Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Winter seems to have arrived

I'm an unabashed fan of winter weather. When I read that tomorrow is our last day in double digits above zero for the forseeable future, I was delighted.

Still, being inside for warmth is not providing me with sufficient time to do everything I wish I could do. Editing, music, reading, writing (with my dip pens, of course!), knitting ... and of course, sipping hot tea while listening to good music, with a dog curled up by my side. This week in math we've begun to study solving linear equations. I'm having lots of fun, and my children are looking at me doubtfully. Really, though ... is there anything so much fun as a linear equation?

Here's my current project, pinned out in progress. It's the Cherry Leaf Should Shawl from Victorian Knits Today and --- surprise! -- the edging looks almost nothing like the edging pictured in the book. It's got points on it, and there ends the similarity. I finished the edging last night, and now have two rows of (gulp) crochet to work to finish the shawl. That's in the plans for tonight. Then I will virtuously work on my Hat from the Stash until such time as it either gets finished, or my yarn from Yarn Place arrives (tomorrow?!?)

My daughter has been knitting quite a bit lately. Here's the front of a sweater we're designing together. The yarn is Austermann Melody, bought in a lovely bag sale from Elann. The first sleeve is just about finished, and I'm not sure which part she's going to tackle next. It works up to 3.5 stitches/4" on size 10.5 needles.

Here's a puzzle for you: I was told this past week that cotton socks, or acrylic chenille socks, are much warmer than wool, and to avoid wool socks. Can this be true? I'll freely admit the wool socks which prompted the advice were damp, as they were encased in plastic braces with no breathing holes .. but would cotton be any better, or any warmer? All my fiber knowledge revolts against the very suggestion!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Stash-reducing socks

The house socks won the 'what gets knit next' debate. Here they are, in all their glory, warming the feet of the recipient. Since I was making them to use up yarn, rather than delight the eyes of the looker, they do not match. The recipient did request that they be 'similar', and so they are.
I am pleased to report I have no more grey yarn, and no more dark purple yarn. The rose and purple skeins have been significantly lightened. No pattern, toe up, ribbing at ankle and calf.

On that note, I can announce some new yarn purchases.
  1. 50 grams of Graceful in Blueberry, destined to become the Alpine Lace Shawl from Victorian Lace Today.
  2. 60 grams of Angel in Creamy White, destined to become a shawl.
  3. 9 more balls of Elann's Baby Cashmere in Tapestry Blue, the current ball of which is rapidly becoming the Cherry Leaf Shawl (yes, from Victorian Lace Today. )
The shawl currently has 7 leaves travelling up the outside edge. I've 8 more to go, I think, and then the edging, and then the crochet (shudder), and then I can start in on the Alpine Lace Shawl. (Oh joy!) I really like working with the Baby Cashmere so far. It feels wonderful, splitteth not, and will be the perfect shawl for me. Yes, me. I may have to order a shawl pin from Celtic Swan Forge when I finish this one.

In non-knitting news, my fountain pen is en route to Massachusetts to have the converter repaired or replaced, and I am experimenting with dip pens. They seem to be a bit touchier than fountain pens, but between the lefty nibs I have from my mom, and some new nibs I got from Pendemonium, I'm doing well.

School is moving along nicely. We're making forwards progress in poetry, life science, math, and Latin. Reading has become a regular part of our afternoons, and penmanship is the next on my list of things to target. And, after a some steady work on my part, I have finished all 96 Calculadders. Finished and passed, I might add. I may not keep up with my children in biology, but math is one thing I intend to stick with them through. This week (and last), we're exploring the mysteries of the distributive property when applied to variables and negative numbers.

A habit I am trying to cultivate is that of daily jotting down quotes, poems, or other noteworthy items that come across my desk. (It's much easier to do this when you have a fancy pen crying out to be used.) Yesterday's quote suits my blog nicely:

"It is not a bad idea to get in the habit of writing down one's thoughts. It saves one having to bother anyone with them." ~ Isabel Colgate

Friday, January 19, 2007


As I was blocking Shawl with No. 20 Edging, I saw something I didn't want to see.
My first thought wasn't panic, however. It was more along the lines of, "Haven't I seen something like this in Heirloom Knitting?" One of my bad habits is reading about things that might happen. When I was expecting a baby, I read a fascinating book by a pediatric geneticist about his residency and the children he saw ... learning, along the way, about all sorts of disastrous outcomes and chromosomal disorders. When I delivered (was delivered of?) my firstborn and learned she had spina bifida, I didn't panic. My thought was, "Oh, I've read about this." I knew we weren't dealing with a worst case scenario because in the book, the baby with spina bifida had such a large sac of spinal fluid along his spine that he got stuck and had to be delivered via c-section. Okay, too much information. Still, I saw a large hole in my knitting and knew the world had not come to an end.

