Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Importance of Reading

I've started a sweater. It's top down, so once the yoke increases are done it feels like the rows are four miles long. Still, it's been going fairly well. Monday night I told myself how fantastic I was when the stitch count shockingly turned out just as it was supposed to. I spread it out, admiring it.

I started the next row of the chart and thought, "Huh. I'm surprised they have a foop* at the beginning of this pattern and not at the end." Immediately, the blood rushed to my head and I scrambled for the pattern.  

The chart has eight rows.

The directions CLEARLY say, "Cont to work in patt est’d until 18 total rows of Deep Waffle Stitch have been worked, ending with a WS row."

Let's review the math.

8 + 8 = 16

16 does not equal 18.

I'd read 18 and then told myself that 18 rows was two repeats of the chart. It clearly was not.

Someone is going to argue that nobody can tell if the foop is there or not. (You certainly can't from this picture.) I understand the argument. However, I'm too close to the beginning of this thing to pretend this doesn't bother me and carry on. The sweater went into time out. I'll rip it back when it hurts less.

Fine. No sweater. I'll start a sock. A boring, ribbed sock.  There's no need to even look at a pattern.

This worked really well when I was swapping out a hard drive and rebuilding a computer yesterday.  I have learned that computers have a sick sense of humor. They will pretend to install something that takes half an hour, but as soon as you walk away they will put up a message box that needs clicked before it will do anything else, such as, "Is your language still English?"  Of course it's still English! I told you that thirty seconds ago! Why are you asking me again?

It's asking me again because it wants to make sure I am held captive by its foolish questions.

I have no idea how IT people manage to remain calm without knitting. Now that I am on to the evil ways of the computer, I sit patiently in front of it knitting a sock while it randomly stops installing and asks me mundane questions to which it already knows the answers.

So, the sock was great for time spent in front of the computer, but it was too boring to knit on last night. I was feeling restless.

You know what's not too boring? The Garden Gate socks. They are intense. You have to pay attention. They're slow.

Garden Gate socks knit in Dream in Color Smooshy in Wisteria colorway

I was feeling pretty good about the start of them. After a few rows of the leg chart, I decided to reread the key just to make sure I was knitting everything correctly. At the bottom of the page, it's clearly written, "Repeat these rounds 3 more times and then work round 1 once more continuing on to the leg."

I hadn't repeated them. This means I basically have no cuff and my socks may fall down.

Another rip.

Remember pet rocks? Maybe I'll take up painting those for a hobby.

*Technical term**
**Not really.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hang This

Andrew and I have been searching for a coatrack. Our entryway isn't large enough to have a coat tree, so we had to get something that would hang on the wall.

We found the perfect coatrack on etsy.

I started with this

was carefully supervised by this

 and this

measured and taped

and ended up with this.

I'm thrilled with it. Perhaps now we'll stop hanging our coats on the dining room chairs.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Random With Purpose

I knit a lot of socks. Since sock yarn typically comes with enough yarn to knit socks for feet bigger than mine, I have leftovers.

Lots of leftovers.

I've done several projects in an effort to try to decrease the alarming amount of leftover soft yarn I have.

I've made clock cozies:

I've made Frankenscrap Jays:

I've made Franken-Knucks:

While great projects, they have done little to decrease the amount of yarn I have. Then I found the Mini Mania Scarf. It's a linen-stitch scarf made entirely of scrap yarn. It's knit lengthwise, which meant each 500 stitch row took around 20 minutes to knit. Surely that would put a dent in the yarn stash.

The scarf is glorious. However, I realized when I was only a few hours into the project that the scarf made me feel uncomfortable.

Sort of itchy and twitchy.

Its gloriousness stems from its randomness and yet I can't handle the randomness. I realized this may be the reason I've knit two clock cozies as gifts and not knit one for myself, despite my deep and profound love for them.  The socks and knucks were also given away.

All these projects are really, really lovely and yet I don't like them.

