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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tagged! I'm an 'It' girl

Pam tagged me last week, sending a Ravelry message to ask if that was OK.
Completely baffled, I wrote back: "What the heck does that mean?"
Then didn't understand her follow up explanation.
I am SO out of the loop, so unhip. So born-in-the-50s.
But there's hope. Maybe.

I read Pam's blog, which led back to Sandy's blog, which led to ... well, you get the concept. Sorry, Pam. I didn't mean to be a bad sport, a party pooper, a fuddy-duddy. You just hit me during an Oldtimers attack. My list is altered slightly because I don't watch TV very often. So there's a subcategory. You'll see.

4 Jobs I've Held:
burger flipper at McDonald's
floral designer
freelance literary events consultant
graduate program coordinator

4 Movies I've Watched Over and Over Again:
O Brother Where Art Thou
As Good As It Gets
Pride & Prejudice
Monty Python and the Holy Grail

4 Places I've Been:

Every state in the union except Hawaii, North Dakota, and Nebraska
<-------The Panama Canal Newfoundland Italy
4 Places I've Lived:

Erie, PA
Boston, MA - Rockport, MA
Lexington, KY
Maryland, suburban Washington D.C.

Part A: 4 TV Shows I Watch:
FRONTLINE
The Lehrer Report
Fawlty Towers
NCAA Final Four
Part B: 4 Radio Shows I Listen To:
The Diane Rehm Show
Fresh Air
This American Life
All Things Considered

4 Things I Look Forward To:
Inauguration Day 2009
The next trip/adventure
Moving back east
Knitting with friends ----------------------------------->

4 Favorite Foods:
LOBSTER in any way, shape, or form
CHOCOLATE
RASPBERRIES
Anything grilled over hickory

4 Places I'd Rather Be:
Sailing the Baltic
Living in the Blue Ridge Mountains ------->
Watching loons at dusk on Moosehead Lake, ME
Drinking Manhattans on the porch at Fool's Creek (see picture below)


4 People I email regularly:
My Kids
"The Table 622 Gang"
Ken
knitting buddies




4 People to Tag:

Melyssa
Amy
Dawn
Nanette

Friday, January 25, 2008

SOTSii progress pictures

This is the first KAL that I've kept up with on schedule, and I'm bound and determined to finish it that way. Here is the first week's work in it's entirety.

I like working on shawls ..... no, lace .... this way. I don't feel as though it's eternal, and the light at the end of the tunnel occurs weekly, keeping me motivated and undaunted.

I'm working on short circs, which is a little dangerous: the stitches want to fall off when I spread out the work. Not cool at all. Extra vigilance required. As I took these pictures, 6 stitches came off one end. Thankfully, they were flat, so they didn't ladder down. I would've screamed if they had, believe me.

This is going to be a beautiful shawl, methinks.

The second hint was just posted an hour or so ago, and it reveals some lovely surprises. I'm glad the first clue wasn't too daunting, but just challenging enough. Clue two is a bit more challenging. I can't wait to knit it up! Weekly progress reports to follow. :-)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Irons in the Fire

2008
New year. New projects. Christmas is now behind us for awhile, and knitting is more leisurely now, right?
Nope.

Here's a look at the current (all new within the last three weeks, with the exception of The Damn Socks ) projects on the needles:

THE DAMN SOCKS

Yes, these are the same socks, thank you very much. These socks are a curse. A plague, a pox. I started them in October. This is still my first sock. They are still going nowhere fast. I did finish the gusset.

Then I took a long look at the sock: It looked as though I were knitting for Bigfoot. What in the WORLD happened? The foot circumference was looking HUGE. There were SO many mistakes, too: It had fallen off the needles a couple of times, tension was erratic, and to top it off, a big loop of yarn appeared between two stitches. I took it to the North Austin meetup this past Sunday to get a diagnosis. (As far as I was concerned, it was terminal. Is there a sock hospice anywhere?)

