Sunday, December 30, 2007

Square One

"Why, Steven," you might say. "Weren't you a lot further along on that British Checks Sweater when I last checked?"

Oh yes, I was. In fact, while knitting at the in-laws last week, I got all the way through the 9 and a half pattern repeats that took me to the point where I was to start knitting flat to form the armholes. Just to see if I was on track, I slipped it over Jeff's head when we got home to see how things were shaping up. The shape we were getting was a very slutty-looking tube top.

I knitted a gauge swatch and everything. Some point after that, my knitting must have gotten much tighter, because instead of a 24-inch wide piece, I had a 20-inch wide piece. Why I didn't check this earlier is beyond me.

So with Jeff's help, I bravely unraveled the whole thing yesterday afternoon and started over, this time using the recommended needle sizes. Ouch! Things seem a bit more drapey, although I'm still getting the flare around the bottom. Again, I can only put my faith in the miracle of blocking on that front. I'm discouraged, but I plopped down some bucks for this yarn and I want it to look nice. Jeff, patient as he is, deserves it. On the upside, I have the pattern very well-memorized at this point.

Also, while up in north Texs, I finished the Mocha Mint Latte Socks (as reported via cell phone previously), and started another pair. This is the Gentleman's Sock in Lozenge Pattern from Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks. I've made several pair from this book, including these and these and I've been quite happy with them. I first saw these when Kristin was working on a pair at the knitting meetup. At first I didn't think that this dark brown tweed sock yarn would work well with the pattern. It's subtle, but I think it's working. I'm modifying the pattern a bit. The original pattern makes very long socks and calls for 500-something yards of yarn. Since I have 425 yards, I left out a 9-row section in the top of the sock, and I plan to make the foot an inch or so shorter. The pattern is for a size 11-12 foot, and I wear a size 10, so I'm hoping things will work out. For all the good my planning does, hope ought to work as well.

Doesn't it look like a pineapple right now?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Newly Minted

I can get so much knitting done when I'm visiting the in-laws. I sent this picture from my cell phone, so it may not be the best quality.

I'm really pleased with how these turned out. Very minty. I had about two feet of yarn left over -- a little too close for comfort, but all's well that weaves in well.

Now back to the sweater. Oh, and I brought a Nancy Bush book and some extra yarn on this trip, too. My feet will be warm while visions of sugarplums dance in my head.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Around the World in 100 Posts

It's my 100th blog post. Who'd have thought? Not a whole lot of writing as the blogging world goes, but enough that people in some pretty faraway places stumble across my musings.

How do I know this? A few weeks ago, I signed up for a free account with a web tracking service called StatCounter. Mostly, I wanted to see how many hits I was getting. I know that most blog readers are like me -- lurkers. We read, gather information, get ideas, and move on. So I wanted to find out a little more about what kind of traffic I was getting. I was just looking for a counter, but this service is pretty cool. It shows places that hits came from, the actual search that someone used to find your pages.

My favorite so far was from some anxious soul in London who typed into Google "How do you know if you have got crabs?" and was pointed to this post which pops up at number 6 in the search! Someone else also found this search by typing "What is Kosher yarn?" Come to my blog for all your questions about STDs and religious dietary laws!

Another cool feature is that you can get a map of the places your hits came from. I'm all about maps. When I'm trying to decide if I'll enjoy reading a book or not, discovering that it has a map in the front (or a genealogy chart) will often make the deal. If it's got both, look out. If you're a fan of maps too, check out this blog -- it's always worth it. Pictured here is a map of locations from which I've received hits in the last few weeks. Who knew?

I've been holing up at home, watching the last bit of the landscaping transformation happening in my yard, and catching up on the knitting. I realized with some concern the other day that I had tightened up gauge-wise on the sweater at some point. I'm back on track, but I'm afraid the middle of the sweater might get a little hour-glassy. I'm going to put my trust in the miracle of blocking on this one. Not too far off, but I'm going to need to watch myself. I've completed 6 of the 16-row pattern repeats. I've got 3 more before I divide for the front and back and start the adventure called stranded flat knitting.

Also, the Mocha Mint Latte socks are coming along. I finished the first one and per tradition, weighed the sock and the remaining yarn to make sure I'd have enough. The sock weighed 2.3 oz and the remaining yarn weighed 2.4. Yay! But when I pulled off enough yarn to get the same part in the striping pattern so the socks would match, I had 2.3. That's cutting it close. I kept the part I pulled off since it has some of the latte color that might well end up being used to finish the toe.

Since it's dry today, I'm going to try and make some divinity. I haven't made any in a couple of years. My grandmother and great-grandmother always made fudge and divinity this time of year and it just makes Christmas seem more like Christmas to me when it's around.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

How do I come up with blog post titles when Andy Williams isn't crooning away in the background? It's a cold, sunny, gusty day here -- just perfect.

One of the great perks of working in higher education is the time off during holidays. As of today, I'm on winter break. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have this time to catch up on last-minute shopping, getting out Christmas cards, holiday baking -- and, of course, knitting. I've come to depend on it.

Today was my Saturday morning meetup at a south Austin coffee shop. I didn't want to take the sweater. Even though it would probably hide coffee stains pretty well, it's rather unwieldy, what with the two balls of yarns going at once. I described this to my sister yesterday as Double-Dutch Knitting. Too much movement, and not enough lap/table space. So I got back to the Mocha Mint Latte sock.

