Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Amazing Lace

Summer afternoon, summer afternoon;
to me those have always been the two most beautiful words
in the English language.
-Henry James
Every production of an artist should be
the expression of an adventure of his soul.
-William Somerset Maugham

Get out your lace and get ready for a summer adventure! Rachel and I are taking our lace places it has never been. She's knitting lace in Europe; I'm knitting lace on my grand cross-country road trip; you may be knitting your lace anywhere from the melting polar icecaps to your neighbor’s backyard BBQ. No matter how near or far you’re going, everybody knits lace in the summer, so get that knitting off the couch and show it a good time.
The Amazing Lace: Summer 2006 Reality Show Knitalong! With Rachel and I as your co-hosts, you and the knitted lace object of your choice will form a team to face a series of challenges over the course of the summer. So pick a lace — a shawl, a camisole, a pair of socks, a dishcloth, or a beginner’s scarf with many (unintentional) holes — any lace will do, so long as you can work together as a team.

This is a summer lace knitalong, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and it has all the good things a knitalong should have. Go to The Amazing Lace to check out the buttons, the webrings, and all the important details. Like how to sign up.

But this is not just your average, every-day knitalong. This is a knitalong with twists. Challenges. Events. This is knitting as sport. And it's not just an organized, civilized team sport like polo or golf. This is an extreme sport, a chance for you and your knitting to push yourselves to work together as a team when faced with external challenges. Every two weeks there will be issued a challenge in the form of a “clue” that you will need to interpret creatively on your blog. There will be voting. There will be winners. There will be prizes.

You know you want to. It's going to be great. To join, head on over to The Amazing Lace, because all the action has it's own extra special blog (although you'll hear a lot about it here, too) and sign up. You can also comment here, email me, or email amazinglace AT licketyknit DOT com. Because it's just that fun.

Disclaimer: The Amazing Lace has no connection with The Amazing Race (CBS; Television Without Pity). We do not have a million dollars of prize money; you will not be on national television.

Friday, April 28, 2006

A Member in Good Standing

In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep,
one must above all be a sheep oneself.
-Albert Einstein

Those of you who watch my sidebars closely (Hi Dad!) may have noticed some new buttons and links. Each of the last five pairs of socks I've knit has been from a Nancy Bush pattern. I've mentioned many times that if there was a Nancy Bush fan club, I'd join. Turns out, there is. There's a Flickr group for visual feasting, a webring to commune with other lovers of Nancy Bush sock patterns, and two - count them - two! knitalongs dedicated to Nancy Bush's sock patterns. I joined them all at once. Who wouldn't?

To prove that I am a member in good standing for all the web-based Nancy-Bush sock-knitting fun, I present two finished socks. (Excuse the poor photo quality. It was early in the morning. I had a plane to catch. These are a much deeper blue in real life.)

Sockapaloooza: Chalet Socks

Pattern: Chalet Socks from Nancy Bush's Folk Socks
Yarn: Sisu in a deep blue
Needles: US 1 bamboo dpns
Notes: 1) I kitchenered, photographed, and washed them at 5am before leaving town so that they would dry before the May 2nd mailing date. When I first heard of the swap, I wondered why we had so much time. Now I know. Oh, and I'm including extra yarn for any future darning needs. 2)This is the second pair of these I've knit. I have a pair in red merino, and they are lovely. All those twisted stitches are rather time consuming for socks, but the result is worth it. 3) The calf shaping in these is indispensible. The twisted stitches do strange things to the elasticity of the yarn.
Best Thing About This Project: My first-ever blog swap. . . .
And those twisted stitches. (And to my sockpal - don't worry about it! I'll look forward to the surprise.)

And in old news that buried under all the European excitement . . .

Last Gasp of Winter: Pacific Northwest Socks

Pattern: Friday Harbor from Nancy Bush's Knitting on the Road
Yarn: Mountain Colors 4/8 Weaver's Wool Quarters in Midnight (or maybe Sapphire?)
Needles: US 4 dpns for the top lace pattern; US 3 dpns for the leg and the foot
Notes: 1) The top lace pattern is very inelastic. I had to rip them out and go up a needle size so as not to cut off circulation. 2) In the interest of full disclosure, this is the second pair of these I've made, as well. Kate D. has the first pair in the Evergreen color. 3) This yarn is so soft, but it pills like crazy.
Best Thing About This Project: Keeping my feet warm on a long trans-Atlantic flight. That, and how quickly socks go on 49 sts.

This concludes our celebration of The Week of the Sock. I'm glad you all enjoyed the darning tutorial. Because if the sock was worth knitting, it is worth darning.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Darn It! Part III

I am always working on something,
even if just darning holes in my socks.

Fortunately, all my socks are currently mended,
and I'm able to concentrate on fiction.
-Dean Koontz

I know, I know, while the flitgirl is channeling the Amish, Rachel is dreaming of petticoats, and Amanda is trying to teach her husband the finer points of Laura Ingalls Wilder's biography, the rest of you are scratching your heads thinking - Sheesh! Is she really going to talk about darning again? Originally, this was going to be a two-part series, but there were two compelling reasons to extend our fun. (Yes, I said, fun.)

