Archive for April, 2008

Happy Thoughts

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Let’s move on to some happy thoughts for today, shall we?

We’ll start with a non-knitting one – a photo from the dentist appointment last week. I really must sing the praises of our pediatric dental office. The staff there is patient and kind – they were great on our first visit when Julie pretty much refused to even let them look in her mouth, and this last week proved that they had earned her trust when she did exactly what they asked, and did it with a smile.

When the teeth were sparkling, the staff ended the visit with a couple of Polaroid pictures for us to take home of the girls with Dr. Amey, and she was kind enough to let me take a picture of the three of them for the blog. If you are in the Twin Cities and looking for a dentist for your children I highly recommend Children’s Dental Care Specialists in Edina. They have an awesome waiting room too.

Okay, on to some knitting. I took some pictures on Sunday with the intention of posting about it, but circumstances (including kids not going to bed at decent hours the last two nights) kept me from it.

So here’s the right front on Sunday afternoon right before I decided I needed to frog back a bit. As much as I love these long-repeat striping yarns, they can be difficult to match ball to ball. I’d ended up with a very thin stripe of blue surrounded by very wide stripes of white. It looked wrong, so I pulled out the remaining balls and tried to figure out which end would provide the best match into the pattern.

I ended up ripping back only a few rows to the blue stripe and joining in and end in the same color. A few hours later it looked like this.

I think it worked out rather well. I’ve got two more rows to knit on the front now – will get to that as soon as this post is done – and will also get the strings threaded for blocking and cast on for the back tonight.

I have kind of a wild hair in the back of my mind that maybe just maybe I can finish this sweater before Shepherd’s Harvest. In my experience, Mother’s Day weekend in Minnesota is still likely to be good outdoor sweater weather. Two things about this plan worry me slightly – one is that there is a lot of finishing involved on this project.

Two is that Sock Wars III starts on May 9. I’ve signed up to participate – and I think it’s still open to join if you’re interested. Signing up is basically a promise to knit on a pair of socks for your target till they are either finished or till you are “killed” by receiving the socks knit by your assassin. So if I’m going to finish the sweater, I’ll really have to get it done in the next ten days. Doable? dunno. But it will be fun to try.

Okay, I’ve got to get to work on that sweater while I watch The Golden Compass fresh from Netflix and eat more chocolate chip cookies. In the mean time, I’ll leave you with this little conversation I had with Sophie during dinner the other night. We were talking about finishing up the meal so that she could have a bath, and then discussing whether or not it would be a bubble bath. The way she said “No bubble bath” was so cute that I wanted to bottle the moment and hold on to it forever. Actually, the way she talks in her innocent toddler-speech right now just melts my heart about a million times every day.

Blankie is Crankay!

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Okay, Blankie is an inanimate wooly object, and therefore incapable of the crank. I, however, as its owner and progenitor, am totally full of the crank even after about ten hours to cool off, half a dozen fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, two glasses of wine and a bunch of kettle chips.

I know you’re just dying to know what could possibly make me *this* cranky. Well. This afternoon I was trolling around Ravelry when I stumbled across a post that included the words “the maker of this creation is doing a class at Threadbear in jun or July can’t remeber now.” And he was making it in reference to MY BLANKIE! I know this for sure because he posted it in the BlankieMania group, which was founded (not by me) to discuss the blankie and how much fun people are having making it. I just about choked up a furball.

So I called the store, and yes, they are hosting a workshop in June taught by a teacher that they are bringing in from out of town. They are calling it the “Blankie” (or they were till I begged them not to). Until I brought it up, they thought that this woman had designed “The Blankie”. She is their friend, and they are defending her.

I was so angry after that conversation that I was literally shaking. So then I took it a step farther and called up the woman teaching the class. Not only is she traveling to teach the class at this one store, she’s apparently planning to teach it at several other stores, including her own. And she’s doing so without compunction. She doesn’t seem to feel bad at all about stepping on my toes at all.

