Friday, September 18, 2009

Off and away

I leave on vacation tomorrow morning (at a time usually referred to me as 'squirelly early' or 'totally insane' depending how optimistic I'm feeling) and I have not yet decided on the trip knitting - at least, not totally.

Things I am definitely taking:

--Yellowstone shawl. duh.
--2nd Moody Blues sock.
--A sock that I may or may not have previously blogged about, but it is in the embossed stitch pattern from More Sensational Knitted Socks, in Serenity yarn with some delicious-sounding name like 'black forest raspberry' or something like that, a wool/seacell blend I have never used before
--Hamsa scarf, which I started a million years ago but made so little progress on, that I didn't even get around to logging it in Ravelry. This is in a yarn a friend got me at the Heritage Festival held in or near Waco, TX every year, 100% superwash merino fingering weight in a dark purple, and it's either hand spun or hand dyed or...something. It's unique.
--Enough of the leftover Valley Yarns Stockbridge to make me a pair of handwarmers. I'm just using the pattern from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. Quick, easy, and will match my scarf. I'm making the thumb hole a little wider this time, though, they always end up too short for me.
Things I might take:

--Yarn & beads for Flamenco, for evening knitting when I might possibly want something more interesting
--Eris collar, for same - harder chart, but no beads to keep track of
--The rest of the VY Stockbridge, to make legwarmers with. The SO doesn't think I will need them, though.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A puzzle.

As fall weather approaches I am thinking sweatery thoughts. I haven't given up on Eris, though other more time-sensitive projects have pushed it aside a bit. The cables are still very brain-intensive for me though - it hardly counts as sweater knitting to me until I get past that collar.

Looking at my project list, I can tell I am suffering from a massive case of startitis because it is taking all my might not to cast on everything that has been ruminating in the back of my mind for so long. The fact that I have not yet cast on for both Hanami and Flamenco is, I promise you, evidence of steel willpower and deadline knitting. Who knows where I would be if I didn't have this vacation coming up. Hopped up on laceweight and giggling like a lunatic at the very least - surrounded by newly cast on projects that seem under control now, but threaten to overwhelm me at any moment. Hanami is particularly insidious because it looks so darn easy. I'll totally knit Flamenco first though so that I can wear it at Christmas.

I'm looking at both Oblique from Knitty and the Diminishing Rib cardigan from Interweave Knits. The SO bought me some Valley Yarns Northampton as a present ages ago that I haven't figured out a project for that I think will be perfect for Oblique, and I loved the Valley Yarns Colrain I made my previous sweater out of so much that I bought more in two different colors. The original yarn called for in the Diminishing Rib cardigan is a wool-silk blend and I think the wool-tencel will be a perfect substitute. It has almost the same yardage per 50 grams so it should be perfect, right?

Well. I got out my swatch from the last sweater and checked the guage on it (I'm sure we all remember the guage issues I had previously with the thing turning out way bigger than what I had intended) and I measured the guage and...I had too many stitches to the inch. I couldn't believe it. Knit as loosely as it had been for that garment, how could I possibly end up with too MANY stitches to the inch? Seriously? There is no way I could possibly knit that yarn at the guage listed, and no way it would look good if I did. It doesn't look like it has a particularly loose guage in the magazine so I'm kind of stumped. In the immortal words of my ancestors, "It don't make no sense, y'all." I can only conclude that I had some type of measurement mishap. I will have to revisit the issue at a later date. Maybe I will go measure the guage on the actual sweater. The previous swatch was obviously flawed anyway. It was less than four inches wide, so I had to measure an inch and multiply to get the count for four inches, and that process is rife with peril. The Webs recommended guage for the yarn is 4" to the inch which is 16 stitches for 4 inches, so obviously 19 stitches to the inch called for in the pattern is not as crazy as I think it is. I must be the one who is a few jalapenos short of a zippy salsa.