First, questions:
Inquiring minds want to know if there is "Rogaine for socks." A pinch of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I knew Elizabeth was a smart woman.

Before we talk about preventing holes and thinning, we must all look deep into our souls and face The Cold Hard Truth: 100% wool socks wear out faster than wool-nylon blends. I know, I know. I could hardly bear it when I first realized. I buy Fair Trade coffee; I have a National Parks Pass; I handwash my socks. Clearly I want what is best for the world. But I have a lot of experience at this. My Regia socks that I've been wearing weekly for five years look brand new. My Koigu socks that I've been wearing less-than-weekly for three years, well, see the photo below. I've made 95 pairs of socks, people. Take my word for it.

The Step-by-Step Plan for Preventive Sock Knitting
  1. If you never want to get holes in handknit socks, don't knit socks.
  2. If you want to knit socks and reduce holes, buy sock yarn with 10-25% nylon (polyamid) content.
  3. If you insist upon 100% wool socks (and don't we all?):
    1. You could practice watchful waiting and perform duplicate stitch reinforcing at the first sign of thinning stitches.
    2. You could reinforce the heavy wear parts of the sock during/after knitting:
      1. by using reinforcing thread such as Wooly Nylon (sold at sewing stores) or leftover from other socks (it comes with Blauband and JaWoll sock brands); I've also heard of people using sewing thread, although I've never tried it
      2. by using the same yarn and weaving it through the purl bumps on the wrong side of the heavy wear spots
  4. Since we're speaking of reinforcing thread: People recommend using it while you knit the heels and toes. Well, I wear out all my socks at the ball of the foot and under the heel. Not so helpful for me.
  5. An alternative to reinforcing thread: You know our friend heel stitch? (sl 1, k1, purl back; Eye of Partridge would also work just fine) I've done that along the entire sole of the foot to reinforce it. Works great, although you may need to make the foot a little longer, since this shortens it. It's also a bit bulky. I recommend it for hiking socks.
  6. For all socks, gauge is crucial. More stitches per inch equals more yarn per inch. Automatic reinforcement if you go down a needle size.
  7. For all socks, knitting a correctly sized sock is critical. Too small, your toes will poke holes in them. Too big, they will move around in your shoes and create friction. Which is bad, because friction makes holes. Experiment. Find a great heel, a great toe, a perfect length, the perfect number of stitches on your favorite needles. This will help keep your socks in good shape.
And this was going to be such a short post . . . For my socks, I practice watchful waiting. When I'm not watchful, I spend over an hour doing this:

Second, check out the darning on the Koigu sock: Big hole. Small yarn. But for my only pair of Koigu socks, totally worth it. This is a work of darning art.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Darn It! Part II

Choose your friends by their character and your socks by their color. Choosing your socks by their character makes no sense, and choosing your friends by their color is unpardonable. - Proverbial

Refer to yesterday's post for a scintillating discussion on the whys of sock darning. Today we present the wherefores.

Recall our favorite wool socks from yesterday. These are definitely favorite socks, and, in the interest of full disclosure, let me tell you that they've been darned before and they'll be darned again. At this point, the heels are almost entirely darned. So it goes. I. Love. These. Socks. And today, they will allow us to demonstrate two things: a thinning heel on sock #1 and an actual factual hole on sock #2.

An Important Note: Always darn a larger area than is actually affected. The darned area is thicker and stronger than the surrounding fabric. Your next holes will be right next to the area you've already darned. Trust me.

Let's start with the thinning heel. This is simple to fix. If I had leftovers of the same yarn, I'd have used it. Instead, we're developing a lovely patchwork here. While you can reinforce thinning sections from the wrong side by weaving back and forth or duplicate stitching, I like the look on this pair. Adds to the charm. Plus, who's looking at the bottom of my feet? So from the right side, I duplicate stitched over the entire heel area, weaving in the ends at the end. It looked a little lumpy bumpy in such a thick yarn, but smoothed right out after being washed. Who doesn't want a nice padded heel on their thick woolen socks? And here's where I left them. The odd shape has to do with the important note above - I had previously reinforced some of this heel from the wrong side, and now my weakened and thinned areas surround that stronger area.So, what about the actual holes? You know, that moment of epiphany when I stepped from a carpet onto the cold kitchen tile and realized that there were, in fact, holes in the bottom of my socks. Right under my heel. Brrr . . . See that big, gaping hole? I used the traditional method of darning by taking my yarn and using a running stitch to sew a square around the hole, making sure that the square was entirely on stable stitches. I sew through half of each stable stitch (see above photo), which makes the weaving easier later. (Notice that the hole was bigger at the top, so my square encompassed more "good" stitches at the bottom.) Then I simply created a simple weave inside the square. First, do all the vertical ones, then the horizontal, or vice versa. Knitter's choice.

More knitter's discretion: You'll notice that there are places of "good" stitches where I'm merrily weaving in and out of actual knitting, and other places where there are long strands flapping across the gap. That's the point, because that's where the weaving will keep your feet warm. I often "short-row' my weaving over the hole to make it as thick as humanly possible, but there is a downside to that. It's a little lumpy when first done, but it smoothes out as soon as you walk on it, and then I couldn't even feel the difference between the darned and knit areas.

