Sunday, May 30, 2004

hipy papy bthuthdth thuthda bthuthdy

Pooh looked on admiringly.
"I'm just saying 'A Happy Birthday,'" said Owl carelessly.
"It's a nice long one," said Pooh, very much impressed by it.
"Well, actually, of course, I'm saying 'A Very Happy Birthday with love from Pooh.' Naturally it takes a good deal fo pencil to say a long thing like that."
"Oh, I see," said Pooh.
~from A.A.Milne's Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore's Birthday
My birthday was spent watching movies and winding balls of yarn using both of my birthday presents. You saw the little couch yesterday and today I would like to introduce you to pressie two:

Helen says, "Hello! Hello, Hi! I help."

Yep, her name is Helen (sounds helpful to me) and so far she has helped a lot. In fact, I am having a difficult time not winding up all my skeins. I have so far kept it to the few hand-dyed yarns that I really really really want to use (the shawl and two I got at MDS&WF).

I also got The Little Book of Scarves, for help with Christmas presents.

It is a cute design: a sturdy little box full of pattern cards (so you just take the specific card you are working on with you). There are not really any earth-shattering revelations as far as design, but what I really like is that for each scarf that features a pattern repeat the base multiple of stitches is listed so one can easily widen or narrow the scarf. I am surprised how often this helpful bit is left out. Many of the designs are so simple that "pattern" seems a bit of a stretch, but there are a couple of nice lace motifs and a great example of Feather and Fan done with the beautiful (and dear) Prism Light Stuff.

In knitting news: I have another FO!

My little Bottom's Up is done! The top is a little wonky for my taste, but I attribute that to using the slightly bulkier Kitchen Cotton. In any case, my nephew, at three years old, will hopefully not notice.

I am also on the very heels of the End of the Right Front... so maybe Monday will bring more Salt Peanuts news.

The weather here has been perfect. I hope it keeps up through next weekend: I will be volunteering with some coworkers at the National Race for the Cure. As Martha would say, "It's a good thing."

Friday, May 28, 2004

ready for feng shui

Here is my fabulously gooshy new lounge act. I don't even mind knitting on That Damnable Bucket when I sit on this wee couch.

Don't worry, I will get something colorful up on that wall soon. In the meantime, the comfort alone should improve the consistency of my stockinette stitch.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

slow and steady

wins the race? More like gets bored and resentful.

I have had to take a break from the Bucket. It is killing my hands. Now, I knew that it would because everyone who made this out of kitchen-y cotton said it would. Even Bonne Marie herself said not to use it. But I am stubborn and willful. [sigh]

See? Bad things happen when you try to use up the stash. I should've gone with my first instinct and purchased a Colinette Poncho kit (and then remembered I was making a bucket hat and purchased some yarn for that too).

In other news, Salt Peanuts is languishing with an almost-done right front, and the Eyelet Cardi is moving forward again at its sloth-on-quaaludes pace.

I am hopefully having a little loveseat delivered today. I have never owned a new loveseat (or couch, but we only have room for the apartment version). I am turning 31 on Saturday and figured it was about time to stop sitting around on folding chairs or lumpy futons. If all goes well, tonight I will be nestled in big cottony cushions with my feet up on a matching ottoman finishing up that right front. Cross your fingers.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

and a bit more enthusiasm brief:

I had a fabulous time with the Arlington, VA Stitch 'n' Bitchers. I only wish they were a bit closer, but I will be making an effort to get to at least every other meeting, because they seemed a friendly and supportive bunch. (Not to mention a cool group of women!)

Here is the lovely silk and wool for the shawl that will become my next gift to me:

I got the pattern from the most helpful Dorothy at Fiddlesticks. Owing to her service, speed, and nice packaging, I envision her getting more of my business!

My forty dollah camera surprisingly doesn't do the color justice (ha!) but take my word for it, it is a deep violet/grape blending through a dusty lilac and rose to darkish raspberry. It should be a lovely Autumny wrap.

