Monday, November 30, 2009


That is all.

Posts about knitting will resume tomorrow.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I don't think that word means what you think it means

I have a friend who once talked me into a project which involved sewing 100 pencil cases from cotton duck fabric. Each pencil case was going to need a 10" zipper, so I went online and found a zipper company that could make me as many zippers as I wanted in whatever color I wanted and with whatever kind of zipper pull I wanted. The only problem was that (at the time) they had a completely unsecure method of ordering through their website, which involved clicking on a link that brought up a blank email, into which I was supposed to type a) what I wanted and b) my credit card number.

Well, not being a complete idiot, I didn't do that, so I called the company instead and got a person whose first language was not English, which was okay, but it turned out that sometimes what you say to a person is not what they hear.

Our conversation went something like this:
"I would like to order one hundred 10-inch zippers."
"Okay," he said. "How many do you want?"
Puzzled, I said, "Uh, I want a hundred."
I then went on to tell him what color I wanted, and all the other zipper-related details, and then I gave him my credit card number.

A few days later a somewhat larger box than I expected arrived at my door. Since my friend wasn't due to come over for a few more days to work on the project, I didn't open the box right away, but when I did, I realized something had gone horribly wrong with my order. Inside the box was 100 zippers, in exactly the right color, each of which was 110" long. I ordered one hundred 10-inch zippers, but he thought I was ordering 110-inch zippers.

I mentioned the other day that there is a sweater I want to start. I've had the yarn for months now, having ordered it shortly after I bought the book the pattern is in.

One thing has puzzled me since I bought the book and the yarn. The yarn called for is a sport weight yarn. Now, I'm not a slave to using the yarn called for in a pattern, because I understand how to make substitutions, but the yarn and the pattern have confounded me since I first laid eyes on them, because both specify using the same needle size, but each indicate a very different gauge, not just from each other, but also different from the gauge I would expect to get with that needle size.

The yarn is a sport weight yarn, and the label says it works up at 6 sts/inch, which seems about right to me for a sport weight yarn. Here's the confusing part. The yarn label says to use a size 6 needle to achieve that gauge.

Now, I am a knitter who almost without fail achieves the gauge on the label using the suggested needle size. In this case, I think it would be impossible. I have no doubt I could get 6 sts/in with this yarn, but I think it would take a size 4 needle to do it. As I said, I am an on-gauge knitter. The theoretically average knitter yarn companies label their products for.

I once did an experiment where I knitted up swatches for three different yarn weights using three different needle sizes. I used a fingering weight yarn, a worsted weight, and a bulky. I used size 3 needles, size 7 and size 10 (maybe 10.5, I can't remember for sure).

Typical gauges would be as follows:
Fingering on size 3 needles would give me 7 sts/in
Worsted weight on size 7 needles would give me 5 sts/in
Bulky weight on the size 10 or 10.5 needles would give me 3.5 sts/in

What I wanted to see was what my gauges were for these yarns when I used different needles.

The fingering weight yarn worked up at 5 sts/in on size 7 needles, and 3.5 sts/in on size 10 needles. The 3.5 sts/in swatch was like cheesecloth, of course.

The worsted weight worked up at 3.5 sts/in on size 10 needles.

When I used smaller needles than the yarn typically called for, the sts could only get squished so far, but my experience has shown me that I *can* get DK gauge on DK needles with worsted yarn, which is only one yarn weight thicker than DK. I can get worsted weight gauge on worsted weight needles with Aran yarn.

So knowing that, and knowing that sport weight yarn is a thinner yarn than DK and worsted, I would expect to get about 5.25 sts/in on size 6 needles for any yarn worsted weight or thinner.

Now, looking at the *pattern*, I see that it calls for using this yarn with size 6 needles, but it indicates a gauge of 5 sts/in. Again, not the needle size I (the theoretical average knitter) would typically use to get 5 sts/in, and certainly not the *gauge* I would want for a sport weight yarn if I didn't want the sweater to lose its shape.

