Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sock it to Me

The times I mess up the most are those times when I'm just too damn impressed with my own skill and cleverness.  Oh yeah, and when I'm totally not paying attention because I soooo know what I'm doing.

Like socks.

Like the socks I started a week or two ago, which have been progressing apace.  It's amazing how fast they go when I don't reserve knitting time to being stopped at traffic lights during rush hour. But I digress, slightly.

I more often than not prefer toe-up socks: I make a small skinny garter stitch rectangle, pick up stitches all around the edges and alternate knit and purl rounds, increasing at each corner until I have enough stitches.  The toe is cushy and stretchy, there's none of that pesky figure-eight cast on that's so tedious, or the provisional cast-on that then has to be undone as in the case of short-row toes.  

For reasons too complicated to explain (I just wasn't in the mood) I decided on the more traditional cuff-down approach, which in my case consists of a garter stitch band usually about 24 stitches wide with as many ridges as the number of stitches my sock will need, either grafted together (if my cast-on left me a long enough tail and if I'm in the mood) or a 3-needle bind-off joining cast-on to current row.  Pick up stitches along the edge where the live yarn tail is, work a garter ridge because it's pretty, and then go.

In this case, "go" translated to a 4x4 garter rib.  I was a little concerned that the yarn was a little thinner than most of my old favourite sock yarns (like Trekking or Regia 25/75 blends), and I wanted a stitch with a bit of give, rather than draw-in, as in the ill-fated socks which I described in a previous missive.

My favourite heel is the short-row garter stitch heel over two-thirds of the stitches.  It fits well, is comfortable and I like the way it looks, especially in variegated yarns.
All very well and good, so I worked my lovely heel over two-thirds of the stitches, and as I returned to working in the round, I realised that oh dear, I hadn't centred my heel on the stitch pattern.  You can't see it all that well here but trust me, it's not centred:
Actually, you can see it pretty well, can't you?

No problem, I can do anything where knitting is concerned, I'll just make the ribbing do a bit of ziggy-zaggy, ending up centred on the foot, thereby hiding my blunder.

So I did, for almost an inch, except that I forgot/wasn't paying attention/was too caught up watching The Bourne Identity with my 15-year-old and I ziggy-zagged all the way around.  Yes folks, on my sole.  On the sole of the sock, that is.

No problem, I'm a whiz at fixing mistakes, and besides, Phreadde gave me this absolutely gorgeous very tiny crochet hook, just the PERFECT size for re-laddering all those garter bumps on my sole.

It must have taken two hours (subjective time: fifteen weeks) to ladder about 20 stitches worth of bumps, and it wreaked havoc with my pretty gauge (yes, I know, it'll even out with washing and wearing), and it turns out that it's quicker and more attractive to just rip out ALL those wrong stitches and just re-knit those partial rows.

But all's well that ends well, as I'm about to start the toe.
(No, that's not a misshapen foot inside the sock but a ball of yarn).

Best of all, I avoid the boredom of two identical socks, knowing that I WILL centre the stitch pattern on the foot on the next sock.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

One More Thing

I know SOAR is over and gone until next year, but I still have after-glow.

Publicly, I have to thank Denny.  She gave me a gift, for so many good and true reasons, and that act did more than she could know.  It lifted me out of a place I never want to go again, which appeared to have no exit.


Thank you.

I Have A Plan

Oh yes I do, and it's taking shape:
Stay tuned!

In other news, I finished the knitting on this:
Which means that I can actually get going on something fun. I had to do it though, to erase my uncharacteristically bad knitting karma.

Here's the thing: I expect, every time I knit something, to have to undo a couple of hours of knitting, given that I generally alter patterns, if I follow them at all, and never ever use the specified yarn - blame that on my previous ebay habit from about 10 years ago that provided me with all the means to be incredibly busy in my retirement (around 20 years away - yes, that was a clue), and will ensure that I never die. And I rarely swatch, preferring the built-in swatching that is modular knitting.  Anyway, after SOAR 2006 I was on fire, and promptly cranked out three wildly successful sweaters (yes, I'm boasting; also, people on various blogs, having photographed them in the SOAR 2007 gallery, have said kind things about them) and then it stopped.