Once I am done with the Salt Peanuts knitting... I got as far as the "at the same time" nightmare section of the right front last night at the SnB, and then only one basic sleeve (as basic as Ms. Avery can make one, anyway). Then I will begin my Lotus Blossom. She's no Charlotte, mind you, but she's allll mine!

At the SnB last night, Debbie mentioned the super cool Russian Join technique, and while it is probably not the best way to join summery cotton or tape yarns, we will be back into DK wools and such soon, so here is the link she passed on to the group: Russian Join**

**[And a hearty thank you to Vicky Peterson ("Mama Bear") for the great instructions in the first place! Be sure to check out her ingenious method of turning an electric mixer into a ball winder.]

Monday, May 24, 2004

Another WIP and some unfettered enthusiasm

I could hardly stand it. What, a whole week with only the two never-ending cardis?! But finally, the clouds broke, I reached my last increase and put one whole Eyelet Cardi sleeve down.

And because I apparently canNOT get enough of Bonne Marie's patterns, picked up a Bottom's Up Bucket for my nephew. Against all the sage advice on the blog circuit, I am using kitchen cotton (because it is what I had and I am making a concerted effort to use up some of the stash at least) along with some Classic Elite cotton. I just tonight finished the double strand... and I have a blister on my index finger to prove it. I had a lovely leather half-thimble for my thumb (which exploded from over-use on the Metro about a half an hour ago) but my index finger wanted to rough it. This is a tough cookie, boy! I am even concerned that my addi Ts won't last till the crown decreases, they are already so kinked at the connections from my mighty death grip.

Also, this weekend, my new knitty pal Lara (aka vibegrrl) and I took a trip over to Knit Happens! They are like the Saks of LYS's... so much Colinette and Jo Sharp and Debbie Bliss-erino and Rowan OH MY!

I had a tough time not buying one of everything (and two of a couple things), but luckily I was able to vaguely recall that things like rent need to be purchased as well, so I limited my enhancement to: Jo Sharp's The Holiday Island: Summer pattern book, two balls of D Bliss's cotton angora in a lovely muted fuschia, two balls of Lana Grossa Binario in Black (wasn't sure what to do with this—total impulse buy—but then I saw a cute little scarf on the KH blog... maybe that, or little evening mittlettes, or I could always go back and get two more and make both!) Oh, and two addi Ts for good luck. Like how I say "limited"? Sheesh.

The shop had a gorgeous shell floor model from the Jo Sharp book, knitted in her super soft Soho Summer Cotton. And I knew I had to have it (the picture is of the ¾ sleeve version, imagine it as the softest drapiest shell ever). But, at nearly $7 a skein even a shell was a bit steep. I figured I would get the book now and find a substitute yarn later. WELL, the knitting universe obviously wants me to make this shell, because later that night while I was surfing around comparing prices on Soho Summer (out of curiousity), what should I find at Personal Threads, but a 40% off sale on... Soho Summer! Needless to say I am not one who just spits at fate, so some of the lovely Thyme is on the way.

All the drama of more freakin' cotton and stash enhancement was way overshadowed by the fun trip there with Lara, the lovely lunch at Cosi (tandoori chicken salad—delish), and the narrow escape from Old Town's one-way streets. Our next adventure will hopefully involve KIP and pedicures à la Veronik Avery (for those of you following along, that means at the same time)! It was really excellent to be able to talk to someone besides my Sweet Baboo about knitting. Can we say it again? YAY blogs!

Now, it is practically tomorrow and I haven't flashed my shawl-to-be OR blabbed onandonandon about how much fun the SnB in Arlington was... so, please, if you haven't flipped the channel yet, stay tuned...

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Blogging buddies

I never mentioned how the Monday meeting went because I am a HUGE dork and it happens next Monday. [blush]

But, after my post about not knowing any other knitters in town, the most amazing thing happened: A knitter in town left a comment and said, hey let's get together and knit! Blogs, I tell ya... so cool.

