Sunday, December 31, 2006


In 2007, I would like to....

Knit a pair of argyle socks, incorporating variegated yarn in the diamonds.

Get those Flamingo socks figured out.

Design more projects myself.

Finish up my Master Knitting Level I program and send it in.

Knit an item for charity every time I knit for myself or a friend or family member.


Write. I'm ready, finally.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006


The thing I have resented most about being in my 40's is that my once-excellent memory has frequent, random moments of failure. My memory was failing so much a year ago that I went to the doctor, afraid I was suffering from early Alzheimer's. Apparently, I'm just a perimenopausal, middle-aged woman, and I have to get used to it. Well, crap. I don't want to get used to it. I don't like having to write things down in order to remember them.

Twice this week I have opened my front door to get the mail and discovered a small package addressed to me. I then looked at the return address and had no idea what was in the package, although I could tell it had to be yarn-related.

I couldn't remember ordering anything, let alone remember what I had ordered. I'm wasn't sure if this was middle-aged memory failure, or some sort of yarn-bender blackout problem.

The first package contained two sock kits I had ordered a couple months ago. They had been on back order, and therefore delayed for quite some time, so I could forgive myself for my intial puzzlement, but when I took a moment to process the return address, I realized what was in the package.

These beauties.

The colors, despite my attempt to color-correct in LView, are not quite right. The red is a deeper, bluer red. No so orangey. The blue is sort of right, but the photo is too dark.

The second package came yesterday, from Angel Yarns in far-off England. I had absolutely no idea what would be in the package. I assumed yarn, but what sort, I had no idea.

Imagine my delight when I found these inside:

Regia 4-ply in colors even better than they appear here.

And then this:

Be still my heart. I actually squealed, I was so delighted. I love variegated and self-striping yarns, but after a while, some of them start to feel awfully same-ish. Like I already have some pretty similar to what's begin offered.

But this.

This is so beautiful, speaks to me like no yarn has in a long while, I'm almost afraid to knit it up for fear that it will never meet my expectations. Almost. I had just started a new pair of socks the night before, though, and it took every single bit of self-control not to cast on a new pair from this Opal Rainbow. I did, however, knit long and hard into the night so as to hurry along the progress of the Austermann Step mit Aloe Vera sock.

Hmm. Apparently, the secret to good color matching is to photograph under my Ott Lite with no flash. Curious.

The sooner these babies are done, the sooner I can get to that Opal.

I'm beginning to think this whole middle-age thing isn't so bad. I get the best surprise presents, and they're always just want I wanted. I could get used to this.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Short Attention Span Theatre

So I ripped back the heel and gusset on the Flamingo sock and drew pictures and did math and tried to figure out how to make the @#$% toe-up foot work. And then I had a great idea: provisional cast on, knit the leg up so the chart is easier to read, then knit the heel and foot downwards so I can get the foot to fit right.

That's the sort of decision/realization/epiphany that is satisfying, but is not conducive to an immediate do-over.

So I started some mindless socks last night, and worked on them while we watched My Super Ex-Girlfriend on DVD, after we got back from our second night in a row out to dinner sans any other immediate or extended family members. Both nights we've headed out the door around 7:30, thinking we were on the late side, and were more concerned that the neighborhood restaurant would still be serving dinner than whether we could still get a seat. Well. It seems everyone in town is sick of turkey, ham, and egg nog, and it seems they are sick of it at 7:30 p.m. Who knew? Not us. And the first night we went out, neither did the tiny, neighborhood Asian Fusion restaurant.

Here are my new socks-in-progress:

Austermann Step, mit Aloe Vera und Jojoba Öl
Color 18, "vulkan" (volcano)
Needles: Knit Picks Classic circular 2.5mm, Magic Loop
Gauge: 9 sts, 12 rows/inch
64 sts

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Perfect Vacation

The girls are in NYC with their nana and aunt, having a great time. Michael just got home last night from his little ski trip. I stayed home and had my own fun.

I finished these for Al on Christmas Eve:

(obligatory photo of socks without ends woven in)

Here's a close up:

Pattern: GI Dennis socks, by Jeanie Townsend, which is free, if you're a member of Jeanie's yahoo group, TSKAL (TSocksKnitAlong)
Yarn: 2+ balls of Lana Grossa Meilenweit in color 1289, which I believe is called "Shades of Boring Manliness" (I used more than 2 balls of this because I made the legs longer than normal)
Needles: Five Inox 2.75mm dpns

Christmas morning, I drove the girls, et al to the airport. I spent the day sitting on the bed with the dog, eating food that was bad for me right from the containers --Ben and Jerry's Fudge Brownie ice cream along with diet Coke and sour cream and onion potato chips -- and watching Pride and Prejudice (the version from last year with Kiera Knightly) all the way through, with no one interrupting me at key moments. Then I watched The Family Stone on DVD, followed by Failure to Launch, followed by Pride and Prejudice again.

I also started these:

My first toe-up socks in Regia Silk, which is really slippery, but wonderfully soft. My stitches are a bit wonky on the foot. They were fine when I was increasing for the toe, but when I got to 64 stitches and started knitting plain rounds, I did what I always do at that point, which is to knit past the end of one dpn and onto the first couple stitches of the next one. Which resulted in crappy looking stitches, for some reason. I switched back to knitting the stitches to their assigned needles and it got better. Go figure.