I was proud of myself for knitting not only most of the heel flap, bu actually turning the heel while at the meetup -- and all without a, book. I couldn't remember if the knit side used K2 or SSK, but once Abbe got me on track (SSK), it took no time. Thanks, Abbe. I was little concerned about how the striping would play out around the heel, but I was pleased with the results. The light brown (latte) part is just wide enough that it covered most of the heel. The next mocha/mint section pooled around the heel turn. A big chunk of the gusset was made of the next latte section, and even though the next mocha/mint part will be slightly thinner than the rest of the stripes on the sock, I think it looks great. This stuff is a pleasure to knit with.

Still working on Jeff's British Checks Sweater. I'm getting the hang of knitting in two colors at once with two hands, but I'm not sure if the tension is very consistent. When I hold it at different angles, different colors seem to be emphasized, and it seems to me that the little diamond/cross patterns are getting smaller as I go up the body of the sweater. But no disasters so far. The pattern is pretty easy to memorize, so for right now it's just slogging along. I'm not looking forward to the part where I split the front and back and work the pattern flat. I've only ever done stranded knitting in the round (and not much at that), so I'm nervous about stranded purling. We'll see.

Hope everyone is joining this lovely time of year. Maybe it's a southerner's misguided romanticism about any weather below 80°F, but I just love winter . I hope you're enjoying yours -- even if it doesn't start officially for a few days yet.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

British Checks and Minty Stripes

I finally got started on Jeff's sweater last weekend. The yarn AND the needles had all arrived. I swatched madly most of Saturday. I had to go down a needle size, which contradicts my belief that I knit too tightly. But I got the gauge spot-on. I actually knitted a little mini-version of the sweater through a pattern repeat. I'm going to be glad I did, because this sweater is going to be a bear to un-do if circumstances call for it (i.e., I screw up). It's a little weird, because right now everything is bunched up on the circular needle and it's going to be a while before I'll be able to reconfirm that I'm getting the right number of stitches per inch.

In the meantime, I'm having fun. I'm slowly getting the hang of knitting with both hands for the stranded part. And I'm finally getting what is meant by one yarn traveling beneath the other. I couldn't get it before, but somehow a light bulb went off. It's very important to decide which color will travel above and which one will travel below -- and then not to switch them. The lower color (in this case, the lighter one) will "pop" more than the other. I did the opposite in the swatch, and I can really tell a difference. In this picture, I wanted the lighter color to be emphasized, so it's carried below the darker. This post at nonaKnits has an excellent photo that shows what a difference yarn dominance can make. I don't pretend to have a firm grasp of the physics involved here, but I believe it occurs because the stitches from the yarn carried below have tendency to be slightly larger than the stitches from the yarn carried above. If I think about it, I'll try and get a picture from the back of the sweater to illustrate.

This yarn is a dream to knit with. Very soft and easy on the hands. It has little fly-away strands that pop up every now and then. It kind of makes the fabric look likes it's covered in cat hair. Jeff said he doesn't mind, as long as it isn't actual cat hair. Achoo.

I also cast on for some socks late last week. As mentioned, I ditched the navy socks I was working on. This new pair is made from Sknitches Syncopation self-striping sock yarn. The color? Mocha Mint Latte, which is a combination that sounds great at first, but kind of makes me queasy after a while. The latte, not the yarn. I really like the wide stripes and I really really like that while the latte part is quite solid, the mocha and mint parts are semi-solid, color-wise. Great stitch definition. Like all self-striping yarn in a cuff-down pattern, weird things will happen around the heel, but overall I'm pleased.

I worked like crazy on these for two days, but since the sweater came in to my life, I haven't touched them.

Friday, November 30, 2007


My final birthday present arrived today -- a gift from my in-laws. They were ordered at the beginning of the month but didn't ship until Monday, for some weird reason. I was kind of waiting for these before I started Jeff's new sweater. I got me some KnitPicks Options interchangeable circular needles. Yes -- knit-nerd transformers. Thanks, Jim and Carolyn!

For my legions of muggle readers, interchangeable needle sets have been around for a while, but these are new and relatively cheap as such things go. They allow you to switch up cable lengths and needle sizes to create circular needles of various circumferences and lengths.

This set comes with 2 cable sizes, but I got two additional cables of yet lengthier lengths. With these 4 cable lengths and 9 different needles sizes (11, 10.5, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4) I have 36 different circular needles in one batch. Buying those separately would cost a small fortune. I already have quite a few, and I'm wishing I'd gotten this set sooner.

One thing that put me off about these was the weird purply-mauve color of the cables. Was that really necessary? I'm sure the natural color of the nylon or whatever they're made of would have been much more bland. Now, as a man who knits in public, the color of my circular knitting needle cables is hardly a major issue. I'm just not exactly a bright color person. I'm thinking of all the years I'm going to have to stare at this color.

I know, I know -- I need to let this go. As an antidote to all this vibrant technicolor, the KnitPicks company redeemed itself by packing the set in a cool black case. I've been practicing zipping it up like Lily Tomlin does with her zippered bible in the movie Big Business. I can't remember exactly what the scene was about, but I remember getting a kick out of the look on her face as she punctuated a statement, and ended a conversation, by vigorously zipping her bible shut.

Those socks I blogged about last time? Forget bout them. I'm going to frog them. I got to the heel flap and decided that I wasn't going to have enough yarn for a pair. So I grabbed some tan yarn and made the heel flap with that. When I asked Jeff what he thought, he said it was starting to look like one of those sock monkey puppets. Now Jeff is usually quite kind in his comments about my knitting efforts, even when such kindness isn't deserved, so I took this comment seriously. Ribbit. Now that I've got my yarn and needles for Jeff's sweater, I'm on to bigger and better things.