Turns out that SnBs are not the only sit and knit options around. hosts nearly every imaginable type of meeting, including knitting, and there is a Montgomery County, MD group of knitters. What luck! (Many of you out there probably already knew this, but bear with me.) So last night, I went to knit and meet.

Oddly enough, both of the folks I talked with most of the evening were bloggers. Totally unplanned. I rapped with the lively Lara of vibegrrl and Michelle of mimoknits who had the most beautiful Mission Falls cotton WIP. (Unfortunately, I didn't know she was a blogger until after the fact.) She spoke of getting this really great wool from Brooks Farm at MDSW&F... I was able to see it on her blog and confirm that it was indeed the vendor that I was drooling over after running out of cash. (But there's always Rhinebeck!)

One of the best things about the evening (aside from the enjoyable company) was feeling like I was no longer speaking a foreign language when I spoke of things Kit-Bloggerly.

A coworker: What are you making?
Me: It's a Cardi pattern I found online.
CW: ...a "Cardi"?
Me: Oh, a Cardigan. Cardi is what a lot of the other folks I am knitting along with call it, I guess I picked it up while reading their blogs.
CW: ...blogs?
Me: Yeah, online journals of our knitting and often our lives.
CW: You do this journal thing online? [shaking head like I am sadly beyond hope somehow]

As Julia commented so aptly: "Not a single compulsive knitting sociopath in sight."

But last night:
Knitter: Ooh, looks like you're making Salt Peanuts!
Me: Yeah, I also brought my Eyelet Cardi.
Knitter: Eyelet?
Me: Same style as the Sitcom Chic on knitty, but I bought the smaller gauge version from Bonne Marie.
Knitter: Nice! Yeah I liked that one too, but everyone is using the cotton-ease and I am not thrilled with the colors.

(Hee hee, how do we know a blogger said that? Hint: the "everyone.")

Hopefully, Lara and I will be making a trip to Knit Happens this weekend. I am psyched to finally see the famous LYS.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

FO alert

Here is the best pic I could get of the finished scarf. I wish I had a camera that could capture the lovely little "knots" in the pattern (which can be found here). But I will have to settle for one that at least does an ok job of capturing the lovely red of Tess' soft Mohair/Merino.

makin' eyes at my photographer

It turned out about 7½" x 48" (it ends about a half inch below the picture).

I also received my shawl kit from Dorothy at Fiddlesticks. I will be taking a picture of the GORGEOUS hand-dyed silk/wool as soon as the lighting allows. It is so dreamy, and I am so excited to start... But thanks to the kind but firm encouragement from my lovely readers, I am keeping it to three WIPs for now. And since two of the projects on my needles are already for me, this shawl will have to wait 'til I finish one of them. I have way too many gifts that I want to make to use up all my WIP slots on myself.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Take one down, pass it around...

...99 knits on the to-do list.

I finished the red scarf. She is blocking, so no pictures today.

On Sunday, I ran by my (most excellent) LYS, WoolWinders—and I did not buy any yarn! Instead, I got the Colinette Comforts book, a lovely lace shawl pattern (it's a good one for that desert colorway), and a bootee pattern to go with the layette wrap for niece/nephew #3.

AND... I signed up for a couple of classes in August and September. One is on knitting socks on two circular needles, and the other is on felting. I love classes, so that was very uplifting.

Most folks mentioned three as the magic number for WIPs, and I like that idea. I am going to hold off on adding the next one until either the sleeve of the Eyelet or SP's Right Front are done. That way it doesn't seem too much like I am avoiding progress on both.

My plan tonight is to finally make it to the Arlington, VA Stitch n Bitch. It is a long Metro ride, but if I don't start meeting people around here, I am going to go out of my mind. I have been on their list forever, and they seem to be a very supportive fun bunch of knitters—I can't wait!