Here are some great tutorials on the web on darning socks - way more complete than my show-and-tell:
1. "If the sock was worth knitting, it's worth darning." All duplicate stitch method, no weaving, but good stuff here. Good photos.
2. This is how I do it, but read "yarn" where they say "thread." No photos.
3. Another description of how I do it. No photos.
4. Not a tutorial, but a comment on how not darning our socks means the downfall of society.
5. The most recent Knitty tells you all about knitwear repair.

I have a small collection of darning eggs (these things are fun to search for, hard to find - anyone know where to get any nice ones?), but unfortunately they are in storage for the moment. The darning eggs facilitate this process in two ways:
1. They conveniently hold the fabric you're working on away from the other fabric and make it easier to stitch.
2. It makes me feel as if I am living in colonial times. Hey- I take my thrills where I can get them.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Darn It! Part I

I'm a knitter, not a sock repair person.
-Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (loosely qtd. from memory),
Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter

My feet are cold. You've seen the box o' socks. How can that be, you wonder? Note that there are actually three sock boxes - the big one has all of my sock-yarn, fingering-weight, etc. socks - mostly wool and wool blends, and definitely warmer than your average store-bought monstrosities. But they are not subzero socks. They are not up for spending many hours outside standing in snow taking photos of knitted objects. No, such occasions send us to the smaller (and original) box o' socks which holds the big, thick wooly socks, including the warmest of all possible socks, two pairs of Dawn Brocco's free pattern for Lopi Socks. The third and newest box o' socks holds - with it's beachy theme - my wool-cotton blend socks and also the footie half-socks that I wear to work all summer. I have plenty of socks. Of the 94 pairs I've knit, more than 30 are still in my possession.

So what's the problem? Socks with no shoes, meet hard wood floors. After years (in some cases) of faithful service, some of my socks have gotten holes.

In her second (and very funny) book Stephanie Pearl Mc-Phee talks about how knitting a pair of socks is the ultimate love - because they take hours and hours to knit, and then - when used as intended - they wear out. She maintains that she darns socks the way her mother taught her - she holds the damaged socks over the trash can and yells "darn it" as loud as she can. Admirable spirit, that.

Nevertheless, my feet are cold, I have many other things to knit, and thought it would take less time to fix the holes than knit whole pairs of new socks, even in worsted weight yarn. Enter darning.

Darning has a pragmatic side - faster than knitting two new socks, but it also has a sentimental side. On the one hand, I tend to like my socks and want to keep them. On the other hand, I can channel Laura Ingalls Wilder. Works for me.

The socks above are Koigu feather and fan socks, and the socks to the left are striped odd balls of worsted weight wool. For our tutorial, we'll look at the striped ones, since I'm out of the original yarn and it'll be easier to see what's going on in a contrasting color. So come back tomorrow to see how we fixed them.

Can you stand the suspense?

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Week of the Sock Begins

Maru Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder's hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
-Pablo Neruda, Ode to My Socks

A Proclamation: The Week of the Sock

In honor of the impending finish of sockapaloooza, I hereby declare this week The Week of the Sock. It will be all socks. All the time. There will be exciting events all week long, so be sure to check back often.
The first order of business is to present a pair of socks that I finished in Scotland and have never seen the light of this here blog:

Birch Leaf Lace Socks

Pattern: Birch Leaf Lace Socks by Nancy Bush in A Gathering of Lace
Yarn: Sisu 100% Norwegian wool in light grey
Needles: US 1 bamboo dpns
Notes: 1) Katja has bigger feet than I do 2) I decreased two stitches on the round where the leg switches from lace rib to stockinette so the st st doesn't bag. 3) Recently I seem to be revisiting favorite patterns of the past. (And yes, Nancy Bush has designed them all.) Of the last 5 pairs of socks I've knit, 3 of them are repeats. This is one of them. This is possibly the most beautiful pair of socks I've ever knit.
Best Thing About This Project: Kitchenering the toe in Scotland approximately 20 minutes before leaving and giving them to Katja. Because there definitely wasn't any room in my suitcase.

And In Un-Sock-Related Fun:
Remember Kat's contest for the 5 places you've knit? My answers got an honorable mention for the Perri Klass lecture. It seems to be a fluke based on the non-knitting judge having heard of Perri Klass, but it's pretty exciting nonetheless. Go check out the winners - intense!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Link Party

Never give a party if you will be the most interesting person there.
-Mickey Friedman

My weekend plan:
  • Final edits to a paper headed to the publication committee Thursday
  • A draft of a second paper
My weekend reality:
  • Check out the progress on Rogue. Last time you saw her, ages and ages ago, there were sleeves and a little of the body. Now we're cruising along on the hood:
  • A phenomenally good time with the knitting and blogging folk. I'll try to recreate my party in links:
I caught up with the Yarn Harlot book tour in Grafton on Friday and discovered that standing room only has an advantage - you can mix and mingle with more people. It was like a (very crowded) cocktail party.

