Saturday, January 25, 2014

Khajiit Cowl: Those Pesky Short Rows

Love 'em or hate 'em, there's no getting around it: This cowl is loaded with short rows. Count them yourself: There are over 100 short row turns in this project! If you love the method you use to make them, you might as well move on: there's nothing for you here today. But, if you're like me and you despise the method you learned so much that you usually avoid projects that require short rows, then read on.

The method I learned (and thought I was stuck with) is the wrap-and-turn method. This requires the knitter to perform a series of maneuvers at the end of the row before turning the work. Moving the last stitch to the right hand needle, bringing the yarn to the front, moving the stitch back to the left needle, ad nauseum, blah, blah, blah. You know this method. The Dreaded Wrap and Turn Short Row. 

Forget all that. Poof, gone from your mind. 

Instead, knit to the point where you will turn the work, and then just turn the work. No nuthin'. Just flip it over. 

Then, do a very snug yarn over on the RIGHT hand needle (the yarn passes from front to back if you’re about to work a knit row, and from back to front if you’re about to work a purl row), then slip the first stitch from the left needle to the right needle, and continue on your merry way.  Julia Farwell-Clay uses this yarn-over short row in her Hiro sweater, which is where I learned it and instantly fell in love. 

When you encounter the yarn-over as you work back to it, check to be sure it's mounted correctly, then knit it together (or purl it together, as the case may be) with the stitch that follows it. Tada! No hole, no moving stitches around, no wrapping-and-turning, no knitting gymnastics of any kind. So simple. Just be sure the yarn-over is performed very tightly, and you won't have any gaps or holes to deal with. They are almost impossible to find in your work. 

Now, if you are also like me and need to see this for yourself, there is always a You Tube video out there for visual learners, and this particular one gets to the point rather quickly:

This is week three four of knitting the Khajiit Cowl, and it is slowly making the elegant bend that becomes the hood. I'm midway through the section labeled as Section Two in the pattern, where the cowl begins to resemble a giant sock heel. 
Side View of the Khajiit in progress after
completing the Section 2, Part 1 short rows. 

Yes, it's nerve wracking, especially since you work different sections of the cable pattern in Chart C on the same row. A chart or map is a must, as is tracking every single cable pattern completed on every single row or round. But this is such a lovely object that the end will definitely justify the means. 

Center Front
Center Back

I'm pretty sure I've reached the halfway point, hallelujah! There is one more complete set of the same short rows I've just completed to do, which concludes Section Two. Section Three is the home stretch.

Onward through the fog.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The S Word: Swatching the Khajiit Cowl

I am always surprised by the number of knitters who hate to swatch, like it's some evil chore like washing venetian blinds or ironing shirts. (Those are definitely on my 'avoid like the plague' list). The very same knitters spend a lot of time knitting up garments only to find they don't fit or look all that great. And then complain about it!

Knit the gauge swatch. It will save you tons of hours in the long run, and you will get an accurate picture of what your knitted fabric is going to look like. Just as importantly, you will have a fairly accurate idea of the end size of your project.
Yes, I color coded my charts.
Saves a lot of time and agony.

It's especially critical when working with cables, since the knitted fabric draws up significantly. I will use my own swatch as a case in point: The swatch here is knit up in two needles sizes. The bottom sample of the swatch is knit with the recommended size for the Khajiit Cowl, which is 5.5 mm (US 9). The honeycomb pattern is elongated just a tad, and the fabric is a little sloppy and loose. More importantly, it is not the correct gauge of 24 stitches and 28 rows; it came in at 23 stitches and 26 rows. That doesn't sound like much, but over 208 stitches, that's an additional 1.5" to the overall circumference of this cowl.  The top of the sample (above the garter stitch rows) was knit with 5.0 mm (US8) needles. The fabric is slightly denser, and the honeycomb pattern is rounder. The additional density spells warmth and better wind resistance. It is also the stated gauge for the project of 24 stitches and 28 rows. Voila!

How long did this take me? I'm not a super speedy knitter, and cables slow me down further because I am still of the ilk that uses a cable needle. My swatch clocked in at just under two and a half hours, and I ripped back four entire rows and a couple of partial rows in the process. What's a couple of hours when I now know what the fabric is going to look like and how it will fit the recipient? There's also the added bonus of playing with the stitch pattern for a while so that it's more familiar. 

Just pop a movie in or cue up your favorite playlist of tunes and get going. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

I Double Dog Dare Ya: The Khajiit Cowl

I have to admit: 90% of all the knitting I've done since June has been, well, less than a challenge for me. Easy-peasy stuff. The old knitting mojo was at a low point, and we were traveling a goodish bit, which always puts a kink in my knitting time. That, and I just can't focus as well on the run as I do from the comfort of my well-broken-in knitting chair.  Excuses, excuses. Such a wuss, right?