I have moved a lot in the past 10 years (five different states!?) and with each move, it is harder and harder to make new friends. I read a great post the other day over at Mimi SmartyPants and in it, she talks about the nervous-excitement of being around other mommies in a preschool music class that accompanies her hope that one of them will turn out to be "someone like me to be friends with..." I confess, I have a similar little fantasy on occasion. While I appreciate my blogging buddies more than I can adequately express, one can't really call them up for Stash Enhancement trips, or KIP at the bookstore—or even (god forbid) non-knitting related activities. I am VERY fortunate in that my Sweet Baboo does his best to be interested in yarns and patterns, but he probably deserves a break. So here's to the HOPE that a kindred spirit is somewhere out and about (preferably knitting).

Friday, May 14, 2004

WIP it, WIP it good

Here is a picture of the ever-growing pile of WIPs. (This does not include the two UFOs I have rolling around... I suppose I should be glad there are only two?)

I have just gotten through a couple of 10+ hour work days. This is a new job for me and has so far been Ultra-Cush. So I am beat.

Plus, I am becoming weak and crabby from trying to stifle my startitis. I have a lace shawl kit IN THE MAIL. And, I have the following projects "in the wings" all clamoring and murmuring to be first, next, NOW:
  • Blue Sweater for Nephew #2

  • Butterscotchy Boogie vest for me

  • Gray kimono wrap for niece/nephew #3 (due in August)

  • Blue/Teal scarf in my dreamy Tess yarn (I don't even KNOW who this one would be for, that is so sad.)

  • Blue/Green BU bucket for nephew #2

  • Gray and blue/green felted bag for me

  • Desert laceweight colorway scarf/shawl for mom

And that is just off the top of my head! [sigh] How do you heal the want-that-is startitis? (Please don't say "I start stuff," because I need tough love, not enabling, on this one.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

all's well that never ends

I am working on too many projects, so nothing has any appreciable progress (which is why my sparseness of posts this last week).

Hopefully, I will have a chance to at least take a picture tomorrow to prove that:

  • My Eyelet Cardi sleeve is a few inches longer

  • I have finished the lace rib and moved into the waist shaping on Salt Peanuts Right

  • And the lovely knotwork-style scarf (that still isn't even an official WIP) is several more inches long

I have been trying to get a few things done Around the House, and get my lazy butt into a regular routine of Moving Faster Than Normal (we at small hands do NOT refer to it by the 'E' word, for fear of losing interest). I have been in a productivity funk, I think. I need to finish something soon.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Triumph, or something that tastes like it

I finished the Left Front of Salt Peanuts.

You know what you can do to stave off frustrations while trying to keep track of collar increases, neckline decreases, armhole AND shoulder shaping happening "at the same time"?


Absolutely nothing. No blissful "floating away" thoughts. No note taking (except check marks next to my longhand notes made Ahead of Time). No "Come here and take a look at how cool this is, babe," pauses. No spacing out about the long list of domestic chores I could be doing if knitting weren't so much more pleasant (note: usually more pleasant).

I really think this pattern could have been better presented diagramatically. I used Jen's idea of two charts: the armhole and shoulder shaping in one column and the lace pattern and neck decreases in the other. Then I lined them up the first time they coincided with each other. I will likely scan the notebook paper as a laugh because it sounds like MUCH tidier of a system than it was.

Additionally, I would like to state For the Record, that this would have been less exhausting of a piece if Ms. Avery had structured the instructions as she made the sweater instead of (and I am agreeing with Jen's hypothesis here) after.

For Example: She attaches the neckline decreases (which are body stitches) to the lace pattern repeats by row—but then has you insert lace-only short rows. How can you decrease the body on row x when you are inserting row x as a lace-only short row? Since it is easier to spot the decreases after the fact where they appear next to the lace, there is good reason to believe she wrote at least some of the pattern after the sweater was done. She could have said something like "decrease every other body row one stitch before the collar x times, then every 4 body rows x times." In retrospect that would have been easier to do and to read. But all things are clearer in the rearview, right?

