Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime

The clock is ticking down and I'm knitting like a fiend. I finished these to stick in my mom's stockings:

Leafprints mitts in Great Northern Yarns Cashmere/Mink DK. I have to say I wasn't impressed with this yarn in the ball, but the fabric it creates is soft and silky. I'm not sure I'll buy it again, though - even though the minks are supposedly not harmed in the gathering of the fur for the yarn, it just gives me the heeby jeebies a bit. We'll see. On the up side, I may have enough yarn left to make some for myself.

I'm still working on these for my brother:

I've actually gotten quite a bit farther than shown on the second glove - I'm almost ready to put the thumb stitches on holders. I hope I can finish these tomorrow, but it will depend on how many family activities I have to participate in. I know of at least one shopping trip I have to be part of because I need some things.

I made my brother a pair of very simple ribbed mitts a couple of years ago, no fingers, just a hole for the thumb, the really easy ones that take one skein of yarn and an evening to make from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. He was pretty unimpressed, all I got was a mumbled ‘thanks’ and I kind of put the endeavor down as a failure. But, I found one of the mitts on the washer a month or so ago (he lives in my basement) and I thought, well, if he is washing them, maybe he is wearing them, and maybe it would be worth making him a pair of fingerless gloves. I've made these for a couple other people who really like them, so I'm hopeful. if I get the same ‘you are weird and I don’t get why you do this’ face I got last time, I will know I really am a sucker. I got enough yarn to make him a hat, too, but I don't know if it'll be done by Christmas. It might be tight on the gloves as it is.

I brought a ton of WIPs with me on this trip, but because I've been working on the two projects above I haven't gotten very far. I'm past the halfway point on my Bluebird shawl and I've done a fair amount of work on the Esplanade hat I have on the needles. I really want to finish these two and my Phoenix shawl by the time I get home. That might be a bit of a stretch but I'm going to try. I discovered last year that vacation is a great time to power through projects that would otherwise seem to stretch on forever, since I have more time to sit and work on things. I can power through pieces with a million repeats (Bluebird) or really long rows (Phoenix) because I have more long, dedicated blocks of time. But, we've been moving around so much up till now that it really hasn't been feasible anyway. Thanks to plane delays and all the stuff leading up to the trip, I was really exhausted when we got here, and today is the first day I really felt remotely like myself again. I'm hoping things will be looking up now that there's no more traveling to do until it's time to come home.

Merry Christmas and thank you to all my readers. May your holidays be warm, cozy, and drama-free.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Knitting and Not Knitting

Well, the first Christmas hurdle is jumped. This weekend was pretty thoroughly chaotic. There was knitting, and there was...not knitting. I sing in my church choir, and we had rehearsal and then the performance of our Christmas concert. That was Big Item No. 1 on my Christmas worry list, so at least I can cross that one off now.

Also in the not knitting category:

I do not come from a baking family, but I have been adopted into one, and every year the SO's family has a giant Christmas cookie bake. I don't really participate in the baking but I'm sure my assistance in cookie selection and quality control are still very much appreciated.

While supervising said baking I finished the socks I was working on for my coworker and put a little more length on the white snowflake scarf (OF DOOM). It probably could still stand to be a little longer, but I'm tired of it, so I went ahead and knit the second snowflake panel to finish it off last night.

I used a stretchy lace bind off and I'm not sure it was the right choice. I just can't seem to reach a happy medium with bind offs. They're either too loose and messy looking or too tight. This one is a bit loose (you can't tell in the picture because I artistically tucked the corners in so it doesn't show) but the scarf does need to be blocked a little wider than it currently is, so I'm hoping that'll take away some of the loose edging. I really just can't win with scarves, the bind off end and the cast on end just don't ever match for me.

I also finished the last of the gifts I have not disclosed here - or so I thought. Then I realized that I was going to have a ton of yarn leftover and (somewhat reluctantly) started another piece. I don't think I'm going to worry too much about getting this one done by Christmas, though. It's a bonus, so the recipient will get it when the recipient gets it.

This will leave me with only 'optional' Christmas knitting left - little extras I had planned for some of my less knit-appreciative family. Oh, and the weaving in of ends. Looooots of ends to weave in. I didn't do it as I went along, and well. Looooots of ends to weave in. Boo.

We got our first snow for the year yesterday morning:

Not very impressive, but enough to make me smile. More is supposedly coming this week, but I'm very concerned about it because I have a plane to catch this weekend. Last year we flew out right after the big blizzard and we were delayed in the airport for hours thanks to all the previous flights that had been cancelled. Hope we won't get stuck again this year! Also, I think my two coworkers that have done most of the work for the Christmas party planning may leap off a building if the party gets cancelled due to snow for the second year in a row.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Already Overbooked

Whenever I don't have time to knit, or if I'm stuck knitting something really plain, I do a lot of looking at knitting and daydreaming about knitting, and I've come to the realization that 2011 is going to be kind of packed on the knitting front. I have SO many things I want to knit! This is not unusual, I always have a ton of things I want to knit. I actually don't use my ravelry queue very much because my queue is so fluid - some projects I knit right away, some are on my list for ages before I get to them. I generally use my 'favorites' button to keep track of patterns I'm interested in so I can revisit them later.

But, this year things are a little different. I've become a little more active in the social aspect of Ravelry, and I've now got a list of projects with corresponding knitalongs that give me a little bit more of a timeline. With that in mind...holy cow my time is filling up fast!!

