Friday, October 30, 2009

Hippy hippy shake

A couple of weeks ago I came home from knitting group, checked caller ID and saw that my mother had called. She never leaves a voice mail, so I didn't bother to check and just called her back. Al (her husband) answered and after a confusing couple of minutes in which he assumed I had listened to a voice mail he had left me and I had continued to assume I was calling my mother back, not him, I got the point. My mom had fallen the night before and broken her hip and had just been rolled into surgery for a hip replacement.

They live just about a mile or so from the hospital, so Al was at home checking on the dog, having left the hospital after they rolled her into surgical prep.

That call was on a Wednesday, and as the next couple of days passed, I made plane reservations so that I could be there when she got out of the hospital and help out where needed.

Most of my help consisted of sitting around and knitting while my mom was napping, or talking to her while she was awake. Al normally takes care of the cooking, cleaning, and laundry so I didn't really have much "work" to do there. He's a former career Army mess sergeant, so he always has everything well under control. Also...the food at Chez Mother and Al's is top notch.

I took a lot of knitting with me -- my Manon which needed to be sewn up, little Quincy-ita, which was in progress at the time, a pair of socks for my sister-in-law that I'd been knitting as a demonstration for my sock class, and just needed to finish the foot. I also brought yarn to make Bella Mittens for a Twilight-loving friend, as well as two balls of sock yarn. I was prepared.

I was not prepared for my direct flight to be canceled and to be re-routed through Milwaukee, where I left my notions bag in the seat pocket. The notions bag that contained, you know, all my knitting notions, like my black sheep measuring tape, two very expensive Signature Needle Arts dpns, a 2.5mm circ for knitting socks using the sock yarn I brought with me, my scissors, my needle gauges, stitch markers, crochet hooks that belonged to my grandmother, and all my darning needles.

I finished knitting my SIL's second sock while waiting for my flight out of Milwaukee, which is when I discovered I no longer had my notions bag. It was too late to go back to the other gate, which was in another terminal. Milwaukee's airport is set up like a wheel, with each terminal coming out of the main ticketing terminal like spokes. In order to get from one terminal to the other, you have to go through security. I didn't have time to go through security twice with all my stuff in order to report a missing notions bag. So I couldn't graft the toe. I also therefore couldn't graft the Quincy-ita hat band. I couldn't start a pair of socks with the needle holding my SIL's sock, and I couldn't start a new pair with my other sock needle, because the other sock needle was in my notions bag.

I decided to start the mittens, only it turned out I hadn't brought the pattern, I had brought a PICTURE of the original Bella mittens used in the movie, which I had slipped into a page protector. It wasn't even a picture of the pattern mittens, so I couldn't just read the knitting in the picture and figure it out. Besides, the picture was a bit blurry. You can imagine how happy I was at this point. Luckily, I had my Kindle with me, too, so I could at least read.

My mom lives in Ludington, Michigan, a lovely resort town on Lake Michigan which is inconveniently located to any sort of mass transportation hub other than the Lake Michigan carferry, which was closed for the season. So after a delayed flight, notions bag loss, and a 2 hour drive from the Grand Rapids airport to Ludington, I finally got to see my mom, who amazingly, was ambulatory. Sort of. We had a nice long talk, and the next morning, I headed out to the excellent local yarn shop, Nautical Knits, intending to rectify my notions deficiency. I bought a new notions bag, darning needles, a needle gauge, and interlocking stitch markers. I figured that would get me by.

Okay, I also bought two balls of sock yarn, but that's to be expected, isn't it?

Back at Check Mother and Al's, I grafted SIL's sock toe, and moved on to weaving in all the ends on my Manon. Done. I was ready to sew in the sleeves, except I couldn't because I forgot to bring along the yarn to sew it up. It turns out that when you forget things like patterns and sewing-up yarn, and lose 2.5mm needles that can't be replaced out of town, bringing all that other knitting stuff isn't as big a packing overkill as it first appears.

I started a pair of socks on the freed-up 2.0mm circ using yarn I had brought with me, a beautifully bright yarn from Regia's Kaffe Fasset line. The two original Fasset lines were Mirage and Landscape. Landscape had defined stripe sequences (that's what I made my brother's Big Foot socks from), while Mirage came in the same colorways as Landscape, but worked up as a variegated yarn, appearing more like a camo pattern.

This yarn I brought with me was called Exotic Color (colorway: "zany") I was intrigued by the striping pattern, as there were places where the transition between stripes worked out to be more like interconnected waves. It was pretty neat. I started the first sock Tuesday afternoon and was finished with it some time Wednesday. I then started the second sock, and the pair was complete Thursday evening. Fastest pair of socks I ever knit, in terms of total elapsed time from start to finish. My mother exclaimed that they were beautiful. Our feet are the same size, so I had her try them on. They're hers. The woman was sitting in a chair with a walker next to her. How could I not give them to her?

I took some photos of them on my own feet out on their deck.

When I got back home, I called the airline about my missing notions bag. You're supposed to contact the airport where it was lost, but because of 9/11, airports don't post their phone numbers on their websites anymore (I know, I don't get it either), so the woman at the airline called three different numbers at the Milwaukee airport and no one would pick up the phone. And they don't have voice mail. She suggested I drive to the Minneapolis airport (well, first she suggested I go to the Milwaukee airport), make a claim at their lost baggage counter and have them forward the information to Milwaukee. Whatever.

My mom is doing very well now. She's ditched the walker in favor of a cane, at least for part of the time. I'm betting she'll be back at Pilates in no time at all.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reverse Engineering

The first three weeks of September in Minnesota were warm and balmy. Those weeks were the summer we didn't have in July and August, and it was heavenly. Then, like Minnesota weather is wont to do, the weather turned on us and in one day we switched from capris and sandals to wool socks and jackets.

