Sunday, December 31, 2006

When forecasts are wrong

Today, we were supposed to get some snow mixed with rain. Somewhere around 2 PM, well after getting home from church, the annoying drizzle we've been getting the past plethora of hours was supposed to turn into sleet, and then snow. And maybe, if the forecast was correct, we'd get 1-3 inches of the white stuff before it melted tomorrow.
Around 10:00, it started to snow. It hasn't stopped yet. The trip home from church wasn't treacherous ... but we did travel at about half speed most of the way, and were glad we knew where the roads were. Our plans for tonight changed somewhat -- rather than go to the church New Year's Eve Party this evening and leaving our son there with a friend for a sleepover, and picking him up tomorrow morning at a New Year's Breakfast, we will instead stay put and keep said friend until such time as it's a wise idea to be out on the road.

The latest forecast calls for 6-10 inches. It's been a lovely afternoon for building snow forts, consuming hot cocoa, and looking out the window at a world which is not a dull brown.

My 'boring' projects are finished ... once again, nothing on the needles. Should I make it a tradition to have all my projects completed before I go to bed on New Year's Eve? Excepting, of course, the projects I don't want to count, like the leftover Rambling Road afghan that's been in a bag for a few years at my mom's house, in case I got stranded there with nothing to knit, and a certain quilt that's been languishing for not nearly that long? (although I do plan to finish the quilt in the coming year.)

First, we have the Doodle Doily.

This was made on size 2 needles, over 62 stitches, with a sampler pattern from Heirloom Knitting, and an old ball of Knit-Cro-Sheen that I happened to have laying around. I'd really like to know how old the yarn is ... the label said only J. P. Coats, Knit Cro Sheen, Boilfast. No color, no price, no nothing else. Another ball I have of probably the same vintage is a size 30 Clark Big Ball - for 29 cents. That's the printed price, not what I got it for. How long has it been since a Big Ball of size 30 cotton went for 29 cents? They look to be $2.19 now.

In any case, I cast on 62, knit for a while, then worked the Doris Edging around the rectangle, and grafted the edges together. I ran out of thread, but wouldn't you know, I happened to have some unlabelled thread of about the same size, so was able to finish it. It's blocking now, and I'll see tomorrow if it needs starching as well. I think I like it ... so now, to plot and plan the shawl!

The Leftover Sock Yarn Coast Project

I've gotten four coasters made (KnitPicks Simple Stripes in Vineyard, and Essential in Burgundy), and have just a few yards left of burgundy. What really surprised me is that the stripes lined up so nicely. I did not plan it in the least ... and probably will never repeat it. The coasters are a titch small, so I'm going to use a larger needle on the next set. Haven't made up my mind about fringing them yet either.

Today would be the perfect day to make a list of projects for the coming year, but it probably won't get done. I do know that I will be making a shawl (or several) from Victorian Lace Today, a sweater from a Green Mountain Spinnery book using Peace Fleece, and something akin to the Unst Lace Stole from Heirloom Knitting. It feels like 2007 might be a year of the shawl. Or maybe it will be the year of the S's. Socks, Shawls, Sweaters, and Stoles?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Third Day of Christmas

was full, with doctors for mom, therapists for daughter, music practice for me ... and several hours of playing with friends for son. And after all that, we had to sneak in a library run to get a new batch of books. I'm not sure if all the Christmas books are read, but still, we can never pass up a library.

The Booga Bags are finished drying, and I've put the smaller one into service. It looks ... well ... rather like a Booga Bag. I am very glad that I had 15 mm needles handy, since I really doubt I would have been able to work the I-cord through anything smaller. If you are thinking of making the Booga out of bulky yarn instead of worsted, consider also using 4 stitches for your I-cord instead of 5. My current projects on the needles are rather boring ... a coaster (3 of 4) using leftover sock yarn and a lace swatch for a nightstand, using some leftover bedspread cotton. While I'm not joining Knit From Your Stash 2007, I am going to try and decrease the volume required for leftover sock yarn storage. I also hope to make some dresser scarves and such-like, and since I have fine cotton hanging around, I will probably use that.

In lieu of photos of non-fascinating project photos, I have some dog photos. Here, you have a cuddly widdle puppy dog expressing his displeasure at having a mob cap placed on his recumbent form.
And here, you have a photo which, once again, missed the pose with both legs stretched out. When we got him from the shelter, his name was Taffy. I think his stretching ability must have been what inspired the name. He'll crawl along at full stretch as fast as I can walk ... and it must be a great way to get a tummy rub. Is this common to terriers, I wonder?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

And the second day of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, I knit. And on the second day of Christmas, I uploaded photos of what I knit.
But long before Christmas, I was stealth knitting, stealth designing, and stealth correcting. I'd set up a lovely pattern for my son's gansey. All was going along quite well for the first 50 rows, and then I took a good look at it. I realized that one side of the diamond pattern had 1 plain knit stitch, and the other side, because of its adjacency to another pattern, had 3 plain knit stitches. I stopped, contemplated, and decided it was time for a mid-course correction.
Doesn't that look mid-course-correctiony? I ran back 2 stitches of stockinette, and reworked them to match the garter pattern on their left. If you look carefully, you can see the three stitches next to the diamonds at the left edge that are next in my sights to fix.