So here's a list of things I'm looking at knitting so far in 2011

1., 2., and 3. - Romi's Seven Small Shawls
Knitting through these ebook patterns with the Romi group on Ravelry has been a ton of fun, and I plan to knit along right through to the end. All three designs should be finished by the new year, but they won't be through test knitting and ready for release until January at least. I don't know Romi's exact plans but I expect (and hope) she will give us some time between releases. We run knitalongs on the Romi group for each Romi project and I think if she released all three of them at once the rest of the mods and I might go a little crazy.

5. and 6. Romi's Pins and Lace Club

Romi's Pins and Lace patterns ship in January and April (perfect for my birthday!!), and I haven't even finished the pattern from October of this year!! I feel behind already. Sevillano is gorgeous, though, and is number one on my to-knit list when I get back from Christmas. If I'm lucky I'll be able to bust a move and get it mostly finished before the new one ships. Totally doable, right? Right?? (really this should probably be 5, 6, 7, and 8, but I can't remember when the other two installments ship, and thinking about it is overwhelming me a we'll just not worry about those other two for the time being, hmm??)

7. The Light and Dark Lace Club by The Yarnarian and Zen Yarn Garden

Y'all, I love mystery knits. Don't ask me why. On the surface, it's completely crazy. Why would I spend good knitting time working on a product that I may not even like in the end?? Yet the surprise is so much fun. I love it. And the trick, I've found, is to pick mystery knitalongs from designers whose work you like in the past.

Now, having said that, I have never actually knit any patterns from this designer and I'm not that familiar with her work. But I AM familiar with Roxanne of Zen Yarn Garden's fabulous yarns, and I couldn't resist this idea. I stay away from clubs in general because there's too much commitment involved, but this bi-monthly club is pay as you go, if you want to - you don't have to purchase every club package and you don't have to pay for multiple months up front. And $26 strikes me as a very reasonable price for a fun surprise showing up in my mailbox in February, one of the dreariest of months. The yarn will be mailed in February and the pattern will come in installments after that. This was a little Christmas present to myself. I picked the pussywillow colorway.

8. Galadriel's Mirror from Sunflower Designs (from the designer of Evenstar)

Remember what I said about finding a designer whose work speaks to you? Susan's work speaks to me, and I LOVE this pattern. But, I have to find the right yarn for it. It uses a fingering weight, and I have plenty of fingering weight yarn, but none in sufficient quantities for this piece and none in a color that I find sufficient. Based on the book's description of the mirror, , I'm thinking I would like a silver yarn with a hint of blueand I'm thinking a silk blend would be great for a little added shimmer. OH. What about Hand Maiden Silk Twist?? Ooooooooh. I must think on this. Maybe in Silver or Stardust. I'll have to come back to this idea. Knitty-Noddy has it in Salt Spray, that would be pretty awesome too...They only have two, though, I would need three. Anyway, no knitalong for this one, so I don't have to worry about keeping up with anybody - meaning this one will probably get knit later in the year, towards the summer or fall.

9. Two Towers Mystery Knitalong - In Dreams from Sunflower Designs

Evenstar was the mystery knitalong for the Fellowship of the Ring, and Susan has just announced Galadriel's Crown, the mystery knitalong for the Two Towers Collection. I'm not sure I'm going to buy the whole collection this time around, but I definitely plan to participate in the mystery knitalong again. This one will be designed for Unique Sheep Gradiance colorways, which I've wanted to try, so that will be exciting. Unique Sheep has several LOtR themed colorways, too, so I might have to try one of those - but we'll see what speaks to me. I have very specific color associations with various locations and characters in LOtR (also they have neither a Lothlorien or a Galadriel colorway at this time, so I figure I have free reign). I'm kind of thinking maybe Lemon Drop - I associate golds much more strongly with Galadriel and Lothlorien than greens. But, I'm not sure I would wear yellow all that much, either. Maybe Moonlight in the Garden? Decisions decisions. I'll have to do some Ravelry searches and see how these colorways knit up, I think.

10. Limestone One Skein Triangle Shawl

I have a skein of fingering weight cashmere just waiting to become this shawl. Again, no scheduled knitalong for this one, so it'll be a floating project. I do kind of like to have one fingering weight shawl on the needles for when I need a break from the really fine lacework, and I think this one will be perfect. Also, cashmere.

11. Bitterroot by Romi

I've loved this design ever since it was released in Knitty, but I haven't made it yet, and I'd really like to.

12. Fiori di Sole by Romi

I was planning to do this over the holidays, but since I've ended up with so many other projects I don't know if I'll have the chance!! I still want to do it, but I'm not sure when it will happen. This is a big shawl and it's perfect vacation knitting but I think it might drive me a little crazy to only work on in small pieces. Clearly, I just need to plan another vacation so I can knit it.

13. Midsummer Night's Dream

This one has been on my to-knit list forever, but I refuse to knit it until I find the perfect yarn, and I haven't yet.

I could add more to this list but I think this is really quite sufficient, don't you?? Designers, I understand you need to make a living and the only way for you to do that is to design as fast as the mills can churn out graph paper, but do you think you could maybe tone it down just a leeeeetle bit so I can keep up???

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Squash and Stretch

Running pretty low on blog fodder this week. All I really have is this:

My snowflake scarf is growing at a snail's pace, or at least that's how it feels lately. When I first started, it seemed like it was growing by leaps and bounds, but no more. I set it down to measure on Saturday before I started working, and I was at 33 inches. I placed a marker on that row so I could see how much progress I'd made. I worked until I had a more then the length of my middle finger (approximately 3 inches) between the marker and the needle and stopped and measured, just to feel good.

