Sunday, April 30, 2006

I know you know I know you know I know

This is Christmas Eve 2003. I knitted a blue furry scarf for my sister-in-law, who I think had the good sense to never ever wear. I remember feeling a little annoyed that my dad did not appreciate the handiwork, but now I know that he understood, well before I did, how ridiculous an item this scarf was. It turns out that his mother was a knitter, never without her needles, and surely she never produced a horror like this one. I wonder what he would have thought of a cabled merino scarf, or a lace shawl, or a soft afghan. But I never knitted for him, and now I'll never know.

It was a great Christmas; we were all together, the whole family, brothers, sisters, small children, some special family members from far away. We laughed and hugged and ate, hung out and went out, talked and drank, just like every time. It was special, like usual. We knew. Dad and I even had an afternoon together -- a basketball game and lunch -- just the two of us, a wonderful father-daughter date. We knew.

He died 25 days later. No warning. Just an awful phone call from my brother. "We're pretty sure he's not going to..." I knew.

There are holes in my life, now that he's gone.

All the Villanova games I saw with his tickets, because he is not here. All the ice creams my kid's haven't eaten, since he's not here. All the glasses of wine, and wonderful meals, now that we have moved home, and he is not here. Does he know that I'm here now, not in Richmond? Does he know to look for me here? The rounds of golf with Mr. Science, the swimming in the ocean with Rosebud.. His jiggling belly, laughing at my son, his namesake, who was just an infant when he died. They would have loved each other, my dad and my son. That my kids really didn't know him, and they'll never know just what an extraordinary person my father was.

Happy 66th Birthday, Dad. I know you know I know you know I know.

FO Alert

I'm so freaking excited to show you this sweater. I can't believe it's done. Well, um, almost done. I'm hiding the dangling ends to take the picture, plus I think I'll reinforce the neck line so it stays put a little better.

I need to send out a big thank you to my friend Lisa who apparently reads the blog. The past two times I've seen her she's asked, "So what's up with that asymmetrical thing?" She spurred me on to get to pieced it together today. I left it neglected in my closet for too long fearing that it wouldn't fit. Alas, I'm happy with the fit, but I have to replace the shiny white bra that I'm wearing in the pic with something more appropriate.

Here are some specs: Corrugated Asymmetrical V-Neck by Teva Durham knit in Karabella Aurora Bulky in Eggplant color on size 10 1/2 needles.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Finished Picovoli Pics, Finally!

Picovoli is finished! I finished knitting it about two weeks ago, but it has taken a while to finish the blocking, as well as waiting for some decent weather so that Mr S. could take some decent photos.

Pattern: Picovoli, by Grumperina
Yarn: Cascade Pima Silk, color 5144 purchased at Sophie's Yarns
Notes on the Yarn: this yarn is a worsted gauge, thicker than the recommended DK yarn, Debbie Bliss Cathay. This feels very soft and has very nice stitch definition. It does seem a little fuzzy, and I did end up picking a few pills off the sweater as I knit it. Generally, not a good sign. I will post if the yarn fuzzes or pills in any serious way. Otherwise, I did like using this yarn. I am also hoping that it won't be too hot for summer wear.
Pattern Mods: I knitted the picots at the neck using a smaller needle than the body of the sweater, but they do still roll a little without aggressive steam blocking. I also altered the raglan increases slightly by adding a simple K1 between the two K1fb increases. I just like that nice straight raglan line. Finally, I made the sweater longer than the pattern instructions, as I have had two c-sections, and need tugless garments to cover the belly.

Other notes on the pattern: I have seen the light! Knitting in the round from the top down is a great way to make a sweater, and believe me, I will be looking to make more sweaters (Green Gable!) using this method of construction. For a snug sweater like this one, fit was crucial, and I fell between sizes. If taking meticulous measurements, making multiple large gauge swatches and recalculating patterns is not your thing, I highly recommend knitting sweaters this way. Knit it, try it on halfway through, if it doesn't fit, adjust accordingly. Love it!

In other knitting news, SLS2 is making progress, thanks to a few hours in the ER. Just stitches, and not on my kid, either. Patient is fine, and sock's heel has been turned, gussets have been decreased, and I just have about 12 more repeats until I get to the toe. I did decide. I will finish this sock.

And, finally, as confirmation to my multi-project self, I cast on for the Green Gable with Cotton Fleece, and am participating in the Green Gable Knit Along.