I wrote to the yarn company, suggesting that there may be an error on their label, perhaps they meant to put Size 4 needle, not 4.0mm (which is what a size 6 needle is), helpfully explaining that I am typically an on-gauge knitter, and that 6 sts/in on size 6 needles seems unlikely. Their response was as follows:

Suggested needle size is just that, a suggestion. It's a starting point. It was decided that a size 6 needle would give the desired gauge for the average knitter. I know that I would start swatching on a 4, because I'm rather loose knitter. But
as you know, everyone is different.
Can you hear me bashing my head against my keyboard?

In the meantime, I swatched on size 6 needles, and washed the swatch. It did seem to grow while it was wet, but once dry, returned to its pre-bath size. 22 sts and 30 rows/4". I swatched on size 7 needles and got 5 sts/in, but the fabric just seems too flimsy to me. I'll have to modify the pattern based on the gauge I got which means I'll need more yarn than the pattern calls for. Luckily, I ordered more yarn than the pattern requires for my size, because by ordering more, I got a discount, making it cheaper to get 9 or 10 balls than it was to get 8. Crazy.

In other sweater news, I am chugging along on my Diagonal Rib sweater.

I'm about half way through the second sleeve, so I hope to finish up this weekend. I'm starting to get paranoid about how this thing is going to fit and I'm still not sure how I like the front neckline. I think the cable stitches (what's left of them) should perhaps extend up the side of the neck, but I also think that would make the neck too narrow.

We'll see how it goes. Easy enough to rip out the neck and redo it, if necessary.

The whole process for this sweater has been much too easy. Maybe because I'm not trying to follow someone else's pattern and dealing with conflicting gauge information from two sources. There's a lesson in there somewhere, I'm sure of it.

Finally -- I am at the brink of 36,000 words on my NaNo novel. I'm so happy to be doing this with so many of my online writing buddies. It's been an exhilarating month of don't look down writing. If it weren't for the Write or Die software, I'd have too much time to think while I was writing, and I'd stop in my tracks.

Sadly, I must mourn the loss of my "M" key. It was acting up for a couple of days, and then yesterday, it flew off the keyboard.

Broken bit

I replaced it with a key I never use

It's no wonder it flew off. Apparently, my fingernails are hard on the keys.

They are scarred for life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

At Last

I am happy to report that due to the genius that is Write or Die, I am still alive, and I'm nearing way past 25,000 words on my NaNoWriMo novel, which is good news for so many reasons.

Other good news:
My Manon is complete.

This is the cardigan I knit 70% of twice last winter before putting it into a time out due to my being completely sick of it.

Here it is from the back.

I took it out this summer and knit the sleeves, and one evening while I was at the yarn shop, Brian, knitter extraordinaire made a comment about how certain yarns, like the one I made the Manon from, have a tendency to grow when washed.

This type of yarn, where where are lots of plies that twist many times in a short period. I've heard that referred to as a tight twist, but the yarn itself isn't especially tight. I mean, it isn't firm. I wish I knew more about these things, but that would no doubt lead to learning to spin and I am actively avoiding learning to spin. I don't have room in my knitting room for a roving stash, and my backyard is too small to keep sheep (because you know that would happen eventually).

The cardi went into a time out again while I contemplated my future grief regarding the growth of my knitting.

After a search of Ravelry this weekend, I noticed that in the comments on the yarn I used (Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk Aran), one Raveler specifically mentioned that this yarn had more drape after washing, but that it did not grow. That gave me hope. I sewed in the sleeves.

I still haven't washed it. It could use a wash and block, to calm the cables at the sides, but I still have a niggling fear at the back of my mind. This yarn is wonderfully soft, shows cables really well, and the sweater fits me.

Oh, Manon, don't let me down.

Now that I've finished the Manon, I have permission to start another sweater, one for which I already have the yarn. Except I remembered that I already started a new sweater last month, without permission, so I think I should finish that one, too.

It's my Reverse Engineered Diagonal Rib pullover, only guess what? I apparently didn't write down much of anything when I knit the back, at least not on paper. A search of my hard drive revealed a chart for the diagonal ribs, and eventually I finally discovered some fairly cryptic instructions in my project notes on Ravelry. It was enough to get me started, at any rate. It's bulky yarn, and an easy stitch pattern to memorize, so I'm clipping along. I finished the front, and I'm about 1/2 way done with the first sleeve. I may rip out the neck and re-do it. I'm not sure I like the way the cables end abruptly.

