Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Messiness is Yuckiness

Before launching into the meat of this post, I wanted to take a moment to elucidate that here at Chez Yarn time and effort is always spent in finding just the right word (I will ignore those rolling eyes). Today that word is yuckiness. With that said, please do not hesitate to read on.

I'm one of those bizarro, arbitrarily obsessive neatniks, in that I can't work properly if things aren't "in their place." I think it's because I am an aspy.

One of the ways the syndrome manifests in me is that I am hard-wired to be extremely anxious if my world doesn't meet certain, and don't forget arbitrary, Feng shui-like requirements. Furniture and clutter most be controlled at all costs.

When I need to get a circular needle out of the bin pictured below, well, I may get ramped up to the point of a panic attack.


That thar is some craziness I don't know how to fix.

One of those really nice companies that sends me catalogs, even when I never buy a thing from them, Patternworks, sells tons of little items that could help me with this. As always there are impediments to their solutions: 1) As I've mentioned earlier, it'll take a small miracle to get me to buy via catalog, 2) I just don't have the 100 plus dollars to spend to organize all of my needles, and 3) none of their solutions would be storeable where I primarily knit. You see, I am lazy if nothing else, and when one is lazy and one needs a needle, and when one has a bunch of knitting and a dog in one's lap, well, the needles better be in arms reach. None of their solutions could probably be stored, to my spatial requirements, in arms reach.

Yet something, other than constant paralysis, must come from this predicament.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Summer Set Cardigan Finis!


This is my very first FO for the blog. That is, it's the very first piece begun and finished upon my starting this blog last month. So let's get to my first in-depth wrap up.

Yarn:
Summer Set by Classic Elite Yarns in Dune Grass
64% Cotton, 19% Alpaca, 12% Polyester, 5% Lyocel
Just a pinch more than seven (7) 50 gram balls at 95 yards per ball, or approximately 680 yards.

Gauge:
Suggested gauge 5 stitches per inch on size 7 needles. My gauge was 4.2 stitches per inch on size 8 needles.

Needles:
As noted above I used size 8 needles on the body. For the trim I used varying sizes. I used size 5 needles on the the sleeve trim, and size 6 needles on the body trim, button band, and neck trim.

In my first draft of the button band what I knit and sewed up looked like this:


Part of the problem was the loose buttons, but part also was button location. I resewed the buttons so that they were right of center and my end result was much more satisfactory:


The finished object (FO!)



I used a basic top down knitting technique. The pointelle design was made by incorporating k2togs and yarnovers every six stitches. The pointelles were offset every other 10 rows.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Missing WIP

Somehow my Rowan Cashsoft Shawl got lost in the shuffle. I'm almost done with my second ball.



I absolutely love this yarn. It's very silky and delicate. It's got a lacey feel to it even though it's a four-stranded yarn.

I'd been using size 9 straights to knit this up and with two stitch increases on each end, eventually I would come to a point where I had to move the knitting onto circulars. When that time came, so came the knowledge I didn't have any size 9 circulars. As I was trying to cut back on the knitting spending the project got a little lost in the shuffle. However, just recently I realized I needed some needles for another project, so I found myself at Joann Fabric on Monday. Wouldn't you know it, they only had one size 9 circular needle. I bought it, but it didn't solve my problem because a) knitting requires two needles and b) I was way too lazy to hit another store.

Yesterday, though, I came across some more blogging serendipity. The Yarn Harlot had an interesting blog entry on needle types and their strengths and weaknesses. She made a great case for metal needles for certain types of projects, and for certain types of knitters, and it dawned on me that I did have one pair of addi turbo circulars that I never used, and they just may be the size I need.

A little back story: I hate metal needles. I personally blame my inability to finally “get” knitting on my having only aluminum needles to practice on. Once I tried my first pair of bamboos I could knit with ease - with abandon - with joy in my heart for being able to generate the beauty that is a stockingnet stitch swatch for the first time in my life! My work didn't slip out of my fingers, my stitches were even, and I was happier than two bumps on a rump (or is it two bumps on a stump, or two lumps on a stump? Anyhoo, moving on...)