Have a great weekend, y'all.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

SLS No. 1

I'm happy to report that my Simply Lovelies are going great. I'm not having the troubles my KAL mates faced. I think the pattern is kind of fun, the fit is good and the yarn is perfect. I even casted on for no. 2 to help avoid SSS.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Instead of Making SLS #2...

...I knitted three Dulaan hats in Lamb's Pride Bulky in April's Project Spectrum Colors, orange and yellow. The hat on the left in a corrugated rib hat based on Mason-Dixon Kay's Olympics Dulaan Hats. On the right, you see my very first foray into a stranded pattern, sort of based on Amber from Magknits. In the center, you see what was left over when all that was done. Not bad for three skeins and less than $25.

The other way I avoided my Simply Lovelies was to swatch and swatch. The yellow swatches were homework for my "Crochet for Knitters" class I took on Saturday (I learned some crochet! And...I think I liked it, a little...) and the blue swatches are for Green Gable. I decided to see if indeed my flat gauge varied from my gauge in the round. I decided this after I had already knitted well into my flat swatch and realized that for a sweater knitted in the round, I should have knitted a swatch in the round too.

So, always eager to turn my boneheaded mistakes into learning experiences, I finished the flat swatch and made an equivalent round one, and whaddya know? My swatch was off, my a full stitch per inch! I still don't quite have gauge for the sweater, but as it is a top-down, I think I may jump right in with one needle larger.

But first, I will knit some on my Simply Lovelies.

BTW, Picovoli is done, blocked, and ready to be photographed, but the weather here in Philadelphia has been so bad, I haven't been able to do it. Soon, I promise!

To rip or not to rip, that is the question ...

So, today I am making a garter stitch scarf for the Dulaan Project while I meditate on whether I'm going to rip out the sock (it's just too small) or knit another to match and give them away to someone with size 7 feet.

I think I'm leaning toward ripping ... but then if I do I won't be knitting the SLs, so I'll have to find another sock pattern ...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

No Cinderella Here

So SL number 1 is finished ... well, kind of. It barely fits over my heel. I don't have huge feet -- size 8. This is my first sock and I must have just knitted it way too tightly. What do I do, oh sock gurus? I tried it on before I finished and it was snug but not excruciatingly tight. I think I pinned down the cuff for the picot edging wrong or something. Anyway, I'm not happy with the fit. Maybe I should just redo the cuff? Suggestions?

The bag is also done -- and I love it! I think the handles worked out okay -- I had to unravel a swatch to get enough of the heather yarn and then I used white for the rest. I've been calling it white, but it's the natural wool, not bleached, which is why it felted without a problem. This will become my new bag for my knitting. Yipee!

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Race

I really do eschew most television. I watch my netflix movies and have 2 or 3 shows that I like to watch but could miss. Except one. A reality show. I really, really like it. The Amazing Race. I will spare you the details of my obsession -- my current favorites (BJ and Tyler) or my all-time favorites (the Bowling Moms) -- and only say this ... we knitters have to field a team.

It's a no-brainer people. Knitters criss-crossing the globe, interacting with different cultures, towing their socks and hats and skeins on airplanes, trains, hot-air balloons, and speed boats. We are logical thinkers, we are risk-takers, we are creative and can think "outside the box." A team of expert knitters would kick some butt on this show. D'ya think the Yarn Harlot is available for next season's show?

In other news, I didn't get much knitting done last night b/c BB and I ... went. out. to. see. a. band. The Hackensaw Boys. They were incredible and I actually cannot figure out when the last time was that we went out to see a band. It was great -- the venue was fab, friends were there, and the band jammed.

So here we are: the 1st sock nearing completion and the sad bag waiting for some tearing out. Yup. Once again confirming the knitting rule that the less accessible the yarn, the greater your chance of running out, I will not have enough yarn to finish the handles. So, I'm going to take out some of the one handle that I finished and work something out with the oatmeal colored yarn. I don't like the idea of white handles, but there we have it.

I hope to have a finished bag and sock to post soon!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Simply Lovely Sock #1, 5 More to Go

Liz now steps into the XRK Confessional:

I caught the Clap.*

Those blue flowery shoes in IK infected me. As the only person currently contributing to this blog that actually wears heels with any regularity, I think I can say that the likelihood of me actually wearing the socks with any of my heels is pretty slim. So then with what shoes would one wear these lacy socks? Dansko clogs? Sneakers? I don't know. But if I am going to be truthful with you, I think I want the shoes more than I want the socks.


