Friday, July 27, 2007

Reading About Knitting

On a February morning, my store with all its warmth and color was a cozy place to be. The timer on the microwave went off; I removed the boiling water and poured it into my teapot after dropping in a couple of tea bags. The rain was falling from brooding, gray skies as it often does in winter. I decided it was time to start another knitting class.

A project roundup is coming. Soon. But in the meantime, let's amuse ourselves with a book review I wrote and meant to publish when I was at the Jersey shore getting married oh-so-long ago. Because when there's no time to knit, there may still be time to read.

Back on Blossom Street, by Debbie Macomber

Mira, 2007

Disclosure: I received a free review copy from the publisher.

I was that kid who read Carl Sandburg's 7 volume biography of Abraham Lincoln the summer I turned 13. I double majored in history and classics in college. I've read most of the classics, a daily newspaper for more than a decade, and the back of every cereal box I've ever brought home from the store.

But I'm at the beach. And beach reading (I learned after lugging around all 7 volumes of Honest Abe for a summer) should be several things:

1. Lightweight. I'm convinced the trade-sized paperbacks were invented for this.
2. Light. In content. If I can't laugh out loud at the beach, where can I?
3. But not too light. In either sense - If it's too short, you have to carry more than one book. If it's too fluffy in content, it's boring.

Back on Blossom Street (and The Shop on Blossom Street, earlier in the series) fits all of these criteria. It is a nice read, with a good mix of drama, friendship, romance, Seattle stories, and, of course, knitting. There are problems; they are overcome. There are characters; you'd enjoy knitting with them. The story is not boring, nor is it predictable. But the tone is such that you know it will all somehow work out just fine in the end. It does have the problem that many sequels have, where much of the first chapter catches you up on what you'd missed in the other books. Remember how every first chapter of The Babysitter's Club was the same?

In fact, it reminds me much of the other books of Debbie Macomber's that I've read. And there are several. She has a whole series of "Navy Baby" books that kittigen kindly annotated for me to point out the most egregious bad Navy metaphors. And aside from the very-dated 80's styles (note to future authors: take care to never describe clothing in TOO much detail), they also fit the same "beach reading" criteria as above. But no one ever offered me a review copy to review on my blog.

So, let's talk about this trend towards knitting-themed fiction, shall we? Alison at the Blue Blog wrote about some the other week, and she's not the only one to notice that publishers seem to be marketing fiction to knitters in ever-increasing numbers. On a basic level, this makes sense. The market for women's fiction and current knitters overlap considerably - how many of us are women between 18-65? There are books about chefs, and horse farmers, and even "Navy Baby," out there, so why not knitters?

Prior to reading The Shop on Blossom Street last winter (hey - it's always beach weather in San Diego!), I questioned the concept that I would choose my fiction based on my craft. And I don't suspect that I'll be shifting genres anytime soon (mystery is not really my thing). But if Debbie Macomber can write a great beach novel, why shouldn't I read about characters who like what I like?


Monday, July 23, 2007

A Summer Sweater

The bee, from her industry in the summer, eats honey all winter.

Unlike Rowena where there wasn't much knitting but a great deal of finishing, I just finished a sweater that practically knit itself. And when the knitting was done, it was a matter of a few seams and a quick neckline. And it's cute, practical, and had been on my to-do list for years. AND I've never seen anyone else make it. See, I'm not just a follower . . .

Rice Stitch Sweater
Pattern: from Family Circle Easy Knitting, Spring 2005
Yarn: Cotton Ease in Candy Blue (only 3 skeins!)
Needles: US 8 Cotton Palace bamboo circs
Notes: I'm not sure the neckline was that low in the photo in the magazine - it's just decent. But I didn't make any mods and it worked great. Easy to memorize.
Best Thing About This Project: A perfect San Diego and summer sweater.

Stash Tally: Down to 509 skeins and 107,000+ yards. That's a whole 1,000 yards down!