33 inches. WHAT.

I fumed, moved my marker, and knit some more, maybe about an inch and a half as measured against my pinky finger (approximately two inches. yes, I have measured my fingers so that I can use them to estimate. don't judge me). Measured again. 38 inches.

It was clear that the scarf was toying with me at that point. I thought about it for a moment, and laid the scarf out on the couch, smoothed lengthwise, and measured it. 38 inches. Then I smoothed it widthwise, and measured it. It shrank considerably in length.

I sighed. The guage on this scarf is very loose (on purpose) and the slightest little puff or tug or even the weight of the scarf as it hangs from the needle changes the length (and, correspondingly, the width). Since I am going to have to block it with some stretch in the width in order to open up the snowflake panels, the scarf simply isn't as long as I think it is. I think I'm going to have to knit it longer than I thought so that it's still an appropriate length when blocked. I could cheat and just let it be short, but the coworker who is to receive this scarf is a 6'2" Amazon, so I can't really skimp too much. I will just have to suck it up and accept that I have to knit more.

I could have made a lot more progress this weekend, but I was pretty lazy overall. From now on it's run run run with family events and preparations for my church concert, so I took it pretty easy this weekend. Plus, frankly...everything I have left to knit is boring. This is appropriate, considering how little time I have left to get everything done, but I find myself putting it down frequently to hop on the internet, or try to find something better on TV, or what have you. What I really need is some self-discipline and a few good movies. Oh, and a Starbucks attached to my house.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Planning is always the fun part

I have become quite the unfaithful knitter, lately. Normally I don't have that many projects of the same type (that distinction is very important) going on at once. I have a variety of different knitting projects - complicated lace, TV knitting, mindless knitting, and I usually have only one project in any given type at a time. But somehow in the last few months I haven't done as well at keeping the startitis at bay.

In a little over two weeks I'll be on my annual pilgrimage to my parents' for Christmas, and I hope to get in quite a lot of knitting. So, I started thinking about what I'm going to take with me, and I went over my projects to decide what goes and what stays.

1. Sevillano
My love for this shawl knows no bounds, but alas, I don't think it can accompany me. No beads to worry about, but 100% silk does not travel well and this shawl really, really needs attention and alertness. Sevillano, my beloved, will have to stay at home.

2. Bluebird
This one's going with me. I'm thinking about taking it for the plane, actually. It's not too big and I'm working the center panel with its billions of repeats. I think I've done 10 repeats out of 30 something. It's not too complicated and I have the chart (sort of) memorized, so I won't get totally lost if I have to stop in the middle of something for boarding or what have you. This plus an audiobook should make my plane flight bearable - assuming TSA doesn't take my needles. I hope they won't, they never have before, but I'm going to make sure I have cable caps with me just in case.

3. Phoenix Rising.
I think I'll definitely take this one along too. At its current stage, it's really too large to work with on the plane, and the center panel is beaded, but it should be fine for working in the car or at my parents house. We're driving to my grandparents' this year so in addition to the plane, there will be quite a bit of car time. I should have enough room in the car for everything I need, and with the help of superfloss I should be able to keep the beads under control, since there are so few of them anyway. The rows are huge on this one and it's a long slog to get through it, so some enforced time with it in the form of a long car trip may be what it takes to get this thing done.

4. Simone
I'm wavering on this one. On the one hand, it's been sitting there a while and I'd love to be able to wear it before summer gets here again. On the other hand, it means taking a lot of yarn with me and I don't want to increase the wear on the sweater before I even get to put it on by carting it around in a suitcase. I think Simone will have to stay.

5. Esplanade Hat
Easy, mindless. Not a lot of work left on this one at all. I think I'll take it with me, I think on the last one it took me about the length of a movie to get from where I am now to the crown decreases, so it might be handy to have around. It's small, too, so it won't be a big deal to take it with me.

6. Follow the Leader Faroese Shawl
Eh...I don't know about this one. I'm not in love with this project. I bought the yarn not long after I first started knitting, and it just doesn't really do anything for me. The yarn itself is fine, but the color is just blah. I don't know what I was thinking. I've actually debated frogging this project and giving the yarn a new home, but it makes good mindless knitting, with only the center panel taking any attention, so I thought I might as well slog through it and get it done. I don't know if it's trip-worthy, though - socks and the Esplanade hat are easier to carry around for mindless stuff. This one will still be here when I get back.

7. Socks
I'll definitely be taking socks with me. I have three pair started (not counting the socks I showed in the last post, which I really hope will be finished BEFORE I leave), which is pretty unusual for me. I have categories of socks as well as with the rest of my knitting, and I often have a patterned sock and a plain sock in progress at the same time, but for me to have more than one set of plain socks going at once is very unusual. Well, two of the pairs are only at the cuff of the first sock, so I suppose I could start a pattern on one and then it won't be so bad. We'll see.

That's a lot of knitting, but here's how crazy - er, I mean, optimistic - I am. I have two projects unstarted that I want to take with me. One is Fiori di Sole, a Romi project that I've been dying to do for ages and was specifically saving for this vacation, and the other is the Limestone One Skein Triangle Shawl. I was given a skein of ZYG fingering weight cashmere as a gift some time ago that I think would be perfect for the Limestone shawl.