The question now is: do I have to finish up one of the other two nearly-complete cardigans in my closet (one is from 1990) before I get to start the new sweater? Will knitting two more Quincy hats be enough of something new to work on to keep me from starting a whole new sweater, or will the fact that I've already knit three Quincy hats make me feel like it's the same old, same old? I also have Sophia's second Lissajous to do, but that's just repeating something else.

I wanna start something new.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Quincy on the Head Can be Quite Continental

I loves me the Quincy hat.

So stylish. So asymmetrical. So cool.

This is the first one I made (some time last month, I believe) and it's for me. Yarn is Classic Elite Ariosa, soft as a cloud and I love the color. (It's the same color I used for Nina's Urban Outfitters knock off cabled hat.) I managed to cross it the opposite way intended, but I love it just the same.

The last time I got together with some of my local writer friends, I showed them my Quincy. I can tell when people really do like something I've knit because they instantly ask me to knit them one, too. These are women who I would lie across railroad tracks for, among the few who receive gift knitting from me, usually just at the holidays, but sometimes other times, too. I always cook for them when we get together (everyone brings something, but I cook the entree), it reminds me that I used to love to cook before I had kids who complained about the food on their dinner plates. My friends appreciate that I cook for them, they think whatever I make is delicious, and I don't have to clean up. You can understand why I would lie across the railroad tracks for them.

So this Quincy is for one of those friends.

It's my third. (The second was for a toddler in a DK weight, stitch count adjusted for the size needed) There aren't many patterns I return to over and over. Usually, making something once is enough, but this is one of those rare patterns I will want to do over and over.

The pattern calls for a bulky weight yarn, so I'm using Malibrigo Merino Worsted doubled to achieve gauge of 3.5 sts/in on size 10.5 needles. It ends up exactly the same size, but a bit more dense than the one in Ariosa. I love this color, it's a beautiful cobalt blue that Malibrigo calls "Buscando Azul," which translates to "looking blue" (I like "Buscando Azul" better, don't you?). Two of them requested deep blue hats, so I bought three hanks. I used just over one for the garter strip, so I figure by the time I'm finished with the two hats, I'll have 3/4 of a hank leftover to do something else with. Perhaps a pair of Fetchings.

I took a break from NaNo-ing yesterday afternoon to rake 5 more bags of leaves, bringing the total bag count to approximately 1,873,491 (give or take a million). I followed that up with the Quincy graft, delighting myself by getting it right the first time, no swearing involved. Go me! The first hat took me so long to graft the garter stitch correctly that I couldn't remember what I finally did to get it right. The second one I ended up grafting so that I have a row of stockinette on the inside of the hat, but because it's reverse stockinette (purls) on the outside, it hides well. I finally figured out that you have to work an odd number of rows for the graft to work (the pattern tells you to knit an even number of rows).

I'm working very hard not to do any knitting until my word count goal is reached. I don't think grafting counts.

Yesterday's word count was just under 2000. Not bad. Today I've already done 1000, in just a 30 minute block, thanks to the Write or Die website. Exactly the sort of psychology that works on me. I may just be able to catch up to my overall goal with the help of Dr. Wicked and his dastardly tools. Mwahahahaha.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Forget the apple, hand me some candy

The weekend got away from me. It was fall yard cleanup weekend at Chez Rox, so no writing on Saturday and Sunday. This here's a post about Friday's results.

Here are the completed Bella mittens, a holiday gift for a Twilight-loving friend of mine. I had Nina pose with my snack of choice, which is not an apple. (Although, really, this is not my snack of choice. My snack of choice is chocolate, but I did not want to reveal to my kids where I had it hidden.)

These mittens will keep my friend Chris far warmer than Edward Cullen ever could.

Also accomplished: I exceeded Friday's1667 word goal. Actual word count: 1809.

The housework goals are never fully realized, even when I'm not doing NaNo, but I did manage to terrorize the dog with the giant sucking wand and horrifying wetness spreader. Laundry is still piled up in the laundry room. Oh, well.

