Thursday, January 29, 2009

Knit a sleeve, rip a sleeve

This appears to be the latest dance move in the knitting of The Sweater.

The Gauge God is clearly out to get me (can't be a goddess; surely they're not this capricious)(and yes, I am waiting for the lightning strike now). In this case, it's row gauge, I think. I keep doing nice mathematical calculations, designed to tell me how deep the sleeve cap should be, and how often and where I should decrease along the underarm, and, in the same way that my calculations about decreases didn't work for the waist shaping, the calculations didn't so much work for the sleeve cap or decreases.

I knit away merrily yesterday, feeling good (should've been my first clue that I was about to get smacked down, right?), and thinking happy, bubbly thoughts about having my sweater finished by the weekend. Maybe even before my package arrived from the Rockin' Sock Club. I knitted the sleeve cap (which always takes so much longer than it seems like it should -- am I the only one with this problem?), and then worked away at the decreases. I made it through all of them by the end of The Italian Job (it was on TV last night, and Rick wanted to watch it), and set it down for the night, feeling virtuous and pleased with myself (warning number two of impeding doom).

I tried it on this morning. And no, I didn't take any pictures. Y'all have seen enough photographic evidence of my Math Issues to last a lifetime. Let's just say that, while I prefer to wear clothes that are relatively loose, with plenty of room to move, wrestle with dogs, and grab kids as they prepare to launch themselves towards the nearest source of doom, this sleeve was in no way loose. Tight might be a better descriptor, as might any word conveying the meaning "to bind"*.

I ripped it out. And I reknitted the sleeve cap much, much deeper. It took most of the morning. Then I knitted two inches (as called for by my row gauge plus some serious overestimating in order to compensate for whatever's going wrong with row gauge) and started the decreases. After two decreases, determined not to be led too far down another primrose path, I tried it on. The good news: my arm benefits from the circulation of blood whilst wearing this sleeve. The further good news: the sleeve cap is, if I do say so myself, quite nice. The not-so-good news: if I want to maintain the degree of positive ease with which I am most comfortable around the upper arm, I will need to rip out the last two inches of knitting -- again -- and knit down several more inches before beginning my decreases. Alas.

It's all knitting, though, right? And I do this because I love knitting, right?


I think that the problem here is that I have become, for the duration of this particular project (and some projects are just like this), a product knitter. I want this sweater. I have been contemplating this sweater, or some iteration of it, for the better part of a year. That's how long it took to find the right yarn (and may I just say here again what a genius Chris is? This yarn is perfect, and I love it madly, truly, deeply, and it is tolerating these iterative fiddlings beautifully), and the right stitch motifs, and to decide on the shape and size. And now that I've made all of those decisions, I want it.

I'm looking forward to getting back to my usual leanings towards process knitting. I think that part of the problem here, too, is that this is the last product-oriented project that was on my List O' Things To Knit Before the Recommencement of Research, and that day is nigh. Once this is done, I can go back to knitting things with less hard and fast timelines. Of course, the fact that my sock club package arrived today, and that it involves beads, and that I am charmed to pieces by the idea of knitting with beads, is in no way implicated in my sense of urgency here. Nope, nope, not at all. I am made of sterner stuff, and do not need to be swayed by my baser instincts and desires in the matter of casting on for a new and shiny project.

Might another smack-down be incoming? Wait and see...

* Just had to share a favorite etymology here. Did you know that the root of "yoga" and that of "yoke" are cognate with one another? They both relate to binding, in the sense of binding breath and movement in yoga, and animals together in the case of yoke. This is also cognate with the root in "conjugal" -- we all get where the binding is there -- and, now that I come to think of it, it's got to be what's going on in "conjugate", too, eh? However, as nifty as all of this binding is, it has no place in my armscye.

This just in (and thanks to Carrie for getting me started on this): Armscye is not, I repeat, not in the Oxford English Dictionary. I checked, in both my hard copy, and in the online version. However (despair not, ducks), scye is in there. It's defined as: “the opening of a gown, etc., into which the sleeve is inserted; the part of the dress between the armpit and the chest”. (of obscure etymology) I am so wishing that I had my Indo-European Root Dictionary at home (I knew I should have two copies). But, meanwhile, doesn't that mean that the "arm" in "armscye" is inherently redundant?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I am the boss of my knitting

Thank you all so much for all of the advice and support and feedback as I worked my way through the Great Ripping Adventure of '09.

As much as I was curious to see the outcome of the knitting needle size experiment, I decided that I was more concerned about the effect of repeated ripping and reknitting on my yarn, and ended up just dropping those twenty stitches on the other side and knitting them up to match the first side. The job was neater the second time around, which makes sense, since I knew what I was doing and where to do it. I ended up doing a quick steam blocking yesterday, by putting a wet towel over the sweater and running over that with a hot iron; I then stretched and fiddled the damp and warm stitches into better order. There may be a bit more fiddling needed with a needle to redistribute extra yarn over neighboring stitches before I'm all done, but I'm fairly happy with the results.
I don't know how well you can see the shaping there; I'm reduced to using PhotoBooth until we get a new memory card for the camera, but the fact that it's not too visible, is, I think, a sign of success.