That is all gonna change. Today.

I would still be a lazy knitter if left to my own devices. But while visiting us at Christmas, our middle daughter announced a trip she is planning to Prague, Moscow, and Altay, Kazakhstan in MARCH. This March. I am thrilled she is taking such a neat and interesting expedition, but in MARCH? I love that she's planning some of her trekking on the Trans Siberian Railroad, staying in hostels, hiking rural areas generally off the beaten path. Seriously proud of her, actually. 

I can't help that the mom thing kicked in, my adrenalin soaring through the roof as my brain buzzed "MUST knit something WARM ... must knit something SERIOUSLY warm .... RIGHT NOW".  Looking at the Altay weather archives for March 2013, the high for the month was 38 degrees Farenheit, the low -12!!! Most of the time, the mercury hovered in the low teens and twenties. Moscow was just as daunting: It never went above 40 degrees for the month of March. Most of March averaged consistently in the low twenties. And Prague? Warmest high temp was 40, lowest was 19. Mainly low 20s and 30s throughout. Brrrrrrrr.

Not comforting to a mom.  At. All.

I casually mention that I'd be happy to knit her a hat or whatever she wants for her trip. And I also open up the Ravelry pattern tab, type hats into the search box, tick off the aran and bulky weight yarn tabs, with stranded colorwork thrown in as an option for good measure. All the while my brain is screaming "IT HAS TO BE  WAAAAAAARM." But I am calm and impassive. Nothing makes a kid balk faster than knowing mom is trying to be protective. 

She already had some ideas. 
One was a hat much like Botticelli's A Boy
"A round, flat topped, straight sided, squat, felted hat, in navy blue, oh, and with earflaps" was her idea of a perfect hat. Could I do that? 

Well, sure. 

She paused, took a good look at me, mentally measuring my demeanor. "Or, how about a hood of some kind?"

All those well-below freezing temperatures were dancing before me, taunting. A hood could be pulled up securely over the head, or bunched up around the neck, or pulled down around the torso, used as a shield against the wind and blowing snow, bundling my dear daughter in woolly coziness. 

Now yer talkin. 

She searched the patterns database for hoods. Most of them were fairly decorative things; lacey, even. I felt slightly ill. Then the Khajiit Cowl popped up, and my daughter immediately said "I REALLY like this one."  

I peeked over: Bulky yarn, cables galore, could be pulled down over the body like a capelet, with a deep, short-row shaped hood to stay put on the head, knit in a stiff, wind rebuffing gauge. Its slightly Renaissance-y, monk-ish feel  satisfied her penchant for something along those design lines. 

I felt some measure of relief. She wanted a "warm neutral color". The designer designated Cascade Ecological Wool. After an extensive internet search looking for options with a smidgeon of alpaca or cashmere in them and finding nothing suitable, she went with the color Mocha (8085) in the Ecological Wool. I pressed send on the order button, and sat back to await its arrival. 

The fat envelope with two hanks arrived today along with another envelope bearing an order of Hiya Hiya circular needles. My lazy days of mindless knitting are over. Kaput. We are now in serious warmth mode, serious cable mode, serious short-row mode. This could be my biggest challenge ever. I'll definitely be on a huge learning curve with those pesky short rows incorporated into complicated cables. 

For anyone else contemplating this pattern, I suggest you take a good, long look at the KAL posts on Ravelry. There are definite hurdles, and the designer did not have the cowl test knit before releasing the pattern. There have been several revisions since the relatively recent release, and all of the KAL participants have found the short row directions somewhat inscrutable to the point where folks have drawn their own maps for that elegant curve at the back of the hood. The cowl is so lovely, though, that the extra preliminary sleuthing is worth the effort, as is knitting a gauge swatch of Chart B, as suggested. Before knitting a single stitch, my pattern is already a labyrinth of notes, numbers, color-coding and cross references. 

Time to get a move on. All those frigid temperatures in Prague, Moscow and Altay will keep me knitting. And knitting. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Succumbing to The Madness

It's official: I am certified. And I now belong to a group who are all equally as nuts. The Sock Madness Forever group on Ravelry are sock aficionados who, for the last seven years, have competitively knit socks beginning in March, at the time of the NCAA college basketball championship games. It's always seemed that the elimination events were interminable, and finally some knitters said enough was enough: 'Bout time we had our own March Madness. So Sock Madness was born. It's evolved and grown over seven years, moving from a webpage and a yahoo group to the present day group home on Ravelry.