Anyway, I'm trying to decide whether it is a good idea or a crazy idea to take Oblique along for plane knitting. Planes are boring so plain knitting doesn't work for plane knitting, so Oblique would be good. But, there is also airport knitting which usually has to be much plainer than plane knitting. I have a shawl that I work on pretty much exclusively on planes, so I might just take that. It's fine for airports, though it can be a little dull for planes. However, there's a snag in that plan. It seems I robbed that project of its needles some time back, and never put caps on the end of my cable. While it was lying carefully on the back of my couch this was probably fine, but as time passed I forgot it wasn't capped and moved it around, and while cleaning this weekend I found to my horror that it was about half off the cable. Fortunately, it is a sticky yarn and I don't think it's too badly damaged. I will have to spend some quality time with it, though, before we head to the airport. I'm not entirely sure everything that's wrong with it can be fixed with a crochet hook, I may have to tink back a row or two. The stitch markers all fell out and need to be replaced as well (they were the cheap rubber ones so I am not distraught, just inconvenianced, especially since I don't know where they all ended up).

Of course, the SO did buy me some laceweight recently, and I have been wanting to try out this whole circular shawl thing I see so much of...lace is much easier to carry on airplanes than sweater yarn, after all, even if it is just the beginning of a sweater and you get a lot more laceweight in a carry-on bag and ugh, can you imagine if I didn't put enough yarn in my carry on and I actually RAN OUT halfway into the flight??

Clearly this needs further consideration.
Of course, the other thing I could do, is use the plane time as 'finish it up' time.  I could take the featherweight cardigan along and probably finish it out before the trip is over with.  It's kind of mindless knitting, but still.  If I took that and the Eris collar maybe I could make some progress on stuff I've already started.
...but where's the fun in that?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Zero Sum Game

I did pretty well over this 3-day weekend. I got my house clean (at least on the main floor, we shall not speak of the state of my bedroom). I lounged around, I went out with friends, and I knit till my hands were sore. So, I guess I feel like I had a pretty balanced weekend overall. A little responsibility, a little lazyness, a little fun. However, my food intake was way out of balance and I paid for it last night. My stomach was bothering me and I couldn't sleep.  So, despite a pretty okay weekend, I'm not any more rested!

I finished the second half of Pfeiffer Falls and after many (many many) false starts, I managed to graft the two pieces together. Because I didn't do the pockets, I missed the directions that said to bind off one stitch on each side after finishing the pocket, and I just decided to ignore it and keep going the way I was. Well, this was fine, except that the directions for grafting in pattern were written for two less stitches than what I had on the needles. It took me a few attempts at the graft before I remembered this, and a couple more after I figured it out, but I did get it done and the seam doesn't really show unless you're looking at it, so I feel good about that.


I do not feel good about picking up the stitches from the hood. I started from the center and picked up half the number of stitches for the hood, intending to pick up the other half on the other side of the seam. But, when I measured the length of my picked up stitches, I was covering way more distance than I was supposed to. You're supposed to have 8.75 inches on each side of the center seam, and I was coming out with more like 10. Big difference. I pulled it out, picked up stitches again. Then I did what the directions actually told me to do and measured out the 8.75 inches and started picking up stitches, but when I hit the center seam I was about 10 stitches short of what I was supposed to have. So I had to put it away and think for a bit. Clearly, my row guage is not what it is supposed to be (no, I did not swatch, because it is a scarf and it shouldn't matter, right? This is the one place where guage, especially row guage, is not that important, right? That is the way it is supposed to be! I feel betrayed.) so I have a couple of options. I can:

1. Pick up the correct number of stitches, ignoring how wide it is.

2. Pick up the number of stitches it takes me to get the correct width, and wing it.

3. Pick up the number of stitches it takes me to get the correct width, and increase immediately to get the correct number of stitches.

