Saturday, December 31, 2005

52 Books in 52 Weeks

The more that you read, the more that you know.
The more that you know, the more places you'll go.
-Dr. Seuss

  1. Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization
  2. James Mitchener, Iberia
  3. Kurt Vonnegut, Sirens of Titan
  4. Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology
  5. Joyce Appleby et al., Telling the Truth About History
  6. Clifford W. Beers, The Mind That Found Itself
  7. Mark Dunn, Ella Minnow Pea
  8. Alex Haley, Roots
  9. Daniel Pearl, At Home in the World
  10. George Eliot, Middlemarch
  11. Emily Transue, On Call: A Doctor's Days and Nights in Residency
  12. Galielo Galilei, Siderius Nuncius
  13. Benn Mezrich, Bringing Down the House
  14. Yann Martel, Life of Pi
  15. Stephen Crane, Maggie, A Girl of the Streets
  16. John Updike, Towards the End of Time
  17. Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City
  18. Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
  19. Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet
  20. Alberto Manguel, Into the Looking Glass World
  21. Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World
  22. Ron Suskind, A Hope in the Unseen
  23. George Orwell, Animal Farm
  24. Karen Joy Fowler, The Jane Austen Book Club
  25. Giles Foden, Ladysmith
  26. Volney Steele, Bleed, Blister, and Purge: A History of Medicine on the American Frontier
  27. Stanley Crawford, Mayordomo
  28. Perri Klass, I Am Having an Adventure
  29. Chloe Breyer, The Close: A Young Woman's First Year at Seminary
  30. David Kahn, Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes, 1939-1943
  31. Barbara Holland, Gentlemen's Blood
  32. Nora Roberts, Northern Lights
  33. Paul Kafka-Gibbons, Dupont Circle
  34. Rick Moody, Foreward, Quaker Spirituality: Selected Writings
  35. H. G. Wells, War of the Worlds
  36. Judith Walzer Leavitt, ed; Women and Health in America
  37. Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad

One More Spin Around the Sun

The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do. -Galileo Galilei

We've already noted my obsessive-compulsive organizational tendencies here. I assured you that it all started before the blog. But you wanted proof. I present the tallies of finished projects for 2005, with relevant comparisons to 2002, 2003, and 2004.

The final photo of 2005:Clockwise from left: Heart hat, Dale lace baby cardigan, Toasty Toes socks, and a new ornament.

The 63 knitted objects of 2005:
  • 19 pairs of socks
  • 7 Christmas ornaments
  • 7 hats
  • 5 baby hats
  • 4 pairs baby booties
  • 3 adult sweaters
  • 3 baby sweaters
  • 2 cell phone cozies
  • 2 dishcloths
  • 2 scarves
  • 2 pairs of mittens
  • 2 lace shawls
  • 2 sachets
  • 1 baby blanket
  • 1 area rug
  • 1 pair writst warmers
  • and a partridge in a pear tree
In 2004, I made 28 pairs of socks, but only one adult sweater. In 2003, I made 20 pairs of socks, and in 2002, 22 pairs. Thus, I've made 89 pairs of socks total, so the Canal du Midi pair gathering dust over there on the sidebar is my 90th pair. Should we start planning the party for pair 100?

Happy New Year. May your needles be slick, your yarn toasty, and all your seams straight in 2006.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Life Is Choices

Life is choices. -Rob Orr, my high school biology teacher

A second post today, because I have a pressing question. Let's contemplate this photo:This gorgeous sweater is from Vogue Knitting Fall 2004 (one of the best issues of any knitting magazine anywhere).

  • Classic Elite Inca Alpaca (I'll let you pause for a moment of silent reflection)
  • great color (the one in the photo is the one I have)
  • cables
  • lace
  • a real pleasure to knit and wear
  • I've started - I'm done the bottom ribbing on the back
  • I can clearly knit more than one thing at a time - it won't be my only project
  • a pattern that is just so me
  • I fell in love with it when it came out, had to have it, and bought the yarn
  • the center cable pattern is not charted
  • it involves patterning on both the RS and WS
  • alpaca is warm and toasty
    • so why is it 3/4 sleeves
    • with large eyelets in it?
    • I'm moving to San Diego
  • US 5 needles - this is an involved project
  • I'm only done 2 inches of ribbing
  • opportunity cost: I want to make Rogue, Ribby cardi, the Crossed in Translation KAL, fair isle mittens, more lace shawls . . .
  • there are only so many hours in the day
So what's the verdict? Help me out here. Tomorrow is New Year's Eve, an auspicious day to rip it out and start fresh. Is it also an auspicious day to tackle those instructions again and start the knitting fresh. Should I make this sweater now or rip it out and leave it a faint memory?

Five for 2005

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I see reflections and resolutions popping up everywhere. Here are mine.

Top 5 for 2005:
  1. New Technique: Blogging. Seriously. I know there are plenty of new and exciting knitting things I did this year, but most of them are variations on a theme. A larger colorwork project, a different angle for lace, things like that. With the blog, I learned how to use a digital camera (yeah, I had a lot to catch up on), learned a lot more about my computer, and realized just how important it is to leave comments when I visit other blogs.
  2. Favorite Finished Object: So many to choose from . . . For myself, it's a toss-up between my self-designed Aran and Ene's scarf. But overall, I think I'll stick with the best gift I gave this year - my mom's Norwegian Roses Cardigan.
  3. Favorite Knit-a-along: This is easy - I only joined one: Who Wouldn't Want a Handknitted Gift?
  4. Favorite Shop: Sakonnet Purls in Tiverton Four Corners, RI. Hands down my favorite place to spend an afternoon. I'm going to miss this so much when I leave New England.
  5. Favorite Tool: Don't laugh, but I love this little cardboard (it's really sturdy, OK?) 6" ruler that I got for free at some store-front LYS in Missoula, MT. We stopped on a road trip about 4 years ago (and I got the yarn for this). It fits into my sock knitting bag and is perfect for checking the length of socks subtly, without rolling out the tape measure. A close second are the clear plastic ones (also 6") that my dad brings me from work (which are fabulous for measuring gauge swatches).