Meanwhile at the meetup, Elizabeth, one of my knitting buddies, had just bought a lovely pair of size 1 wood sock needles and was working on a new pair of toe ups. She is not a violent knitter. She is witty, smart, plucky; rough and careless aren't words I'd use in the same breath to describe her. While knitting a stockinette stitch, one of them snapped. That's just crazy. These fancy-schmancy wood needles are not cheap. She despaired: She was now without needles, and nothing to work on for the next hour and a half. I looked at my Terminal Damn Sock. Without blinking, I whipped the needles out of them and held them before her. "Take 'em" I said. She protested, but I insisted. My decision was final, the action irrevocable. She was able to keep knitting her beautiful socks. I was able to punish mine.

So what did happen to make my sock so ..... malshapen? Alicia determined that my heel flap was the culprit: It was too long, and that's where all the stitches come from for the foot. This bit of information was news to me, but it makes sense. So I frogged the foot back about thirty or so rows. It felt good. All those mistakes disappeared in a pile of yarn. (With socks, I always seem to have a pile of yarn next to the skein. Very telling, isn't it?) Then I stopped. Maybe I could switch to size 0's instead, shrink the foot somewhat, then do a few decreases down toward the toe. So I stopped frogging. We'll see. It's just sitting, needleless, in it's grubby ziploc bag for now. Timeout for The Damn Socks. AGAIN.

THE MRS. DARCY CARDIE for Liz

So far, so good. I'm on row 23. Only four more rows of twisted rib. All the buttonholes are in, and I am about to begin shaping the V. Thanks to a generous and kind knitter in Thailand (THANKS, RIKI!) who participated in the KAL on Craftster.com, I have directions rewritten for knitting it in the round. What a relief that seaming is now limited. I worried about getting it right, since there is a wide band of ribbing right at the waist that would have to match up on the sides. A lot of knitters on Ravelry had problems there. The Malabrigo is so soft, so gorgeous: It is a real pleasure to knit with. Sometimes I just sit and pet it. The color is happy, spritely. My only (and very tiny) problem is the wide color variance in the skeins of Malabrigo. So I am knitting every other row on a different ball of the yarn so that it all comes out purty. Another knitting buddy, Heidi, called it "Macaroni and Cheese Sweater". Everyone at the meetup cracked up at that one.

SECRET OF THE STOLE ii
AKA SOTSii

Lace and I have a love hate relationship. I love it. It hates me. Clue 1 of the SOTSii had just been released. Everything was going along swimmingly. For once. Then, on row 35, I just lost the left needle. I don't even know what happened. Even though it was only seconds, it seemed like hours before I was able to look down and survey the damage.

It was bad. Really bad.
Five or six stitches had fallen off, and in a trice had melted into oblivion about 12 rows down.
Blink. It happened just that fast. I had no lifeline. (Serves me right to be so cocky about a repetitive pattern.) How far back did I have to go? Row 7. At least I didn't have to start over. After a couple of days of moping, I was able to get back to row 35. Then I paused for a bit: Got up, made cookies, did some chores, then sat down to squarely confront it again and get past that row. I knit four more rows. Then stopped for the day. I've learned when to stop. So that's where I am right now. Tomorrow I'll finish the last 13 rows of the clue, in the morning. I am sharpest, most productive and attentive in the morning. No lace knitting at night for me.

On Friday, clue 2 will be released. You better believe I'll have a lifeline inserted at the end of clue 1.

SPRING SHAWL SURPRISE

This is for me. It's also a real cluster. So many of the KAL participants have thrown in the needles on this one that it's easier to count those remaining in the pursuit than those who've left. This shawl makes one cranky, ornery, frustrated, and profane. So why continue? Because it's going to be gorgeous and so worth it in the end.

