Thursday, December 30, 2010

FOs for the FY*!

* Finished Year

It's almost the end of the year, and I have found myself wanting to wrap up a few projects. (Which is not to say that I haven't also been starting new projects, because I have, but it's been good to feel like I'm clearing out both my list of stuff OTN, and the mental space devoted to those projects.) Yesterday, after putting some solid hours of work into it, I finished up the Tibetan Clouds Stole (my Rav project here). I cast this one on at the beginning of March, so it's been a long-term project. That was mostly by design; I knew with the beads that this was not going to be portable, which always slows things down. I also had put quite a bit of effort into finding the perfect yarn in the perfect color with the perfect beads, and I was happy to take my time with this one, enjoying the process and the feel of the yarn and the fact that I never once wondered whether I'd made the right choices. However, as I approached the end, and started to see the number of pattern repeats decreasing, I began to want to be done. And then I began to badly want to be done. So it was nice to get to the end yesterday.

I soaked it and spent the better part of an hour wiring it up and pinning it out to dry. (As I did that, I thought about the fact that this is going to be one of those shawls that makes non-knitters say things like "You should sell things like this! You'd make a fortune!" and that they never never understand just how many hours go into making a shawl like this, and that no-one will pay what those hours are worth, let alone enough for me to make a fortune. I knit things like this for my own pleasure, and if I give them away, that is also for my pleasure. I wish that knitters were paid what such things are worth, but it's my impression that we, typically, are not.) And then I waited.
And waited.
And waited.
The waiting time was not wasted, of course. I put it out to block just before dinner last night (leftover duck stew and the last of the baguettes, retrieved from the freezer), and after that was done, we watched a movie while I worked on the second Silk Road sock. As of this morning, they, too, are finished.
They are even now soaking for their own blocking session. (ETA: These have blocked out even better than I thought; they may end up fitting me after all. Poor Younger Daughter...) I think I forgot to show you my absolute favorite bit of these socks: I kitchenered the toe shut in two colors so the stripes go right over the toe. I am charmed to pieces by this.
The project details for this one (on yet another Rav project page): my own pattern (which I will write up), in Spud and Chloe Fine, a silk/merino blend that I highly recommend - I loved working with this yarn, and I love that it comes in solids that are this bright and vivid. Knitted on two size 2 circular needles.

I wasn't the only one who spent yesterday playing with fiber. Older Daughter, she of the first FO, spent the day playing with dye pots. For Christmas, she received a natural dye kit (from us, but honestly, this is something she wanted!), and yesterday she dyed up her first batch (some undyed handspun that I'd been saving for just this purpose, some natural-colored wool I had in stash). The results?
Four ounces of lovely purple yarn. I wonder what she'll make with it (assuming I don't thieve it first)? I'll get the dye details from her, but I believe that lac was involved.

And then this morning, finally, the shawl was dry. And the rain had stopped (we're getting hammered with rain these days). I actually dressed up to take some outside shots of it.
The central motif makes me very happy.
It's like a mandala, isn't it?
The edges are just gorgeous, too, and I love the way that the beads run all the way up the sides, between those little eyelets (you can't see them well in that picture, but trust me, they're there).
It's long enough to wear with both edges hanging back over my shoulders.
Or hanging down. (Can you tell I'm not used to the sun after all that rain? Look at me squint!)

All in all, a successful project, I think.
Project details: Tibetan Clouds Stole by Sivia Harding. Knitted out of Sundara Yarn Fingering Silky Merino, which may be one of my very favorite yarns ever; every single stitch was a joy. The beads are dark amber silver lined glass beads. Size five needles. (In fact, finished on my brand-new Signature circular needles, which it turns out I absolutely adore - more on that later - thank you, beloved SIL!)

In case I don't manage to post before Saturday, I wish all of you a happy and peaceful New Year, filled with family and friends and health and fiber and time in which to enjoy all of them.

Monday, December 27, 2010


The mid-winter holidays have always seemed to me to be a time of making: making food, making presents, making memories, making light in the dark days. This past week has certainly been no exception.

Years ago, when Rick and I finally had a house together, and his Grandmom was feeling a bit overwhelmed by hosting his family's traditional Christmas eve gathering, I started doing it, with her, and then on my own. I didn't do it last year, feeling worn out by a bad autumn and too much to do, and as much as I think it was probably a wise decision, we all missed it. So this year I did it again. We had about 30 or so people over, and I spent most of Thursday and Friday morning getting ready. We make pickled herring (that's Rick's job), which is served with boiled potatoes and aqa vite, then ham and havarti and pickled cucumber salad, and red cabbage and hard bread and pork pies (my addition, in place of the Swedish meatballs that so tormented me for years - I don't enjoy making meatballs, but pork pies were our traditional pre-midnight Mass Christmas eve meal during my childhood, so I substituted). Dessert is butter cookies and rod grod and whipped cream (the kids love it). And Rick makes mulled wine. Mmm... The girls love it, and look forward to it all year - this year they even ate a little bit of the pickled herring.
As I cooked, wearing Grandmom's apron that she gave me when she officially stopped doing this party herself, I found myself missing her terribly, while being grateful at the same time for all of the memories I have of standing in her kitchen making this same food. I hope my girls, and maybe, depending on the way things go, their kids, feel the same way about making this meal themselves someday.

