Thursday, January 31, 2008

All Clean

I scheduled a duct-cleaning today, at 4pm, and ordinarily I would simply have left work early to meet the cleaning guys at my house, but when I realized the cleaning guys would have to actually be able to get to my heat vents, I decided the least stressful thing to do would be to stay home and shovel a path through each room prior to their arrival. Nothing like the prospect of strangers in one's home to turn one into a vacuum jockey.

So, does taking a vacation day to clean house mean I broke my New Year's resolution? Like I said, my goal was stress-relief. And I did sleep in. And while I did not get a manicure, my dog did, or what passes as a manicure at the vet's. And I did get a little knitting done (I love Art Yarns!) And I did take a delicious nap in the recliner. And my sweetie brought pizza. And I am having a really hard time believing I will have to go to work tomorrow (and maybe, if it snows enough, I won't!) So, even though I did a lot of housework, it still felt like a vacation day. And I now have a clean house! (My SO wanted me to take a picture of my coffee table because, well, you could actually see it.)

My SO also brought the following:

Apologies to Spam lovers, but who thinks these things up?!?

I mean, really! A Spam Single necklace?!?

Book of Yarn

Have you ever substituted one weight yarn for another, only to produce disasterous results? Want to know why? Then I recommend you add to your knitting book shelf The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes.

Most of us know Clara through her website Knitter's Review where she reveals an astounding knowledge of yarn and knitting. This book, subtitled "The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using, and Enjoying Yarn," is a compendum of that knowledge.

When I received my copy, I tried sitting down and just reading it, and you can do that if you wish. But I find it is more useful and fun to pick out some yarn from your stash, then find that yarn's description in the book. It's like lab work in biology - until you dissect that frog yarn, you won't really understand what it's about.

(I am adding the above Amazon graphic and link because, well, I'm an "associate" of Amazon. In all the time I have been an associate (one year?), I have not earned one red cent from this program. If anyone ever has, I would appreciate hearing about it!)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cool but Not

This winter, every time I crammed my hands into the mittens I bought to go with my faux suede coat, I wished for new ones. And now that I have them (courtesy my own DPNs), we are having another January thaw.

It won't last, though.

So I made myself a hat as well.

Pattern: Chunky Winter Set from The Knitter's Book of Yarn
Yarn: Cascade Jewel Hand Dyed in color #9887
Needles: US5 for the mittens, US8 for the hat

This yarn is a single ply "thick/thin" Peruvian wool that is rather inelastic, which I find difficult to knit - my hands get tired. The patterns are your standard mitten and hat patterns, quick to knit. I mixed the sizing for the mittens, casting on for a women's, but using the lengths for a men's - I have large hands but they are not "man hands" - and they took exactly one 100g skein. The hat is the men's size (large feet, large hands, large head) and it used about three-quarters of a skein. I'm happy with the results.

And now, to catch up with photos:

Here is the Noro Kureyon from Sarah Jane's that is destined to become a pair of Maine Morning Mitts.

One of the more sedate color combos, #215. (Don't you wish everyone would name the colorways?)

My order from Webs arrived, with the Art Yarns for Thuja socks. Color #119. *sigh*

I could not resist starting the socks last night. The pattern is a seed stitch rib, which of course does not show up very well in this photo.

And, finally, the Jaywalkers I started while waiting for the Art Yarns.

Tonight my daughter wore her Jaywalkers to yoga. Nice socks!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Frustrated Bloggee

Where I work, there are Internet security features in place that vary from month to month. I think what happens is, there is a virus alert and access to just about anything is clamped down. Then those with clout start complaining and things loosen up bit by bit, until the next alert. The upshot of this is, while I currently can read blogs at work (only during my free time, of course!), I cannot view photos that are in Flickr or PhotoBucket, nor can I post comments. By the time I get home, after spending the day on a computer, I am not too keen on more computer time, so I feel like quite a blog lurker. I try to catch up a bit on weekends, but, well, you know, life (and knitting) interfere.

Knitting like finishing the red-red-red sweater. Friday night I actually finished the knitting portion (ends remain to be woven in and the armpits need closing), but am still unsure about the snood-hood thing. It looks like a third arm. So Friday eve I wore the sweater around the house. The snood-hood is a nice feature... if you are outside. Inside, it has to be rolled up, so then it looks like a combination donut-cowl neck thing. This was okay until I had a hot flash. Yikes! So now I am debating removing the snood-hood and just having a funnel neck. Maybe I will wear it some more around the house today, before deciding. Or ask my fashion consultant, aka daughter. She has no qualms about telling me if something does not work.