Y'all, I am not enjoying knitting this sock. The KTBLs are getting to me. The US1s are annoying me. US1s have never annoyed me before. I think of y'all languishing on the size 0s and I just about want to cry. The salmony color, while appropriate to the sock, just isn't doing it for me.

Am I the only one who feels this way?

Now, let's let it be said that I have no beef with any knitter who wants to scrap the socks entirely, but I am not willing to go that far with these socks, despite my annoying whining about them. See, I have actually made these socks an experiment, a learning experience, so I must finish the pair. More on this later.

And, I am a knitter who has thus far managed to scrupulously avoid Second Sock Syndrome (SSS). I have a multi-pronged strategy that I employ that get that second sock knitted. So here, as a service to the knitting community and to my fellow XRK SLS Knitters, I am sharing my SSS Avoidance Technique:

1. Do not have mulitple sets of DPNs in the same size. This only makes it too easy to cast on another pair when those new skeins of sock yarn jump into your shopping bag and follow you home.

2. Wear single sock. Admire your foot. Feel how good, how warm, how soft that sock feels, better than any mere mass-produced sock you'll ever buy. Try on shoes with the sock. Wear it around a bit. Feel stupid wearing just one sock. Endure strange looks and the occasional comment from beloved spouse or darling children regarding the wearing of one sock. You do need another sock to be complete, whole. Keep single sock in knitting basket to remind you of how great it would be to wear it with another one just like it!

3. Cast on for second sock IMMEDIATELY AFTER grafting toe of first sock, and knit at least 5 rounds of the sock.

4. Apply nose to grindstone, and knit the thing. Get it done. You have more sock yarn to knit.

* The Clap or Clapotis- lured into a knitting project by cute model, photo styling, etc. Projecting yourself into model's life, wanting to be the girl in the picture, not so much wanting actual knitted object.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Can I Knit It?

A few months ago my little guy asked me to make him a Bob the Builder sweater. I thought this was kind of curious since he has NEVER come close to anything that I've knit for him, including my all-time cutest toddler sweater in the whole wide world. Imagine that!

He persisted. So, the answer is, "Yes, I can!"

Here I go knitting a Bob the Builder-inspired sweater in Taki Cotton Classic II using the Ann Budd formula for a modified drop shoulder pullover with a V-neck. The back is done, and I'm working on a sleeve. I'm holding my breath hoping he will like it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Going Out Darinkin'

So my knitting group went out to a wine bar during Spring Break -- last Thursday -- no knitting, just hanging out, drinking, and eating. Martha related this wonderful tidbit from her fabulous husband:
My handsome husband said this morning: 'First you knit during the
day, then you knit at night, now you're going out darinkin'. It's the road
to ruin I tell you!'

That's right my friend, the road to ruin is lined with swatches, knitting needles, and stash ...

So here we are (Cheers!) -- doesn't Shannon look stunned by it all? Egads! she thinks, I have no children with me? No one pitching a fit over dinner? Great day in the morning!

So I had a wonderful Easter weekend visiting the parents and the in-laws. But the sock was sorely neglected. Here it is looking wistful amongst the lilacs ...

But the spiral bag (Harry Potter and the SS was on Saturday night, so mega knitting time) is almost ready for felting. I am so put off by how big and floppy it is, but am keeping the faith -- it will felt, right? This is my first (intentionally) felted piece. I can't wait to see how it works ...

So I'm only 5 pages into Plan B by Anne Lamott and I just have to say how much I LOVE her writing. I read just the front page of the Washington Post today and was getting depressed about the violence and corruption and then I happened upon this quote in Lamott's book which was just what I needed:

"How are we going to get through this craziness?" I asked. There
was silence for a moment.

"Left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe," he said.

Thank you Anne.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

When I Ran Out Of Yarn...

This is how close to finished I was on Picovoli when I ran out of yarn. I guess I will be wearing something else to Easter dinner tomorrow...

Readers of this blog know that Picovoli was frogged once already. This was a good decision. The fit, knitted on a smaller needle, is much better. Being a petite girl, but still built like a woman, I'm not the easiest fit on top, but one is a winner. Despite the fact that knitting the picots on a smaller needle, they still roll a big, but I think this is (everybody all together know...) will block out. However, we all know that using a smaller needle uses more yarn. Ach!

