Monday, October 19, 2009

Sound Off!

I have an extremely insecure relationship with my new computer so I have put off blogging a little bit. Now I can't remember what I have and haven't blogged about, so...Roll call!

1. Featherweight Cardigan. I thought I was done with the collar until I checked the instructions and saw that I have to knit 3.5 inches and not 2 inches. Woe. So I have 1.5 more inches of collar to do, and both sleeves. I'm finding this a little depressing and so the cardigan is not getting much play, which is...obviously not helping matters anyway.

2. Moody Blues Socks for the Man. These are done and delivered. Even when you have to rip out a heel and do it twice, a sock flies when you have been knitting a gargantuan garter stitch shawl for three months. Delivery was especially quick since he was sitting next to me on the couch as I wove in the ends.

3. Veronique. Still neglected, but at least getting a little play at night when I want something simple. I am definitely reacting to the weather as I speculated in my last post, because the laceweight mohair project is getting way more play than the silk blend laceweight. The only reason the featherweight one is getting any play at all is because it is so close to being done.

4. Eris. Living up to its name. It seems that raglan shaping is some kind of knitterly secret that you are not allowed to google. I got lots of hits of people talking about it and 0 about what it actually is and what I'm supposed to do when the pattern starts talking about it. I finally solved this problem (somewhat) by rereading the directions, which actually told me what to do, kind of, and by buying The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns on sale at Nature's Yarns. All hail Ann Budd, who finally provided a good explanation of what raglan shaping is and showed me pictures that made it all clear (and now that I know what it is, I can tell you the girl sitting in front of me in training today has a sweater with raglan sleeve shaping). I have finally reached the end of the short rows, which will make my life a little easier, but frankly I am finding these cable increases a little difficult to do. I have suspicions that they are difficult because I do not use a cable needle, making it tricky to increase while cabling because of enhanced risk of dropping the stitches involved. I think I've finally got the hang of it, but I'm not really sure I like the way it looks. Also, I dropped my knitting at one point (by which I mean, I tossed it down on the couch as I got up to go feed the dog) and when I came back my stitch marker was gone and a couple of stitches were hanging off the needles. No big deal, except I put the marker back in the wrong place so I ended up moving my decreases one stitch to the left for the next four rows or so. When I discovered the error, I contemplated ripping back (in fact, I contemplated ripping all the way back to the pickup stitches and doing different increases because I'm just not sure I like the way it looks anyway) but I decided that it continued that way for a short enough time that I could just move it back and go on. I'll let you guys know how that works out. So anyway, I'll be a little relieved when I get past the increases, because they are interfering with my hockey viewing, although this seems to be beneficial to the Caps because they always score when I look down to increase.

5. Hanami. Abandonned for now, but not unloved. I want to get some of the cold-weather projects done first.

6. Flamenco. I would still like to do this project but I have to find a way to manage the charts without losing my mind first. Instead of working the charts in sequence (row 1-50 of chart A followed by row 1-50 of chart B) these charts are all worked at once - you work row 1 of chart A and then row 1 of chart B and then row 1 of Chart C and then you turn and work your wrong side row and then work row 2 of Chart A, row 2 of chart B, row 2 of Chart C, etc. I can see at once that this will drive me TOTALLY BATTY so I have to somehow figure out how I can manage all that paper, especially since each chart spans two pages, and one spans three. I usually knit on the couch with my stuff on the back of the couch or on a TV tray (I'm not a very organized invidual). I feel like I would need to knit this at a table with all my charts spread out and sixteen pattern minders to keep my place.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bag Lady

One thing I did before leaving on vacation was to splurge on a Jordana Paige Bella bag. I have maybe 3 knitting bags (including the new Bella) and all of them are lacking in one way or another.

The first one, I got at Michaels and carried loyally for many months. It's just a plain bag with two pockets on the outside, and some interior pockets. Zips across the top. Nothing wrong with it. Functional, but not spectacular. Great as long as you don't mind carrying two bags, because no one would ever mistake this for a purse.