I couldn't do it if I had small kids or anything else that interrupted me constantly. This is a religious experience: It requires long stretches of solitude, undisturbed time, in deep concentration. (So what the heck am I doing knitting it?!?) I am taking my sweet time with this baby. I don't want to get so frustrated that I, too, throw up my hands in despair. So I have a plan: My goal is to knit five rows every time I sit down to work on it. No more, no less. And only in the morning. Five rows will allow me to see some progress, but won't tax my six brain cells to the point of overfatigue. When I get fatigued, I make stupid mistakes. I don't want to frog or tink this pattern. It is unforgiving. It is stingy and ungenerous. It lets you know who's the boss. But Oh My God Is It Beautiful.

CENTRAL PARK HOODIE

Last summer, I bought a whole kaboodle of Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran and DK weight yarn at a local yarn store offering it for 60% off. I bought every single skein in the store. It amounted to almost four hundred dollars at that price. Two totally stuffed 28 gallon bins worth in my infamous stash closet. There were 21 skeins of navy Aran flecked with purple, taupe, and gray. I used 3.5 of them in a cabled bag for a niece. The rest is going to MY Central Park Hoodie. It will be so warm, so cozy, so ..... me. Though the original sports an open front, I want to find some great buttons for it. That's a ways down the pike, but I'm already thinking about it. Right now I have to make a swatch before Thursday, when our Thursday morning knitting group is starting a Sweater KAL. Everyone is making or continuing to make a sweater. Carroll is making a Central Park Hoodie for herself, so we'll keep each other company. We can help each other. At least that's the plan. Some of the participants have made sweaters before, so they will take the hit during any crisis that develops. I will owe them lunch, dinner, and my first-born by the time I'm done, surely.

My husband will be grateful that I am finally using a big chunk of this pricey stash. Now I just need to find projects for the other 40 odd skeins of pink, natural, green, taupe, and goldish-brown. I love this yarn, and the price was just too good to pass on. It will get used. Promise.


And the other 4 giant bins and five shopping bags of yarn?

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

DRUM ROLL: Finally, something for moi

It's been a year and two months since I learned to knit. And I am not a scaredy-cat knitter, either. I keep pushing myself to try more complex projects with ever-wackier stitches all the time. Hardly a day goes by when I don't take a couple (or three) hours to zone out and knit. I have made something for everyone and their dog (literally), but nothing for myself. And that's included four tea cozies, two tank tops, one afghan, a baby blanket, two pairs of baby booties, a baby sweater, ten scarves, three hats, two shawls, six bags, and four DOG SCARVES (to go with the ones I made for their masters) ... and one sweater that I frogged after completing 7/8 of it. That's another story altogether, though.

That's about to change: I signed on for the Spring Shawl Surprise KAL, then got caught up, (what else is new?) knitting for everyone else. While swatching for the Secret of the Stole ii (which is for Claire), I stopped mid-stitch, right in the middle of the swatch, and thought "WAIT A MINUTE! MAKE SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF, STUPID!" Yes, I was screaming inside my own head. It was pretty scary. So I decided to get with the program and start the Spring Surprise Shawl in the gorgeous Malabrigo Lace "Geranio" that I'd just received a week earlier in a cute little box from Personal Threads.

Personal Threads is a brick and mortar yarn shop in Omaha, Nebraska. Through the never-ending stream of information gleaned on one of the Ravelry boards, I found out they were having a sale on darn near everything. And they shipped. Best Surprise of the New Year So Far: They are FAST! I received an online order acknowledgment in less than half an hour and had the cute little box from them in my hot hands in less than five days, standard shipping even. They're as good as Land's End, shipping-wise, and that's saying a lot. Woo hoo! The store must be huge, because they seem to have everything under the sun, in a dizzying array of colors and in decent quantities. I highly recommend checking them out. I don't know if I'll ever get to Omaha, but if I do, I'm making a beeline for this place. End of personal yarn store endorsement.