The thing is, the scarf is, or at least will block to, the width that it is supposed to be. I believe that my stitch guage is close to correct. The hood is knit perpendicular to the scarf, so the width of the hood will be determined by my stitch guage and not my row guage. This means that the hood will be about as wide as the pattern says it should be. I think that this means that option 1 poses an unacceptable level of risk, because if I let it spread out that wide and then the width of the hood wants to be the width described in the pattern, the whole thing will pucker. I'm not really confident enough in my ability to wing it for option 2, and there is also the risk there that the hood will not be as wide as it needs to be, since my stitch guage is mostly correct and therefore fewer stitches will result in a narrower hood. So, I think I'm going with option 3. The risk there is that it will look wierd at the place where the hood attaches to the scarf, but even if it does, I think it won't show too much because the yarn is so dark. In any case, to my mind this risk is the least. The instructions are to pick up and knit, so I think what I will do is kfb in the picked up stitches as needed to get the correct number of stitches. So, that's the plan, now I just have to implement it.

I've been working on my triangular Yellowstone shawl as well, and I think some changes in my plan are necessary. I finished the first skein of Mineral and I'm probably nearing the halfway point on the skein of Earth. I had intended to knit a stripe of Mineral after the skein of Earth, but looking at the transition from Mineral to Earth so far, I don't think this is going to work. The transition between the two colors is much more subtle than I expected, so there is not the hard line I expected. I'm really kind of astonished, I thought the two skeins were so different that I was actually worried they wouldn't tie together enough. But, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. I don't think I will need that second skein of mineral for size, I think the shawl will be plenty big even if I don't use it. So, I'm thinking I will just go straight to the Woodland stripe and hope for a similar effect. I'm not even going to try to predict whether this will work or not, but that's what you get when working with handpaint yarn. It's also possible that as I get more of the Earth skein knit in, the contrast between the two will be greater. I'm just not sure. I think I will have to put it on a longer cable so I can spread it out and take a better look at it.

As I was cleaning this weekend, I ran into a familiar frustration that I have never been able to really deal with effectively. I have SO MUCH STUFF. I have an obssessive nature; I get into stuff, and I think, wow, this is cool, and then I get WAY into stuff and then all of a sudden I am sitting here broke and surrounded by stuff. I love to make things, and I love to try new things, and I often can't tell what is going to be a long-term thing and what is going to be a flash in the pan. I'm like, "hey, you know what would be cool?" and then the voices in my head are lilke "doooooooo iiiiiiiiit" and the next thing you know I am, once again, sitting somewhere broke and surrounded by stuff that I probably spent a lot of money on and have no idea how to get rid of. My attempts to organize the Stuff have been temporary and mediocre at best and catastrophic at worst, leaving me sitting somewhere broke and surrounded by stuff that is further cluttered by an organizational system that does not actually work for me.

Paper crafts have been the worst for me, because it involves a lot material that is really difficult to store. Also, my crafting style is a major contributor to my frustrations in this area. I'm not a planner; I don't sit and come up with a sketch for a page and then sort things out and put everything I will need for that page in a box. I work on the fly, I use the stuff I can get to easily, and I throw stuff around in different combinations until I get something that works for me. My paper crafting is almost a mania, where I pull things out of boxes and spread them around and make a huge mess. As a result, my work area is a complete disaster when I'm done, and I always feel like I am using only a very small portion of the resources available to me because I forget what I have. I feel like I go over this problem again and again in my mind without finding any real solution. Should I just reduce the amount of stuff I keep at home, focus on the techniques I really like and try to let go of all the cool stuff? If I do decide to pare down, what do I do with all the stuff? How can I get back to a place where I can enjoy my paper crafts again without feeling like I am constantly spending money and creating a mess?

Friday, September 4, 2009

I <3 Weekends

Hallelujah, a long weekend. I'm hoping the extra day will give me some time to catch up on my life. I think I need to commit to cleaning house at some point this weekend, because the state of the house got really bad while I was working all that overtime, and I haven't really even made an effort to catch up to it.