I bound the shoulders off together this morning (three-needle bind-off), and put it on. I think it's going to be all right; the shaping isn't too out of hand, the length is about right (it'll get a bit longer in the blocking, which is fine), and it's got the loose fit I wanted, since I'm planning to wear this over another layer.
Not too bad, no?
That leaves me with just the sleeves and the neckline to finish. The plan at this point is to pick up stitches for the sleeves, use short-rows to shape the sleeve caps, and knit down. That will mean grafting the twisted edging on, as I'll have to do with the v-neck; good thing I like kitchenering things. I'll cast on for the first sleeve after I hit "post", and with luck, I will have this finished by the weekend.

Today will be a quieter day than I'd originally planned. Older Daughter has been feeling crummy the last couple of days, but pushed through to finish her History Day Project (all by herself, no thanks to the "partner" she was assigned, grr...). This morning as I was driving her to school, she decided that her stomach was feeling far too queasy to make it through the day; it's entirely unlike her (she almost never misses school -- maybe one day a year, two at most), so we dropped off her project and I brought her home. She's on the couch now, drinking mint tea, and I'm guessing she'll be napping before long. I've cancelled the couple of things that were on my list, and will hang out with her today. Tomorrow is similarly quiet, hence my high hopes for finishing.

However, don't expect this knitting productivity to go on much longer. Next week, I'm back to work in earnest; this semester is devoted purely to research (no classes), so my schedule is much more flexible than usual, but there's a lot I need to get done in the next three months. I'm excited to have the time to really dig into writing; I haven't been able to do that since the year I wrote my dissertation (while, incidentally, also gestating Older Daughter), and there are times that I worry I've lost the ability to really focus. But I'm hoping that's not true -- it's just that opportunities to do so are as rare as hen's teeth. Meanwhile, though, I'm enjoying my last few days of freedom.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Insanity, and a plea for feedback

Or: In which I am brave, and also in need of feedback.

So, I sat down today and finished the right front half of The Sweater, having finished the back and left front half yesterday. I duly pulled it on over my head and took a look. It wasn't bad, but the side shaping was bothering me, as I thought it would, in that it seemed more dramatic than I'd wanted (it almost looks like there's a pleat in there), and the two stitches between the paired decreases didn't match in width with the two between the increases (because the decreases themselves look as if they belong to that center column, making it appear four stitches wide, while that isn't the case with lifted increases, so those center columns look only two stitches wide). I set it aside and went to eat some lunch and think.

I also grabbed some knitting books to look at while I ate lunch, hoping for inspiration. One of those was Knitting Without Tears, that lovely EZ standby. I'd already been wondering if the right solution mightn't be to snip a stitch and rip out the lower half of the body, something I've never tried before, but of which EZ often speaks so coolly that it seems like a reasonable option. No sooner had I settled down and looked at the cover of the book when it occurred to me (that EZ, inspiring by osmosis) that I'd cleverly left the underarm stitches on holders to pick up when I knit the sleeves; of course, I then had to wonder why I couldn't just drop those stitches right down to the bottom of the increase/decrease section, and reknit it, putting more rows in between the decreases to make the change less drastic, and leaving four stitches between the increases to make the columns look more even. Even though it would mean working back up through a lot of rows, it would still take less time than reknitting the whole body.

Why not, indeed? I only hoped that the ten stitches I'd left on holders would be enough.

When I sat down with the sweater, I realized that, in some prescient moment that I had forgotten, I'd actually put 20 stitches on holders for the underarms, which should more than cover the number of stitches involved in the whole increase/decrease thing. I started by letting ten stitches drop, but once I'd picked them up at the bottom, I realized that I needed more width to cover all of the shaping.

I duly let all twenty stitches drop down to the bottom of the shaping section on the left side and captured them on a dpn.
And I started to work my way back up.

Let me just take a moment here to say that reknitting all of those rows leaves one with quite a bit of time to think, and to think odd thoughts at that. It occurred to me as I was working my way up (and down, and up again), that there's really a lot to be learned from taking one's knitting apart this way and putting it back together. I absolutely understand why those Renaissance artists were so desperate to dissect the human body in order to better paint/draw/sculpt it. There's nothing like looking at the inner workings of something to really understand it. (Please forgive me if this analogy seems gross; I was raised by a nurse and a doctor, and to this day I think Gray's Anatomy is one of the world's coolest books -- I have, in fact, been thinking that it's high time to find a copy for the girls.) I'm starting to think that doing this kind of thing to one's knitting should be part of Knitting 101; even just redistributing the extra unevenness of some of the yarn to neighboring stitches was a really interesting exercise.

The biggest difficulty in the whole project lay in the fact that I was decreasing at a slower rate than I'd done before, which meant that at the point at which my floats were shortest, I was knitting more stitches than I had been on that row the first time I knit it, so things got a bit tight. I worked my way through the decreases, realized that I'd decreased too slowly, and decided to rip back and try again. On that second pass through, I first knit about an inch more than I'd done before, then decreased every three rows, but didn't decrease as many stitches as I'd done when first knitting the body. I then worked my way back up to twenty stitches again, and knitted up the rest of the dropped yarn, remembering to leave four stitches between the increase points.