I still need some socks to work on for my meetup, though. I'll probably cast on for some tonight.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Classic Socks & Rowanxiety

I may look back on this time as my "blue period" in knitting. It's just coincidence. My next project will actually have colors that are non-blue. You'll just have to trust me on this one.

I was antsy without having anything to work on during this rainy, chilly weekend, and very anxious for my new Rowan yarn to arrive. Since it's currently being held hostage over the holiday weekend by UPS, I decided to do something with some navy Knit Picks Essential that I had sitting around. Originally, I had bought it to pair up with a tan ball of yarn, which made its debut as the stripes in the Gentleman's Socks in Railway Stitch last spring. They were both going to be used in a stranded pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks, but my gauge was way off and the socks were getting so thick they could be classified as bullet-proof. I frogged the results, and I think both parties are better off having gone their separate ways.

I started this sock Friday night. It's being made from a pattern called "Classic Socks" in my newly acquired The Knitting Man(ual), from which I am also making my upcoming sweater project. It's fairly basic -- a four-round, nine-stitch pattern -- straight knit rounds interspersed with staggered baby cable rib to make a little twisting pattern. These are going to be snug, but I like snug socks. The K2, then k into the second stitch thing is a little tough on these small needles (size 0 -- my knittus operandi for socks), and I have to take frequent breaks, or else my wrists start hurting. But it looks pretty elegant for the effort, I think. It will likely fall by the wayside when the sweater yarn arrives.

So frustrating to know it's here in town in a cold, dank, warehouse, just waiting for me to get my mitts on it. I know where the UPS warehouse is. I wonder what would happen if I went over there with my receipt and an ID and banged on the door?...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Got to be Startin' Something

I finished my TOFUtsie 732 socks last night. I was shocked to see in Ravelry that I began these socks in August. I don't know what I was doing the whole time, but I started the second sock eight days ago. Oh yeah -- I was knitting a sweater.

I have a love/hate relationship with this yarn. It's a little grabbier than wool, and because of the weird way I knit, my stitches all looked a little wonky. The overall effect is nice -- just don't look too closely. I really like the feel of these on my feet. I think they could be worn in the warmer months quite comfortably. However, I have to take issue with the fact that there were 9 knots in this ball of yarn. It made me mad. I was able to cut the knots out and weave in ends and the joining spots are for the most part imperceptible. All's well that weaves in well. As Snowden at my meetup group said, "They're going to be on your feet."

You may have noticed that I've gone through a bit of a color change on the blog -- or rather an "absence of color" change. I thought having completed a year of blogging, it was time to branch out a little. The new template system that blogger employs makes it very easy to monkey with the colors (or non-colors), so you may see changes from time to time. If anything becomes difficult to read or hard on the eyes, let me know won't you?

I don't have anything on the needles right now, and I feel a little panicky. I've been holding off on starting a new project until the yarn for Jeff's new sweater arrives. Delivery is scheduled for Monday. (According to the UPS tracking system it's here in Austin already -- don't they deliver on the Friday after Thanksgiving? Maddening!) You may see the Bomb Pop Socks listed on the right, but they're really hibernating. I need to think about those some more. I've got a couple of sock patterns I've had my eye on and heaven knows I've got enough sock yarn -- so I may get started on a pair tonight just so I can breathe.

In the meantime, Jeff and the in-laws and I are headed out to the Hill Country to do a little wine tasting this afternoon. That should take the edge off...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

First Blogiversary

It's my first blogiversary today. I can't believe it, how time flies, yadda yadda yadda. Let's run the numbers, shall we?

Since November 17th, 2006, I've posted 93 times (not including this one), for an average of one post every 3.92 days. I've had 264 comments, for an average of 2.83 comments per post (although some of these were mine). My record number of comments (9) was for my April Fool's post about knitted loquat cozies. I had only 9 posts without any comments. So much for the quantitative part.

Qualitatively, I've gotten a big kick out of doing this. I started this blog mostly as a more techie-fun way of keeping track of my knitting, and not primarily as a way of sharing my angst/progress/successes with other knitters. But I've found that I really like this aspect. Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting.

I've thought about whether I'll continue doing this after Ravelry is opened up to the great unwashed, and I still haven't made up my mind. I'm leaning toward keeping this up -- but we'll see.

In the meantime, I've been working on my TOFUtsies 732 socks, which languished while I worked on my Branching Aran Guernsey. I've one complaint with this ball of sock yarn, though. So far I've had eight (8!) knots -- and I can already see another coming down the pike. What's up with that? Did they take all the scrap pieces from the factory floor and wad them together to make this thing? I've half a mind to write a letter to SWTC and give them a piece of the aforementioned mind. But then I'm afraid their business would go into a tailspin from all the bad publicity and they'd have to fire Vicki Howell, and I don't want that to happen. So I'll keep my temper in check for now.

In other news, Jeff and I went grocery shopping today and I saw that the Clementine oranges were in. Can you smell them? One of my friends Sharon and Janelle's son Eli's first words was "ka-tine." He loves him the ka-tines. Me too, Eli. My fingers smell all orangey. If you expect this orange to sprout daisy-petal-shaped eyelashes and launch into The Habanera from Carmen, I know about how old you are.

I took the picture of this ka-tine with a new homemade lightbox that I devised with some online instructions sent to me by my buddy Martin at work. It's basically a cut-out cardboard box (mine is 12"x12") with white paper taped around it. Then I got a couple of cheap ($5) clip-on shop lights and some 100 watt fluorescent bulbs from the local home/building supply store (the blue one, not the orange one), and I was in business. I'm not quite sure I have everything down correctly. I think the results are too dull -- the background is more brown than white. I need to learn more about how to monkey with my digital camera's settings to get better results.

