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...