I felt like a freak for about four seconds. Then I realized that it's okay to be someone who doesn't like randomness. I like a plan. I like a plan even better if it can be color-coded. When I planned the garden for this year--a pretty simple endeavor, really--, I used four different markers and a letter code. As a kid, one of my favorite pasttimes was dumping out my 64 box of crayons and putting them back sorted by color.

This love of order is an excellent trait in nearly all areas of my life. If it means I have to give some of my knitting away--to people who really love the randomness of scrap yarn projects, might I add--then that's fine.

It is a pretty scarf...

...for someone else.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dear Nature,

I believe that a healthy relationship is based on honesty. In the spirit of that, I want to recap what I promised you last year.

I promise...

I will accept that squash can't be grown in my tiny space, and I won't plant any.

I will accept that I can't grow enough soybeans to make it worthwhile.  I will buy bags of frozen edamame and be grateful that other people grow acres and acres of soybeans.

I will be honest about how many tomato plants I need and not get sucked into the descriptions in the seed catalogue.

I will keep track of the pepper varieties so I will know when they are ripe--green? yellow? red?

I will accept that I can't grow hellebores, even though I love them and that fact fills me with sadness. (Why can't I grow hellebores? Everyone else can grow them.)

I will either plant sunflowers where they have a shot at growing instead of scattering seed and hoping for the best or I won't plant them at all.

I will be honest with myself that I get carried away planting vegetables and then don't harvest and eat them all. I will plant only what I am sure I will eat, even if that means I fill my garden with flowers.

When the Burpee catalogue arrived in January, my willpower wavered. I know it's the same every spring, but I believe I can do better.

I'll put the squash in the yard behind the gardening space, and it can take over all it wants. I'll keep it away from the trellis so it doesn't encroach on the other veggies. I'll borrow a rotor tiller and make a nice spot for sunflowers. I'll document the peppers with more than just their name so I know when to harvest and how hot they'll be. I'll eat more vegetables!

But I might as well plant some soybeans since I already have the seeds. And since some of my tomato seeds haven't done well for two years now, it only makes sense to try some new varieties.  And since the squash won't be vying for space, I have enough room in the garden to try some new-to-me determinate tomato varieties.

The good news is that I haven't bought another hellebore... yet.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Baby UGGs

A friend asked me to knit a pair of these for her to give some new parents.  I've made three pair of these and one matching hat thus far.  They're fast--I had them done in one day. The "suede" (read: nylon) yarn has the tendency to split when stabbed by a needle, which happened pretty frequently. I wouldn't want to use this yarn for a sweater but it's fine for small projects like this.

Suede Baby Booties knit in Berrocco Suede in 3729 (black) 
and 3792 (pink) and Plymouth Yarn Oh My! (white)

The pattern was on a Knitty Gritty episode back in 2004. That's pre-knitting for me, and I've never seen it. The pattern for the booties and hat can be found here: (Search the page for "suede" to make it easier.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Moral Force

Knitty's blog directed my attention to an article from The Guardian's archives, originally published on Feb. 10, 1962.

I was especially taken by this quote:
The urge to knit is surely the most moral force in the world. Knitting is industrious, economical, virtuous, therapeutic, mildly creative and above all tranquillising. Research would show that knitting wives never become nervous wrecks and that it is never knitting girls who break up happy homes. Conversely it would be found that the Other Woman never knits.
I take offense to "mildly creative," but it's nice to have proof that knitters never become nervous wrecks and nonknitters are hussies. Isn't that what we've always suspected?

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Could Get Used To This

Let me again say how grateful I am that Andrew likes color. He does not ask me to knit miles of gray stockinette, and for that I rejoice.

When we made our road trip to Simply Socks, Andrew picked out yarn for future socks. He especially liked Zauberball Starke 6, a sportweight sock yarn with really odd and delightful color repeats.  

Generic sock recipe on 56 stitches 
knit in Zauberball Starke 6 in colorway 1537

Did I also mention how grateful I am that Andrew doesn't need his socks to match?

Andrew likes his socks tight, so I did a 3-1 rib all the way down the leg and the top of the foot. I can't explain why they were finished so quickly. Some of it must be that I was entertained by the colors and kept knitting to see what would happen next. It's also true that 56 stitch rounds instead of 64 or 72 zip right along.