Also, be still my heart, I'm going to be starting a new sweater soon. In the past, I've felt like I've forced knitwear on my significant other. Living in Texas, we don't get to wear that woolly stuff all that often and Jeff is one of those practical people who likes to be comfortable, temperature-wise. Just last week we were still wearing shorts. But a few days ago, Jeff was leafing through The Knitting Man(ual) which he gave me for my birthday, pointed to a pattern, and said, "I think I might like that." I was online shopping for yarn faster than you can say "Peter Piper purled a pile of pink alpaca."

So, in a few days, I'm going to start making this. It's going to present some challenges, including a body made completely of stranded knitting, and sleeves picked up and knitted downward from the shoulders, which I've never done. The raspberry part is going to be more ginger-orangey (but not quite ka-tine orange). I'll put pictures up when the yarn arrives.

Here's to a new year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Birthday Books

My better half gave me knitting books as a birthday gift -- they came in the mail today. Yay, me!

The Knitting Man(ual): 20+ Projects for Guys by Kristin Spurkland has lots of cool patterns in it -- sweaters, hats, gloves, socks, vests, scarves. Most of them have variations -- you can make the hat with a stranded knitting design in one color -- or another pattern in two colors -- or just plain. I like that. There are lots of patterns I'm going to want to try. I first saw a preview copy of this book when I was at Knit/Purl in Portland this summer. I think they had a copy because one of the sweaters calls for ShibuiKnits yarn. I love the picture of the guys window-shopping on the front.

The other book Jeff gave me, which must have been flying under my radar, is Debbie Stoller's Son of Stitch 'n Bitch: 45 Projects to Knit and Crochet for Men. None of the projects in this book appear to be horribly difficult. Now, I love Debbie Stoller. I taught myself to knit using her original Stitch 'n Bitch book. But I have to say some of the patterns are a little silly. A "Deady Bear" with a bee impaled in it's midsection? And a set of knitted beer bottles pillows? Interesting in their own way, I suppose, but still... There is a pattern for a sweater that looks just like Ernie's that I think is a hoot. I think I may be about 10 years too old for this book.

At first glance, these books seem to come from two different perspectives. The Stoller book says that the patterns were designed in consultation with non-knitting men. This means that "your guy" will definitely want to wear these designs. I don't know if they considered whether a guy would actually want to knit them himself. Maybe they did -- I just can't tell. The Knitting Man(ual) seems to assume that the knitters as well as the wearers will both be guys. Spurkland writes in the introduction that it was her
"...intention to create a book especially for all those bold and creative men stepping out of their expected rolls (as the receivers of hand-knit items) and taking things into their own hands to become the creators of the knits themselves."

On the actual knitting front, I'm kind of in a lull. I'm trying to figure out what my next big project might be -- these books will help. I did manage to finish the first TOFUtsies 732 sock last night. There are always socks to knit!

During the decreases for the toes, I used a new left-leaning decrease to replace SSK, described as SYTK (slip, yank, twist, knit) -- how can you not want to know more about that? I read it in a blog I've been following lately. If you aren't reading it already, and are interested in knitting from an engineering standpoint, you might want to check out TECHknitting™. A recent post on the relationships amongst neighboring stitches has me rapt.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

5 Feet of Henry

Henry is complete.

I'm pretty sure I didn't get the bind off correct. It was supposed to be a tubular bind off which I've never done before. I followed the instructions, but the results, were, to bend a strange phrase form my youth, less than totally tubular. The bind off is supposed to match the cast-on, but mine don't. The bind-off is a bit more rigid and tighter-looking than the bind-off, and the bind off has a lot more going one -- it's bulkier. In the first picture, the bound-off edge is at the top and the cast-on edge is at the bottom. But you'd only notice this from up close, and since the bind-off is sewn, I'm not about to unsew the yarn from all the stitches to try something else.

I'm done.

I'd have to say that I really like this pattern -- the woven look of it is really quite different from anything else I've ever knit. It was easy to make a mistake, but after the first few rows mistakes were pretty easy to catch. I'm still not convinced I cast on the correct number of stitches to start with.

The whole thing took just over three balls of yarn. The third ball ended with one and a half rows to go. It's 7.5" wide, which, when I tried it on, was more than wide enough for me. In fact, an inch less would have been more to my taste. I'm going to block it at some point to see if I can get the edges to have similar tension. There is an ever-so-slightly perceptible scimitar-like bend to the whole scarf because of the different tightnesses of the two long edges.

If you want something to do while watching the tube, this could be a great project. It can get a bit tedious over the long-haul, but the results were worth it -- for me. People who get bored easily with doing the same thing over and over again, might want to give this one a skip.

And now that I'm done with Henry and the sweater I finished a few weeks ago, I can concentrate on socks, which I've been neglecting. I'm still working on my second pair made with TOFUtsies -- this pair destined for my feet. I did the heel flap while I was at the knitting meetup Saturday. It's pictured to the right. I don't think I've blogged about this particular pair of socks in well over a month. That's too long to go without knitting socks. (I actually did start another pair that were supposed to be Halloween socks, but had to admit that they wouldn't get done in time. They're on hold for next year. I HATE that!)

Melissa brought her grandmother Ruby to the meetup, which was wonderful. It really made me nostalgic for all the crafty women in my family. I bet they'd be smarter than to try knitting a scarf sideways on a bazillion stitches...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Henry IV & a Meme

Henry is inching towards the finish. I've done a little over 4 of the 24-row repeats. As I've mentioned before (a lot, it seems), I'm planning on stopping at 5 repeats. I estimate I have about 20 more rows to go. Which can take a while at 400+ stitches per row. Based on the current width (6.5"), I think I'll be just under 8" for the finished width, which is what the pattern calls for.