Getting back to the addi turbos. How did I, the stalwart hater of all metal needle badness, come into possession of these heavy, nickel-plated needles? Well it’s the age-old story of peer pressure. I had bought these metal nightmares a while back upon the suggestion of a LYS proprietor who swore by them. I, the person who at the tender age of 14 had stalwartly stood up to a neighborhood bully practically twice my size and refused to fight on the grounds that fighting was no way to resolve a conflict, may just have a tendency to melt under the steady eye and opinion of a knitting proficient.

As soon as I attempted to use the needles I knew them to be wholly worthless to me. They were really heavy and slipperier than an oil-slicked frog. I didn't need slippery in my life. And so I had nothing to show for my foolishness except the loss of precious spending money with which I used to purchase them.

It’s a sad story, I know. There’s hankies right over there. Dry your tears because there is a silver lining. You see this shawl project, this Rowan Cashsoft yarn was giving me a bit of ogida on the purl side. After reading the Yarn Harlot’s post it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe a slippery needle might do the trick. When knittin' time came around later that evening, I pulled out the addi turbos and was pleased as punch to find they fit into the size 9 needle gauge hole. Perfect.

I’m now using my bamboo needle on the right side, the metal needle on the back side and the knitting is a breeze.

A Pilgrim's Progress

Woo hoo! The folks behind Ravelry must have pulled an overnighter. I swear there were over 1,100 ahead of me just a day or so ago. My time is coming!

  • You signed up on June 7, 2007
  • You are #7,559 on the list.
  • 895 People are ahead of you in line.
  • 12,930 people are behind you in line.
  • 32% of the list has been invited so far

The first draft of the Summer Set Cardigan:



As I've mentioned earlier, I pretty much made up the pattern on the fly. I have never knit a cardigan, nor did I know how to create a button band. I started with the knowledge of only the basic top down knitting template.

I was really obsessing over the button band while I knit up the body. I thought in fact that I would knit the bottom trim, button band, and neck band all in one go, on one needle. In hindsight that sounds foolish, but seriously that was my initial thought. Then I spent a moment looking at store bought cardigans and it was obvious what I needed to do. And as for the picking up of stitches for the button band, serendipity would have it that one of the bloggers I read, Etherknitter, mentioned button bands last week. I wound up actually inverting her advice, but her info gave me that eensy bit of confidence I needed to overcome my natural fear of attempting something new.

Although the shape of the button bands are satisfactory, where the buttons go, and how loosely they are attached, needs to be addressed. I centered them on the button band, but I think I need to offset them a bit to the right. Also, I didn't really sew the buttons on well. I don't have the proper needle and resorted to crude, partial measures just to get a semi-finished product to assess.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it. I'll fix the buttons, weave in the remaining ends and hopefully have it ready to wear next Monday for a pivotal meeting with HR. Hopefully.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Life post Harry Day 2

I posted a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on bn.com a few minutes ago. I'm sure my first impressions will change, as I expect the disappointments looming large now will fade, replaced by the overall enjoyment I've experienced reading the series.

My review (slightly edited):
I first picked up HP & The Sorcerer's Stone the year the movie of the same name came out. I dutifully began Chamber of Secrets upon finishing Book 1 but was soured by the formulaic quality of the story in the first few chapters: Once again the book began with Harry going off to school, once again the characters face a farcical dilemma. It read like serial fiction, not something I enjoy, and so I abandoned the books, giving them away to someone I hoped who could appreciate them, my nephew.

In 2005 serendipity had me spending time around my nieces the week HP and the Half Blood Prince came out and being bored in rural NY it was only a matter of time I would pick up one of the stray copies lying around the house we were all camped out at. I was hooked. The story that had seemed to me a fantasy version of Nancy Drew and the blah blah blah, now had meat, it now had muscle. I was intrigued and in full possession of the boxed set of paperbacks shortly thereafter. I've read through the series three times total since the summer of 2005 and loved the evolving mythical world Rowling created.