It is true that many, many people have done mitered squares before me. Many people have made mitered square blankets before me – both the sewn-together and the modularly knit-together kind. I think, however, it is fair to say that I am the person who popularized the idea of large mitered-square blankets knit in small squares out of sock yarn. And I’m pretty damned sure that I’m the person who coined the term “Blankie” in reference to blankets like mine.

This teacher’s blanket-in-progress looks a heck of a lot like mine, and she has it on display at the store to promote the class. Oh, except she’s chosen to make hers with straight edges on the sides – something that although I haven’t discussed it on the blog I do teach in my own classes on the blanket. She is stealing my share of a tiny little niche market. And there is nothing at all that I can do about it.

Even though I was the first one to knit up a blankie like mine – the first one crazy enough to collect such a variety of sock yarns and knit a queen-sized blanket on tiny needles and weave in all those ends. And then I posted about it on my blog for almost two years, proving that it could be done and that the results were worth the effort. Even though I went to the trouble – I can’t copyright the idea. As long as she’s writing up her own instructions she’s within her rights.

The only way I can think of to do anything about this is to send out letters to every yarn store in the country offering to come there and teach the class myself. And that wouldn’t stop them from hiring her or any other teacher instead of me to teach their class if they wanted to. That’s just not possible since I don’t have the financial resources to execute such a mailing.

And it’s not even about the money. It’s about the recognition, the how much fun it would be to go somewhere for a weekend and meet a bunch of enthusiastic knitters and watch their faces as they learn new tricks and gain confidence in their abilities under my tutelage. It’s about the principle of if you’re going to use my idea that I put out there for free as a gift that you should at least let me know ahead of time and give me credit for it. Send people to my web site to read the story of the original blankie here. And yeah, the money such as it is would be nice too.

Yeah. So I’m sitting here ranting about the blankie instead of giving you the Sunrise Circle update I was planning on. Maybe tomorrow if I can calm down a bit by then.

Oh, and since we’re talking about the blankie, I thought I would share a link with you that I found a couple weeks ago. It’s a blanket that looks a lot like the one I did, only her copyright date is 2005, which means that she came up with hers before I did mine, and therefore really *my* blanket looks like *hers*.

I swear, I have no recollection of ever having seen this blanket before, but I think it is great and what is even more cool is that she has a printable template for a grid you can use to color in square patterns if you want to knit a non-random blanket.

By the way, my class on my Blankie at the Yarnery in St. Paul starts on May 6. I haven’t checked if there’s any space left in the current session still or not, but there’s always a waiting list. And if you are interested in taking a class on the Blankie – and I cover smaller scarf and shawl versions of the project as well, with various finishing options – talk to your local yarn shop about bringing me in.

In Which I Feel Like a Jackass

Friday, April 25th, 2008

So late last night I posted about that wonderful “deal” on some makeup. I’m getting ready to go delete that post because I don’t want anyone else to get suckered like I did.

It’s so funny – I sat there last night thinking “This is to good to be true.” But I read about it on a forum I’ve read for a very long time, and the person who posted it was someone I would have expected to check things out before she bit into it. And, like most suckers, I wanted it to be true. And the website involved does look pretty slick and professional, but still.

I actually thought to myself – I should run this through Snopes before buying anything. Well, thanks to an astute commenter, I know now that I should have followed my instincts. Here’s the thread on the subject that I found at Snopes. D’oh!

The good news is that it does seem to be a legitimate business, and I might even expect to get a package in the mail sometime soon. The bad news is that this is not a high-end brand of cosmetics, and it is not affiliated with Nordstroms, or Bloomingdales, which apparently is another version of the rumor.

So now I’m feeling a bit foolish. But the knitting-related thing about this that I found funny is that the first person who responded to the thread had this as her tagline:

“Skepticism, my dear great-grandchildren, is a fine thing, and to be cultivated. Take as little on trust as you possibly can. You have quite good brains … and you might as well practice using them.” -Elizabeth Zimmermann

So appropriate!

