Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Famous Last Words

Last Wednesday, I was planning on casting on 44 stitches on my trusty 10.5 US needles, work a few inches, check my gauge, and forge ahead on the right front should the gauge be appropriate and the fabric be acceptable.

It was, and I did. I forged so valiantly that before the weekend had arrived, I was working away on the back of the Spinnery Jacket. Being the good knitter I am, I decided to check my gauge on the back after a few inches, because one's gauge may change when working on larger pieces, in different situations, etc. The gauge was 15 sts/4", and not the 16" it was supposed to be.

I looked hard at the back, and remeasured. Same incorrect gauge. I looked over at the right front (the right front that I'd cast on for 3 times - barely begun once, almost finished once, and finished once) and it sat there quietly. Too quietly. I measured the gauge on it once more. Yes, I've not learned my lesson that remeasuring gauges doesn't cause them to change. There's a reason for that ... sometimes, they DO! Lo and behold, the right front had a gauge of 15 sts/4".

I made a face at my knitting, pulled out my poor neglected size 10 needles, and continued working on the back. The first 2 inches are knit on a different size needle, true. But the cardigan isn't going to the State Fair (even if it were technically perfect, there's not a lot of technicality in it to execute perfectly, especially compared to an Aran, which would be in the same category) and the county fair has a judging system that's beyond my ken, and besides ... I have hips, and thus unwittingly used a larger needle to provide more room for the jacket to sit nicely. As I worked on the back, I thought about the right front. Paul had a thorn in the flesh. I had a right front. Unlike Paul, I did not pray for deliverance from my thorn. I connected one end of it to a ball winder (after finishing the back), and cranked away. Then, immediately, before I could get started on the left front, I reknit the right front on size 10 needles. I thought about using 10.5 for the first 2 inches, but decided not to.

And then, the right front was FINISHED!

Or so I thought. I cast on for the left front yesterday en route to the movie Amazing Grace (grand movie, by the way!) and had about 8 inches finished when the movie was over. Tonight, I finished the left front. As I compared the two front pieces, I noticed something.

No, I did not notice I'd made two identical pieces. I watched out for that error Very Carefully. Previous events had conspired just enough to make me think that a very real possibility, so I guarded against it assiduously. I made sure that the neck shaping was not on the same side of the piece as the armhole shaping, and kept checking just in case one or the other of the shapings decided to move.

What I did notice was that I had somehow - I have no idea how - managed to do the shoulder shaping backwards on the right front. I'd made the armhole edge higher than the neck edge. It boggles the mind how it happened. It was an easy fix, though ... remove improvised stitch holder (sock yarn), rip, pick up, reknit with the short row in the correct place, and voila ... ready to join to the back.

I've only used 3 skeins of Peace Fleece so far, which means I should have enough. If the entire body takes 3 skeins, surely the sleeves/collar/button bands will take less than 4?

March de-stashing project is complete, and served to counteract the yarn acquisition which took place on Thursday when we visited not one, but TWO yarn stores in the cities. One store to return extras from the Lady Eleanor stole (two knitting books bought), and one store to get a skein of Mountain Colors Bearfoot to replace the skein with a split dyelot personality. I choose Steelhead, which will be jumping on my sock needles as soon as I finish the Tofutsie pair ahead of them in the queue.

Does it count as my stash reduction project if my daughter makes mittens from my stash?

The great thing is, if one can stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions in one's "own" or "real" life. The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one's life.
~ C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Alpine Lace - Done

At long last, after many repeats, the Alpine Lace is completed. I like it. My mom says the variation in color makes it look like I folded it and stuck it out in the sun too long ... but I don't mind. The change is subtle, and I like it.

Vital Statistics:
  • Yarn: 60 grams of Blueberry Graceful from the Yarn Place.
  • Needles: Size 2 US/2.75 mm
  • Blocked size: 19"x72"
  • Alterations: Scarf worked with 7 multiples of diamonds, and 5 multiples of the center leaf pattern. 72 repeats.
  • Time: 7 weeks
This was *not* a travelling project, so I had ample time to work on socks while gadding about. I've finished one pair (Regia), and am in the midst of another (Elann's Esprit). I'm not sure what I think of Esprit as a sock yarn. My daughter didn't even want to try on anklet #1, as it looked to small, but I stuck it on her foot anyways. It fits, but the ribbing has absolutely no life to it, despite the elastic. I just prefer fingering weight sock yarns, I guess. I'll finish the pair, call it a stash project, and go back to my usual.

Speaking of my usual, my mom washed her socks last week, and I stopped by while handknit socks were drying. They covered the freezer and dining room table ... she has supplied me with a LOT of socks. I need to get a picture of them some day. A picture is worth many blog entries, after all.

I'm now working on the Spinnery Jacket. Or at least I will be, once I undo my current swatch and restart it. I'm using PeaceFleece worsted weight yarn, and the pattern calls for size 6 and 7 US needles. I made my first swatch (swatch = right front) with size 7 needles, got enough done to check gauge, did so, frogged, and cast on with size 8 needles. That worked .. sort of. I've been staring at lace so much that I had myself convinced that 17.5 sts/4" would block to 16 sts/4". But after several inches and many internal conversations, I concluded that a jacket was not a lace shawl, and that the fabric was a bit dense, and that I should try size 9 needles. So I switched (without frogging), knit two inches, and checked my gauge. 17.5/4" again. So I knit another inch, just to see if that number could possibly be right. It was. By repeated (and repeated) measurements, I convinced myself that the gauge will not migrate towards the stated pattern gauge if I just WILL it to do so, and keep measuring. I thought about switching to size 10 needles ... but decided to ignore them and jump up to 10.5.