I picked up my copy in the wee hours of Friday night. On the ride home from the bookstore, I even teared up as I turned the pages to chapter one. (Oh, yes I am a 40 year old blubbering fool. :-P)

The cons:
(Spoiler alert!) I was disappointed almost immediately. By the time the deathly hallows are mentioned on page 405 I had totally forgotten they were in the book’s title. Really, I thought I was reading Harry Potter and the Forest of Dean because I had noticed before the plot even found it's way there that JK's bio at the end of the book had made a marked change from the versions found in my Scholastic paperbacks. No longer was she educated in the Forest of Dean and lived in Edinburgh, the end, that's it, move on. Now she has like a 50 word bio (I am presently separated from my copy and I don't remember the specifics) with no mention of the Forest of Dean. A red herring I would learn, but still I was intrigued.

The middle third of the book was tough to wade through and I would have been more than glad to say that it's monotony was an important theme if Rowling didn't the wrap up major questions readers have been dying for in seat of your pants plot situations in the final third.

I would have loved if all of the newly identified mysteries, such as the hallows, were fed to us slowly over the course of the book, alongside the much craved revelations about the major characters. Instead they were thrown at us, bluntly, clumsily, and at full force, in unsatisfactory and frustratingly inelegant denouements. Rowling had us at hello, there was no need for all of the gotchas to be crammed into the end. The book suffers for it.

And finally this was Harry’s story mostly and the pathos of the story was the lesser for it. What made the world of Potter so wonderful were the supporting characters. How much quest angst can a reader take? A lot more when there’s the Weasley twins refusing to manage their mischief, when there is a Neville Longbottom to remind us there is a pot of gold after the awkward growing pains of the tween years, and when there is a Luna Lovegood to remind us how foolish many of our human aspirations are when, seriously, there are nargles (sp?) running rampant.

Then there is a glaring lack of Snape in the story. Yes, we get the answer we are waiting for, but it is hastily presented, as if Rowling was so tired of finessing the plot she reverted to a first draft version of the story made back in the Book 1 days. Snape opens the book and then doesn’t reappear until beginning of the end. He is relegated to plot device status, as opposed to story development status. He was sorely missed.

Pros:
Although few and far between, some of the minor character developments do shine. No, we don’t get to see Ginny mature to the expectations foreshadowed by her bat bogey hex proficiency, but we do see briefly that Neville gets his groove on. Even his Grandmother gets in on the action and she couldn’t be prouder of him. Finally! And to return to the Weasleys, Mrs. Weasley gets to operate outside of her mother henning role (well, sort of) briefly and it is delectable when it comes.

As alluded to above, all of the major storylines converge right at the end and after they crumble into each other (hastily, it feels) Rowling does manage to reign them in and finish the book up with a flourish. The mysteries of the Harry – Voldemort connection unfold as the action unfolds and we get a final battle that works themewise and plotwise. There is satisfaction to be had and it is worth it 100%.

In sum, being a critic is far easier than explaining what was great, at least for me. The cons do seem to outweigh pros on paper, but they don’t. They really don’t. It is in the nature of the reader to balk where the story doesn’t meet expectations and I hope that my misgivings sourced from them not being met will eventually disperse and be replaced with the overall good feeling I do have for the story and for this last installment in it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Life post Harry Day 1

I finished the Harry Potter and the Dealthy Hallows last night and today, even after a good night's sleep, I'm exhausted. My brain is befuddled. I thought some knitting might help.

I bought some buttons for the Summer Set cardigan Friday. This morning I tried the cardigan on and decided it's long enough to begin the 2 x 2 ribbing trim. The problem? I don't have size 6 circulars. Big d'oh. I do have have a pair of 12" straights that I attempted to use this morning. Yeah? not really. :-P



I quickly realized it wasn't gonna work. Yet I'm in no shape to do anything about my lack of instruments.

I've also cast on the second Sweet Tarts sock after turning the heal of the first.



It dawned on me late last week I may be suffering from finishitis.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bloggers are so friggin' helpful!

