Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Inching along on my Firestarter...

Once again I'm surprised at how little knitting I'm getting done, especially on the weekends. I really miss my "it's sweltering outside, lets sit on the couch" weekend knit-a-thons. :-(

By last Friday night I had finished up the heel and was ready to start the leg of the Firestarter socks. After I knit about a cable repeat and a half I put the work on a set of circulars to see how it fit. I found it barely went over my heel. Phooey! I put it away in frustration, secretly hoping that I'd wake up on Saturday and find it magically fixed.

Oh yes, I'm delusional. Too bad so sad-for me. The twisted stitches and the density of the yarn have conspired to make a fairly non-pliable sock. If I want to give these away I was going to have to frog.

I hate going back the way I came in any endeavor, be it walking in the woods, going back into the house when I forget something on my way to work, or even knitting. I have a built-in, deeply ingrained impulse to go forward at all costs. Therefore, I only frog if the error causes obvious structural, design or aesthetic problems and in this case, it was a big structural issue. The recipient may not get this sock over her feet. Therefore, I must frog.

The transitional section between the heel and ankle was where I found the least give and had the most difficulty in getting over my heel. Therefore I had to incorporate immediate increases after closing the gusset to counter this. The only way I could think to incorporate numerous increases on a single row with this pattern was to turn the 2p1k rib into a 3p1k rib.

By the time I put my work down before going to bed Saturday night I wasn't sure I was happy with it. The increase in stitches has led to consistent pooling which I actually like, for now, but the wide rib wasn't ringing my bell.

Here's a progress pic from Monday night.

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By last night I felt like I was ready to accept the sock's fate and began working on it again. I got to the point where I needed a larger size needle and had to stop, since my US3's are all tied up on Blueberry Moon right now.

A trip to a LYS near my work at lunch today netted me the needles I need and some festive sock yarn I hope to use for knitted stocking stuffers,

Details to follow, eventually...oh, I almost forgot! Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007

I'd like to interrupt this knitting blog for some mucho cuteness!

Oh, I do have a blog post a-brewin' but I took these cutey patootey pics of Hunter this weekend and have to post them.

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You've come a long way Hunter. We love you!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Scrap Yarn Knitting

One of the interesting things I took from my first read through of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Opinionated Knitter was a project idea using scrap yarn. If I recall correctly, she mentioned she put aside like sized yarn scraps into nearby containers to use together for knitting something, I don't remember what.

I loved this idea.

I am plagued by what to do with yarn scraps. My natural sentimentality dictates I should keep a reminder of the yarn I used, especially for those projects which went away from me as gifts or failures or even natural attrition.

I've kept this idea in my mind and then somehow it melded with the log cabin knitted afghan project from another book I read through this summer, Mason-Dixon Knitting. Maybe something brought these things together outside of my mind but for the life of me I can't remember what it was, if it was anything at all.

Two things have stopped me from starting this project. First and foremost is which design philosophy to employ. Do I use the add on method of the Mason-Dixon pattern, adding sock yarn in the order of the socks I knit. Or do I knit up squares and rectangles as I go along and piece them all together at some far distant date in a eye-pleasing way.

The first idea really appeals to my preference for serendipity, as well as sentimentality. In this way I'll have an instant reminder of the order in which I knit socks. Also there will be the surprise of the design element since the color integration will be random-ish. It also appeals to my dislike of finishing, as you build the logs on top of each other, eliminating the end of project seaming. I may never get the project into the FO pile if I have to seam a hundred little garter stitch logs.

But will I really love something that is full of awkward color combinations? Will the FO be a knitted eyesore that I'll wind up hiding in a cupboard because it's too hideous to display? It may, it just may.

Yesterday in my internet wanderings I came upon the Mason Dixon's Slogalong blog where there were several similar projects, that is leftover sock yarn afghans. One was even a sock yarn log cabin afghan. The other two I saw were mitered square afghans using different orientations, see here and here.

What to do, what to do.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Baby Steps, Baby Steps

After whipping up the dog sweater on Saturday's road trip, and putting down the knitting altogether Monday night, I did begin to feel free of (some of) the emotional weight of Blueberry Moon and the Firestarter Socks.

