Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Let me eat cake. Or pie.

It's my birthday and I'm doing laundry (we're leaving for Arizona tomorrow, and packing is in progress). I had two kinds of pie for dessert, though, on top of an extremely delicious meal at Lucia's, so all in all, a very nice birthday.

Also, I've decided to look at aging in an entirely new way.

Today I'm 32. In base 15. This will work for another 7 years, until I hit 3A, which will confuse too many people, so I'll switch bases again. I'm thinking base 18 will be a good choice at that point. I'll be 30. I liked being 30, it's the age I was when I met my husband. He of course, was only 29, and he's always reminding me that I'm older than he is. But I have a plan now.

He's staying locked in base 10.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Who needs jewelry?

I was just finishing up my chronically late update on the state of my Master Hand Knitting progress when the mail arrived inside the front door.

I opened the door. Amongst the mail was a cardboard tube, addressed to me.

Inside, another tube. This one plastic.

Hold on. What does that label say?

Oh, baby!

Inside, the most bee yoo ti ful needles I have ever had the pleasure of slapping my eyes on.

14" straights, stiletto points, Teardrop Cap in sizes 5, 6, 7 and 9

But that's not all!

set of 5 5" dpns in size 0
set of 5 6" dpns in sizes 1 and 2.

An IM to my husband, upon opening the package, received the following reply:
"Happy early birthday." (It's next week.)


On to MHK news (or not)...

I've totally dropped the ball on Master Hand Knitting stuff this past week. Yesterday, I knit swatches and then embroidered initials on them using duplicate stitch for no reason. Well, there was a reason. Sort of. Some of the Level III knitters on Ravelry were discussing the duplicate stitch swatch and how it's kind of tricky to do well, and then the co-chair who hangs out on the board mentioned it's the swatch most likely to need resubmitting.

So I decided to worry about duplicate stitch in Level III rather than to block my lace swatches or work on my History of Knitting report for Level II.

I really don't need to worry about duplicate stitch, mostly because I'm not working on Level III yet. Years ago, I made a few sweaters for my niece and nephew that called for duplicate stitching some motifs on them, and I don't recall it being particularly difficult. I never thought anything was particularly difficult back then. I didn't know anyone who knit, so I figured if I followed the directions and it looked all right, then I was doing it right. But I had to know -- is duplicate stitch something I do in an acceptable manner?

I think so.

I ran out of yarn while duplicate stitching my initial. Sophia took a look at what I was doing and and asked if I would make her a swatch with her initial on it that she could put up on her bulletin board. So while I watched "Life" last night, I made her this:

I didn't notice all the sewing thread bits that were lying across the swatch until I uploaded the photo. They are from my attempt to block this swatch, which actually has to do with Level II.

English Mesh Lace
A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, p. 193
I attempted to use the thread along the edges as a way to block without pins so the edges wouldn't be all wavy. I failed miserably. I can't figure out a good way of anchoring the thread ends.

The #$%@ lace swatches continue to be the bane of my existence. I don't think my seed stitch border is long enough on the above swatch. I thought I could block it so that it would be, but for some reason, the border is longer at the bottom than at the top, even though they have the same number of rows. I think it might have something to do with the direction the YOs pull the knitting above rather than the knitting below. Or some other reason. Gah. I hate lace.

How come no one ever complains about the lace swatches?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday night video

Here it is folks, the long-awaited Friday the 13th video. Hey! Maybe it was cursed because it was Friday the 13th!

I have no idea why every transition ends with a "Boom!"

Still not completely happy with the video quality as it appears on YouTube. We're still working on getting the best resolution possible for the uploads.

Two steps forward, one step back

The Pink, pink, pink socks are complete!

The Car Ferry socks are marching along!

I also cannot help but start the occasional new project, despite the back log of UFOs and Master Hand Knitting work that needs work.

I made a cupcake. Which I can't find at the moment (bedside area is a bit of a mess), so you'll just have to take my word. It's for a little girl who's turning 1 year old just about now. Last year she received a cupcake hat and mittens as a Welcome to the World gift and has happily worn them all winter. So I made her a stuffed cupcake. Which I will give to her mother just as soon as I locate it.

The stinking Friday Video is finally done. And, I think, much better than the videos I made using stinking scourge of the Microsoft apps, Windows Movie Maker.

I won't go into the gory details about the delay, but suffice it to say that the problems I had after I gave up on Windows Movie Maker were the result of a bad card reader (the kind that reads the little SD Flash Cards that go into my digital camera and the digital cam corder.)