I am *so glad* that I stayed up late to fix both sides. It would have taken great fortitude to pick the sweater up the next day and continue correcting. There must be some anesthetic quality to shock which allows people to rework large amounts of mis-knit material on the same day the error is identified. I also had to fix the back when I got around to it, but that was only 15 rows or so.

It wasn't until I started working on the shoulders that I realized I'd mis-knit / mis-remembered the diamond pattern I had planned to use. I did not go back and revamp those, however. They were diamonds, they looked good ... and if they didn't match what I had on my graph paper, I'd just throw away the graph paper and keep the sweater.

The finished product came out quite nicely...
The garter collar didn't behave like I wanted it to, but the recipient is happy, the sweater fits, and the initials at the lower right corner of the sweater were a nice touch. He likes the matching socks too ... they keep his toesies warm.

Today is a reading and crafting day around here. And a day to continue writing an answer key. Merry 2nd day after Christmas, all!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The First Day of Christmas

For Theresa, who wanted to see the Harebell Lace Fichu ... here 'tis. The pattern worked out wonderfully. There were a few places where pen and paper were handy to keep tabs on how to do which kind of join, and working a sample of the lace was invaluable in figuring out the method behind the madness (and also decipher the chart symbols, since I didn't have the entire book to work from at the time). I used Schafer yarns in Anne and have a good chunk of the skein left. I'll have to weigh it and see if there's enough for a second fichu.

And here's the socks in Claudia's Handpainted Yarns, colorway John B, lace pattern Field of Flowers (mis-remembered) from Heirloom Kniting. I love how the yarn striping worked in the stockinette portion.

Right now, on my needles, I have a facecloth (aka washcloth, but can you really call a lace concoction a washcloth?) in white dishcloth cotton. It's my second of the day, using stitch pattens from my New Barbara Walker Treasury (4 vols plus Mosaic Knitting!).

My semiBooga Bags are drying in the window now. I couldn't use the silver yarn needle to weave in the ends, because it had stayed in a crevice in the couch at my mom's house. The side effect of this minor travesty was that I discovered that using a Fine Quality Tool can make an otherwise unpleasant task more palatable. Pity I couldn't use it last night with all those ends. The bags felted up nicely, and are perched over 3 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica (the large bag) and 8 volumes of Elsie Dinsmore (the small bag). The books are, of course, covered in plastic.

Coming tomorrow ... Stealth Project #3 photos!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Today is the long-awaited Christmas day. Secret knitting and sewing can now be revealed. (It all got done, too.) But before it was revealed to those most intimately concerned with it, we went to church for a lovely service of Song, Scripture reading, and a sermon. I could sing all day on Christmas, I think.

Stockings came before the service, however. Both my children got fountain pens in their stockings. One pen got left at my mom's house, and one child learned the hard way not to put your finger on the nib while writing .. but so far, so good! I'm almost finished with my second cartridge, and am still not sure what color(s) ink to get next.

My first stealth knitting project was the Aran Rose Sweater from Interweave Knits (the same one with the Trellis Scarf in it. That was a good issue) My gauge swatch, dutifully done, perfectly matched what the pattern called for. The finished sweater did absolutely NOT match the dimensions given in the pattern. Gauge somehow changed drastically (drastically, drastically, drastically ... did I mention drastically?) and instead of being 30" at the chest, was 26". I also had an extra 20 rows of center pattern to get the requisite length. When you read to measure your gauge as you work along, they're not kidding. I decided that the sweater needed a good blocking, and that I'd give it one after Christmas. The neck, somehow, strangely enough, is loose compared to the rest of the sweater ... but my daughter vehemently protested my offer to redo the neck, and likes the fit as is, so all is well.

I snuck in a fourth Stealth Knitting Project before Christmas, for my mom. She got me some lovely hand-dyed yarn to make the Harebell Lace Fichu from Victorian Lace Today, and promised to get me the book for Christmas. I got permission to make a copy of the pattern, and an obliging friend (Thanks!) sent it to me, so I was able to present the fichu to mom today, finished, before I even got the book. The patterns in it are *fabulous* and I am looking forward to seriously reading through the book and making a few things from it in the coming year.

While I wasn't Stealth Knitting, I knit a facecloth using dishcloth cotton and the Bead Lozenge Centre Pattern from Heirloom Lace Knitting. My crochet edging is atrocious, but I do like the lace. Swatching lace into facecloths could be a fun hobby. It doesn't tell you beans about gauge for a laceweight shawl, but it helps you learn the pattern, is worked in yarn that's easily visible, and there's a handy use for it.

