan while watching football. After watching the Colts struggle through the first half, I decided to take a little nap. Well, I must have needed the rest, because I woke up just in time to see them win by a huge margin. I also measured the afghan and realized I was not quite as close to finishing as I thought.

I also worked on turning heels on the Jaywalker socks, but that has not gone very well, either. The yarn I am using, Austermann Step, has aloe and jojoba in it, which makes the needles very slick, which makes it easy to drop stitches. And then there is my short attention span. Even though I use sticky notes to help me keep track of row counts, sometimes I forget to make a mark for each row. The result is a lot of tinking around.

But I am enjoying how well this self-striping yarn works with the Jaywalker pattern. Since I am working from both ends of the skein, the stripes are reversed.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bad Yarn Day

I woke up early this morning and decided I might as well get up and knit over coffee. Last night I had finished the top on one Jaywalker sock, so I started catching up on the second. One thing I like about this pattern is the stitch increases at the needle ends hides my laddering between DPNs. One thing I dislike about the pattern is the double-decrease in the middle of each needle, which is where I screwed up this morning. My eyes were not focusing yet, so I set that aside to fix later and picked up the lace shawl... and dropped several stitches there as well. Ok, maybe it was too early to knit. At noon, I picked up cream-colored sock #2 and started working on the 2x2 ribbing for the top. I happened to glance at sock #1, though, and realized it was done in 1x1 ribbing. Fortunately, I had not gone far on #2, so I ripped that out and started over. Friday night is no-knitting night - I eat popcorn and watch a movie instead - and it looks like I really need a break.

On a different topic, I brought The Happy Hooker to work yesterday for a coworker, and she reciprocated by giving me a copy of her Patternworks catalog. While leafing through the catalog, I saw a photo of a model wearing a crocheted scarf that looked just like a scarf in THH. Hmmm. When the coworker returned my book, I checked it out: not only was it the same scarf, it was the exact same photo! I can see the pattern designer selling the pattern to two different publications, but how did the same photo get in both?

And topic number three is, The Opnionated Knitter: Elizabeth Zimmerman Newsletters 1958-1968. I must have read something about this book somewhere, probably in relation to the Baby Surprise sweater, and checked it out of the library, but I think I may have to purchase it. After all, it has a pattern for an Adult Baby Surprise sweater, among other timeless designs. So many projects, so little time!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mini Milestones

No finished objects yet, but I've reached these milestones:

* Finished one cream-colored sock and started sock #2
* Completed another pattern repeat on Falling Leaves lace shawl - one more to go!

Also, the afghan has only 8 rows remaining. I just may glue my but to the sofa and finish that tonight... or on Sunday while watching football.

From what I hear, November is National Blogging Month. Is that true? Is there really a month honoring blogging? Why?!? People are promising to blog daily for the entire month. I don't even floss daily. But while I will probably not formerly participate, I am secretly hoping that some of my favorite bloggers take the opportunity to blog more often. During the summer months, several of them fell out of the habit, and they have yet to pick it up with any regularity. And you know who you are! Get typing!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


It seems like, in every blog I read, the author is either going to Rhinebeck and/or publishing a new book and/or has a nasty illness of one sort or another. All I have experienced lately is the latter, but maybe Rhinebeck next year. I read Clara Parke's description of how, as a child, she wanted to be a writer but she didn't know what she would write, until the obvious occurred: a book on yarn. So maybe someday, my subject will be revealed to me as well.

Meanwhile, I continue to knit. The lace shawl is progressing, the body of another vintage bag is done, the afghan crawls along, and somehow I ended up with two pairs of socks on the needles at the same time.

The worsted weight cream-colored socks I started over WW are progressing nicely, except since I am using US5 needles and ribbed the entire top, I am using more yarn than I expected and will have to buy another skein.

I may turn them into IU socks by adding a crimson logo, then gift them to my son.

But the socks that are enchanting me right now are these:

The pattern is "Jaywalker" from MagKnits and the yarn is Austermann Step (color 12, if that helps you). I bought the yarn long ago in a yarn store far away (okay, last December, at the Yarn Basket in Fitchburg, MA) before I even knew how to knit socks. I like the zigzag pattern, and the striping is subtle enough that, even though the socks won't match because I am knitting two at a time from either end of the skein, they should be fine. These are for my daughter, but if they turn out too big for her....