Poking around the Knitting Blog webring homepage, I happened upon a link to crazycatknitter's blog. That was the best thing I did of recent, and that's saying something considering this.

In a post earlier in the month she gave a shout out to an April 2005 post over at the knitticisms blog that provides a step by step guide to creating your own knitting progress bars. I had been using a skanky "baby is due in X months" ticker from the ticker factory. And today crazycatknitter has a link to a Ravelry widget that will calculate where each member stands in getting their invite to the beta. Woohoo!

My status:
  • I signed up June 7, 2007
  • I am #7,559 on the list;
  • There are 1,713 people in head of me in line;
  • 10,143 people are behind me in line; and
  • 32% of the list has been invited so far.
Not sure how quickly the line will move, but hopefully within a month or so I'll be in.

Thanks blogland!

Summer Set Cardigan Sleeve Construction

A chronic problem I have with top down knitting construction is that to generate the roomy bosom I prefer I wind up with ginormous armholes. To adjust for this I am attempting what will amount to a form of shaping. On my first run, it seemed to fit and drape well. However, as mentioned in an earlier post, I knit up the remainder of the sleeve by purling in the round which led to a puckering from the much tighter gauge. I decided to frog the sleeve and begin again from scratch. Here is scratch:



I put the entire armhole on a circular needle. I placed four stitches from the back side of the armhole on one dpn and four stitches from the front side of the armhole on a second dpn.



I used a three needle bind off to knit them up and out of the armhole, in a manner of speaking. As you can see this leaves a lovely little hole.








Using a fly-by-your-pants darning technique, I closed up the hole and was ready to knit the remaining stitches into a nice sleeve.







Monday, July 16, 2007

Knitting, and who am I and where is my brain?

Friday, early evening, I put our little basil plant in the bathroom sink for watering. I opened the faucet, letting the water run at a slow pace, just a smidge greater than a trickle. I proceeded to vacuum the house and go on with my life. Approximately six hours later my husband goes to the bathroom before heading up to bed and finds something like this:



Oh yes I let the water run for OVER.SIX.HOURS. And just in case I thought that was a simple oversight, I added a coup de grace the following evening by putting the ice cream back into the fridge, rather than it's customary haunt, the freezer.

Where is my brain?

Oddly enough, when I awoke this morning it was wholly preoccupied in composing poetry of unparalled genius, whereas last night it was trying to learn how to take photos of me wearing my Summer Set Cardigan. These shots make me look 30 lbs. lighter. It's miraculous.



The above are pictures of the Summer Set Cardigan at this stage:


Last night I finished up what must now be considered a dry run of a short sleeve since I ripped it out this morning while sitting in front of the a/c waiting for my body temp to tumble from a post-shower high of 1 gazillian and a half degrees.

The way I knit up the sleeve required me to purl in the round, rather than knit, and since my purling is much tighter than my knitting, a pronounced dent in the work occurred. Big d'oh: I should have taken a picture before I ripped it out. Hmph.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The only knitting going on here is by Mrs. Weasley and Hermione!

Harry Potter season is beginning at Chez Yarn, at least my part of Chez Yarn. Hubby just goes along for the ride and occasionally finds the inner resources to listen patiently to my earnest discussions of said boy wizard. Luckily for him, I'm not a year round fan.

Prior to 2005 my interest in reading had all but disappeared for what seems like a decade. Was it marriage, home ownership or the "thing" we dealt with in the early aught years? I'm not sure, but in 2005, I took up reading again like a hungry man takes up his first free meal.

For almost 35 years I've been reading at random. My interest had no focal point and so I wandered from one English or American classic to another. But I've never read one author or about one thing for than a month or so. Yet in the past few years I've developed a recurring reading schedule that although in its early stages, feels quite permanent. Summer has been Harry Potter season, fall has been Jane Austen season, and spring has been Sylvia Plath season. It's a marked change and feels like a maturation.