Once again, I don't have anything on the needles. I do have two bags to felt, and one cord to make. Right now, though, I think I'll go weave in some ends with my new Sterling Silver Yarn Needle from Celtic Swan Forge. What a delightful surprise that was! (Thank you, stealth gifter!)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas checklist

  1. Take bag of finished Christmas goodies to church on Sunday and plop it into mom's car so she can wrap them in the afternoon before we get there.
  2. Show up at Mom's house (aka Grandma's house, which is over the river and through the woods) after Christmas Eve Service.
Okay, there is a smidge more than this on my checklist. Feeding my family between now and Christmas eve, wiping the dog's feet when he comes in, practicing harp ...

The sewing is done. The knitting is done. The quilt shall remain buried wherever it has been buried since I moved into my current craft room. I have, essentially, two days to doodle knit. Or perchance ... not knit? What would happen if I didn't get something on the needles in the next 2 hours? Would they atrophy?

You've read about my stealth knitting. In the same vein, I got a stealth package this week. I wasn't expecting it. It didn't even come with a name. It came with a return address of Celtic Swan Forge, however, and may I say how much I am looking forward to opening the package? My mom was sweet and opened the package for me to discover the sender (I guessed right, at least, once I found out it wasn't from my mom) and has since rewrapped it so I won't know which particular package under the tree (or in the port-a-crib, to preserve it from the frolics of the household canines) contains the ?????????? from Celtic Swan.

Thank you, O Stealth Package Sender!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The end has arrived!

By dint of diligent hard work, unrelenting dedication to knitting after everyone else's bedtime, and the careful snatching of moments when the right set of eyes was not present, I have finished my Christmas knitting.

And it's not even Christmas week yet.

This is good, because I haven't even started my Christmas sewing yet. Christmas sewing cutting-out, yes. That's 3/4ths done. But the sewing has yet to take place. Theoretically it's a quick and easy pattern, but it still needs to get actually done. What I'd really love is to have a sewing fairy come keep me company (and hostage) in my craft room while I finish off both my Christmas sewing and a quilt top that's been waiting to be finished since I-won't-mention-when.

Sewing doesn't really occupy a large part of my thoughts, however. Knitting (among other things) does. This week I'll be working on socks in a sport weight yarn (48 stitches around instead of 60 ... wheee!) and other small projects. There is absolutely no point in starting something large the week before Christmas. Part of the joy of finding out what delight my mom got me is the ability to start knitting from it or with it immediately, and if I have something on the needles, the ability is not there. So ... small stuff.

And that reminds me of knitting from one's stash. Wendy of WendyKnits! and some others are participating in a Knit From Your Stash 2007. I would love to do this, but I'm not sure my stash is really a stash. My stash is composed of left-overs, with a few small exceptions. They are
  1. Two, non-matching skeins of Koigu, purchased under the misimpression that they'd be enough for a pair of colorwork socks.
  2. KnitPicks Palette sampler (with several partial skeins)
  3. KnitPicks Merino Style sampler (with a few partial skeins)
  4. KnitPicks Shadow Sampler (with four partial skeins)
I have leftover sock yarn (and what, besides log cabin stuff, can one make with perhaps 30 skeins of 100 yards of sock yarn?), leftover acrylic (which is wandering towards my daughter's stash, and I don't miss it one bit), leftover yarn from someone else's stash, 20 yards of leftover Noro Silk Garden, bits and pieces of this and that ....

It really and truly sounds like some people have stashes composed of yarn they bought for particular projects, and then never made them. Yarn, in sufficient quantity, to knit a sweater, or a shawl, or a hat, without cobbling together various brands, fiber types, gauges, and colors. Can this be true?

Six days left to Christmas, and there is no snow on the ground. There are icicles in the upcoming forecast, so not all hope is lost.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The end is in sight ....

The title carries a two-fold truth. Firstly, the end of a skein of yarn is scant yards away from my needles. Come to think of it, both projects on needles are near skeins' end. (That would be a good name for a yarn store. Skeins' End. Maybe in Hobbiton?) And for the other truth, I've got roughly 1500 stitches and a neck left on my stealth project. There's a whoe 7 days to do that in. One day for the 1500 stitches, and who knows what for the neck. I haven't designed it yet, but I have a vague idea how I will go about it.

I have had a most wonderful time sending Christmas cards out this year ... any opportunity to use a fountain pen! I also got some new address labels with a yarn logo on them. But how dense can I be? I forgot to include my mailing address on the labels. Still, that's not the company's fault, and the labels are quite lovely. At $2 a sheet ($2.25 if you choose colored ink for your address info) and 60 labels a sheet, the price is right. They asked me to tell others about them ... and so I shall. Superior Labels operates just across the river from Moline, IL, where I lived many long years ago, before the levy. Nice labels, quick service, excellent price.