I even knew what had happened. I knit the fuzz, instead of knitting the yarn. There's a lot of fuzz to this yarn. I traipsed to my knitting box, got my Lovely Sterling Silver Yarn Needle (makes all unpleasant tasks more lovely), my yarn, and headed back to the shawl. Then I retraced my steps to snag a camera and a piece of white paper.

Have you ever wondered if it makes a difference if you block something upside down? It doesn't, theoretically. But if you find a mistake, and are inadvertently blocking something wrong side up, it entails pulling out a few pins and turning things right side up for fixing. Unless you like fixing lace from the back side? I don't.

I threaded up my yarn needle, admired it's sheen, it's workmanship, it's nice feel in the hand ... and turned my attention back to less pleasant matters. Gaping holes. A bit of study, a bit of stitching, and it's good as new. Because it is new. It's almost as good as knit correctly, to boot. While I was correcting it, I noticed another stitch (which had the courtesy not to run) that was sitting all by itself, with no friendly stitches to hold on to. I marked it with a purple pin, and secured it with much less thought.
It's not invisible, but it will do.
Here's part of the shawl, blocking. Did I mention that, when selecting a space to block a shawl, it's a good idea to think how much space you need first? I ended up rearranging my craft room a bit, since I ran into the chair mat for my sewing table. Small matter ... I just settled myself firmly NEXT TO the pincushion, and gave a big pull. Chair mats must give way before the intricacies of lace blocking.

Here's a close-up of the shawl. You can see a faint tracery of the joins at the beginning and ending of the faggotting. No holes! If you're planning on thinking about this photo very hard, do remember that the wrong side is up.

One other note, with a caveat before the note. Caveat: I am not a crocheter. I can wield a crochet hook. I will use it as a last resort for knitting repairs. But it is not my friend. Okay - caveat over. Note: The directions for the picot edging say to do a row of sc, then to chain three, sc into next sc, etc. Now, when I knit and the directions say to knit the next stitch, I knit the next stitch. BUT if you study the picture in the book, you will see that the 30 stitches of the edging result in only 15 chain-3 loops. Either I don't speak crochet and the pattern is wrong, or I just don't speak crochet.

My edging looks nothing like the lovely edging in the book. A blocking wire through the sc would have helped, I think, but I instead pinned out every second chain loop. It'll look better without the pins.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Shawl detail

Martha, my current knitting twin, wondered what the joins looked like on my shawl. I took a photo, as close as my camera will let me, and marked them

The join at Join 1 shows where I picked up stitches along the edge of the first edging.. The line of pick-ups is almost exactly under the '1' of the label. I tried a few ways of picking up the selvedge stitch, and settled on going under just one thread (not the whole selvedge stitch), since I didn't like the effect of the chain running along the backside of the shawl.

When I began binding off the middle section I discovered the chain was going to be there, whether I wanted it to or not. That join is right in a line with the J of 'Join 2'. The big holes a few stitches outside the join are the yo/k2tog in the pattern. I didn't use a marker for the first edging, but found it very helpful when working on the second half. I placed it right after the first K2 of a right side row.

And, speaking of right side rows, I discovered, very early on into knitting the second strip of edging, that in my eagerness to get to the edging, I'd forgotten the last three rows of the middle. The (fortunately) resulted in having the right sides of my edgings be on opposite sides of the shawl. I caught it (phew), frogged, cut, knit three more rows, and started the edging again.

Then I realized that I should have purled that middle row. And purled a row before starting the faggotting pattern. Oh well.

I have less than two repeats of the edging left now, and a few too many stitches left from the middle section to work together with them. A bit of mild fudging seems to be indicated.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Shawl with No. 20 Edging ... moving along

Have you ever heard of someone being penalized for not having their payment in one day before the due date? I never had.

Until we received three phone calls in this past week from a company who is expecting a payment from us. The due date is the 20th. They're not open that date, and today told us they must have it by the 19th.

Don't you hate it when that happens?

No. There are more things than that going on in the world, and in any case, it's not a particularly good use of time. I'd rather laugh in bemusement over a bank deciding the Rockin' Sock Club was a scam.

I also have more pressing things to think about. I have no traveling project, and will be traveling tomorrow. I am also less than 2 hours and some crochet away from finishing Shawl with No. 20 Edging, from Victorian Lace Knits.