Sunday, July 22, 2007

I'm A Follower

The woman who runs will never lack followers.
-Ashley Dukes

Working on this blogging-knitting dissociation . . . I thought I'd try that crazy-wild concept of blogging about what I'm actually knitting.

This weekend, it's been mostly socks (not as many as Jen, of course). And in photographing these, it turns out that I'm a bit of a follower, or what my sister might call a "trend-bucket." But so it is.

I've been carrying around my Jaywalkers for a while, a little bit here and there. And they're coming along well - only the foot of one sock left to go. And then I realized - Sockapalooza 4 is fast approaching. And since I hadn't exactly started my sock pal's size US 11 women's socks, I thought it was time. The Monkeys above (yup, a follower) are in Ball and Skein in Mosaic, and the colors are fascinating and shimmery and jewel-like. But there's a story there. I thought US 2s would be the size, but the pooling was incredible. I was out and about for the day, and didn't really want to restart. I grabbed my US 1s and started, but it was a bit tight for my taste. I experimented a bit and found that using 3 US 2 dpns and 2 US 1 dpns created the perfect size and color patterning. Whatever works . . .

And to prove that I'm not always just a follower . . . A finished pair of socks from a couple of weeks ago. I needed a comfy cozy pair of socks for a friend of mine and the Rainy Day Socks fit the bill perfectly. They were well received. . . and worn. Hence the bad flash photo.

Comfy Cozy Socks
Pattern: Rainy Day Socks from Magknits
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk DK
Needles: US 4 dpns
Notes: No changes - a great pattern.
Best Thing About This Project: Hearing from the recipient that the last pair I made her had been worn so much they'd actually worn through.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Blogging-Knitting Dissociation

Let them eat cake.
-Marie Antoinette

I finished a sweater last night that most of you probably didn't know I was working on. And then it hit me - my current blogging-knitting dissociation. (Which will be highlighted in this post by an unrelated photo of my first wedding cake. Just for kicks.) Last blogged about here.

It's been busy, I was away, then I had a lovely visitor, and throughout it all there's a lot going on at work - lots of patients, long hours, research projects, presentations to give. And so I've actually finished most of the things I've ever blogged about, started (and in some cases, finished) things that have never seen the light of the blog. And then there are things like Sockapalooooza. Fast approaching. So bear with me here as I get the life, the knitting, and the blog all in the same week, if not the same day. I know that the news is better live than recycled. And we'll get there.

In the meantime, I did "handle" my July UFO for the UFO Resurrection. Cablenet. Which I apparently never mentioned casting on. But I had done about 2-3 inches of one leg way back in November and promptly put it down never to be picked up again. And when I did pick it up, I realized that it was not keeping my attention at all these days. So, while I like the pattern, I frogged it. One more UFO off the (woefully out-of-date) list. And the lovely potential of that Koigu back in my stash.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rowena Revisited

A sister is both your mirror - and your opposite.
-Elizabeth Fischel

Many of you thought I was knitting Rowena as a baby gift. Let me introduce my baby sister: Perhaps she's not as small as you might have imagined? You may or may not recall that I received Knit2Together as a Christmas gift from my uncle and aunt, and as soon as I saw this pattern I knew that I needed to make it for my sister. I steathily asked her to measure a sweater of hers, and set to work. It's technically a (rather early) birthday present for her September birthday, but I wanted to make sure it fit. And it's a perfect fit. In size. In color. And certainly with the hydrangea bush.

Rowena Fair
Pattern: Rowena from Knit2Together
Yarn: KnitPicks Ambrosia in Petal, 9 1/2 skeins for a 34" size
Needles: US4 Addis
Notes: I made the sleeves a couple of inches shorter to make them 3/4 length rather than bracelet length (a decided preference of the recipient), and I knit the hem stitches up as I went rather than sewing them down later. Also, I only put a ribbon at the neck rather than also at the hem and sleeves.
Best Thing About This Project: It was 94 degrees and very humid in that photo above. And look how happy she looks in her new sweater!

