Friday, July 29, 2011

On the Rocks

Lorena commented on my last post that she's heard that freezing mohair helps it to unravel.  Since the yarn I was using for Jeanie was sticky like mohair...

Does it work?  That depends on what you mean by the word.  If you mean, "Does it help you to unravel the yarn?", I don't have an answer for you because I haven't tried it yet.

If, however, you mean, "Did it make you feel good to stuff that wad of yarn in the freezer and slam the door?", the answer is a resounding yes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Once upon a time, I decided to stop knitting something because it was bad for me.  I was unable to convince myself to rip out the project, so I stuffed it in a drawer.

It sat in the drawer for about six months.  I'd like to tell you that I didn't think about it, but I did.  I'd like to tell you that I gave up on a project that made me crazy, but I didn't.

This weekend I went to a knit shop and bought a pair of Addi Lace needles in size 6.  I went home, took out the project, and started work on it again.  "A poor worker always blames her tools" kept running through my head.  I tried to ignore it.

It went well for a few rows, but then I found I was off a few stitches in one section.  I couldn't figure out where the mistake was.  Often, when I have problems like this, I can fudge things by knitting stitches together or adding stitches to get back up to the correct count.  That doesn't work with this project because certain stitches are dropped.  If you drop one that you've used to knit two stitches together, that second stitch just floats loose and everything goes very, very badly.

I struggled with it for a long time.  Then I admitted that I was going to have to start over, a fact that pained me because of the hours I'd already spent with my tiny, four inches of lace and because I remembered how long it took me to do the provisional cast on.  I steeled myself, pulled out the needles and began ripping.

Except that the lace didn't rip.  I had already noticed that dropped stitches tended to not drop with this yarn.  I had to force them to drop because the yarn was... sticky for lack of a better word.  The yarn is wool, but it's slightly fuzzy and sticks to itself a bit like mohair.

I tried pulling the yarn while Andrew held it, but it kept sticking.

Then it started breaking apart.  After it had broken in three places and I still wasn't anywhere close to getting it unraveled, I wadded it up and threw it back in the drawer.

Now I'm looking at lace patterns.  Maybe there's another rectangular stole....

Friday, July 22, 2011

July Is Not For Knitters

When it is four million degrees outside, knitting is perhaps not the ideal hobby.  Even though the vast majority of my life is lived in air conditioning, I have trouble believing it will ever get cold again.  If it will never be cold, there is little need for anything knitted.  How many washcloths can I make?  More importantly, how many washcloths can I give away before people begin avoiding me?

I also believe it will never rain.  I'm pretty sure the future will stretch out in one long, brown, crunchy line.*  On July 1, I had a rain barrel installed.  It sits empty and sad.

Despite all this, I am still knitting, mostly because I can't sit in front of a television without yarn.  I've knit a bulky cowl, which I'll show you when it doesn't make me feel faint to put it around my neck, and I just started this scarf/hood hybrid that my mother-in-law wants. 

Photo courtesy of Mary Maxim

I'm trying to have faith, but it's hard.  July is not for knitters.

*This is an excellent time to point out that says that Seattle is 70 degrees today.  SEVENTY DEGREES.  Why are my friends and family so insistent that we do not move there?

Thursday, July 21, 2011


THIS is how the heel is supposed to look as opposed to the rubbish I knit earlier.  See how the pattern travels down the leg onto the heel?  Lovely.

Nemesis socks knit in Knitpicks' Felici fingering weight in Coastal colorway (discontinued)

It is supposed to reach 97 degrees today. I have lost faith in ever wanting to wear any sort of socks besides thin, cotton anklets (if I wear socks at all). These will get washed and then live in a drawer while I dream of cooler weather.

This heat would be a lot easier to accept if I had any tomatoes that looked even remotely ripe in my garden.  I'm just saying.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nemesis: It's Not Just a Word

I'm happily knitting a pair of socks right now.  I love knitting socks.  I've done enough pairs that I understand their construction, and I find them relaxing.

I went to my yarn room and grabbed two skeins of my standby favorite sock yarn, grabbed one of the patterns I'd printed out as possible vacation knitting, and went to it.  Everything was going swimmingly.

I finished the heel and worked through the gusset and was trucking on down the foot when I decided to check out some photos to see if my gusset looked right.  It was a construction I hadn't done before, and I wasn't quite sure if I was following the pattern correctly.  There also had been some problems in the directions that I put down to errors in the pattern itself.  It wasn't a big deal--the instructions just seemed to be off a stitch or so on the heel flap.

Tra-la-la.  Log in to ravelry, check out people's pictures.


These heels look nothing like my heel.  Their heels are way, way cooler than the one on my sock.

How can two people have used the same pattern and ended up with completely different heels?  (I prefer to think of it as if it were just me versus some other knitter when in all honesty it was me versus 288 other knitters.)

I looked up the pattern again on knitty.  I looked at what was on the screen.  I looked at what was in my hand.  I looked back at the screen, then back at my hard copy.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.