I like the shawl. I'm not sure about the Super Kydd. It loves static electricity. It is, at times possessed by static electricity. I can smooth it out, and hear the crackles. The yarn is clingy. Whatever will it be like to wear? What will it do to naturally curly hair? It's intended for a friend of mine, but I'm not sure it will end up there. I may spend the whole year making shawls for this particular friend, only to decide every single one isn't 'the right one'. Rats - a whole year of making shawls. I can handle it. I do need to pick a next one, though, and get some yarn for it. I've joined the Victorian Lace Today Knitalong. If you like lace but are trying not to buy the book, don't look.

I finished EZ's Very Warm Hat, a stash reduction project. I discovered that working 128 stitches around and getting 6 stitches to the inch somehow, just somehow, makes for a hat with a 19" circumference, suitable for youngish child.
I'm not exactly sure how that happened. I checked my gauge in both beige (from Denise's stash) and purple, and it's 24, perhaps 24 1/2 sts, per 4". Maybe it's the double-walled construction? Who knows. My son pulled a promise from me to knit a second hacky sack for his friend after I finished the hat, and said hacky is completed and delivered. It was made from yarn leftover from Marcia's socks, in a GB Packer color scheme. Somewhat.

What shall I knit next? A scarf? A shrug? A sweater? (Definitely, perhaps, and definitely, once I get the yarn.) I need to make some house socks / legwarmers for my daughter, who has been sporting purple and red legs with yellow blotches and feet like icicles. Strangely enough, when she wears homemade socks, her feet are fine. Sockless in Minnesota in the winter, they're not. I'll have to think about which yarns from the stash to use while I finish off the scarf.

Pipecleaners have an amazing number of uses. Here's Rex Rover Grossman on his Bengals rug, complete with food dish and personal fire hydrant. Penny included for scale. I think this tableau was created during Latin class while my attention was elsewhere.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It was a dark and inky day...

when I first tried to figure out how to use the converter for my new fountain pen. The ink was much darker than I thought it would be (but remember, colors on a monitor may vary!) and the writing was, well, blotchy.

I thought I was doing something wrong. I am, after all, a complete fountain pen newbie, and a lefty to boot. However, after disassembling the pen, carefully cleaning it according to the directions several times, and even trying a new bottle of ink (just in case the first bottle was problematic), I still have a pen that writes blotchily. Is that a word? Doesn't matter. If I wrote it with the pen, you wouldn't be able to read it, since the lines would spread, but you'd get the idea.

There are benefits to having a pen that is, for now, allergic to bottled ink. I no longer spend time browsing through oodles of Noodler's bottled ink colors, wondering what to get next. I'm saving time. I'm saving money. And I'm saving myself from writer's cramp too, since I would have to make serious inroads on one bottle of ink before permitting myself to order a second bottle. Now that I have to bottles, I think the third bottle may be some distance away. It's good for developing character, patience, forbearance, and a neat hand.

Anyone have wise ideas about why a fountain pen will work wonderfully with cartridge ink (the blue) but not with converter ink (the blotch?). I'm all ears! (or eyes, as the case may be.)

We're finishing up our first week of school in 2007 today. The standardized test results came back, with no surprises or anything requiring further testing. Our schedule seems to be working out pretty well ... a bit of chores here, a bit of Math, Latin, CW-Poetry, Life Science, lunch, reading, and music there ... and the day goes smoothly. Fairly smoothly, that is. I have one child that forgets about school every subject or so, and needs to be retrieved. I also ordered the National Latin Exam this week - it doesn't happen until March, but the deadline for early entry is next week.

I also spent some time tracking down Christmas presents that haven't arrived yet. One is supposed to come around the end of January (sigh) and the other, after 3 reports of imminent shippage, turned up out-of-stock with no restock date in sight. Argh. 'Twould have been nice to know that in the beginning of December when we chose that item specifically because it was in stock. That order was cancelled, a theoretically in-stock item ordered, and theoretically, it will be here in 7-10 days. No one is holding his breath.

Knitting has been rather boring of late... same projects, same yarn, same knitter. I'm working on the Scarf with #20 Edging, and there's not that much to see at the moment, beyond lots and lots of #20 Edging. I've 2 repeats to go before I can pick up 222 stitches and change the pattern, briefly, before I start knitting another 22 repeats of #20 Edging onto those 22 stitches, one leetle row at a time. There's a Knitalong for Victorian Lace Today, and I hope to join. I've not gotten much work done on the Very Warm Hat's inside, but it has grown slightly since the last photo.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The 11th day of Christmas

I couldn't find the description of what EZ did for her leftover yarn hats. That shouldn't have been a problem -- goodness knows it's not that difficult to take a simple hat pattern and use a plethora of random colors in it -- but the longer I looked at my basket, the more I realized how fingering and finer yarns predominate. I collected a bit of sport yarn, and decided to make the Very Warm Hat.