I have found a better procrastination activity than housework, one which involves writing (although, sadly, does not count toward my NaNo word goal). I went through my Ask a Knitter column list of questions, and wrote a bunch of them on green post its (a glance across the room tells me there there are 11 green post its on the wall at the moment). So when I take a break from the novel, I work on answering one of those questions and try to figure out how much knitting and picture taking the answer is going to involve. What's sad is there are a ton of other questions in my Ravelry inbox, that haven't even made it to the post it stage yet. I fear that by the time I answer some of them, the knitters who asked the questions will have moved on to crochet or quilting out of disgust.

I just looked at how many words I wrote while procrastinating. More than I wrote for NaNo. It's a lot easier to write stuff that you know is true than it is to make up stuff you know isn't true.

Thursday I couldn't find my camera battery charger, which I felt sure must have been buried on the end table next to my chair, amongst the various PDFs of knitting patterns, mysterious notes I have written to myself that say things like "p2, X, p2, dec \" with an arrow pointing to a line drawing a 5-year-old could be proud of and many, many miniature candy wrappers. I wish I could say I sorted through all the papers and filed them appropriately, but really what I did was move them all to the card table I set up across the room as a sort of photo studio. (The card table has not improved my photos, but it has improved my ability to stack more papers.) What I found under the end table made my heart swell:

Little Bo Peep has found her sheep. My Lantern Moon Black Sheep measuring tape, that is. I thought I had left it on the plane in Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, the battery charger was located in my laptop case.

Today's writing goal: 2500 words (to help make up for none this weekend). Also, one question from my Ask a Knitter pile.

Today's knitting goal: I am this close to having my Manon cardigan complete. I sewed up the seams and put in the set-in sleeves this weekend. I need to do the decorative stitching to hide the jog in the ribs at the seams, and then wash it. I'm teaching tomorrow night and I would love to wear it to class. I also made the garter stitch strip for my third Quincy hat, and will try to at least do the graft some time today.

Also, there are still many leaves on the front lawn, even though we raked and bagged 35 30-gallon bags full of leaves, so that will be today's active procrastination activity. I have to do something to get myself off my butt. It's going numb.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Writing: 1, Knitting 0

I'm back on track with the NaNo writing, having exceeded my daily goal of 1667 words yesterday. (I'm still behind on my total word goal, but I can't let myself get worked up about it.)

As for the knitting, I was at an afterschool event for 7th and 8th graders and their families. There was a lot of sitting and listening, so perfect time to knit, right? I was at the point where I needed to move the thumb gusset stitches to waste yarn, but I had forgotten to bring any along. I improvised from the contents of my sparsely supplied notions bag and used a bunch of those those interlocking stitch markers, about 3 sts for each one, and praised myself for my resourcefulness. I was practically like MacGyver. I worked all the way up the hand of the mitten until I started the decreases and right off the bat I saw I was short by two stitches.

I put too many stitches on those itty bitty markers. This is what is so great about NaNoWriMo. I don't ever delete any words. They can be crappy, but they stay. Not so much with the gift knitting.

Yesterday's To Do list looks like this now:

Oddly, I did not manage to get my procrastination activities done. I blame it on a college friend, Karen, who found me on FaceBook and immediately added me to an email list of other women we shared a house with in Ann Arbor for a couple of years. It took me a while to read through what they're all doing -- lawyering in Florida and Colorado, living on a horse ranch in Australia, running a consulting firm in South Africa. You can understand why I had to skip the vacuuming, right? Reading about all that accomplishment made me too tired to push a sucking wand around the kitchen floor.

Here is today's to-do list, written with Sharpie so that humans can read it without the aid of forensic computational devices.

That looks doable, right? The only one I'm worried about is the one on the lower right.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

If it's Thursday, I must be writing

Oh, NaNoWriMo, how you taunt me with your promise of "just writing through" the story. You make these promises that you expect me to keep while I'm wandering around in the dark with a broken pencil, no paper, and no freaking idea of what it is I'm writing through.

By the end of Tuesday, I was at 4000+ words. I can't remember exactly how many, it's not important. What's important is to know that I failed to make my Tuesday goal (I hit 675 instead of 1667), because what is writing about if not an opportunity to criticize yourself for not writing enough, for writing crap when you do write, and for finding other things to do to fill your time that do not involve writing. Things like eating leftover Halloween candy.