I'm not a big fan of knitting toe-up, but this is one case where I think it'll eventually end up to my advantage. I'm using the heel flap and gusset in Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks. She has just one set of toe-up socks using this method in the book, and because of that, the directions don't seem to be as complete as they are for the cuff down socks, making this project a bit frustrating. The main issue I have is where to start the heel flap on the sole. This heel flap is under the heel, and done in stocking stitch, so knitting it to the length I would normally knit a flap results in fewer slipped end stitches than with the condensed heel flap stitch--which gives you more rows/inch than st st--which means the back of the heel doesn't come up far enough to the ankle once the gusset stitches are decreased.

These will be the Flamingo socks I began to design in November. The flamingo is in reverse stocking stitch, with twisted stitches and slanting decreases bordering it. I totally stole this idea from the Tsarina of Tsocks ( after I received my long-awaited sock kits. One of the kits, Poseidon, has reverse stocking stitch dolphins, which is what gave me the idea for the flamingo socks to begin with, but her technique of outlining the dolphins is totally brilliant, so naturally, I stole it.

The Flamingo socks are knit mostly in Regia Silk, but will have fuzzy pink novelty yarn with bits of metallic gold used as embellishment on the wings and head. Maybe a bead or two here and there for added excitement. I decided toe-up would make the chart easier to follow because I'll be able to see the flamingo right-side up as I knit it, but for now, I'm struggling with the @!#$% heel flap and gusset.

Tuesday I watched Pride and Prejudice again, then I read the book to see what they had to cut/change in order to condense it to movie length. It's tough to read the slower paced, wordy, omniscient writing of the early 19th century when you're used to the fast-paced world of 3rd person limited fiction written 200 years later. I think this screen adaptation did the story great justice. Sigh. I totally get the whole Darcy thing now.

Wednesday I went to knitting group in the morning, and then went to Target and bought Pride and Prejudice on DVD so I could listen to the commentary (I'd been watching it on TiVo). Then my honey came home from Colorado, we went out for dinner, and here I am, ready for more knitting. Plus I'm going to go to the movie theater to see The Holiday.

Oh wait a minute! I just now thought of this...I'll do the decrease rounds less frequently so as to end up with a longer heel. Oh, duh. Excuse me while I go frog a gusset.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Aspen, we hardly knew ye

It's been a hectic few weeks, what with holiday preparations, celebrations, birthdays, end-of-quarter tests, and getting ready for an extended-family vacation in Colorado. Yes, Colorado, where the Denver airport has been closed for several days and won't open any runways until sometime this afternoon, and even then won't be back to full capacity.

Our flight was canceled Wednesday night. Michael received an automated phone call on his cell, just as we were sitting down for dinner at Applebee's for Nina's birthday dinner, telling us our flight had been canceled. He spent the rest of the evening, into the wee morning hours, trying to find a way to get us there. No go. Nina spent most of Friday evening crying. Four hours. I haven't seen her cry that long since she was a colicky baby. When I asked her what she was saddest about, she said, "Not seeing my family! I don't even care about the skiing."

In all my years of air travel, I have experienced airport closures, flight cancelations, crappy weather, overbooked flights, etc. and never once have I been in a situation where there was absolutely no way I could get where I wanted to go. I might be a day late, but I always got there. The combination of timing, amount of snow, lack of airports in the strip of the country (the nearest real airport is Salt Lake City, seven hours west of Aspen and they were completely booked, so we couldn't rent a car from there) all conspired to make the trip impossible. The earliest date we could have gotten there was Dec. 27, a day after the rest of the family would be leaving. We considered driving from the Twin Cities to Aspen, but the storm that hit Denver was moving up the path toward the Cities, so even that wasn't possible.

My reaction? As soon as I heard the news my shoulders relaxed, because I knew my evening wouldn't be as stressful. After dinner, I was scheduled to take Sophia to her skating lesson (she's working on her first figure skating program and getting ready for the test Jan. 6) and then we were to go home and finish packing, which is easy in the case of Nina, who is organization personified, but not-so-easy in the case of Sophia, who is entropy personified. So I didn't have to focus on packing.

Instead, I knit. I knit until late in the evening, and then knit for many hours yesterday. I finished these:

Mountain Colors Bearfoot, in Bitterroot
Needles: Inox 2.75mm dpns
Gauge: 8 sts/in
60 sts

I immediately cast on for Al's second sock, which has been waiting since August for its turn. I'm sure I'll work on a couple other things, too, this week, including Barbara's birthday scarf, which I'm making from a chartreusy-green Misty Alpaca I got from the SnB gift exchange (thank you, Connie!). I also want to cast on another pair of socks for myself, because I just don't have enough wool socks to satisfy myself, but I have so much sock yarn that I have stasher's guilt.

My MIL gave me a gift certificate to Needlework Unlimited for Hanukkah, which I used the first chance I could. I bought Sensational Knitted Socks, which is so terrific I can hardly stand it, plus some Brown Sheep Wildefoote, and more Mountain Colors Bearfoot (in Ruby River Red), and a ball of pink fuzzy novelty yarn with gold metallic bits to use as accent yarn for the flamingo socks I'm designing.