Then there are my Goknit pouches, which I love, and they've served me well, but - let's face it, they look kind of dorky hanging off of you or your bag. I actually kind of like putting them inside a larger bag to hold my yarn and keep it from tangling, because of the little loopy things. Why do so few people make knitting bags without the loopy things? Do they worry it will no longer appeal to nonknitters if it has loopy things? Well, is it a knitting bag or isn't it??

I also have a Namaste messenger bag. I bought it because it was on sale, honestly, and I kind of lost my head for a minute. This one really works the least for me. It's biggest, so I use it when I want to carry multiple projects. But, I have just never cared for messanger bags in general - way too much work to get to the inside - and it doesn't sit on the floor. I take it to game nights where I can hang it on the back of my chair. I tuck a ball of yarn in one of the front pockets and work from that, and that seems to work okay since the front pockets button. When I run out of yarn or if I want a different project, I can dig for it on the inside of the bag, tuck it in the front pocket and be fine.
Of all my bags so far, the Bella is by far my favorite, but it's not perfect either (let's face it, nothing is perfect unless you design it yourself, right?). It has two features I love - one, it can double as a purse. Two, it has the snap loop to pull your yarn through.  (It's also really cute, does that count as a 'feature'?)

JP calls them 'circlets' and I cannot fathom why they are not included in every knitting bag ever. Worse, I cannot fathom why so many knitting bag designers use a gromet for this. You have to be one comitted knitter to put your yarn through a metal gromet, knowing that the only way to then remove it is to cut the yarn. Somebody must like it that way because bags keep selling like this, but I am not that committed either to project or to bag at any given time, nor am I so delighted with the weaving in of ends, that I am happy to snip my yarn all the time.

The biggest issue I have with Bella is that it doesn't have enough structure. On the one hand, the lack of structure is great for people like me who never carry a purse on a plane. I always put my necessities in my carryon and pack my purse in my check bags to pull out when I arrive. The outside of the bag seems to have plenty of structure; it slumps, as one would expect with a bag this style, but it does sit up when full and it's not really a big deal. I think the problem comes in that the lining is not really attached to the bottom and sides of the bag, only the top and along the center line, so instead of staying against the outside of the bag, the linings moves around on its own, bunches up, etc, causing the pockets to act smaller than they really are. Others have complained about the pockets being short so that tools fall out of them, but I really don't think the issue is that the pockets are too short, I just think that because the lining is not attached, the lining bunches up and pushes the tools out of the pockets. If the lining would, again, just lay down and play nice, the tools wouldn't fall out. My biggest peeve in this respect really comes from the divider pocket. I really want a purse that has a pocket for my knitting, and then a pocket for my non-knitting paraphernalia. I'm sorry, the stuff that goes in my purse is just not stuff that I want anywhere near my knitting, so I want separate territories. At first, the divider pocket was too floppy and stuff was constantly overflowing across it. But, I stuffed the divider pocket with paper towels so now it stands up much better. Also, too be fair, the project I was carrying really grew larger than this bag was intended to accomodate, so it's not JP's fault at all that my knitting kept overflowing. I was just too stubborn to switch bags (or too cheap to buy one of the larger sizes, you decide). 

So, I'm kind of giving some thought to some of the more structured-looking JP bags, like maybe the Knitter's Satchel. Problem is, that's not really my style...I like the styling of Bella or even Rio much better.

Anyway, all this is a long-winded way of saying that it got me thinking about what I would make if I were designing the perfect bag, and I actually decided that there is no perfect bag for every purpose. I would like two different bags.