Meanwhile, after the alpaca-as-sock-yarn fiasco, I got to wondering about the yarn I purchased for mittens. The yarn is distributed by Cascade and the label says "Jewel Hand Dyed". (It also says "avoid exposure to direct sunlight" which leaves one wondering about the dyes and dye methods used.) Examining the yarn, one sees that it is what Clara Parker calls in her Knitter's Book of Yarn a "thick/thin single". So what's it good for? Well, turn the page and one will find a pattern for a "Chunky Winter Set" using thick/thin single yarn! So I am in the middle of knitting the mittens, and loving them. (BTW, there is an error in the mitten pattern: row 1 of the gusset should include a M1 after the first pm.)

(Does anyone else have trouble getting mittens to come out the same size? Has anyone tried knitting two mittens at a time on circular needles? I have Knitting Circles around Socks from the library and am wondering if the same technique would work with mittens.)

I made another stop at Sarah Jane's Yarn Shoppe Saturday. This time the store was pleasantly busy, with a class meeting on the couches by the fireplace and a few women running back and forth between Sarah Jane's and the Bead Source next door. I was able to peruse the shelves in a more leisurely fashion and ended up buying a skein of Noro Kureyon for a pair of Maine Morning Mitts.

More news: I joined Ravelry. Or at least, I applied. We shall see how long it takes.

And I am now in the Knitting Bloggers ring! All I need to do is figure out how to get the button graphic to appear. Are there other knitting rings you would recommend?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Must. Knit. Sock.

As you may recall, I purchased some Classic Elite Inca Marl to knit some socks for my son-in-law. After I made this purchase, I read a review (at Knitter's Review, natch) of a cousin of this yarn, Inca Alpaca, and Clara Parker declared, Don't let the yarn store owner tell you this yarn is not for socks, as one of her favorite pairs was knit with this plus some Jaggerspun lace weight. That was good enough for me, so I started sock #1. But I did not get very far before I decided that without a second yarn to provide body, the Inca Marl was just not going to do. I think this yarn would have a nice drape, but who wants socks that drape? Between the yarn failure and my needle crisis, I got cranky and just gave up and ordered the Artyarn used in the pattern and some needles from Webs. So there.

But I still really, really, really wanted to work on some socks, so I started a second pair of Jaywalkers, using Austermann Step (mit Aloe Vera und Jojoba Ol). I had made a pair for my daughter (seen here), but these will in the larger size for my Sasquatch feet.

With a pair of socks on the needles, I now feel much better. Ah!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mass Ave Knit Shop

My NDP (Non-Domestic Partner - much more descriptive than SO) and I decided to get out of town for the day, so we drove down to Indy yesterday. And, as is my MO, I found me a yarn shop to visit while we were "in the area" - Mass Ave Knit Shop. This is like the only LYS I know of anywhere that is open on Sunday. And let it be known that it is not on Mass Ave. And you enter through the back door. And it has lots of yarn, so I bought some.

This is Cascade Yarns Jewel Hand Dyed (color 9887), which are destined to become mittens for me, to go with my faux suede coat.

It is a bulky yarn of variable thicknesses, giving it a homespun appearance.

And this is Nashua Handknits Snowbird (color NSB.9155, aka "Blue"), which will become a thank-you gift for the neighbor across the street who has been keeping my driveway clear this winter.

It is 70% wool and 30% alpaca.

And I bought another skein of Cascade 220 Paints (color 9926), so I can make me a "bubble wrap" hat to match my Math Geek scarf.

And I checked out the Kaffe Fassett sock yarn, a special design line of Regia. I was hoping for a self-patterning sock yarn, one that would produce socks that looked like a granny square afghan or crazy quilt. But the yarn is basically self-striping, in either "landscape" or "mirage" motif. Lovely colors, but I passed it up.

A lot of the yarn in Mass Ave was what I think of as "novelty" yarn, but beyond the usual eyelash and ribbon. I will plead ignorance on what these yarns are like to knit, and what one makes with them. Maybe someone can clue me in?