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Weather Outside is Frightful

If your head is wax, don't walk in the sun. -Benjamin Franklin

Cold, rainy, very overcast and dark. And so new photos will have to wait until tomorrow. For now, here's an 2-day-old photo (is that like 2-day-old bread?) of the baby sweater I finished in the wee smas last night:

Dale Lace Baby Cardigan
Pattern: Dale pattern book, can't remember which, 12 mos size
Yarn: Dale Baby Ull - ymmm . . . fingering weight superwash wool - anyone ever use this for socks? Less than 2 skeins
Needles: 2.75mm Addis
Notes: Pattern called for 2.5mm needles, but I rarely swatch for baby projects. I plunged ahead, noticed that it was too big, and then re-started with the 6 mos numbers for the 12 mos size. See here for collar trauma.
Best Thing About This Project: There are many contenders - the admiration of my fellow travelers (on the plane! sheesh, what were you thinking!), the quickness and light of a baby sweater, the classic look of it all, the lack of trauma with button bands, reconnecting with an old friend to find that he and his wife are expecting their first child, there are so many options. But really, the best thing about this project was deciding late last night, that it doesn't need a matching hat. That's right folks. The pattern calls for a cute little cap, a bonnet really, with a ribbon and everything. I cast on for it, knit a few rows, and decided that my cardigan was actually kind of modern looking. A bonnet would just be fussy. And the proud parents-to-be? They'll never miss it. (The pattern also calls for a "one-piece suit" to go underneath. I never had any intention of making THAT.)

Again, I present a 2-day-old photo of a project finished in the rainy grayness that precludes good photo taking:
Toasty Toes Socks
Pattern: IBH's Toasty Toes Socks from the Green Mountain Spinnery Knitting Book
Yarn: Yarn for Sox (brown) with 2-ply from MacAusland's Woolen Mills on PEI accents (blue)
Needles: US 4 Brittany Birch dpns (have I convinced you yet that these are the best thing since sliced bread?)*
Notes: Pattern calls for 48 sts, but that fit me, and I was skeptical that it would have fit a larger man with legendary "wide feet," so I re-started with 56 sts and adjusted the heel and toe accordingly.
Best Thing About This Project: They sprung out of an extensive conversation at last years' holiday festivities about the many joys of real handknit WOOL socks. They are a surprise gift for someone who doesn't expect a gift from me. Isn't that fun?

The race to December 31st continues. Lynda thinks the heart hat is a lost cause, but I think I may be able to bang that out today. I want to finish the first sock of the Canal du Midi socks, and then I think the second sock and the leaf lace scarf will round out my NYC-for-the-New-Year knitting. As for the stuff on hold, I hear it likes elevator music.

*People always say "the best thing since sliced bread." I never got it until I started making (and slicing) my own bread - very hard it to get nice and thin and even. They know what they're talking about . . .

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Cart Drives the Horse

It's not the horse that drives the cart, but the oats. -Russian Proverb

Look right! I finished a pair of heretofore unblogged socks:

Confetti Socks
Pattern: in my head. 64 sts. top-down, heel flap with a round heel, standard decreasing toe. nothing fancy.
Yarn: DGB Confetti sock yarn. lost the labels, but 80-ish% wool, 20-ish% nylon, with some unknown blue sock yarn for the cuffs, heels, and toes
Needles: US 1 Brittany Birch dpns, now discontinued because they break so easily, so I bought every one I could find.
Notes: I have relatively small feet, and so do many of my sock recipients. I realized after a while that I was very close to getting a pair of socks out of a single 50g skein, and that when I used contrasting yarn for the cuffs, heels, toes, I was there. Since solid colors are cheaper and more versatile (but I always need a pair of plain st st on the needles for dark movie theaters), I get two pairs out of the normal 100g.
Best Thing About This Project: If cute new socks weren't enough, the fact that it's December 28th and I can cross another one off my list should do it.

That Cart/Horse Thing

You may or may not recall that the last week of the year, rather than a time to relax and reflect and eat Christmas cookies, is a mad race to the finish. December 31st is my self-imposed deadline to clear that list of projects over there on the sidebar. I finish it or rip it out, with the exception of long-term stuff like the Master Knitters' thing, and things I'm actively working on.

The list came before the blog, the list comes with the blog, the list will come after the blog.

I'm not kidding. In the last stretches of a project, the temptation to start new and exciting and glamorous projects is always just around the corner. We've all been there, so Chris tells us. Plus, as Lynda pointed out here, a week of Christmas cheer can get dangerous if accompanied by a week of Christmas knitting. And cookies make all sorts of crumbs.

So for several years I've been working on a knitting calendar year that closely aligns with the standard year. It keeps random little projects like those Confetti socks up there from languishing without a mate for too long, and it makes me re-examine what's on the needles and what I'm going to do about that. I find it healthy for my knitting to know what I'm working on, where my needles have gone, and - while I love having many WIPs - to clear the slate every so often.

I'm not entirely rigid about this. Knowing that I'm moving in San Diego, renowned around the world for its wonderful and moderate weather, in 6 mos., I've sidelined a cables and lace shell made out of cotton until I get there. No reason to work on that in the middle of a New England winter. Same goes for the cotton pillowcloth edgings, although I may try to finish them for a spring wedding.

What's the upside of self-imposed deadlines and stress? Expect to see an eruption of new projects next week.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

An Unfortunate Incident with a Collar

Off with his head!
-Wm. Shakespeare, King Richard III (III, iv, 76)

I really don't mean any harm to the poor, innocent babe, aged negative 3 months, for whom this sweater is a "Welcome to the World" gift. Really. It's just that neckbands are (apparently - I'm only just learning this) the bane of my existence. Remember the trauma of the bands on the Norwegian Roses Cardigan? We had a similar scene last night with the collar of this adorable baby cardigan. A cardigan entirely done except for the unfortunate collar.