Sorry for any inconvenience I may have caused my readers, and I’ll come back with some knitting content hopefully this evening.

Sunrise Circle, Quickie Update

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

As I expected, I did end up finishing the first piece of my Sunrise Circle yesterday. Last night, I sat on the couch and strung sock yarn through some of the edges of the thing while I watched a scary movie, and then proceeded to start on the second sleeve.

The scary movie was The Orphanage, and this time I was grateful for the subtitles because my knitting project was simple and I was able to mute the volume during the scary parts without missing any words – I find that turning off the scary, suspenseful music makes it easier to cope, as well as sometimes setting the speed to 1.5X fast forward. I like scary movies, but they kinda scare me.

Anyway, the kids stayed asleep for once and some progress was made. This morning, Sophie and I shipped Julie off to pre-school and then my littlest helper helped me block out my curlycurly piece of knitting.

She just couldn’t resist the bubbles from the Eucalan bath that the sweater was briefly soaking in. Luckily, I had chosen to postpone worrying about the breakfast dishes till after I had done my blocking, so I was able to pull the sweater piece out of the bath, wrap it in a towel and let it sit while Sophie played in the bubbles and I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher.

On to the office room, where I remembered SouleMama’s trick of letting her little one (who is much younger than Sophie) move straight pins from one pin cushion to another. I don’t actually own a pin cushion, so instead I gave Sophie an extra box of T-pins and the rice bag thingie that I still had in my office from last week’s sore neck episode to stick the pins in.

She loved it, and it kept her busy while I pinned out a sunrise. Don’t worry – I was right there watching her the whole time, and there was no trouble at all. I don’t think I would try this trick with Julie around – different personality and more creative trouble-making skills and all.

So anyway, this blocking job involved a lot more pins than my last one. I used my sock yarn trick for the straight edges, but the curved one I found to be easiest by just going to town with the pins. It blocked out right on the mark size-wise, and I have to say that I just love the way the stripes are turning out.

So the knitting on this project is more than a third done already! Trouble is, all accounts tell me that the sewing on this project is quite a bit of work between the side-seams, the arm seams, and most abundantly tacking down all the facings. Not to mention somehow creating the button-loops, which is totally new to me.

For now, the littlest helper is napping and I have another half hour before I have to wake her up and take both girls to the dentist. We have done lots of talking and book-reading on the subject of dental visits since the last time around, and hopefully Sophie will still be happy to show off her chompers and Julie will at least agree to let them look in her mouth.

Sunrise Circle, A Start

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Hey, everyone – thanks for all the nice words about the snowflake scarf. I’m still feeling good about whipping out the end of that lickety-split, especially after having let it sit ignored for so long.

I have this friend – and there are many long-time knitters out there like this in the world-wide knitting community – who does a complicated lace pattern once, gets it “loaded in her brain” as she calls it, and then does two or three more while she’s at it ’cause she’s on a roll. There is a teeny tiny part of me that almost wants to tread that path with this scarf. I even have the yarn in stash. Except that a) I’m not even sure what I’m really going to do with the first one and b) I have a million other project begging for my attention.

And c) I’m ready for something a bit more simple. Something in a nice, thick yarn that knits up in the blink of an eye. Like, you can knit an entire skein over the course of a day without even really trying. Sunrise Circle fits that bill, but it’s (so far) kind of fun and interesting. But let’s back up.

I bought a butt-load of Nashua Wooly Stripes worsted-weight wool and started knitting it up on my Singer LK-150 back in January of last year. I had all kinds of crazy-good reasons for going this route, and I still think that they’re really valid reasons. But then for lots of other really good reasons, things started going wrong and so first I set it aside in frustration, and then I ripped it all out and washed the yarn. And it sat for a while longer because I had a giant sock-yarn blankie to finish.