1. Project bag for Serious Knitting. This would be most similar to the bag from Michaels.

2. Bag that could double as a purse for times I want to take my knitting along but don't want to be carrying a separate knitting bag. This would be most similar to the JP bag.
Bag 1 Specifications:
--1 small pocket with some type of circlet equivalent. I would like this pocket to mostly close, leaving an opening on one side through which the yarn can travel (it seems to me that this would be easiest to accomplish with a zipper, but it would need something on the end of the zipper to make sure it didn't catch the yarn
--1 pocket in which to store the knit-in-progress, right next to the yarn pocket. I am ambivalent about how big I want this to be since size preferences would vary depending on what I was working on. Big enough to store at least half a sweater. After all, this bag is for Serious Knitting Business.
--1 pocket big enough to store addtional yarn in case I run out.
--Maybe a thin pocket somewhere for pattern materials?
--1 pocket for me to store whatever notions I have. I don't really need pockets inside this pocket, since I usually keep my notions in a zipper pouch that I can take out and move from bag to bag as neeeded (as I said, I am not a very committed knitter, and while I try to have a couple of these pouches, let's face it - you can never find one when you need it anyway, and the one you do find won't have what you need in it even if you invested significant funds to make them all EXACTLY ALIKE, because at some point you were at home and you needed a tape measure or a pair of scissors which you took out, used, and then left somewhere while you danced around or threw things, depending on your result)
--Feet on the bottom & a fairly flat bottom, so that it sits nicely.
Bag 2 Specifications
--Cute enough that I would buy it even if knitting was the last thing on my mind
--Black or brown so I don't have to worry about it matching my outfit
--1 small pocket with some type of circlet equivalent. I would like this pocket to mostly close, leaving an opening on one side through which the yarn can travel
--1 pocket in which to store the knit-in-progress, right next to the yarn pocket. I would want this much smaller in this bag, big enough for maybe a scarf but not much bigger.
--1 small pocket (maybe on the outside) where I could tuck in my notions pouch.
--1 large pocket that takes up the rest of the bag, where I could dump all the stuff I usually carry in a purse. Again, I don't really need credit card slots or anything that specific (although a cell phone pocket is always nice) because I have a wallet for that and I would rather move my wallet from purse to purse than have to transfer all my individual credit cards and my driver's licenses and stuff like that.
--Feet on the bottom & a fairly flat bottom, so that it sits nicely.
(As a side note, I have checked out the Tom Bihn Swift bag, and while functionally it looks pretty good - I just can't get on board with the style - or the price tag!  If I'm going to spend that much money, I want it to be on a bag that I find both useful AND aesthetically pleasing, and it's just not cute to me.)

Monday, October 5, 2009


I intended to make a grand post about my vacation and all the places I knitted, with a grand finale of my finished Yellowstone shawl and - well. Circumstances maddeningly beyond my control have made it so that I won't be able to do that for a while.

So now we will simply say that vacation is wonderful, I love my shawl, and coming back to earth has been a process. I was fine the first couple of days, and then some kind of lag seemed to set in and I was tired all the time. Also, I have had really strange dreams ever since I got back.

But, the worst thing has been that I have had some kind of wierd knitting malaise going on. I'm satisfied with none of my projects. I thought I knew the answer to this problem - obviously, I need a new project. So I cast on for Hanami (since I found the charts for Flamenco, but not the actual directions).

It didn't work. I'm not interested in knitting any of it. I'm restless and annoyed because I want to be knitting, I just...don't want to be knitting any of the stuff I have. I worked on the Moody Blues sock some, and that was okay, except that when last I left it, I had either made some type of mistake or dropped stitches or something, and so my stitches were all wonky on the needles. I thought I fixed it and I worked merrily up the heel flap at a speed that was astonishing (when you have been working endless rows for months, anything shorter than 500 stitches feels like it flies) and then I went to turn the heel and - it didn't work. I was puzzled, because I really thought I had the heel turn formula memorized, but it totally wasn't working. I consulted More Sensational Knitted socks. Still didn't work. Decided there was something different about those directions and initiated a search for Sensational Knitted Socks, which was finally located under the couch. Directions still didn't work. Bitched and complained and fumed and finally realized - I'm an idiot. I had 32 stitches in my heel flap, which is correct - for MY socks. For the SO's socks, I use a 72-stitch cast-on which works out to a 36-stitch heel. When I tried to do the heel turn for the 36-stitch heel on my 32-stitch heel flap, it didn't work out too well. Apparently whatever mistake I had made before unbalanced the number of stitches on my two circulars so that I had 40 stitches on one needle and 32 on the other, instead of 36 stitches on both. Curses.