Off to knit...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Projects for the Princesses due: Friday, 7 pm.
Projects for the Princesses completed: Friday, 6:20 pm

The Princesses* are a group of writer friends who have been together for something like five years. We originally got together as a study group, a combination of a reading group/critique group. We read books from a writer's perspective, analyzing them for plot, character arc, etc. Now we just get together to talk, eat, and drink. Friday was our annual December night out (we usually get together at one or another's house) and gift-giving extravaganza. Last year, my gift to each was a little hand knit sock ornament with a gift certificate for the hand knit item of their choice. Friday was the last installment of the knitted gift distribution.

I completed Tina's third mitten in the middle school commons while Sophia competed in the Academic Triathalon after school. The first mitten was cannibalized for extra thrums, so my plan to give her all three (a pair and a spare) was abandoned. After that, I wove in the ends of Mary's scarf because I decided I didn't think she was a fringe girl. Actually, I decided she wasn't a fringe girl when I realized I didn't have time. Katie's mittens needed their ends woven in, too. Anyone detecting a pattern here? I hate weaving in ends. Ro's mittens were completed the day before, ends and everything, so no worries there.

All gifts were loved and appreciated, and someone took a picture of them all wearing their knitted loot, but not with my camera, because I forgot my camera. Forgetfulness was my middle name Friday. I forgot to bring Tina's thrums with me to the Triathalon, so I had to make a trip home to get them. When I get the pics, I'll post them.

*We call ourselves the Princesses because that's what Monica wanted. Whatever Monica wants, she gets. We each have a princess name and often bestow princess-related gifts to each other.

New knitting - my favorite kind
Saturday morning I cast on a new sock while Sophia skated.

No, it's not Al's second GI Dennis sock, which is what I should have cast on for. It's a sock for me, in Mountain Colors Bearfoot. The color: Bitterroot Rainbow. It has a brownish base to it, with lots of touches of bright colors. I love this yarn. It's so soft. And deliciously warm. I don't appear to have second sock syndrome during the winter, when it comes to my own feet. (Sorry, Al.)

I do seem to have some sort of psychological need to have all in-progress projects complete by the end of the year, though, which is good news for Al and the recipient of the Seaman's scarf that has 3 balls of cashmere/alpaca/merino left to go and will be no hardship to complete. I make exceptions to the year-end "rule" for large projects like afghans and Aran sweaters, but I predict January will bring with it new enthusiasm for my FLAK sweater and my Lizard Ridge afghan.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Last thrum walking

This is where I was on Ro's mittens about an hour ago:

I had decreased the top from 48 sts down to 16, 4 sts per round and I had one last round of thrums to do before the final two decrease rounds. I needed 4 thrums. This is how many I had:

Not quite enough. I pawed through my knitting bag, looked under my bed, ransacked my bedside table, the box of yarn/projects near my bedside table, the storage bin under my bed. Two weeks ago I was walking around with thrums stuck to my back when I went to the grocery store, and now there isn't a single one to be found? Not a single wisp of roving?

I am nothing if not resourceful and creative. I have lots of black yarn. I cut a length of Cascade 220, separated the plies, folded the lengths into quarters, dampened them slightly and felted them the teensiest bit.

I had a thrum:

Now, for probably the first time ever, a picture of a finished object with all the ends woven in:

That's one down. Next up, Tina's third mitten. I made all the thrums this morning, which is what always drags out the making of the thrummed mitten.

Oops, almost forgot:
Yarn: Cascade Quattro (each of the 4 plies is a different shade of purple); black roving
Needles: Knit Picks Options, sizes 3.25 mm and 4.0 mm
Technique: 2 mittens on 1 circular, using Magic Loop, until I started to go nuts and put each of them on their own cable, switching the tips back and forth every couple thrummed rows.
Pattern: This is a free pattern from Yarn Forward. I learned to make thrums from the Yarn Harlot's Thrum FAQ

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Gift knitting countdown

To do:
  • Finish Ro's thrummed mittens. Deadline: 12/8/06
  • Knit Tina a third thrummed mitten, because the first one was kind of flat and the second one was nice and poofy. Deadline: 12/8/06
  • Make little napkin-ring thingies for eight friends (including the two above) that will hold this year's gift certificate.
  • Graft LBR's sock back together. Deadline: 12/10/06
  • Knit Al's second GI Dennis sock (remember to count repeats on leg first). Deadline: 12/18/06

Things not to do:
  • Design kitschy flamingo socks
  • Search Internet for funky pink novelty yarn
  • Make the cat a moebius bed
  • Make more Lizard Ridge afghan squares
  • Start a pair of socks for myself
  • Start another pair of socks for myself
  • Plan all my vacation trip knitting.
  • Start on my vacation trip knitting.
  • Spend valuable knitting time blogging about how I'm not getting my To Do items finished.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Not-so-Pretty Petals

Mystery Solved
Kill Me Now

I brought the short-of-Koigu socks up from the laundry room yesterday to show to a friend who was over receiving sock knitting advice. After she left, I placed one sock on top of the other found myself puzzled, because they didn't appear to be the same size. How could that be? After I knit the 6 pattern repeats on the leg, I counted the number of rows on the first sock's heel flap 158 times to make sure the second one would be exactly the same length. I counted every row of the first sole to make sure I knit exactly the same number for the second.

Then I lined them up on the counter heel-to-heel, instead of cuff-to-cuff.