This blather probably only makes any sense if you have just tried to execute the pattern, for those of you who have been spared the Peanut Torture, I apologize.

But anyway, the point of all this is: the left front is done. I think my ability to read my knitting helped immensely where my experience knitting fell short. As Jen stated during the midst of her first Front piece, this isn't a hard sweater, it is just a hard pattern.

Casting on for the Right first thing tonight to keep the numbing momentum up. Pictures to follow.

On a Related Note: I would love folks' thoughts on end-weaving. In my great finishing techniques book, Nancie Wiseman says that ends should be woven in after seaming. But I have seen several mentions in blogland and elsewhere about weaving as one goes (with 20+ skeins in Salt Peanuts I like this idea, but haven't been doing it).

I guess if you wait to weave you give yourself the option of ripping and reknitting? How do you all deal with ends? What have you found that works well, and what hasn't?

Thursday, May 06, 2004


I have posted a little MDS&WF photo gallery over there >>>

I am avoiding the top of the left front of Salt Peanuts. I am not ashamed to admit that I am afraid my current mental capacity is just shy of what is needed to not totally screw up all of the "at the same time"s.

So instead, I am working on a little lace scarf from some beautiful carmine colored mohair/merino that I got from Tess' Designer Yarns.

It is a very simple lacey pattern that looks like knotwork. The pattern is available free here.

With that, I leave you with small hands' two newest mascots, The Japanese Happy Monkey-Dogs "C" and "H":

You can see more of the enigmatic C and H (and a few of their happy-good-time-fun friends) at "Beetle Calcium," the planet's finest purveyors of canine playclothes.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


I want to string the skeins on to an i-cord and wear 'em all as a necklace...

more pics to come...

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

This newsflash needs its Own Title

Jen. Has. Triumphed.

...and the crowd goes WILD (wwhuhrwaaaaaaaaaaa)

Please, go and congratulate her on a Beautiful Salty Peanut. And commend her on her fortitude. And send chocolate.

On Continental Knitting with Anna Zilboorg

I made the mistake of scheduling two classes on the Saturday of MS&WF. This was a mistake because I knew I was probably not going to make it on Sunday (I really wanted to but it wasn't in the cards). Which would have left only 3 short short hours for Spot the Blogger AND yarn shopping. I don't know what I was thinking... It was both a blessing and a curse when the second class of the day was a total bust. Blessing: more yarn shopping/spotting; Curse: wasted $30.

But the first class was Continental Knitting with 'She of the Amazing Socks,' Anna Zilboorg. She was a little late, and so each time someone would walk in, a different student would say "Are you the instructor?" But when Anna really did walk in, no one asked, we could just tell she was There to Teach. She had great poise and appeared to knit so effortlessly! She brought up several things that kept me thinking, and I think that signals a Good Class. Here is my rather long post about some of them.

I know now why continental knitting has stumped me in the past: the purl stitch. Once I knew that and the terrible truth about Continental Decreasing, I was good to go. Although ultimately, it may not be for me.

With CK, the easiest way to purl sets the corresponding knit stitches up with the leading edge in the back. (For those who don't know about leading edges, drawings would definitely help here, and I am looking for some. In the meantime, trust me and use your fabulous imaginations.) This leading-edge business means that on the knit side of stockinette, one must knit through the back loops to keep the knitting flat. This simple fact caused most of the students to freak out, which in turn caused Anna to get very cross with us once or twice.

on Knitting: She mentioned several times that "knitting is an agreement between your head and your hands." You can not make your hands do something they don't want to do without causing yourself "great discomfort and disappointment" any more than you can make a yarn do something it doesn't want to do. Eventually the muscles will return to a more comfortable position, and the yarn will relax back into shape... better to exploit the strengths of each.