Why is the collar so unfortunate?
1. The pattern calls for the collar to be knit separately and sewn on.
Why would it do that? Easier to pick up the stitches and knit down.
2. Picked up and knit the stitches.
Oh, right. If I pick up the stitches from the RS (intuitive, I think), I can see them looking funny around the neck.
3. Picked up and knit stitches from the wrong side.
Breathe easy. Now the folded down collar covers them.
4. Am clever enough to knit the pattern upside down.
Realize that the lace pattern will then point in the wrong way. Think maybe the designer had a reason for knitting the collar separately from the bottom up and then sewing.
5. Rip it out. Start over. Reverse all the decreases in the lace pattern.
Repeat #5 approximately 4 times before realizing that it still won't work. We're still optimistic delusional enough to think this is easier than sewing down 62 stitches.
6. Positive action: Decide to reverse the order of the rows in the lace pattern.
Disaster again. Could have been averted if only I had bothered to chart the 6 RS rows (10 st repeat) - how lazy can I be?
7. More positive action: Rip it out and go to bed.
All I have to show for all that work is in the photo above, essentially 62 picked-up stitches.

By the clear light of morning, and with the welcome assistance of several cups of coffee, I've decided that the lace pattern on the collar is going to point in the wrong, er opposite, direction from the lace pattern on the body.

It's a design feature, folks.
Learn to love it.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Best Thing About This Project

I do come home at Christmas. We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday--the longer, the better--from the great boarding school where we are forever working at our arithemetical slates, to take, and gave a rest.
-Charles Dickens.

Best Thing About This Project:

My mom loves her sweater, and even professed to be "surprised" about the buttons. Strange since she had picked them out from a line-up . . . Seriously, it was great. She loved it. I loved it. All sorts of good Christmas cheer. But do excuse my sickly pallor. All I wanted for Christmas was to get my voice back, but it didn't happen.

I did get a fabulous gift from my brother (whom I gave a boring, masculine hat which I made pre-blog- I'll try to get a picture later): Handknit Holidays by Melanie Falick. This is the former editor of Interweave Knits and the woman who brought us Knitting in America and Weekend Knitting, among other things. She is a phenomenal editor. Her patterns are nice, but it is her ability to create a real collection that hangs together as more than the sum of its parts. The projects span a wide range of intensities, abilities, and genres, the photography is superb, and the whole book is just completely inspiring, aside from the fact that I want to make almost all of it. Apparently, I'm not the only one. There's a whole knitalong. Now that I'm fully in the Christmas spirit, maybe I'll make some Christmas ornaments.

Christmas in my family is not a day; it's a week-long affair with no fewer than 6 mandatory appearances. People in from out-of-town, that sort of thing. Sometimes it gets a little long, but this year I'm enjoying it, especially since I'm unlikely to be able to get leave next year as an intern in San Diego. What I'm really enjoying as well, is that the last two Christmas gifts aren't due until Friday and Saturday, respectively. Details to follow.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

December 24th

Elves are cool, man. -Orlando Bloom

We here at chez Knitting Underway have just given the elves a run for their money. Take that: See those buttons? Ten of them. Just like there are supposed to be. In one of our many incarnations of the button band we had eleven buttonholes. Otherwise it was perfect. But since I only had ten buttons . . . Not so much. Chris and Diana worried that I might have jinxed myself in that last post, taunted the knitting gods as it were, by saying "What can go wrong with buttons?" Fortunately, I think everything that could have gone wrong did before that post.

Norwegian Roses Cardigan

Pattern: Norwegian Roses Cardigan from The Green Mountain Spinnery Knitting Book, size large
Yarn: Green Mountain Spinnery Mountain Mohair - what a joy to work with. Note that I bought the required amount of yarn and was left with 1/2 skein each of the dark green, the wintergreen, and the periwinkle, but had 1 3/4 skeins left of the dark purple
Needles: US 7 (6 for the bands), random bamboo circulars, and a size G crochet hook
Notes: This was my first large-scale colorwork project, and it was a great one. The pattern and color charts were easy to follow and clear, the patterns were intuitive, and the yarn so nice. I really don't have anything bad to say about this project.
Best Thing About This Project: pending until tomorrow

Merry, Merry.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Cheerful Recollections

Many merry Christmases, friendships,
great accumulation of cheerful recollections,
affection on earth, and Heaven at last for all of us.
- Charles Dickens

My, oh, my. What a beautiful hat. Let's all pause and reflect on it's beauty. Those cables. The softness. The warmth. (Trust me on these last two.) The best kind of friends - those who go to Alaska and bring you quiviut from the Oomingmak Musk-Ox Producers Cooperative. We are full of Christmas cheer over here. (The fact that this was a birthday present and that I made the hat a month ago are just red herrings. Christmas cheer. That's the ticket.)

Are you distracted enough by it's beauty to note that I haven't yet sewn the buttons on my mom's cardigan?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Know But Do Not Tell

Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.
-Emily Dickinson

The Homestretch

The knitting around here could be more exciting.

Look, it's a sock:

This is a wool boot sock for someone with very large feet. I am knitting it rather tightly for better wearing and longevity. It is a lovely sock, but the recipient is definitely in possession of both feet.

Meme, meme, meme.

Grumperina sent out a question into cyberspace the other day:

How about you? Who knows about your knitting and your knitting blog, and what are your reasons for revealing (or not) its existence to these folks? Don’t just leave me a comment – rather consider this a meme and answer on your own blog ;)

I have no secrets. No secret identity. No real separation between my life in actual time and space and my life in blogland. I can't even keep a straight face to play poker.

After starting my blog, I was pondering if I was going to tell family and friends about it, mostly so that they wouldn't see their gifts in progress. Since I'm on vacation and at my parents' house, however, I think that lasted until about 5 minutes into dinner:

"So, what did you do today?"
"I started a knitting blog."

Wouldn't I make a great secret agent?

In fact, my dad (Hi Dad!) is one of my biggest fans. He likes to show my blog to people - family, friends, people at work, sort of a combination of "beautiful knitting" and "too much time on her hands." He's only commented once, and that was posing as Hannah, Portuguese Water Dog on your right. And he thinks I have too much time on my hands . . .