Blueberry Moon got some action on Sunday night but the next step felt insurmountable on Monday. Sick of knitting Project Stole and not ready to face Firestarter, I didn't knit a thing and I found that really helped. I couldn't even focus on watching more of season three of BSG; I just watched the mindless sitcom lineup on NBC and went to bed.

Then, yesterday, full of ambiguous knitting hopes and dreams I got home early and made the decision I've been coddling for a week or so. I abandoned the Firestarter knitting I've done to date and started fresh, with new yarn.

I was 100% ready to say good by to this


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and say hello to this

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This is Blue Moon Fiber's STR in Jonagold. I picked it up last weekend in Rhinebeck. Since the pattern calls for lightweight yarn, and this is medium weight, I fudged the numbers a bit. I reduced the cast on stitches by 20% or six stitches (24 stitches versus 30 stitches). Both totals are divisible by three and six, which I am counting on to get me through fudging the design elements of the heel and ankle.

We'll see.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Travel Knitting

For the Rhinebeck trip I dutifully took two of my WIPS with me, the Project Stole and the Firestarter socks. But I also took along this yarn:



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It's been burning a hole in my stash for about a month. I picked up this lovely skein of Uruguayan, kettle dyed, merino wool from Malabrigo in the Marron Obscuro colorway during our day trip to Pattenworks last month. It has been meaning to be a dog sweater and after about five hours in the car on our way to and from Rhinebeck, it has magically turned into one:



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When fall comes back to central New England I'll get a picture of Ripley wearing it. Until then that pic will have to do.

I used the same template as the second sweater I knit Ripley, with some minor alterations. First, I reduced the CO stitches by four to compensate for how much the second sweater expanded on Ripley as he wore it. The Manos del Uruguay yarn is very similar to the Malabrigo. It is a single ply merino wool. The Manos del Uruguay varies from sport to bulky weight, where the Malabrigo is somewhere between an Aran and bulky weight throughout. So I designed this sweater with the assumption the same stretching will occur as Ripley wears it.

To this end, I didn't include the eight stitch increase on the belly portion of the sweater. This part of the second sweater began sagging considerably after several hours of wear. The final difference is the needles I used. I used size US10 dpns to cast on at the neck and then US7 dpns for the remainder of the project, with the exception of my use of an unknown size crochet hook to carry the yarn down the armhole as I began the lower body. I used either size US8 or US9 dpns to knit the second dog sweater.

This was the first time I used Malabrigo yarn and I know I'll knit with it again. Like the Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran, it was an extraordinarily smooth yarn to knit. Like knitting butter. I know I keep using that description but until I can lasso some new words to describe it better, that will have to do. It's a wonderful, wonderful yarn. A washing with Euculan gave it an even softer and more luxurious texture.

Yet between the time I purchased the yarn and caked it and the time I knit it, my perception of the yarn changed. I'm sure I loved the soft texture of the wool when I purchased it, but the following picture of the cake burned into my memory a false feeling of textural coarseness.



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There's nothing like the idea of coarseness to put me off knitting something. I think it was the haloing of the yarn cake that transfixed this sense of coarseness for me. I wonder if a texture shift happens in the minds of other knitters or fiber artists.

I can't be alone.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rhinebeck and back

We had beautiful, if unseasonably warm, weather for our trip west to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY. Although it didn't start out as well as it finished. When we left our house around 5:15 am it was very dark, 60 degrees, and muggy. Bleh.

Hubby was understanding and let me knit by car light until the sun came up. We were deeply rewarded when in full sun we could see the blaring fall visage of the Berkshires. I forget, from lack of travelling, how fabulous the view is from the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90). The mountains sported every vibrant, fall shade imaginable, moss green, yellow cab yellow, fiery red, and a panoply of every hue in between. The Taconic Expressway in New York was as beautiful, if not moreso, since the woods and rolling hills were much closer and gave us a far more intimate view than the Turnpike.

Even with one missed turn, we made it to my Aunt's house by 8:00 am. Her favorite pastime is rug hooking. She's really good. She won a ribbon in a 4H contest a few years ago. She showed me the piece she's working on and it was fabulous. She has a great sense of color, as well as a strong command of design, both of which are imperative in hooking.