I'd also like to get some spinning in. I saw the last time what happens to my spinning ability when I leave the wheel for extended periods, so I think it's time to get back to it. Right now, I have the last of the meriboo and one of the Spunky Eclectic fiber club mailings in process on the wheel. I'd like to spin through all of this so I can do something new. I have a short attention span, I get a new club mailing every month, and there's a bunch of stuff I really want to do. There is especially a merino/bamboo blend in a colorway she called Beach that is amazing and I really really want to spin it. There's white mixed all through the dyed areas so it has a very watercolor look to it and I CAN'T WAIT. I may already have half of it predrafted in a box awaiting me, but I admit nothing. Anyway, I need to free up some bobbins so that I can get to it, and I need to spin the rest of the fiber that's been hanging over the back of one of my dining room chairs. So, really, spinning this weekend will happen in the name of housecleaning so that I can clear off that chair. At some point, I am going to have to do something with all this handspun. I don't really have very much of any one thing, but I'm thinking I will take a bag of it to my LYS and pick out some bulky yarns that coordinate, and make some scarves or something. Ideally, I'd like to do a scarf that had several handspun panels in it - like, start it out with handspun, knit till it runs out, *knit with a commercial yarn for a while, switch to a different handspun, knit till it runs out, repeat from *. But I'd like the handspun bits to actually relate to each other a bit, and I'm not sure how much of what I have, would.

I've knit the first half of my Pfeiffer Falls scarf and I'm about ready to put it on a holder (really, all I have to do is take the needle tips off and put some cable caps on it, but I may actually have to use a holder because I'm not sure I have another 24" cable free, which is kind of scary) and knit the other half. I'm not sure whether I should seam it, then block it and pick up the stitches, or wait for the blocking until the whole thing is done. It seems like it might be difficult to block both the hood and the scarf at the same time, but I don't know. Wouldn't I have to reblock the scarf anyway though since it will have to go in the soak along with the hood? I am inexperienced in the ways of blocking complex shapes. I'll have to google. Even though progress is good, I'm still a little worried about being able to finish in time for the trip. But, the only way to know is to keep knitting.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I have Returned.

My darling blog, I hope I'm back.  I've had blog posting issues that led me to change my posting times, but this didn't really work out for me.  It turns out I don't blog very well in the evenings.  I think I've found a way to get back to blogging in the morning, though.  This will be my first post by e-mail, so - here's hoping it works! If it comes out as a bunch of code and gobbledy gook I will fix it when I get home tonight.

Some long awaited Old Business:

This is the BFL from the Spunky Eclectic fiber club in 'Myrtle.' I'm really proud of this, and since I was able to photograph it in natural light the colors are even pretty good in this photo.
And the money shot.

The finished Spiraluscious Mitts of Doom, which have long since gone to warm the hands of my mother.

Yarn for those was Fly Designs merino/tencel blend.
And, here is the progress so far on the Three-Scarf Ruana:

Oooo. Aaaaaah. Exciting.

But what IS really exciting is that I finished Swan Lake. I took pictures of it blocking, but it honestly looks kind of dorky on the ground, blocking pictures don't do it justice. I looked at the stole on a dozen different websites and never really took to it until I saw it on an actual person. Pinned out, the wing half of it really just looks odd. The beads in the wing just didn't show up at all before blocking, because the decreases that they were placed around kind of bunched the fabric up. So, I blocked the straight side of the stole normally but the wing I had to block pretty severely in order to get everything to straighten out and lay nicely. When I was done my legs felt like jelly for the rest of the day from kneeling and leaning out over the thing. I really hate blocking stuff - I enjoy sitting back and admiring the blocked product once it's totally pinned out, but even with the blocking wires, which make my life much easier, blocking is a literal pain in the butt. It doesn't help that I am both very anal and not very patient, so the fiddlyness of doing it right coupled with the way it doesn't look right if you half-ass it, really doesn't work for me.