So much to knit, and so little time! Maybe I'm being way overly optimistic, but while I may not get to the new projects I wanted to start, I do hope I'll be able to clear out that WIP queue a bit. I'm almost certain I can finish Bluebird, I'm pretty sure I can finish Phoenix Rising, and I think I can do all that and still finish the hat.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It begins

Well, last week there was enough stuff for two blog posts, and this week I don't even have enough for one!! I did plenty of knitting but most if it is not bloggable. All I have is one crappy iphone pic of a gift for someone that I am fairly sure doesn't read this blog:

That is the first sock in the pair, but you can pretend it is the second sock, since I have since finished the first and the second is now pretty much exactly in the same state that the first one was at the time of this picture.

I made significant progress on the snowflake scarf. That thing grows at an unbelievable rate. It's very satisfying. Other than that, I have knit one item that I can't speak about. Yesterday I intended to start a second item of which I may not speak, but I am stupid and while I took the yarn and the pattern with me, I forgot the needles. So I had to work on the above sock instead, for a certain Hokie fan I work with. It's a little embarassing to carry it around, since I went to UVA, but you do what you have to for the people you love. WAHOO-WA!

I have one more secret item to knit and then I have a list of things it would be nice to finish. I intended to make my mother these mitts last year, and I never got past winding the yarn. I've considered making a hat and gloves for my brother. He turned up his nose at the handwarmers I made him a while back, but I found one in the laundry room the other day, which suggested it had been in use. I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself for those pieces, though. IF I get to them, they'll be stocking stuffers, and if I don't get to them I won't worry about it.

I'm at a bit of a loss for my nonknitted gifts, though, and the temptation to think, 'I'll just knit them something' is growing, even though I know that my list, while currently manageable, could rapidly become totally out of control.

I love Christmas, but I do kind of dread December. It's just too packed and rushed for me, but none of the things that make it so are things I'm really willing to give up - except for the stuff that comes from the office. Those things I would love to give up, but can't!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm not crazy, I'm just committed.

I had a lovely weekend adventure that started when I saw a note, or a tweet, or something, that said Dragonfly Fibers would be having a trunk show at Cloverhill Yarn Shop this past weekend. I really like Cloverhill, I look for their booth at MD Sheep and Wool when I go, because they carry a lot of independent dyers during the show. They don't carry them as often or consistently, as I understand it, during the rest of the year, but they do carry a lot of other yarns I like. They're about an hour and a half away so I don't get out there often, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

The SO's interest in yarn is limited but I have managed to infect his mother, so we made it a family day trip and the two of us set out with all three of the men in the family in tow to check out Cloverhill and hang for a bit in Catonsville (this phenomenon never ceases to amaze me, since I would have a hard time dragging my mother along, let alone my father and brother). A friend of mine got married out there last year and we thought the town was charming. It ended up being a bit cold and we were a bit short on time to look around like we wanted too, but it was still fun.

On the trip there I worked on these socks:

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which are for a coworker of mine. I was in that frustrating sock stage between the gusset and the toe, where it's just plain easy knitting, but you have to constantly stop and measure to see if you've gone far enough. This is a prime opportunity for the infamous knitting black hole, where you knit and knit and it just doesn't get any bigger.

So, imagine my surprise, when we are most of the way to the shop and I measure and find that I am suddenly out of the black hole and my socks are almost done, leaving me facing the prospect of no knitting for the ride home. I have nothing left to knit but the toe and that is not a job sufficient for the duration of the trip home.

Well, not such a big deal I suppose. We're going to a yarn store. I'll just ask the shop to wind one of the skeins I buy and then I'll start another pair of socks on the way home. I feel marginally guilty as I resolve this, as I have another pair of socks on the needles already for another coworker, and, in fact, I had another pair for the SO cast on sitting on 'holding' needles waiting for me to finish these gift socks, AND I have a single sock finished at home and waiting for its mate to be knit. But none of those projects were with me, which made for a perfect excuse to start a new project.

I loved the Dragonfly Fibers show, I wanted to take home everything on the table. However, money is a bit tight and I was determined to be reasonable, so I spent a lot of time changing my mind, picking things up, putting things down, switching things, and fretting over whether I was going to regret leaving some things behind. I spent a lot of time considering what colorways I already had at home in the stash, which resulted in me very regretfully leaving behind a skein of Dragonberry that I really wanted. I stayed away from the greens and blues also since I knew I had several good greens and blues at home. I hovered around the Gaia Lace in Black Pearl, which was so soft and shiny and beautiful, but also pricey enough that if I got that, I wouldn't be able to afford anything else. I really like Djinni Sock (readers may remember I bought a skein at Fyber Space a while ago, and while I haven't knitted with it, it still makes me happy) so I gravitated towards that the most. Ultimately, I ended up buying 3 skeins.

I plan to use Djinni Sock in Pink Hydrangea and Dark Flannel Pajamas:

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To make the next shawl in the 7 Small Shawl series. Only a little has been revealed thus far, but we know it will be striped, and I thought these two colors would go really well together. So I'm saving them for that.

I bought another skein of Pink Hydrangea that was very, very different from the skein shown above, much more brown with just a touch of pink, and, in accordance with my plan, had the skein wound before I left the store.