The pattern says to work six repeats on the leg, or however many desired. Apparently, I desired five repeats in August, which accounts for why I had some yarn leftover on that sock but not the second sock. Of course, while I was counting heel stitches and rows of knitting on the foot, I could have counted the number of lace repeats on the frigging sock leg.

Note to self: tell Cynthia she may want to search for sock advice elsewhere.

The genius women at knitting group today listened to my tale of woe, and then one of them (Connie? Beth?) suggested cutting the leg right above the heel flap of the longer one and ripping out the extra pattern repeat and then Kitchenering it back together. There are four rows of stockinette between the end of the lace and beginning of the heel flap, so it'll be reasonably easy to graft.

Thank goodness for that period of mourning I must go through after I discover a soul-crushing knitting error. Can you imagine how upset I'd be if I had ripped out the whole foot before someone suggested grafting?

In other news...
I have 9 days to finish 2 halves of 2 thrummed mittens, plus the extra thrummed mitten for Tina. Because I have a deadline, I am actively avoiding it by designing kitschy flamingo socks, involving eyelash yarn and beads for embellishment. More on that another day.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Balloon in a bowl

Nothing like a cool project that doesn't take a lot of time, and also teaches me something new. Here, you see the moebius bowl, pre-felting.

That Cat Bordhi, she can write instructions. Because that moebius cast on is not something just anyone could figure out.

I'm a multi-tasking mom. I sat on the couch, finishing up the decrease rounds of the moebius bowl while Sophia did homework and asked me questions, then I secured the tail, threw the thing into the wash with some dishtowels, and while they were agitating, I slipped into the "craft room" next to the laundry area of the basement and finished up a pair of pajama bottoms that needed the safety-pinned elastic sewn together and the casing hole sewn shut, and then the leg hems finished. By that time, the agitation was complete, I searched the family closet for a balloon and voila! Manos moebius.

While in the laundry room, I gave the Pretty Petals socks that spent the night drying on the wooden rack a squeeze and contemplated how much my mother really needed a pair of socks, particularly that pair. Very soft, those Koigu socks.

This morning, the balloon had deflated, but it had done its job shaping the bowl:

Again, I'm not sure I want to part with this bowl.

Mano a Manos

I didn't get out of the yarn shop yesterday with just a $4 skein of leftover yarn. I bought a hank of Cascade 220 in black, for Tina's third mitten, and this:

Manos del Uruguay, color 116, which I believe is called "Caribe." I've always thought of Manos as a rustic yarn, but it is, in fact, very soft -- a mixture of merino and Corriedale. I want a whole sweater made out of this stuff. I'm sure it wouldn't cost more than two or three hundred dollars. Sigh. Maybe a hat.

I cast on immediately (well, after I finished the toe on the Pretty Petals sock) to make a Moebius bowl. I completed the handle and made it half way or so down the bowl when I put it down last night. I probably would have kept going till I had finished, if it weren't a school day today. I like the 4 1/2 day weekend. Once the cooking was finished, I got a whole lot of knitting done.

The bowl will be felted and then sent to my math-professor father, who will undoubtedly appreciate the art of the moebius bowl. I plan to make a moebius cat bed once my holiday gift knitting is done. I have this crazy idea that the cat won't sit on my arm while I type, if I give him a bed to curl up in. He sits on my arm, because I won't let him sit here:

Cat-induced writer's block.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I forgive you, Koigu

My LYS, Needlework Unlimited, opened today at noon and I was there at 12:01.
First, they had the yarn I needed. It was even the same dye lot, but the lovely woman working back by the Koigu display told me something incredible when I told her all I really needed was about 5 yards. She said that Koigu sends NU the "loose ends" and that they had them on a table over by the needle point supplies. I didn't know what she meant by loose ends, until she explained that at the end of a dye lot, they have leftovers that aren't enough for a whole 50 gr skein, and they send them to NU, which in turn sells them for 25 cents a gram.

There were two of these "loose end" skeins in my colorway. One was a 35 gr skein (waaayyy more than I needed) in the same dye lot as the socks, and another was a 16 gr skein (still more than I needed, but less than half of the other one)in a different dye lot that, oddly, seemed to match better, colorwise, although the percentage of light green seemed quite a bit higher. There isn't really any dark green in it at all. It's the toe, though, so who cares? And $4, not $12, which made me very happy.

The next time I buy Koigu, I'm searching that bucket o' leftover goodness for a little toe insurance, either matching, or coordinating. Either way, it's a wonderful thing.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Oh, Noro, how I covet thee...

There are two types of knitting I'm not crazy about: scarves and afghans, mostly because of the rectangular sameness of it. Add garter stitch to it, and the revulsion is complete. I'm not clear at all about why the most popular first project is a garter stitch scarf. It's a wonder anyone goes on to knit anything else. My first project was a sleeveless, v-neck cotton sweater. It never occured to me to knit anything else. In fact, I probably didn't knit anything but sweaters for 10 years, when I started making fruit caps for babies (mine, and then others).

A year ago, for Christmas, I gave each of my close friends a gift certificate for a hand-knit item of their choice. To my dismay, three (three!) of them chose scarves. One wanted an Aran-style/cable-y scarf, which I happily knit, once I corrected the three major errors in the pattern.*

Another one wanted a black (black!) novelty-yarn scarf with bits of bright colors strewn through it. I finished that one in an evening. The third specified colors she liked, but nothing else. I made her a multi-directional diagonal scarf (still needs fringe, though). It's a garter stitch pattern, made tolerable by short rows and frequent increasing and decreasing. I was finished. Completado. No more scarves.