Moving and selling our house last fall did throw the winter schedule off a bit, but things settled down. Sylvia, though starting and ending much earlier, was ever more expansive. Jane's stayed with me all winter, spring, and now summer, primarily because I've have access to some unabridged audiobooks. I love listening while I commute to work and occasionally, while I knit at home. The only odd man out is Harry Potter. The excitement is brewing in me, but it has yet to fully percolate in way I have been accustomed.

I was excited for the movie, which we saw last night, and am aquiver over the last book being a mere 9 days away from my eager paws, but I'm not wholly obsessed with plowing through the canon in advance. In fact I just picked up the series last Saturday and have only made my way through the beginning of Chamber of Secrets. I feel no rush, and I don't know why. It is so unlike me. But it's good. Learning to relish things rather than gobbling them up so that I can count myself finished, is a way of living I strive for.

I rushed through the first four decades of my life hoping that at the next turn I'd be better, thinner, smarter, less dislikeable. I was trying to outrun shame, and find some self love, which never materialized, which still hasn't materialized. But now I'm reining that in. The way I'm reading is a testament that I am succeeding a weensy bit. No more plowing through to get to the end. It's the damn journey I should enjoy. Hello? It's the journey, stooopid. Every sentence read, every day lived, is to be succored and savored. It is all I have.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Summer Set Cardigan Progresses*

Working on the Summer Set cardigan this weekend has definitely helped me get out of my funk. As of a week from yesterday I was at this point:


But then, I somehow lost a stitch at the end of the row and had to frog a third of the way back. That's not something that's happened to me a great deal. Here I was earlier last night at the end of the third skein:


I'm about ready to move the sleeves off the needles and connect the body. While I toiled away, some lounged. The nerve, eh?


*Finally could edit post to include title. Removed reference of same from beginning post.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Cashsoft Shawl...


Yarn specs: 50 gram ball measuring 142 yards made of 57% extra fine merino, 33% microfibre, 10% cashmere. The proprieter of Now and Zen Yarns went on and on about how well garments knitted with this yarn look and last after repeated washing and use. She even said it was machine washable, using the gentle cycle and cold water. I, never one to believe a thing any sales person tells me, just smiled and expounded on it's overall loveliness. This yarn had me at the first touch. Everything else will be gravy.

No sooner did I buy this yarn than I was thinking furiously of a pattern for it. I wanted a shawl, but I needed a fully knitted pattern (i.e., no lace, no holes). I need it to keep me warm at work during the dog days of the office a/c.

I spent Sunday figuring out how to start the shawl bottom up, what edging to use, and then formulizing what pattern would be optimal. I eventually settled on a diamond seed stitch pattern I so loved with my Dale Baby Ull hat:


It was just a matter of trial and error to figure out how to incorporate the diamonds on an expanding canvas. I may not have won this battle in it's entirety but perfection is for losers. (Yeah I totally mean that cuz I never ever ever ever worry about what other people think. Nope, not me :-/)

I CO two stitches and began the increases in the first row. I will make two increases every other right side row. Up until the 11th row the pattern is all seed stitch. All of the increases have been made in pattern, that is, one increase was a knit stitch, one increase was a purl stitch. I make these initial increases in the center two stitches.


When beginning the 12th row I would have 10 stitches on my needle. It was time to introduce the stitch pattern used in the body of the shawl. On row 12 the first stitch is slipped (as are all first stitches in the entire work) then 2 stitches are worked in the seed stitch pattern. The next two stitches are knit. The first increase is worked into the left leg of the stitch below the second of these two knit stitches. (The three seed stitches and two knit stitches constitute the edging of my shawl.) In this row only, before starting the left side edging (the remaining five stitches plus one increase), I inserted a one-time increase using a make one increase. I then worked the left edge in reverse of the right edge

I finished my first skein last night and ironed it. The loop at the begnning of the shawl is just the cast on tail.





Long Island adventures in yarn aka Yarn Porn!


Having a blog made it easier to tamp down the inner voice in my head that requires I take the path of least resistance, even if that means missing a yarn store in geographic location I have a) never been at; b) rarely been at; c) may never get a chance to go to again; and d) any combination of a, b, & c.