It's not as smooth and even as my knitting usually is, but I think that the shaping is less drastic, will fit better, and I'm hoping (pleasepleaseplease) that blocking will take care of any residual unevenness.
That's the original on the left (the other side that I still need to do), and the new work on the right. See? Less drastic. I had a picture of the whole sweater, so you could see the difference between the two sides in terms of overall shape, but the camera has taken to turning the occasional picture blue (??), so I can't show you that one.

The feedback part comes in here: do we think (pleaseplease, did I mention?) that blocking will even out those stitches, or do I need to rip the whole body out and start again? I'd rather not, but I also want to be able to wear this. Also, does that shaping (the one on the right) look as much better as I think it does?

The other non-complete-ripping option that comes to mind would be to drop to the bottom of those stitches again, and then to knit them up evenly, staying at 20 stitches the whole way, but switching to smaller and smaller needles as the floats get shorter, and then back up to the right size as they get bigger again. That might actually end up being a pretty neat effect, but I'm not sure if there are hidden pitfalls there that I haven't thought of. Has anyone tried anything like that? I'm starting to become more and more enamored of that idea, actually, as it seems to be such an elegant solution, so someone save me quick if it's not a good one, because I'm now thinking that I'll try it on the second side to see what I think, and then go back and fix whichever side is less good.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The pits

As in, armpits.

That's almost where I have knitted to on The Sweater over the last several days. I am about a half an inch away from dividing my knitting for the front and back. Then I have armhole shaping to negotiate, plus the simultaneous v-neck shaping when I knit the two front halves. After that, though, I think things should be fairly smooth sailing. I'll just need to pick up stitches for the sleeves, use short rows to shape the sleeve caps, and then calculate a nice even rate of decrease for the sleeves (actually, I may have already done that; must go check notes).

[Imagine a picture of a sweater blob here. I have just discovered that the camera and iPhoto are once again refusing to talk to one another. Grr...]

The waist shaping turned out to be more dramatic than I'd thought it would be; in order to fit the shaping I wanted into the space that I had, I needed to increase and decrease on every other row, which is pretty serious shaping. I have some concerns, but when I put it onto two circs and "tried it on", it seemed to be the right amount in the right place. I put "tried it on" in scare quotes, because seriously? Holding a 10-inch wide ring of knitting around one's middle doesn't really show one how it will look when it's hanging from one's shoulders. So, I'm forging ahead, and as soon as I get the shoulders together, I'll try it on again. If I need to, I'll even block it first, and then try it on. If worse comes to worst, I'll rip (which may mean that I don't actually bind the shoulders off together, but just pin them together instead until I'm sure that I'm OK with the way things look).

It's been a busy several days around here. An old friend and colleague of mine came to stay for a couple of days so that we could get some work done on a project we have in the works. It was a very productive two days, which felt good. And it's been raining off and on, which made it easier to stay indoors and get work done, as well as making me finally feel less dehydrated and dried out. Of course, that may also be driving this sweater monogamy; it would be nice to finish it while there's still a chance of having a little winter left so that I could wear it. I have been so monogamous, in fact, that I've gotten nothing done on Rick's socks, in spite of the exciting arrival of some new knitting needles (more on those when I can actually provide photographic evidence). I think, too, that I have been rather enjoying the relative mindlessness of this knit. It's just round and round and round in stockinette, which requires no concentration at all, and since the yarn is fairly light, it's not a burden on my wrists.

I had also planned to show you the lovely photo that my friend took of Older Daughter proudly making and flipping her first Mickey Mouse pancakes, but you know where that photo is. (Some days, technology just doesn't seem worth it.)

Today looks to be a gray day, and since Older Daughter is working madly on her history day project display, I think it will be a quiet one. With luck, that means I'll get at least the back part of the sweater done. We'll see...

This just in: It turns out that the issue with the photos was not one of argument between camera and computer, but rather something very wrong with the camera itself. Pictures were coming up overlaid in green, and fragmented, and in generally in a terrible state. We've wiped the disk, and are hoping for better performance. Rick did, however, manage to retrieve the shot of Older Daughter joyously flipping pancakes, which I include here for your amusement.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dither, dither

That's what I've spent the last little while doing: dithering about the edge for The Sweater. In fact, I was dithering so hard that I started a new pair of socks for Rick (admittedly, that needed to be done in any case, but I cast on before my new needles came, even). I also took the time to lay in some good books from Audible while I was dithering (and, btw, for any other Audible users out there, they are having an amazing sale on a huge list of books that are the first in a series -- to suck people in, obviously; at $4.95 a book for books like Master and Commander and Outlander, it's a deal on wheels). My theory is that this sweater is going to involve a whole lot of stockinette, so I'd better be prepared.

I started the swatch with the T twist that I am planning to use around the neckline, and then knitted for a while in stockinette on size six needles (this was on Monday when I took the girls to see The Tale of Despereaux, which we all loved).
That's the twist on the top. See why I had trouble describing it?

When I got home, I decided that I also wanted to see what the fabric looked like on size five needles, so I knitted a garter row and switched over. Better.
(Size six on top, size five on the bottom.)