Until I happened to be perusing the Lion Brand website (I'm still not sure why I was doing that) and noticed they had a cashmere blend (more like a merino blended with a bit of cashmere and nylon) at a quite-reasonable price, which was discounted (a week later, the price went up and the discount went down). They also had a free pattern for what I felt was a very interesting item: the reversible cable scarf. Yes, a scarf. I ordered the yarn, and that was it. Until I found myself at the Knit Picks website a few minutes later (I think I was ordering more tips for my Options needles when I accidentally filled in the fields to search for cashmere blends.) Turns out Knit Picks has an even nicer cashmere blend yarn - Panache - which is baby alpaca, cashmere, silk, and superfine merino. And wouldn't you know it, there was a free Windowpane Seaman's Scarf pattern for that yarn. The next thing I knew, packages were arriving at my door filled with yarn I barely remembered ordering. I think this is the knitter's equivalent to a blackout caused by excessive drinking.

Somewhere in there, I found myself at the liquor store yarn shop five blocks from my house fondling Noro Kureyon and dreaming about Lizard Ridge afghans. Afghans! I had just finished Nina's Taste of Aran afghan, and I was thinking about making another afghan? Afghans are like scarves, only bigger. How could I be contemplating another afghan? I bought 9 balls of Kureyon that day -- every colorway the LYS had that I found appealing. Then I went online to find more colorways, and somehow I ended up with 10 more colors on a wishlist.

* I just looked at the designer's website, and she posted a corrected pattern just two days after I emailed her back in January. Which means I can happily recommend this pattern! It's absolutely gorgeous. It's Alison's Scarf by Annie Modesitt. I came across it originally on an Internet search, and then later saw it in my 2006 Pattern a Day calendar, too.

Climbing Lizard Ridge
Yesterday, I made this, the first of 24 squares:

Noro Kureyon, color 102. Everyone in the house finds this square repulsive, except for me. Michael deemed the square "'70s colors," Nina and Sophia thought some of the colors were okay, "except for the purple," only they didn't agree on which color was purple. Sophia wanted to know what I was planning to do "with that weird afghan you're making." This is the girl who huddles under the thin rayon chenille throw I bought at Costco. What possible use could this family, who lives in Minnesota, have for a wool afghan? Hmmmm.

After I made the square, I worked on my mom's Pretty Petals socks for a couple hours, getting past the heel flap, heel turn, and the gusset pick-up. A few more days and they'll be done!

Then I went down to the basement, where I had the Knit Picks cashmere stored, and knit the first of (approximately) five skeins the Seaman's scarf will take.

While I worked on this, Michael and I watched Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," trying not to get too depressed about the state of the environment and global warming.

All in all, a good knitting day, except for the derogatory remarks from the peanut gallery.

But back to the knitting group the other day, someone mentioned that WEBS had good prices on Noro and that when you bought a certain quantity, you got a nice discount. I like Noro and I like discounts. So this morning, I went to the WEBS site, clicked on Noro, and guess what I found? Noro has a new cashmere blend, Called Noro Cashmere Island! It's a dk weight, and I like the colors. I started calculating how much of it I would need for a cardigan, what my discount would be, etc., completely forgetting that I had come to look for Kureyon for my Lizard Ridge afghan. You know what else I found out, while Googling for more pictures of Noro Cashmere Island? Noro makes yarn for machine knitting. I have a knitting machine. I have two knitting machines: my SIL's old bulky-weight, completely manual knitting machine, and my "regular" weight, quite-computerized knitting machine that I haven't used for 10 years.

I really have to stop Googling for yarn. Although, have you been to the Philosopher's Wool website recently?

I had to recharge my camera before I could download the pictures. While that was happening, I worked on my mom's Pretty Petals socks. As I headed toward the toe, I began worrying about having enough yarn. Koigu is on the skimpy side of yardage for socks, and I'd run out of Koigu when I made my first Pomatomus sock, but that was a 72-stitch pattern (Pretty Petals is only 64 sts), and I was just getting the hang of Norwegian purling, so I was using more yarn than I should have, which I could tell after I bought a 3rd skein mail-order, spent two months knitting other things and getting better at Norwegian purl, and then knitting the second Pomatomus sock using just one skein of Koigu and finding that sock was a bit narrower than the first. But I digress...

The first Pretty Petals sock, knit this past summer in time for my mother to try it on when she was here for a visit, used most of a skein of Koigu, but I had enough left over that I didn't worry about the second skein. Unfortunately, I used the leftovers from that skein as scrap yarn for various other socks. I say "unfortunately," because here's what happened last night when I was about half-way through the toe decreases:

I need about five yards of this. If my LYS, where I bought this last spring, doesn't have any, I'm going to have to rip out the toes of both and knit them in green. Koigu apparently doesn't make this colorway any more, and googling for KPPPM P149 gives me exactly one hit: this blog. (Note: I have since discovered that I misread the handwritten label for this yarn. It's actually P140, which I can find online. Thank goodness.) I have put out an APB to several yahoo groups and the TKGA forum, and I sent a note to Shelly, asking her if she has any in her impressive sock yarn leftovers stash (sadly, she does not). I actually filled out Koigu's Contact Form last night, asking them if they had any in their backroom, gathering dust, but clicking on the Submit button resulted in a minor explosion and a request for a login id and password.