It's really interesting to me that the width gauge on this scarf if spot-on. While it was off the needles a week or so ago (see below) I stretched it out and measured it at 60" -- exactly what the pattern called for. But if I did all 7 of the 24-row repeats, the thing would be around 11" wide, which I think is too much. I'm quite surprised that I can get the guage horizontally and at the same time be so far off vertically.

Yes, I had this monster off the needles. True to form, I'd messed up the stitch pattern and then gotten back on track. I managed to not catch it for a few more rows. I tried doing surgery -- not sweater sleeve surgery, but putting the stitches on a cable needle and working down a few rows. I couldn't get things to line up again. I got exasperated and pulled out the needle. I fully expected not to be able to get the stitches back on, but after about 40 minutes of work, I did. The simplicity of the pattern really helped me with this -- very easy to see which stitches followed each other. Thank goodness I didn't have to frog the whole thing and start over. I probably wouldn't have.

Who am I kidding? Of course I would have.

Not sure what's up with gray-ness of these pictures. While I kind of like the color, photos in earlier posts are a bit truer to the color of this yarn.

Oh, and I was tagged by Julia a while back for one of those meme things. The last time it came around to me, I didn't pass it on -- maybe that's what I get? I'll be a good sport and respond, but I'm going to refrain from passing it on again. Like my genetic material, this dies with me!

1. I was born on my grandmother's birthday, and my niece was born on my father's (her grandfather's) birthday. I'm waiting to see if this happens again with the next generation.

2. I've been to the highest point in 32 of the 50 states

3. I used to be deathly afraid of heights, but I find this fear is decreasing with age.

4. As a child, I thought there must be a separate word for cousins if they were female, just like there were different words for "aunt" & "uncle" or "grandmother" & grandfather." I thought this because I only had male cousins.

5. One summer I typed up all the countries I could find in our set of the Encyclopedia Britannica on index cards and spent my time sorting and resorting by features like the names of their capitals, square mile area, and population. Much later, I became a librarian.

6. I only have 24 teeth. Most adults have 32.

7. I know the first and last names of all but one of my 32 great-great-great grandparents.

8. I prefer pie to cake if the pie contains fruit. If it's a cream pie, I'll take cake, please.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Henry III

I don't usually blog about non-knitting matters, but at a session this morning about blogs, I got the itch to post something. So with the magic of hotel wireless and being able to blog from my cell phone camera, here we go!

I'm in Albuquerque at the annual meeting of the South Central Chapter of the Medical Library Association. This is the great view of the Sandia Peaks out of my hotel room window. (Those aren't UFOs you see above the peaks. They're unidentifiable smudges on the window. I think...)

I really enjoy this corner of my professional life. For a professional organization, it's just the right size -- nothing so huge that you get lost and can't figure out what to do next. I'm always tired at the end of the conference, and I always learn so much.
Plus, there are several knitting friends that come to the meeting and it's a great opportunity to touch base. I've seen Janna and Becky -- who are both skilled enough to be able to knit and pay attention at the same time. I don't trust myself quite that far, although I did bring Henry along to work with.

Here it is so far. I've done three complete 24-row chevron repeats so far. As mentioned earlier, I think I'm going to just do 5 instead of the seven called for -- I think that will do for me. i haven't gotten to work on this much, being so busy, but I did a little KIP in the airport before I left.

What is it about the combination of me and knitting in public that encourages people to bring on the crazy? Whilst waiting for my flight to board yesterday, I worked on a few rows of Henry. I was sitting in a long bank of open seats, minding my own business, when this guy and his wife sit right next to me. After a few minutes of munching Fritos, this guy asks me, "Are those things allowed on a plane?" I assured him that they were. He pointed out that he could probably do as much damage with his pen, and took out his Bic and made some stabbing motions with it just to prove the point. I thought, "Okay, that's kind of scary." I proceeded to knit and ignore him.

A few minutes later he leans over conspiratorially and whispers, "You know, if the TSA would let us take baseball bats on airplanes, we wouldn't have to worry about those rag-heads taking over a flight!" Oh yes, he did.

I'm not usually a confrontational person and it can take me quite a while to get my dander up. But this guy got me from Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo to Selsun Blue in about ten seconds. I turned to him and said loud enough for a few people around us to hear, "I don't want to talk about this with you." The guy muttered "okay" and shifted in his chair away from me. A lady who had sat next to me a few minutes before snorted in what I hope was approval. The whole thing really shook me up. I finished my row and got up and sat somewhere else.

As I boarded the plane a few minutes later, I noticed that he was sitting in the first class section. A little under-qualified if you ask me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Branched Out

The Branching Aran Guernsey is finished! I was a little miffed at today's cloudiness which kept me from getting very good pictures after work, but here they are.

What a ride. I knew this wouldn't be the easiest project in the world, what with all the cables and the strange 2-over-5 cabling, but little did I suspect that I would be nearly done in by overzealous blocking and not paying attention to gauge as much as I should have.

The surgery was scary, but now I know that it's possible -- yet one more little knitting mystery explored and survived. I can't deny that I've been looking at the ribbing at the bottom of the sweater and thinking, "You know, that could be a little bit tighter." No -- better stuff that genie back in the bottle. Because when it comes right down to it, it would have been better to get this done right the first time around -- time-wise, yarn-wise, and sanity-wise.

Anybody have any ideas for what to do with two 6-inch sections of amputated sleeve?