My mom knows that my blog exists, just like she knows that her Christmas present is currently blocking upstairs, but I don't think she'd be able to find it if my dad weren't showing it to her. My parents were having dinner with theflitgirl's parents and accidentally outed her blog.

Who else? My sister thinks my blog is "too funny," but I don't think she really reads it. My brother grunted and shrugged. And most of my real life friends know it exists, but I think Kate D. and flitgirl are the only really regular readers. Even my knitting friends aren't really into the blog thing. Others? Leave a comment. Flitgirl showed her boyfriend, who promptly requested a hat. This could be a dangerous trend. . .

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Once For Yourself

You only live twice, or so it seems.
Once for yourself, and once for your dreams.
-You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery is Bond, 1965

Once for Myself

A glamour shot of Ene's Scarf on The Official Shawl Backdrop Bench (TM):

And a close-up of the stitch pattern of the body. Is this similar to the Snowdrop lace pattern? It's very simple. Stockinette ground, even rows purled, and an 8-row repeat that is really just two different RS rows off-set by half. Details in yesterday's post.

Once for My Dreams

There's something delightful and decadent about waking up, making coffee, and turning on a full-length feature film first thing in the morning. Especially if it's 007. Makes me think of snow days and "sick days" and other good things. But there's something so not decadent about ripping out button bands for the 7th time. Think the 007 had something to do with it?*

Last night, before life got serious and deadly with Bond and the Japanese ninja force, last night when life was still a Broadway musical starring Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, when we were happy . . . Last night I set out to finish the Norwegian Roses cardigan for my mom. You know, the cardigan she wants to wear on Christmas Day. THIS Christmas Day. The cardigan only lacking button and neck bands. THAT cardigan.**
The pattern called for a 4 row border of single crochet going up both front edges and the neck. I should have taken photos of the disaster that ensued.

I do not crochet.

It's not a moral issue; it's a statement of fact. My crochet gauge was all over the map, my ratio of picked up stitches to the edging had no basis in reality, and - to add insult to injury - I attempted to do it four times before calling it quits. Perhaps it is cases such as these when blocking pre-finishing is indicated?

Then I realized that my first instinct was correct: this cardigan was crying out for garter stitch bands. The bottom bands were garter, and, while it would not be quite as bullet-proof as (parts of) my single crochet, this is my mom we're talking about. Instead of realizing that I was so sleepy my eyes were only half open, that I have never (and how can this be?) made horizontal garter stitch button bands, or button holes in them, and that my movie was over, I was determined to perservere, well into late night re-runs of every kind of Law&Order imaginable.
That would be attempts 5, 6, and 7. I ended up deciding to do each front separately and then the neck last, mostly because there would be less work to take apart each time I messed up the picking up stitches, or the buttonholes, or anything like that. Nancie Wiseman's book was invaluable.

And then, by the light of day, look what I did with the neck band: Single crochet. Looks pretty good, actually. All it needs now is to dry before Christmas Day, and buttons. And what can go wrong with buttons?

*Fun fact: When I was taking Step 1 of my medical boards, my "applicant registration number" began with "007." Since these are medical licensing boards, I took my license to kill number as a good omen. (Not, of course, that I try to kill people. Still. It is a medical license.) Since we're talking about boards, go congratulate Kristen on passing hers.
**Bonus points for anyone who can identify the mistake in the color stranding pattern here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Changed Woman

A house is no home unless it contains food and fire
for the mind as well as the body. -Margaret Fuller

I return home a changed woman. No longer adrift in an uncertain world, I now know with certainty that knitting irony is the driving force of the universe. Why wouldn't I match in San Diego - after all, I've recently finished a bunch of heavy wool sweaters. (And if that is the Alanis Morrisette definition of irony rather than real, literary irony, well, I'm sure one of my brilliant friends will correct me.)

No longer bundled up in cables and stranded colorwork in Shetland and Romney with a little Merino closer to the skin, I am now the sort of woman who wears cashmere and silk, with holes in it.

Favorite wool sweaters not withstanding, I'm jumping-out-of-my-chair excited about going to San Diego (in June, for those of you not on a medical calendar). The crazy Type A really nice people I'll be working with have sent around lists and started newsgroups, and some of us in New England are planning to get together and enjoy our last snowy winter for some years. And people wonder why San Diego is the most coveted Navy hospital (yeah, yeah, they have the entire Pacific Fleet, too). . .

So, forgive me if I haven't been entirely focused on my Christmas knitting. In fact, I didn't take any potential Christmas presents to Seattle. Instead, I knit for me. Exhibit A, currently blocking on your right:

Ene's Scarf
Pattern: Ene's Scarf from Scarf Style by Nancy Bush. She listened to Estonian folk songs while knitting this. I listened to Johnny Cash. Are we sure I'm the sort of gal who wears cashmere scarves?
Yarn: Hand-dyed 87% cashmere 13% nylon from School Products in purples and pinks. The green of the carpet is seriously interfering with the colors. Better photos tomorrow. Roughly fingering weight. About 85g.
Needles: US 7 Addi Natura 40" circulars. My first Addi Naturas - loved the join, loved the needles, loved the cable - way better than the Crystal Palace and Clover bamboo circs. Pattern called for US6, but I actually swatched.
Notes: Fun, fun, fun. Easy, easy, easy. This scarf is knit from the long side, so the rows get shorter and shorter as you go. It called for a three-needle bind-off for the last 18 sts, but I grafted them together instead. Good times.
Best Thing About this Project: The Shawl Progress Calculator from Rose-Kim Knits - it's an Excel file into which you input the total number of rows on your triangular shawl, and it breaks down by row how close to done you are. This saved me from panicking when I finished the border and had used about 25% of my yarn. I was actually 28% finished, and, in truth, I ended with yarn to spare.

Exhibit B:
Staghorn Cable Socks
Pattern: um, mine. 48 sts.
Yarn: Mountain Colors Weaver's Wool Quarters in "Crazy Woman" colorway, approx 80% of 1 skein.
Needles: Brittany Birch US3 dpns
Notes: Tell me the cables look better pointing down than up. Tell me, tell me. I ripped back half a sock to change that.
Best Thing About This Project: You can't tell, but they're wet in the photo. Wet because they've already been washed. Already been washed because I finished them in time to wear on the plane home. Ooh, yeah.