So I reknit the heel flap and turned the heel and got to the foot of the sock and complained because it was BORING. I, who have been happily knitting fifteen miles of garter stitch for the past two months, was bored with this plain stockinette sock. All my options seemed equally boring. I had the collar featherweight cardigan which would be a 1x1 rib, which wasn't much better than stockinette (I did knit some on it just to be sure) and I had Veronique which is plain stockinette and I had the three-scarf ruana which was plain stockinette and WHEN DID I BECOME SUCH A BORING KNITTER, Y'ALL?

I have finally come up with several reasons why I have not been able to get back into my knitting:

1. It's all stockinette or equivalent. While this did not bother me when work was a living hell or while my mind was being otherwise stimulated on vacation, it's become a problem now that work is slow and I am just sitting at home watching reruns of mythbusters or vacation-nostalgic shows such as "The Yellowstone Bison."

2. It's all lightweight yarn. While that was great for the summer, we're coming into autumn and there is a bit of a chill coming into the air now and then, and I think this is why the lightweight options are feeling so unsatisfactory to me right now. While I have knit lace in the wintertime before, it was wooly lace, and what I have now is mostly silk blends. The boring sock has been the most satisfactory thing to knit out of all my stockinette options because it is wool.
So, obviously, what I need to do is cast on a heavier-weight, more autumny project, right! So I went to ravelry and I poked and thought and hmmed and then thought of some patterns totally unrelated to what I was working on. I got out some of the VY Colrain* I bought before we left on vacation and I was ALL SET to cast on the braided pullover from Interweave Knits when I discovered that - I had no size 6 needles free. CURSES. On top of that, the shortest cable I had available was a 40". WHY DOST THOU MOCK ME SO, CRUEL FATE?

I ran to ravelry to check my projects and see what I could possibly have on my size 6 needles and - it's the collar to the Eris pullover. I had actually attempted to pick this project up already, but I couldn't figure out where I was in the cable chart, because I am an idiot who thinks she is smart, so I didn't mark my spot. I can only assume I didn't mark my spot because I had just knit one of the rows after which you are supposed to place a marker, so I must have thought I could just pick it back up with no problem. When I actually went to pick it up, though, my rows didn't match up and I was really confused, and I was afraid I had made a mistake and was going to have to tink back. I put it back down and went to the sock instead. When I couldn't cast on the braided pullover because the collar wasn't finished, I went and looked at it again, and I found that I had TWO markers on the collar instead of just one, meaning that I was at the second point at which I was supposed to place a marker, not the first. So I felt stupid all over again and went to do the next chart. I made really good progress and found that this project was exactly what I needed, just challenging enough and just seasonal enough - and then for some unknown reason, I went back and checked the instructions (I guess to see how many more charts I had to go through) and found that I had actually been knitting...the wrong chart, woe. Seeing that I was done with Chart C, I just went trucking right on through Chart D, when actually for the size of sweater I was knitting, I was supposed to go from Chart C to Chart F.

Ever hopeful, I compared chart D and chart F to see if maybe I didn't have to pull out EVERYTHING I had just done, no avail. They are different from the very first row. I pulled the needles out and frogged back to the marker which indicated the end of Chart C. I was able to get far enough into F to use up all the yarn from the frogged section, and then some...which is mildly annoying, because given how much progress I made, I'm pretty sure I could have come close to finishing that side of the collar if I hadn't made the mistake. Oh well, such is life. The important thing is, I have found a project that will work for me and I am no longer down in the knitting dumps.
I do think I'm going to buy another set of no. 6 needle tips, though. One likes to be prepared.

*To follow up on an earlier post, I did go measure the guage of the actual sweater, and came up with 18 stitches and 27 rows per 4 inches. Clealry, my swatch was flawed.