You know what I wish I had photographed? I wish I had photographed the absolute DISASTER that was the skein of Casbah I tried to wind last week. I got the three skeins I ordered for my Yellowstone project in the mail on last Saturday, which SHOULD HAVE vastly improved a day that really started out pretty lame (it involved furniture and the dog and things that dogs should not do on furniture but that are really the owner's fault for going upstairs and leaving the dog on the couch that the dog is too small to get off of without help). However, the skeins I got did not want to wind nicely. I wound the Earth skein first and it was tempermental but still windable with the swift and the ball winder. Then I got out the skein of Woodland and the whole mess went downhill from there. I put it on the swift but it was immediately clear even from just looking at the skein that I was going to have problems, and it became abundantly clear after that that it would be absolutely impossible to wind the thing with the ball winder. I don't know who did what to that skein but it was AWFUL. The SO made the mistake of suggesting that maybe it would be easier if we took it off the swift, so he held and I untangled. 3 hours later, he was really regretting offering, and we were both in a bad mood, and it really just didn't get any better. After a while we traded and things just got worse from there. Finally I put the skein on a pillow to hold and decided to deal with it later. Sunday afternoon, in a much calmer and more resigned state of mind, I spent a few more hours on it and finally got the whole thing untangled and wound into a ball, which I then put in a plastic grocery bag, hung the bag on the edge of my swift so that it would be elevated enough to run into the ball winder smoothly, and wound it from there into a nice center-pull ball.

I had this problem with the last skein of casbah I ordered, the topaz skein, and it really aggravated me both times. I was sitting there winding and composing nasty letters in my mind. Since the two bad skeins came from two different stores, though, I don't know - maybe the problem was at the HandMaiden distributor or something. Or, it's possible somebody was looking at one of those skeins in the actual store and unfolded it to look at, and messed it up when they folded it up again. I don't know. I decided there were too many things that could possibly have happened, so I just let it go. It was much easier to be reasonable when the yarn was sitting there in a nice well-behaved cake. I remember thinking at the time, that I should stop and take pictures for the blog, but I was too mad to stop.

The yarn is beautiful, though, all three colorways are just stunning. I really, really love the Earth colorway. I remember being struck by the beauty of it the last time I used it, and I was again. This skein is more than half black, though, while the previous skein I had was mostly brown. with just some black. I'm okay with it this way, though. It looks very rich and fertile, and is all quite in keeping with the theme of the project.
I have had some setbacks on the project itself, mainly because the increases just aren't where I expect them to be. Normally, increases all happen on the right side and then the wrong side is knit plain. But in this pattern, on the right side, you increase into the second stitch, and then you increase on each side of center, and then you knit plain to the end of the row. On the wrong side, you increase into the second stitch and then knit the rest of the row plain. I kept forgetting to increase on the wrong side (since this is a garter stitch shawl, there is technically no right or wrong side, but it's hard to discuss it without talking about it in terms of right and wrong, so I am arbitrarily defining the side with the center increases to be the right side). It's really difficult to catch this mistake except by counting the number of stitches on each side of center, which was workable at first but became progressively less workable as the number of stitches in each row increased. Fortunately, once Swan Lake was done I was able to reclaim some of my stitch markers and since then, I haven't had as much of a problem. I have a marker right before the stitches in which I am supposed to increase, and then I put another marker a couple of stitches down from each, so I can just count between markers to make sure I have the same number of decreases on both ends. I've knit the entire first skein at this point and I'm feeling pretty good that the end result will be a good size.

I've been giving some thought to the stripe pattern. I am stripe challenged, so it is kind of worrying me a little. The way I see it, I have a few options:

1. Knit both skeins of mineral, and then knit the entirety of the remaining skeins in order.
2. Knit one skein of mineral, knit the entire skein of Earth, add a stripe of mineral, knit the entire skein of Woodland, add a stripe of mineral, knit the entire skein of Stardust, and let the width of the stripes be determined by the amount of yarn and distance from the edge. Each stripe would necessarily be thinner than the previous stripe since the shawl will be larger.
3. Knit one skein of mineral, and plan a stripe pattern that will include stripe each subsequent color with the mineral in a planned way that results in multiple stripes of each color (for example, knit two rows of Earth, and then two rows of mineral, and then four rows of earth and then four rows of mineral etc etc and then switch to doing the same with woodland when I run out of Earth or decide that I have enough Earth stripes and am ready to move on).