Amazingly, it was just last March when I took a basic sock class, and since then I have knit 8 pairs. I also took a lace shawl class that really stretched my abilities, and I swore I would never do lace again, but here I am with another lace shawl on the needles. Never say never.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Happy Feet, Happy Me

Despite the balmy, unseasonably warm weather (low 70's yesterday, high 70's today), I wore my Clara Bartons to work yesterday. I found myself looking at my feet while walking, sitting, working, etc. I can't believe how happy the sight of those red toes made me. I also wore the red enamel earrings my son bought me at a PTO fundraiser when he was in grade school and the red sweater my daughter bought me several years ago. Quite the head-to-toe ensemble.

The other day while knitting, this thought entered my mind: This is my true work. Ever since then, I have been puzzling over what this means. It could stem from my I-hate-my-job-and-just-want-to-knit daily state of mind. It could be my age (I grew up in the 50's and am imprinted with "Leave It to Beaver" so my internal clock says I should be a retired homemaker by now). Or it could lead to my next career. The idea of a knitting cafe really appeals to me. Coffee and yarn - what more could you want?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One Down, How Many to Go?

Today, Knitting Daily posed the question knitters hate to hear: How many UFOs do you have? At first, I smugly thought, Not that many. And I guess I don't have that many, since "many" is a relative thing.

Here's my list:

  • Afghan (crochet)
  • Falling leaves lace shawl (yarn used to be for a baby blanket)
  • Cream-colored socks
  • Aloe-jojoba socks
  • Vintage handbag #2
  • Denim blue Fat Bottom Bag (needs lining)
  • Brown Fat Bottom Bag
  • Orange baby hoodie (abandoned)
  • Ribbon yarn tank top (abandoned)
  • Ballband washcloth

Ha! Finished that last one tonight:

  • Pattern from Mason-Dixon Knitting
  • Size US5 needles
  • Lion Cotton in turquoise and sunflower

Monday, October 15, 2007

They Fit Me!

I finished what has become known as the "Clara Barton" socks, and I get to keep them!

Shaefer Yarns Heather in "Clara Barton" colorway
Size US1 needles
Shaefer Pattern #253 "Anne Simply Textured Socks"

These feet are happy!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

No Expectations

Last week, I found myself caught up in a fantasy of what Women's Weekend would be like this time. Once L mentioned going to a yarn shop, I went overboard and mapped out a yarn crawl that I was going to begin on the trip down, by stopping at Ewetopia Fiber Arts Boutique, and that we would continue on Saturday by visiting Yarn & Needle, Knittique, and the Yarn Basket. And when we weren't enhancing our stashes, we would be knitting socks.

As excited as I was about all my plans, I did take a moment to remind myself to have no expections....

The reality was it took me forever to get going Friday night, what with the constant second-guessing (should I go? should I stay? how sick am I?), so by the time I neared Ewetopia, it was past closing time. Then the cabin had no heat, so part of Saturday was eaten up relocating to warmer digs, which left less time for the rest of the yarn crawl. And it turns out that Women's Weekend is not the best venue for teaching the art of sock knitting, as there are too many distractions: movies, chocolate, wine, descriptions of weddings and upcoming grandmotherhood, cards, etc.

But we did make it to the Yarn Basket, which is a lovely little store in a converted garage chockful of great yarn. After much dithering, I settled on the following selections:

For a red, red, red hoodie, this Cascade Yarn 220 "The Heathers"...

I bought more than enough, because I am going to use some to make a pair of two-color mittens, with the following black Plymouth Yarn Galway...

And this Cascade 220 "Paints" caught my eye and wouldn't leave me alone...

I'm thinking it might work for the Math Geek scarf I tried earlier in a solid color.

(Can you tell I like red?)

And I did get a little knitting done, working my sock until my hands cramped. I used the Ann Norling pattern from my first socks but I don't remember knitting the 9-10 inch cuff called for. I decided to give it a try and knit and knit until the result began to look vaguely phallic.

I squeezed the skein and decided I'd better stop until I could weigh the remaining yarn. This just seems like too much cuff.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Little Engine that Could

I have fewer symptoms today but feel worse than I did yesterday, plus an addendum to my previously defined call-in-sick philosophy kicked in: when I expect to spend the bulk of the day in the bathroom, I prefer my own bathroom.