We spent some time going over her expansive wool collection which aside from filling up one entire closet (jealous!) also gets housed in bins in her guest bedroom and living room. I could have spent the morning going through all of it piece by piece. I am so deeply attracted to wool (and plaid wool!) it makes me doubt my sanity. I'm definitely on one of the shallower ends of the bell curve.

We were then on our way with me already overwhelmed. I'm not sure what time we arrived at the fairgrounds but the traffic near the grounds was light and our parking spot was pretty close to the entrance. We paid our fares and headed straight up the main thoroughfare towards the back corner, Building E, which had specialty food vendors my Aunt was interested in. We purchased some artisanal cheese and then moved on to the main event: yarn viewing. We hit Building A (I think) first and the intimacy and crowding began to take their toll.

In situations like this my senses are overloaded and I respond only to swaths of color and/or large shapes. So though I don't remember much of what I saw, I do remember we quickly noticed a long line on the other side of the building. We didn't know what it was for until we got closer and saw it was a Blue Moon Fiber Arts vendor with a booth chock full of STR. Without a second look, Hubby valiantly took to the line while I braved the crowd. I wound up picking four skeins with similar hues (red wines and pale greens). I immediately felt I was wasting this opportunity by my narrow choices and returned to the overcrowded booth. I could only manage switching out one of the skeins.



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They had some nifty patterns for sale that utilized alternating colorways. I mentally catalogued that for the future. Once clear of the building, and clear of the first hump of spending, we hit the rest of the stalls at a brisk pace. Hubby kept his much keener eye out for sock blockers while I was pulled left and right by an overabundance of color.

I was consistently drawn to variegated colorways but quickly found that most of the yarn I loved was a wool and mohair blend. Not something I'm interested in. I want sheep wool and only sheep wool. But as stall after stall and colorway after colorway were passed up I came upon a vivacious alpaca/merino mix that proved impossible to resist. The beautiful colors of this yarn also proved difficult to capture on film yesterday in sunlight or shade.



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As we wound our way through the final set of stalls the hope for finding wooden sock blockers was acknowledged as dashed, dashed, dashed. The remaining cash in my wallet was eagerly parted with when I happened upon a variegated yarn from Manos del Uruguay. It was a perfect colorway for the season, with colors complementing the hues of fall, in direct contradiction to the balmy, late summer day feeling in the air.



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Speaking of weather, the bright, sunny, and warm day did not stop everyone from donning their favorite hand knits. I saw some amazing sweaters, and even a cabled, long sleeve, knee length knitted dress on one gal. It takes a much, much stronger constitution than mine to brave such warm weather dressed in wool. One sweater I saw on the way out was an instarsia knit sweater (or cardigan, as I only saw the back) showcasing a border collie herding a small group of sheep. So pretty and so fabulous.

Within three hours my mental energy was depleted and it was time to go. I would have liked to have seen more of the agricultural side of the festival, as well as to spy on the Ravelry meet at noon to see if I could spot any members based on pics from their online profiles or blogs, but I was mentally caput.

We returned to my aunt's house for some delicious home made food and fine conversation and then, a bit later than expected, a long, happy ride home.

In reading this post over I can't help but chuckle at my clinical description. I'm an Aspy and there's nothing I can do about it. I can't wait to spend some time out in the blogosphere and see the festival through much, much different eyes.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Transitions

For some knitters the summer slows them down, for me it sped up my knitting. I hate the heat and find myself locked indoors with the A/C. Now that the weather has cooled (at least for last week, it's supposed to 71 degrees tomorrow where the Rhinebeck festival is happening!) I can finally get out of my cocoon and this has definitely slowed down my knitting.

But maybe it's not only the weather. The design element I've introduced to Blueberry Moon has left me a bit dispirited. I all but finished one wrist and I'm stalled. I'm not sure it's what I want and I'm too afraid to forge ahead and find myself needing to frog it again. So it's 'resting.' But my mind wasn't.