Kristen, the eponymous Med Student Who Knits, and I had big plans to meet up earlier and talk med students who knit talk, but the biggest plans are no match for Boston-area traffic accidents. Thus I discovered a new axiom: The good friends are the kind who, if they're going to leave you waiting, make sure it's a yarn shop.

I knew that SilverArrowKnits was going to be there, and for show-and-tell she brought not only her Christmas stocking in progress, but also her friend E, who casually waits in line knitting a shawl from Fiddlesticks Knitting. Fiddlesticks! In line! I knew I'd see Monica again, but her spin-dye-knit Knitting Olympics scarf was a great surprise - the softness is hard to portray through the monitor. Met a (blogless) high school student who managed to study physics from a textbook while standing up - impressive feats of endurance and balance. While waiting I met Elizabeth and a whole bunch of other fantastic knitters in line.

After the craziness, Laurie helped Kristen and I find each other between the piles of yarn, and all was good.* Not only because Kristen gave me gifts (me! gifts! yarn!) . . .
(Online, since we met online, and Trekking XXL for my x-country trip,
and one of Oprah's favorite moon pies from Maine)

. . . but also because she invited me along to dinner with the crew (including Stephanie herself) and introduced me to a whole bunch of people. People like Claudia (yes, THAT Claudia) (who gave me zipper advice), Sandy (who made me laugh), Morici (who gave me directions. that worked.), and plenty of other people whose names I can't remember. Oh, and I also met Kate. Go over to her blog and convince her that there's no better time to start Am Kamin. Seriously.

It was good times all around. Especially when Stephanie complimented my rose trellis stole. All of you who admired it are in great company.

*So, as these things go, Kristen and I met in person for the first time at a Yarn Harlot book signing last spring, and she introduced me to Laurie then. We started talking about what kind of medicine I was going into, and I said something like, "Anything but anesthesia. I hate anesthesia." Not quite, but probably pretty close. Turns out, she is Etherknitter. An anesthesiologist. Of course. . . . and of course she remembers. But she still speaks to me, so that's good.

Friday, April 21, 2006

And Now, The Rose Trellis

To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.
-William Blake

Do you see how it is exactly the same color as these flowers? Exactly. That was as close as I could get off the balcony.

Rose Trellis Stole
Pattern: Rose Trellis Stole from Vogue on the Go: Scarves
Yarn: random laceweight that I bought on a really big cone a while ago and still have tons left after this, my second shawl from the yarn. 100% wool.
Needles: US 4 Addi Natura 16" circulars. I used circulars because I was traveling through lots of airports. The pattern called for US 8s, but I listened to Eunny and went smaller.
Notes: The pattern called for knitting the border separately and grafting it on, side to edge, but I knit it on, knitting an edge stitch with my border every other row. I ended up with 12 sawteeth instead of the 8 they called for, but it seems fine to me.
Best Thing About This Project: Spring.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Care and Feeding of Handknits

The purpose of art is washing the daily dust of life off our souls.
-Pablo Picasso

I blocked the stole. (No, I'm not trying to prolong the suspense, but I need sun today to take the photos to post tomorrow, so hang tight.) Then I realized that lace is for spring, it was Easter, there are flowers outside, and all signs point to spring. Which means it's time to wash and store my winter woolies.

Scarves. Mittens. Gloves. Hats. Sweaters. And also reblocking my Ene's Scarf, which I wear quite enough for it to be quite dirty. Also, I handwash all of my wool socks on a weekly-ish basis.

So I thought I'd share the Knitting Underway (Un)Patented Method of Caring for Handknits:
  1. Ascertain that item to be washed is, in fact, dirty.
  2. Check again. Really make sure you can't wear it once more. What about those freak June snowstorms in Arizona? You just never know, and you are about to embark upon A Process.
  3. Assemble needed supplies:
    1. Water. Generally easy to find in the sink or bathtub.
    2. Container for soaking/washing. I use a small plastic tub (approx 11x18 in) that I never use for anything else.
    3. Washing liquid of choice. I use Suave Lavendar Shampoo and Conditioner. (99 cents a bottle, smells good, may even repel moths)
    4. Salad spinner. That is never used for food.
    5. Drying rack. The sweater racks are great; wish I owned one. I use a combination of regular drying racks and towels on the floor.
    6. Pins. If you are blocking lace.
  4. Stick all supplies next to water source. Decide to wait until tomorrow. Note that it is in the exact location where you are most likely to step into the bucket and spill shampoo when stumbling around looking for your contact lens the next morning.
  5. The next morning, decide to wear the sweater one more time that day and delay washing until the next day.
  6. The next morning, begin by filling container with moderately warm water, just a squirt of shampoo (wool is sheep hair, right?), and add appropriate (now decidedly dirty) knitting. IMPORTANT: It is fine to wash multiple small objects, such as socks, together, but make sure they are in the same color family or they really don't bleed. You don't want to know how I know.
  7. Let soak. A while. This can be anywhere from 20 min to all day while you're at work or overnight while you sleep.
  8. Agitate gently with your hands. Drain water from the tub and add lukewarm water.
  9. Rinse until clear. Be gentle - you don't want to felt it (unless you do, but that's a different topic). I generally pick up the soaping wet knitting and rinse the water, put the knitting back in the water, and swish to get the soap out.
  10. Rinse until actually clear. This is why you don't want to use too much soap.
  11. Fill tub with lukewarm water again and add a squirt of hair conditioner. Again, wool is sheep hair. This helps make it softer and smells nice like lavendar. (Once I tried the coconut scent, but it was too weird to wear a heavy wool sweater while smelling like the beach.)
  12. Let soak. A shorter while now, maybe 5-10 min, or until you're done doing whatever else you're doing.
  13. Enter the salad spinner. This is why I usually handwash near the bathtub.
  14. Place salad spinner in a container of sorts that can get wet. Add wet clean knitted item. Make sure it's balanced, and spin to get the water out.
  15. Dry on drying apparatus of your choice.
  16. Note that in the several days you've been diligently handwashing, you've accumulated 3 new dirty pairs of socks.
I do a lot of handwashing (at least 7 pairs of socks a week, plus other stuff), and it's a background activity for me. I do "loads" by size and color, and generally let one soak overnight, the next while at work the next day, and another while studying at night. And then they look so lovely hanging on the drying rack together.