After fiddling a while with that, I knitted on the lace border that I thought I wanted. Meh.
Don't get me wrong, I actually love the way that lace works in this yarn, but not around my waist. It turned out to be a wider border than I'd visualized, and more fussy. I want this to be a workhorse sweater, in an understatedly beautiful way, and something that lacy around the hem wasn't going to do it. So I picked up some stitches along the side of the swatch and tried Plan B.
Really meh. (I should state for the record that I did wash and pin this swatch out to block, and it was lovely and even and straight. However, when I woke up Tuesday morning and went to fetch it, I found that some creature had lain on it in the night, knocking all of the t-pins flat, and causing the swatch to dry somewhat askew. Sigh...)

So I headed back to Nicky Epstein's Knitting on the Edge, where I'd found those two borders, and looked some more (I'd already searched every BW I own with no luck). That's when I found the border that you can see on the top photo above on the right side. I knitted that on, and then blocked it and went to bed. It ended up looking like quite the swatch blob. Doesn't it resemble like one of those bog bodies that got squashed all flat and crooked? If I ever figure out which one of them slept on it all night...

The next morning, I dithered back and forth between the first lace border (in spite of my reservations) and the last border (which is called a granite rib). While dithering, I took notes and did math. Lots and lots of math. And I took notes. I spent an hour trying to understand the geometry of a set-in sleeve. I made diagrams. I did more math. (I know, it's pitiful, but seriously, once I really get something, I've got it, so it's worth the upfront work.)
And I drew some more.
Nope, I can't draw worth a darn. Why do you ask?

Then the time came to cast on. I almost went with a sleeve first, except that there is still a small part of me that is considering knitting the sleeves from the top down (even though that'll mean grafting on that t-twist border), because somehow the sleeve cap seems more intuitive to me that way, but starting with the body of the sweater meant making a decision about the border. If I decided on the granite rib, I could just knit that first, but if I wanted to do that lace border after all, I'd need to do a provisional cast on so I could knit it on later.

I went with the rib. I think it has a more subtle look, and its texture looks to me like sand after a wave has passed. It made me happiest. (Do you love that stitch marker, btw? Anne sent them to me last year from Entrelac. I love them so much that I recently got myself some of Entrelac's omega markers.)
I completed two and a half repeats and decided that I liked the way it looked, and headed into the stockinette body. Now I have to check again to be sure that my maths for the waist shaping are right. But I've got at least another inch before I need to start really worrying about it, so I can take a break from dithering for a little while. Does anyone know about the right number of inches to work waist shaping over? I don't know that I'm ready to haul out the sweater books again...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And what a Tuesday it is

Today is a good day. I don't think I have the right words to express my thoughts and emotions about this inauguration, so I'm giving you a link to a lighter-hearted celebration instead. Perhaps we could take as read my sense of heartfelt hope, and the tremendous awe I feel at having lived to see this day.

Congratulations, Mr. President.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Done and done

It's been a good weekend for knitting. And laundry. Lots and lots of laundry. The good news on that front is that Rick found a way to set things up so that I can put the drying line up myself. Up until now, getting the line up involved all kinds of machinations best handled by a tall person (tying it high up in trees), because the only place to put it up is right in our front yard where it's in the way when not in use. But, Rick being the clever engineering sort that he is, he came up with a way to put hooks and pulleys and cleats in all of the appropriate places so that a height-challenged person such as myself can still get sufficient tension on the line to avoid ending up with all of her laundry in the grass.

So, between washing and hanging and folding (the humidity has been so low again that clothes were drying far faster than they would have in the dryer), I worked on socks. On Friday night, I finished Younger Daughter's socks. The timing was fortuitous, as she'd just been beaten quite soundly in a family game of Carcassonne, and the socks were a perfect consolation prize. She promptly put them on, and only took them off so that I could wash and dry them once yesterday morning (the wool socks dried in 30 minutes outside; this might give you some sense of the drouth we're dealing with here), and is wearing them again this morning.
Here's a dark but visible close-up of the pattern motif.
Aren't they fun? To recap, these are Laura's Kicking Leaves socks, knitted up in Old Maiden Aunt superwash merino, using size one needles. This was a fun pattern, and they're so lacy that they're not too heavy to wear in a warmer place; Younger Daughter is delighted with them.

So on Saturday morning, I picked up the conference socks, determined to finish them. As I knit, I came to the conclusion that the right thing to do would be to give them to Older Daughter. They fit her beautifully, and I just got my new pair of socks; if these were to go to her, then a pair of socks for Rick would finish this round of sock knitting fairly for all. So, the decision was made, and I set about with a will. I didn't get as far as I'd hoped on Saturday, in part because Rick and I went out to dinner (while the girls stayed home with a babysitter) and for a walk along the coast, which is our favorite kind of date. So the socks were finished yesterday in time for Older Daughter to wear them to dinner with Rick's family at his cousins' house.
These are dusk shots; the light isn't so good.
That's truer to the richness of the colors. These are my own concoction, toe-up, reverse heel flap with travelling stitches to make a small pattern. The Ravelry link is here. I used Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks Willow yarn, in the Forest colorway, and size one needles. I adored this yarn, in ways that would be difficult to describe. Before deciding to give these up to Older Daughter, I tried and tried to find another skein so I could knit a pair of socks for myself, but no go. Not on Ravelry, nowhere. Yesterday, after handing them over, in a fit of optimism, I gave it one more shot online, and darned if I didn't find one last skein at Crown Mountain Farms. Can you believe? In the Forest colorway, even. Talk about luck! I'm happy as a clam; this yarn is a lovely weight for a warmer climate (it's a superwash/merino blend), and the colors are stunning.

