Saturday, April 28, 2007


I recently upgraded to DSL (love the speed!) and decided to go a step further and add wireless, but have not had any luck getting it to install. I tried (several times) the install disk that came with the router, then tried (several times) some "special" instructions from the Internet supposedly guaranteed to get my Westell 6100 modem to play nice with the Linksys router (isn't the definition of insanity trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results?) Finally I decided to just go back to plain old DSL but no, now it won't work without reinstalling the Verizon software which of course won't reinstall. There is a 24/7 help hotline I can call, but right now I'm not quite in the mood. Thank goodness I never got around to discontinuing my dial-up. Desperate times....

Meanwhile, I have not made much progress on all my UFO's, so of course I started a new project, just a little project, a dishcloth in linen stitch using variegated cotton yarn. During a manic phase, I purchased a bunch of Lion Cotton for making dishcloths using different stitches from The Knitting Stitch Bible. I quickly discovered, however, that variegated yarn is not the best choice for showcasing fancy stitchwork. So when I read about combining variegated yarns with the linen stitch, I decided to give it a try. Today. The basic directions are from a scarf pattern in my 2007 Pattern-A-Day Knitting Calendar (the April 17th entry), and so far the result is interesting. I'll post photos when I am back online with DSL.

One of my toilets needs its insides replaced. I'm wondering if my bad luck with computers will extend to plumbing. Maybe I should not press my luck.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Spring Fever

The skies are bawling, and I am feeling a bit weepy myself. I blame everything on hormones (great excuse!) but the result is I don't want to do anything except curl up on the couch, listen to music, and knit.

But even the knitting is making me weepy. My second charity blanket square is off-gauge. I dropped a stitch about 6 rounds back on my sock and can't seem to get it picked up correctly. The lace Addi Turbo needles I ordered have not yet arrived. The rocking chair is piled high with UFO's. A stalled afghan covers the recliner. The only thing I feel competent to knit is another preemie cap, but I hate the bamboo needles I am using because instead of getting smoother with use, they feel rougher.

At least Amazon finally shipped my copy of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off. That and some dark chocolate should help a bit.

Think I'll go work on that afghan.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Crotchity Crocheter

I've been wandering through Yarn Harlot: the secret life of a knitter, by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and just finished the chapter where she disses crochet.

Well. I'm a little put out. Just because she failed at crocheting doilies and antimacassers (and why she was even attempting such antiquated projects is subject to question) doesn't mean crochet is evil. So now I am forced to respond to her complaints. (Blog war!)

First, let me admit that I learned to crochet before I learned to knit. Back in the 60's, my mother guided me through the then-prerequisite crocheted vest. I also have been a counted cross stitcher and a quilter, but my eyes won't support the former and I killed my interest in the latter by hand stitching a giant log cabin quilt top that has never actually been quilted.

Now. Ms. P-M claims knitting and crochet don't employ the same skill sets. Interesting, because I hold the yarn in my left hand the same way for either, and manipulate a needle/hook in my right in very similar ways. While knitting does differ from crochet, both require patience and persistance and a little insanity, along with general yarn wrangling and fine motor skills.

Ms. P-M says crochet is faster than knitting. I say, that depends on what you are making. If your knitting needles are large enough and/or you execute enough YO's, you can whip out a baby afghan or a shawl in no time at all. If your crochet hook is tiny and the pattern intricate, a pair of gloves may take ages. Or, if you are insane and/or not a commitmentphobe, hooking an afghan in single crochet can take a lifetime, because this project is destined to stall.

Ms. P-M thinks a hooker is less likely to rip out a project gone wrong than a knitter is, but I have found the opposite to be true. I am much more willing to pull the plug on crochet than knitting, especially if the knitting is on size 1 needles and I've already turned the heel on that damn sock.

As for questionable crochet projects like toilet lid covers in pink and green, Ms. P-M obviously has not seen the blogs like this one. Something ugly, and sometimes scary, can be created no matter what the medium.