I *think* I have achieved gauge. The fabric is MUCH looser than it was with the size 8 needles, and so I will frog what I've got, cast on again, and start my swatch for a third time. If the gauge comes out AND if I like the resulting fabric, the swatch will become the right front. If the gauge does not come out, or if I do not like the resulting fabric, I will be doing some serious tweaking of the pattern, or declaring the skeins I have to be 'orphan skeins' -- skeins which have no project waiting for them.

The venerable dead are waiting in my library to entertain me and relieve me from the nonsense of surviving mortals.
Samuel Davies (1723-61)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I was a sump pump, once ...

My husband likes to begin stories by proclaiming, "I was a _______, once." The things he has been have ranged from a leaf, to a rain drop, to a grape, to a baseball. Except when he was a baseball, I think he started off as a steer, experiencing separation anxiety from his mother.

But truly, yesterday, I was a human sump pump. My legs are reminding me of that fact now.

Late last fall, my husband and some friends dug out our basement to a decent depth, poured a concrete floor, installed a sump pump, and did other things of that nature. Now it's spring, and the sump pump is working for the Very First Time. It works wonderfully.

But sump pumps require a tube to carry water away from them. And the tube connected to ours was full of cracks. Cracks, we learned, naturally happen in such tubing when people walk on them. "People" went off to the hardware store (25 miles distant) and I was the pump. Every 20 minutes, I trotted downstairs, scooped water from a deep dark pit whose name I do not know, and in which a sump pump is normally placed, and put the water in a large bucket. Every 10 scoops I stopped scooping and carried the bucket of water up out of the finished side of the basement, up a nice little 18" step, and emptied it. Then I returned to the pit and repeated the procedure, trotted back upstairs, and reset my timer.

Or at least, the first two times I trotted. The third time I walked carefully. The fourth time, I went down the stairs gingerly. I think I carried 30-40 gallons of water yesterday, twice. Think lots of deep knee squats with a half-gallon weight.

I was glad to hear "People" arrive back home. They'd had to check two stores before they found any tubing in-stock. The nice melt is occupying many sump pumps in our area, it would seem.

But - this is a knitting and schooling blog. And sump pump operations have nothing to do with knitting or schooling, except by virtue of their seriously interrupting either.

So - tomorrow will be the first time my students take the National Latin Exam. We've taken some practice exams, and I've been drilling my daughter on the geography of the Mediterranean basin. The countries aren't people, and she's not fond of squiggly little lines unless it involves knitting or crochet directions ... but she's got Italia down pat, and can tell Britannia from Africa now, at least on a good day.

I'm starting to muse about next year. Most of next year will be more of what we're doing this year. Singapore Math, finish up BJU Life Science and probably move into the next text, continue on in Classical Writing, and continue on in Latin, probably with Henle - although I may toss in some Vulgate, or early Church Fathers. That would be fun. But would it be fun for them? History is my bugaboo. Or else Literature is. I think that History will be my Thing to Add for next year, though. There's lots of good things to read in History, and I have a school of readers ... but how to organize them? And what to require beyond reading? I don't know yet. I do know, however, that Tapestry of Grace is not for my little Math/Latin/CW brain.

And knitting. I have 1.5 repeats of the Beech Leaf pattern to go before I can start the final border on the Alpine Lace Shawl. Woohoo! If all goes well (and I stop blogging), I will get that done tonight. Then I need to figure out how many stitches I increased, so I can decrease that number to get the right amount for working the border. Counting is an obvious solution, but I'm so used to keeping my 142 or so stitches tucked nicely on 4" of needle, and they're not very countable that way. I'll come up with something.

I'm also socking away. A second pair of socks for my mom is 3/4ths done. After that, I'm going to Knit from My Stash with some of Elann's sock yarn I have sitting around, pass on what I learn to a friend, and then tackle some more socks.

And back to the scholastic lines, I am still plugging away at Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples. I got a 1 volume edition from Half-Price Books some time ago, and am being faithful in reading it most (some?) afternoons when the tyranny of the seemingly urgent doesn't draw me away from reading time.

"Being good is an adventure far more violent and daring than sailing around the world."
~ G. K. Chesterton, The Club of Queer Trades.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


It's March, my cough is non-existent, we have a humidifier, and life continues.

Our recent blizzard did a good job on slowing down life. It was WONDERFUL! I borrowed a page from the script of some homeschooling friends. "School is cancelled when you have to shovel your way to the school table." Ds promptly asked for a chain saw so he could remove part of the roof. We were home, we were together, and it was good.

I snuck in some knitting time to make myself a pair of slippers without holes. The first slipper knit up incredibly fast - the second, not so fast. I realized as I was knitting that I had forgotten six rows of plain knitting (you know, the space where one's toes go before the decreases start?) After picking up stitches all around in preparation for snipping, knitting, and grafting, I decided that trying to graft short rows was not a good idea, frogged, and re-knit. The slippers are cozy, and if I don't get some soles on them soon, they'll have holes just like the old pair. They match my tea cozy beautifully. And -- they could count as my March Stash Project! The only problem is that I think I finished them last Sunday, which means they're another February Stash Project. I'm not sure what my stash project this month will be.

Unless a pair of socks counts? I finished Mom's socks in Bearfoot, and have started in on a pair in Regia. The yarn was bought and gifted to me ... so maybe it can count as stash. I'm halfway to the heel on the first one.

If you look carefully at the photo, or even not so carefully, you will notice that the leg on one looks nothing like the leg on the other. This is a result of a Knot In A Skein. The socks were knit from one skein. I clipped the knot, joined yarns, and merrily knit along. Maybe I should drop the company a note to let them know of the color discrepancy?
Quote d'jour:
It is far more seemly to have thy Studie full of Bookes, than thy Purse full of money.
~John Lyly