It would be easy to say I am lazy. That is what it looks like, but it isn't laziness, it's my aspyness. If I decide to go to point A to point B and am en route, any deviation will cause generalized anxiety. This engenders a physical and emotional uneasiness that is better left unfelt.

When I saw a brochure for a yarn store at the New London, CT ferry office on Saturday I took one but I truly believed it would wind up being thrown in the recycle bin with a deep sigh of acknowledgement of my 'limitations.'

Ten minutes later I was in a whole new place. Yes! I wanted to see the yarn store. Yes! There is absolutely no reason on earth we shouldn't stop at the lovely yarn store; it is technically on our route. And yes! it would give me something to blog about. Yeah, that's the ticket!!!! The Blog needs to be fed! If it was just for me, well who cares, but the BLOG MUST GO ON! LOL...my brain is just freaky sometimes. F.R.E.A.K.Y.

Once all the mental gymnastics were over we did make a brief stop at Now and Zen Fiber Art Gallery in Greenport, NY on our way to my family's home in Peconic. I was a little too overstimulated to take it all in, so my nominal reportorial skills were even shabbier than usual. Just getting out of the car to visit was a breakthrough. I mean really, baby steps, baby steps.

The store has two sections, the front half being the fiber art gallery (I think?) of finished projects. I definitely saw dresses and crafty looking bags. The back half houses the yarn and notion merchandise.

The two women working in the store were really friendly and helpful. One of them, who we assumed was the proprietor, discussed with us why she had a swift attached to a chair so that the swift core was horizontal to the floor. She says she uses it this way to get centrifugal force to assist her in keeping an oversized skein on it during the winding process. Very cool tip.

I did get a new colorway of the Cherry Tree Hill superwash merino. Couldn't resist! The hubster picked this one out.


I also couldn't resist buying two of each size 0, 1, and 2 of the 16" bambo circular needles. These sizes are not sold in my area and would require internet or catalog purchasing, and since me ≠ long distance purchasing, I thought I'd splurge.


And lastly, even though I don't need another project on the needles, this superfragilisticispalidocious yarn had my name all over it! Plus I've been meaning to try out a Rowan yarn to see what all the buzz is about. Being so adept at this word thingy, let me just say Yum!



Tuesday, July 3, 2007

How did I get here?

You're just going along and things are going great (for once!), the weather is absofreakinlutely perfect, all is right in the world, you started a new knitting project with the most luscious yarn, and then things.just.go.wrong. But not really very wrong at all. You have all your fingers and your toes, your healthy, your family is healthy. Yet you still can't help tearing up from an inner frustration you cannot put your finger on? That's today. So no yarn porn for you. Hopefully Thursday.

Have you seen our Charlie? Now he can bring a smile to my face. Love you Charlie.





Monday, July 2, 2007

Daytripping WIPs

Saturday the hubster and I took the ferry from New London, CT to Orient, NY (the north fork of LI) for a birthday luncheon. My grandmother turns 85 this year and my Aunt and Uncle put together a surprise lunch at a pub style restaurant in Riverhead, NY. As is my aspy way, I failed to mention to her that she looked great and not a day over 65. This is not hyperbole. We arrived at my Uncle's and she was fotzing around in the pool with her great grandson.

The ferry ride down was brisk. We sat on the upper deck and breathed deep the salty sea hair for approximately one and a half hours. It was all knitting, all the time. I worked on the Brights socks which I've decided to call Sweet Tarts.


The stitch markers are to keep track of the purl stitch decreases I'm making every six rows.


The evening ferry ride back is always colder so I took the opportunity to work on the Burgundy throw. I definitely made some headway into the final set of skeins. Unfortunately, all did not remain peaceful. What began as a beautiful evening ended quite badly when the mussels the hubster ate fought back. Poor hubby wound up leaving them (and bits of his stomach) in the parking lot of a Mobil gas station in southern Massachusetts. Sorry Mobil. :-/

A good night sleep and lots of sun on Sunday and all was right in the world. And yes, I did buy some yarn on LI. But that's for another day...


 

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