The premise is simple: Knit socks as fast as you can. And knit them exactly as they are written from a pattern that is emailed to registered participants, who then almost instantaneously begin to knit them up.

Seven different pairs of them.

Not all at once, but progressing in difficulty with each pair. Each participant is placed on a Team with knitters of roughly equivalent skill and tempo. The number of slots on a Team is significantly fewer than the number of participants on a Team, so time is of the essence. The first to finish move on to the next round. The slowpokes then cheer from the sidelines. 

Knitters are eliminated each round as others on the team finish ahead of them  for the coveted spots. There are several fewer spots each round than there are knitters remaining on the Team, so the pressure gets a little intense. And there are SEVEN rounds. And every round gets harder. And you have to work faster. And there are fewer spots on each Team as you progress. This goes on until the last round, Round Seven, when only one representative from each team remains to knit the mother-of-all-sock patterns. A real lulu. The best of the best knit a crazily impossible (well, almost) pattern. Only one knitter emerges victorious, and that is the Sock Madness winner of the year. 

If you thought the NCAA tournament is long, then you have a big shock: Sock Madness runs from early March to June. So yes, Sock Madness participants truly are Mad. 
The evil geniuses behind the friendly competition are Julie Sprague and Tricia Weatherston, who organize the event each year, fielding sock designs and prizes from donors for the next Madness from around the globe. They knit pretty much nonstop in an effort to determine their degree of difficulty. From the legions of hopeful designers, nine are chosen: a Pre-Madness sock, seven competition socks, and an Optional Round sock. Julie and Tricia are tireless promoters, cheerleaders, counselors, tricksters, hand-holders, fairy godmothers, and magicians. 

Prizes are distributed throughout the competition: They're awarded for everything from taking an unusual photo of finished socks, to making interesting modifications to optional round socks, to suggesting names for the Teams, to posting helpful techniques info, to soothing knitters who experience broken needles, to guessing the total number of pairs of socks that will be completed during Sock Madness, to  .... well, it goes on and on. Participants can receive a prize for anything the organizers have a whim to award one for. 

This year is the first year I've participated, and I am proud to say that I made it all the way to Round Five before being eliminated. That's a couple of rounds further than I ever dreamed I'd be able to accomplish. At first I wondered if I were even 'competitive knitting material'. But the Madness is so friendly, the participants so eager to help each other that it became apparent that all of us were winners, no matter how far we were able to progress. Our sock knitting chops are stretched to the limit and beyond. Everyone, it seems, experiences something that is new to them or learns a new technique. These are my socks from the madness this year. All of them are destined to be gifts, and I am happy to call this bunch of international sock knitting maniacs friends. 

and the optional round sock, which I haven't had time to complete yet:

While I wait for Sock Madness 8 in 2014, I'll happily knit away on the socks that I was unable to complete during the competition. I'll need all the rest I can get until then, when the non-stop Madness continues.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Looking Back on 2012, Ahead to 2013

Steph's Hurricane 
Camino de Santiago de
Miss Margaret Dashwood 
Not one for resolutions, it's still interesting to review the year gone by and think about the one before us.
Let's see.
I knit 12 pairs of socks in 2012, 5 of which I designed myself.
2 shawls -- from the same pattern, a rare thing in itself.
1 hat for charity

I started 4 sweaters, frogged 3 of them, and am almost finished with the one that stuck. The lucky winner is Hiro, and it's one of the best written sweater patterns ever. I mean it. Julia Farwell-Clay has clearly knit enough sweaters to design hers to avoid just about every common pitfall a handknit sweater can befall: The bottom edge is hemmed in a very elegant way, the yolk decreases are ingeniously hidden in the stranded colorwork, and short rows near the neck make the sweater hang properly when worn. The button band could only have been thought of by someone who has knit way too many cardigans where the fronts sag and bag -- the slightly smaller gauge of Hiro's buttonband really makes all the difference in the perfect fall of the sweater fronts. I could go on and on ... and have been for over a month now. But I digress. Here's a progress picture right after I began the third color, which was some weeks ago. Though it's not complete, it nearly is: One button band left to knit and attach, sew the underarms, knit the neck ribbing, sew on the buttons and she's done. Well, it needs a good blocking, but you get the gist.