We found a local place to eat, had dinner - and then things got a little silly. We had a couple more errands to run and I was frantically trying to finish the toe of my sock before the light was totally gone. That didn't happen, so I did learn that it's possible to SSK in the dark. I have a little flashlight that goes over my ear, but of course, it was at home, because I was perfectly convinced when we left that afternoon that I was going to be knitting the sock for the rest of my life and I don't need a light to knit plain stockinette. There were some incidents and I borrowed the SO's cell phone more than once (my battery was dead) for light. Then, when I had finished the toe, I didn't have an embroidery needle with me, so I borrowed a crochet hook and a flashlight from the front seat, and just pulled the yarn through the stitches to hold them until I got home. Then I cast on by flashlight, joined my knitting, returned the flashlight and crochet hook, and I was off knitting again. I got maybe four rounds done before we got back. Part of me knew I was being silly, but I couldn't stop. It's a sickness. But the nascent sock is quite lovely.

Knitting - 123

Many moons ago, another coworker of mine requested a sparkly white snowflake scarf. I bought the yarn for it at the time but never actually made the scarf (and we are talking many, many moons ago), and I was feeling guilty this weekend so I got started. I didn't find a satisfactory pattern so I'm kind of making it up as I go along. Because I don't want this to take forever, I've decided to put a stockinette lace snowflake panel on each end of the scarf and knit the rest of the darn thing in garter stitch. I'm using the free snowflake pattern for knitted greeting cards on this page. The chart is 31 stitches wide and I added five stitches on each side in garter stitch to keep it from rolling.

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The yarn is Ice Yarns Kid Mohair Lurex in white on size 8 needles. I'm really liking the effect and I think the end result will be very nice. I was worried I would go insane before it was done, but it actually seems to be ripping along very nicely, so that the picture above, taken Sunday night, is now really, really out of date. I finished the snowflake panel and continued on in garter stitch as planned, and I have about 20 total inches of scarf done. I expect there to be a fair amount of mindless knitting time available this weekend due to travelling time and other stuff, so I'm hoping I can make really good progress on this scarf and another pair of socks for a different coworker (my coworkers are making out like bandits this year, aren't they?) Then I should probably focus on the family knitting. I can't fully disclose my plans in this forum, but there are plans and I'm probably not doing myself any favors by not having worked on them yet. I always prefer to give gifts before I go away on vacation, but I have become somewhat resigned to giving out New Years presents.

The other big accomplishment this weekend was blocking Elektra, and so I leave you now with best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving, and may you be as happy with your end results as I am.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Hard is a four-letter word

I love coming to the blog when I have been a good girl and taken pictures and dutifully prepared blog fodder. In fact, I promise a bonus blog entry this week, because I have so much to share that it seems criminal to cram it all in one post. I blog once a week because I work full time and so I can't get enough knitting done during the week to be worth talking about. But, this week and weekend were so crammed full of knitting and craft-related activities that I have lots to share. This has, unfortunately, resulted in a complete neglect of housework, laundry, and all things responsible.

The last installment of Romi's 2010 Pins and Lace club has been released into the wild, the lovely October design Sevillano (Rav link).

I love this design, I think it's gorgeous, I adore the flowing design motifs on the outside of the shawl, and the only thing holding me back from casting on right away was trying to figure out the right yarn. I went shopping last weekend and came up empty, and then when I was fretting about what to get (and the money I was probably going to spend), the SO asked, very reasonably, whether I didn't have anything in the stash I could use.

I was in the middle of impatiently telling him that OF COURSE I didn't have anything in the stash, when I stopped right in the middle of the sentence and shut my mouth, because I remembered this.

Knitting - 021

You may remember it from my inappropriate glee for having scored it at half price at the Knit Happens closing sale (let us have a moment of silence for a very worthy yarn store that has now passed on....aaand we're done). This is Shaefer Andrea 100% silk in colorway Barbara McClintock. Does the word 'perfect' come to mind or what?

So I did what any knitter would do.

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Conscience pricked a little, so I finished Elektra before I actually cast on (more on that in the bonus post), but I didn't wait much longer than that.

Now, as a rule, I shy away from calling anything 'hard' because in my experience, people get intimidated when they hear something is 'hard' and quit before they even try. I have done dozens of supposedly hard things in my knitting career simply because I didn't know they were supposed to be hard. I think the worst thing anyone can do, especially a teacher (and although I am not a teacher, I find myself in that role fairly often in regards to knitting), is to tell someone else that something is hard.

And, frankly, it is very rare that I run something while knitting that is truly hard. The great thing about knitting is that it can be broken down into very tiny steps, and when you can do that something that seems to be hard is quickly downgraded to merely challenging. Such is the case with this pattern. It's challenging. This is not something you knit on the bus while chatting with your friends. It's something you knit at home, in good light, while awake and alert, so that you can break it down to the point where it becomes manageable. Taken one stitch at a time, it is very, very accomplishable.

With that said, I managed to screw it up several times. The good news is that this pattern is built from the point up, so that in the process of figuring out that this is not your average lace pattern, you only screw up a small number of stitches, so you can just rip it out and try again. Which is what I did. Twice.

Then I started giving the pattern its proper respect, got into the flow of things, and tooled along quite well. Then, as I was sitting on the couch being ignored by my boyfriend, who was deep in the throws of a Starcraft match, I realized that something didn't look right. I waited for his match to finish and made him pay attention to me for a minute while we put our heads together and figured out that I had, in fact, screwed up. To the great credit of his patience and knit-friendliness, he was the one who actually figured out what the problem was - or at least, where it was, which allowed me to figure out what it was.

