Wednesday, August 31, 2011


This weekend, I turned what I thought was a failed project into the world’s largest swatch – all in preparation for getting back on that horse and tackling the project all over again. I need to ride this wave while I can.
This is my version of the Big Dotty cushion from Mason-Dixon Knitting. I started it three years ago and made way too much progress before realizing that it was about 3” too narrow. So I threw it in a box. This weekend, I dragged it out and weighed it – 180 grams. Then I weighed the linen yarn I still had left over from the project – over 600 grams. I had plenty to start all over. I had thought that I’d have to cannibalize the first attempt to have enough yarn for the second, but since that clearly wasn’t the case, I bound off what I had, threw it in the washer, and blocked it. Very inspiring and motivating – it blocked out so nice and smooth. I might use this “swatch” to make a pillow or something.
I’ve made about 6 inches of progress on the new version already, and, although the dots on the new version seem slightly larger, I think it will pull in nicely once I’ve washed it and blocked it. I’m really happy that I was able to get back to this and that I have enough yarn to complete it. I can now remove those embarrassing zzz’s that have been floating over the icon in Ravelry!
cakeIn other news, my local men’s knitting group (Guys in Austin With Yarn in Ravelry) celebrated its first anniversary this week. One of the guys made some de-lish cupcakes and the shop that hosted this week’s meeting brought a delicious cake as well. It was so thoughtful. I always get a kick out of knitting with these guys – a diverse group of very talented knitters and crocheters. Here’s to  more good times knitting, crocheting and laughing together. And to more cake! Plus we had a visitor from San Antonio, Dino Foxx, who is involved with the yarn-bombing Yarn Dawgz of San Antonio. He’s a nice guy and his group does the coolest stuff. If you’ve seen that Prius commercial, he’s the guy in the hayloft.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Birds in the Hand

A long-sleeping project was roused from its slumbers this week and completed. Lately, it seems I’ve been tackling Lazarus projects left and right. This week, I worked on and finished the February Woodland Winter Mittens.

These are the second pair I’ve knit from the kit of six patterns from Knit Picks. I finished the January ones back in February, and I’ve finished the February ones here in August. Not a great track record, but I did get them finished. As I was finishing them up, Jeff’s sister came by to visit, so I asked her to try them on. She really liked them, so they’re hers. She seems really excited to have them and even agreed to model them outdoors on this day when it’s predicted to reach 108° outside. Texas women are tough!

I’m not really sure why these languished for so long. I just kind of lost interest. Of the six patterns, I’d have to say this is probably number 5 on my list of pattern preference. I think it’s the colors more than anything else – a bit bright for me! But upcoming patterns fall more along my palette preferences, so maybe the pace will pick up. I realize I don’t have to make ALL the mittens in the kit, but I kind of want to.

I cast on for a third pair (March) this morning, but since the cuffs on all of these look the same, there’s not much point in a picture right now. However, I’m motivated to bring back yet another purgatorial project. More on that next time…

Monday, August 22, 2011

Deliciously Dizzy

I worked like crazy on my Chocolate Spiral Socks over the weekend, and finished them up yesterday. After much turning and turning, I think they’ve come ‘round right.

I didn’t add the heel until after totally completing the rest of the second sock. Since I knew how big it needed to be, I didn’t need to fiddle with the length of the foot as I did for the first sock. All in all, I think they turned out great. My only real regret is that I didn’t do the toes in the same contrasting solid brown yarn as the heels. I supposed I could chop the toes out and put some in, but I’ll leave them alone for right now. I’m going to do contrasting heels and toes for the next pair I make – I think it will look cool. What I like about contrasting heels and toes is that no one can see them when you’re wearing shoes. It’s a weird thing to get thrilled over, but sock knitters will understand, I’m sure.

I can really recommend afterthought heels. It’s a good technique if you’re worried that you don’t have enough sock yarn for your project.  They’re also perfect for when you don’t want to interrupt a pattern of self-striping yarn. That wasn’t the case with this yarn, but you can still see it works fine. Having the decrease lines running diagonally from the heel to the instep looks unusual, but I can’t feel it. I’m also surprised how seamlessly the two yarns work together, even though they consist of different fiber combinations. 

When I got in my car today to leave work, the thermometer registered 112. By the time I got home, things had cooled down to a balmy 109. I took these pictures quickly on the front porch and got back inside before all this delicious chocolate melted away.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Much Thought After

My recent knitting project polygamy is slowly getting reined in as I get projects out of the way. This week, I returned to the Chocolate Spiral Socks that I started several months back.

I’m using a new technique (for me) on these – the afterthought heel. Not exactly an appropriate name, since, as executed, it does require some planning ahead. In theory, I think you could whip out your scissors à la Elizabeth Zimmerman and just whack out a row of knitting, but I like this method better. I chose this way because some of the original yarn was eaten by one of our resident basenjis, and I thought I’d use a contrasting yarn (Cascade Heritage Silk) at the heels to make sure I had enough of the main yarn. If I’d really thought about it, I might have made the toes in contrasting yarn, too.

The pink line of yarn you see in the photo above is where the afterthought heel is going to be inserted. I used some excellent videos posted at YouTube as a guide, created by my good friend Janelle. They’re quite clear, and very helpful.