There's more!

  • Knitting needles may be sharper but crochet hooks are more likely to make it past airport security.

  • Crochet may use more yarn, but that makes it a fine way to bust that stash.

  • Acrylic may be a fine petroleum product, but it is also cheap, machine washable and dryable, doesn't shrink or lose its shape, and most people don't know the difference between it and wool anyway.

In fact, most people don't know the difference between knitting and crochet, so what does it matter?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Make the World a Better Place...

... One Stitch at a Time.

That's what the flyers said. They were tucked into every needlecraft book at my local public library branch. They were stacked at the checkout. There was a poster at the door. And yet it took me several months to attend my first meeting.

Not knowing what to expect, an hour beforehand I grabbed the Lion Brand pattern for a knitted preemie cap and cast on some lavender baby yarn and stitched a few rounds. I pictured us all sitting around a table, chatting while we worked on separate projects, and I wanted to have something to work on, too.

I was half right. We did sit around a U-shaped cluster of tables and knit, but the group's effort was going into a group project, a patchwork blanket to be donated to a local women's shelter. At one end of the U, skeins of Bernat "Super Value" were being wound into smaller balls for us to work with, while a dozen pairs of needles worked at a variety of stitch patterns. Each patch is to be 7" x 9", in "earth shades" of blue, green, and gold.

And while some chatting did occur, our energetic and enthusiastic leader Laura talked almost non-stop. And when she wasn't talking, she was doing: making copies of the preemie cap pattern for our next project, handing out flyers for the local fiber festival, showing parts of a DVD called "The Art of Knitting and Crochet," sharing stories from KnitLit, welcoming new members and encouraging us all.

Initially, I found the experience nerve-wracking. For one thing, I was late, and felt like I had to hurry and catch up. I happened to have some size 7 needles to cast on, but my gauge was off. The woman on my left murmured, "I found that casting on 30 stitches instead of 35 works better," and then I was torn: do I do the expedient thing and cast on fewer stitches, or do I do the right thing and drop a needle size until I obtain gauge? I'm embarrassed to say I chose expedient simply because I didn't have any more needles in my bag.

But at least my patches will be the right size, unlike the woman on my right, who had produced a small hill of blue squares without the aid of a template. Laura gaily accepted them, but between my patch with the wrong number of stitches and her patches of the wrong size, I could not help but wonder how the finished product was going to fit together.

Since then, I have been conscientious but not competitive about doing my "homework," finishing one patch in garter stitch...

... and starting a second in seed stitch. I also finished a preemie cap...

... and have started a second one of those as well. Both projects are no-brainers that are good for business meetings. (Where I work, we participate in meetings via PC and telephone, so I could be picking my nose and no one would be the wiser.) And they are good alternative projects for when my other, more challenging projects, are getting the better of me.

A while back I wrote a post about mindful knitting. While most of my knitting still goes to loved ones and I am far from being willing to knit anything for my ex, at least now I am knitting for strangers in need.

Baby steps.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Reality vs. Fantasy

When my SO and I went to the Fiber Event at Greencastle this past weekend, I took X number of dollars to spend. Among the items on my shopping list were carders and a spindle, a swifter, Addi lace needles (as reviewed on Knitter's Review), tiny crochet hooks, and maybe some roving and yarn. So the first order of business was to visit every vendor we could find.

Lucky for us, Friday was sunny if a bit nippy - sweatshirt and knit cap weather - and dry, so we wandered idly from building to building until our eyes began to glaze from all the wool. And there was lots of wool, from fresh-off-the-sheep fleeces greasy with lanolin to handspun, hand-dyed marvels. There was also lots of gear for doing something with the wool, including wheels and dyes and looms, but no lace needles or tiny crochet hooks, alas.