Exhibit C, to prove that I have good motives, too:

This is a baby cardigan from a Dale book I can't recall off the top of my head. It has lace. Raglan sleeves. It is in fingering weight. I always scoffed at people who wanted to make bulky weight baby garments. I mean, they're so small, right? But seriously, what kind of baby sweater has 60-odd stitches in EACH SLEEVE? After working on the sleeves for the entire transcontinental flight, I was feeling less-than-inspired about baby garments. Even the admiration of the flight attendant and the woman across the aisle from me (both knitting F*nF*r scarves) was not enough.

Then I opened a week of accumulated mail to find . . .
The Best Thing About Knitting. Period.: Friends of mine dressed their two sons in MY sweaters for The Official Family Christmas Portrait of 2005. Guess who will be getting lots more knitted stuff in the future?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Yarn By the Gallon

Thus the metric system did not really catch on in the States, unless you count the increasing popularity of the nine-millimeter bullet. - Dave Barry

Prologue: Apologies for the lack of photos on the blog this week - I've been visiting in Seattle all week. There's been good knitting so photos coming up Tuesday. Tomorrow I fly. I guess I'd better get used to this West Coast thing - I found out this week that I matched in San Diego for residency. Starting in June, all my radio station call signs will being with "K." And maybe I need to reconsider some of those wool sweaters next on my list . . .

This year is a rather peripatetic one for me. Fourth year of medical school is mostly electives (you'll get there, Kristen!) , and as a med student in the Navy, I had to do some of my electives in Navy hospitals. As there are none in Providence, I was travelling for several months, and then on vacation for several more. So I packed up my apartment and put it all into storage for the year, with things I might need access to stored in my room at my parents' house. (My parents are very wonderful and forebearing people.) Look right. This is my brilliant storage system for my yarn stash: Those are the 30 gallon lawn and leaf bags from Home Depot (and people wonder why I measure my stash in gallons) with some lavender soap bars mixed in. This is a far cry from the lovely (I don't have photos, but it really was lovely) system of baskets and empty cranberry boxes that held my yarn in my apartment. It also makes it difficult to find what one seeks. (Have you ever wondered how much fun it is to empty a 30 gallon bag of yarn onto the floor? I don't. Not anymore.)

I made a list, checked it twice, and made kits out of my yarn stash. I figured out what yarn I had that went with patterns I had that I wanted to make, photocopied the pattern, and put them all together in a big Ziploc bag:

Pint = mini-projects (pillowcloth edgings, heart sachets)
Quart = socks
Gallon = shawls, scarves, hats, socks with multiple colors
2-Gallon = sweaters

I was astounded, but most adult sweaters can fit everything into a 2-gallon ziploc. I have been even more astounded by how effective this has been for a schedule as fragmented as mine. Going to San Diego for month? One lace shawl, one pair of socks, good to go. Going to Norfolk for a month? A colorwork sweater, another pair of socks, check. New York City for the weekend? A lace scarf will fit in my purse. Martha's Vineyard the next weekend? Continue lace scarf, add hat. Seattle for ten days? Put aside your Christmas gifts, take a baby sweater, a lace shawl, some simple socks. Love the direct flights.

So, how many hours do you think it took me to find these 2 balls of yarn when I realized I needed them for a hat?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Early Works

But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy something, which does not represent your life and talents, but a goldsmith's.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Gifts"

My visit to the incomparable Kate D. (seriously, drinking games and Harry Potter on her blog - check it out) has given me a rare opportunity to revisit some of my early works of knitting. Kate had the pleasure, or misfortune, to be an early welcoming recipient of handknitted things. I started knitting in college, and seriously our senior year. She was a charter member of our trip to PEI (and apparently has photos of us in the woolens mill), and as a non-knitting member of our group, made herself extremely useful by winding my wool for me as I knit.

For all this, she now has some nice (if plain) mittens, a rather sub-par hat, and a small collection of socks of variable (but increasing) quality. As I search for recipients for things I want to make, the thought that Kate already has a hat/mittens/more socks than she wears generally crosses my mind, and it doesn't occur to me to make her another hat/mittens/or even a pair of gloves. As it has been some years since I've seen her in the winter, it was a surprise to see just how early that early hat was. Surely, no one questions that it was homemade - and with plenty of love - but my first thought on seeing it is that she deserves better.

This is quite an encouraging thought, really, particularly when I extrapolate and think of all the other early works out there. Since I was particularly adept at mittens when I first started really knitting, I can go on a mitten spree with good cheer and confidence. Thinking of all the recipients of plain and variably-fitting mittens out there, I am ready to tackle all sorts of explosions of color after the holidays.

Latvian Mittens. Norwegian Mittens. Folk Mittens. That intriguing pattern from KnitPicks. Expect a fun winter around here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Law Amongst Us

I am so convinced of the advantages of looking at mankind instead of reading about them, and of the bitter effects of staying home with all the narrow prejudices of an Islander, that I there should be a law amongst us to set our young men abroad for a term among the few allies our wars have left us. -Lord Byron

I have mixed feelings about visiting yarn stores while traveling to new and exciting places. When people don't think they can survive a trip to Hawaii, or Florence, or South Africa without a yarn store, I worry about their sanity. (Yes, I realize that most of my family and friends worry about mine. To quote my sister regarding my new blog: "That is too funny!") But seriously, if you have a limited amount of time to see what you're going to see, and since most - if not all - of that yarn is either going to be carried in your local store or readily available online, I'd take the Duomo over yet more yarn any day. Plus, who really wants to knit on some tropical island paradise?

Then again, there is something so inherently local about a yarn store or a knitting group. (This archived Knitty article speaks well of it.) As someone rather too familiar with my local yarn store, the similarities and differences I encounter in others tell me something about a place. Then there is a connection made by discussing the jogless jog on the bus with a woman making a striped baby sweater - in contrast to your lace one. There is also something about bringing your own constant with you - as the scenery changes, so grows your lace shawl. And maybe the mountains to the west look a little like the border of Ene's shawl . . . or maybe the lighting on the ferry was poor. Either way.