Knitting - 108

The stitch markers in that photo mark the center stitch, and if you follow it down you will see that it ends in a yarn over. All seems well until you look at the unholy mess of string beneath the yarn over, which is what first alerted me that there was a problem. If you look at the arc of yarnovers to the left of that center stitch, you may be able to see there's a stray yarnover that's out of line. These two mistakes do not appear to be on the same row, but they are. Because of this shawl's ingenious construction, even though it's knit from the point up, it looks like a shawl that was knit from the center back. Because of this same construction, the rows tend to form themselves into arcs as you work, as you can see from the way the cable curves. So if you draw an arc from that stray yarnover to the mess below the center stitch, they are in fact in the same row.

Now, I'm not afraid of a little laddering and lace surgery, but it was clear to me that this was going to be beyond my skill for that and I was going to have to rip out. And, naturally, in my arrogance (or laziness, you decide) I hadn't put in any lifelines - but I have a solution for this problem.

I put the shawl away for the evening and the next afternoon, rested, well-fed, and mentally sharp (or as close as I had a hope of getting), I assembled my tools.

Knitting - 109

Mint optional. It just happens to be what I had.

Then I took a deep breath and took the shawl off the needles.

Knitting - 110

Scary. Then I carefully ripped back to what appeared to be the problem row, which, as it happened, was the row just above the row in which I purled my nupp stitches together. This made an easy reference point for when to stop.

Then I picked up my embroidery needle, threaded with dental floss, and took hold of the working yarn and pulled carefully, picking up each stitch on the embroidery needle as the working yarn slipped out of it. I couldn't take a picture of that part because my man was off pursuing his own hobby, Go, and was not around to assist me.

Knitting - 112

The sun was setting by now, and I was concentrating too hard to close the blinds, thus the dramatic lighting. Sorry about that. But it gives you the idea. I did find that because of the way the shawl tended to curve, it helped to occasionally pause and pull the needle up so that all the stitches were on the floss, allowing me to manipulate the angle of the needle a little more freely.

At last, I had all the stitches on the floss, or at least close to it. Sometimes when I do this the stitches drop a row despite my best efforts, and I end up with the row below it on my needle for a couple of stitches, but that is one reason I try to make the row I am picking up a purl row, because it makes those problems easier to fix. Sevillano does have some lace patterning even on wrong side rows, but it wasn't too bad and I was very careful, so I did good - I think I may have lost a yarnover or two but again, easily fixed.

Knitting - 113

Then I picked up my needles and followed the floss with the needle tip. If a stitch tried to dip, I pulled the floss taught and the stitches popped right back up where they belonged.

Knitting - 115

But Ninja, I hear you ask - why not just pick up the stitches with the needle in the first place.

Well, dear reader, that is a lesson I learned the hard way. The embroidery needle is so thin that it really doesn't put any stress on the stitches at all. I found that when I used the knitting needle to pick up the stitches, I inevitably jerked the loop of yarn out of the next stitch or two. Or five. The embroidery needle slides through neatly. I do recommend a slightly blunt needle so that you don't stab right through the stitch. The embroidery needle is shorter and more maneuverable than a knitting needle, and the dental floss doesn't pull or weigh down the project as you're working with it.

Once I had the needle completely through the project, I slid the whole thing to the cable and pulled the dental floss out (I find it's easier if the project is on the cable, so the floss has plenty of room to slide out).

Knitting - 116

I was then able to knit back up to where I was. If you compare the picture below with the first picture up top, you should be able to see the difference very easily. Now if you follow the center stitch down, it ends in that yarnover, but the stitches beneath it are tight and happy, not all stringy and loose and wonky.

Knitting - 117

Just to add insult to injury, as it turned out, the mistake was a dropped M1 stitch. My loathing of the M1 increase is well known, and I will sub it out any time I can, but in this pattern I thought it was best to do the increases as written. Clearly this M1 chose to take vengeance for all the vitriol I have uttered against its kind, and leaped off the needles while I wasn't looking. I didn't find the mistake because I did an extra yarnover in the same row, so I still had the right number of stitches when I worked the following row. One of the things I find challenging about this pattern is that I have been trained by all my lace knitting that decreases are paired with yarn overs, and in this pattern, there are several decreases who either have no yarn over or whose matching yarn overs take place further down the row. It's so ingrained in me that I should yarn over after a knit two together or before an ssk, that I do it without thinking. This has caused me problems before on patterns where the yarn over is on a side of the decrease that I didn't expect (for example, if the instruction is to ssk and then yarn over instead of the other way around).

Well. Problem solved, and I am moving onward with this beautiful (yet challenging) pattern. And let me encourage anyone reading this not to let the difficulty put you off from trying the pattern. If beauty were easy the world would be full of supermodels.

Most of the individual stitch techniques used in this shawl, such as nupps and twists, have been demonstrated on youtube, but I couldn't find a demo video for the triple yarn over stitch, so I made one, with the help of a trusty accomplice.

That's it for today - bonus post to come later this week!

ETA: Mercy, you guys, did I ever forget to spell check before posting. I promise I am not a complete moron, I just compose in Wordpad which doesn't highlight misspelled words, and I forgot to hit the spell check before I published the posts. I apologize for the crimes committed against the English language in the original version of this post. If you're reading this since this edit, you will be forever doomed to wonder what horrible mistakes I made, and I'm totally okay with that.

Monday, November 15, 2010

10 in 2010

I apologize for the blog silence last week. My little Ella lost her fight with kidney disease and I had no room in my mind for anything else. I will truly miss her. I am now petless and the house is just not the same. I keep looking for her on the end of the couch.

New Addition

Puppy Loaf

Portrait of a Princess on a Velvet Cushion

Bed Hair

Knitting - 083

Okay, that was hard. Now let's talk about knitting. A group of knitters on Ravelry decided, at the beginning of the year, to take on the challenge of knitting 10 shawls in 2010. I did not join the group, but it seems I should have.