Being a woman who has had two cesaerean sections, I cannot skimp on length on sweaters. I have done this before (on my Soleil sweater, for example), and every time I wear it, I spend all my time tugging the bottom of the sweater. Resolved to have a tug-free fit, and taking advantage of the top-down construction of this sweater (love that!), I know I still have to knit another inch or so, and then do the picot hem. Also, the sleeve caps are obviously unfinished too.

I purchased the yarn at Sophie's downtown, on my last shopping day downtown with my sister. However, it is, as I have said before, pretty inconvenient for me to get downtown. And there are no scheduled jaunts to the city in the next few weeks or so due to calendar stuff -- just too busy to run downtown for ONE BALL OF YARN. So, I began to call various LYS in the vast Philly 'burbs in which I languish to find one lone ball of Cascade Pima Silk. One yarn shop owner had a few balls, not in my color, she regrettfully and kindly said. One place didn't carry it, but wanted to know if I liked it, even suggested places online where I could order it.

One place I called was so, umm,'s the conversation:

"Do you carry Cascade Pima Silk?"
"Have you ever been here before?"
"Um, yes...I know you carry some Cascade Yarns."
"Well, then you know I have a lot of yarn."
"Yes, but do you carry Pima Silk? I need one ball to finish my sweater."
"You know, I have no way of knowing if I carry that or not. You'll just have to come in and search, I guess."

YOU HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING? EVER HEARD OF INVENTORY??? It is not as if this is the first time that this LONG TIME LYS has ever gotten this question from a desperate knitter...

Of course, I could have googled, and ordered online, but I am on a bit of a yarn diet for the rest of the month, and I have a hard time justifying shipping charges on one lone ball of yarn. So had I ordered it online, let's just say a few more skeins would have to have made it into the stash...

But...this story has a hero, as all good stories do. I called Sophie's downtown. The had another ball. So my sister, the ultimate non-knitting knitting enabler in my life, who lives in downtown Philly, stopped by the yarn shop to pick up another ball for me. And then called me to assure me that the ball of yarn was in her possession, and that she would bring it with her for Easter weekend. Is she the best or what?

And her reward for her knitting enabling? Something knitted with this:

Artyarns Supermerino

Hello, gorgeous...

I also wanted to thank the fabulous Yarn Harlot who have me and my Sitcom Chic and nice shout-out on her blog. That's me grinning like an idiot in one of the traveling sock pictures.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Knitting at the park

Typically, I take my kids to the park hoping to run into other moms and kids. I think we'll chat, the kids will play, everybody will be happy. I finally realized this is a delusional expectation of this neighborhood. But my kids still want to go to the park. Solution -- knit in peaceful solitude.

Of course, this may be obvious to you, but like I said, I was delusional for the last two years. Plus, I've recently become mere transportation, since the kids have grown into great playmates.

Knowing there would not be another soul at the park, I packed a lunch chock full of nitrates and not quite seasonal fruit for the kids and grabbed my Simply Lovelies.

Using size 0 needles, I cast on 60 stitches with the picot edging option. My crochet hook is with me at all times because I have dropped stitches several times. The Opal yarn comes from the Knitting Basket in Richmond. I'm not sure about their current sock yarn offerings since they recently changed owners.

This is only my third set of socks, so I'm totally unsure about fit, pattern and yarn choices. I can't wait to learn from everyone else. Plus, I can't wait to get back to the park.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Thursday Sock Update

First things first: the finished Koigu Conwys!
Pattern: Conwy Socks from Knitting on the Road by Nancy Bush
Yarn: Koigu KPPPM

Thoughts and Yammerings: Loved knitting this pattern, and really really really loved knitting with the Koigu, but this was not the perfect match of sock pattern and yarn. The tan tone in the colorway, the most contrasting color, was the one that flashed and pooled through the cuff and leg, and not in the most attractive way, and the extremes in the variegation distracted from the pattern of twisted stitches. It got better by the foot, settling into a nice stripe. This was my first round toe, and was fun to try. As a relative baby in the world of knitted socks (less than ten pairs total), I haven't formed preferences in the way I knit my socks, and am interested in trying as many different techniques as possible.

I am actually in the midst of coming up with a Knitted Sock Evaluation Scale, the former teacher I am, so tell me how do you evaluate your knitted socks? Fit, pattern, yarn...what else? Leave a comment (now that we know how to both read and post them!!) and let me know. Help me in my quest for the perfect combination of yarn, pattern, technique, fit, feel, everything!