First, there was the not-my-handspun cardigan that had already fallen into The Burmuda Rectangle between my sofa and the wall.  This is where all stalled projects go.  They like it there, and will often stay for many years.  Sometimes I rescue them, sometimes unsuccessfully. Anyway, this was a gorgeously-coloured batch of, uh, poofy (Amy's nephew tells her that "fat" is a Bad Word) yarn (size 11-13 needles) that was too tightly spun to use for a comfy pullover, and so needed to be a jacket or cardigan.

Foolishly (see the next sentence)  I decided that since there wasn't a LOT of yarn, I should make a cardigan with cutaway fronts, you know, that looks as though someone cut away a huge pyramid of sweater from the bottom.  Turns out that cutaway fronts make me look about half my height, and about as wide as I am tall, which (given the half as tall thing I just mentioned) is really not my best look.

Discouraged my my design failure, I vowed to use a professional's expertise and  found something in the approximate gauge which looked as thought it would do the trick.  And it did. Unfortunately I didn't have enough yarn, and even though I know it's very fashion-forward to have jackets with elbow-length sleeves, (a) I think it looks stupid, (b) I think it looks dumb (yes I'm being redundant on purpose.  I'm making a point, dammit), (c) I don't think it flatters me, and (d) I'd have to extend the sleeves next season anyway, so I had to actually buy a skein of yarn to combine with two skeins from the stash, and alternate the triple strand (yes folks, three strands of worsted weight yarn gets the same gauge as not-my-handspun) with my paucity of yarn for sleeves, which naturally entailed knitting most of one sleeve before deciding that it was Not Successful.  Eventually though, success.  I even made buttons to match, though the safety pins with the little lump which are used for buttons which you'd like to remove every time you wash the garment, really don't work that well on a knitted fabric.  Still though.  Success.  I can't say it enough.  Success.  Success.

Then began The Time Of The Knitting Failures, although in truth, this time was interspersed with Knitting Successes, but as these fruits (not moldy or otherwise skanky) of my labour are no longer in my possession (I have a pair of nieces and a pair of nephews who have sweaters, two brothers who have socks, and a brother who has a handspun beanie with a bicycle motif), I can't look to them for consolation, since they are in Australia.

Back around April or so, I drove up to Toni at The Fold to sell my Jensen Tina II, a truly lovely wheel that had become tainted with bad juju due to the person who'd been using it for a few years, and simultaneously, or in really rapid succession, depending on your time scale, buy a Louet Victoria.  I don't believe in visiting new yarn stores without buying souvenirs, and in this case, it was some truly beautiful sock yarn with which I started knitting truly beautiful socks.  See?  Except that in order to actually wear them (which is almost always my goal when I knit things for myself, rarely knitting non-wearables) I'd have had to have had foot surgery to remove most of the bones in my foot, or otherwise make my feet narrower, which isn't happening any time soon.  I blame it on the pretty ziggy zaggy stitch pattern I invented.
Sock yarn is a very good souvenir, as it's usually under $20, packs well, and ends up being something I put on my feet every week or two, thinking, oh yeah, I bought that yarn at Toni's when I got caught in the ice storm and it took me ten hours to get home instead of five  Good times.

So that didn't happen, and the sock-in-progress is still.  In progress.  Though progress has halted, and will in fact be set back to the toe, where it all started.  Never mind though, I have the latest souvenir (of Chicago) socks in progress, and so far they don't need undoing.

Then, after the family knitting, and in order to have something to do on the very arduous travel home after visiting the family, I decided that the stash contained the perfect yarn for this tank top, and set about it.  Sadly, and I'm not laying blame here, the drape of this tank was such that it exposed more of my bra than I generally prefer (i.e. any), so instead of the Bermuda Rectangle which is a little full right now, the yarn got rewound.

There were other failures, but I'm repressing, because now I'm on to bigger and better things (at least in my own mind), and I finished Something.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Beads and Fame

So how cool is this?  Amy wondered if I might like to make something for her using these, in exchange for fiber.  Uh, YEAH!  The only constraints are length (either short or long) and not too overpowering, as she'd like to be able to wear it t0 work. And oh yeah, a necklace (that's my default anyway).

So this evening I went to the knitting group at my local yarn store, and they were all excited because I have an honourable mention on Knitter's Review.  Well that's pretty cool. Fame at last! Fortune is no doubt close on its heels ... or not.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Truck Stops. Who Knew?

As it turns out, rest areas are in fact well-used, probably for resting.  As least that's what I needed it for.