While in the shop, I overheard one of the employees talking about how he was demonstrating spinning at the library when someone told him they had read about him on Ravelry. Well, he wanted to know what Ravelry was and, more importantly, what they were saying about him. I clued him in to Ravelry, but I neglected to get his name, so I don't know what they were saying about him either.

After Mass Ave, we went to the Indiana State Museum, which didn't have anything fiber related... yet. Check it out!

And if you time your visit right, you can see this at the same time:

Mark your calendars!

And now, the finished dog sweater. I had to adjust the leg holes, and I resewed the seams with a mattress stitch. It tends to ride backwards, though, so I may try to do something with the neck, to help keep it in place.

Betsy is wondering, "Does this sweater make me look fat?"

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sarah Jane's Yarn Shoppe

My SO was in the nabe yesterday, so he stopped in at Sarah Jane's Yarn Shoppe even though it wasn't open yet. I thought they were open. I thought yesterday was their grand opening. He said he was the only one there, so I thought they were getting off to a slow start. I stopped by today, thinking I would have a quiet browse through the yarn. HA! The place was packed, and not just with shoppers. A lot of women were just standing around, sipping punch and yakking away. I signed up to win a gift certificate, squeezed me some yarn while chanting "Excuse me, excuse me," looked for a solution to my needle crisis (nope), then got the hell out of there. All I can say is, Wow! They are not getting off to a slow start at all. Whew! I will have to return when things quiet down a bit.

P.S. Their website is still under construction.

I Feel Pretty (and Pretty Left Out)

In case you haven't noticed or you are new here, I updated the look of my blog. I maintain a blog for a local non-profit, and in the process of setting that one up, I was exposed to the new customizable Blogger, which is much easier to work with than raw html. Also, while I am not going to post a "101 Things in 1001 Days" list, I do have some lists I want to use, to help me keep track of what I plan to knit this year. This new style should be more helpful for that as well.

Meanwhile, despite my bad group karma, I continue to try to join knitting blog rings. I have received email and html from two, but have yet to be accepted in either. I know I'm odd, but c'mon! It's just knitting!

The red-red-red sweater is nearing completion. I worked the increase rows for the snoody neck and tried it on - perfect! Now I just need to make the neck longer. I'm not convinced I will like the end result, but if not, I will shorten it to a length I do like. That's the great thing about yarn: if you don't like what you knit, frog it!

It is extremely cold this weekend, so in anticipation of the dropping temps, I knit the dog a sweater, out of yarn left over from Sean's scarf. Poor Betsy has been less than enthusiastic about her fittings, just can't understand why I keep bothering her with this small blanket of yarn.

I'm still fiddling with the size, so it's not quite done.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

I meant to post at least once this past weekend, but the days were just packed, in a good way. After a weekend like that, though, it was more difficult than usual to return to work today. I felt like I needed another day just for me.

The busyness started Friday afternoon, when I decided to stop at one of our new LYS's, Knitting Off Broadway. My first impression of this store is that it is less of a shop and more of a yarn boutique, like maybe the Von Maur of knitting. I poked around for a while, but I didn't have any particular yarn in mind and nothing caught my eye. Actually, I was hoping to buy some DPN's (more about my needle crisis later), but KoB is needle-light. So I walked out of a yarn store without making a purchase - unheard of! It would happen one more time before the weekend was out.

Saturday I finished the Math Geek scarf.

(I really need to sharpen my photography skills. Or develop some patience when taking pictures. Or learn better how to digitally enhance them.)

Details are:

  • Pattern: Math Geek Scarf from the 2007 Knitting Pattern a Day Calendar, March 21.
  • Yarn: Cascade 220 Paints, color no. 9926 (it's maroon and black)
  • Needle size: US7

The dimensions of my scarf were 3.5" x 58" before blocking. I tried to use up as much yarn as possible, so made 14 large triangles instead of the 11 the pattern called for. Ending with an even number also affected how I knit the last small triangle, but it turned out A-OK. I wore it to work today. Very warm and cozy.