And one more thing - as happy as she is above, my sister would like you all to know that she has many outfits planned for the sweater, and none of them involve the shade of fuschia she was wearing when we took the photos.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Photos You've All Been Waiting For

That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.
-Willa Cather

I'm sure that - to the extent you've thought about it - you imagined that the beau-turned-husband and I might be off on a fabulous honeymoon. Alas, life in the Navy dictates that we've been back at work for most of the week. Re-entry is always rough, and it's been a long week. And aside from the Chuppah, two weddings, Rowena gifted to it's owner, some finished socks, a new shawl, well, there's lots of blog fodder when I have time. But a little weekend respite gave me (er, I mean, the husband) time to at least upload the photos from the flitgirl's wedding.

We'll start with The Chuppah. It was beautifully received.The lace was lovely in the old stone chapel against a backdrop of an organ, and the ivory color that the white Zephyr is complimented the flitgirl's dress just perfectly.

And now that your curiosity has been satisfied regarding that master work, some gratuitous shots of all the general happiness. Because it's not every weekend my best friend and I get to both get married. She's already planning the anniversary trips . . .
One of the best photos of the evening -
My parents are celebrating their 30th anniversary this summer. Think we'll be as happy in 30 years?

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Friday, July 13, 2007

The Hogwarts Fun Continues

You can take the student out of the school, but . . .

It's time for Round Two of the Hogwarts Sock Swap. And we're moving along.

Second Years

  1. What Hogwarts House have I been sorted into? Ravenclaw

  2. What are my foot measurements? Size 7 shoe, 9 long, 8″ circumference

  3. My three favorite sock yarns: Lorna's Laces, Regia, Koigu

  4. Yarn I haven’t used but would like to try: Colinette Jitterbug

  5. Type of sock patterns I like: Are they socks? I love them.

  6. Varigated or Solid Yarn? Again - are they socks? I love them.

Interested? Sign-ups are here.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Another Stealth Project

The real act of marriage takes place in your hearts,
not in a ballroom or church or synagogue.
It's a choice you make not just on your wedding day
but over and over again.

-Barabara De Angelis

I hope you will forgive a brief delay in (gorgeous) photos of the Chuppah. You see, in addition to flitgirl's wedding this weekend and all the crazy travel, I had another stealth project in the works.The beau and I were married on Sunday, July 8th in a lovely small ceremony in the presence of our families. We're planning a nice big church wedding for April, but at the moment things are perfect just as they are.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Weekend Plans

Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life,
the whole aim and end of human existence.


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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Baby Bear

Bears live in all parts of the world except Antarctica, Africa, and Australia.
-Fun Fact

Can I get three cheers for being on leave? Hip, Hip, Hooray! The Chuppah is nicely wrapped up in a protective covering and packed - in my carry-on - and we are ready to go. Since we're having just so much fun today, let's look at this delightful pattern I just finished. Because I'm spontaneous. Just ask me.

Baby Bobbi Bear
Pattern: Baby Bobbi Bear by Blue Sky Alpacas (Note: This is the pattern that uses worsted weight. The Bobbi Bear pattern uses Bulky.)
Yarn: As much as I would love to use the delicious yarns called for in the pattern, I used stashed Cotton Ease in Orangeade for the MC and Pineapple for the CC embroidery. I stuffed it with plain ol' fiberfill.
Needles: US 8 dpns
Notes: This pattern is just delightful. Fun, easy, and well-designed and intelligent. Plus, it's fast and fun. Do note that it's the finishing details that make the project. Duplicate stitching around the neck was particularly important.
Best Thing About This Project: It's a bear! It's a toy! It's a stashbuster!

And now, to go put it into Ravelry. Because looking through other people's projects is the best part. And I'm tired of trying to put all my yarn in!