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I decided to put the sleeves under the knife -- or scissors, rather. I think the sweater came through better than I did.

Last night, I added the collar, even though I hadn't sewn up the right side yet. I thought that the gathering effect of having a nice trim collar instead of a large gaping hole would pull the sleeves in some. Turns out not much. So today I put on the sweater, and marked where I would need to cut back to add ribbing so the sleeve would fit. It was a disheartening distance. The safety pin shows how far back I needed to go.

Then, rather than start on that sleeve, I went to the same row on the opposite sleeve which hadn't been sew up yet. I very carefully threaded a circular needle on the right side of all the stitches in the row. However, since I was now looking at the fabric in the opposite direction of which I'd knit it, I was actually looking at the left sides of the original stitches. Take a pieces of stockinette sometime, mark a "V" with a stitch marker, and then flip it upside down. Everything kind of skips half a stitch. I would now be knitting in the ditches between the "V"s in the opposite direction.

But wait, it gets more confusing than that. Trust me.

Now came the scissors. The instructions I followed mentioned several approaches to making the cut. I took the one most complicated, and that has made all the difference. I ended up taking a deep breath and just cutting across all the knitting. At this point I discovered that I hadn't stayed on the same row all the way across. The second picture in this post illustrates this pretty clearly, in hindsight.

For the next three hours, I pulled little chunks of yarn resembling curly fries out of the resulting confusion. For most of the row, everything would be fine. Then, I would discover that the stitches I was carefully counting were part of a row with yarn that had been cut. I'd purposefully chosen a row that only had one small cable twist in it so that I would minimize my confusion, but in the process I ended up going back a few more rows to make sure all the stitches were on the same row. I almost gave up a few times, resigning myself to unraveling both sleeves and starting over. But I persevered, and finally got things straightened out.

How hard could it be right? I was just uravelling. But here's the deal. Unravelling from the working edge back to the cast on edge is just pulling on yarn and watching loops disappear. Unravelling from the cast on edge to the working edge is a whole different ballgame. Everything is interlocked -- especially if dealing with ribbing and cables. I knew this would be the case when I started, but dang! I had to use a darning needle and a crochet hook to unweave all the little scraps of left over yarn. Lots of pickin' and very little grinnin'. But it all worked out in the end. I think I'll cut the second sleeve a little differently.

The picture to the right shows the patient (and the impatient!) after surgery. The sleeve on the left side (which is sewn up), shows the original knitted length. The sleeve on the right side (which is not sewn up), shows the sleeve cut with a circular needle dangling off the new live stitches, ready for the ribbing to be added. I may do the cuff like the collar -- twice as long as required and then folded back in on itself. That way I can avoid having the cast-off edge showing. I'm also going to have to consider decreasing while I knit the ribbing, since I cut back into the increases of the original sleeve.

Whew! And to think that a week ago I thought I was almost done with this sweater!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Knitting Cliché

Before I became a knitter, most of my impressions about knitting came from cartooons and sitcoms. What can I say? I'm thinking of Morticia Addams knitting a sweater with three arms (the third one coming out of the chest) and numerous scenes of weeping wives having made sweaters with ridiculously long arms. Get out your hankies, folks.

The sleeves seemed a little long to start with, as mentioned in a previous post. I got the stitch and row gauge pretty good on the body of the sweater. Why not the sleeves? I think I know part of the problem. I blocked the front and back of the sweater about an inch wider than the pattern called for to give me a bit more room around my tummy. But I didn't consider that doing so on a drop-sleeve sweater would also add an inch to already long sleeves.

I'm not sure what to do at this point. I've sewn on both the sleeves and one of the underarm/undersleeve seams. Does anybody know if:

a) It's possible to unknit these from the cast on edge of the sleeves, unravel the yarn and start the cuffs working back out to a reasonable length, and, if so
b) Are there any good instructions on how to do this?

I'm going to pour through some books that I have, but I could really use some knitterly moral support on this one. I'm pretty devastated.


I found this page, which describes a process that seems do-able:

Sweater Surgery

(Partial answer to the first question above: unraveling ribbing from the cast on edge is mind-numbingly tedious). The sleeves may have to go under the knife.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Greenstick Fracture

For those of you without rambunctious young nieces who have had run-ins with playground equipment, a greenstick fracture is a type of bone fracture usually seen in young patients. Children's bones, like Bryspun circular needles, are more flexible than the bones found in adults, or indeed, Addi Turbo circular needles.

When children fracture a bone through some accident or another, the bone typically breaks on one side but the break doesn't go all the way through the bone. Pictured to the right is a Bryspun circular needle exhibiting a greenstick fracture.

After bending several metal double-point needles and considering tonight's incident, I'm willing to admit that perhaps I have a problem. Anybody know of a rehab center for knitters who grip their needles too tightly? In the meantime, until I get treatment, my days of experimenting with Bryspuns are over. I'm going to get a pair of size 3 Addi Turbo circular needles with a really long cable tomorrow.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Henry II

Just a quick update on the Henry scarf. I'm getting the hang of it. I took it with me to Houston to see our friend Tom in a play. It was quite good, and Tom was hilarious in it, as I knew he would be. We've all heard of "a play within a play" -- well, this was three plays within a play -- and one of those was Hamlet, so I think that makes a play within three plays within a play. I like taking knitting to Tom & Shelly's house in Houston. We always have a relaxing stay, get to just laze around and talk, and eat lots of food. I usually get much knitting done during all this.