This was the weekend for NFL division playoffs, and we watched the Colts (lose) Saturday night. Needing something to work on during the game, I selected another item from my private yarn store: a skein of Schaefer Yarns Anne in "Powder Puff" for a shawl. Quite a while ago, I started a shawl with this yarn, but the project just did not grab me and after it sat in neglect for a while, I frogged it. I'm liking this pattern much better, but I can't tell you where I got it; I photocopied the pattern from a library book but the pages don't include the name of the book on them. It might have been something like Scarf Style? The name of the pattern is "Shetland Triangle" and it calls for 548 yards of fingering weight yarn, so Anne is perfect for it.

I was feeling a little guilty about starting this shawl when I keep promising my daughter that I will work on her vintage lace top, but actually this project will be a good warm-up for the top. I had been working lace in worsted weight yarn. Working with fingering is challenging but should get me in shape for the (gulp) Rowan Kidsilk Haze.

Another project I want to get started on are the Classic Elite Inca Marl socks for my much-appreciated son-in-law. (On Sunday he installed my reverse osmosis filter system, which lead to replacing some of the plumbing under the kitchen sink as it had corroded and started to leak just when he thought he was done.) But I am having a needle crisis.

One problem is that I like to work both socks at the same time, so I need two sets of DPNs, but I have only one set of the size US6 that I want to use. Of course. And they are INOX, which I am not liking much these days because another set of them (the US5's) developed a tackiness that makes the yarn stick and throws off my gauge. I was hoping to find something at Knitting Off Broadway, but their DPNs were INOX and bamboo. I hate bamboo. But I like my aluminum needles, so I stopped at Joann's on Saturday, thinking I would pick up a couple of sets of Susan Bates. But they come in packages of 4 (I'd prefer 5 per package) and through the packaging I could see that the finish was flawed. Aargh! Again, I left a (sort of) yarn store without making a purchase.

Meanwhile, this weekend I was also fretting meditating on the red-red-red sweater. I reached the tentative end of the body, took it off the needles, and tried it on.

Well, at least it looks like a sweater.

But the neck was really boatneck-like, if you know what I mean. Very high in front, and wide. It later occurred to me that part of its shape was probably due to the fact I did not have the neck cinched up at all, but still. How should I move forward? I searched through all my pattern books without finding any ideas, so I set it aside. Again.

Today I stopped at the library and found on the new non-fiction shelf Suss Design Essentials, which amazingly has a sweater with a snood, just like I have been contemplating. So now I have an idea of what to do next and also have a little faith it might actually work out.

And then there was yoga, laundry, pet poop patrol, dog walking, wild bird feeding, and friends and family. Like I said, a very full weekend.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A Plethora of Yarn Stores

Okay, maybe not a plethora. But I haven't yet visited Knitting Off Broadway when I received an invite to the grand opening of Sarah Jane's Yarn Shoppe. Since I was in the neighborhood, I scoped out their location on Sunday. Located in a strip mall, they won't have to worry about parking. There is a dance studio in the same strip mall; I wonder if they will offer classes to the moms while they wait on their daughters.

My own personal yarn store is already proving its usefulness. The red-red-red sweater is too big and bulky to be portable and I'm a little tired of the Blue Lagoon and I am taking a short break from socks, so I was fishing about for something new to work on. Testing the personal yarn store concept, I wandered into my Home Office and voila! There was the yarn and pattern for the Math Geek scarf from the 2007 Knitting Pattern a Day Calendar. Perfect!

But it is almost too hot to knit, at least with wool. It is not unusual for us to have a January thaw, but 60+ degrees is ridiculous.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Change o' Plans

I decided that although the Monkey in Birches socks fit me, they fit my daughter better. So they are hers now. I plan to make myself a pair, a little larger, in "Serengeti". On the Knitty forum I found suggestions on how to alter the pattern for larger feet, so that should not be a problem.

Here is a recap of the details:

Pattern: Monkey from Knitty
Yarn: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in "Birches"
Needles: US1

The socks, completed but unblocked:

Ordinarily, I don't bother blocking socks, but I wanted to try to capture the stitchwork, so here they are blocked:

Unfortunately, my camera and/or photography skills do not do justice to the beauty of these socks, even with a close-up:

Here they are, in situ:

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, there is a new scarf. I needed a break from the red-red-red sweater, so I whipped up this scarf for my SO.