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Between this and the disapprobation I feel because of the Firestarter socks, I feel I've been thrown off my knitting groove. It took me a few days to remember knitting is supposed to be fun and that I had another great project I could work on that is all love, Project Stole. So the second half of the week has been devoted to knitting her. Last night I got through 3/4's of a skein before bed. She's about 31 inches long now.

RHINEBECK!

Who can't help but pick up the excitement in the blogoshpere and at Ravelry regarding Rhinebeck, where New York States Sheep and Wool festival is happening this weekend.

I've been vacillating all summer about whether I could handle such an overload of yarn and people and I didn't make up my mind until I had some serious help from my Aunt yesterday. I am going, but only for a morning. Tomorrow morning to be exact. It'll be a brutal 4:00 am wake up to get to my Aunt's and then to the festival by the 9:00 am opening, but I have no doubt it will be worth it.

I don't intend to spend a lot of money, but from what I've read that type of belief usually turns out to be delusional. I don't know if festival virgins like myself are more susceptible, but we'll see come tomorrow afternoon, wont we.

At the Rhinebeck Ravelry forum on how much others are spending I've read over and over again how people are refraining from buying sock yarn. That's my primary interest. I suffer from chronic sock yarn stash envy. I'm not as susceptible as the rest of humanity to on-line retailing and that seems to be the main source of great sock yarns of my fellow bloggers. I look and yearn, but I have a psychological resistance to web transactions. My checkbook remains happy, but my lust, unsated, grows.

I know my growing desire to stash sock yarn runs contrary to my overwhelming need to stay stash lean. Yet it's much easier to stash sock yarn than larger project yarn. A sweater needs five to 10 skeins, depending on the yardage. Socks are usually just one skein. Therein lies my slippery slope of rationalization.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Feeling Stupid

Feeling stupid makes me unfathomably angry. I just want to lash out at people. I came up against another mysterious segue in the Firestarter pattern Saturday night and revisiting it today on the KAL makes me want to punch someone in the face, thank you very much.

I realize I haven't posted a single picture of this project here, just over at the KAL. This toe left me sleepless one night and angry for even longer. It's so pretty that the anger was quickly forgotten until I finished the gussets



and began turning the heel.

Living with a learning disability has gotten worse with age. Maybe it's because I have less patience now that I fully understand my limitations. When I was younger I just figured out ways to get around things or maybe it was that more often than not I was blissfully ignorant of my limitations. Now when they are wont to trip me up I feel like a cornered cat. My anger is ferocious. I have yet to find a coping mechanism for it.

I began turning the heel and WHAM! at row 18 I realize I don't understand a frackin' thing it expects me to do next. I just want to cry I feel so stupid.

Oh, this is the least offensive picture of my feet that I took yesterday.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Blueberry Moon Design Accent

I put Blueberry Moon to the side for a couple of weeks and let percolate my amorphous idea of adding some kind of textured accent to the bottom trim of the wrist and body. And though I love many stitch patterns from the Harmony Guide: 220 Aran Stitches I picked up last month, I'm suffering from an embossed twining vine leaf monomania.

I made several aborted attempts on the sleeve of Blueberry Moon a couple of nights ago until it dawned on me to whip out the test yarn I purchased when I was working on the the shoulder seam. Test patterning showed instant progress and I was able to quickly find a variation of this leaf motif that would work knitting top down.


Last night I concentrated on how to frame the motif, how to manage the increases and decreases and I think I'm all set to go forward on the actual garment this weekend. Big yeah!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

This project stole my heart completely...

I love my Project Stole. I love the yarn and the amazing texture of the pattern.


The shawl is over 20 inches long at this point. I started the fifth ball of yarn on Saturday. I think I'm gonna need about 80 inches in pre-blocked length to get a finished length of at least 60 inches. This yarn is very springy and will probably respond strongly to blocking.


Knitter's Review, reports that the yarn expands about 5% once it's been washed and blocked. I'm counting on this. Only 10 1/2 balls to go.

Although I'm dying to wrap this around me, I'm enjoying every stitch and am in no rush to finish.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Organization is good

Months back I lamented the state of my circular needles:


Even with the good advice that commentors left I was reluctant to make a decision on which system to invest in. On the one hand there was the cost of investing in a system and on the other hand there was the fear I'd invest in a system I was going to detest.