I heard a new word today on TV while my dh and ds were watching a college basketball game. The announcer used the word "Cokeness" in a Coca-cola advertisement. I looked askance at the television, and quietly marveled at the state of advertising in the world today. The following advertisement was for Bod-Man, and although no new words were coined, the wording of the advertisement made me wish to avoid the product, and any users of the product. But why I bring this up is what the announcer said after he finished reading the text of the second commercial. It was precious.

You know, sometimes your dignity gets challenged on this job.

My husband and I looked at each other. Dh commented, "You're looking at me as if you think you heard what I thought I heard." Never has my opinion of sports announcers been so high. As a rule, I don't have much of an opinion about them. Since my grasp of the finer points of the game is debatable ("Mom! Do you know why the Flyers won?" "Because they had more points than the other team at the final buzzer?") my few opinions are formed not on their competence, but on their graciousness to teams that are blowing it, and lack of profanity. But today ... to hear one comment on challenges to his dignity, on the air, right after some less-than-classic ads ... and to comment so politely ... it was a delight. And a pleasure.

It was also a good excuse to use my fountain pen.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

And the snow lay on the ground

The snow lays thinly, but it does indeed lay. Today is St. Nicholas' Day, which means it's the day we get out our artificial tree (a concession to allergies) and decorate it and the house. My children are the chief decorators, and we have a lovely living room at the moment. A harp really adds a nice touch to a Christmas tree, did you know? Maybe I can find some ribbon to artfully drape over it.

A bug, or bugs, are making their way through the small fry in the family as well. Without going into unnecessary details, it can be said that I stayed home on Sunday with one, and was quite close to staying home with the other tonight. When the latter was told that, were he to stay home, he still could not keep close tabs on the Dayton-Creighton basketball game, he determined to go, and hopefully keep a low profile.

I have been knitting, of course, but have no photos because I am still doing Stealth Knitting. If all goes well, I can reasonably complete my projects in time to wrap them. I'm not so sure about blocking, but the wrapping part should be ... dare I say... a wrap.

One of the reasons Christmas is a special time of the year - beyond the very obvious fact that we celebrate Christ's birth, and where would I be without Christ? - is that I hear and read about some very nifty things. From the e-mails of one person, in particular, have some gems of presents come this year and last year. (Yes, this year. It's a rule that if I get something for myself, I don't have to wait for Christmas to open it.) Last year was Adagio Teas and this year it's Pendemonium. I've also learned there are several other tea vendors that ladies on my homeschool list frequent, and SpecialTea's Mocha Spice is loudly calling my name (to no avail, thus far), but last Christmas, it was Adagio Tea that I got a teapot and some yummy teas from. This year, I ordered a fountain pen from Pendemonium, and have been having a wonderful time with it. Me, with my left handed hook, can use a fountain pen without scratching, smudging, or other terrible scriptatorial events. I am looking forward to using up the ink cartridges I ordered with the pen, and trying some other colors. I am also enjoying writing ... and to that end, addressed, by hand, all our Christmas cards. I'm also hunting for things to write in my commonplace book, just for the delight of using the pen. I did draw the line at recopying an entire section of Waverly's third chapter, however.

I've never read Waverly before, but I got brave a few years back and read Ivanhoe. Much to my surprise, it was a readable novel. Waverly has been sitting on my shelf, and I decided it would be good fodder to read while sitting next to a sick child. I'm not that far into it, but chapter 3 intrigued me. So did the General Introduction, followed by the Introduction, followed by another Introduction, followed by the Preface to the Third Edition, followed by Chapter I - Introductory. (Actually, that part just tickled my fancy. Chapter 3 was the intriguing part.) It's a bit too long to append here, but if you'd like to read some comments on education in 1805, follow the link. The second paragraph is the portion at risk of finding its way into my commonplace book.

I also found a "Which character in Princess Bride are You?" quiz, which delighted myself and my son. My daughter was not entirely pleased to be Westley, and my dear husband did not show any emotion upon hearing himself pronounced Buttercup.

On the other hand, I think Valerie suits me perfectly. She probably had some knitting needles back there in a corner of the shop.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

An Office!

My husband has an office.

Once upon a time, the basement had a dirt floor and a ceiling at 5' 6", and there was a desk in the corner of a not-so-large bedroom. Then the decision was made to turn the basement into an office. The first step was to put in an egress window .. which required digging a 4x7x6 foot hole outside the house, and cutting through a 22" thick fieldstone foundation. Long story, but nobody died.

Then came removing 624 or so cubic feet of clay from the basement, through aforementioned window, with buckets. Long story, one bicep got torn. Ouch.

Next, in went 3 tons of gravel, drain tile, and a sump pump.

After that, a concrete ledge was poured around the edge. I'm told it can be a bad thing to have your foundation sitting on clay, one foot or so above the actual floor. I got nominated to shovel concrete. My husband got to push a wheelbarrow half-full of concrete across a gravel floor and tip it into the forms, and I ran the shovel ... getting the concrete out of the wheelbarrow, rearranging it in the forms, and smoothing things out.