ANYWAY, where was I? Oh. Recapping 2012.
What else did I knit? Two things I swore I would never ever knit: a dishtowel and dishcloth. They were NOT for me, but for daughter Julia's lifelong pal and partner in crime Katie, who was regaled at a bridal shower early last spring. So I caved and knit a purple and taupe dishtowel and a purple dishcloth, since Katie loves all things purple. She had the purpliest wedding on record, I think. So now that that is out of the way, I will never knit another of either of these items. For some unknown reason, the idea of knitted dishcloths just makes my skin crawl. It just seems a perfect waste of time. I know there are legions of dishcloth knitters out there, but my name will never be on that list. Just as there are legions of knitters who think handknit socks are ridiculous -- I love handknit socks. To wear them once is to be enslaved by the sock siren forever. Socks are my go-to comfort knitting. There's always socks on the needles, regardless of whatever else is going on.

Now, for the look ahead in 2013.
I set a goal of knitting 13 pairs of socks in 2013. I see a trend developing for me: adding a pair a year to match the year. Any why not? I hope to design at least half of these. Gotta plump up the ranks of toe-up patterns, yanno.

I see two more sweaters in the near future: the Antler Cardigan and a toasty pullover, Mork. I have enough Ultra Alpaca in both Flannery Red and Cerulean Blue with which to knit Mork. Tough call, but I have a whole year ahead. It's another Julia Farwell-Clay design, and has set in sleeves and a cabled upper body.
Antler Cardigan, a Tin Can Knits design, is another circular yoke cardigan, with the yoke from cables. Maybe in robin's egg blue? Or a pale, washy ash? Or a fiery red? Lots of time to contemplate that one, too.

Since I have bought even more stash yarn less than three days into 2013, my goal is to limit purchases to perhaps once a quarter. Can I do that? Stay tuned. I've never claimed to have any discipline when it comes to yarn, but "It's getting a bit thick, what?" as Bertie Wooster would say.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Getting serious, really.

Hey! It's me again. The old blog has been long neglected, and I'm only too aware of that. The crisp weather and a sudden burst of inspiration may change that for a bit: I'm starting a sweater after a longish hiatus.

On 6 November, which was also Election Day here in the US, I started Hiro.  It has a circular yoke with a bit of stranding in three colors in addition to the main body color. The colors pixelate upward and downward from the yoke in a way that is both cheerful and geometric, yet not too busy. Spurred on by a half-price sale on discontinued colors of Berroco Ultra Alpaca, one of my favorite warm and cozy workhorse yarns that's half wool, half alpaca, resistance was futile. The Marsh Mix (6296) colorway reminds me of the beautiful heathered wools of Scotland, very similar to Jamieson's Fern (SP249), with loden, chestnut, amber and warm blue-green heathering. It took a nano-second to decide to make this my main color. Complimentary colors are Ultra Alpaca Fennel (6249), a warm chartreuse-y green, Ultra Alpaca Cerulean (62170), a heathery blue-turquoise, shot subtly through with a gray lilac and deeper turquoise; I chickened out on my middle transition color by using Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran Cream (135) with very subtle taupe/aqua/turquoise/camel tweedy flecks. The flecks seem to pull all the colors together in the merest suggestion, as they are few and far between. I like the nuance. It didn't hurt that I already had the Cerulean Ultra Alpaca and the Cream Kathmandu Aran in my stash, either.
I knit an embarrassingly rough swatch, to see how I should place the colors and figure my gauge. The blue looks a lot better up close to my face, so I am opting to knit it like the left side of the swatch. Onward through the fog.

Having never knit a yoked sweater, this is a learning experience for me; I love a challenge. Knit from the bottom up, it's hemmed instead of ribbed at the bottom edge, a nice, elegant finish. If I only knew how to work steeks into a pattern, I'd of done that, but since I have no clue how to set it all up, I am (miserably) knitting the body back and forth in one seamless piece. My purling is looser than my knitting, so I will place my trust in the blocking gods once the thing is finished and hope it evens out with a good bath and a block.

The hem is folded and knit together with the frontside stockinette, which is a very tidy, sturdy finish. Love it! The last few days have been miles and miles of stockinette, and I've achieved 10" in length, incorporating some gentle waist shaping. My shaping differs from the pattern here and I'm working it out my own way; it'll be an inch to an inch and a half shorter in total length, too.

Stay tuned, and wish me luck.
PS: For historical purposes, Barak Obama won the presidential election. (Whew.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Run Rabbit Run!

Just can't help it! How can you NOT love this?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gifts for The Season

Gifts! The word strikes terror in the hearts of gift-knitting enthusiasts everywhere. It's not the gift itself that causes stress, but the amount of time remaining to do so. No matter when we start, there's never enough time to finish all our gift projects without major panic.