The above instructions really only apply to animal fibers like wool and alpaca. Any other thoughts on handwashing?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wednesdays are for Random

Homo sum; humani nil a me alienum puto.
I am human; nothing human is strange to me.

Gorgeous and Lacy
The Rose Trellis Stole is done, blocked, and life is good. It's stunning, and thus it deserves stunning photos in the sun with spring flowers. So entertain yourself with some other knitting randomness while you wait:

Knitting Books
Like the rest of the knitting blogosphere, I recently picked up my copies of the blogs-into-books. Some thoughts:
  • Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Knitting Rules: This woman is really funny. Seriously. There are some good stories in here, interspersed between all sorts of useful information on socks, hats, gauge (although she didn't seriously address the enemy that is row gauge), etc. Most of that info I have elsewhere (especially in the incomparable Ann Budd's Handy Book of Patterns and Handy Book of Sweater Patterns), but I can see it being useful for beginners. Mostly, I'm along for the stories.
  • Mason-Dixon Knitting: This book surprised me. It is fabulous. (I mean, I like the blog, but this book is way above and beyond.) First of all, it's production values are stellar. Professional-quality photographs of all sorts of bright and cheery knitting; great, somewhat-unusual projects; and a very "knitting is fun" approach. Plus, those square felted baskets? How well will they fit into MyNewCaliforniaLifestyle? Fabulous.
Bumper Sticker
Saw this on the back of a car on the Merritt Parkway the other day:

Peace on Earth, Good Wool to Ewe

Kat has a great contest-meme: List 5 places you've knit other than your home, and tell her about it. Here are mine:
  1. The hospital. . . while on overnight call waiting for a patient to arrive by ambulance. A pair of self-striping socks.
  2. A Perri Klass lecture. Talk about a knitting doctor. A cabled sweater.
  3. Histology class first year of medical school. The FiberTrends Oak Leaf Lace socks still look like the thyroid gland to me. Every time I wear them. Four years later.
  4. Carhenge. Should you ever find yourself in Alliance, Nebraska, you must see this recreation of Stonehenge out of old cars. Baby hats, I believe.
  5. And, recently, the Volvo headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden. German-flag-striped socks. The red matches the red of my snazzy new car.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Tip the world over on its side
and everything loose will end up in Los Angeles.

-Frank Lloyd Wright

My friend JayJay (creator of the Knitting Special Olympics and commenter here who is moving, plus husband, to LA) and I have been walking around for months with a single phrase on our lips: MyNewCaliforniaLifestyle. It's really a single word, so you have to say it all together like that. It inspires us when, for example, we are clothes shopping and we see just the cutest blazer ever. Wouldn't that be perfect for OurNewCaliforniaLifestyle?

Well, look what else is going to be perfect for ThatNewCaliforniaLifestyle: The Summer Interweave Knits Preview! Check out the Bonita Top! The Seabury Shell! The Lotus Blossom Tank! The Brioche Bodice!

Look what else is going to be perfect:Here's the Rose Trellis Stole (don't blame me - it's impossible to get a good photo of unblocked lace with only two hands) that I knit mostly in Scotland. I finished the last two repeats of the body this weekend. And here's proof that I've started on the final border:See how simple that is? Twelve row repeat. I need twelve. I've done three. How fun is that?

(In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that the concept OurNewCaliforniaLifestyle doesn't leave a lot of room for working, which we will both doing in earnest. It does however, involve cute clothes, kayaking, and Mexican tequila.)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ribby Choices, er, Cardi

You are your choices. -Seneca

Let's talk more about my Ribby Cardi. As soon as I decided to cast on, I remembered why I hadn't already. There were choices to be made. Choices that had nothing to do with a gauge swatch (which I quickly determined would be useless in this situtation - gauge swatches lie). Choices that had to be made before I even began. Like what size to make. Finally, after many sweaters, I've learned what size I am relative to what I should knit. It takes a while. At least three or four sweaters, for me. But even now that I've finally figured it out, there are curveballs: Ribbing. Unstretched? Stretched? A little stretched. Yeah, good, but how much is a little? You see the problem, right?