Then, came pouring the floor. Originally, it was going to be a two person operation. Sanity prevailed, however, and we instead opted to have the job done right. (This ensured that the floor resembled something flat, rather than moguls. It also permits me to have pictures. According to plan A, I would have been the guy in the picture.)

Twenty four hours after the first picture, the second picture was taken. I had no clue that you could set up an office on concrete a mere 24 hours after it arrived in a truck in the driveway. 21 hours after the concrete truck left. And closer to 20 hours after the final smoothings took place. But that's what happened.

In the meantime, I've been knitting socks.
KnitPicks Gloss, in Dusk, with lace panel.

And Claudia's Handpainted Yarns, John B., with all-around lace, slightly modified because I didn't have the pattern with me and turned it into a 10 stitch repeat instead of 12.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's wonderful to go over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house today. And it's wonderful for my husband that he will be having a gluten-free Christmas. Wild rice stuffing, cornbread stuffing, pumpkin custard ... a plethora of delicious foods designed to tantalize the tastebuds. And as watching football gives my son an appetite, I'm sure serious inroads will be made in the dishes on the table, which means my mother should be able to fit the leftovers into her refrigerator afterwards. The rule is "Whatever doesn't fit goes home with the relatives."

The John B sock will be accompanying us to Thanksgiving, since some people are categorically unable to sit quietly without wiggling fingers. Why are you not surprised?

Things we're thankful for around here ...
* The basement is done.
* Friends and Family.
* Friends, Family Food, and Football.
* A harp
* Pointy sticks and yarn.
* Good books.
* The Good Book.
* God's love, and the rest of His marvelous qualities.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Of socks, and swatches, and super stuff

Here are pictures of my latest pair of socks. They're my first using a Feather and Fan pattern. It's like the Ridged Feather pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks, but it does't have a purl row. Why have a purl row if the pattern looks just as good without one?

The yarn is KnitPicks dye-your-own, and it was dyed with Kool-aid as a family project. It was *supposed* to be green and blue, but the Master Dyer put green Kool-Aid in the blue pot, so .. it didn't quite come out that way. The colors in the single-sock picture are closest to life.

My next pair of socks is using KnitPicks Gloss, in Dusk. I *like* this yarn. It is soft. It is silky. My toes tingle with the anticipation of wearing them. (My toes are easily excited. Life is pretty boring from the inside of a sock.) I'm using the Field of Flowers pattern from Heirloom Lace on the front of the sock above the ankle.

I've also finished the large gansey swatch. I see now why the directions say to measure it every which way, and then seam it. I knit it in the round (like the gansey will be) which made some of the measurements tricky, but still ... I got 'em. And I used the information gathered to start Stealth Project #3. I also made my Very First PomPom ever, and attatched it to the hat.

Lastly, but most definitely not leastly, are some things that have crept into my knitting basket lately. Heirloom Knitting is the one which will last the longest, I'm sure. I spend my spare time reading it. It is WONDERFUL!!!! The lace pattern for my current pair of socks comes from there. The lace pattern for my next pair of socks will come from there. And I'm thinking of making an adaptation of the Unst Stole for a friend. It's a lovely book. I just wish I had an isolated mountain cabin, no chores, and enough food/water/yarn stockpiled for the winter so I could devote the proper amount of time to it.

Next to the book is a laceweight skin of Shaeffer Yarns, in the Anne colorway. My mom picked it out for a ficchu from Victorian Lace Knitting. I don't have the book yet, but that's a minor problem. I've never worked with handpainted yarns (excluding KnitPicks items) so making up the ficchu will be a treat. And my last treat of the day (courtesy of a gift card from the State Fair) was some handpainted sock yarn from Claudia, in the John B colorway. I was at a loss as to what to get with my gift card (the store didn't have any Jamieson and Smith cobweb yarn, alas) so I vacillated between mittens and socks, mittens and socks. Since the sock yarn went so nicely with the ficchu-to-be, I went with the socks.

Tomorrow my husband is taking me to a harp concert. I am looking forward to it (understatement). And in our non-yarn shopping yesterday, I found a collection of Medieval Epics which I snatched up. I've always wanted to read the Nibelungenlied, but never saw it anywhere. Now I have it, merrily perched on my desktop.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The First Real Snow of 2006-07

Today is one of those perfect winter days. Not as perfect as a day with a raging storm and nowhere to go (assuming a working power supply, enough hot cocoa for a small army, and a good supply of yarn), but perfect nonetheless. We've 4+ inches of snow on the ground, temperatures cold enough not to melt it, and no pressing business to take care of.

In short, a wonderful day for knitting. So what do I do? Edit an answer key.