Simply Lovely Socks (SLS) Update:

I began my SLS on Monday with everyone else, and am using Lang Jawoll in a salmon-y colorway, that I don't really love, but I think it is a nice combination of yarn color and pattern. I do have to say, Ann, this is not the best pattern to initiate you into knitting socks. It is fiddly and delicate, and I think for your first pair of socks, a satisying self-striper in a simple stockinette on US2s is the way to go. My props for sticking with it, if you choose to do so. Mo, I also want to know where you are getting your Opal, since as the most loyal customer of a certain Richmond LYS, they do not carry sock yarn there (shame!)

Slowly Growing Up

Dear Liz and Ann,

I should be working right now. The kids are at the sitters and I'm rambling around the house taking pictures of flowers and tinkering with knitting projects. My distraction du jour is the loss of our dog Katy. We had to put her down on Friday. It was very sad for us.

We also stepped into the parenting realm of talking to kids about death. We had two extreme reactions. Miss Priss bottles it up and won't say a word. Our little guy can't stop talking about it. He repeatedly (and I mean repeatedly) has asked "Does her back still hurt?" "Does she have her medicine?" "Will they feed her?" "Will they give her water?" and yesterday he ask me if Katy could come to his birthday party.

It's funny how at my "advanced" age I still have moments where I all of the sudden feel like I'm slowly becoming an adult. This has certainly nudged me along.

Now, I really should get to work.



Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Comment Freedom at XRK

So, you would think that one of us here at XRK would be blog-literate enough to know that if we choose the "moderate comments" function, the next step would be to ... Moderate the Comments. But no, alas, we suffered from a blog brain freeze and had no idea. We did not understand our settings. We did not realize the plethora of comments that were left in the netherworld of our dashboard waiting, waiting to be published.

We sincerely apologize to our readership.

I have now released your comments from the shackles of moderation. Bring us your queries, your comments, your critiques. We will read. We will respond. We hear you. We are ignorant no longer.

Thank you for reading and thank you for your comments!

Monday, April 10, 2006

From Funk to Inspired ...

Yes, that's right, I've been inspired. I am once again the furiously obsessive knitter that I once was. Who knows exactly how the transformation happened, but there we have it.

I have a book high on my wish list right now (after the M-D, of course), it's Inspired Cable Knits -- this book is gorgeous!! I can't wait to knit the hooded, zippered cardigan -- gorgeous! So, in keeping with the book's nature/knits theme, I'm going to show you recent projects (finished and in process) within the garden.

Here's the finished cardie for R -- I made it big so that she can wear it this year and next. I used the Ann Budd sweater book (v-neck, modified drop-shoulder cardigan) with Rowan cotton rope in parma. It was fast and a bit boring. But it will look great on R for Easter. And it looks great next to the creeping phlox.

Here's my swatch for a felted bag that I've started (nice chunky yarn and big needles to offset the giantism that I feel creeping in whenever I pick up those darn socks). This is the yarn that I bought on Inishmor last Spring, so I thought I would do a celtic spiral motif. I'm using the Knitty pattern for the french market bag.

And here is the SL for the KAL. Okay, I totally cheated. I started early b/c I was afraid. I am freaked out with the knitting on toothpicks with angel hair pasta. It's taking me a while (I co Thursday night) and I feel like I start to grow and grow with each round (fingers ballooning, needles and yarn getting smaller) ...

However, I love, love, love the challenge ... and like I said, it's good to have the bag to reduce the ballooning fingers, etc.

Inspired again! Hurray!

Ready, Set, Knit

OK, here I go ... I'm casting on for the XRK Simply Lovely Lace Sock KAL!

My Brush with Celebrity -- the BIG News

Yes, that's me and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot herself.

(I know, I know, you M-D readers knew Ann and Kay were swinging through Philadelphia and you thought that was my big news. Well, I spent most of last week in bed with stomach pains, and just managed to turn the corner on Friday afternoon. And never mind that one of the *BIG CONS* of my current living situation (languishing in the 'burbs -- LITB) is that getting downtown to various cool events (such as the Loop event, or the Franz Ferdinand show, or seeing the Neil Young movie on the big screen) are often such feats of logisitics, made more difficult with the incredible traffic and inadequate roads, unreliable public transportation, parking woes, etc. never mind babysitting, etc. So when the great convergence of both M-D and Yarn Harlot hit my area, I picked one.)