This year I'm traveling quite a bit, including two recent trips of a month's duration. In situations such as that, it is delightful to find a knitting group welcoming of strangers, or stop into a yarn store that - no matter how different from your local yarn store - is really quite the same. On this particular trip to Seattle, I'm less of a tourist and more of a houseguest. While we've been tramping about seeing some of the sights- famous and historical - most of our activities are more personal. A friend's party. Dinner with her boyfriend. Cookie baking with the girls. Christmas shopping. The best coffee shop. The Russian piroshke shop. Several used bookstores. Family visits. Yarn stores fit in quite nicely between the bookstores and piroshkes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

In As Many Days

Some of us come on earth seeing - Some of us come on earth seeing color. -Louise Nevelson

I've now visited two yarn stores in as many days. As previously mentioned, I'm in the fair city of Seattle enjoying a place where it rains, not snows, in the winter but is still cool enough to let you enjoy your handknit socks.

The first, Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, was a delightful surprise at the end of our jaunt around Bainbridge Island, courtesy of my wonderful - but sadly, non-knitting - hostess. Maybe the surprise (who knew Bainbridge Island was even big enough for a yarn shop?) was part of it, but it was a truely delightful store. All decorated for Christmas, open, airy, well-stocked with things that are sometimes harder to find (Koigu, Manos, Jamieson's Shetland), and nicely arranged. The staff were present, visible, and helpful when asked, but not oppressive. I bought two skeins of varigated Manos that might just become this scarf. Then again, they might not. All in the fullness of time . . .

Today my hostess had to work, so I delighted myself with the idea that I'd take an extended visit to Seattle's most famous yarn store, Tricoter. When Mapquest determined that it was a mile and half walk each way (but didn't note that it was all uphill on the return), I knew that the gods were smiling favorably on this plan, and that I would get a little exercise, too. I don't quite know how to critique this store, since I was there for about 2 hours and still have no idea what they carry. The yarns were all arranged by color. Theoretically, this should make me creative. Actually, this made me crazy.

It all starts out OK, you wander, you fondle, you notice some Kidsilk Haze. Ah, Kidsilk Haze, you think. What a nice yarn. That would make a nice little shawl, but not in magenta. Maybe in a grassy-green. So you wander over to the grassy-green section. No Kidsilk Haze in sight. But you spot some really nice Lavold's Silky Wool. Hmmm, Silky Wool, you think. A friend requested a hat in navy blue and you couldn't decide if it should be tweedy or not. Silky Wool might be a perfect compromise. So you head over to the navy blue section. No Silky Wool. In fact, not much in navy blue. But the purples catch your eye and think maybe . . .

Maybe never happens. Very frustrating. And how on earth would you ever put together a multi-color garment in a store like that? I guess I don't see the world in color, but I like stores arranged by yarn. My other big problem with this store was the continuous "Can I help you?" from a rotating cadre of salespersons. Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather be ignored than be smothered. Overall, I was not impressed. The silver lining is that I didn't spend more money on yarn.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Kitchen Sink

It's like when coal becomes diamond. It doesn't afterwards retain the possibility of change. Squeeze it as hard as you like, it won't turn into a rubber ball, a Quattro Satgione pizza, or a self-portrait of Rembrandt.
It's done. -Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet

It was a long, dark winter in Rhode Island last year. A lot of snow days (which I preferred over my psychiatry rotation), a lot of quality time hanging out with my yarn when my car was buried under (at one point) 38 inches of snow. I had an inspiration. A brilliant thought. I was going to experiment, to explore uncharted territories, go off into the wilds of Magic Ball Knitting. The Knitter's Review commenters encouraged us to "Let yourself grow." OK, I can grow.

Magic Ball Knitting, for those unfamiliar with the concept, is a *creative* way of using up leftover bits and pieces of yarn. You take all your pieces and tie them into a ball (this would be the magic) and then knit something wonderful and unique and special out of it. There exist particularly gorgeous examples of this, such as these socks (scroll down to the bottom), and pretty much anything by Kaffe Fasset. I was paging through knitting magazines, came across the pillowcovers in Interweave Knits, Summer 2002, and thought this would be a brilliant use of leftover yarns. Because I am just so clever, I decided to use only feltable yarns so that I could have a felted pillowcover of leftover yarn scraps.

Where I went wrong:
1. Does "felted pillowcover of leftover yarn scraps" not sum it up?
2. I am not Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mably, or anyone else with a gift for color coordination.
3. Size of scraps. Instead of using 18-36 inches pieces of yarn as most experts recommend, I decided I had better uses for those longer pieces and I should save them for something really special, like a pattern from Sally Melville's Styles. Instead I used anything I could tie two knots into. See all those ends on the back? It's like a shag carpet from some 1970s swinging bachelor pad.
4. Color scheme. Instead of searching my (sizable) stash for compatible colors/values/whatever people talk about in color theory, I only used scraps. And I used every avaiable scrap. Not only did this result in horrendous color choices, but it also has distinct bands of color to it, as I would weave in all the ends from a single project at once.
5. Felting. There are some lovely bright snatches of color here and there, but the felting process just made everything blend together. Not only does it look like a shag carpet, it looks like a shag carpet that has been darned. Over and over again.

What did I do right?
I stopped.
Felted it. And forgot about it. It's done - there's no going back.

Anyone have good Magic Ball experiences?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Knit in Peace

I always pack my knitting or needlepoint project first when traveling.
-Kaffe Fassett

Elizabeth Zimmerman, knitting guru extraordinaire, considered a lace shawl the best possible project for family vacation. Now it's been a while since I've been on family vacation, but maybe our family was rowdier than hers. My mom invented a special game just for us three kids to play in the car: Quiet as a Clam.* The rules were simple - a contest to see who could stay quiet the longest. Don't I wish my fellow airline travelers would also play . . .