There were non-wool products as well, like soaps and vegan yarns and buttons and beads. There were a few vendors with finished goods, including teeny, tiny socks knit with toothpicks and transformed into earrings. (That I will have to try. I wonder if they are knit flat or in the round?) Another vendor showed me a handcrank sock machine she was using to, well, crank out scarves. These devices have been around since the 1800's, but were of particular use during World War II for making socks for soldiers. (For more info, visit this site.)

We spotted a few familiar faces from Corydon, including the needle felting folks from Big Springs Farm (whom I was too embarrassed to approach because I have not even started the project I purchased from them last October). And I fell in love with Chloe (or rather, a photo of Chloe), one of the ewes from Schacht Fleece Farm.

Fiber festivals are a lot of fun, but I also find them frustrating because I am such an ignorant neophyte! How does one know which wool to buy, how to card it and dye it and spin it? I have self-taught myself many things, with the help of good books and adequate tools, but spinning seems magical to me, woolly clouds transformed into fiber. My idea - if I bought the equipment, the spinning would come - seemed naive. I decided that I should find a teacher or participate in a workshop before investing money.

Once I decided not to buy carders and a spindle, I found it harder to part with my money at all. Sixty dollars for a swifter felt like an extravagance when I currently have no hanks of yarn waiting to be rolled into balls. I leafed through a few books, but they can be borrowed from the library or purchased online at a discount. I had tucked a couple of sweater patterns in my purse to see if I could locate yarn for them, but suffered a crisis of confidence when faced with so many choices. And besides, how could I justify buying yarn when I have plenty of projects already in the queue, just waiting for some needles to become free? (I know - I'm a failure as a stash builder.)

Finally, I spotted some sock blockers that I wanted, and that got the dollars flowing. Some handmade soap joined the sock blockers, along with a pair of wool/angora socks and a skein of Tofutsies sock yarn. Now I felt like I was contributing to the economic well-being of the event.

But we drew the line at the deep fried dill pickles.

There was not very much livestock, or if there were, we couldn't find them. Just as well, as I come away from these events pining for sheep. There were rabbits, though, big woolly rabbits that dwarf my little angora/mini-lop. It has taken me months to accumulate a few sandwich bags of rabbit fuzz, while each of the French and German angoras at the fair could easily provide many times that amount in just one molting. I tried to harden my heart against these gentle animals, but eventually became teary with longing. As we drove away, I started the litany of talking myself out of animals: I can buy all the wool I could ever want, in one form or another, from one animal or another, without actually owning the animals. With a dog, a cat, and a rabbit in my small suburban home, my ark is currently full.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Stop It or You'll Go Blind

Well, I just could not leave that yarn alone. Lord knows I tried. After yesterday's post, I really did stop... for a while. Then I improvised a reverse swifter by placing one diningroom chair upside down on another...

...and I unwound the lesser of the two balls until there was a half hank. Deciding we both needed a break, I left it to hang, fully intending to leave it be for about 24 hours.

But I could not help myself. I just had to try my hand (or thumb) at creating a center-pull ball. I felt like little Jack Horner with a Christmas plum on my thumb...

... but the technique really did work.

At Women's Weekend, the one lone non-knitter helped the rest of us by yarn wrangling, and during her indoctrination, the mentoring knitter admonished her not to wind the yarn too tight. This tidbit was news to me, so with this yarn I made sure to keep things loosey goosey, and now I have a nice squishy ball.

So far, in my sock-knitting education, I'm discovering that there is no definitive right way to knit a pair of socks. For example, the pattern for the Magic Stripes socks called for size 3 needles, but I had to drop a size to obtain gauge. The Ann Norling sock pattern also called for size 3 needles for fingerling weight yarn, but without even mentioning gauge, the basic sock class instructor instructed us to change that to size 2. My next pair of socks is coming from Sensational Knitted Socks, the author of which recommends a size 1 or 0 for fingerling, to obtain a gauge of 8-1/2 to 10 stitches per inch. Today I dutifully cast on with size 1 needles and knitted a swatch. And I obtained 10 stitches per inch, thank God. These middle aged eyes could barely see the stitches to count them, so there was no way I was going to drop a size. I did drop a few stitches, though, and my "rescue" crochet hook (size 00) looked like a log next to those stitches. If I am going to continue with socks, maybe I should invest in a size 0000 hook.