So, whew on that.

I like iMovie. It's going to make Friday videos seem more like a good idea and less like I would rather be sticking my vintage Aero 14" straights into my eyeballs.

The video will go up later. YouTube has been "waiting for acknowledgement" for quite a while during the upload process, promising me it would happen in less than a minute for about 15 minutes now. I stopped holding my breath.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Curse you, Movie Maker

The Friday video will be up sometime this weekend. I'm giving up on Windows Movie Maker and its infernal crashing. This means I have to learn to use iMovie and re-record a few things.

I'm sure this is some sort of growth opportunity for me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thursday is the New Wednesday

Progress, people. I've made progress! (Yes, I know it's Thursday. Again. More on why this post is late down at the bottom.)

So. While cleaning up the "knitting office," to make room for the bookcases that used to be in the living room but which are now in my little office, I found my buttonhole swatches, plus my notes on how I knit them. They need to be typed up, ends woven in, and tagged, but I don't have to re-knit them. Yet.

K1p1 ribbing with buttonholes

K2p2 ribbing with buttonholes

Seed stitch with buttonholes

Here's the swatch with buttonholes evenly spaced.

I need to check the instructions. I have this nagging feeling there should be five buttonholes, not four.

The mitten. My third attempt wasn't any better than my second mitten, and actually turned out worse, because after I finished the Fair Isle portion, I saw I had made a mistake in the pattern. I re-evaluated my second mitten, and while it isn't perfect, I really think it might be good enough. I finished weaving in the ends and crossed it off my to-do list.

Here it is:

(Ack! While taking pictures, I noticed a weaving-in problem. Must fix. Blech.)

I went through my lace swatches last weekend and decided I needed another one done in lace weight. When I started work on Level II, I bought both fingering weight yarn and lace weight yarn, as either one is considered acceptable for the lace swatches. While I had knit lace before, I hadn't ever knit with lace weight yarn and didn't understand what needle size to use. Working an inch of seed stitch seemed like it would take a billion years. I didn't like my swatches worked in fingering weight yarn, though, because they seemed too dense and I was really limited to fairly simple stitch patterns. So I sorted through my lace swatches, flipped through the first Walker Treasury and found a lace pattern to knit.

Still needs to be blocked, tagged, ends woven in.

Here's one I knit last fall:

There's a mistake somewhere near the base of the lace, a mis-placed purl stitch, but for the life of me, I can't find it now. I'm not sure whether to cop to it in my notes or not, given that I can't find it.

Last night, rather than posting this blog entry, like I was supposed to, I decided I was still short on adequate lace swatches, so I knit this:

Just needs the top seed stitch border. Plus blocking, ends woven in, tags, pattern writing, etc.

Here is what else I've been working on:

My History of Knitting report.

Still haven't finished the report on Knitting Without Tears. That book is so different, and I have so many mixed feelings about it, that I'm finding it difficult to review it in an articulate and rational manner. Which probably means I should persevere rather than take the easy way out and review something more straightforward.

Monday, March 09, 2009

So many books, not enough shelves

First, knitting project reduction progress:

Slow but steady. And somewhat obvious that switching needles at the heel flap of the first sock has affected the matchy matchiness of the pair. I'm a little OCD about sock matchy matchiness, and thus was faced with the dilemma of what to do -- keep on knitting, or rip out the second sock and re-do it so that it matches?

When I found this project, it was on four size 1 dpns (the coated alumninum kind, probably Inox/Prym). When I use dpns for socks, I like to have five. Rarely will I "make do" with four, as the triangular formation is too rigid and causes the needles to poke me in the hands. I don't have many sets of size 1 needles (true size 1's - 2.25mm - not 2.5mm, which is really a US 1 1/2), and the fifth needle was nowhere to be found, so all I had available to switch to was a 32" Harmony circ. Turns out there is enough drag on the Harmony needles to cause me to knit just a bit looser than I would on slick metal needles, which meant my gauge shifted slightly.

It's not easy to keep this sock on the needles, rather than ripping out the second sock, buying some new needles and reknitting the leg (switching to the Harmonies, of course, at the gusset, so that the feet will match on both). Instead, I will knit on, and show them to future sock knitting classes as an example of how same-size needles of different materials can affect gauge.

Oh, but it hurts.

Otherwise, we worked on the living room this weekend, picking up some shelves and a chair that the World's Best Mother-in-Law ™ won't be taking to her fab new apartment.