Monday, July 02, 2007

New Year, New Resolutions

Our plans miscarry because they have no aim.
When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.
-Lucius Annaeus Seneca

I've been on an academic schedule essentially my whole life. Even residency has an academic year (which ends on June 30th and begins on July 1st - some summer vacation!). And while people may pop the champagne in January, to me the beginning of the school year is the real beginning. Fittingly enough, multiple long-term projects came off the needles in June - most notably The Chuppah, and Rowena. So today being July 1st (ish), it's time to take stock, re-examine the knits, the stash, and, well, more stash. Also the queue. (This post was supposed to have photos, but to no avail.)

The Knits (UFOs by any other name . . .)

With The Chuppah looming over my poor overworked head all year, I was A Focused Knitter. I had a plan. It was on a legal pad next to my computer (source of all knitting temptation in the known universe). The UFO Resurrection has also been a driving force in this. Each month, I listed my WIPs, with the % done next to them -
  1. The Chuppah
  2. Rowena
  3. UFO o' the month
  4. Book Project o' the month
  5. Sock
  6. Maybe another sock or baby knit

In this way, I had a mangeable list of knitting projects, including several long term investments, a sock or something to pick up on the way out the door, and good progress with my other plans. And I listed all the UFOs at the bottom. Deferred until later. Gone was the guilt that would have me knitting one or two rows a month on something. And of the 5-6 projects, I would usually finish 2 or 3. Not bad.

It was all going so well until I finished the Chuppah. And, as we recall, I was struck by cast on fever. Starting and finishing single projects in a leap.

Previous to the recent 6 or so months of (relative) discipline, I would cast on for an finish projects as inspired, or as deadlines approached. No plan. No system. And thus, 13 UFOs when the UFO Resurrection Challenge begun. I have actually exceeded the stated goals of this challenge and not just worked on but finished a project every month. That's good. The flip side is that all the remaining UFOs are much much less far along than the first 6 I picked off. And then consider a UFO like Lizard Ridge. Obviously, this won't get done in a month. Finishing one block a month would be a nice way to move it along, but it would be lame to count that as my monthly UFO requirement. What to do? What to do?

I could keep generating new UFOs of a smaller nature and then finishing them, but methinks that defeats the purpose.

Several have asked (teasingly, right?) if I was going to finish my Book-a-Month project until I'd gone through all my books. The answer is no. Not because it wasn't helpful - it was immensely useful at helping me try new things, and sort through old things looking for things to keep or save. But I'm down to about 4 or 5 "unknit" books, and they are all keepers for one reason or another, but none of them are urgent. So there goes a line from my list.

What to do? After all that introspection (if you're still with me here), I think the plan will be as follows -

  1. Keep the list. It's good to see at a glance what's going on.
  2. Divide the list into WIPs and UFOs. Again, it helps.
  3. Continue the UFO Resurrection Challenge. Larger projects can be split into smaller goals - e.g. the back of the sweater, one of a pair of barely-started socks.
  4. Start the Christmas list. Uh oh.
  5. Allow myself some freedom for fun after all those months as a Focused Knitter. Cast on at will. Knit fast. Try to reduce the stash.
The Stash

Speaking of . . . I have a problem. When I counted my 108,000+ yards, I didn't even include any partial skeins or leftovers of that sort. Which means when I gave away 1700 yards of Zephyr, I hadn't even added it. So I couldn't subtract it. And none of my current projects are in the stash. So none of that knitting is counted either for stash reduction purposes. Help. I want less of it, but I want to knit almost all of it. How fast can I knit?

Probably I need a plan. Suggestions are very helpful. I've already been listening to Stash and Burn, but they want me to give away yarn. Eeek!

The Queue

This post is far too long, and I have thoughts on future knits coming soon. But have you seen the "add it to my queue" section at Ravelry? This is everything that's ever been missing from my life (except you, dear fiance, of course). And it's really helping me focus my plans for summer knits. I should have a great list. Just in time for fall . . .

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