Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Very Merry Unbirthday!

Yours truly is one lucky knitter. Today, my knitting gang got together and threw me a surprise birthday party!

Most of the people in our group have their birthdays in the spring -- I'm kind of the odd man out -- in more ways than one. My birthday was back in the fall, and I was happy to let it pass by quietly. But the ladies outdid themselves today. Meg hosted and made some rockin' cakes, Melissa brought a delicious eggy/sausagey/cheesy breakfast casserole, Abbe brought cheese & crackers, we had mimosas, Wii-ed all over the place, and had our usual great time. Plus, the Ladies of Knitting (those above plus Stephi, Staci, Allison,Snowden, Kristin and Jene) got me a gift certificate to my favorite LYS. Who could ask for anything more?

Here a few pictures from the festivities. Meg's Flickr set for the day can be found here.

I also managed to finish the first of the True Love Socks that I'm going to make for a silent auction. I like the pattern. It's neat to learn some lace knitting techniques -- an area I haven't explored and for the most part and am enjoying (k4t, anyone?). But I've had issues. Like forgetting to put in a lifeline. And getting the directions that M1s lean confused.

I also had a problem with the suggested tubular bind off. I'd heard of this but never tried it. For those unfamiliar with the technique, you basically take 1x1 ribbing and then alternately slip the purl and knit stitches on four rounds to turn the ribbing into what is essentially a few rows of double knitting. Then you Kitchener stitch the two rows together. A little fiddly in the round, but I figured it out. My main issue was that this bind off was extremely rigid. Maybe it was just the way I did it, but I couldn't see how anyone could their legs into the sock. I ripped it out (no mean feat), and just went with Elizabeth Zimmerman's sewn bind off. I think it looks fine. I like the hearts.

Now I just have to finish the second one by Valentine's Day. I'm already a couple of inches up the toe.

[Post scriptum 2/1/09 -- found some more picture from other attendees at Flickr. They're added at the top of the post]

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Boy Hat

I wanted to make me a boy hat, but I'm not a boy. My apologies to Book of Love -- I couldn't resist. That dang song was going through my head the whole time I was knitting this thing. Meg made one for her boy, and it looked so great I thought I'd try my hand. I think I like the striping of Meg's hat better than what I came up with, but overall I'm pleased.

I bought the yarn Sunday, and that night I had it finished. Except it was a tad too short. I have one those heads on which tube-shaped object either fit fine around the back of the head and the brows, or around the ears, but not both at the same time. It was just too short to cover my ears, so I frogged it back to where the decreases started, added an inch, and then re-knit. I finished it last night.

And none too soon. I woke up to 64 degree weather, but it's since turned nasty. In typical Texas overreaction to frozen participation, I'm thinking the college might even be closed in the morning.

No worries. I'll be warm.

[Post scriptum 1/28/09 -- College open as usual. I was wrong!]

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


For a long time, I've been obsessed with the idea of gloves. Not as obsessed as MadTV's Dot here, but keen nonetheless. They look awfully complicated -- like socks with toes, but with all the increasing and decreasing in different places. Recently, pattern and yarn plopped themselves in my lap and I got to work.

I'm using a pattern called Men's Heavy Gloves, a 1945 Beehive pattern reprinted in Retro Knits. It calls for DK weight yarn, but I recently fell into some chocolaty Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport (see previous post), and I thought it might work on bigger needles. So far, things are looking good. The body of the glove has a cool texture that appeals to me.

I did have some problems in the space after the thumb hole is done but before the fingers are started. The instructions read "P1, CO 4 sts, sl next 16..." And my poor feeble brain read CO to mean "Cast off." Of course, this made no sense in context, but I couldn't see that this meant "Cast on" for the longest time. I haven't made that many patterns that cast on in the middle of the work, and it just wouldn't compute. You should have seen the weirdness that resulted. I tried five or six times, not understanding how the mess I was making could become wearable. Finally, it clicked.

Unlike the nice quiet bamboo needles. It's been a long time since I've used dpns, and I'm enjoying it. Just wish I had some slightly shorter ones for the fingers. It's hard to juggle all that wood around 16 little stitches.

Monday, January 19, 2009


*Stash Weeding and Procurement

This weekend, I attended a yarn swap, brainchild of fellow knitter Staci. The idea was that participants were to dig through their stashes, find stuff they didn't want any more for whatever reason (ugly, tired of looking at it, really ugly, only one ball of something leftover from a project, hideously ugly, etc.) and bring it to the swap. For each item one brought in, a numbered ticket was drawn from a bag. Multiple balls/hanks/skeins of the same thing were considered one thing for purposes of the swap. Numbers were called in order and when your numbers came up, it was your turn to take something from the pile.

It was immediately apparent, considering the enormous pile of fiber on the table, that this could be a lot of fun or get really ugly really fast. Turns out we all played fair, we were all civil, and no blood was drawn. Who knew?

I was a little nervous about the swap, mostly because I didn't think I had much of a stash. But turns out digging through one's entire pile of yarn is an excellent organizational reality check. I came up with 18 things to donate, from zebra-stripe sock yarn that I just couldn't bring myself to use, to leftover yarn from Jeff's British Checks Sweater, to leftover scraps of Cascade 220 from any number of projects. It was fun to see people's faces light at up at balls of yarn that no longer held any interest for me.

I've never been one to buy yarn for yarn's sake. I kind of need to know where I'm going with it before I buy something. But I think I got some fun stuff. I got some sock yarn (of course) and some brown worsted that might become a scarf and some brown sport weight that might become a pair of gloves. And some crazy red wool/recycled silk stuff from Tibet that I grabbed in a moment of panic.

Good times! I hope we do this again.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I finished my Perfectly Plain Vest late Thursday night. It was one of those finishing experiences where, despite fears of making fatigue-induced mistakes, I just had to finish it that night. Luckily, things went off without a hitch.