But editing has its place, and working into the evening isn't one of them. I've finished a pair of kool-aid dyed green socks, and am working on a large swatch for a gansey. Another name for the swatch is 'hat' -- my thanks to Liz Lovick for the idea! Since hats are portable, I'm not starting another pair of socks quite yet. And I have nothing else on the needles. That will change before long, I'm sure.

My friend Lynn who made that sample Brioche sweater finished her first sock last weekend, and tomorrow I get to find out what she's been up to since then.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sock Repair

You've heard of darning socks? At its easiest, darning socks consists of working duplicate stitch over spots that are about to give.

At its hardest, darning is something I don't do. I haven't mastered (or even given more than one mediocre shot at) the art of laying a ground, stitching in duplicate stitch over what doesn't exist, then removing the ground and having a repaired sock. No, I try other things.

Consider this sock, which is 100% merino. It jumped into the washing machine with its mate and survived, but there was a hole. Or so the sock owner told me.

I looked and found two holes. Slightly felted holes. I decided that the way to fix this was not with easy darning, nor with hard darning, but with reknitting. So I hunted for a nice spot at which to pick up stitches, and discovered a third hole. It's tiny (the perfect size for easy darning) but evident ... so I picked up stitches right around the last row of the heel.

I knit the sock with size 2 needles, and I used size 0 metal needles to pick up stitches. I merrily pick-pick-picked up anything that looked like a stitch, and then amputated the foot. After amputation, I picked out all the loose threads I could find and ended up with two longish ends (the frizzed red and green ends in the photo. I contemplated their origin and their destination, and discovered that they were two ends of the same piece of yarn. I searched for another end, but it was fruitless. I decided not to think about that too hard, and started reknitting the leg.

While knitting, I mulled over my options. Do I reknit the remainder of the sock? Or do I reknit it until I'm past where the last hole was, and graft the ribbing onto the new portion? I very quickly decided to reknit the whole thing. Knitting is more fun than grafting. That settled, I continued to knit. And knit. I began considering how long it would take me to knit the ribbing. And how long it could possibly take me to graft 60 stitches to each other. Even if it took me a minute to graft each stitch, that would still take less time than knitting the ribbing.

So I changed my mind. I did a second amputation on the sock leg, cutting a row or two below the round of stitches where I wanted to graft. I debated picking up all the stitches on another set of needles, and decided against it.

I grafted, and grafted, and grafted, and before I thought it possible, I was finished!

Then came a small snag. In my grafting, I'd split some of the yarn, thus insuring that it would be A Bear to remove most of the yarn I'd left in below my grafting row. There's a slight seam in there ... oh well.
They've been returned to the sock owner, and if the seam is bothersome ... I'll get out my tweezers and embroidery scissors and pick away.

In my spare knitting time, I've started another pair of socks, FINALLY made Julia's Hat (from September of the 2006 Knitting Pattern-a-Day Calender), and been delighting the small fry of church with custom-made headbands.

And other things ... but no photos of that, yet.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A First Knitting Project

Some people say knitting is hard, and beginning knitters should start with something easy.

I'd like to present to you The Brioche Sweater, knit from scratch by a friend of mine. If you exclude small swatches (one must figure out the knit stitch before knitting a gauge swatch, of course, and a gauge swatch is mandatory when you're not following anything resembling a printed pattern), this is her First Knitting Project. She's never knit a scarf. She's never knit socks (although those are starting to call to her). Her daughter just had a sweater that was beginning to wear out, and she thought she'd learn to knit so she could make a replacement.

When you have a friend (me) who doesn't know the meaning of 'learning curve' or 'hard' , those are dangerous sentiments to have. I sicced a beginning knitter on Brioche Stitch, and with the help of the Interweave Knits article on Brioche, and the Knitter's Handy Guide to Sweater Pattens, and a bit of fudging, we recreated the sweater. Of course, this is just a sample sweater, to make sure it would turn out, and to get the hang of the stitch It's not the right color at all -- the ideal color is Chartreuse, like the new dye KnitPicks offers. Except that dyed the yarn kelly green. How annoying. I haven't pointed out to her yet how felicitious it was that she dyed the yarn FIRST, rather than knit up the sweater and then dye the garment. That would have been a sad day in the annals of her life.

She's still speaking to me, and I'm hoping to talk her into making a pair of socks next. After Brioche double-decreases and double-increases, what troubles can sock heels on double pointed needles be?

If you lived in Minnesota, Denise, see what you could do?

Now, for my Infomercial on the figure eight cast on. The focus isn't the greatest on some of the photos, but I hope they serve their purpose.

Start with two double pointed needles. Somewhat pointy, light, and not too slippery are ideal. Wrap the yarn around them in a figure 8 form.