As my gift to knitters, I have two new toe-up textured sock patterns: Molly & Hector and Golly. Many of you may recognize the names from the BBC series Monarch of the Glen. I invested in the entire DVD set a few years ago, and never tire of the episodes, especially beloved for their breathtaking scenery, kilty goodness, and knitwear. But I digress. Molly & Hector is a unisex pattern, with charts for making a broad range of sizes.
Golly was written specifically for mansocks, but you can do with it what you will, as it has charts for a 60, 64, 72, and 80 stitch socks. Enjoy!
 Molly & Hector


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fiberly Adventures: Fiber College on Penobscot Bay

I've had mixed feelings about taking knitting classes due to a very bad experience at an unnamed (and now defunct) LYS in Austin several years ago. The experience has colored every subsequent thought I've had about taking another class anywhere. But time does heal, or at least make us somewhat amnesic. So when Amy Herzog announced she would be teaching her amazing Fit to Flatter class at Fiber College, the capstone experience to the series of the same name on her blog so many knitters have been raving about, I signed on, forked over my credit card, and never looked back. The long, intensive six hour format was the hook.

That the class was in MAINE was irrelevant. What's a few miles?

Well, it was a good excuse to tie in a vacation at the very least. Then I started looking at the other Fiber College classes, and there were so many enticing offerings: After agonizing for several hours, I chose Beth Brown-Reinsel's 6 hour Traditional Scottish Ganseys class, and Mary Jane Mucklestone's Fair Isle workshop. I pulled out my credit card and clicked the 'submit'  button once again.  Kent was thrilled at the prospect of fly-fishing to his heart's content and I would be knitting. A perfect vacation.
The next day or so was a flurry of logistics: I got a steal of a deal on air tickets to MHT (Manchester, NH), reserved a rental car, booked a cottage for a week right on Penobscot Bay about a mile from Fiber College,  ordered several books on fly fishing in Maine from Amazon for Kent, gathered the needed class materials from my stash, packed up a separate class knitting bag, and waited for the next three weeks to pass. That's when the old voice about taking classes began bedeviling me once again: The fear that I'd just spent a lot of money for classes with a vacation built around them that would be clunkers. I was more than a little apprehensive.
Mary Jane gets into teaching
I need not have been: Fiber College was fabulous! I learned that a class is not a class, and each of the teachers of my chosen classes was engaging, well prepared, thoughtful, open, receptive, and eager to share their knowledge, techniques, and experience. I loved every exhausting minute. So much to process, practice, and retain for use in future projects. Lots of hands-on guiding and encouragement. Lots of patient practice coupled with technique and idea packed hard copy handouts. Interesting, friendly, and like-minded classmates. Weather in early September in mid-coast Maine is about as perfect as it gets: We had beautiful days with brisk ocean breezes in the upper 70s, with cool nights in the low 50s. It rained twice: Once the second morning of Fiber College and all of late Saturday night. Perfect. I was grateful to have packed a windbreaker.

Amy and Nicki after FtF class
I'd never heard of Fiber College until I read about it as the location for Amy's class on her blog. Googling it, I discovered it's an annual event in its sixth year. It runs for four days on the weekend immediately following Labor Day on the grounds and buildings of the Searsport Shores Ocean Campground. The site has 42 gorgeous treed acres right on Penobscot Bay in Searpsport, Maine. Owned by Astrig Tanaguay and her family, it houses her home, gardens, fiber studio, community buildings, and of course tenting and RV sites. Astrig is energy personified, and the driving force behind Fiber College. She is everywhere at once, coolly and calmly seeing to last-minute logistics with a cheerful, able group of volunteers who make the event run like clockwork. Offerings encompass the wide spectrum of fiber arts: Knitting, crochet, ethnic fiber techniques, felting, quilting, dyeing, spinning, batt creation, tatting, sewing, fabric creation, weaving, rug hooking, embroidery, silk painting, photography, shifu, bookbinding, Russian punchneedle embroidery, needle felting, and woodworking for fiber artists. There are over 60 juried classes ranging from 3 to 6 hours.
A large component of the Fiber College experience are the social events that wrap around the class schedule, from morning to late night. A pot-luck supper on Friday is a highlight, where everyone brings a whacking big dish to share and then dines at long communal tables in the ice-breaking atmosphere of great food and drink. There's a charity fashion show benefiting a local women's shelter highlighting various fibery creations by class participants, teachers, and local community members. There's also a benefit cocktail party, a hootenanny, fiber swap, a Saturday night banquet honoring the Artist-in-Residence (this year, it's Mary Jane Mucklestone), fiber gabs, ongoing demonstrations throughout each day, and of course, a shopping arcade with dozens of marvelous and unique vendors from Maine and beyond. Many participants choose to pitch a tent or park their RV right on the campground, a distinct advantage to socializing and immersion in the entire weekend experience. Camaraderie is what it's about at Fiber College. There are many  motels, inns, and rental cottages nearby, too, if roughing it isn't for you, or, like me, you make a split-second, last-minute decision to attend. Campground spaces are reserved early and sell out fast. The more popular lodging spots sell out early too, with The Yardarm Motel being a favorite among repeat participants.
Think you live too far away to join the fun? Plan your vacation around Fiber College; everyone will find something to do in the beautiful mid-coast Maine area:
There are kayaking, sailing, and fishing excursions available in nearby Belfast, a scale model ship building workshop in Searsport, yarns shops to explore in Stockton Springs, Belfast, Northport, Camden; antiquing in all the little towns that
string together like coastal jewels, shopping, galleries, ice cream stands (John's on Rte. 3  in Liberty,  is a MUST!), beautiful picturesque drives along the shoreline, great little eateries, and local parks. Less than 90 minutes away is the majestic Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, a day or so unto themselves. My spouse opted to fly-fish on the beautiful St.George River and surrounding ponds, and had a great week tromping the inland waters. Or just grab a girlfriend or three and have a fabulous girls getaway. You won't regret it, and will likely find yourself retracing your steps back to Fiber College year after year. I know I'll be back.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