So yesterday I was frustrated, but I had knitting group in the morning, which always makes me feel better, even if I get an appallingly small amount of actual knitting done. There was pumpkin cheesecake and Earl Grey tea, and good conversation, and then I went home to write. Ha!

I haven't been at the start of a brand new story in a long time, so I forgot what my process was, or if I ever knew, it's changed since then. I hadn't really done any pre-NaNo "pre-writing" activities, like coming up with a plot (I'm afraid no amount of pre-writing will ever help me come up with a plot, mostly because no amount of actual writing seems to do the job, either) or figuring out who my characters are and what they want that's tangible. I'm very good at coming up with their emotional baggage and what they want internally. Not so good at finding the tangible representation of that emotional goal. Which would be the plot.

Turns out I actually have to have my characters interact with each other before I can figure out what they want and why they want it. Who knew?

So yesterday while I wasn't writing I came up with a list of 10 scenes that I need to write for the story setup (the first Act). I know who the scenes' protag/antags are for each one, and where they take place. And an idea of what I think the point of the scene is. Note: I do not know the actual point of those scenes. I only think I do. The actual writing will lead me to the point. Eventually. Long after NaNo is over, most likely, because it's through the rewriting and polishing that I discover the real point. Damn subconscious. Some day I'm going to invent a writing efficiency machine that will allow me to know my point before I start. I'll make millions.

Now that I have my list of 10 scenes, I have a little flashlight in the dark which I used to find the pencil sharpener and some paper, so today I will write.

I found my camera, by the way. So here are the Bella mittens (or the first one, anyway) that I started on Monday.

I'm about half way through the second one.

Here is today's to-do list, on the wall of my office:

Here's a little surprise I found in my Ravelry projects page:

Someone favorited my husband. Or maybe it's the hat they favorited. Better be, because even though he says he looks like someone on the 10 Most Wanted List in that hat, he's still my favorite.

In other news, this morning while I was drinking coffee and not writing, I figured out an insanely brilliant way to pick up stitches in a situation that is not common, but not rare, either, and way better than the existing known options. I love it when my brain comes through on esoteric knitting techniques. Some time this week I will write this up. Come to think of it, this would be a way better procrastination activity than mopping floors. I don't know what I was thinking.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Is it Monday already?

NaNoWriMo word count
Day 1: 2022
Day 2: 1456

Knitting score: one Bella mitten. If I could find my camera, I'd post a photo.

Also looking for conflict in my story.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Here's a little number I knocked off this weekend.

It's a knock off of an Urban Outfitters hat Nina wanted. I reversed the cable crossings.

I'm calling it the Knock it Off Cabled Hat.

Yarn: 2 50g balls of Classic Elite Ariosa, 90% extra fine merino, 10% cashmere. A delightful, 1 ply yarn that is consistent in thickness. This color is Azalea.
Needles: Size 9 for the ribbing, size 10.5 for the body of the hat.
Gauge: 3.5sts/in in stockinette.

The photos are a little dark because I took them with no flash last night.

It was a nice mental challenge, because of the way the cables moved diagonally, so I had to figure out how to deal with the beginning of the round so as to avoid a jog. (Thank you, Cookie A for your Sock Innovations book that has a nice chapter on working with patterns like this.) Then I had to figure out how to deal with the decreases so they worked out nicely, maintaining the pattern as long as possible.

Nina seems to like it. Sophia seems to like it more. She's been wearing it all morning. I'm guessing she's getting away with that because Nina is still in bed.

In other news, it's NaNoWriMo time (National Novel Writing Month), and I'm participating this year, plunging myself back into the world of fiction writing with a new book that I don't know much about yet. 30 days and (I hope) 50K words from now, I'll know a lot more.

I've got some friends I'm doing this with, and we'll be cheering each other on, which is good, because I'm terrified. I'm hoping to post a little update every day, both with my writing progress and whatever knitting I may have done, too. So it's really BloKniWriMo (Blog Knitting Writing Month) for me.

Mmmph. I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

ETA: Nina just woke up. First thing she said was, "Get that hat off your head."