There is one other shelf unit, but we haven't decided whether to put it next to these three, or find another location.

See all that decorative stuff on the top shelves? That, my friends, is the first time we've had tzotchkes in our living room since having kids. (The kids are 11 and 14 now.) I dug these things out of cabinets and off high shelves in the basement. We're starting to live like grownups again.

The new shelves are much nicer looking than the shelves we used to have, but they leave us with a problem. Where to put all the books? These new shelves are more decorative than utilitarian, as far as book storage goes.

This pile will be given away

but these two boxes are keepers

as they are either books I re-read occasionally or books written by friends.

Thank goodness TWBMiL™ gave me one of these for my (upcoming) birthday.

Which will help keep the constantly-expanding number of books down to a manageable level, as I am running out of places to store books. I need it for yarn.

And guess what? There are a few knitting patterns available to download to the Kindle. I was also able to email a Cookie A sock pattern PDF from my laptop to the Kindle. Pretty cool. The downside of the Kindle is that I do most of my reading in the bathtub. I'm not keen on having the Kindle read to me. A Stephen Hawkings-ish voice reading fiction aloud doesn't do it for me. Such problems I have.

The new-to-us chair is temporarily in the kitchen, until we can move the 4th shelf (which is lying on the across the living room floor) to wherever it will go. We also need to move an existing living room chair upstairs.

Cotton quite likes the new chair, which is why it is covered with towels. He often comes in from the backyard or the garage (both of which are accessed through the kitchen) with wet and/or muddy feet. It'd be nice to keep the pseudo-suede fabric clean at least until it makes it into the living room, where he won't have ready access to it.

In other news. things are marching along on the Master Hand Knitting front. I may actually make my goal of finishing Level II before my birthday! (March 24).

See you Wednesday!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday video - leaning decreases

This week I have some tips for
  • Selecting which decrease to use (k2tog or ssk)
  • Placement of decreases
  • How to remember which one leans left and which one leans right
  • How do do these decreases from the purl side
Next week I'll talk about when to switch the direction of the decreases.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

What was my point?

Those of you who follow my blog in anticipation of my incredibly instructive posts regarding my Master Hand Knitting Level II progress may be doubting that I am actually making progress, given that Wednesday MHK posts have, er, not been posted. Or rather, what's been posted is either lame or late or, more frequently, lame and late.

This post is late, but, I hope, not as lame.

I will have you know that yesterday I wrote three -- THREE -- book reviews and made progress on the fourth, and I must thank lipizzanknitter on Ravelry for the great check list of what to include in a book review to ensure completeness. Her check list gave me the structure I desperately needed to avoid being too terse or (more likely) rambling on and on.

There are two things I struggle with when I write: finding my point, and giving my point structure. I have no trouble spewing words, but presenting those words in a format that makes sense to someone else takes time.

I need to have a basic structure, or form, for whatever I'm writing, and the structure varies, depending on if I'm writing a business letter, instructions for the Make 1 increase, or a scene in a novel. I didn't have the form I needed for the book reviews, and that kept me from feeling good about checking them off my MHK II list as complete.

Form is not formula. For example, if you're building a house, in order for the house to be a house and not an industrial complex or a truck or a swimming pool, the house has a certain form. Every house has a foundation, walls, floors, ceilings and a roof. Most have windows, electrical wiring and plumbing. And to differentiate it from a commercial building, it has bedrooms, a kitchen, and at least one bathroom. So if you were going to build a house, you would include those things, and there is an order in which those things are done. For example, you start with laying the foundation, and you do the wiring before you put up sheetrock, which can't be done until the studs are up. It's the other stuff you put into the house that makes it unique, or makes it something you can live in. How many bathrooms does it have? How many bedrooms? What is the floor plan? Are there multiple storeys? A basement? Is the kitchen a galley style, or is the main floor an open floor plan? Having the same form -- a foundation, walls, electricity and a roof -- makes it a house, but it does not make it the same as every other house.

In contrast, formula is what a suburban housing developer uses to build houses: a couple of floor plans and four colors of taupe exterior paint. It's the same house over and over again.

And so it is with writing. Each fiction genre has a form, but not a formula. The reader has expectations about what will be included in the book, while at the same time demanding something new and different. While it's true that there are suburban housing developers within any genre (i.e. formulaic writers), some readers who dismiss entire genres as predictable (i.e. formulaic) miss the point of those genres. It's like dismissing a house for its form: having a kitchen and a bathroom, just like every other house. There is an expectation of a kitchen and bathroom in a house. What makes the house different or special when you walk through it is discovering how the kitchen and bathroom are placed in the house and how useful or beautiful they are.