It all started with Oprah.  Hmm, no, it started at SOAR when Cindy told me that Nancy and Adriana were going to be in Chicago to be on Oprah.  Even though I'd just spent 11 hours each way driving to and from Bellaire, Michigan, I thought that five hours to and from Chicago to visit friends in from the left coast wasn't out of the question.  Saturday was out, given that I was teaching a 4-hour beading class at 11, but if I could get Friday off, I could leave Thursday after work, play with my friends all day Friday, and leave around dinnertime on Friday since they already had dinner obligations.

Hokay then.

I made great time on Thursday, found the hotel and Very Expensive Parking Garage ($35 for 9 hours or more) and we chattered until we were exhausted.  Beyond exhausted, actually.

Friday didn't turn out quite as we planned.  The person who had obtained the Oprah tickets was taking them (and I was tagging along) to the Botanic Gardens in the morning, and then we'd do yarn and bead store crawls in the afternoon.  Drink some coffee, eat chocolate, that sort of thing.   Turns out the Oprah connection, a realtor who claimed to Know Chicago but took more wrong turns than her Knowingness would imply that she ought to be allowed, was full of so much love that she had the whole DAY with us spoken for, and we were held hostage in her big black SUV.  

She thought that people who spin, knit, dye and bead for fun (let me emphasize that: FOR FUN) would just love to drive for an hour to shop where they sell geese in calico clothing and the like.  We did find a yarn store though, and I did snag me some more sock yarn (I will have socks for ever.  Even before this I was replete with sock yarn, but hey, who's counting anyway), and today, as I watched Pushing Daisies online (I love this idea.  It's like TiVo and a VCR with no planning!  I do wish they kept full episodes of ER though, as I was on I-55 when it aired), I started, well, socks, I mean, why not?

So, rest areas on the highway.

Due to the chattering and all, I didn't manage a whole lot of sleep on Thursday night, so the drive home on Friday got a little scary.  I received a very useful jolt of adrenaline that luckily lasted me until the next rest area, after I found myself drifting a little.  Fortunately there wasn't much traffic.

I always thought that rest areas were for sissy travellers with tiny bladders who weren't strong enough to last until the gas tank needed refilling, or for picnic lunches when there was no big hurry to reach a destination in lovely weather, but man, at 10 in the evening, you can't hardly move for the trucks.  I was a little nervous, y'know, woman alone in a Corolla, trying to sleep, surrounded by humungous vehicles, but I did make sure all the doors were locked before I reclined the seat.  The power nap was a lifesaver, probably literally.

Home again, and whoops! No instructions for tomorrow's class, still need to mix up the bread (I discovered batter bread, and I'm hooked), not to mention sleep.

I was only 15 minutes late for class (yes, I did call ahead to let my students know I was running behind), and my instructions were remarkably error-free, which is to say: none discovered on read-through, and none discovered in the four hours of teaching.

And oh whoops again: I'm expecting people for dinner, and except for the bread rising, I have no menu plan, no food, and NO TIME! And, uh, I think the grill is out of gas.

Eh, but here it is, Sunday night, I have leftovers in my fridge, my gas cannister has been refilled, I think my dinner guests are still my friends, and I even managed to teach another class today.

And I have the beginnings of a sock, and since I started it with nary a plan, now that my cuff is finished, I have to decide on a Stitch.  Garter rib?  Travelling something-or-another?  No lace, because lace in socks is weak and develops unintentional, not-the-pattern holes, at least in my experience it does.

I love starting socks this way: cast on some, knit until there are as many ridges as I will need stitches, cast off together with the cast-on edge and pick up stitches in the valleys between the ridges.  Purl a row.  Start something.

Yes.  Start Something.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

BFAC and Yarn Pron

This is the first time I've done something like this: participated in the Beading for a Cure effort.

The donut is what I used for a closure, and the second picture shows a close-up of the necklace I made.

I think the auctions are held in March or April, but I honestly don't remember.

The deal is that you sign up, send in your $20, and then get a set of beads: in this case, seed beads in black, white, yellow, orange and red, a focal lampwork bead, some Swarovski crystals, and some white chiclet beads.  You may add ONE ONLY other type of bead (I chose silver-lined dark amber Czech seeds) and all the findings you need, and you have to use at least one of every type of bead in the kit.  