And so we begin....

Sunday, April 08, 2007


After Socks One and Socks Two, I tried to start a third pair, out of Lion Brand Wool-Ease, but quickly discovered 1) I was tired of DPNs, and 2) I was tired of socks. Also, I could not get up much enthusiasm for a thick pair of socks I would not be able to wear until next fall.

A few days of plain vanilla knitting later, though, and I found myself thinking socks again. Maybe it's because I have been following the Yarn Harlot and her traveling sock, as she flits about the Midwest on a book tour. (And she has been through hell this past week - personally, I think "Jayme-the-wonder-publicist" is a sadist to schedule so many flights in so few days, especially involving multiple visits to O'Hare.)

Anyway, I pulled out a hank of Schaefer Yarn ("Hand Painted Luxury Fiber") I had purchased on sale. (When my daughter saw the price on the sale tag, she said "That's the sale price?" Yet she did not bat an eyelash when I plunked down $$$ for a hank of Louisa Harding "Sari Ribbon", two balls of Trendsetter Yarns "Super Kid Seta", and 6 balls of Rowan "Kidsilk Haze" - all for projects for her out of Glamour Knits.)

Anyway, for some reason, when I bought the Schaefer Yarn, they did not offer to wind it and I did not think to ask, so that was the first order of business. This also seemed like a good opportunity to attempt to wind a center-pull ball, as described in Knitting Tips & Trade Secrets Expanded. Since I live alone, there was not an extra pair of hands available to hold the yarn while I wound, and since most of my chairs are not designed to hold yarn for winding, and since the rocking chair was already holding the Sari Ribbon, I optimistically draped the hank over the edge of a cabinet.

Well. I learned almost immediately that wool yarn tends to cohere. As I unwound a round of yarn, the neighboring rounds of yarn also came off the hank, and then the hank fell to the floor, in not too big of a mess. I tried to straighten out the hank, and decided to simply carry on, leaving the yarn where it lay.

Again, each round of yarn I pulled off pulled off more yarn (I'm a slow learner), and soon the hank was more of a mess.

There wasn't much else to do but continue. The other end of the skein magically appeared, so then I could wind from either end, depending on which seemed most likely to produce results. (Neither end was better than the other; this was just magical thinking on my part.)

This endeavor started on Thursday eve. I unraveled and unsnarled Thursday evening, Friday evening, off and on Saturday, and again on Sunday (today). The work was surprisingly hypnotic, much like knitting itself. And much like knitting, I occassionally had to just put it down and walk away.

The closer I came to being finished, the harder is was to stop. Sort of like picking a scab.

And, finally, I prevailed. Now instead of one center-pull ball, I have two balls with no ends available. I could cut the yarn at this point, and use a ball for each sock. Or I could unwind one ball, and try again to create a center-pull ball. Or I could just sleep on it.

Next weekend, my SO and I are going to the Fiber Event in Greencastle. Fiber festivals are financially dangerous places for knitters to go, especially knitters who received a larger-than-expected bonus this year. But it's like going to Vegas: decide up front how much money you are willing to part with, then stick with that amount. After my experience with the Schaefer Yarn, one thing I will be looking to buy is a swifter.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Socked Out

Finished the Magic Stripes socks this week, as well as the basic sock class socks. Blocking relaxed the fit. These are machine washable and dryable, so hopefully that will tighten them up again.

Every time I finish a project and find something not quite the way I expect, my heart sinks a bit. Scarves and afghans are very forgiving, but for something wearable to be, well, wearable, the stars must be in alignment. When will I knit with confidence?

I actually did try to start another pair of socks, this time for moi, but I'm all socked out for now. Time to move onto something new and different.