It was a long winter, but a very busy one.
No time = no posts. We sold our house in Austin, pulled up stakes, and hove back to the Mid Atlantic, landing softly and squarely in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a mere three miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Mile marker 44, to be exact.

The cool thing about buying a house in winter is the joy of unexpected flora that is now your garden and yard.

Spring started yawning in late February with tiny crocuses poking up, daffodils stretching sunward, hyacinths bursting with fragrance and color, and forsythia arching all over the place. Now, it's the dogwood's turn. And for the last week, they've been glorious. I know they'll be back next year, because I had nothing to do with planting them.

We have them in the back yard, the front yard, the side yard, down the side slope, and probably behind the swath of bamboo on the eastern edge of the property. It's my favorite tree, a wonderful surprise, not having recogized it while house hunting in the dead of winter. I'll smile all spring as all the "new" discoveries keep make themselves known.

Knitting? Yes, I know this is *supposed* to be my knitting blog, but I just can't help but gush a bit about the new environs. I've done mostly socks, but also a couple of sweaters (in fit-and-starts progress), due to not knowing which boxes contained the bags ... or where those were. But slowly, slowly, much of my yarn stash and in-progress projects have been found. Still a mystery: Where did they put all my books??? They must be in the POD in the side yard, still shrouded in floor-to-ceiling boxed mystery until we have room for the contents. Going from a 3800 square feet house to an 1800 square foot one is a major shock, especially when considering all the 'stuff' we have. But it'll all work out. Life is simpler now.

Back to ogling dogwoods.
See the mountains in the background?

My view every single day now.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Squirt

Many of our meetup knitters know Squirt, having had their toes gnawed or their yarn toyed with over the last couple of months. But for those of you who don't know her, Squirt is a tale of compassion and insanity rolled together.

First, I am allergic to cats. So when my youngest daughter rolled in right after the Fourth of July with a tiny white bundle that was nothing more than a head and a belly, I thought she'd lost her mind.
"She has to go!" I said.
"But she was abandoned; she will die if we don't take care of her!" she said.

OK, I'm not unreasonable. The kitty was roughly only a couple of weeks old, and could barely stand much less walk.

"OK, but only until she can be adopted out" I sighed.

And then I promptly went to HEB for the economy size box of Benadryl.

Here we are, and Squirt is now of adoptable age. She is totally adorable, as you can see from her picture (thanks Alicia!), and she is socializing very well. Since I knit her the toy she is jealously guarding in this picture, I thought I could post it here. ;-) Which brings me to the point of this post: Are any of you interested in adopting her? She is ready for a permanent home, being at least 9 weeks at this point. She comes with a bag of food, too.

Now, how can you not love that little face? Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Give me a jingle via email (eastskye at gmail dot com) to set up a time to come meet her. I can't keep her any longer: The Benadryl is killing me; I act and feel like a zombie.

Now look again at that sweet face. If no one wants her by Thursday, she is off to the shelter.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Full Time Knitter

I'm  a wannabe full time knitter. Oh, I know I'll never knit my way through my stash, but gee, a gal can dream, right?