So, as I’m working my way way back through the list of UFOs, and I still really like this yarn and want a sweater out of it. But now there’s Ravelry, so I spent some time poking around thinking about what pattern would do this yarn the most justice. It’s similar in weight and self-stripey-ness to Noro Kureyon, so I got some great ideas looking at all the projects people had knit up with that. Sunrise Circle was my favorite, though. And it seemed like most of the people who knit it were happy with their results. And on top of that, the Rainey Sisters had knit one each. It seemed like a no-brainer.

So I printed out the pattern, and I printed out a bunch of posts from when Susan knit hers (she had some great ideas for modifications). And then I wheedled Susan into *bringing* her sweater with her to freakin’ Yarnover and letting me try it on. Thanks Susan! And then I was totally hooked, and it was a very good thing that I was only days away from finishing the scarf because I was antsy.

Well. I started on Friday -between finishing the knitting on the scarf and blocking the thing. I actually was able to start a sleeve and knit a good way up it during the day on Friday while the girls played. I pulled out an old toy that had been hidden for almost a year (the girls kept sticking the markers in their mouths, and I got tired of being grossed out by it) and it was like new all over again. Those are Aquadoodle mats, which you use with special markers and stamp pads that you fill with water, and then after a while the pictures dry and you can use it all over again. That kept ‘em busy for an hour or so.

Okay, so without even really trying, I was making what felt like pretty fast progress on this thing. I started with the sleeve because I’d read that some people had gauge issues, and row gauge is really important on this design. Well, it turns out that it’s coming out right on the money size-wise. I have to note here that knitting sweaters for myself is a little nerve-wracking because I’ve only knit a few adult-sized ones, and they are kind of big projects that often come out unwearable. Which might be part of why I tend to put of doing it for so long. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

In the mean time, here’s what I had as of last night – it’s further now – I’ve only got like eight more rows to finish the front. It’s begging for a blocking for the curls and for the rowing out (I’m not used to knitting stockinette flat by hand). It’s a really fun knit so far. Kind of mind boggling how the sleeve magically morphs into the front.

Oh, and um – I may have brought home a couple more skeins of sock yarn yesterday.

I’m blaming my in-laws. They came over to watch the girls so I could go to another appointment, and when I get out of the house by myself, I feel like I must take the opportunity to go off and have a quick moment of freedom. Which inevitably ends up with me at the yarn store. This time it was Skeins in Minnetonka. I so totally wanted to buy a whole bag of the one on top and knit pants for the girls for fall.

Time to get knittin’!

Dining al Fresco

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

The girls and I packed up a lunch – just a normal everyday lunch of
pears, carrots, crackers, meat and cheese – pumped up the tires on the
bike, and headed out for our first trip to the park of the season.
Everything tastes better in the fresh air.

There's a guy shooting hoops nearby, and in a few minutes we'll get the
kite out and see if it still flies.

I'm feeling much better today, Joe is home with a headache. Figures.

Snowflake Scarf – Done!

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

The Snowflake Scarf is done and blocked, and I am quite pleased with it. I think when I started knitting on this one I thought it was going to be a replacement to my everyday black cashmere one that Joe had given me a couple years earlier and that I had lost. Silly me – I always think that I can knit fine lace and somehow bear to drudge it around the muck that is my every day life. Nope – I need something a little sturdier than that, which is why I ended up knitting the purple one a couple months ago. But this is beautiful, and it will be lovely for fancier occasions. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

I started this scarf way back in December of 2006. I was full-throttle working on the blankie at the time, but I needed a project to keep in the car for the days when I couldn’t get the girls to nap at home, but when they would magically fall asleep in the car and stay asleep long enough for me to drink a cup of coffee and relax with some knitting till my sanity came back into semi-focus. Those were some tough days, and as nice as it was to be able to hold some knitting and pretend to knit a row or two, progress was quite slow and sporadic.

The yarn was Fino by Alpaca with a Twist, which is laceweight 70% Baby Alpaca and 30% Silk, given to me by my SP 9 Pal in one of the best swap packages I think I have ever received. This yarn is scrumptious, and knit up nicely. I still have about half an ounce of it left and am wondering whatever I will do with this lovely little nugget. It is very soft, and has the silky shine and feel, but with a light halo from the alpaca.