I began plotting ways to keep warm. There weren't enough hours in a day to knit. I needed warm sweaters and I needed them now!

About the same time, I started re-watching my Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs as a way of immersing myself in long story arcs (I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year). I began to covet some of Buffy's bulky knit turtleneck sweaters that she sometimes wore while patrolling the graveyards, and figured that would be a nice quick knit that would get me covered in wool ASAP.

As luck would have it, an email from WEBS arrived announcing a sale on discontinued yarns. I could get Cascade 109E (a bulky weight wool) for something like $3.99 a hank. In the meantime, I began designing a simple, but not too boring, sweater in my head. I looked through patterns on Ravelry for inspiration, but didn't find anything that was quite what I was looking for.

Eventually, I decided that I would make the sweater in a 2x2 rib, with maybe a simple rope cable going up the center and then splitting to run up either side of a V neck or possibly two simple cables that would run up the front, spaced so that they would land at the shoulders on either side of the neck front on either side of the neck. Perhaps with a turtleneck. After another compulsive check of Ravelry, I happened upon this number (Ravelry link)

It was exactly what I had been looking for, only with a great addition, which was the diagonal ribs at the sides. I had a fairly good idea of how they were probably worked, but I wasn't sure I was up to figuring out the whole sweater on my own. I wasn't confident of calculating the set in sleeves, plus maintaining the diagonal rib design element, so I figured I'd just buy the pattern.

Well. The pattern is from Rebecca Magazine, which is a German publication, which was not good news. Then I discovered they also print an English edition of the magazine (starting with the issue I wanted). Terrific! But the issue I wanted was from 2005. Not so terrific. It turns out it's still available (yay!) but with the exchange rate and shipping, it was going to cost me $22 to get it (boo!) Even sellers who have it here in the States want to charge $8 to ship it, which would still make it close to $20. For one pattern.

In the end, I decided to reverse engineer it, which made last week a lot of fun. First, I figured out how the diagonal ribs were done, which was fairly straightforward (increases at the edge to compensate for decreases near the cables, and in this case those increases are YOs), but it took some experimentation to figure out the exact decrease sequence and placement, as some decreases are single decreases, and one is a specific type of double decrease. And then I had to make it work with the cable crossings, as each set of decreases ends before the cable crossing row.

The back was a piece of cake up till the armhole, and that's where I thought I might have to experiment and rip things back, but things seem to have worked out okay. I worked the shoulders, using short rows that were wrapped and turned in purl columns, so I didn't even bother to pick up the wraps later, as they can't be seen from the RS.

Here is the back, unblocked.

Looks so skinny, doesn't it? I pinned it out to make sure it would stretch to the dimensions I wanted and it did. It'll relax a bit on its own once it's had a bath.

I really like the Cascade 109E. It's too bad it was discontinued, although, really, you can just double Cascade 220, which comes in a gazillion colors, and end up with pretty much the same result.

Other things:
This past summer, Nina asked me to knit her some gloves for fall. I made her some glittens (convertible fingerless gloves with a mitten flap) a couple years ago using Regia Silk sock yarn. She liked them a lot and wore them all the time, but she has since decided that she would prefer gloves that don't convert and that are made of thicker yarn. She wanted a cable on the back of the hand. She did not like anything I showed her. She is particular, but not terribly helpful about describing what she wanted, only eliminating things she disliked, which was everything I showed her.

Eventually, I pulled out my copy of Elsebeth Lavold's Viking Knits and found a cable that was unusual, but very cool. The S-hitch cable.

I swatched.

She liked.

I knit the gloves, the weather grew colder, and she took them. The thumbs are a bit wonky, but otherwise they're fine. I increased too many times for the gusset on the first glove, so I increased less on the second one.

Socks for the Sockless
Neither of my kids wears socks, unless forced to, such as when we're hiking up a mountain in Arizona and they're wearing new tennis shoes, and even then it's under a great deal of protest. While we're here at home, the idea that they ought to wear socks just because they live in Minnesota, where it's winter six months out of the year is just more crazy talk from their crazy mother.

Nonetheless, much to my surprise, Sophia has asked for socks. She asked, so she shall receive, although it may take a while.

She wants knee socks. Fancy knee socks, which she apparently doesn't plan on wearing in public, but just around the house. There was no talking her out of the fancy heel pattern, even though she has already told me that if she *does* wear the socks out in public, they will be inside her UGG boots. Since she now has feet and calves that are the same size as mine, I have agreed to her request with the small hope that she won't care about them in a year and then I can take them for myself.

Sophia has good taste. She chose a Cookie A pattern, Lissajous.

I have turned the heel, finished the gusset and am onto the straightaway part of the foot. With just two cables per round now and the rest in stockinette, I feel like I'm zooming along at Warp Nine, phasers set at fun.

Like many others, I fell in love with Jared Flood's Quincy pattern and I knit one up in the recommended Classic Elite Ariosa. It's a single ply bulky weight kind of like CE's Twinkle, only thinner and even softer. Both girls loved the softness (90% extra fine merino, 10% cashmere), and Nina looks great in this color, although she would prefer me to reverse engineer an Urban Outfitters cabled hat using the same yarn. And now Sophia wants a cabled hat, too, only in a different color than her sister.

In the meantime, I figured out how to downsize Quincy for a toddler, but using a DK yarn (Rowan's, maybe it's Cashsoft Baby? Not sure.) Ended up with more rows and stitches for this hat than for the adult version, but that's gauge for you.

I call it Quincy-ita

Oh, there's more stuff, too, but I'll save that for another post, shall I?