I cast on for my "usual" size, knit four inches, and stretched and unstretched it (this can go on for hours), measuring measuring measuring. Still couldn't decide. I pulled out all of my cardigans, handknit and storebought, to measure them again. One was ribbed. It was 4 inches smaller around than all the non-ribbed cardigan. Then I held my four inches of knitting up to all the cardigans. Stretched. Unstretched. Hours.

Then I ripped and cast on for the smaller size - with 1 inch of negative ease unstretched. I know I'm the last person in the entire world to make this, so will those of you who have weigh in on this? Does that seem right to you? Seems right to me, but it's still awfully easy to rip at this point.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Red-Blooded, True-Blue

I am a free-born American. I can bob my hair. I can smoke cigarettes.
-Flapper/Suffragist mantra

I don't smoke, and I'm actually growing my hair long, but I'm all about individual liberty. And because we know that the personal is political and the political is personal (Happy Tax Day to everyone), last night I exercised my right of free choice.

I could have worked on my Rose Leaf Lace Stole (of which you saw a very crumpled version on the airplane here). This is a simple stole pattern from Vogue On the Go: Scarves that I've admired for a while, and since I agree with Elizabeth Zimmerman that lace makes great travel knitting (so much knitting, so little yarn!), this was my non-sock project in Europe. Think long trans-Atlantic flights and evenings near the fire in Scotland and every WS row being purled while reading Sherlock Holmes, and there's 7 of 9 repeats, with only a simple border on the short ends. Yes, I could have worked on this last night and made great progress.

I could have knit Trellis, or Branching Out, but they make such good knitting group projects. I could have knit Rogue. Rogue (Cardi Version) is far along, with only a few inches of the fronts and the hood remaining. But then I'll have to sew in a zipper. And I hate sewing in zippers. And who wants a heavy wool sweater in spring? (Or San Diego, for that matter?)

Or, I could have knit socks. I love socks. I currently only have four in progress: A plain ribbed pair, the German flag socks, my sockapaloooza socks (Chalet Socks from Folk Socks) with one done and the second started and the deadline fast approaching, and, of course, the Argyle Socks. (We all knew Chris was going to mention them if I didn't, right?

But what would any red-blodded, true-blue American do in this situation? Start a new project of course. Here's the beginning of my Ribby Cardi.

I'm just The Official Worsted Weight Wool of Knitting Underway (recently seen in The Knitting Olympics): Cascade 22o. The body is in that beige above and the sleeves are in a heathered slate blue.

Tell me, you would have done the same thing, right?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Knitting in Action

Twelve highlanders and a bagpipe make a rebellion.
-Scottish Proverb

Today we'll pick up where we left off yesterday: Scotland. I promised you great knitting. There was great knitting. But most of my photos don't show the knitting, they see knitted garments in action.

On your right, Katja and I are at the top of Mither Tap, a large hill topped by a Pict fort, conveniently dated to somewhere between 1000 BC and 1000 AD. That narrows it down. Being the highest point for many miles, it was also an incredible wind vortex. There was snow on the ground and it was cold. See the hat under Katja's hood? I made it for her (pre-blog). It's wool. I was clearly too cold to be thinking straight, because I didn't put my hat on until after this photo. Knitting in Action!

The hat goes into action again when we took a (muddy) romp around the lake, climbed some trees, and generally appreciated the warm wooliness that it wool hats, mittens, and, especially, warm wool socks. I think it snowed at least half the days we were in Scotland. I would love to show you photos of our friend Amanda, but she is a firm believer in polypro and other "fleece" outerwear. Now that Katja's been knitting up a storm of socks for her German relatives, however, Amanda seems more and more interested in handknit socks. Can a full conversion be far behind?

And lest you think we were entirely un-cultured, here's the second Birch Leaf Lace socks at a genuine Scottish castle. The Scottish castles went against my every castle-stereotype, except one: How cold and drafty! Definitely a good place for warm knitted socks!

Upon perusing my photos (and you will all remember that my Aunt Carol said she was looking forward to seeing all 298, so she can't back out at number 167, right?) , I realized that most of my best photos were places the knitting didn't get to go. (Poor knitting.) Churches. Graveyards. Even the top of Mither Tap. Most of the knitting sat by a warm fire and spend the evenings in pleasant conversation, which isn't ideal for photographs. So, gratuitously, here's one of my favorites from one of the old graveyards:(And if you really need a knitting correlation here, many of the people buried in this cemetary were sheep farmers. And a number died on the Continent in 1917-1918, where they were wearing wool socks knitted by the British Red Cross volunteers. Knitting is really everywhere, isn't it?)