Back to the Spring Shawl Surprise: This shawl isn't for the faint of heart, but not impossible, either. It's a challenge. One just has to remember to breathe in, breathe out, and use a lot of lifelines. It has pattern on both sides. There are no 'resting rows', no mindless purling or stockinette to fill a lot of space. No, this is punishing stuff, row after row of YO's combined with k2tbl stuff or p3tbl, among other tricky athletic and acrobatic knitting maneuvers. Eeeek! 138 stitches in width and ultimately 570 rows, the first two clues of 88 rows reveal a beautiful, open, lacy extravaganza with an elaborate lace medallion border knit right into the pattern, mitering up the sides (no picking up and knitting at the end), and a large, rococo medallion just beginning to show a curve in clue 2. This one's for me. For making all those tea cozies, scarves, hats, tops, shawls, headbands, bags, baby gifts, and dog scarves. Oh, I'm still working on things for everyone else: Secret of the Stole ii for Claire, and the Mrs. Darcy Cardigan for Liz top the list. I'm just working this into the lineup, and stopped putting myself last on the list. That's my only resolution for 2008.

So there.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Secret of the Stole ii KAL: Swatching away

I'm on Ravelry, which is an incredible resource for knitters about EVERYTHING knitterly. There are groupings covering every kind of topic imaginable. So it's easy to go to the pattern tab and simply type in 'KAL'; up they pop. On one such search in November, this new kid popped up: Secret of the Stole ii. I was instantly intrigued, clicked on the link, and checked it out. Im guilty of signing up for a couple of KAL's, but never got past a swatch ... or even less. The overwhelming amount of email that members generate just daunts the heck out of me, even in Digest form. But THIS TIME I am determined to work along as the clues come out. I will finish! There's a huge a huge incentive in it for me: Claire's HS graduation. She wants a shawl for it, and this is a perfect way to keep me going consistently all the way to weaving in the last loose ends. As such, it will be my first KAL. Hoo boy.

The Secret of the Stole ii is organized and sponsored by DK the Nautical Knitter and her hubby. Every Friday for 12 weeks, beginning on January 18, a new "clue", which is the next section of the pattern, is posted to a file on the SOTSii Yahoogroups site to download and knit during the subsequent week, revealing a little more of the shawl's theme. We have no idea what the shawl is going to look like, which is part of the thrill. The pattern is secret, revealed slowly in these weekly increments of 40-odd rows (I think it's 40-odd rows -- it could be less) where all the magic happens. It rather 'unfolds' before our eyes as we knit. This charms me no end.

There is even a supporting site to help those who need technical help along the way, called Knit With Us, with tutorials and technique support via video clips. Awesome! Even novice knitters can do this.

If you are interested in signing up for this adventure, (and what lace knitter, or hope-to-be lace knitter wouldn't be?) time is of the essence: Enrollment closes on January 17, when they lock all the doors and bar the windows. So if this idea appeals to you, hie thyself to the site and sign up NOW. You will need roughly 1500 yards of laceweight yarn, and make a swatch from the PDF file on the site. There's no time to dilly-dally around! DK will offer the completed pattern for sale to the public after the KAL. We participants have, as they say, the inside track.

Amazingly, there are prizes for participating. One of the prizes is a KILO of cashmere. Can you IMAGINE?!?!? I am knitting my SOTSii (as it is affectionately known) from Malabrigo Lace in the Apple Green colorway. Just think of Granny Smith apples, and you get the idea. Claire saw the yarn and fell in love with it, so my finished Secret of the Stole ii is my personal present to her. :-) She's my baby. ::sigh::

My "Apple Green" Malabrigo Lace
... and a Granny Smith. Yummy, right?



Sophie snoozes nearby while I knit.

Works for both of us!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

FIRST DAY SCARF finished on the seventh day




The scarf I designed for Liz to match her alpaca tam is done! Just need to weave in two ends. But it's washed and blocked and ready to go to Philly with her tomorrow morning.