You see I lack the skill to know what I actually like. I am notorious for going all out on an organizational scheme only to hate it because it is inefficient or inaccessible or something or other. Then I'd have to spend another small fortune on a wholly different organizational scheme.

So a few weeks ago when I was binge spending I made a wise decision to utilize my loss of inhibition to buy something useful. I bought circ holders and lots of them. You know there's nothing more disappointing about an organization project than not having enough of whatever you need to finish the job. So waiting until I was all about throwing caution to the wind and buying more than I could possible need for now actually worked out for me.

I am pleased as punch at the result:


I can keep my needles in the same place as before and they are now 10x more accessible. Bliss...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I'm still here, sorta

Blogging here feels like swimming through sand right now. Even reading other blogs has been slow going. There is knitting going on, but the details will have to be lost to time.

Do you ever have dreams that are just circular, where you're doing the same thing over and over, and you feel half awake and aactually doing the thing you're only dreaming about over and over? Well last Friday I cast on the Chevron Scarf from Last Minute Knitted Gifts over and over and over in my sleep. It felt like the dream lasted all night.

It was torturous waking up and not being able to actually cast on. IRL I kept the yarn safely in it's bin. I'll start when I'm finished with the ever lovely project stole.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

This week in socks part deux...

I finished a second pair of socks this weekend! (Well, technically Monday, but it was a 3 day weekend for me.)


I was able to start the yarn on the second sock at near the same spot as the first so the striping matches quite well. Unfortunately this Schachenmayr Nomotta Regia Silk self striping sock yarn has major, major flaws. The second ball was crap and crap in a big way.

Not only was the intensity of the color on the second sock washed out, there are numerous spots where the dark colors leach into the lighter colorways, and on top of that more times than not the yarn had undyed sections where one color transitioned into the next. There's no way I can gift these now and I'm not happy about it.


I was, however, very glad to get these done. Having three socks on needles at the same time was an exercise in stress for me. I hope to never do it again. I think one of each type of project, sweater, scarf, and sock, is well and good for me, but not more than one similar project. I really felt more knitting pressure than pleasure.

I haven't written a wrap up in a bit so I might as well get back on the bandwagon.

Yarn
Schachenmayr Nomotta Regia Silk in the 190 colorway
55% Merino, 25% Polymide, 20% Silk
Probably about 1 and 1/2 balls or 327 yards

Needles
I alternated between 7" bamboo and 5" rosewood DPNs both of which were size US1.

Pattern
Basic sock pattern

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Knitting Tourist No More

The trip to Patternworks this weekend piqued some self-reflection. Four months ago when I went up there for the first time I knew only a handful of luxury yarn brands and very little about the actual yarns themselves. This time I walked in and I saw so many familiar names, and even more familiar yarns, I kinda felt like a true knitter, as opposed to the knitting tourist I felt like in June.

Yes I knew how to knit but the palette of my knitting was so limited. I totally have the blogosphere to thank. Reading other people's feelings and thoughts about patterns and yarns I began to lose my natural fear in trying new things. One $20 skein of CTH supersock yarn purchased last June was the first step and I hadn't looked back until Saturday's trek to Patternworks. It's been a great trip.

Now on to actual knitting news:

My second goal in going to Patternworks was to purchase some Koigu, or other fingering weight yarn, to complement this vivacious skein of Violas from MadelineTosh.


This colorway is perfection but I fear that my love of the colors en skein will fade abruptly once I knit it up. I want to avoid the CTH Brights colorway problem wherein the darkest tone overwhelmed the softer hues. My solution is to "cut it" with the hues I don't want overwhelmed. The project I have in mind is the chevron scarf pattern from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. The additional yarn I'm going to use are two solids made by Koigu (KPM).




Now I've waxed all growthy about how much I've learned about yarn above, but I'm still not as accomplished in managing color as I'd like. I hope that taking a much more conservative approach than say Shannon did over at Minerva Turkey I'll have a finished project I'll be happy with. I am so not in her league yet. But I'm a learnin'.
 

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