In fiction, early in a book, the writer lays out a story question. The climax at the end answers the story question. For example, the story question of a romance isn't, "Will the hero and heroine end up together?" (Will the house have a bathroom?) Readers of romance aren't stupid. They *know* the hero and heroine will end up together -- that's why they're reading a romance. That's what a romance is - a courtship story. The story question of a romance is, "How will the hero and heroine overcome their conflicts so that they can end up together?" It's seeing that process play out -- watching the courtship -- that entertains them. Think about it. Does anyone sit down with a mystery and say, "Oh my god, this is so predictable. I totally know the protagonist is going to figure out whodunnit." I sure hope so. That's why it's a mystery.

So, back to knitting book reviews and finding my point. The one I'm always searching for. For the MHK reviews, I wasn't happy with what I had written. The writing wasn't bad, but I didn't have that elusive structure (form) on which to hang my review. I had found my point for each book I had chosen, but I hadn't found a good way to present that information. I didn't have the form.

With lipizannknitter's help, I found it.

So, for anyone curious about the written work for Level II, one requirement is to write four book reviews of at least one paragraph. I'm not clear on how to write a one-paragraph review (that sounds more like a summary to me), so mine are each about a page long, single spaced.

I chose the following books to review:
The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques, by Nancie M. Wiseman
A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, Barbara G. Walker
Vogue Knitting The Ultimate Knitting Book, by the editors of Vogue Knitting Magazine
Knitting Without Tears, by Elizabeth Zimmermann (this is the one I'm still working on)

There are several types of books I could have chosen -- like those that are devoted to specialized topics such as Aran sweaters or Fair Isle Tams, or which are full of patterns of a certain type (socks, for example, or baby sweaters). I felt like this was a good mix of general reference, knitting techniques, a stitch dictionary, and knitting philosophy.

Oh, I also have this half-finished Fair Isle mitten.

Still not happy with my edge tension,which is why I stopped.

I'm knitting it inside out to keep my overall tension correct. This works on the straightaways, but not so much around the corners. When I knit right side out, I end up with corners pulled too tightly, as the yarn cuts across the corners. I tried to keep the yarn firm around the corners this time, but I realized I didn't pull tightly enough. I'm thinking of ripping back these few rows and trying them again. Basically, I think it's nearly impossible (for me, anyway) to maintain even tension from one needle to another in Fair Isle. I much prefer being able to work on larger circumference items when I do stranded knitting. This is just aggravating. I will figure it out. I will.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Time I will never get back

Despite my fervent desire to not start any new projects until I get more of the existing ones off my plate, I was talked into something yesterday I still can't believe I did.

Yesterday was March 1, which ostensibly means we are past the subzero temperatures, and since the dog needed a hair cut the other day, I told them to give him his "regular" cut rather than the longer cut I'd asked for the past two times. We figured he needed a bit more coat Dec-Feb, because this winter was been so awfully cold. But the weather has been balmier -- in the 20's and 30's, and (we thought) wouldn't get back down so low again.

Yesterday morning, I let the dog out -- it was exactly 0 degrees out (did I *mention* that it was March 1st?), and the dog came back inside doing that thing where he keeps holding one foot up and then the other, and then sucking on his frozen feet. Michael decided that we had to make some booties for our poor widdle puppy dawg, so I dragged the sewing machine and a yard of fleece upstairs to the kitchen, and he found some velcro cable ties, and we set to work. We tried three variations of fleece tubes: different lengths for the first two-- do we go past his ankle? up to his armpit? and then for the third one I tried a circular base with a tube around it (basically a cylinder), which wasn't much better. At that point, Michael surrendered, but I was just getting started. I understood how to make a sock to fit a human foot. I should be able to use that knowledge to construct a fleece bootie.

Michael thought I should just knit him some socks. "That's the next logical step," he said. He has previously told me not to knit *him* socks, because it was a waste of time when he could just buy some at Costco. But since I hadn't been able to find booties to fit Cotton at PetSmart, it made sense to Michael that I should make the dog some socks. We would put some non-skid goop on them later.

So Sunday afternoon, I knit our Shih Tzu socks.

What? You've never seen a dog wearing socks?

The front socks.

The back socks - an inch more ribbing than the front socks.

Oh, I also finished a human sock. (I've been working on Master Knitting stuff, too, but more about that on Wednesday)