With that pair of socks done, my knitting decks feel cleared to me. I'd like to start a pair of socks for Rick, but I'm waiting for a pair of size two metal needles to show up in the mail (I'll share when they do, I promise). So as far as I'm concerned, this means that I can wind the yarn for The Sweater and start swatching. I have high hopes that I'll get that done before I take the girls to the movies today as a lot of that sweater will be plain stockinette, so I should be able to knit in the dark. The plan, such as it is at this point, is for a waist-length, v-neck pullover, inset sleeves, with a quiet lace motif on the bottom hem, and a nifty twisted thing (hard to describe; I'll show you a picture once it's swatched) along sleeve hems and neckline.

The plan was actually to get the swatching done last night while watching a movie with Rick. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. We got home at a reasonable hour, the girls got ready for bed quickly, and I sat down to read to them while Rick took the garbage down. Not three minutes later, he walked in the door and said, "The dumb dog" (as opposed to the smart dog, who would be Kia), "found a skunk." And indeed she had. (Note: Kia has not, in fourteen years, ever managed to be sprayed by a skunk. Tilly is clearly of a different ilk.) I went racing to Google, Older Daughter went racing to The Daring Book for Girls (I kid you not), and within minutes, we'd come up with the same answer. People, that formula is a miracle. I had to run to the store for hydrogen peroxide, but it was worth it. Ten minutes after dosing her, we had a stink-free dog. But between the running around and washing and drying, there was no time for swatching. Sigh...

So, I'm off to get that done. But first, I did have one advice question for all of you. I realized recently when blocking something that the one downside to all of our room-rearranging over the holidays is that the erstwhile guestroom bed/blocking station is now Older Daughter's bed, and therefore unavailable to me for blocking purposes. I used the rug, covered in towels, in the study, but it doesn't hold pins well. (On a sidenote, I did discover that it hurts my back a lot less to pin things out on my hands and knees than bending over a bed. Interesting.) So, I'm in the market for blocking boards, of the sort that can be disassembled and stored somewhere inconspicuous. Does anyone have and use such a thing and have recommendations or thoughts? My birthday's coming up, so I figure that it might be time to drop some hints...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Finishing objects

I meant to post on Wednesday, because I actually had something new to show you, and because I knew that I wasn't going to post yesterday. Alas, Wednesday went by a lot faster than I'd expected somehow (the space/time continuum never quite works the way I think it will -- am I the only one who has this problem?), and yesterday wasn't a day for posting, so here we are.

First, I've finished a pair of the languishing socks. I finished them on Tuesday night, in fact, hence the plans to post on Wednesday. These are Anne's Woodsmoke socks, knitted in STR lightweight from last year's sock club, in the colorway Lucky. I used size one needles. Love, love, love these socks. If only winter would come back so that I can wear them...
Aren't they fun? The textures are so deep and rich; I tend to think that these could be guy socks, too, depending on the guy.
Even the heels have all kinds of good things going on.
Hooray for beautiful, finished socks!

I promptly cast on for the second Kicking Leaves sock (Ravelry link), and by now I've finished the leg and turned the heel. It should be smooth sailing from here, and I expect to have them done tonight, or by tomorrow at the latest. Younger Daughter is very excited to have them nearing completion, and Older Daughter is starting to make little inquiring noises about when it's going to be her turn. I figure that as soon as I finish the conference socks (the last of my three unfinished pairs), I can start some for her and for Rick. Unless I decide to give Older Daughter the conference socks, which would probably be the right thing to do, but I adore that yarn, and have not been able to find another skein of it available anywhere. I called the yarn store where I bought it in Berkeley. I called the dyer for heaven's sake. No go. There's a skein of it for sale on Ravelry, but it's in a different colorway, and part of the charm of that yarn for me is the colors, so... We'll see. In any case, here's the progress on Younger Daughter's socks.
Clearly, green is a theme around here.

Yesterday was an absolutely fabulous day. It was so fabulous in fact that I completely forgot to take any pictures, so you'd better go here to see what happened (down at the bottom of the Point Loma post; don't forget to look at all of the glorious pictures of Point Loma on your way down the page). Anne and Kim (sadly blogless) and Nan (newly not blogless) all converged on my house yesterday morning. Nan arrived bearing the most yummy cinnamon rolls I have had in a long time. We sat and knitted and talked and talked and ate and knitted, and had a wonderful morning. Tilly even mostly behaved (a miracle of epic proportions). Then we went to lunch at the Stone Brewery, where the weather was so lovely that we could sit outside and enjoy the fresh air (and since we were in the shade, I even got to wear the kimono). A trip to the LYS of which I so often speak finished up a perfect day. Thanks, guys, for coming all of this way and for the wonderful company!