Koigu, I love thee, but from now on, I'm knitting you toe up.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Yay, it's almost Thanksgiving!

My favorite holiday of the year, because it's all about food and family. Nothing to do with religion. I've been making Thanksgiving dinner since I was 13 years old, which works out to mmfff-1 years. There have been a few years when I didn't make it, but I enjoy the planning, the preparation, and the eating. Any time I can get other people to come over, I invite them.

On the menu this year:
Gingered Delicata Squash Soup
Green salad (courtesy the mil)
Honey Wheat bread (Sophia makes that in the bread machine)
Good Eats Roast Turkey
Cranberry conserve
Braised Brussels sprouts
Crockpot Spicy Glazed Carrots
Two-tone Roasted Potatoes*
Twice-baked potatoes (for the kids, who don't like sweet potatoes, even when coated with cinnamon, chili, garlic and roasted to perfection)
Brown rice/parmesan cheese casserole (courtesy of sil)

*"Two-tone" because the recipe calls for baking potatoes and sweet potatoes. I use just sweet potatoes.

for dessert:
Pumpkin Pie
Cranberry-Apple crisp
Melted-Center Hot Fudge Cakes

That's a lot of food for six people, but it's Thanksgiving and I can't help myself. I like everything on the menu (except the carrots, as yet, because haven't made those before), but everyone else has at least one thing they don't care for. No one likes pumpkin pie, except for me (and now Sophia), but I decided years ago that was no reason not to make it, because I love it. More leftovers for me! Yay. There are things not on our menu that other families always have. Stuffing. Gravy. Green bean casserole. Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows (Hasn't anyone tasted a plain sweet potato? Why on earth would you need to add any sugar?). Jellied cranberry sauce where you can see the ridges from the can. Food snob, that's me.

The recipes come from a variety of places -- the newspaper, various cookbooks, the Internet, TV shows. Every year I try a couple new things, usually a vegetable dish I hope the kids will like. Every year, the kids will at least taste some of the "favorites" on the menu and are gradually accepting things as they see them every year.

This afternoon I'll be making pie, prepping the chocolate cakes (after the ramekins I ordered arrive), making the brine for the turkey, so it'll be cool tomorrow morning. The cranberry conserve was taken care of yesterday, so that the flavors have time to meld.

Before the cooking starts, though, I'm off to my knitting group!

Monday, November 20, 2006

What have I done lately?

Mittens for Ro, in progress:

This is not an accurate representation of this color. The yarn is more purply, less blue. It has more red in it than is shown here.

I decided to do 2 mittens on one circular needle, to avoid a repeat of the unmatched mitten problem I had with Tina's thrummed mittens. Turns out I hate that, so I moved one of the mittens to another cable and decided to do 2 at once on 2 separate needles. A couple rows on one, then a couple rows on the other. They're going much faster that way.

Yarn: Cascade Quattro in 4 (surprise, surprise) shades of purple, with black thrums. This roving came from a sheep with curlier hair than the blue roving I used for Tina's mittens.
Needles: Knit Picks Options circulars US 6/4mm
Pattern: Free Thrummed Mittens pattern, from Yarn Forward

Next up, this reversible (Reversible! Isn't that cool?) cabled scarf, for a man to be named later:

One more ball (of 4) left to go. This is only the 3rd no wait, the 4th, dammit, the 5th scarf I have ever knit, because I find them, in general, boring to knit. (You see how I was repressing how many I've knit? And all in the past 11 months.) I make exceptions for interesting stitch patterns, or interesting yarn that only takes one skein to produce a scarf. And once, because a friend requested a scarf in a black (black!) novelty (blech) yarn with multi-colored confetti thingies attached to it. The good news on that one was that it only took one evening on large needles, which is probably why is was so easy to repress.

At any rate, the scarf above is fun to knit because there are cables on both sides, and because the yarn is so soft. (The scarf has become less entrancing the further into it I get; scarves are boring)

Yarn: Lion Cashmere Blend, in charcoal (72% Merino Wool, 15% Nylon, 13% Cashmere). I bought this online maybe a month ago when the list price was $7.99 and there was a 15% online discount. A week later, the price was up to $8.99 with an 11% discount.
Pattern: Free from the Lion website. Reversible Cable Scarf
Needles: 5.5mm Aero needles (US 8, I think)

This scarf, for a friend:

Still needs fringe, but I haven't decided what kind, yet. And it's kind of scratchy, which is disappointing. It felt soft to the hand, but when I held it to my face...itchy, itchy, scratch, scratch. It sure is pretty, though

My next camera's chief requirement will be to accurately capture the color of knitted items in natural light.