The "Clara Barton" socks are ready for kitchener, though:

However, two questions about the weekend are 1)am I contagious (I don't think so), and 2)do I have the energy to drive 2.5 hours by myself?

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....

BTW, does your coffee table look like this?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sick-at-Home Thursday

Called in sick today. My philosophy on illness is, if I stay home and rest when I first start feeling ill, the course of whatever I've got is cut short. If only my cow-orkers held the same belief. Instead, they bring their various and sundry germs to the office and share. In this case, sharing is not a good thing.

I have a very robust immune system, so I never get sick-sick. Even when I had appendicitis, my system made a remarkable attempt at non-surgical healing before convincing me that I had something worse than food poisoning. So it takes a lot of waffling before I decide to stay home. Today's complaints include that achy-all-over feeling, prickling sinuses, sore throat, little headache, stuffy ears, and general exhaustion, but no fever or vomiting (two sure-fire, stay-at-home triggers). Since I have weekend plans, though, I definitely want to feel better fast; I have a rule against being sick when I could be having fun.

In an attempt to have fun, or at least win a keychain, while being sick, I called into WUMB to answer their Question of the Day. My answer was so far off we won't even mention it.

I'm not so sick I could not do some knitting, but it's random stuff: finishing the "Clara Barton" socks to the toes, starting another ballband warshcloth, working on the lace shawl, etc. In place of knitting comments, I'll just offer a few random observations.

1. When you start using phrases like "I'm just saying" in memos at work, you are probably reading too much Crazy Aunt Purl.

2. Do you have a favorite coffee mug? I have several that I reach for first. I also have preferred pairs of underwear.

3. If you are a "quirky alone" you might want to read Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, a collection of essays about "cooking for one and dining alone". One of my favorite suppers is a giant bowl of popcorn, sprinkled with parmesan. Since I cook it on the stovetop instead of in the microwave, this counts as a hot meal.

4. I have decided that I lack the capacity for experiencing the "leap of faith" required to believe in God and whatever passes for religion these days, yet I am acutely interested in all things spiritual. Like Susan Werner's new CD "The Gospel Truth".

5. I listen to WUMB out of Boston via the Internet. All folk, all the time. It just kills me that Susan Werner and Meg Hutchinson are playing tomorrow night in a city far, far away, but not that far from some of my relatives, who in all probabilty don't know what they are missing. I think Meg is releasing a new CD soon, too.

6. Why do we own dogs? I have a poop-and-pee containment system for the rabbit cage that involves an underpad, which the dog occassionally gets into. She then eats rabbit poop. Ordinarily, this is not a problem unless the dog eats the cecotropes (everything you ever wanted to know about rabbit poop can be found here). I don't know which she has eaten until she starts vomiting later on. And we won't even discuss how she considers the cat's litter box a snack machine. It's a good thing she is so cute.

Time for another nap.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Train the Trainer

One surprise I experienced from training our replacements is that I enjoy teaching. Of course, my "students" were engaged and motivated, I did not have to give tests or grades, and my mantra was "I am not a teacher by trade" so I had an automatic out if I turned out to be a poor trainer. Definitely not like teaching in a public school system, but still. I have something new to add to my resume that might actually lead to something new someday.

On a related topic, this weekend is Women's Weekend, and L wants me to teach her how to knit socks. We are going to use worsted weight yarn on US5 needles, in hopes of actually finishing a whole sock by Sunday noon. I am trying to get my current pair worked down to the toes, though, so if we don't finish a sock, I can still show her the kitchener stitch.

WW reminds me of my New Year Resolution, to do something fun each month of the year. I may have fallen down the past few months, unless you consider installing a new furnace and AC to be "fun". Since the weather is still summerlike, I have been enjoying the improved climate inside my house (and the much lower electric bills), so I guess that sort of counts for July. August was my daughter's wedding, which went off without a hitch. The original entry for July was training our replacements, which didn't happen until September. But we did go to a staged version of Stephen King's "Misery" and the gala opening of Sandy Skoglund's "Truth Between Opposition" that month. October is WW. November I am visiting my dad in New England, plus my daughter and son-in-law are hosting Thanksgiving. My son will be visiting for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so we'll have to go on a hike or two, if nothing else. So, for the first time in history, I will actually achieve my New Year's Resolution! (Knock on wood.)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Five Things You Don't Know About Me

1. My real name is not Abby. When I write, I feel naked. I wanted to blog to develop a regular writing habit, though, and the only way that was going to happen was by being as anonymous as I could without out and out lying.