So now I can rest, right?

Well, yes and no. I promised to publish the pattern here when it was complete. I'll do that. Just not on this last night of Liz' stay.

1/11/08: I'm back to post the pattern for the FIRST DAY SCARF, as promised. Enjoy making this for yourself or as a gift, but not to sell in any way, shape, or form. That's a no-no. Thank you for respecting that.

FIRST DAY SCARF

MATERIALS
2 skeins Fable Handknits PURE BABY ALPACA, color 03, lavender. (100% baby alpaca, 22 stitches and 25 rows over 4" on 4.5mm (US 7) needles; 145 yards per skein) -- you will use roughly 1.5 skeins (approximately 220 yards)

4mm (US 8) circular or straight needles
stitch markers (optional)
tapestry needle for weaving in ends

GAUGE
Not critical for this project. My finished scarf was 6.25" X 54.5", washed and blocked.

PATTERN NOTES
Odd numbered rows are WRONG SIDE ROWS.
The first and last three stitches are always knit.

LOOSELY Cast on 34 stitches.
(I used a long tail cast-on.)

Row 1: (Wrong Side) K3, Purl to last 3 stitches, K3

Row 2: K3, *YO, K3, ssk, YO, sl1-k2tog-psso, YO, k2tog, K3, YO, K1; repeat once from*. K3 the last 3 stitches.

Row 3: K3, Purl to last 3 stitches, K3

Row 4: K3, *YO, K3, ssk, YO, sl1-k2tog-psso, YO, k2tog, K3, YO, K1; repeat once from*. K3 the last 3 stitches.

Row 5: K3, Purl to last 3 stitches, K3

Row 6: K3, *YO, K3, ssk, YO, sl1-k2tog-psso, YO, k2tog, K3, YO, K1; repeat once from*. K3 the last 3 stitches.

Row 7: K3, Purl to last 3 stitches, K3

Row 8: K3, *YO, K3, ssk, YO, sl1-k2tog-psso, YO, k2tog, K3, YO, K1; repeat once from*. K3 the last 3 stitches.

Row 9: K3, Purl to last 3 stitches, K3

Row 10: Knit the entire row.

Row 11: K3, Purl to last 3 stitches, K3

Row 12: K3, Purl to last 3 stitches, K3.

Repeat rows 1-12 a total of 23 times.

LOOSELY bind off the first three and last three stitches in knit; the middle 28 stitches in purl. Weave in ends. Wash in lukewarm water and mild soap, and block out to finished dimensions of 6.25" X 54.5".

* * * * * * * * * * *

Next up in the batters box: The Secret of the Stole ii swatch, and (eventually) the Mrs. Darcy Cardigan.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2008: First Day

In celebration of the first day of this 2008 New Year, this morning I designed and started knitting a scarf to complement the Qivuik Webs Tam I made for Liz. The scarf that matched the tam was a pain in the tookus, but I was determined to make SOMETHING for her to take back to school for the cold Philadelphia winter. After poring through tons and tons of patterns and finding nothing that had the right 'feel' and 'look' to it, I decided to design one myself. Armed with enough of the matching lavender Fable Handknit baby alpaca yarn, I'm on a fast track to finish it before she has to leave for school on the 9th. I'll publish the pattern when it's done. Already there are things that I'd change. Liz loves it though, so this first First Day Scarf is safe from the frogging machine, and will likely be finished and blocked by the weekend.

On New Year's Day 2007, I searched the web for dog rescue organizations in Austin, and found Ginger! Ginger is the star of my RAVELRY avatar, and has been a wonderful 'sister' to our senior pooch Sophie for the last ten months. It feels as if she's been a part of our family forever. A perfect fit.

New Year's Day is probably productive for me as I can't stand to sit around and mindlessly watch football for hours on end; a girl has to do something to entertain herself and drown out the trite and inane commentary, afterall.

Claire and Ginger this afternoon.