Again, the beauty does not show through. Details are:

Pattern: Pine Cone Scarf from Knitting Daily
Yarn: Di.Ve Autunno in "Navajo" (very soft and cuddly!)
Needles: US11
Size: About 5" x 60" (without fringe)

Re my attempt to join the knitting blog ring, I apparently fell through the cracks as the links don't work yet. I'm not the only one, so maybe sometime in the future I will be an official member.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Domestic Goddess

Not really, but periodically the house gets into such a bad state that even I can't stand it. I have found that the easiest way to get things put into order is to introduce a new element to the home dynamics.

One such element is my new refrigerator. Meet the Black Hole.

The previous refrigerator was almond, so this one startles me with its black sides and reflective door. Since I am used to seeing an almond wall in the refrigerator nook, the blackness feels like nothingness and from my peripheral vision I think something is missing, so I keep having to look at the refrigerator to get my bearings. It's a little disconcerting, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. And if mildew grows on the gasket, it won't show.

Anyway, what happened with the advent of a new refrigerator is that I threw out a lot of wildly outdated jars of crap and frozen blobs of something (chicken?), which makes the new refrigerator seem more roomy even though it is the same size as the old one. And in the process of cleaning out the old fridge, I made a mess on the kitchen floor, so I vacuumed there, which led to vacuuming the whole house. And since strangers were going to be in my kitchen, I cleaned off (most of) the kitchen counters. Not that you can tell today. After all, two days have passed since the delivery. And I felt like cooking today: oatmeal cookies (to use up the oatmeal and wheat germ I found in the freezer) and black bean and yam quesadillas (to use up the yam that had been sitting on the counter since Thanksgiving).

Another new element to the house is wire cubes (on sale at Target for $12.99):

I took this picture last night, after wrestling with the assembly of the cubes. Today I sorted through my stash and loaded much of it onto the shelves. Then I sorted through all my patterns and put them in notebooks. In between, I managed to create my own knitting kits, matching yarn and patterns. It will be like having my own personal yarn store!

And some knitting was going on as well. Poor Fern staked out a piece of the couch as best she could.

In this picture are the following: the red-red-red sweater, the Blue Lagoon baby blanket, a scarf (more on that tomorrow), Sensational Knitted Socks, and the pattern for Monkey socks. And poor fat friendly Fern.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Year in Review

I started blogging about my knitting over a year ago and recently compiled a list of everything I have knitted in that time. All I can say is, Wow! If it weren't for this blog, I would have no record of all those knits and purls (and single crochets and double crochets, etc., etc., and so forth). Well, that's not quite accurate. Originally I tried to keep a project notebook, but that rapidly fell by the wayside. A blog is much more fun, plus I can post photos and share with my cyber friends.

Anyway, I won't bore you by listing all those projects, but I do want to say a few things about them. Like how many of them were dishcloths and socks. And like how almost everyone I know now has at least one handknit scarf if not also a hat and armwarmers and legwarmers. The most challenging projects were the Ladylike Lace gloves and the swallowtail shawl. Both projects sometimes reduced me to tears. But once completed, both projects not only gave me a real sense of accomplishment but also raised my skill level. And as I have become more skilled, I have become more adventuresome and more relaxed about the outcome.

But my favorite part of knitting and crocheting is giving it away. Everyone on the receiving end has treated my gifts as something special, even when the gift was simple or flawed or silly. Something made with one's hands is also made with the heart. I'm grateful that my friends and family recognize and value that.

So, knit on in 2008!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year Resolutions - 2008

Last year's New Year resolution - to do something fun each month - was a success, but I want to do something different this year. I'm sticking to the one-and-only-one motif, but this year my resolution is to manage my vacation days better.

Unlike some of my co-workers, I always take all the vacation I have coming to me, but it seems like the past couple of years, I return from vacation more tired than when I left. Several vacations were family-obligation vacations, and with my oldest brother planning a family reunion, there will be one of those this year. But even destination vacations can be exhausting because I am driven by the need to see as much as possible in the time allotted.

I need a vacation just for vegging. Those seem to be camping vacations, where we have to do a lot of prep, but once we are at the campsite and all set up, we can just kick back and relax. The problem is we like to rent a pop-up camper (it's as close as you can get to sleeping outside without having to sleep on the ground) and right now neither my SO nor I have a tow vehicle. If only we could get a rental place to deliver the pop-up to our campsite.

Anyway, that's my resolution, to make better use of my four weeks plus three days of vacation time. What are your resolutions?