Last year the colours were really pretty, but I have to say that I found this set of beads very much outside my comfort zone: they're neither sludge nor iridescent nor luster-finished nor metallic nor complex in colour (I'm most attracted to ambiguous colours that defy description).  This required more discipline than I usually have to apply to the fun things I do by choice, which is a kinda strange place to be.

And now for some gratuitous Yarn Porn:

I have no idea what this is. It may be merino/silk, or something like that.  It's my usual sportweight-ish 3-ply, and yes, the colour is true.  Hmmm, a little underplied, isn't it?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Past Travel, Future Travel

After a day of travel (eleven hours in a minvan, five people, six wheels, an inkle loom and luggage) and a day of work, SOAR seems like a distant memory, but I do have New Fiber.

Really though, it's a small but respectable addition to Ye Olde Stashe: respectable due to both the small amount (at $25/ounce, small is all I get) of paco-vicuna as well as the nice big bag from Rovings.  The picture is a bit of a cheat though: the neat balls of natural yarns on the right are old, old, old and are waiting to be made into the Yum Sweater I've been promising myself since I started spinning.  I'm thinking Something Modular, but I guess I usually do.  I wonder if I could come up with an entrelac variation that Kathryn Alexander hasn't already invented?  Nah, probably not.

Next trip: Chicago.  My friends Nancy and Adriana from San Francisco may end up being on Oprah; either way, they'll be in Chicago through Saturday at a niiiice hotel (according to the website anyway), which warrants another quick road trip.  Listen, I drove up to Marengo and back in one day to fetch my Victoria, so overnight in Chicago will be just peachy.

I also just heard that I'm teaching three classes at BeadFest Miami, April 11-13 2008.  Don't think I'll drive that one.

I tried and I tried to insert pictures of the classes, but the server blah blah blah. So sorry.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Words Fail Me

So at least I have a picture.

I think it is fair to say though, that if you have been suffering under the burden of a string of Bad Knitting, and the project you have chosen in defiance as a Sure Thing is at a point where you need to make a semi-critical decision concerning, say, armhole depth, then it is a really really good idea to be sure that you follow through and do sensible sleeve shaping, rather than deciding that perhaps, after all, after some not inconsequential number of hours of knitting, you need to work on those biceps and deltoids and triceps a LOT (which is likely to mean steroids for the effect actually needed) or else that your upper arms will never ever ever be that large and you should have been doing quite a bit more decreasing, but since you were less than sensible about this stage of the project, once again a fair amount of ripping out will be necessary in order to avoid Yet Another Knitting Failure.

On the other hand, the beaded beads I put into the silent auction were at $55 last time I checked, and I'm flattered, delighted and embarrassed all at the same time.

And the highlight of my week was the handspun shawl I was gifted with today.  I cried like a baby.  In public.  More than once.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Can Feel the Love

If nothing else, I have eye candy:

I'm also here to tell you that SOAR cures all ills.  My job situation (the company I work for is desperately trying to claw its way out of the toilet) is sucky, and it's been going on for long enough that it's coloured everything meh, which really isn't my colour, even if I am The Queen Of Sludge.

It's only halfway through, and I'm so jazzed with ideas and inspirations that I swear, it's lucky my skull is here to hold my brain in place, because it would otherwise soar right up and away.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Oops I did it again

Apparently posting to a blog seems to be a better idea when I'm overtired than when I'm not.

SOAR is this wonderful, magical confluence of energy and creativity and exuberance, and it seems that some people Just Don't Get It - during today's workshop a couple of n00bies (to SOAR) gloated about their beer and the movies they were going to watch in their condo this evening, and I wondered why they were here at all.  Sure, there are classes.  Yes, there are presentations (and who in their right mind would miss a Judith McK presentation?) And too, on Thursday there's the market, a generally hysterical time, in a good way.

But that's such a superficial, small part of it, and to closet oneself away, doing what could be done at home, seems an awful waste, in my opinion.  SOAR is, if nothing else, about people (puh-leeze, I am SO not a people person), about connections and inspiration and tribe.  It's warmth and welcoming and hilarity and Cheap Swill and the Royal Wave and Condom Races and if you're here and none of this means anything to you, you ought to do yourself a favour and make sure you figure at least some of this stuff out.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

On the Bandwagon

It's the night before SOAR, and I'm already in Michigan, too tired to do more than this.