If you ever have the chance to attend a book-signing or reading with Stephanie, you won't be disappointed. She was, first of all, hilarious. Her talk was pretty fresh material, too, considering that I have read all three of her books (Knitting Rules arrived Friday morning). She talked mostly about her observations when nonknitters (she calls them Muggles) meet knitters. She talked about the Knitting Olympics, and what it is like to be interviewed by the non-knitting media. She is very self-deprecating and very unneccessarily so, since she was funny, entertaining, warm, and just what I expected her to be.

The community of knitters that came to hear her surprised the owners of the Doylestown Bookshop, I'm sure. Everyone was there, playing Name that Pattern, Identify that Yarn. "Is that the Lace Leaf Pullover? What yarn did you use?" Note that I am wearing my Sitcom Chic -- Steph complimented it! -- and Steph is wearing her Diamond Fantasy Shawl, which is, predictably, gorgeous. I have never seen so many hand-knitted socks in one place, nor have I seen so many socks being knit simultaneously. There was Laurie to my right, knitting with STR, and Amyto my left, who asked, "Are you making Conwys too?" Our Conwys made friends, and discussion ensued over the pros and cons and pooling and flashing in variegated yarns. I will say, for the record, I like my Conwys in Koigu, but I like hers in Lorna's Laces better.

I got my book signed ("Obsession is normal"), bought my MSF pin, and -- are you ready?-- Steph said she KNEW OUR BLOG! Now, I don't know if she was just being polite, and if she was, how nice...but a few weeks ago, I left a comment on her blog. It was a beautifully written post, and I just needed to, in that writerly way, acknowledge the quality and the music of that particular post. I always hesitate to leave a comment on the blogs that get a ton of comments -- why add to the barrage -- but I had to say something. She did e-mail me back a sincere thank you, and I have not deleted it. I know, I know, a Marcia Brady/Desi Arnaz Jr. moment. So perhaps she did check out our humble blog at some point...In either case, she responded graciously and kindly, saying she knew XRK, and enjoyed checking us out.

I hate to be so gushy about a very normal person, someone who, as she says, does laundry and cooks dinner, and writes knitting humor books. I mean, no offense, but it's not like she's Mick Jagger. But Steph's appeal is that she tells us our secrets, acknowledges that our thoughts, obsessions, guilt-relationships with stash, everything, is normal for knitters. Her self-deprecating way mirrors the way we often feel about our craft among the Muggles, and her essays capture how we truly feel about our craft, when among those who understand. I admire her, too, for being a writer. I admire anyone who writes, as that is my life's aspiration. (Did you think these lengthy posts were just an extension of my natural gift of gab?) And a good writer too. As well as a Mom, wife, knitter, spinner, and everything else, she has managed to combine knitting and writing into a career. Steph, it was a pleasure!

And if the day could not have gotten any better, there was actually a yarn shop NEXT DOOR to the bookstore, so a little more sock yarn made it into the sock drawer.

Sigh. Will have finished pics of Conwys to post, progress on Picovoli, and the beginning of the Simply Lovelies...

Love you guys and wish y'all could have been there.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Did someone say "dishcloth"?

Yes, I do enjoy zoning out and quickly creating a dishcloth. I usually make a set of three from the same colorway and give them as hostess gifts. I roll them individually and tie the set with extra yarn along with some candy or other goodie.

My first dishcloth gift was to SDs grandmother several years back. Her reaction was priceless and, honestly, unexpected. She LOVED them. She went on and on about how her neighbor has some and she's "always" want some just like it.

Soon I graduated from the just giving them to senior citzens, because who doesn't love a hand knit dishcloth? This one is slated for my friend Elaine who invited us to dinner this week.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Knitting Funk Solutions Offered, $.05

As your friend and knitting comrade, I have been thinking about your last post, where you blamed your current knitting funk on your beginner status...First of all, I don't think that anyone who knits TWO King Harald Hats qualifies as a beginner anymore. The aran sweater than you designed for the Backyard Boulanger rocketed you right our of the beginner category. Second, I think perhaps it is not a lack of experience, but maybe a surfeit of ambition that tortures you now. You have taken on some of the most complicated, complex projects of anyone I know, with an incredibly steep learning curve. I'm suggesting something a little less complex than say, a self-designed Aran sweater for the BB or a bazillion colored stranded hat.