Have you ever noticed that - when you are knitting in a public place - people talk to you? Perfect strangers come up and start chatting. (I'm not talking about knitters. No knitter is a perfect stranger.) I'm talking about people who want to convert you to their religion, or people who want to tell you that you can buy that sweater/scarf/hat at Wal-M*rt - they're just trying to save you some time, dearie. Yeah, I really hate strangers who call me dearie. Don't they know I'm holding pointy sticks? I don't want to sound like a misanthrope, but I have been living in New England for 8 years. I like to knit in peace.

Since I'll be knitting in airports and planes all day today, I leave you with a photo of an almost-peaceful place to knit, which should qualify for the Scout's "knitting place" meme:

This is the view from the seat of my parents' couch. The presence of Hannah enthusiastically** trying to get you to take her on a walk adds to the authenticity of the situation. Black and white because it's my dad's photo. Bonus points for noticing the FiberTrends felted clogs in the background. These are my dad's pair, so here's proof that he wears them, even though I think the aran weight yarn completely felted might still be a little too big.

*My sister has recently adapted "Quiet as a Clam" for use in her third-grade classroom. Clams, if you were wondering, have no arms and DO NOT poke their neighbors.
**Apparently Hannah's feelings were hurt by being called "high maintence" on this knitting blog. The suggestion was made that really, it's just an exuberence for life and a desire to share that with, well, everyone. You be the judge.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Half the Clothes, Twice the Yarn

On Packing: Lay out all your clothes and all your money.
Then take half the clothes and twice the money.
-Susan Butler Anderson

I'm leaving tomorrow for a trip to visit the delightful Kate D. of Damned Scribbling Women (not a knitting blog, but she's playing fun drinking games over there, so check it out). She lives in Seattle, a city known for it's many and fabulous yarn stores. I'm leaving early in the morning. So why does my packing currently look like this? Notice anything? Like a complete absence of, oh, clothes, or a toothbrush, or any of those other necessities of life? I even have direct flights.

This may look like a jumble, but it is actually a carefully considered jumble of yarn and pointy sitcks. There is a scintillating mix of lace, twisted stitches, and stockinette stitch. There are projects suitable for airplanes, then for reading magazines while knitting on airplanes, for museums and sightseeing, for coffeeshops, for movies at home, for dark movie theaters, and even a project due for Christmas. Nothing like a little delusion optimism.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Seemly Seaming

We think in generalities but we live in detail. -Alfred North Whitehead

Webster's Online Dictionary assures me that "seemly" is a correct English word. It does seem like one of those whose negative is used far far more frequently, although a Google search turns up an intriguing reference to William "The Seemly" Sinclair, the First Baron of Roslin. . .

Because a picture is worth a thousand words and launches a thousand ships, let me show rather than tell my most seemly seams: Would you like a close-up? Of course you would.The astute observers amongst you will note that there are no shots of blocking sleeves. I generally do not block my sweater pieces before sewing them together. While there are many fine knitters out there who do (and here's a great Knitty article on the whys and wherefores), and blogland is full of photos of blocking sweater pieces, I generally sew and then wash and wet block the entire garment as one.

Point: Because I'm in a hurry to try it on and see if it fits.
Counterpoint: That's what basting is for.
Point: Is seaming really easier after blocking?
Counterpoint: Yes.
Point: I like to weave some of my ends into the seams, and I don't like what happens to ends when they've been washed.
Counterpoint: Cry baby.
Point: I like to leave long tails and use them for sewing, and I don't like what happens to the tails when they've been washed.
Counterpoint: Grow up.
Point: If you block the whole garment as one, you don't need pins. You can shape with your hands.
Counterpoint: Afraid of a few little pinpricks, are you?
Point: If you block after seaming, your seams get blocked, too.
Counterpoint: If you sew a beautiful seam, it doesn't need to be blocked.

Anyone care to convince me that I should block pieces first? This sweater may be the garment that convinces me. The twisting of the colors at each selvage, the fact that it was 2am, the fact that there's still one sleeve to go . . . Thank God for cardigan bodies knit in one piece.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Twice as Nice

Lord Illingworth: All women become like their mothers.
That is their tragedy.
Mrs. Allonby: No man does. That is his.
-Oscar Wilde

My mom gives great hugs. Always has, ever since I've known her. (The astute amongst you will realize that she is my mother - clearly I've known her since the second I was a little spec of anything. So then, why has it never occurred to me that, in order to give these great hugs, my mom probably (confirmation to follow), probably had two arms?

I present two sleeves:

Two arms may be twice as nice as far as hugs are concerned, but when knitting two sleeves simultaneously, well, um, right. At the top I had 104 stitches in each sleeve, for 208 total. Why is it more painful to knit 104 stitches twice than 208 stitches altogether? It was easier to do the entire cardigan body in one piece than to do these sleeves, and methinks the tangled 4 balls of yarn was only a small contributing factor. I think it has to do with getting to the end of the row and having to do it all again.

Now that all of our knitting on the Green Mountain Spinnery Norwegian Roses cardigan is completed - Huzzah! - We are feeling a sight more relaxed over here in our Knitting Underway world. This is the first adult sweater I've made for someone who isn't me, so I'm a little anxious about the fit (although you will all note that it is an unfitted drop-shoulder cardigan). My mom wants to wear it for Christmas and - in spite of the fact that I will be out of town for 10 of the 18 knitting days before Christmas - I think we're going to make it.

Think of what a great hug that will be when my mom is wearing a beautiful sweater handknitted by me!

*The thesaurus gives "honest injun" as an alternative to "actual." It is an interesting world we live in, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Concrete Knitting

Follow the fold and sin no more, sin no more, sin no more
-Guys and Dolls

I have seen the light. I am a changed woman. I have changed my errant ways.

I have been knitting.

What, you say, knitting? Impossible! (accent: French) How can that be?

Well, I reply, ever-so-humbly, this is a knitting blog.

But before we see our acutal knitting, let's look again at just how much we're having wearing handknitted things made of wool in the snow:

Ohh, ahh, the crowd is amazed. What kind of fine sweater is that we see?