1. Frost Diamonds

2. Hanami

3. Brandywine

4. Merope
Knitting - 002

5. Maia
Knitting - 002-2

6. Evenstar
Knitting - 014

7. Summer Flies
Knitting - 026

8. Celaeno
Knitting - 062

Elektra is soooooooo close to finished! I will finish the bind-off tonight and it will be done! As you can see from the numbers, I am not quite there yet, but there are certainly enough 'almost done' projects on my needles that I think I can get there yet.

Then 10 in 10 group is planning to do an 11 in 11 challenge - maybe I will unintentionally participate in that one too!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Long Awaited

Against my will, I had a rather productive knitting weekend. I, along with a snillion other folks on the Romi's Studio Ravelry forum, have been waiting anxiously the release of Elektra, the fourth installment in the 7 Small Shawls ebook subscription. I kept my phone with me all week, waiting for the little e-mail that would tell me I had a pattern update to download. I even took my yarn with me when we went visiting on Thursday evening, just in case.

On Friday there was still no pattern. I worked on socks for my coworker on Friday night, while watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which I am just now getting around to seeing. This resulted in a sock that was over an inch longer than intended when I put it away for the night with a sigh.

Saturday I woke up, rolled over, turned on my laptop (don't ask why my laptop lives in my bed. isn't that what they were invented for?) and checked - no pattern. Disappointed, I, like many others, turned to my WIP pile for comfort. The SO was out at a Go tournament all day so I was pretty much left to entertain myself.

I divided the body and sleeves for my Simone sweater while watching the Project Runway finale on my DVR.

Knitting - 102

I watched The Perfect Storm and picked up the provisional cast on for my second Esplanade hat, and knit through the remaining stripes so that from now on, it is all stockinette in one color until the decreases.

Knitting - 103

I turned on a Halloween NCIS marathon, picked up a lifeline in the too-long sock, ripped it back to where I was supposed to have stopped, knit the toe and did the cast on and some of the ribbing for the second sock.

Knitting - 106

SO came home, we went out, ate dinner, came home. Still no pattern. Worked on the socks until bedtime.

Rolled over Sunday morning around 6:15, sleepily turned on my laptop just in case, and THERE IT WAS. That beautiful little line under my Ravelry user name, wriggling in its excitement to tell me that I had a new message. Pattern update! Elektra was out at last! And people were already working on her! And I had to go to church.

So I went to church, had lunch (checking the Rav forums on my phone when no one was looking and tapping my foot for the check), went to Starbucks (where there was, of course, an unholy line JUST FOR ME), and came home to find my little Ella had been very sick while I was gone. I freaked out a little bit, cleaned her up, cleaned her bed up, worried, tried to get her to eat something, and finally gave up and let her go back to sleep. (She did eat dinner that evening and kept it down, as well as breakfast this morning, so I'm hoping she's recovering. We think the antibiotics we gave her a few days ago affected her poor tummy.) I sat down and, at last, started Elektra.

Knitting - 099

That's all I had done by the end of the night. This baby was built for beauty, not speed, I'm afraid. But a beauty she is!

Knitting - 101

Knitting - 100

All other projects in process have been dropped like a hot rock...which may mean that some people are getting yarn and promises for Christmas. Sorry guys. Priorities!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just Keep Swimming

This week is busy busy. I have a lot going on at work so things are a little hectic here. I have a deadline I have to meet on Wednesday, which will hopefully give me some breathing room.

I don't have much to show for the past week. I've been working on my second Esplanade hat and making fair progress. I'm to the point now where I have to take out the provisional cast on and fold under the hidden brim. I've been working on a sock for my coworker that's been my mindless knitting for a while now. I'm getting close to the toe.

He had surgery last week, which was my reason for knitting him socks, but obviously they will be quite late. I'm thinking about saving them for Christmas.

Really, the highlight of my knitting mania this week has been anticipating the release of Elektra. In fact, my plan was for this post to be titled "All Wound Up" and to feature my newly wound yarn for Elektra. We are having a grand old time on the @Romi's Studio Ravelry Group, sharing pictures of yarn and beads and arguing over when we want the release to happen. I'm hoping it'll come out either early on Thursday or late on Wednesday, after all my work madness has passed.

I didn't have as much knitting time this weekend as usual. I took my little Ella to the vet to get her kidney checkup, and then I went shopping for a new dress to wear out that evening. We had plans for dinner and dancing. I did find a dress and I wore it with my Celaeno shawl.


We had a lovely time, but I was tired and footsore on Sunday. I couldn't manage anything more complicated than my Esplanade hat and a lot of knitting time was wasted in a fruitless attempt to nap.

I put off posting yesterday in hopes that I would have some additional pictures to include, but I was just too darn tired. I worked on my Bluebird a little, I'm in the middle section now so it's not too complicated. It's a little discouraging to make so little progress for the week, especially because I have soooooo many projects on the needles. I think my little bout of startitis is finally starting to get the better of me and I'm growing a little frustrated with the number of WIPS I have going on. This won't stop me from starting Elektra as soon as it comes out, of course, but I am probably going to set aside part of this weekend to take care of some of the projects that are stalled because I need some dedicated time and attention. The Esplanade hat will be easy, carry-around knitting once I get the brim folded over and joined, and my Simone sweater is sitting around waiting for me to divide the sleeves and body. Once Elektra is finished I will take another crack at the Phoenix shawl, which is, you may remember, at the ever-frustrating "so close yet so far" stage.

