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:

Knitting - 124

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:

Knitting - 122

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.

Knitting - 125

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.

Knitting - 118

Knitting - 119

Knitting - 120

Knitting - 121

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.

Knitting - 107

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!