Yarn: Mountain Colors Mountain Goat. Color: Alpine (I think) and more than one skein of it, which I didn't expect, based on the yardage listed in the pattern, and which caused a bit of a panic when I went to my LYS, Needlwork Unlimited, for another skein just two weeks after I bought the first one, and we couldn't find any and I thought I'd have to frog the whole thing and start over with a pattern that didn't eat so much yarn. I got a voice mail from them a few hours later. "Don't frog that scarf! We found another skein in the back room!"
Needles: I have no idea. 5mm? 5.5mm? Aeros, I know that. I love my Aeros.
Pattern: Multi-directional diagonal scarf

Next up, these socks:

I had knit one of these last summer, so only had to knit one to make a pair. I kind of like this system of sock knitting. I can't wear them in the summer, therefore I'm in no hurry to complete a pair, so I tend to knit one of a pair, sock after sock. Now that it's cold and I want socks, I feel like I get a whole pair for only half the work. I'm not sure what it says about me that a) I delude myself and b) I'm fully aware of the delusion.
Yarn: Opal Silk, in colorway 1123 (purchased online from England. I couldn't find it here in the U.S.) (70% superwash wool, 30% silk). And, hey, it's dye lot #1.
Needles: Inox 2.75mm dpns (5 of them, my preference)
I love the color, and how these feel on my feet, but by the end of the day they're kind of saggy. I didn't think the amount of silk would make that happen.

And now these socks, for my mom:

Yarn: Koigu KPPPM, in colorway P149 P140
Needles: Inox 2.75mm dpns
Pattern: Pretty Petals, by Jeanie Townsend, available free in the Townsend KAL yahoo group files
My mom has trouble keeping her socks up (normal ankles, skinny calves) so I either have to knit her ribbed socks (boorrring) or some sort of variation thereof. This fits the bill. She loves yellow, and especially loves daffodils. I have a feeling she's going to like these a lot.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Dyed and gone to heaven

Oct. 29
The afghan is done. The sewing up and weaving in of the ends took forever. At the moment, it's soaking in the washing machine with some lavendar Eucalan, along with my ancient Aran pullover. Then it's blocking time!

{six days later...}

Okay, I've been knitting, and I have lots of stuff to share, but I'll save that for another day. I have to share my first dyeing experience.

I was at knitting group the other day, wearing my favorite sweater. It's 10 or 15 years old. I was an okay knitter back then. Not so great on the finishing, but I still love the sweater. I wear it a lot during the fall and winter. Last winter, I wore it while decluttering the basement. Instead of just having dingy cuffs, which the sweater had for a number of years, it ended up with this on the front:

I washed this thing every way I could think of and couldn't get the stains out. I still wore the sweater -- holding my purse in front of me, or crossing my arms, if I wore it in public -- but I had decided I was going to have to relegate my beloved to yard work and wearing around the house. I did wear it to knitting group on Wednesday (too cold and windy not to), and showed the stains to the other knitters. One of them (Connie, I think) had the brilliant idea of dyeing the sweater. That had never occured to me. I drove from knitting group to Creative Fibers and bought two packets of this:

Then I got myself over to Value Village, just down the street, in search of a pot to dye the sweater in. No luck. I briefly searched eBay and decided that was pointless. Most pots were new or close to it, and the shipping wasn't worth it. So I went to Target and got this:

Fifteen bucks, brand new. There are two choices for a dye pot: enameled or stainless steel. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to tell whether or not a used pot was stainless steel, and if you haven't seen the going rate for a new stainless steel stock pot, you'd better sit down before you look. Good old Graniteware is light weight and enameled, so as to avoid acid reaction to the pot surface. Perfection.

I did want to try cleaning the sweater one more time, because I was concerned that the stains would just get darker, along with the sweater, and I wouldn't have a sweater any more wearable in public than I had before.

Shelly suggested Oxy Clean ("but don't soak it for too long") and said it had been discussed online before. So I googled around and couldn't find out why Oxy Clean warns against using their product on wool. Did it leach the color? Irrelevant to a garment made of undyed wool. Did it destroy the integrity of the fiber? One of the ingredients is the same as that found in bleach (not the chlorine, but something else). A dissolving sweater would be a problem.

Bill, on the TKGA forum, suggested I knit up a large swatch of natural wool and see what Oxy Clean would do to it. That seemed reasonable. I headed back to Target and searched the laundry detergent aisle. I read the Oxy Clean label. "Do not use on wool." I couldn't bring myself to put it in my basket. I couldn't bear to sacrifice a swatch knit just for that purpose.

Next to the Oxy Clean were other "laundry boosters." Good old Biz, which I used on my kids' clothes when then were babies. Next to that was Borax. I read the label. You can use that stuff to clean anything, it seems, including your delicate garments. No warnings about not using it on certain fabrics. Hmm. So home it went.

Borax says to soak delicates in a basin with 1/4 cup Borax and 1-2 tablespoons of laundry detergent for 30 minutes. I use liquid Tide Free for my laundry, including my machine washable delicates, so I figured I'd try that. I doubled the amount of Borax, because my kitchen sink is huge. In went the sweater. I squeezed the sweater in the water and set the timer for 30 minutes. Fifteen minutes later, I checked the sweater.

I couldn't believe my eyes. In fact, I flipped the sweater over because I thought I was looking at the back. Here's what Borax and Tide Free did to my sweater:

The cuffs are still a bit dingy, but better

Check out the water (I put the stopper back in when I saw how dirty it was, just so I could document it):

The Beloved Aran is a sweater that I had soaked and squeezed in various cleansing agents three or four times since its tragic staining. Never had I seen dirty water. This water was filthy.

I briefly reconsidered dyeing the sweater, but I already had the dye in the pot, and I wanted to learn how to dye wool, so after a brief rinse in clean water, in it went.