However I have a feeling some of this stuff may get set aside for Christmas knitting. I don't usually do too much Christmas knitting, since the number of people in my life who receive my knitted stuff with the appreciation it deserves is fairly limited. But, I do have some plans this year. It's already awfully late in the year, though, so we'll see how much of it gets accomplished. I may have to put away some of my unfinished projects until those items are done.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time Passes

Another week with a bonus blog post...I'm feeling talkative, it seems.

October is almost over. ALREADY. Wasn't it just the first of October, like yesterday? I'm feeling a little bit of Christmas panic set in. The next two months are always very busy for me. In November there is of course Thanksgiving, and also our annual fall church retreat. In December there is my company Christmas party, our church Christmas musical (I am part of the church choir) along with all its prep and rehearsals, and of course, Christmas itself, to include preChristmas activites with local friends since I am out of town for Actual Christmas, and then travelling to my parents' for Actual Christmas. Time to really sit down and figure out how I'm going to tackle the Christmas gifts this year. Usually I try not to do too much knitting, because it's too easy to get overwhelmed and because the range of knit-appreciating folks in my life is actually rather limited.

I have a little bit of a head start this year as I have two Christmas presents finished already, so that makes me feel good. I'm thinking I need to make a pair of socks and a pair of handwarmers also.

Part of the problem is also that I am a selfish knitter. I love to keep the things I make. The bluebird shawl is an example - I'm not sure it's a great color for me, and I know someone who it would be perfect for, but I just don't know if I can give it up. Now, there are times when I see a pattern I think someone would love, that would be absolutely perfect for them, and I just can't stand to NOT knit it and give it to them. But otherwise...HANDS OFF. IT'S ALL MINE.

Knitting - 085

This makes me a little sad and annoyed with myself since I often wish I could give someone a shawl when they are going through a rough time. And in fact there have been times where somebody asked me to contribute knitwear to a charity or something and they make the request in a way that shows they think I just have spare knitwear lying around - like, I make socks and stick them in a pile somewhere instead of wearing them or giving them away. It's a little perplexing to me. But I don't work that way, all of my knitwear is knit with intent, either to keep or to give to someone in particular. It's true that I'm a process knitter and I really like just the act of making things, but knitting something for no reason at all seems kind of odd to me. Anyway, this makes it hard to keep up, since by the time I finish making a shawl for someone the event which inspired me to make it has usually passed on.

Anyway, I digress. I can tell you one thing I am not going to give away, though. Romi's 4th shawl from the 7 Small Shawls E-book finally has a name, and it's out at the test knitters now. When I heard that I figured I better get a hustle on to get ready. I had planned to use some stash but I didn't have anything with the yardage required for this shawl. The designated yarn, Serenity Silk, has 500 yards to a skein, and I didn't have anything close. Now, I could have used a smaller skein, but I decided I would rather not. I don't want to have to stress about whether I have enough yarn and I don't want to make the shawl less than it was intended to be by having to bind off early or make a smaller one, so I just ponied up for the recommended yarn. Such a shame, having to buy yarn. I'm so heartbroken. I also ordered a couple of bead options, but I didn't want to go overboard and order a bunch of different kinds without having even seen the yarn in person. It turns out that I did well, I ordered two varieties and decided one of them was perfect. As it happens, they are the same beads that Romi used in her sample, silver-lined root beer.

This makes me happy since I wanted to stay in the same color family as Romi's shawl, but I wanted something darker and--well, less yellow. I'm not a yellow person. I got Mocchacino instead, which is a nice warm amber brown that I think will be very wearable.

Knitting - 090

I'm all set!

You know what's not getting any love? My poor Simone sweater.

Knitting - 087

There she is, just as I left her weeks ago. I finished the increases and I need to take some quiet time and go through the directions to divide the sleeves from the body. It won't be tonight, though, since I have to deliver these:

Knitting - 095

These are the washcloths I've been knitting all summer for the SERVE family shelter. One of my church ladies had invited me to this prayer shawl group that was knitting washcloths for their summer project, and though we haven't managed to go since the first meeting, I've still been working on my washcloths. This photo is pre-washing, and I have to say I got a lovely surprise when I washed them. These floppy washcloths shrank up and became firm and bouncy, and I was so delighted with the stack that I considered pretending that I never knew about the washcloth knitting so that I could keep them and use them for a squishy pillow at night. The unfortunate side of the shrinking is that they are not really square anymore, they're more rectangular, but now that I know, I'll know to make the next set a little longer. These are perfect hockey/movie theater knitting and now that I know how much fun they are post-washing, I might just have to make some for me. I certainly have quite a few balls of yarn left. I'm also not sure these are all that I had, though, because I really am sure I knit at least one red washcloth that's not in this stack. I checked the little basket that I keep my finished charity projects in rather thoroughly, though, so I'm not sure where that cloth ended up. I'll have to go through my knitting bags and see if I left one somewhere. I'm also reasonably sure I knit more than one out of the solid green and solid blue, but I'm really not sure. I didn't really keep track.

Oh, and did I mention, since I was ordering from ZYG anyway - I might have picked up an extra skein of sock yarn. Serenity 20, to be exact. 20% cashmere, yum. We all know I am a sucker for the 80/10/10 wool/cashmere/nylon blends, so a 70/20/10 blend? YES PLEASE. This is the Emerald Ice colorway.

Knitting - 094