The pattern is “A Russian Lace Scarf to Knit” by Dixie Falls and Jane Fournier, which was published in Piecework in the May/June 1995 issue, and more recently reprinted in the July/August 2007 issue, which is still available for order on Interweave’s website. I had seen a knitter-friend of mine wearing a scarf that she’d knit with the pattern and she was kind enough to loan me her copy of the magazine to knit from.

I haven’t seen the reprinted version (have just ordered a copy for my files), but in the 1995 version, the charts are hand-drawn with symbols that are not standard by today’s standards at least. So I transcribed them into more modern charts using Stitch Painter Pro, at the same time combining the main pattern with the edge patterns so I could look at them all in one row. I’m horrible at memorizing stitch patterns. For better or for worse (I think for better, actually) I made a mistake when I was transcribing the pattern and omitted a row from the border patterns. It didn’t make much difference in the look of the borders in the end, but it did work out so that the border charts ended on the same rows as the middle section charts. This meant that I could do exactly however many repeats as I pleased instead of working to a multiple of three as the original pattern required. One more repeat would have been no big deal in my case, but if I had been running out of yarn (as so often happens) having to choose whether to go another three repeats and risk running out would have made me grind my teeth.

Let’s move on to the pictures! As I’ve mentioned before and as I believe the knitting community generally agrees, unblocked lace looks like crap.

Well, not entirely crap, but certainly not living up to its potential.

Oops – we interrupt this discussion of lace scarves for a cute-kid pic. The girls got new rain gear, and I let them go out in the nice, gentle rain we had all day Friday to splash around for a while. That was all the gettin’ out of the house we did that day, because I’m still not quite well. My neck is better, but now my stomach is off. soon, it will be summer, and hopefully the solar radiation will kill off some of the germs that have plagued us lo, this long, long Minnesota winter.

Aaaand back to the lace. The scarf and I held a little blocking session, in which I once more employed my blocking-with-sock-yarn technique. I love blocking this way. I keep reading blog posts about how wonderful blocking wires are, and I get so close to buying a set, and then it comes time to block something and I use my standard technique, and I realize that I don’t need another piece of knitting equipment filling up my yarn closet, and that I think I’m happier with this method anyway.

I use very few pins – mostly just at the corners to hold the ends of the yarn lines tight, plus a few along the longer sides to make sure I don’t get dips. This time I got the yarn lines tight enough that they stayed almost perfectly straight on their own. I do measure half- and quarter-way down the line an make sure that the points are spaced evenly. In the picture below, you can see a pin that I stuck into the cloth just below the blocking area to mark where the half-way point is.

I like this method best because you get to string the “wires” in before you soak the lace, and I think sitting on the couch threading dry lace points onto sock yarn at my leisure has got to be better than rushing to get all the points onto the wires after they’re wet but before they start to dry. But I’ve never tried wires, so I’m not speaking from full experience. Another advantage is that my “wires” are always exactly the right length.

I probably could have blocked it an inch or two wider, but I blocked it exactly 16″ point-to-point so that it will fall into the scarf category at the fair instead of shawl/stole. The competition in the scarf category is stiff, and I don’t necessarily expect to win a ribbon, but the shawl/stole category is even tougher! It’ll probably need a fresh blocking by August, but it’s not like I was going to wait that long to show it off. And, um, I’m not going to tell you exactly what method I ended up going with on the edge-joining. I’m just going to say that *I’m* really happy with the way it looks, and if you want to remind me, I’ll tell you what I did after I get the results back from the fair.

And on to the glamour shots. Not very glamourous, really…but you can imagine if I had a nice dress on that it would make a pretty accessory for a fancy party.

And it would go just fine with my coat if I wanted to wear it to some cold-weather knitting event.

Yay!