I love this sweater -- it's warm, it's light, it's comfortable. The KnitPicks Elegance yarn from which it's made seems to change colors slightly depending on the angle and intensity of the light. Although it appears to be dark brown, there's a surprising amount of redness that pops out from time to time. The little wispy strands of Alpaca that work their way loose over time don't even bother me. I haven't worn a sweater vest like this since 1976, when my family moved to Texas from the Pacific Northwest. Nerdiness never felt so good.

I can heartily recommend this pattern. It knits up fast, and it's very uncomplicated. I was a little concerned that the body was knit on size 6 needles, while the edging was done with the same yarn on size 3 needles. I thought this would bunch things up, but this yarn seemed to handle it quite well.

I did have a bit of trouble picking up stitches around the armholes. The pattern called for picking up 175 stitches, but I could only find 162. I also wish that maybe I had added an extra inch before the armhole decreases. I've only steam-blocked this (and that fairly lightly), so I'm wondering if a full-immersion blocking might not allow me to stretch an extra inch out, even though it's already been seamed up.

I've made a little progress on the True Love Socks that I'm knitting for a silent auction. I already have the pattern across the instep memorized. One of the M1 moves is hard to execute, but I've managed so far. And the pinkness is no longer searing my retinas. Seriously, the first time I closed my eyes after knitting with this yarn, all I could see was pink. My biggest challenge will be to remember that the pattern is written for a women's size 8 and not for me.

At the risk of sounding like a perv -- are there any women with size 8 feet out there who wouldn't mind sharing with me how long their feet are? The pattern just says "Continue in pattern until foot measures about 3 ¼” less than the desired length." But I have no idea what that would be.

Follow-up note, 1/18/09:

Janna suggested that I check Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks for a foot sizing chart. It tells me that a woman's size 8 foot is about 9¾" long. Does this sound about right?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pink Bananas

I know some of you are going to need to sit down. Comfy? Good. Yesterday, I bought the sock yarn you see to the right. I'll give you a moment to recover.

It's Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in "Pink Blossom." Yes, that's right -- your monitor is functioning correctly. If your eyes aren't hurting, you're not human. The chorus I sing with is presenting its Sweetheart Cabaret next month, and I want to make a pair of socks to donate to the silent auction fund raiser that we hold that evening. I'm thinking of using a free pattern I found through Ravelry, True Love Socks. Totally unlike anything I would normally make, but totally appropriate for the event. I'm sure that some philanthropic soul that evening will be willing to help out the chorus for the privilege of having these lace numbers on her ( or his?) feet!

Also, just for kicks, here is a picture of a dessert that Jeff and I are only minutes away from digging into. It's a Banana Cream Layer Cake, a recipe in the EatingWell Comfort Food Made Healthy cookbook that Jeff got for Christmas. The house smells wonderfully banana-y, and it's not all that bad for you at only 300 calories per slice.

Assuming you're going to eat only one slice...

Friday, January 09, 2009


I've finished the back of the Perfectly Plain Vest. As you can see, it's, well, plain. But I love it. It's lighter than air and extremely soft. I don't even mind the little flyaway fibers of alpaca-ness. And I got gauge right off the bat -- and I kept it. Still don't know what's up with the size. The pattern has instructions for sizes S, M, L, XL, 1X and 2X, and by measurement, I'm making the M. I am not, nor have I ever been, M. In the meantime, I am knitting and crossing my fingers (figuratively -- it's not very productive to try and knit while one's fingers are crossed).

As you may have noticed the "Blue Tiger Socks" have disappeared from the "On Needles" section to the right. Long, complicated story, the gist of which is I knit the business end of these two socks about six weeks apart. There are 10 (or, "J") measurements in this pattern -- Coriolis sock knitters will know what I mean. I didn't write down a one of them. A few I remembered, but many I didn't. I figured I'd get the same numbers if I just remeasured all my parts and re-did the calculations. Right? Wrong. I ended up with two socks of very different sizes, neither of which fit well.

I don't blame the designer. I'm a little put out with the editor or whoever made the decision to make a book from which one can't knit a garment without flipping to dozens of different locations to get numbers, methods, etc. But the fault lies with me. I should have done the little class sock from the front of the book (as advised by the author!) in order to fix the "big picture" in my brain. And I should have written down the measurements. Ravelry projects have a notes section for each project where I could have written these numbers down. Note to Self -- remember Notes.

We will not speak of this again. I've got some frogging to do.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


New yarn arrived in my mailbox today.

My most generous Uncle Cliffy gave me a gift certificate to Knit Picks for my birthday a few months ago, and I recently decided what I was going to do with it. I spent some (but not all) of it on 9 balls of Elegance in the color Redwood. It's destined to be a sweater vest, a garment I haven't worn since elementary school in the 70s.

I'm using the Perfectly Plain Vest pattern by Julie Gaddy. It originally appeared in Winter 2001 issue of Knitter's Magazine, but is reproduced in Guy Knits, part of the Best of Knitter's series. I got this book and Retro Knits: Cool Vintage Patterns for Men, Women, and Children from the 1900s through the 1970s from my in-laws for Christmas. Lots of cool stuff to mull through!

For reasons that Uncle Cliffy would appreciate, I chose this yarn because it is a nice Alpaca(70%)/Silk(30%) blend. And even though the wool comes from Peru, I'll think of Sir Francis in Gentleman Prefer Blondes, singing to Lorelei...
It's delightful down in Chile
Where the nights are nice and chilly,
And the golden moon is hanging low, oh.

I've already rushed a swatch into production and I'm right on target for gauge. We'll see if that holds out. In the meantime, I'm excited about nerdy armless warmth streaming forth from my new Addi Clicks!