Today is a quiet day, and I am planning to spend some time in my front yard working on that second sock. Tilly has gone down the driveway to play with our neighbor's dog (seriously, when we're all home, they send their dog up the driveway for playdates; we share a very long driveway that is actually an easement through several properties, so the dogs are safe and have lots of room to run -- we're happy because they come home completely worn out!), and I have already gone to swim laps today, so no-one's in need of exercising or anything else. The weather looks like this:
and I think I should take advantage while I can.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I'll be brave. Here are the shots of the kimono with an actual body (my actual body, to be exact) inside of it. (Much better than pale green pants with nobody inside 'em, for sure.)

See what I mean? It's a kimono. And oh so comfy.

Lookie here!

The first FO for 2009. Except, before I post pictures, you have to hear about how long it took me to finish it. Plus some caveats.

On Saturday morning, Rick headed off early to do some trail maintenance work with a local organization, so it was my job to take the girls to the farmer's market. For a long time, I was the one who took them each Saturday, but for the last couple of years, it's been almost entirely Rick who goes. The girls know just about everyone at the stands that they usually go to (and everyone knows them!), and Rick isn't exactly unnoticeable; I had to laugh at the number of strange looks I got in my role as the girls' accompaniment for the week. People kept asking who I was (after some very fish-eyed looks; I appreciated that they keep enough of an eye on the girls to wonder why they're not with their usual adult guardian, so it was OK), and once they realized, every single one of them said, "You're a lot earlier than your husband!" Which made me laugh even harder, because in the days when I was the marketer, I always tried to get out fairly early to be sure to get the things I want; Rick goes at the last possible minute, and I get the feeling that he rushes madly through the market, hoping against hope that his favorite bread and vegetables will still be there (I also think that the folks there set things aside for him sometimes; he is a very regular customer, after all).

I then spent the rest of the day knitting like the wind, hoping against hope that I could finish the kimono in time for the dinner I was having out with some friends. I was supposed to leave at 5:30 to pick someone up; at 5:00, I found myself with still three rows left to go on the sleeve, plus an entire (207 stitch) collar, and seams and ends yet undone, and I knew it wasn't going to happen. The lack of a kimono in no way diminished the pleasure of spending an evening with friends, and a good time was had by all.

On Sunday, with the pressure of an immediate wearing venue past, I knitted in a much more leisurely fashion. In fact, most of the day was spent in non-knitting pursuits, including a two-hour hike (the girls and I had requested a one-hour hike; it turns out that Rick has a hard time judging how long it will take to walk something he usually rides). Tilly was overjoyed to be running loose in the hills for that long; she was much quieter than usual yesterday afternoon. The girls were a little less happy, because it was hot (in the 80s), and I think that they weren't quite prepared for it. Older Daughter also took a nasty spill and cut up her elbow pretty badly, but she recovered nicely (one more piece of evidence that all those people who say that girls are wimps are wrong. wrong. wrong), and we all went out to lunch afterwards to recover. In the end, hot or not, all of us agreed that going for a long hike together as a family is a Good Thing (we always agree on that, so I'm not sure why we still talk about it, but we do), and made plans to do it again next weekend.

Sunday afternoon was spent knitting and doing laundry, and by the time the girls went to bed last night, I had finished the kimono and steam blocked it. Here's the thing. It looks exactly as advertised. I really really like it, and am pleased as punch with the way the trim worked out. But (you could see the "but" coming, couldn't you?), the fact is that I was right in my private concern that the kimono style is probably not the best for my particular body type. I absolutely love short, squared off shapes myself, but they're not exactly flattering. So I knew what I was in for, and I am still entirely happy that I knitted it, and I know that I will wear it; I also know that, on me, it is not high fashion. My daughters, bless them, love it, think it looks great on me, and petted it the rest of the evening. They also commented on its pajama-like look (which is exactly what makes it not-as-flattering-as-it-could-be, but also exactly what they, and I, like about it).

So, without further ado or caveat, the Dofuku kimono.
Things are a little bleached out in these pictures, since I took them outside. (I also just noticed that the collar is flipped over in almost all of the pictures I took. Grr..)

I love the fact that it closes with a shawl stick or pin.
And I think that the trim worked out well, yarn weight differences notwithstanding.
So, to recap. This is the Dofuku kimono from the book Knit Kimono. I knitted it in Knitting Notions Classic Merino Sport, in the Ironstone colorway, which is truly delightful in its chameleon-like ability to appear either mostly blue or mostly green, depending on what colors it's near. The trim yarn is a merino/silk blend that I spun for this project. I used the better part of four 390-yard skeins of the merino, and about half of the handspun skein. I knitted it on a size five Addi circular. It's lightweight but warm, and I predict that I'm going to wear it quite a lot.
With that off the needles, I've turned my attention to the three socks which are lacking a mate. I picked up the Woodsmoke socks first, and am now halfway down the leg of the second one. After that, I'll probably finish the pair I'm knitting for Younger Daughter, and then the second conference sock, which should go quickly as I've already knitted the foot. Then I can turn my attention to new projects. I have been wanting for some time to knit Cat Bordhi's Spring Thaw socks from the summer Knitter's magazine, and seeing Stella's has inspired me to put them higher up on the list -- maybe that's what I should use that new skein of Sanguine Gryphon yarn for?