Because I am stripe challenged, number 3 scares me. That is way more thinking and worrying than I really want to have to do. I thought about option 1, but I think from the size I've gotten with just the one skein, that starting the stripes now will give me more control over how big it eventually ends up, where the striping falls, etc. So, I've taken the plunge and I'm working the 'Earth' skein second. I'm thinking I will get the scale out and wind off the second skein of mineral into two equal balls, one to knit after the Earth skein and one to knit after the Woodland skein. I guess what I'm saying is, that right now Option 2 is the game plan.

To complicate things more, I have plans for another project related to Yellowstone; specifically, related to keeping myself warm in Yellowstone. I have ten balls of Valley Yarns Stockbridge in dark grey to make the Pfeiffer Falls hooded scarf. A comment was made the other night that at least we had plenty of scarves to keep us warm, and I thought, I don't have plenty of scarves. I have two scarves and at least one of them is not really suited to the great outdoors. Also, I don't have a hat. So, I thought, I'll just find a pattern for a super bulky scarf & hat and I'll make myself a set.

Except, I couldn't find anything I liked. and then I saw something with a hood on it and thought, I look really cute in hoods. I should do a hooded scarf! And then I got to looking at patterns for those and I kept thinking, "Elf. Elf. Elf. Extra pointy elf. Moderately pointy elf. Elf elf elf!" Pfeiffer Falls, while not knit in a bulky yarn, doesn't look like the latest fashion to make the rounds at Santa's workshop, so even though it's a worsted weight, that's what I decided on. So as soon as that yarn arrives, I will be knitting madly on it so that I will have it for the trip. I'm not sure I'm sold on the pockets on the end for the hands, though. I may skip those and use the yarn I would have used to make myself a pair of handwarmers from the Last Minute Knitted Gifts book. Even if I don't have time to get those done before we leave, I could knit a pair on the plane. They're fast and will leave my fingers free for photography and knitting uses. If I have enough yarn leftover I might make a pair of legwarmers, too. Most of my jeans are boot cut and the wind gets up under them. But one thing at a time. My eyes are bigger than my needles. (but I do have two skeins of Lamb's Pride at home leftover from another project, so it could be done)

I bound off the body of the Featherweight Cardigan this past weekend as well, and after some deliberation, decided to do the collar before I do the sleeves. This is partly because I haven't decided how long I want the sleeves to be and this way, if I'm going to run out of yarn, I can just shorten the sleeves. I think I actually have plenty of yarn, but you know if I wasn't paranoid I would run out. So, collar it was. This was a little challenging, because I've never done it before. It felt really awkward, I had trouble seeing what I was doing. With the help of YouTube and some personal ingenuity, though, I got it done. I ended up using an embroidery needle to actually pick up the stitches and put them on the needle. This allowed me to hold the needle in my right hand. My stitches may all be seated backwards on the needle because of this, but if so - I'll just turn them, not a big deal. I examined it after I was finished and I think there is one spot where I got a little bit off, like I moved the row I was picking up by half a stitch for maybe ten stitches or so, but otherwise it looks okay. I didn't actually start the collar, though, since I had other things to knit, but now it will be ready when I'm ready. I'm thinking I'm going to knit it in 1x1 rib since I really don't like rolling on edges. I was worried this would pull the collar in and make it look kind of puckered, but after knitting the rib at the bottom of the sweater, I don't think it will be too much of a problem. At this guage, the ribbing is pretty loose and it doesn't look like it had a very significant pull-in at the sweater bottom.