Third, some serious knit porn has hit the Philly outpost of XRK. And while I have BIG news to report (next post, you won't believe it!), I realized the solution to your knit funk is our KnitBlog ForeMothers, Ann and Kay of Mason Dixon Knitting . Have you bought their new book yet? No? Our inspiration for this humble blog have the answer to your knitting funk:

the Mason-Dixon Solution #1: Stitch Dictionaries + Peaches and Cream
I too have had a knitting funk from time to time. The worst was that horrible, horrible winter of2004, when, well, you know what happened. This is when I discovered stitch dictionaries. They actually have a pretty good one at the old Westover Hills Library. I made a bunch of schmattes, each with a different stitch pattern, really destined for nothing. I think I had in mind that I would sew them up into blankets or something, but that never happened. I think I used some leftover CottonEase (yes, still grieving that too). I knitted my way through it until I could concentrate enough to move onto a simple baby blanket.

Now, combine this with the inspiration from Kay and Ann's book (stop what you are doing and get it. Now). The women extol the virtues of the dishcloths in good ole' Peaches and Cream Yarn. I dare you to read this book and not want to knit a dishcloth when the knitting funk hits. Our fellow blogger Mo is an avowed dishcloth knitter, and I think I am on my way to becoming one too! Really!

So all this solution requires is buying the Mason Dixon book for the sheer fun of it, and it is worth every penny, and then stocking up on a few colors of super-cheap yarn that you can get at the Mega Maxi Craft-O-Rama Mart. And there has to be something that appeals to the crunchy granola, handmade, earth mother in you about knitting dishcloths! And you can knit them to match your new kitchen! Wow!

Mason-Dixon Knitting Solution #2: The Big-Ass Project Destined to Take a Long Time
Is there anything crazier than knitting a bedspread? Try one of their blankets, quilts, or bedspreads, and you have a guaranteed project to get you through a lifetime of knitting funks. Maybe a few mitered squares will give you a breather between big projects when waiting for inspiration to strike, or help you through the bad times when big projects go bad.

Let me tell you, I feel more inspired after reading this book than I have in a long time! And if you don't believe how much I reeeealllly love love love this book, just realize that I have Big. Big. BIG. Knitting. News. for the next blog post. And I postposed posting about it to offer a little knitterly help for you, my dear friend.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Breathe in Breathe out Knit ...

So I've been swamped with stuff lately. Nothing in particular, but sometimes life just gets compressed and well, there we have it, no time to blog and, err, no real time to knit. My projects are fractured and my patience wears thin. It so happens that I don't have a project that is a driving knitting force right now (that means "obsession"), which means that I have the time to devote to the other stuff, stuff that, quite frankly demands to be done. Don't get me wrong, I've been knitting! But not the satisfying kind of creating that I had grown accustom to ...

It's at these times that I feel most like the beginner that I truly am. I don't seem to be able to just pick up some socks (haven't actually knit myself any yet), or successfully whip up a hat (I tried but then got stuck b/c I don't have the right size dpn and no time to get some), and the wonder of finishing a project eludes me (I'm held hostage right now by a button band/neck band thingy that I just can't figure out properly).

So, tomorrow is knit night with the merry band of stitchers and I hope to find the support and focus to get on track. No errands to run, no kids to keep track of, no piles of laundry to deal with, no company to entertain and clean up after ... (and maybe no dangling prepositions ... geez, I was an English major ...).

It's time to settle a bit and retreat for some calmness and inner focus. Breathe in, breathe out, I'm ready to knit those lace socks my friends!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

It's the Story of How...

...this Picovoli...

...became these three balls of Cascade Pima Silk again...

I have loved this pattern from the beginning, and decided to add it to my 2006 Spring/Summer Must Knits List. I am a loyal reader of Grumperina's blog, and truly admire her attention to detail. I have also knit the infamous Jaywalkers, and loved that pattern too. I know that her trademark is incredible attention to detail and commitment to get it right, so let me just say before I go on: the following blog entry in no way reflects on the quality and accuracy of the pattern as written. I am simply making minor modifications to make the garment using the yarn I want to fit the body I have.

I picked up the Cascade Pima Silk at Sophies last month and got down to swatching this week. Three or four needles and multiple flat and circular swatches later, I still wasn't really getting gauge. The pima silk is thicker than the Cathay the pattern calls for. I do love Cathay, and used it for my Fiery Bolero last summer, but I rarely re-use a yarn. Why reuse when there are so many others out there to love? And Pima Silk is truly worth your love. Soft to the touch, very even stitches, withstands a lot of frogging.