I had put enough water in the pot (I thought) to cover the sweater, but the level was a bit low, so I added more water after the fact, and worried that the dye wouldn't be evenly distributed in the water. I also worried that the pot really wasn't big enough. I would have bought a 20 qt stock pot (5 gallons!) if I'd found one, but 16 qts was all Target had. I gently lifted and stirred in hopes that the dye would be well distributed. A half-hour later I decided the water was as exhausted as it was going to get. After rinsing and a spin in the washer to get most of the water out, here's what it looked like:

Looks a little like faded denim. It's not evenly dyed (damn, you, 16 qt stock pot!), but I don't know that if even in the best of circumstances it could have worked out much better. The dense texture of the Trinity stitch kind of precludes dye saturation. The hem is a bit blotchy, too. And of course, the side seams haven't improved any, have they? Whip stitch? What was I thinking?

Here's a closer look at that blotchy hem

I like it. I've decided that the color variations make it Art.

Monday, October 23, 2006

When will I learn?

If you read yesterday's post, you'll know that I have trouble estimating the difficulty/time suck of sewing. I attribute this to my lack of sewing experience. I sew only a couple times a year, usually costumes for Halloween, and when given a choice of similar costumes, I always choose to make the most difficult one. Because it looks better. When Nina was in 1st grade, she was Snow White. Every pattern company makes at least one Snow White costume. Instead of choosing the pattern that had blue sleeves with red ribbon attached to the outside, giving them the "feel" of slashed sleeves, I chose the one that actually looked like slashed sleeves. Each sleeve took 5 hours to construct.

There was the year (2003) Nina wanted to be a Renaissance Lady and Sophia wanted to be a Flower Fairy

Aside from the fact that satin is a pain to sew with (until you discover why you own pinking shears), I had to make a corset-like thingy with stays, install grommets, and sew on a bazillion yards of metallic trim. Tip: look at the price of metallic trim before you have it measured and cut and you're handed the slip to take to the cashier.

The next year, we had a Sorceress and a Princess:

Again with the satin, but this time I had to work with satin and sheer fabric. That was the year I first used my pinking shears.

Then, in 2005, I took the girls to seethe movie Bride and Prejudice and they fell in love with the costumes. They wanted to be Indian girls for Halloween. So my friend Monica had her mother buy Salwar Kameez fabric in India (where she lives) and bring it with her that summer when she came to Minnesota for a visit. (Here's and interesting aside: "Salwar" is the name for the pants and "Kameez" is the name for the tunic. Notice how Kameez sounds like Camisa, which sounds like chemise? Don't you love how languages are related?) Unfortunately, no one made patterns for traditional Indian clothing at that time, because people don't sew for themselves in India. They go to a tailor, get measured, and a couple days later, they pick up their outfits. So I had to wing it. (Naturally, this year we found a pattern. I also noticed there are fish patterns, which didn't exist the year Nina was 2 and wanted to be Rainbow Fish. Still no pattern for a violin costume, though) I found a website that showed how to make a tunic, and I cut out the pants using the pajama bottom pattern I use for the girls' PJs. I think I spent less than 2 hours on each costume, which has to be a record. Michael sent these pictures to the people in India who do work for him, and they were delighted. Monica's mom was pretty tickled, too.

What does this have to do with knitting? Well, I'm a more accomplished knitter than seamstress. I keep thinking that means I can better estimate how long it'll take to do something I haven't done before (as opposed to knowing I can do a fruit cap for a baby in one evening). Last night, I decided to work on the finishing for Nina's afghan. I had already sewn 5 strips of 4 squares together. All I needed to do was sew the strips together and weave in all the ends. (That's so funny to me now. "All I needed to do...") I started at 7 o'clock, figuring it'd take me a couple hours.

At midnight, this is what I had:

I gave up for the night when I realized I'd sewn one of the squares in the 4th strip upside down. Looks like I'm in for another couple 4 or 5 hours.

I did make this first, though, for the Dulaan Project:

It looks a little lumpy because I have one of Nina's cami tops stuffed inside to give it some body.

Simple Hat
Yarn: Cascade 220 worsted weight wool, doubled
Needles: Knit Picks Options circular needle, 8 mm (U.S. size 11), using Magic Loop
Gauge: 2.75 sts/in; 4 rows/in (not that row gauge matters so much)
Size: approximately 19" circumference, to fit a child 6-10 years old
Pattern: My own, based on excellent sizing guidelines in the Yarn Harlot's book, Knitting Rules!

CO 54 sts. K1P1 rib for 4 rounds. Switch to stockinette. Knit till hat is 6" from cast on edge. Decrease as follows: *(K7,K2tog), repeat from * 5 more times (48 sts); Next round: *(K6, K2tog), repeat from * 5 more times (42 sts); continue decreasing in this manner, knitting 1 stitch fewer before the K2tog each round. After the final decrease round (which will be K2tog all the way around), cut the yarn, leaving a longish tail (maybe 8"), thread the yarn through the remaining 6 loops and fasten off. Or you could knit an I-cord for a few inches and then tie it in a knot. Whatever. I'm taking the "think simple" advice to heart.

I'm working on a way to line the hat with polar fleece to make it warmer, but my prototype didn't quite work out. Gotta work on that.