2. All my life, I have been ahead of my time. I wore blue jeans before they went designer. I grew an organic market garden before anyone was willing to pay premium prices for such produce. Even the wireless doorbell was my idea, but six months later, someone else brought it to market.

3. I used to be a freelance writer. You can find my articles in the archives of magazines such as Acres USA, Soybean Digest, and Organic Gardening and Farming. Someday I shall be freelance again.

4. I am overeducated. I have a BA in peace studies and psychology, and a BS in computer science. The former I never made concrete use of, the latter is being outsourced and offshored.

5. I smoke 3-4 cigarettes a day. I feel guilty about it, but sometimes ya just gotta be ba-a-ad!

And now, a tribute to the lowly sticky note:

What would we do without them?

Besides swear a lot over which row and which stitch comes next.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Da Bums

The Cubs were swept (swept!) out of the playoffs. Now I can abandon baseball and focus on the Colts. (Who said, "I don't know much about football, but I know a tight end when I see one."? Sylvia?)

I'm beginning to think of the Falling Leaves lace shawl as my football shawl. The family room is a bit dim, so the cream-colored yarn is easy to see. I should have it done by the end of the season.

This dishcloth is done, though.

It's my just-to-prove-a-point dishcloth.

For a brainless project (and after seeing one knit by qutecowgirl), I started this scarf, but after three or four starts, I abandoned it. One complaint was that the photos with the pattern make the fabric look like some kind of waffle stitch, with stockinette stitches in the center of the waffle. But that's not what the pattern yields; I should have paid more attention to the photo at qutecowgirl. I went with the pattern on size 8 needles, but didn't like the results. Tried again on size 6 needles. Nope. Tried to make a waffle stitch without success. Finally gave up and started the Math Geek scarf from Knitting Pattern a Day Calendar. Interesting pattern but it doesn't work with the yarn, either. I originally bought this Paton Classic Wool merino for a crocheted scarf and the yarn seems determined to be nothing else. I don't feel like crocheting right now, though, so it's back in the stash with you!

The Schaefer socks are progressing nicely, though.

I like doing both at the same time. The heel looks like a birds-eye pattern. Between that and the textured rib and the stockinette, the colorway is just enthralling.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Few Random Thoughts

Yarn Collecting

It occurred to me the other day that our yarn stashes are really just collections. Some people collect old furniture (i.e. antiques), some people spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on fine wine (which when drunk turns to pee), some people collect dust. So what's wrong with collecting yarn? Maybe someone needs to design a cabinet specifically for showcasing our stashes. Mothproof, of course.

Charity Knitting Conundrum

I have an uneasy relationship with charity knitting. On the one hand, for the money, it would be more economical to purchase knit goods, and for the hours involved, it seems we could be doing something more useful. We like to think the recipients of our needles will appreciate the time and effort involved as well as the quality of yarn and workmanship (workwomanship?) but when you are living in need, those issues are not very important.

So do we charity knit simply for our own pleasure? I'm not a snob when it comes to acrylic - all my afghans are crocheted with acrylic - but one charity project I knit for used (donated?) yarn that felt incredibly icky, like it was oozing petroleum. The colors weren't ones I would choose, either, so visual pleasure was lacking as well. I had to force myself to work on the project.

Or do we knit for charity because we want to help somehow and have limited resources? For example, if I were a stay-at-home parent who wanted to contribute and knitting was one of the few avenues available to me, then I would probably be more enthusiastic. But I have enough disposable income that I can support my favorite charities financially. From this perspective, charity knitting feels self-indulgent.

And yet I do knit for charity. I knit premie caps and chemo hats (here and here) and I'm contemplating selling handkint items to raise money for Heifer. I am going to knit no matter what, and if some of my knitting can result in something positive, maybe I should stop making it into a moral dilemma. Less drama, please!

Displaying One's Sock-cess

While working on this pair of socks in a spectacular colorway and an interesting texture, it occurred to me that it's a shame to hide them inside shoes and under pantlegs. What do you do to showcase your socks? I posted this question at the Knitter's Review Forum and there are creative solutions to the shoe problem. But what about pants vs. skirts?
Do you build your wardrobe around your handknits or vice verse? Inquiring minds want to know!