So many sweaters, socks, shawls, jackets, hats, mitts .... so little time and waning eyesight. Even with strong readers, my eyes go boggly after a couple of hours anymore. I've even learned to love knitting cotton, thanks to blends with a bit of silk, or wool (just a tad!) or bamboo.

For the last year, it seems I was on a sock binge. Now I seem to be on a sweater binge: Finishing the Mrs. Darcy cardie for Liz, almost completing Wendy Johnson's Favorite Cardigan for Claire, (only a button band away!), an angora/merino confection also for Liz, and a cotton /bamboo/silk/linen pullover for me. I've queued so many that I decided I better dive in and just do them. Great movie knitting, even if it is 97 in the shade with 85 percent humidity outside. That's the key thing: outside. It's not even summer officially, but the annual Texas furnace is already cranked to full blast. I'll knit blissfully through it, ready for our late autumn with new sweaters when it finally does arrive in the aft part of November.

Random information: I won a gigantic skein of sock yarn donated by Ravelry's Alaskan Nancy for the March Sock Knitters Anonymous board on the same site, and chose a gorgeous wool/silk forget-me-not blue semi-solid bordering on tonal hank. Oh, it is luscious. Check out her etsy site: Absolutely YUM!!!

In the intervening year, I've learned to tolerate and then love a rabbit (yes, JACK, Claire's boy from Ohio that she brought home at the end of the spring semester last year), bake a wonderful challah, stay sane in the face of ... well, whatever we face. Also found a scrumptious apple cake recipe, made some fabulous women friends, and revisited West Virginia in winter. And bought far, far, FAR too much yarn .... even though my stash closet is already overflowing: We're helpless/hopeless, admit it. Or at least I am.

Pictures will eventually to show up here -- what's a knitting blog without pictures?? Aaaah, now I'll have the time. Bliss.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Bit O' Spring

Spring is already here, and summer is knocking on the door here in Central Texas. I'm not oblivious to the fact that many of you are from a part of the country that hasn't seen a single sign of Spring: Not a hint of green, a crocus bud, or a forsythia bloom. That's the situation for all of my far-flung kiddos, who are more than ready for Mother Nature to make the transition. One daughter in particular, going to college in Philadelphia, pleaded with me to make her a pair of socks "that are bright green, cheery, SPRINGLIKE -- I NEED these!" I made up my mind to get them to her in time for St. Pat's day, so they include shamrock-like lacy legs and clovery eyelets on the foot. My favorite way to make socks is toe-up, Magic Loop, using Judy Becker's Magic Cast On, so they're that, too. Enjoy making Bit O' Spring.

If you need a Bit O' Spring in your life, I'm happy to share mine with you, provided you don't knit them to sell, don't claim them as your own pattern, and respect my copyright to them. Please DO knit them for charity: Sharing the love that way is a way of saying YES WE CAN.

NOTE: I'm having trouble posting the PDF for the pattern! If you know to do this (from a document folder; PLEASE leave a comment for me telling me how to fix this glitch!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Spirit and Yarny Goodness

At long last! It seemed as though it would never come: The Inauguration is a done deal, Barak Obama is our first African-American president and the 44th person to hold the office, and we can get on with the business of repairing the horrific damage that was done to our country over the last eight years.

The economy is in the tank, housing is shot to heck, our troops are still mired in the Middle East, but it's going to get better. I just know it. It might take some time, but at least we have a president who is smarter and wiser than I, which is a huge relief.

This Inaugural couldn't pass without a special celebration, in spite of all the challenges that lie ahead for the new chief executive and us. Surely, there are a lot of others I know who would watch the proceedings at home, far from the record-breaking crowds in DC. Wouldn't it be more fun to do it together? So the Inaugural Watch Party was born. I invited our entire Austin Knitting and Crochet Meetup Group for it, and 11 other revelers (and Ravelers!) thought it was a peachy idea, too. All had our projects to work on as we watched.

At noon, we followed up with a potluck lunch. We had quite a spread: Cheese and crackers, salsa, queso, guacamole and chips, romaine salad, fruit salad, crazy lasagna, pizza, even Senate Bean Soup and a special red velvet cake that Gayle made with Obama's campaign logo sugared into the top. Oh, and brownies. It was a fun, communal way to celebrate such a historic event. Decades from now I will know what I was doing (and even knitting: A special Swallowtail Shawl, cast on just for the Inauguration). When the inevitable question of "what were you doing on the day Obama took the oath of office" comes up, the answer will be a cinch.

Today I'm off to contribute to the common good. We don't have a minute to lose.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

June, July, August, September ... is it really October?