I'm picking up stitches around the cast on edge, and will now knit another identical hat, which will then be tucked up inside the first hat, to make it Very Warm. 128 stitches around, instead of the 91 needed with a thicker yarn, but quite doable.

This project got siderailed Wednesday night when a bear with a stab wound arrived at my home via ambulance. No, not exactly ambulance ... speedy transit? My daughter brought him home from church. The hat was set aside, the bear was stitched up, and ... he looked cold. And I'd been reading Knitting Around too much. Before lunch the next day, the bear looked like this.Yet more yarn from the stash (and a button from the stash) gone! This is a bear-sized version of the Moebius Vest. The amazing thing is the black was worked on size 8 needles over 17 stitches with no selvedge stitch (by my daughter) and the red was worked on size 9 needles over 18 stitches with a selvedge (by me). They came out the same size. Talk about judging gauge on the fly! The bear has been restored to his home.

And the hat has been relegated to a TakeAlong project. My yarn from Elann arrived today, and in a few moments, I shall ignore a gauge swatch, pick a random needle size (pattern calls for a 7, ball band says 2-6, eenie meenie miney moe), and cast on 30 stitches. I think I will like this yarn.

And lastly, the Weather Photo of the day. We've just about got the walk cleared off now, and may get some flurries tomorrow. Winter is here!

Monday, January 01, 2007

On the Seventh Day of Christmas

I knit.

You surely didn't think I'd make a New Year's Resolution not to knit? No, I didn't think you would. I was up dark and early this morning at 5:30 when my husband left to take a friend to the airport. There was an inch of ice on the roads, plus whatever snow had fallen or drifted over, and the wind had actually blow the car off the road here in town ... so the thought of a pre-dawn drive of 90 miles or so, one way, wasn't too thrilling to me. I must not be a guy.

I made myself a cup of hot cocoa, and finished Ball Band Washcloth #2 from -- what else -- the ball band of my white dishcloth cotton. Then I settled in at my Knitting Pattern-a-Day 2006 calendar to tidy it up before giving it to my mom, and opening my new 2007 calendar. As I was rotating all the pages back to their normal orientation -- a 'turned' page is my signal that something was interesting there -- I came across some patterns that both had caught my eye and used small quantities of yarn.

Before the day was over, I had a pair of booties. They're made out of purple Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport Weight, from a 4 oz skein. Part of someone else's stash that I adopted in Baltimore.

I had so much fun knitting them (and altering the pattern ... the one on the right was made following the directions, with a provisional cast on and kitchnered bottom. The one on the left was made with a figure 8 cast on and no trace of kitchener) that I decided to spend the next few days until my yarn order arrives in working down a specific portion of my stash.

The Colorful Basket

This is a basket of odds and ends from various sources. There's blueberry from Green Mountain Spinnery, that I got to finish a shawl which I started with a full cone from the adopted stash. There's Manos Del Uruguay, which was a sweater, then got unsweatered, and which was not used in the Booga Bags. All sorts of goodies ... perfect for all sorts of small knitting.

Like Mr. Hacky Sack. He's a simple 10 stitch x 20 row garter stitch cube, with beans inside. This has gone over well with my son, who would like me to convert the entire square to Hacky Sacks. That is not in my plans ... but it does strike me that Hacky Sacks with self-striping sock yarn might be a Good Idea.

My next stash project will probably be something ala Elizabeth Zimmerman ... reach into the basket, pull out some yarn, and cast on for a hat. Knit a bit, snip, and pull out another bit of yarn. Either that, or a stranded baby hat. Or whatever catches my fancy between here and my basket.

I thought about weighing the basket to keep tabs on my progress, but nixed that idea as too calculating.

Did I mention a yarn order? Yup ... last night I put in an order for 3 skeins of Elann's laceweight mohair yarn, to use for a shawl. And, while I was ordering from Elann, I got one ball of their cashmere/wool fingering weight yarn to sample for another shawl.

I have some plans of turning the baby booties into a Baby Set, and by such maneuver making it eligible for entry into the county fair. Perhaps a Baby Surprise Jacket? Who knows what will come out of that basket. I certainly don't.

Our New Year's has been quiet. Our household has been reduced to its normal size, and, since we were planning on being elsewhere today, we had no festivities planned. Books, needles, and crochets hooks were about it for the day's agenda. And it was fun.