That is a very fine sweater, of my own design, made of wonderful warm Canadian wool from the aforementioned MacAuslands Woolens Mill on a delightful trip to PEI where we also experienced the windiest point in Canada. It is so wonderfully warm that around Philadelphia this morning it qualifies as a coat. Of course, I started getting chilly when I took off my sweater to get a good photo, and no amount of wonderful Lopi mittens (the inside is dry when the outside is wet! fun furry halo of wooly goodness! and people wonder why I want the Navy to send me to Iceland. . .) could keep me warm, especially when I took them off to take more photos. Maybe blogging is not very good for one's health?

Acutal factual knitting

To the extent that my erratic knitting and blogging practices have allowed, you've learned that a) I have some Christmas knitting to do and b) I have been playing with yarn instead. Recall that I have mended my errant ways (does anyone else hear Sarah Brown in the background?), and witness the sleeves of the Norwegian Roses Cardigan:
You will note that they are longer than previous. In fact, they are currently longer still, as the observant will note the lack of snow in that outdoor photo. Here's a close-up of the color pattern:
I should be able to finish the sleeves tonight, and then move onto sewing, buttons, and - the bane of our collective colorwork existence - weaving in ends. Sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down you're rockin' the boat . . .

Monday, December 05, 2005


Measure not the work until the day's out and the labor done.
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Lately I've been all about meta-knitting. And when I say meta, I'm using the classical Greek sense meaning "about" or "with," not the late-at-night in the college dorm sense meaning "Dude, that's so meta. So deep." Good times those, but I digress.

Meta-knitting - Obviously, I've started blogging. I thought it would be a natural extension of reading other knitting blogs, but my perusal of other blogs has reached a whole new level. Plus, I'm significantly more likely to leave comments now. Also, I've been reading about knitting (I pulled nearly every new - and some old - knitting book off the shelves at B&N and took them to the cafe while I knit on a pair of socks and looked through them). I've been obsessively re-arranging my to-knit list, fondling my stash, and taking out old favorites to photograph them. I've been planning all sorts of new and exciting things to knit, and even make from old knits (inspired by Alterknits - more on that later).

Clearly, I am procrastinating. Last night I cast on for the heart hat that is to be a Christmas gift, knit half of the first row (and this is garter stitch, people, garter stitch), and abandoned it in favor of this:

This is the heart-shaped sachet from Interweave Knits' free online patterns (here) knit in a succession of mitered squares. As if that weren't tempting enough? It's knit out of leftover Koigu. Soft, buttery, hand-dyed merino wool that doesn't cost me any more money? A surprise of color on every changing-length row? What's not to love?

Since we're being meta today, let's ask an existential question:
Who needs a hat when they have a heart shaped sachet?

Sunday, December 04, 2005


First snowfall of my year! And I was all bundled up like this, except I was wearing my Celtic lace scarf, hat, and mitten set from Knitter's Best Shawls and Scarves (photo unavailable because I don't think I have one). Very warm and toasty; this set had it's inaugeral wearing on Prince Edward Island in March '02.

That was the trip when the border guard asked us why we were coming to Canada, and we said "Anne of Green Gables." He gave us quite a look . . .

Friday, December 02, 2005

Mostly Holes

It is difficult to see why lace should be so expensive; it is mostly holes.
-Mary Wilson Little

Several people have asked for more photos of the "blue lace thingie." I'm happy to oblige, although note that it is cloudy and I had trouble taking a good photo. I don't want to go into too many details, as it is a gift for someone who will see it here first. Knitterly specifics: Dark teal laceweight Merino Oro (I think - lost the label a while ago), less than 1 skein of approx 1200 yds. I used US 6 straight needles. The triangle is knitted from the center top, with each row getting longer and then the border is knitted on sideways to finish it off. Anyone who wants to know more can leave a comment or email me and I'll let you know. It took me about six months of very intermittent knitting, maybe 100 hours in total.

I finished blocking this about a week ago; now I need a new lace project. (The aforementioned lace scarf is a mini-project and doesn't really count.) I'm considering the rose trellis scarf from the Vogue Knitting on the Go: Scarves book, or Ene's scarf from Scarf Style. Ene's scarf actually seems like a (relatively) quick knit - lots of photos of it completed out there in blogland. Thoughts?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Mittens for Your Feet

The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.
- Pablo Neruda, Ode to My Socks

"Ode to My Socks" has been one of my favorite poems ever since we read it in high school, years before I started knitting. I've come to love it all the more ever since I started knitting, and especially since I started knitting socks. You've seen my lovely box of handknit socks.

My dad always says there are two kinds of people in this world: Those who wear festive ties, and those you don't. A variation on the common theme of those who appreicate hand-knit gifts and those who are not worthy holds for handknit socks. Some people - even some knitters as sad as that is - just don't get it. Others, like one friend o' mine, refused to take off her first pair for three days. They (the socks, and the friends, too, I suppose) are just that wonderful. Then there are the people who really and truely get it. They make things like this:

Just for the care and feeding of handknit socks, so they aren't left to fend for themselves among the wild-type socks in a regular sock drawer (most of which are beefed-up athletic socks - very scary for the lace socks). And on the inside, it has this:

It is wintry, a little chilly but certainly not enough to warrant risking hat hair. And while I do love my mittens, it's nice to have fingers. This is when I love my handknit socks. This is why I have three pairs of socks for me on the needles in spite of the whole two boxes full I already own (hey - some of them are getting worn by now).

I suppose, however, that friends who make special boxes just for handknit socks deserve the occasional pair, too, don't they? And there are compensations. Another grateful recipient of many pairs of manly (i.e. mostly brown) handknit socks sends the occasional text message like this: Let it be noted that wool socks on a cold, rainy day are to be treasured. I think another worthy recipient is about to get his first pair of Toasty Toes socks (negative progress on which is discussed here.) Last year at the annual family Christmas party my uncle got into a 20 minute conversation on the joys of good, thick, wool boot socks. No need to convert the choir, right?

Speaking of animals, recently we met Hannah. Hannah and I went for a run this morning in the beautiful blustery sunny weather. One of us saw a squirrel and took off in a dead sprint. The other one of us tripped over the curb and fell onto her dominant (knitting) hand.

So . . . do you think I caught the squirrel?