I have no problem knitting more of these... which is good since Andrew bought three balls of the stuff.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Combating Winter

When I finished the Sad Winter Socks, I had a deep desire to knit something cheerful.

So I did.

There is no sun, so please pardon the photos.

The stitch pattern works well with self-striping yarn, and the ribbing down the leg helps to keep the socks from falling down.

I've actually had these done for awhile, but as soon as they were finished they went on my feet. Then they hung around and waited to be washed and blocked. The only reason I'm not wearing them today is that I'm wearing another pair of Felici socks. I'm confident these will be in heavy rotation.

Take that, Winter.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

When Lost, Knit a Washcloth

I've read over and over the folly of teaching someone to knit by having them knit a scarf. Yes, a scarf can be very easy. Yes, a rectangle is much less intimidating than a sock. Yes, you can see progress.

Yes, you will feel like you will never finish and that you will be knitting and knitting and knitting until you die and they'll have to pry the needles out of your cold, dead hands and even then someone will say, "For seventy-five years, I never saw Aunt Gerty without this. How is it possible it's only three feet long?"

That's what really happens when the first thing you knit is a scarf.

My mom taught me to knit, and she taught me with a washcloth. I wish I had a picture of that first washcloth.* It has holes in inappropriate places. It gets bigger, then stays the same for awhile, and never ever decreases. When I showed it to my mother while it was still on the needles, she paused for a minute and then said, "Let's bind off and start again."

I still use that washcloth. I love it, and it washes dishes perfectly well.

Sometimes when I'm between projects or when I feel like something on which I'm working requires too much thought, I knit a washcloth. I did a couple last week.

There are a million different variations, but this pattern is the one I use:

Using worsted-weight cotton yarn and size 8 needles, cast on 4.
Knit one row.
Knit 2, yo, knit to end of row.
Repeat last row until you have 36-42 stitches.
Begin decreases as follows: Knit one, k2tog, yo, k2tog, knit to end of row. Repeat until you have 5 stitches.
Knit 1, k2tog, k2.
Knit 1 row. Bind off all stitches

You can use bulky yarn (I use Lion Brand Homespun a lot--it can be machine washed and dried) and big needles (size 15) and make a baby blanket with this pattern as well. In my family, that's known as the Washcloth Blanket. We're creative that way.

*Actually, it's not really the first one. Mom tried to teach me to knit when I was a kid. Twice. It didn't work. She tried again when I was 28, and it clicked.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Andrew and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day. It's not that we're against the idea of showing affection toward those we love. We ARE against messages that portray men as hapless fools who don't know how to buy a present for their significant others. February 14 has no special meaning for us. There are other days in the year that do, and we celebrate on those days.

So, Happy Valentine's Day if you celebrate it, and please do your best to ignore the messages that bombard us saying that we need a heart-shaped necklace for the day to be a success. We don't. 

Also, remember that chocolate will be on clearance tomorrow.  THAT is worth celebrating.

Under the Exciting News category, last night I swatched for the Talamh sweater. My gauge was spot on. Getting gauge is a lot easier when I actually use the yarn for which the pattern calls, which rarely happens.

Talamh sweater knit in Blue Moon Fiber Arts BFL Sport 

BFL Sport doesn't actually come in that color, but when I inquired about it, they said they'd dye it for me. It makes me love Blue Moon just a little bit more, which I thought was impossible.

Oh!  I suppose that's not a very Valentine's-y photo.


Monday, February 13, 2012


Today, I found a truth, or, more likely, it found me. I read the Cold Antler Farm blog, and Jenna wrote, "A zen monk once told me... 'When I get frustrated. I meditate. For the first ten minutes it is like being stuck in a phone booth with a crazy person. The next ten minutes, with a therapist. The last ten minutes: with me.'"

Right now, I'm stuck in a phone booth with a crazy person. Today is Dad's birthday. Some years it doesn't bother me, and some years it does. Today it punched me in the chest, then grabbed my throat and squeezed. My feelings about my dad are complicated in the same way that the U.S. tax code is complicated. I'm not interested in explaining it or analyzing it or even thinking all that much about it. I've done all that, and I'll do it again when I need to.