And I'm going to start swatching for The Sweater. I think I've decided on the edgings and shape that I want, so it's time to swatch and see if they work in that yarn, and to start some calculations and measurements. The plan is to knit a waist-length v-neck sweater with inset sleeves. I've not done sleeves like that before, so that'll be something new to try, but between EZ's books and Knitting Sweaters the Old Way (which I got for Christmas), plus Knitting Sweaters in Plain English (which I have from the library right now, but which my brother promised me for my birthday -- hi, Jon!), I should have it covered. Right? I'll be sure to show you swatch pictures as I get that done.

Meanwhile, my big decision for this afternoon is whether to knit outside, where it is warm and sunny and gorgeous (the dogs think so, too).
Or in my newly-arranged and cleaned-out knitting corner.
Or whether I should fold laundry.

Decisions, decisions.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Triumph over technology


I finally convinced my camera and my computer to talk to one another. It was a close call; I almost had to call in a counsellor, but they've agreed to work things out for the moment. We'll see how long it lasts.

How sad is it that I feel such a great sense of triumph simply because I managed to upload pictures successfully onto my computer in the way that picture-uploading is designed to be done? Pitiful, I tell you, pitiful.

Nevertheless, it is done, which means that I can post with some actual visual content, such as it is, rather than simply inundating you with a wall of words. It sounds like all of those links worked on the last post, so I won't go through all that again, except to share a good skiing picture with you.
They clearly enjoyed themselves, no?

And to give you a sense of the colors of yarn I ended up with. Here's the lovely Woolen Rabbit bamboo-blend sock yarn.
The green is more saturated and springy than it comes through in this picture. I can't wait to clear all of my needles of ongoing projects so I can get started. Also, here's the Sanguine Gryphon yarn I got for myself.
Mmmm.... cashmere blend....

I also received the most wonderful package in the mail from Anne this week. It came as part of the pay-it-forward challenge that we both signed on for last year; I am woefully behind and need to get into gear on this one -- I keep thinking that I'd like to have all three things done and sent at the same time to their recipients, but the pleasure of receiving this package suggests to me that I should probably just get moving and send what I've got. Look at this absolutely stunning scarf she sent me!
What you can't see in this picture is that the yarn is both a richer shade of teal-y blue, shot through with lovely little silver sparkles, and that it's long enough to wrap around my neck several times, which I love -- a cold neck is the worst thing ever, and this is the perfect antidote. Isn't it beautiful? It's so soft and squishy, too. And that wasn't the only thing in the package. There was a desk calendar, and EZ's Knitter's Almanac (which shall be kept out of reach of Tilly), and beads for knitting, and coloring books about herbs for the girls (perfect timing, as they planted their very first own-garden last weekend and are both obsessed with herbs in particular). I would have taken a picture, but I was having too much fun tearing everything out of the box. Thank you, Anne!

I have also been knitting. Mostly, I've been working on the Dofuku kimono (from Knit Kimono), and I'm definitely making progress. My goal is to finish this up, and then to finish all of the second socks that I have hanging around (three, at last count) so that I can make a clean start on some new projects (including the second sweater I want to knit for myself this winter). The kimono is progressing fairly well, and I'm most of the way done with the first sleeve. After that, I just need to knit the second sleeve and the collar.

I spent the time while knitting the two fronts and the back wondering whether I was going to knit the sleeves flat (stitches picked up from the shoulders) as called for in the pattern, or whether I was going to just join them and knit them in the round (as I so very much wanted to). As I saw it, the two potential areas for concern with regard to knitting them in the round were a) whether I might knit at a different gauge when I'm knitting every row than I do when purling the wrong side, and b) whether I'd regret not having the seam for structure. The first question was fairly easily disposed of, as I tend to knit at the same gauge flat and in the round, or at least close enough not to make a difference. The second was harder to judge. But the two sweaters I've knitted for myself so far both have sleeves knitted in the round, and I have had no trouble with the lack of seams, so I decided that in the interest of maximizing the mindlessness of this knit, I'd choose to go in the round. And I did.
That's the trim yarn that I spun up before Christmas to use in this project there at the seam between body and sleeve.
I think it's working out pretty well.

So, that's it for now. I hope to have this finished early next week, if not sooner, and I'll post some modelling shots then. Meanwhile, I'm off to knit and read, or maybe to watch some reruns of Law and Order (deep, meaningful TV that it is). Happy Friday to everyone!

Monday, January 5, 2009


I know that 37 degrees doesn't seem cold to everyone who doesn't live here, but I think it should at least count as chilly, right? I mean, we're talking frost on the ground that doesn't disappear as soon as the sun hits it. And I took the dog walking, which means I was outdoors, which should count for something, right? Right?

OK, I also know that I've turned into a wimp since moving down here, and I should just hush up now.

I was going to entitle this post "loot", since that's what I'm going to show you. I am doing some knitting, but I have no photos yet; I'll show you some of the kimono the next time I post, I promise. Before I show you my holiday gains (in the fiber realm, people, you don't want to see any of my other gains, I guarantee it), a picture or two from the adventure that Rick and the girls took on New Year's day.