In the photo above, I've cast on 8 stitches. Four on the upper needle, and four on the lower needle. The next step is to, with a 3rd (and possibly 3rd and 4th dpn, depending on your preference and the number of stitches) to knit across the stitches on the upper needle. Observe that the last stitch formed is on the lower needle? This is important. If you were to try and knit across the stitches on the lower needle, you'd have an odd first stitch.
Above, you have the result of knitting across one needle. I usually cast on 24 stitches or so for socks - 12 on each needle - and knit six stitches onto one dpn, and the next six onto another. But with just four stitches? I forgot to change needles.

Next, you'll turn your work so that the lower needle is on top (you're knitting in the round, remember?) and knit across those stitches. Here's me in the middle of a row.
You see that I'm knitting into the back of the stitch? That's because , due to the my wrapping, the 'leading edge' of the stitch is in the back. I suppose it's possible to wrap the needles so that the first needle you knit across has stitches with the leading edge in the back. Wherever you find them, knit those stitches into the back, so that there isn't a row of twisted stitches in your project.

How do you know which edge is the leading edge? Look carefully, and you'll see that the yarn which comes down from the top of the needle and heads over to the stitch you just knit into forms the leading edge of the stitch. In typical American knitting, if there is such a thing any more, the leading edge is in front. In Eastern knitting, it's in the back. In combined knitting, it varies. If you find all this confusing, simply knit the stitch however you need to so that it's not twisted.
After I knit around my cast on once, I start increasing. For this project (and for most all my projects of this sort) I use a bar increase. For socks, I like increasing at each side of the foot -- so I k1 p1 into the last stitch on one needle, and repeat that in the first stitch on the next needle - at the edges. If you number the needles '1 2 3 4' , then I'd increase at the end of 4, the beginning of 1, the end of 2, and the beginning of 3. And then *knit around plain, and then do another increase round, and repeat from * until I had however many stitches I wanted. For the mitten thumb, I increased every round. and then knit round and round on 16 stitches until I had a thumb-looking object.
It's fun to make thumbs this way, if you have the recipient's hand handy, because there is No Way you can make it too short. If you look in the photo of my cast on, you'll see a spare mitten thumb, just sitting on waste yarn, waiting to be incorporated into a mitten. You can try the thumb on as much as you want. Unlike feet going into socks, your thumb is almost guaranteed not to break any wooden dpns if you try on a thumb in progress.

And at this point in the project, I left my camera behind and simply knitted.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Gauge Woes

I mentioned some gauge woes in my last post. Sadly, they are not of short duration. While I was cleaning some things out of my former craft room closet (now dd's closet) and moving them elsewhere, I came across a sock I made in bygone years. It was also a rude lesson in color selection, but I'd rather not talk about that. This lovely Fair Isle sock, made from a pattern in Threads magazine, was one of my first attempts at sock knitting. If I could get it on, it would function beautifully as a tourniquet. Fair Isle, as you probably know, doesn't have much give to it. And my gauge is about 11.5 stitches per inch on it. The floorboards which you see in the picture are 1.5 inches wide .

Strangely enough, the gauge of my mitten is also 11.5 - 12 stitches per inch. At least I know what size needles and yarn I used for it, so I can learn from my error. It's a lovely mitten, even if it is snug.

You know, there's really nothing less inspiring than finishing a mitten thumb. Especially if you know the mitten is not proportioned to fit any living human -- such as a Small Child with a hand length of a Medium Woman. Working on the thumb was an exercise in willpower. I considered frogging the mitten rather than finish it. My compromise, in the end, was to knit the thumb 'about yea long' and then bind off, with no thumb decreases. It's an open thumb. Nothing so short as would fit a Small Child, nor the annoyance of making the thumb the correct length for a Medium Woman who couldn't begin to get her thumb into the mitten to begin with. And so, the mitten is done.

But, since I had a grudge against mitten thumbs, and mitten gauges, I decided to trot out a Real SRP. I brought out some Worsted WoolEase, some size 5 Bryspun needles - lovely and lightweight for mittens - and use up some stash while providing for my family and anyone else within range. I cast on 8 stitches, and started a pair of mittens Top Down. When I got to the area where one would typically put a thumb, I put my mitten on a holding thread, cast on another 8 stitches, and started a thumb Top Down. Then I used a 3-needle bind off to connect the thumb to the mitten at a hopefully strategic point, and worked a gusset in reverse by decreasing every 3rd row, one stitch at each side of the thumb. When I was back to my original number of stitches, I switched to a ribbing, and ribbed. To finish my seat-of-the-skirt creation, I did a picot cast-off. I didn't like the one in Vogue, so I unvented my own.

I took oodles of pictures of the second mitten in progress, so I could do a nifty tutorial on how in the world one does this tip-down mitten. Unfortunately for the tutorial, I was away from my camera all day today, and there's a gap in my photo sequence between 'increased to 4 stitches on each needle' and 'finished mitten.'

I was also away from home when I finished the mittens, and still had a lot of visiting time, plus a 30 mile ride home. So I cast on for an ear warmer, requested by a boy at church who wanted one like ds's so he wouldn't muss his flat-top.