I also made my usual two huge braids of yeasted cardamom bread for Christmas morning. I didn't take pictures, though (sigh). And on Christmas day, I made fresh baguettes and duck and sausage stew with sage and potatoes and celery root. That is our very own Christmas tradition. And then on Sunday, I cooked not a thing - we have enough leftovers for a while, I think.

Other making happened, too. Of particular note is the fact that Older Daughter this morning presented her very first finished knitted garment ever. (I suspect her of turning on her light in the middle of the night to read and finish it; we've all wanted to do that at some time or another, haven't we?)
How about that? I'm so impressed, and now that she's actually finished an actual garment, I think there'll be no stopping her. Maybe she needs her own Rav page?

I, too, finished something.
There's the first Silk Road sock; the second is at the heel flap.
(The colors are more accurate in the second picture.) The second sock is turning out just fine, following my notes for the first one (this is not always the case), and I am 99% sure that I have figured out how to size it up with another four repeats and to still get the nifty lines on the heel and down the foot.
I don't know why, but I'm just charmed to pieces by the lines down the sole, and the fact that I worked it so that decreasing the thicker blue stripes on the bottom can coincide with decreasing the subtler thicker blue stripes on the top before the toe decreases.
The only thing that's stopped me from finishing the second one is the fact that I've also been working away madly at the Tibetan Clouds stole; I'm halfway done with the second side panel now, and with the end in sight, suddenly I'm over the whole process knitting mentality, and into full-fledged product mode. I want it, and I want it now. But I also kind of want the second of these socks.
While my knitting dukes it out in the den, I wish all of you a happy holiday season, and a peaceful week as we head into the new year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Home!! Home at last!

I'm done travelling for the foreseeable future, hooray! * I went up to Tehachapi this past weekend, Friday and Saturday (and luckily, the drive wasn't too bad in spite of all of the rain we're getting); it was tremendously productive, and so good to see everyone. But I'm glad to be home.

The cold I've been fighting off is glad to be home, too - it is making its presence felt, but thus far I've kept it at bay, just constant sneezing and sniffling. I am not swimming this morning (we do swim in the rain many times; after all - we're wet either way, right?); it seemed like that might be pushing it. Instead I am going to go into work (dragging the girls with me - they've got ants in their pants after three days of rain) to file grades and clear up a few administrative email type things, and then I think I might be able to consider this semester done and gone. Another hooray!

I've been knitting along through all of this. I finished Rick's socks just before leaving for Tehachapi, thus ensuring that everyone in the family had some new knitwear from me before I left.
As you can see, the socks match Tilly. I may have to rename them Tilly socks. These are knitted on size two needles, using Lang Jawoll Magic yarn, on sixty stitches. I put little cables up the sides, once I'd turned the heel.
These are my usual Rick toe-up recipe, where I put a heel flap on the bottom of the foot, and then decrease the gusset stitches in pairs along the back of the heel. He doesn't like the way a gusset looks, but he does like the way a slip-stitch heel flap wears and and cushions on the bottom of his heel, so this is a good compromise. I didn't get a picture of the cuff, but the little cables extend into the 4x2 ribbing. I'm not sure what I thought of this yarn; it's a singles with nylon, so it felt splitty to me, and it was sometimes hard to work without looking, which is rather the point of a relatively plain pair of socks like this, to my mind. I'm not sure I'd get it again, but I'll see how it wears - that may change my mind.

With that done, I was free to cast on for a very plain pair of meeting socks for me. I finished the first one on Friday, and the second on Saturday.
I actually tried to get these to match, by winding off some yarn after the first sock to get to where I thought the colors would go in the same order, but it didn't work. I think I just need to accept that when knitting with Noro, I hand over all color control. I'm actually OK with that when knitting something like this - pure mindless entertainment. These are knitted with Noro Silk Garden Sock, on size 2.5 needles, 44 stitches, toe-up with a short-row heel. I made them longer than the last pair, and I'm entirely delighted with them. I may have to go get another skein of Noro; these are going to be my mindless knitting for a while, I think.