The chevron pattern is really starting to show. The pattern calls for the finished scarf to be 8" wide. I've finished the first 24-row repeat, and I'm at just under 2". If I knit all seven repeats, the scarf will be closer to 12" wide. So I think I'm going to stop at five repeats. That should be put me around 9" wide or so. I could probably swing 6 repeats yarn-supply-wise, but something in my lizard brain tells me that odd numbers in patterns make the eyes happier.

I still haven't buckled and bought either a 42" or 60" size 3 needle, and the squeaking is still bugging me.

The Branching Aran Guernsey still needs sewing and a collar. I started blocking it on a Saturday. On Friday, while packing to head to Houston, Jeff went to get something out of the guest bedroom, and discovered that the sweater had been drying under the ceiling fan set at full blast for six days.

I'd say it's dry enough.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Oh Henry!

A perfect knitting storm occurred this week -- the fall issue of Knitty came out and I went on my maiden visit to The Knitting Nest. Purchases were made, money was spent, and soon I'd forgotten all about sewing up the sweater -- I needed to get started on Henry. I hadn't made a scarf in a while, and something about this knitted-but-almost-woven pattern made me want try.

I had issues from the start. First of all, I didn't have a size 3 circular that was long enough. I picked up a 40" Bryspun at Stacy's shop, but I have to say it's driving me nuts. It's too bendy, and I grab the needles to tightly. I'm seriously worried I'm going to snap it. Plus, I don't know if it's the content of the Silky Wool yarn I'm using (35% Silky, 65% Woolly), but there's a whole lot of squeeking going on while I knit, which is weirding me out.

I also had to cast on and start over three or four times. The designer writes in the instructions that the knitter should "check your work often to be sure the stitch pattern is lining up correctly," and boy, she ain't kiddin'. You cast on 227 stitches, but then the first row consists of K1, YO, K1, YO... already up to 450+ stitches. For the first few rows, it's hard to see the slipped traveling stitch lining up. The further I've gotten into it, the better I've been able to catch my mistakes early.

One of the neat things about this is that there is some sort of magic cast on with waste yarn that can later be removed. There's a lot stitch slipping going on in the first three rows, but I'm not sure how it all gets locked. Can anyone explain this to me/ You can see that I've just started unraveling the waste yarn in the picture at the top of the post. Undoing the cast-on edge was freakier than cutting a steek to me. I won't breathe easily until I've been down the whole row and know that none of those little edge stitches are going to explode.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Block Around the Clock

At my Saturday morning meetup I finished the second sleeve -- well almost. I'd forgotten a decrease on the second-to-the last row that I had to redo. But shortly after getting home, the major knitting on the Branching Aran Guernsey was done!

Knowing that I had some time this weekend, and knowing that I wouldn't have any the next, I decided to go ahead and see what I could do blocking and sewing-wise today and tomorrow. So into the tub went the parts for a good old fashioned Primitive Baptist full immersion. I'd thought about maybe just spritzing or steam-blocking might work, since I didn't anticipate a lot of stretching, but there were several places where the cabling got a little stretched during the knitting. I'm hoping that full immersion will wash away more sins.

I got some blocking wires last year -- turns out the kit has just enough for the front and back of a sweater along with the two sleeves. The sweater is supposed to be 26" wide, but I stretched things out a little bit more just to give myself a little, er, wiggle room. I was really surprised how well I hit guage on all the parts. The back and front were perfect, but the sleeves were about an inch longer than the pattern requires -- as mentioned earlier, not a problem. Everything is drying in the spare bedroom under a ceiling fan set on hurricane force. Silas is really intrigued with all the activity -- perhaps some instinct from his mysterious genetic past is directing him to do something with all these wet sheep he can smell somewhere in the house.

Tomorrow -- sewing.

Monday, September 17, 2007


When I was in college, I took a course called Prehistory. I was fascinated with the idea of a history course about things that took place before recorded history.

I started this blog about 10 months ago, and as I knit new stuff, I post about it here. But I've been knitting for two and a half years, and there are some "prehistoric" items that, perhaps, should be brought into the light of day. I've been adding some of these project to my Ravelry page, but for the benefit of my legions of readers and the great unravelled, I thought I'd introduce a few of them here.

This is an Alpaca scarf that was the first project I ever gave away. I made it about a month after I started knitting. My sister-in-law, Jenni, was along with me at the local yarn store when I bought it, and since she's always showed such enthusiasm and support of my knitting obsession, I gave it to her. It's the only think I've ever made from Alpaca. I loved the way this felt (as in past tense of "to feel" -- I didn't actually felt it). Just a basic 2x2 ribbed scarf. She looks lovely in it.

My littlest niece, Gracie was born a few months before I learned how to knit so I didn't have any little booties or other newborn paraphernalia ready for her when she came into the world, but I cranked this out when she was about nine months old. This is the first project that I knitted in public -- somewhere in the C concourse at Houston Intercontinental airport. We were on our way to visit our friends in Pennsylvania and to attend my first (and so far, only) Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. The pattern is the Big Bad Baby Blanket from the first Stitch 'n Bitch book. It was made by holding two strands of yarn together while knitting, which was new to me. I wasn't too keen on the color (it was the only baby-ish color of koigu I could find in my LYS of which there were 8 hanks), but it grew on me and turned out fine.