I’ve already moved onward to the next project in the mean time. I’ve got a good little start on my Sunrise Circle. More on that in the next day or two – I’m really happy with how it’s cranking along.

Sophie, On Waking From Nap

Friday, April 18th, 2008

We've had an inexplicable dearth of cute-kid pictures around here
lately, so I thought I'd share a sweet moment.

Sophie has lately taken to waking from her nap and hanging out in her
crib talking to herself happily for a while most days. When I came up to
get her today, she was firmly tucked in and pretending to still be
asleep.

Yeeeeouch!

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Sheesh, I’ve had a crap day. I woke up this morning and was doing my normal gentle stretches that I do without even thinking about it just to work out the overnight kinks. Suddenly, I hear a *pop* in my neck, and for the rest of the day I have been progressively working up the ladder of pain killers with little to no relief.

I started with the over-the-counter Motrin -first two, then another one an hour later. Nothing. Then I dug through the medicine cabinet and found the Tylenol 3 left over from when Sophie was born. Nothing. After the kids went to bed, I took a – well, a slightly stronger pain pill left from the surgery I had recently, and while I got a nice relaxing buzz, my neck still feels like it’s made of steel wires or something. Hopefully it’ll be better tomorrow.

In the mean time, I finished the last repeat of the main body for my Snowflake scarf. For some reason, even pre-pain-pills, I ended up having to rip back a couple times in those last few rows after having clear sailing for the entire second half of the scarf. I’m calling it done after 11 repeats even though I probably have enough yarn to go for 13 or 14 repeats total because it’s definitely plenty long enough and because I’m ready to move on to a sweater.

I hate to even show y’all what this thing looks like pre-blocking because it looks like a wadded up old rag, but honestly it’s going to look great when it’s done. But the blog needs pictures, so here it is…

When It’s done, I’ll model it for you, but for tonight I’m in my jammies and all ready for bed, so I’m not about to ask Joe to take my picture with my raggedy looking scarf.

Anyway, I went ahead and started on the final border, which the instructions say should be knit as a separate piece and grafted on to the body of the scarf. I hate knitting things in pieces if I can help it, and I may have slight authority issues as well, so of course I tried modifying it a little and just knitting the border right on to the live stitches at the end of the scarf.

The only reason I could think of why this might not be a great idea is because perhaps the two ends wouldn’t match as well this way. So I took a couple of pictures, and I’d love it if anyone experienced in lace knitting can give me an honest critique – better to say something before I finish the entire edge, right?

Here’s the border at the beginning of the scarf (right side):

And here’s the one at the end of the scarf:

I have to be honest with myself – the join is just a tiny bit different. I probably will try to enter this in the Minnesota State Fair, and this is the kind of detail that the judges look at, I know. Not to mention that the category this would go into is quite competitive. But I’ve kind of resigned myself to not expect any more than a second or third place ribbon even if I’m lucky in that category. So what do you think – keep going, or do I really have to knit it as a separate piece?

Alright, it’s late – I’m off to bed. Thanks in advance for any advice on the knitting.

Evidence

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

…That I need to cast on for some more socks in wool/cotton/nylon blend…

This time of year right now is when I tend to switch from wearing my wool/nylon socks to my wool/cotton/nylon socks. When it’s really cold outside, my feet are always cold and need all the extra insulation they can get, but as it gets warmer out and the thermometer rises about 40 or so, a little bit of cotton content helps keep those doggies cool. I’ll be wearing my four or five pairs of cottony socks whenever they’re clean for the next month or so – till it’s time to switch to shorts and sandals.

I was wearing one such pair last night when I noticed one heel feeling a bit cooler than usual, and I found this:

A blowout! And, since I don’t darn socks (I can, I just choose not to), that is the end of that. The pair went into the laundry pile one last time, and when they are clean they will go into my recently-started stash of blown-out socks, which I plan to save until there are enough to cut up and resew into something spectacular.

Luckily, I happen to have a couple skeins of wool/cotton/nylon blend sock yarn waiting to be knit up. The question is: which one first?