Kids, these weren't the same instructions.

Well, now I'm pretty sure I've found a glitch in the matrix.

I check the date I printed the pattern.  June 7.  That wasn't very long ago.  There were no indications online that the pattern had been recently changed, and, even if it had, wouldn't some of those 288 people have knit the version I was knitting?

Then I glanced at the top of my printed pattern pages.

One of them said and one said

I had picked up pages one and two of Nemesis and pages three and four of Pyroclastic.

I was knitting Frankensocks, and not in a good way.

The key for me in this type of situation is to not think too much about what has happened.  Just pull the needles out and start ripping back.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quieting the Monkey

Tuesday was a rough day.  In hopes of making Wednesday better, I decided to try to not say anything negative all day, including not being snarky through IM or Facebook or e-mail.

Guess what?

It turns out that I'm kind of a negative bitch.  I didn't realize it until I consciously decided to stop.

In one instance, I was in a situation and thinking about how I'd later share that situation with others... focusing on the ridiculous behavior of someone else, naturally.  I remembered that I wasn't going to do that today, and so I just sat there with the coworker while my monkey mind kept looking for ways to be negative.

It didn't take long for the chatter in my monkey mind to die down a bit.  What was the use of getting all ramped up about this when I wasn't going to share it with anyone so they could (obviously) agree that I was horribly put upon?  My monkey mind sulked.*

And then something unexpected happened.  The monkey cocked its head and said, "Maybe this person is here because she's afraid she's going to break something and feels that sitting with you will keep her from that."**

Huh.  That's not so bad.  That's quite nice, actually.  I suspect that it's also the truth.

I wonder what else the monkey has missed?

*I looked for a picture of a monkey playing the cymbals to put here, but HOLY COW are they creepy.  Just imagine there's a not creepy image here.

**You'll have to trust me that this makes sense in context.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Completed Glynis Socks and Namaste Progress

Elsewhere, I have talked about my love for Indigodragonfly yarn.  I have a desire to hoard the yarn in skein instead of knitting with it.  Fortunately, Kim started a KAL (knitalong) in which the only rule was that you used her yarn.  That gave me the push I needed to actually...well, use her yarn.

Glynis pattern knit in Indigodragonfly MCN: The Sock-quel, My Name Is Indigo Montoya colorway

In other knitting, I finished a pair of socks for a Christmas gift for my sister.  Click here if you're a ravelry member and your name is not Brenda.

Now I'm working on a yoga mat bag from Knitty called Namaste.  I found something to make with the cotton yarn that has confounded me ever since I bought it.

Namaste pattern knit in Manos del Uruguay Cotton Stria

A friend asked me if I wanted to take a yoga class with her this summer, and we've been going for several weeks.  I'm really enjoying it, although I have to remember not to look at other, freakishly flexible people in our class.  I know that the important thing is that I feel the stretch, not how far I'm able to move a body part.  This is difficult to remember considering my hamstrings are more rubber cement than rubber band.

Onward and upward.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Vacation, Part 6: Victoria, British Columbia

Our last stop was Victoria, British Columbia.  We docked a little after six in the evening and were only there until midnight, so we had a very short visit.  We spent it at Butchart Gardens.

Jennie Butchart created these gardens out of a limestone quarry that she and her husband, Robert, owned.  At its peak in her lifetime, there were 35 full-time gardeners employed.  I'd love to know how many people it employs now--much more than 35, I'm sure.  The ownership still remains in her family, although at one point one of the family members offered it to the city for $1.  The city refused, knowing it couldn't maintain such a place, and so the family got busy making it work.

And they have.

The above shot of a fuschia blossom is the first time I've ever had luck using the "flower" feature on our camera.  You should be very glad I'm not posting all the flower pictures I took.

As the last part of the quarry was exhausted, the quarry was transformed into a stunning sunken garden.

There is a formal garden, which isn't my personal favorite type, and an amazing Japanese garden.

There were some beautiful water lillies, and a rose garden that I would love to visit some year in July or August.  There were a few blooms when we were there, and I can only imagine what it looks like when most of the plants are in bloom.

The gardens are so gorgeous that even the trash cans have planters on the top of them.  This statue was at the entrance of the gift shop, I believe.

On the way to and from the Gardens, the bus driver drove past some Victoria highlights and told us about them.  This is a very bad picture of their Parliament building, although it's the best one I could get out of several tries.  The architect had it outlined in 3,333 light bulbs, so it always looks like a Christmas decoration.

Victoria was our last stop.  We spent the next day traveling back home, and the day after that doing laundry.  It was a fabulous vacation, and I'm trying to hold on to all the beauty we saw.  

Monday, July 4, 2011

Vacation, Part 5: Ketchikan

After Glacier Bay, we headed to Ketchikan.  Mom, Andrew and I boarded a boat.