Little nieces are the perfect target for uncles who are honing their knitting skills. This is a sweater for Gracie, too. The pattern is called Double Scoop and it's from the Spring 2006 issue of Knitty. This was the first intarsia project I ever tried. I've looked at some others' attempts at the sweater on Ravelry, and it looks like I wasn't too far off the mark. I wasn't really pleased with the colors changed, although I wrapped the yarns when I changed, like one is supposed to. I remember doing this whole thing in something like two weekends. It was pretty easy to do, although sewing up the sleeve seams so that the stripes matched up was a bit of a pain. I seem to remember that you had to be one stitch off on one side in mattress-stitching the ladders so that when you pulled the seaming yarn taut, everything lined up. The pattern warned that this was a bit of a crop-top style, and to add a few inches for more modest toddlers. I wish I had done that. But she looked cute in it nonetheless.

I'll see about digging into more prehistory later. Lunch hour is over!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

One Sleeve Down

I got up my nerve this morning and dared to take a cabling project to my Saturday knitting meetup today. I usually only take socks or something simple -- certainly not anything that requires a pattern. But today, I was close to finishing the decreases on the sleeve and I felt brave. It went well -- I was able to concentrate and still gab at the same time. I did neglect a decrease right toward the end, but I was able to fix it on the fly without tinking back, at the encouragement of my meetup fellows.

I really enjoy my meetup people. They're always interested in so many various projects and yarns and techniques. I always learn something and everyone is so encouraging of everyone else's projects. Such a fun way to spend a Saturday morning!

I'm a little concerned about the circumference of the cuff of the sleeve. Most of the sweater is knit on size 4 needles, but the waistband and cuffs (and probably the collar -- I'll have to check), are knit on size 2 needles. Yet, they look like they're going to be even wider than the rest of the sleeve! Maybe it has to do with the ribbing effect of the main pattern? Maybe I can fix it in the blocking or the sewing.

Another slight concern. The pattern says to do a bunch of increases, and then knit until the sleeves are 22 inches long. By the time I finished the required increases, this sleeve was closer to 23 inches long! Not too bad, vertical gauge-wise, but still... Normally, I like my sleeves a little on the long side, since I have arms like Charlotte Greenwood. So it's all good.

Only one sleeve, and a bunch of sewing, and the collar to go. Woo-hoo!

Saturday, September 08, 2007


My Ravelry number finally came up today, fittingly, while I was at my Saturday morning knitting meetup. I'm in!

I've been sitting in this same spot since nearly 12:30 today (that's 6 hours!), adding projects, entering information about books, adding friends, attaching projects to blog posts, and generally going nuts. I haven't even gotten to anything having to do with stash or queuing up future projects.

I spent a big chunk of time deleting a batch of photos in Flickr. They were among the first I'd ever entered. When I first set up my Flickr account, it was flagged as violating some policy about posting pictures from other people (which I assure you, gentle readers, I was not doing). Could it be because I used she-who-must-not-be-named's name as one of my tags? I'm not sure. But the pictures entered at that time weren't showing up in my sets, and I couldn't get at them from Ravelry. I had to open up all the individual Flickr pages so I could keep the descriptions (18 tabs open) and copy them once I'd re-uploaded the pictures. Then I had to go back to my blog's earliest posts and re-connect to the new versions of the pictures. Has any one else had these kinds of issues with Flickr photos? Regardless, all seems well now.

Now I can stop obsessing about getting into Ravelry and actually get some knitting done. I added a few rows to my TOFUtsies 732 socks at the meetup this morning. And in the past week I've gotten a little more work done on the Branching Aran Guernsey. I've finished the front now, and I've gotten a good start on one of the sleeves. They go so much faster since they only require two pattern repeats across the row rather than the five required for the front and back.

Oh, and on Friday night, I went to my first yarn store opening. I was driving to work on Thursday morning, and heard that my local public radio station, KUT, was being sponsored that morning by Gauge, a new knitting shop. The spot gave the address and invited the community to come by their grand opening on Friday night.

It had a DJ, drinks, food, a hip crowd -- everything except those giant swirly spotlights. Actually, the might have had those, but Jeff and I left before it go dark. That's right. I dragged Jeff along. It was kind of funny -- several people from my meetup were there with their long-suffering spouses. What troopers!

There were too many people there to really get a good sense of the place, but it did have some lovely stuff on the shelves. And they were arranged by, what else, gauge. Someone pointed this out at the meetup this morning -- I couldn't figure it out for myself...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Days

My Ravelry number is 342. That's it - three hundred and forty-two people between me and knitting organization nirvana. So, to keep myself from going crazy and checking my place in line every few hours, I kept myself busy this weekend by, well, knitting.

I finished the front (yes, really the front this time) of the Branching Aran Guernsey a few minutes ago. Whew! Here it is pictured lying on top of the back.

The neck and shoulder decreases drove me crazy. Just like the back, I really had to map things out. The instructions said to knit to 23.5" blah, blah, blah. But I decided to count backwards from the number of rows that the back had taken to make sure I would have the same number or rows on both sides.

Rather than breaking the yarn and knitting up one shoulder and then doing the other, the knitter is instructed to add a second ball of yarn and keep knitting back and forth using both balls. When the neck decrease instructions direct one to decrease "at each neck edge," they really mean decrease the beginning of each neck edge, not on either side. I couldn't figure this out until I drew a diagram. I stressed about it all day, and it looks okay, but I'm still not sure I did it exactly right. We'll see when I pick up stitches (one of my less skilled knitting maneuvers) around the edge of the neck for the collar.

I didn't make it to my knitting group this weekend, and I sure could have used it. I stayed home, planning to take care of some chores like replacing my burnt-out car brake lights (successful) and getting my lawnmower to a lawnmower repair shop to get fixed (unsuccessful -- closed on Saturday? -- what's up with that?). I'll do my darnedest to get there next week.

Just checked. Still number 342. Oh, right -- holiday. Grrr. I'm gonna go cast on for a sleeve...