Taking a close look at the schematic and reading the pattern multiple times, I noticed that I fall between the sizes of this pattern. This sweater is supposed to fit snugly, and as I looked through the Picovoli Gallery and the KALs, I saw how many knitters said that they wished they had knitted it a little smaller.

So I dug out the calculator, and the knitting notebook, ready to recalculate, and then I decided to just knit the size I thought was closest with a needle that I thought was a little smaller than the one I'd need to get gauge, and, this being a top-down sweater, I would just try it on, and frog if necessary. I would obviously rather knit and frog half a sweater than re-do the math.

When I did finally get to a point that I could try it on, it was a little too big, and going down one needle size should be all I need to get it to fit a little snugger without being sausage-like. So, we have fix #1 -- adjust needle size down to get better fit.

I was actually relieved that it didn't fit, because there were other things that I wanted to change about this sweater -- like the picots, for example. The pattern calls for using a provisional cast-on, and sewing the picots down later. I do my picots as I go along (there is a good video of how I do it here), and could see that I would not be happy with the neckline on the finished object -- the picots were floppy and rolly, and no amount of blocking would keep the neck from rolling. So now we have fix #2 -- knit the picots one needle smaller than the rest of the sweater.

Is there anything more beautiful, anything that makes you feel more like a fancy-pants knitter than a beautiful raglan line on a sweater? This is not one of those raglan lines, so this, too, must be adjusted. Not quite sure what the fix is there, but have an idea...

Finally, the armhole was a little low, and I was definitely sporting a little bra-flash through the armhole. It will firm up a little when the picot trim (on a smaller needle) is added, and hopefully, my row gauge will tighten with the smaller needle.

So, Picovoli #2 hit the needles this morning. Will keep you posted!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Liz's Stash

Most of my stash is actually earmarked for projects, and now that I have discovered the joy of Dulaan and other assorted charity knits, my stash feels even more full of potential projects.

The top left square is projects at the top of the queue: Dylan Goes Electric for Mr. Science, ArtYarns Supermerino for a scarf/hat set for my sister, and Rowan 4-ply cotton for my Orangina.

Middle square is my growing sock yarn stash. Koigu, Fixation, Socks that Rock, Jawoll, etc. This seems to be growing exponentially, as I tend to buy sock yarn to either avoid paying shipping charges on an online order -- I'd rather by sock yarn than pay shipping, or it is an easy thing to buy when I am just checking out a yarn shop, as I have been doing since moving to Philadelphia.

Top right square is sweater quantities of yarn still looking for the right projects...

Bottom left bag is my soon-to-be Noro Silk Garden Mavis sweater, and two balls of Pima Silk, for my current WIP, Picovoli.

Last two bottom squares are the "junk drawers." Frogged projects, ribbon and novelty yarns bought before I knew how much I really hated them, and lots of acrylic bought in my poorer days when I needed to fulfill that yarn-buying Jones. Also lots of leftover one-off balls from finished projects, stuff like that. This is the main source of charity knitting, and crafts for the kids. I may even give some of it away to Rosebud's school...

This is my proud, ever-growing stash. And below is a re-run of the post on stash-love that I did a while back, because that's the best thing I have to say about it.

Stash, to me, is like buying your school supplies in September. As a student, and then as a teacher, there was something so hopeful and full of potential in that trip to the stationery store. That new-folder smell, those pencils with complete erasers. That special excitement when a new school supply was requested by your teacher -- I remember my first jar or rubber cement, and felt an incredible thrill when I first acquired both a protractor and compass.

Those new school supplies, unwrinkled and intact, that held the potential of the best school year ever -- no more lost homework with this Trapper Keeper! And now I get to learn geometry like my older brothers -- I must really be growing up! Or as a teacher, you know that this is the year you will light the lamp of creativity in your students, since you have purchased wonderful bound journals for each and every one of them.

These unused school supplies precede all bad grades, lost assignments, and indifferent students. As does your stash. Stash is that potentially perfect project, lying in wait. Stash is what you have before you forget to account for selvedges or rip that same three inches out for the third time.

Stash is a knitters potential. It promises to erase all the past disasters or uninspired projects, the bad yarn choices, the gauge errors. In my stash, my Manos says this beautiful yarn will make a beautiful garment, and my Noro says this time, your sweater will fit you perfectly. My sock stash promises hand-knitted socks for every day of the week, my Blue Heron, the shawl of my dreams.