The difference between low and high tide in Ketchikan is staggering.  We were at a particularly low point the morning we took our ride, and we saw eagles, a mink*, and these stunning sea stars.

The boat took us to an old salmon cannery.  Although the cannery is closed, it's now used for storage for fishermen and for tours.  There's an intact line, so they showed us the process of how the salmon were processed.  I am very, very grateful to be a vegetarian.

After the cannery, we took a short walk through the forest to get to a waiting bus.

The bus took us to Saxman Totem Village, a FDR-created New Deal project for the Tlinglit tribe.  

*I would like to know who first saw a mink and thought, "You know what would be awesome?  Raising these guys on 'farms' so we can kill them, skin them, and make them into coats!"  They're small and... well, ferret-looking.  We really should be smarter as a species than to make mink coats.  After seeing a live mink, I do feel particularly amused to think of rich, obnoxious women wearing their skins.  It's like a ferret coat.  My amusement is little help to the minks, and I apologize to them.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Vacation, Part 4: Glacier Bay

After Skagway, we spent the next day on the boat.  The ship went into Glacier Bay, which cannot be adequately described or even photographed.

A naturalist boarded the ship and spoke over the intercom to tell us what we were seeing.  The boat traveled very slowly, stopping for around an hour so we could soak up the view.

And what a view.

There are things to say about Glacier Bay, but I find that I can't.  There's a stillness I feel when I look at these, and I can't find the words.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vacation, Part 3: Skagway

The second stop on our Alaskan vacation was Skagway, a tiny town that boasts the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad, built to help transport gold diggers across the mountains.  There are some very unpleasant stories about how the trip used to go for these nuts before the railroad was built.  I will not spoil this post by telling any of them.  Let's just say that I think people searching for gold are certifiably crazy and often unpleasant.

Their insanity, however, provided me with an excellent train trip where I saw things like this:

and this:

and these rapids that we were told have never been successfully navigated:

The train itself looked like this picture.  The brown cars were the passenger cars.  We rode up to the summit, which was just over 20 miles.  Then the green and yellow cars detached and somehow moved around to the other end of the train.  Everyone in the passenger cars switched sides of the car and also moved the seat backs so we were facing the right way and everyone could get the view of the (incredibly steep) drops.


Here's a shot of the train getting ready to go over a bridge that really, really doesn't look very stable.

There were two tunnels we went through.  It was an interesting experience to go through the complete darkness.

The guides talked a bit about the difficulty of building the railroad in the 1890s and also of maintaining it today. Britain sent an engineer to see if it was possible to build a railroad.  The engineer was convinced it wasn't, but then happened to meet a Canadian who was convinced it was.  The railroad was built with English financing, Canadian plans, and American labor.  This was before dynamite was invented, so tons of black powder was used to blow up bits of the mountain.

I'll leave you with another stunner of a view.

Often on this trip, one of us would mention how unlikely it was that anyone besides the three of us would ever want to look through all our photos.  We have so many photos of mountains and glaciers.  I think we were trying to capture the sheer magnitude of our surroundings, which was impossible.

This is one of those places that I want to keep in my mind and visit whenever I get bogged down by life's minutiae.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Vacation, Part 2: Juneau

It had seemed impossible to sort through pictures (even though I had already done it for some Snapfish projects) and write about the rest of our vacation.  Apparently I just needed to talk about outlet covers for a bit because this morning the task didn't seem daunting at all.

Mom, Andrew and I spent three days in Seattle before boarding a giant ship and going on an Alaskan cruise. Our first stop was Juneau.  Juneau is Alaka's capital, which I find interesting considering you can't get there except by water or sky.  The roads all end either in forest or glacier.  There's a ferry system connecting Juneau with 33 or 34 little villages, and our guide told us that Juneau is able to support some big box stores because these villagers make occasional trips to stock up on durable goods.  Juneau's three largest economic areas are government, tourism, and fishing.

We had signed up for a combination excursion of whale watching and a rainforest hike.  This is the boat in which we went whale watching.

The boat captains talked over radio to one another about where whales had been spotted, so we were able to go a few places where there was activity.

We found these sea lions resting on a buoy.

We also saw whales, although it's nearly impossible to get a good photo.  We saw lots of tails, flashes of skin, and spouts of water.  Here's a decent tail shot.

We took a walk through part of the Tongass National Park.  Our walk was through a temperate rain forest.  Everything was covered with lichen and moss, and it was very, very pretty.

We walked to Mendenhall Lake at the base of Mendenhall Glacier.  I didn't get great photos of the glacier because of the rain and fog, but here's one of a waterfall from snow runoff into the lake and some of the giant hunks of ice floating in the lake.

This first stop is where I started to get an inkling of how big and wild Alaska is.  Later in the week, a guide would tell us that an Alaskan is born every minute, just not necessarily in Alaska.  Lots of the people we talked with had relocated to Alaska from somewhere else.  After spending just a little bit of time there, I can understand the pull.  It's very, very beautiful.

Next post: Skagway!