Now my son wants an earwarmer like his friend (yes, the one who wanted an earwarmer like my ds) except in the black and orange. That same son unearthed the proper colors from my stash, so I can say that my stash reduction project is continuing.

My stash also increased slightly today, as I was given a skein of Caron's Simply Soft in a lucious winey red. But I can honestly tell my husband that I am *trying* to reduce my stash. For really and true.

And for you, Rosemary, here's a picture of my knitting buddy.

My next post will hopefully be about figure eight cast ons, increasing, and the delights on figuring out gauge while the mitten still has a chance of fitting.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It's snowing!

Today is going to be a difficult school day. The school table is right in front of a window, and we're having our second snow of the year. And our first snow with big, fluffy flakes. Sticking. At least for a few hours. My son wished he were more like me ... loads of free time to watch the snow. He's missing something ... but that's okay.

This free time of mine ... I do not think the word means what he thinks it means.

Among other things, it means wrestling with a computer that doesn't want to upload pictures, editing files that don't particularly want to be edited, teaching children that would rather be playing in the snow,making meals for people with conflicting dietary requirements and wierd taste buds. Try being gluten free and avoiding rice at the same time ... it can be tricky.

But enough on my free time. After I finished the blue blob (at right) I cast on for another project. It's a SRP (Stash Reduction Project) and was intended for me, but things didn't work out that way.

You'd think, wouldn't you, that if you worked with a certain yarn, in a certain technique, on size 1 needles, and ended up with a guage of 18 stitches (per 2"), that if you wanted a gauge of 20 stitches, you'd use size 0. Right? Of course right. So I merrily cast on - having knitted not a gauge swatch, but an entire Sampler Gauge Project, and worked away. Pretty, ain't it? But the gauge is not 20 stitches. Nor is it 19, or 21, or 22. No, it's pretty indistinguishable from 24 stitches per 2". The 'Medium Women's' item has the appropriate circumference for a Small Child.

But it was so pretty, and so very different from my other knitting, and I didn't want to cast on an extra 27 stitches and rewrite the pattern to have it be the right size ... so I decided to make it be a Sample. It's getting close to being done, and after it is, I will cast on something with bigger yarn and bigger needles.

But I wonder ... how WILL I manage to get the right gauge? Use sport weight yarn instead of fingering? (Hah -- imagine Telemark at 10 stitches per inch?) DK weight? Use something that doesn't come from Knitpicks? (Horrors!!!)

I'm also considering parting with some cones of weaving yarn that I've had forever. I really can't see myself knitting up anything with 2 lbs of 10/2 warp cotton ... can you? Zephyr WoolSilk is so much more delightful to contemplate.

Recess is over ... back to school!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Christmas is coming

and that means it's time to start (or continue) knitting Christmas gifts.

I had a lovely weekend of knitting at the Desiring God Annual Conference. And it was an excellent time to listen, think, and be challenged. The conference audio is available on-line, and I plan to listen to the sessions I missed, and re-listen to some of the other sessions. Voddie Baucham was the most charasmatic speaker ... and he added a new description to my vocabulary. In the world, he said, there's black people, and not-so-black people. God loves the not-so-black people just as much as he does the black people.

Just think how much simpler forms would be if the race options were 'black' and 'not-so-black'. And the uproar if they were 'white' and 'not so white'. I am sure there are people in the world who would be offended at having to describe themselves as 'not-so-black' as well.

Here are my Conference Socks...

I tried a new toe with these. Instead of increasing at the sides of the foot, I did a star-shaped increase, sort of. After casting on 14 stitches with a figure eight cast on, I increased one stitch at the beginning of each needle, every second row, until I got to my regular 60 stitches. Above the heel, I used a ripple pattern over 66 stitches ... but didn't bother with evenly increasing. I just changed one k2tog from each repeat into a k1, and all was well.

My knitting basket currently looks like this:
And, in honor of wacky hair day, my daughter currently looks like this:

We've added a few post-it notes to the skewers to help her remember her various errands at church tonight. Not that she can read the messages, of course, stuck in her hair as they are ... but for those forgetful people who are supposed to be getting things from me via her, they'll be a handy reminder.

A package arrived today from KnitPicks with yarn for my Christmas knitting. And another very small package arrived with an ancient (1880) grammar book in it. Imagine my surprise when I opened the front cover and found MY first name in there. In handwriting that is as dead-on mine as any I've ever seen. Wrong last name, though. But how strange to open a new-to-you book and find your handwriting in it!

My new harp is still consuming as much time as I spare to devote to it. I'm tuning it daily, and playing recognizable songs. Practice, plus some time, should make it even more fun!

And somewhere in the back of my mind is the realization that I should be either re-reading Pride and Prejudice, or else starting to answer discussion questions for it. I keep pushing that into the back of my mind, though. I can get away with that for another week, and then it will have to move to the forefront.