I'll just whoosh through June, July, and most of August because there's nothing noteworthy in muddling through oppressively hot, unbearably humid days, and the less said about summer in Texas, the better.

At the end of August, I became an empty nester, but not before transporting the fledglings to their respective schools.

The girls say goodbye to the pooches minutes before heading out.

My poor little Subaru was packed airtight, the roof loaded with Liz' bike, and behind balancing a cargo carrier with Claire's scooter, with only a 22" wide slot for one of them to squeeze into behind the driver. Claire said it was even too small knit! The girls took turns riding there; about the only thing one could do was nap, or watch one State after another roll by. Usually it was a retreat for the one who finished driving a leg, so even though it was a close fit, it was a snug little nest for resting.

Three days later, we arrived at my mother's in northwestern PA, for a two day layover to rest up and finish school shopping. The Subaru couldn't begin to hold what they needed, so we raided discount stores in Erie for lamps, bedding, electronics, batteries, art supplies, books, and goodies.

Claire, Grams and Liz

Liz was duly delivered to her apartment she's sharing with three other girls in Philadelphia, then Claire and I repacked the Sube, heading west 90 miles to her college in Ohio. Move-in day was gorgeous: In the low 70s , with nary a cloud in the sky. 

I thought we were going to be in for a long morning of lugging boxes up three flights of stairs, but the college organized teams of returning students to unload cars, running boxes, baggage, and keepsakes to the the rooms! It was AWESOME! 

The scooter attracted a lot of attention, creating a small stir and some head scratching among students and faculty alike. "We've never had one on campus before!" exclaimed the Dean of Students. Everyone wanted to take it for a spin. Campus security wasn't sure if it should be classified as a car, sit in a remote lot and pay a parking sticker fee, or if it should be considered akin to a bike, parked next to the rack of Claire's dorm. After two days of leaving it on the front lawn of her dorm, they decided it was so cute and small that it could go next to the bike rack.

Cuteness wins every time

Now, after a week-and-a-half of being shoehorned into the car, it was absolutely empty. I was officially an empty nester, with a long roundabout drive back to Texas, where a newly landed job awaited my return.

No grass grows under my feet.

So went all of September and more than half of October. This interminably long summer may just be beginning to winding down. A summer where water bills ran to high three figures each month, more than double the cost of electricity. Yesterday, for the first time since mid-March, it was in the 60s for a daytime high, and only a tad cooler overnight. It rained an inch earlier in the week, which was almost 20% of our total rainfall thus far this year. Mother Nature's been messing with us for months, and is finally cutting us a break, however temporary.
So where'd I leave off? Socks. I've been a sock knitting fool since my internal porch light went on, all six of my brain cells feverishly cementing the concepts into variations on patterns. Definitely toe-up, and definitely some sort of pattern.

In July, the resulting socks, a pattern called 'SPRING FORWARD', which I knit toe-up. 

After one pair of plain stockinette socks with a ribbed leg, I called it a day. If it ain't interesting, I won't knit it. Besides, if I am crazy enough to knit socks, they should be challenging and noteworthy.

Letting the yarn do all the work is what plain stockinette socks are all about. Knit Magic Loop, toe-up, two balls of Regia Crazy Color #86 on US size 3 circular needles, matching the yarn striping placement on both socks.

Socks in OnLine's SOXX APPEAL, 'Los Monos Locos.' For me!

'Scion' is my own pattern. Great guy socks, if I do say so myself. Sean will be getting these for Christmas. One hank of DREAM IN COLOR Smooshy, color "Midnight Derby", knit toe-up on US size 2 circular needles, using Judy Becker's Magic Cast-On.

'Little Pumpkins' by Sabine Rupert. Knit in a 8 ply, DK weight Regia Uni 6 Fadig yarn, in the color-- what else?-- Pumpkin! on US 3 circular needles, toe up, Magic Loop. Very dense and warm! A Halloween Treat, I loaded them up with chocolates and sent them on their way to Claire today.

Double Eyelet Rib Toe-Up Socks, pattern by Wendy Johnson. 

My Halloween surprise for Liz, made from the same Regia DK weight yarn as Little Pumpkins (I got a great deal on the stuff : less than $3 a ball at Jimmy Beans Wool). I may have gone overboard a bit, buying 10 balls, but I'll have Halloween sock yarn for at least three years. Anyway, they are knit toe-up, Magic Loop, and I eliminated two pattern repeats for a total of 48 stitches on US size 4 needles. Yes, these were stuffed with chocolates, too (second pic), and sent off to Liz a few days ago.
Which brings me to gift knitting, which is consuming all my off hours. I never claimed to have a life.
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