But mindless doesn't always do the trick, so I've been working away assiduously on the Tibetan Clouds stole, and have finished the first side panel and all the set-up for the second side. I realized, though, that I'm going to come up short on beads, so I've ordered more. I can keep working on it in bits until they come (or until I run out of beads, whichever comes first), but in the meantime, I needed another project that requires some thought, and I guess I needed silk, so I decided the time had come to cast on for the Silk Road socks I've been wanting to design ever since going to the Silk Road exhibit at the Bower Museum last July. There was a lovely pattern on a silk mortuary face covering, gold on blue, that struck me as being perfect for knitted socks. I put together a chart for it a while ago in my little knitting notebook.
And last night I wound up the Spud and Chloe yarn I bought just for this, and cast on.
I decided to start with a braid at the top (there will probably be a hanging tassel there, too, before I'm done), and then worked from there. I'm pretty happy with the way this is working out, and I am delighted with the fabric itself. This yarn is absolutely gorgeous - it's a merino/silk blend (perfect for a replica inspired by a silk weaving), and it is so much cushier than I'd thought it would be for such a fine fingering yarn - the yarn is the perfect weight for doubling in this way without being too thick. So I'll work my way down the leg of these over the next few nights; I think I know how I want the heel to work, and I'm rather looking forward to getting there and seeing whether I'm right. If this all turns out, I'll try to write it up as a pattern; it should be fairly sizeable by messing with yarn weight and/or pattern repeats.

All right, off to file grades and put this semester to bed!

*Note: Rick is tracking the snow levels at Mammoth very closely; they've gotten another 7-8 feet with this recent storm. Skiing may be in my future, all desires not to travel notwithstanding.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Not so much with the holiday knitting

Which is not to say that I am not knitting - I am. But around August, I decided that I wasn't going to do any "holiday" knitting per se. Instead, I decided that I'd just give out whatever I knitted for people as I knitted it (you may remember that this started with the decision to give my niece her kitten mittens when I saw her this fall instead of waiting and sending them now). This has taken at least some of the pressure out of the holidays, at least in this one matter, and I get to know that the recipients are getting use out of the things I've knitted. My SIL, in fact, kindly sent me some pictures of the mittens in use, right around Hallowe'en.
Being a knitter herself (and much better with the artistic side of displaying knitted goods), she kindly got shots of all of the little nifty bits of these mittens.
Like the fish skeletons on the thumbs.
And the pawprints on the fingers. I really need to knit a pair of these for myself - I truly love them.

I also knitted a hat/mitts set for each of the girls, which I have duly handed over. And this weekend I finished a scarf for Older Daughter to add to her set. (I had enough yarn for that - barely - because she and I had the same yarn in our hats and mitts; there's a bit left over from Younger Daughter's set, but not enough for this particular scarf - I need to figure something else out for her.)
The hat and mitts are my own made-up patterns, but the scarf is Anne's latest fun pre-holiday release, the Cabled Keyhole Scarf. Isn't it fun? And it is such a quick knit; I managed to finish it up in no time, squeezed into the little bits of space I had available (a bit of time in the evening here, sitting at a feis registration desk there). It hasn't even been blocked yet, and it still looks good. (So if your holiday knit list looms large and you're looking for something quick to knit, consider this one.)
I love those chunky cables. And the keyhole construction means that it'll stay on right where it belongs, with no loose ends to get in the way and catch. It's pretty warm today (already 71 and due to get warmer - what happened to my winter?), so Older Daughter wasn't up for a long photo shoot in wool, but I'm betting I'll get some good shots of this over the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, holiday madness has, of course, set in. One of the reasons why I've been searching for another way to handle the desire to give hand-knits without making Christmas the time to give them is because of how nutty this time of year gets for me (I know I'm not the only one!). Grades are due on December 22nd, and I can't tell whether I'm going to end up pushing that deadline right to the wire. I feel like I'm as organized as I can be, but finals don't come in until 5:00 pm on Tuesday, and I am heading off to Tehachapi on Friday for one last linguistic work session up there before the holidays, so that's one less work day to grade. And, of course, both of the girls end up with activity piled on activity at this time of year, most of them scheduled at the last minute (thus eating into time set aside for things like shopping and grading and and and). Younger Daughter has long had a feis scheduled for this past weekend - it's her Irish dancing school's annual competition in Palm Springs, so of course we were planning to go. We'd decided to go overnight so we could volunteer and help with set-up, only to discover that while we were in New Orleans, her teacher announced the date of the school winter play, and (you guessed it), it was Friday night. By the time we'd figured that out, Younger Daughter already had her part and her lines memorized, so we ended up juggling - Older Daughter and I caught a ride out with friends so I could meet our volunteering obligations, and Rick and Younger Daughter followed after the play. Then, their piano recital ended up being scheduled for today (my theoretical shopping day), and Older Daughter's orchestra teacher scheduled a last-minute concert for this coming Wednesday night (I kid you not, we just got the date for that one less than a week ago - am I the only one who already has tons of things scheduled for this time of year and very little room to add more?!). That means I won't be going to the party at my LYS that night!

But, the feis went well. It's a pretty full day for Younger Daughter, with lots of concentration.
She has fun, though, especially once she's past her first dance or two.
And in the end, isn't having fun what all of this is all about? With that in mind, I think I'll relax with the socks that I'm knitting for Rick. They may or may not be done in time for Christmas, but they'll keep his feet warm whenever they get to him.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A link for your entertainment

I have much to report, and little time to report it. This is the last week of classes, and then it's all marking papers until grades are due on the 22nd. But Beverly just sent me this link, and it made me so happy I had to share.

Linguists. Singing. About theory. It just doesn't get a lot better than that.

Next time: knitting. I promise.