You Are Not Scary

Life is partly what we make it,
and partly what is made by the friends we choose.
-Tennessee Williams

Scottish (knitting) photos will follow later today, but I want to call your attention to a comment my Dad left this morning. When I first started blogging - and while I had considered not telling my family, that lasted just until my Mom asked me what I did that day and I told her I started a blog - my Dad was worried that it would leave me open to all sorts of attention from the undesirable members of society. You know, all those people who just pose as knitters. After guest blogging and following all the comments, he left a comment of his own:

Blogging family.
I read this blog regularly, as many of your families read yours, as a way to keep in touch with a loved one.
At first, I was concerned about T. being "out there" on the internet,as potential prey for stalkers, perverts, Homeland Security Officials, etc. I warned her about the faux knitter, who was only interested in young literate women.
I am thrilled at the community she found from this site.(Cris the cartoon, Multiplte portrait Lynda, Jennie from Appalachia, etc.)
I am thrilled at the response she recieved when she returned saftely from her 6(7)country car buying tour.
The love that pours into your comments is evident.
The definition of "family" continues to evolve.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Showing the Socks A Really Good Time

Eh Dicha, das ist ech cool, eh!
-My new German phrase (Hey Dude, this is really cool!)

Because this is a knitting blog and not a travelogue (although, tangentially speaking, Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad is a hilarious travelogue, but not in the same league as Life on the Mississippi), and because knitting is a metaphor for life, I'm going to show you the Europe that the socks saw.

There are obvious omissions. The socks did not go dancing with good-looking Danes named Lars. (Poor socks.) The socks did not climb Scottish mountains or walk around the Lochs. (Their loss.) The socks did not eat any European chocolate. (Lent? What Lent?) But really, only my family should be forced to sit through a slide show of all 298 photos I took. And since I'm seeing them next weekend, you're all spared.

We started in Copenhagen. We started knitting Pomomatus out of the Lorna's Laces that I won in Leah's contest. It was short-lived on both fronts, as we had a train to Hamburg to catch and 72 sts of 1x1 twisted ribbing just made the pretty Lorna's dissolve into a pool of, well, pooling. A good yarn deserves better, so we pulled it out somewhere between there and Germany.
In Germany we met up with Katja, the German member of Team College Hill, propelling our Olympic glory to a whole 'nother continent. (I wore Am Kamin. It was cold in Hamburg.) Since the rain followed me everywhere I went, I don't have any amazing outside photos of the sock on top of the bell tower. Turns out the sock is afraid of heights. But here's the Birch Leaf Lace Socks from A Gathering of Lace on the way down. Katja is holding it, as it was an intended gift for her. Is it rude to complain about how long your friends' feet are in front of them for nearly two weeks? I was afraid of that.

After a whirlwind couple of days in Germany, it was time for Sweden! You met Felix (my snazzy new car) yesterday, and Felix is the reason I have so few photos of knitting or Sweden. I was too busy driving. We did see some Swedish castles, however: What? You don't recognize that sock? It's Regia that stripes like the Germany flag. I, um, er, bought it in Germany. Along with a lot of other sock yarn. A lot. Photos of the loot to follow. Which would mean I lost in the final days of the Stashalong. But I did get in just under the wire for the Sock Yarn Addicts Club. Can't win them all.

Tomorrow we'll pick up in Scotland. There was great knitting in Scotland. I knit. Katja knit. Antje, Katja's mom, knit. We had bracing winds and warm cozy fires. What a place for wool!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Meet Felix

Take a vacation where the souvenir is part of an unforgettable experience.
-Volvo Overseas Delivery

Tomorrow I will show you the Europe that the socks saw and talk about knitting and you will like it. But I can no longer ignore the clamoring masses who all want to see this:Meet Felix (and my friend in the background). Felix is my new car. It is also a brand of tomato ketchup that they use in Sweden. It is also the name of a charming statue in downtown Gothenburg. It also means "happy" in Latin. And my car makes me very happy. For the car folks out there, it's a 2006 S40 T5, 6-speed manual transmission with a sunroof and a really cute dorsal-fin antenna (not visible above). If you really need a knitting corollary, Felix represents a lot of yarn I won't be buying.

And there he is in rural Sweden, his natural habitat. After signing the papers, we got the (strange electronic) keys and headed off on a totally unguided driving tour of rural Sweden. We saw some castles and stuff, but mostly we drove.

Speaking of Sweden, check out the Swedish license plates:They match. I get to keep these, and since Pennsylvania doesn't require a front plate, guess what's going to stay?

Several of you wanted to know why I bought a car in Sweden. It's the overseas delivery option that most European car companies offer. It's the same car I'd buy in the US, but I got two free plane tickets to Sweden, a hotel, Swedish meatballs, etc. And then I fly home and the car follows on a ship. Should be here in about three weeks. But the best part is taking a vacation in your new car. I love to drive. I love road trips.

Road Trip Future
And there's another one coming up . . . As many of you are aware, I'm graduating from medical school in May and moving to San Diego, CA in June to start residency. In the very narrow window in between when I finish in Providence and start in San Diego, my brother and I are driving Felix cross-country. It'll be my third cross-country road trip and we're taking a southern route so I can cross Mississippi off my list. Like I said, I love to drive. Philadelphia to the Great Smokies through Shiloh into Mississippi (my 49th state) into Texas and across the Southwest into San Diego. Anyone on my route want to hang out the first week of June? I'm not asking for me. It's my 21 year old brother who really wants to know.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Home Again

No, not here. Over there.
Three terminals and two security checkpoints from here.
-All the "helpful" airport officials at Dulles yesterday

I am home, a day later than I should be. Many many thanks to all my guest bloggers for holding down the fort in my absence. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.