For example, those folks who wanted the purls to work the way they do in English knitting were either setting themselves up for wrist cramps and gauge troubles, or as one poor woman kept being reminded of, were people who got a thrill from "doing things the hard way."

Because the knit side (or stitch) must be knit through the back, several bright students noticed this would make things like K2tog tricky. And we were taught how to "reverse" the directions to bring about the correct slanting decrease.

This brought on a general discussion about pattern writing and Anna's belief that several students were really being held back by the belief that any knitting style could be "wrong" or "right." She got frustrated more than once by folks complaining that the Cont. Purl was "twisting" their stitches. "The stitches are not twisted when they are just sitting on the needle! You have to twist them by knitting them."

When we were concerned about having to rewrite patterns, she said at one point, "No one here wants to read patterns for the rest of their lives, do they?" This was hard for me to hear. I enjoy reading patterns and getting a piece finished in the way I expect it to be finished. Am I an uninspired or under-achievering knitter because I don't (yet) have any desire to sweat out all the details when there are scads and scads of patterns out and about already? I like to know how to make the waist a bit shorter to accommodate my slightly hobbit-esque build... But I do a lot of thinking at work, and sometimes easing into a pattern that is likely to be free from errors (I keep the option open, I am not a pattern-sheep), is the most soothing thing in the world. I would love to hear others' thoughts on this one, it has been bouncing around in my head ever since Saturday.

on Learning New Things: After the discussion on decreases, one woman in class said "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." There were some nods and murmurs as the majority of the other students struggled with their suddenly awkward needles and newly uncooperative fingers.

To which Anna replied, "That's not true, my old dog recently learned how to catch waffles."

General chuckles, and someone (the same woman?) said, with a bit of exasperation, "Well your dog had very good motivation."

Anna's response: "Of course, that's what everyone needs to learn something new."

on Learning to Knit from Books: The "right/wrong" thing kept hanging folks up (including me, because of the whole pattern issue) because what she was showing us was counter to most of what we have read in print. Anna felt that knitting instruction was not something that was meant to be written about, but something that was meant to experienced. As a technical writer, this was hard for me to hear. Between the depth and breadth of human language and the amazing technology of imaging, I believe you can clearly explain anything in text and pictures.

She explained that confusion could arise because sometimes it is easier to write about how to do a thing one way, even when it may be easier to actually do it another way. I think this has more to do with the fact that in knitting (like computer programming, in my experience) those who are exceptionally good at it, are not always good at documenting it. I am not naming any names, but sometimes a really cool design can be held back by ridiculously cumbersome directions. Is this the fault of knitting itself, or the fact that good writers, teachers, and knitters very rarely inhabit the same physical body together? Thoughts?

I am not sure if Continental is for me, but I suspect it would sure be useful in the never-ending stockinette that will be my eyelet cardi's body, so I will give it a try. But I have my doubts about it becoming my predominant style.

That's enough for now. I am afraid I have already lost my two readers with this long-ass post. If you are still with me, bless you. I will try to post fest pics tomorrow.

Now I just need to find my waffle equivalent. What's yours?

Monday, May 03, 2004

A Quick Note on the 'Fest

I spotted a blogger! The lovely Ann of PurlingSwine... I spotted her Swine bag right before seeing her, just as I walked in the gate!

I have some pics from the fest that need to be developed, and some thoughts on my class with Anna Zilboorg that also need developing before I blog again.

Looking around blogland, it seems there were tons of bloggers I missed by a mere hank... that makes me a little sad. But there's always Stitches East and the NJ Sheep and Fiber Festival, and even ... MD next year.

On Sunday, I got a good bit of the Salt Peanuts Left Front done, and am a few more inches along on the Eyelet Cardi. I will have to do a few scarves and purses after this before I tackle my next big project. I am starting to feel the sweater ennui.