Today, though, I need to stand in the phone booth and wait for myself.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


With any hobby, people are going to have strong opinions about their tools. Baseball players argue about maple vs. ash bats. (Am I the only baseball fan worried about the impact of emerald ash borer on our game?) Gardeners wax eloquently about traditional hoes vs. warren hoes.*  Golfers argue about golf clubs.**

Some people only knit with machine washable materials. Some would rather impale themselves on a 14" straight rather than knit with acrylic.

A yarn shop worker once tsk-tsked me because I use dpns to knit socks and she felt circular needles should be used.

I've been knitting for about six years, and that's long enough to develop some preferences. I prefer metal needles over wooden ones. I believe acrylic has a place, esp. in projects for people who can't be trusted to handwash, but I prefer natural fibers. I like small dyers like Blue Moon Fiber Arts and indigodragonfly, but I buy a lot of yarn at Knit Picks because it's more affordable.

I've been reading about Signature needles but haven't convinced myself to splurge on a set. I read kmkat's blog entry this morning about her positive customer service experience with that company. It's making me think a bit more about the real cost of some of my tools--the cost that includes environmental and humanitarian considerations.

I think I'll put my go-to dpn size of Signature needles on my wishlist.

*The correct answer is, of course, both. Buy both hoes.
**I don't know anything at all about golf, so this is really as specific as I can get. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Simply Wonderful

On Saturday, Andrew and I went to my nephew's basketball game.  It was the same gym I used for junior high P.E, so there was a certain amount of emotional trauma in being back in that space. No, I can't climb a rope. How is that even physically possible?

Afterward, Andrew, Mom and I took a road trip to Fort Wayne. We had planned to do this a couple weeks ago but were stymied by ice. Indiana weather was cooperative this weekend, probably due to the copious sacrifices to the gods by the Super Bowl committee. Naturally, with the Super Bowl in town, we wanted to get out of town. We're clever that way.

Our destination?

This place is 3500 sq. ft. of sock yarn. It's only open a day or two a week. Most of their business is online. It's a stunning building--old with black and white floors and high ceilings.

And yarn. So much yarn.
The main part of the floor was filled with black bookcases (I'm thinking Ikea Expedits) filled with yumminess, and the walls were full as well.

It was so lovely it hurt just a little bit.

There were a lot of dyers that I had read about but never touched, and I spent a good hour wandering about squeezing yarn. Andrew and Mom both found yarn they loved, and I bought lots of yarn as well as my first pair of square dpns. It was a lovely trip, and we did our part to boost the Fort Wayne economy.

After the fiber frenzy, we went to the Loving Cafe for dinner.

It was a great hippy vegan restaurant. It's difficult to explain how exciting it is to look at a menu and know that nothing needs to be eliminated from my consideration because of its ingredients. I really feel for people who have Celiac Disease or are lactose intolerant. At least I chose my dietary restrictions. I had a vegan BLT, some fries, and a spring roll. DELICIOUS. Mom and Andrew, both omnivores, liked the food as well. I wish they had a restaurant in Indy.

It was a great day, and I'll get to enjoy the yarn for a long time to come.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Everything Is Everywhere

I saw a beautiful painted record, and it made me want to make my own.

So I did.

I bought some acrylic paint and tried to paint a record green.

 It didn't go well.

Luckily, a friend had suggested spray paint.  I gave another record a couple coats outside (in the dark, wondering if the neighbors thought I was weird), let it dry a bit, and then wrote on it. These are the only supplies I needed besides the record.

I made this:

The quote is from "I Believe" from Carrie Newcomer's album Everything Is Everywhere. I love that album. I encourage you to buy it, not just because it's fantastic, but also because the proceeds go to support the Interfaith Hunger Initiative. The album is an interesting collaboration between Newcomer, a Quaker folk singer from Indiana, and the Indian classical musicians Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Khan, and Ayaan Ali Kahn.  Fantastic. It's startling to me how well the mix works.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!