I had an absolutely wonderful time in Europe (Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Scotland), I have a fabulous new (and red) Volvo, and, among other things, drunk Slovenian moonshine with Scots. In Scotland. They used words like "nutter." Go figure. More details, including all sorts of great scenic knitting photos to follow.

In the interim, I'm still trying to recover from this:That would be the inflight entertainment on board. That was actually the best part of a day that turned into two when we got delayed, etc. etc. etc. I won't bore you with the details, but it wasn't pretty and there was knitting in the luggage that was (temporarily) lost.

On the upside, the stole pictured above is very pretty. And pretty, as in pretty funny, are the looks people give you when you take pictures of your knitting on the plane. If you think people look at you funny when you walk around town and take photos of your yarn, just try it at 36,000 feet over the middle of the North Atlantic. I think they were genuinely frightenend.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Groupie Greetings

Joe: Dude, is she knitting?
Derek: You know, as a friend, I gotta tell ya. You look a little weird.
Meredith: I am making a sweater.
Joe: You're knitting, in a bar. You can’t knit in a bar! You're scaring the customers.
Grey's Anatomy. Season 2, Episode 22:
"The Name of the Game"
I may not have the slightest knitting ability, but I have plenty of amusing stories to tell about Theresa. And that, dear reader, is why I'm posting today.
The thing is, Theresa and I did our undergraduate together. I used to sit next to her in our history lectures, discreetly reading romance novels while she knit elegant shawls (and while the entire freshman portion of the Brown football team stared at us incredulously). Theresa quickly became known as "that knitting girl" around our campus, something of a minor celebrity.
The only time it ever got her into trouble was when she brought her knitting to the first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. (Wooden needles, small sock project... very unobtrusive. But the driver involved in our little shindig was a Tolkien fanatic. He'd very carefully selected a "fellowship of nine" to accompany him to the movies, and he found the knitting disrespectful to what was probably the closest he's ever come to a religious experience.)
Now I'm out in Seattle, pursuing a Masters in Teaching while keeping my blog and writing a romance novel. Every week I watch Grey's Anatomy and I fantasize about what it would be like if my medically-minded friends did their internships in Seattle... albeit at a real hospital, and not one where you could magically see the Pike Place market sign from outside the windows. Ah, Theresa, how lovely would that be to have you in my home state?
So while I am not a knitter, I am a knitting groupie. I look forward to mitten weather every year so that I can wear Theresa's lovely creations (the latest having just been sent to me--thank you, T!) And despite the fact that she offers to teach me every time we see each other, I always resist. Why? Well, that's an easy one: if I learn to knit, Theresa might stop sending me so many lovely things!
Other knitting blogs talking about Grey's this week include: Knit Lit, Knit Whit, and goodtobegirl. Amy, at goodtobegirl, has even made an "I Knit with Grey's" button for any of you who might be interested...

Monday, April 03, 2006

A return to knitting

Theresa and I started knitting around the same time. She claims that she taught me, I distinctly remember that I made her a homespun scarf for Christmas, about a month before she started knitting. Either way, we started out on nearly equal footing making similarly skilled homespun scarves and then hats.

However, unlike Theresa who over the past 6+ years has delved deeper and deeper into this wonderful art, I am more of a serial hobbyist. I hop around from one craft to another and back. This means that I am proficient in many crafts, but would in no way call myself an expert in any one.

This being said, I have returned to knitting after a several year hiatus, during which I was busy crocheting kippot (head coverings) and needlepointing pillows. (I apologize for the lack of pictures, my camera is on the fritz)

After the trauma of leaving a virtually finished needlepoint pillow on an airplane, I decided it was time to move on, and now I am back to knitting. A wonderful new yarn store, Knitty City, just opened in my neighborhood and the joy of going into the store a being surrounded by yarn has been terrible for my productivity in life, but great for my knitting . I am embarking on my first lace project, made of bamboo yarn. (As an allergic to wool knitter I love all the new non-wool yarns that I have to work with). So far the project is not going so well, particularly since I have been trying to work on it in class. Maybe some concentrated time, without the distraction of taking notes is all I need to take my first step into the world of knitting beyond simple cables and ribs. Or I can just wait for Theresa to come back and ask her...hmm not a bad idea.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Cast On- Cast Off

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to have to go after it with a club."
- Jack London

Hi Everyone, I'm Terri's Mom and the happy recipient of beautiful knitted items. The mittens, scarves, socks and the ultimate rosebud sweater all serve as a reminder of my talented daughter. They all keep me so warm. I know I'm a very lucky Mom.
Although I learned how to knit as a child, casting on continues to elude me. Terri has tried twice to teach me, but alas, I still cannot cast onto the needles. I keep dropping and adding loops. Any suggestions out there?
I really admire all of you for using your time, talent and creativity so wisely. Keep knitting!

For your enjoyment here is a shot of Hannah modeling some of Terri's earlier creations.

Did you ever wonder what your parents did for fun, after the kids are all off in college?