[big blank space]

You can imagine me gritting my teeth in frustration right now. The recent upgrade of my computer to Leopard (not my idea, I should mention; my general theory about computers is, if it ain't broke, leave it alone, look the other way, knock on wood, and don't talk about how not broken it is lest the Computer Fates hear and decide to punish me for hubris) has caused some serious strife to arise between my camera and my computer. Sometimes things work just fine. Sometimes, for no readily discernible reason, the computer refuses to load anything from the camera at all. Sometimes, apparently (this is a new trick as of this very moment), the computer will upload the photos, merrily save them to a file, and then refuse absolutely to allow me to manipulate or open them, even though it will show me the thumbnails of the inaccessible photos. Grrr...

Just tried again, and nope, no uploads. So, what I would have shown you is a series of quite adorable photos of the girls in ski gear on a chair lift. They all went skiing, which I so wanted to do as well, but I decided that discretion was the better part of valor in this case, and stayed home to nurse my cold. It is finally starting to get better, for which thank goodness, because I was tired of feeling bad. They all had great fun, and are already planning another trip sooner rather than later, so I should be able to join them for that one.

I also would have showed you pictures of my new Golding spindle (scroll down to the Celtic ring spindle), which I am loving. Between that and my turkish spindle, I'm very happy, although I'm sure I'll be keeping my eye out for more; sometimes I like the portability and flexibility of spindling as opposed to using one of my wheels. I also would have shown you the lovely roving that Rick got me to go with the spindle (so wise, my husband; he also apparently carefully considered the spindle's weight, given that I like to spin and use slightly finer yarns, and got me one that wasn't too heavy -- does he pay attention or what?). He and the girls also got me some yarn, which I'm dying to dive into, but I've promised myself to get some things off the needles before starting anything new (we'll see how long I hold out). I might also have shown you the little present (mine's a gorgeous blue) I got for myself from The Loopy Ewe. And last but not least, I might have shown you a present that I got from my sister-in-law, which is serving me well as I plan my foray into designing and knitting my very own sweater just for me.

So, there you have it. The post that would have been, had my camera and computer not gotten all snippy. I think I'm going to go knit now and let them sit in time-out. That'll show them.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A new year

I've been reading everyone's posts celebrating the new year, looking back at the achievements of the past year, full of resolutions and plans for the new one, and wondering whether I had any such thoughts and plans to write about myself. I was thinking a lot last night before going to sleep about the past year, what I want to remember and what I do remember, and realizing that, for all of the bad and difficult things that happened, what I think about most often at the end of the day are the things that I'm grateful for.

I'm grateful above all for my family, for the pleasure of their company, for the fact that their company is such a pleasure, and for the fact that their presence makes home a haven. I am grateful for my extended family, who may live far away, but who are always there when I need them. I'm grateful for my friends, who laugh and cry with me, who walk with me each week and listen to me and talk to me. I'm also grateful to my friends further away (you all know who you are), whose emailed conversations over this past year have often kept me sane and laughing when I might not have otherwise been. I am grateful that Older Daughter's transition to middle school went as smoothly as could be expected, and that Younger Daughter is settling into her role as older kid in her classroom. I am grateful that my leg and back continue to heal, and for the way that injury taught me to rethink some priorities in life. I am grateful that, after all these years, Rick is still my best friend. I am grateful for the new members of my extended family: three baby boys this year! And I am grateful for the picture that Rick's cousin just sent to us, of Grandmom holding her newest great-grandson, almost 95 years her junior, the two of them gazing at one another across nearly a century of living.

Grandmom's life, while privileged in many ways, has not always been an easy one, but she seems to have the trick of grace. When she looks back at her life, her summary is always, "It was good." She doesn't ignore or deny the bad and difficult things she's lived through, but they're just not what sits in the center of her vision. I think that that is my goal, bigger than a year-long resolution, but one that requires working on little by little: to look back at my life and to be able to say with honesty, "It was good."

I know that there's often a certain jaded sense that looking for the good is a pollyannaish way to walk through the world. And it's true that if one insists on never seeing those things that are broken, that is a form of denial that's not particularly useful. But I truly believe that it is equally deluded to only see the bad, and moreover that to do so is to give in to despair; if there is no good in the world, then there is no hope for mitigation, for repair, for better. Believing that nothing needs to be fixed and believing that nothing can be fixed are equally flawed visions of the world, and they're both cop-outs. As silly and trite as it sounds, I think of this the way I think about driving in tight and fast circumstances (L.A. freeway anyone? talk about a metaphor for life...): if you only focus on what you don't want to hit, dang if you're not going to run smack dab into it. The trick is to keep the obstacles in your peripheral vision, and to focus on the open space, however small it might be, the little bit of light that you're aiming for.

The reason I'm going on this way is because I realize that my resolution for this year, such as it is, is to try to keep my eyes on that open space, to look for the successes around me and to learn from them, rather than to look for the ways in which people live up to my negative expectations. I'm not talking about setting unrealistic goals for everyone to suddenly become happy! good! nice to me! Rather, I'm thinking more of a willingness to see what is really happening around me, rather than only what I expect. A willingness to see that even small right actions create change for the better, rather than focusing on what is left undone. A willingness to forgo the easy path of despair and not-trying in favor of the harder and more mindful way. I'm guessing that I'll fall off this wagon many a time. But I suppose that accepting that is part of realizing that not-100% success is not the same thing as failure. Not at all.

Welcome to 2009, everyone.