In a nutshell, you put in a half-round of waste yarn along the sole of the foot where the heel is to go, and then just keep knitting what amounts to a tube sock. You can do this either cuff down, or toe-up. I’m doing this toe-up. Then, when you’re ready, just take out the waste yarn while picking up the stitches on either side, and then make like you’re decreasing and grafting a toe on a sock. In a typical sock for me, I’m usually grafting around 10 or 12 stitches across the toe, but since a heel is wider, I grafted 16.

Unfortunately, when I tried this on, I found that I’d made the foot of the sock about 2 inches too long. When I put my heel where the heel was in the sock, my foot was swimming around in the rest of the sock. So I ripped back. A little annoying, but at least I’ll have more yarn for the cuff.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Places, Everyone!

I can finally put this project to rest. All eight of the Twill Stitch Placemats are now complete. I finished the last two, made of the leftover ends of the original three balls, in the past week since we’ve returned from our vacation. The last of the Espresso-colored ones came up an inch short, but I’m okay with that.

We’ve been using some of these as I finished them, and they’re working well. They are stretching a bit with use – which is a good thing, in my opinion, although I haven’t yet tried washing any of them. That’s coming up soon, because we’ve already had a few spills.

In these pictures, I’m using some cool crystal goblets with stars on them from the early 60s that we got from Jeff’s parents. They were given to her by a friend, and she passed them on to us. The set has iced tea glasses, water goblets, wine glasses, sherbet cups and cordial glasses. We’ll have to come up with a fancy dinner that includes all of those some day.

The dishes were my paternal grandparents’. My grandmother hadn’t wanted to mess with fancy china, but my grandfather insisted that they get some while they were stationed in post-war Germany. In the end, I think she was glad that they did. I know I am. That wheat pattern never fails to make me think of Thanksgiving -- which is still several hot months away.

A placemat for everything, and everything on its placemat!

Saturday, August 06, 2011


I promised another creature of the ice last time, didn’t I?

Meet Peabey the Polar Bear, designed by Snowden Becker, and knit over the last few days by yours truly. Snowden even sent me the yarn with which to make him, a very interesting yarn of unknown origin – other than the fact she picked it up at a neighbor’s yard sale and it had probably been sitting in a California attic for decades. To find out the story behind the yarn, check out Snowden’s blog.

I’m totally blown away by this pattern. This isn’t just a generic bear – but very definitely a polar bear. The sleek, sloping head, the long neck, the turned-in rear toes, the fat backside – it’s a polar bear’s anatomy through and through. He has a very life-like stance, too. Snowden did such an amazing job with this. Her instructions call for cotton yarn, but I really liked knitting this in angora. As I knit for myself mostly, I’ve never used angora. It was fun trying out a new fiber. I was amazed at the lightness of it. And even though I had to break out the lint roller a few times, it was worth it. It gives him a nice, fuzzy halo.

The pattern is easy to follow. Absolutely no seaming, and just five little Kitchener grafts. I’m still not confident in my ability to embroider, but I did manage some decent, if beady, French-knot eyes, and at least the nose and claws are recognizable.

As we head past 50 days of 100+ degree heat this summer, it’s nice to have the company of someone from cooler climes.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Sonja’s Sweater

While waiting to climb Mt. Marcy during our rain-delay in the Adirondacks (was it really only 6 days ago?), we spent the day in nearby Lake Placid, seeing the sights. We did a little tasting of some Finger Lakes wines, enjoyed the rarity of precipitation falling on one’s person, and visited a quite interesting museum that grabbed my interest on many levels.

Sonja HenieThe 1932 & 1980 Winter Olympic Museum was kind of hard to find, buried in the bowels of a building that housed the ice arenas built for the two Winter Olympic games held in this small town. I didn’t know that the 1932 bid, paid for almost entirely through local bond efforts, was spearheaded by Godfrey Dewey and his aging father, Melvil. This just warmed the cockles of my librarian heart. Both Deweys were active in the local Lake Placid Club and the Adirondack Mountain Club, from whose Adirondack Loj (Dewey aficionados will understand the unusual spelling) we started our Mt. Marcy hike.

Anyway, in the museum, I ran across this beautiful hand knit sweater, once owned and worn by Sonja Henie, the “Pavlova of the Ice.” I’d heard her name, but didn’t know much about her. Quite famous as an athlete, she later parlayed her skills and beauty into a Hollywood career of ice-skating films – a sort of frozen H20 version of Esther Williams. She won the gold medal in ladies’ single figure skating in 1932 (and in 1928 and 1936, for that matter), before moving on to the big screen.

The details in the sweater are beautiful, and it looks like it could have been knit yesterday. The little buttons are perfect for it, and there seems to be a red placket-like lining behind them. Also, the choice of red and gray was quite stunning and seemed a bit unusual to me. I was also struck by it’s smallness. It’s perfect. Just look at those neat and tidy, uniform stitches.

I had to share this. It makes me feel better thinking about flying along the ice in something cozy, instead of looking out the window at the scorched earth that is central Texas these days. Next time, I’ll post about yet another beautiful creature of the ice…