Almost Famous

Wow, it looks like my little blog made the Oregonian! A really nice article appeared today about Nitro Knitters.  So, if you arrived here by that route, welcome.

I feel like it might be a good idea to explain that this isn't exactly your typical knitting blog.  This site grew out of my previous teaching life, when I taught at various locations in and around Beaverton.  I needed one place where I could list all the classes and locations I was teaching, and this was it.  So you'll find a certain amount of outdated class listings here, if you browse in chronological order.  But in between those, though, there is some good stuff.  For example, on the sidebar, down on the right side, you'll see that my post about the "yo-yo" sock heel has been viewed a few (tens of thousands!!) times.  And hiding back in the mists of time are informative posts like how to Kitchener without a tapestry needle.

In the back of my mind, I have long harbored the intention of starting a new website — not a blog about "what I knit today", but more a place to publish those "good bits" of useful and/or interesting knitting information.  And now that I'm about to get back in teaching mode, that idea keeps resurfacing.  It sounds to me like it would thoroughly complement the teaching philosophy at Nitro Knitters — so who knows? I might actually bring it to fruition over the next year or so.  I know, I've said that before… and I'm going to be busy teaching, and I do need to have some time to actually knit, after all.

But it could happen.  Especially since I won't have to publish my class schedules on my own site any more.  Nitro's website has everything on it now – you can even sign up for classes online! — so it's worth taking a look over there.

Ribwarmer Revisited FrontMeanwhile, the past couple of weeks have been a roller coaster for me.  On the one hand, I'm a little stressed.  There's a lot of behind-the-scenes work to do, getting things ready.  I've been sorting out all my old handouts and samples and patterns, and polishing stuff up for the new topics I'll be teaching.  I unloaded my "teaching bag" years ago, so I have to put that back together, with all the little things like extra yarn and needles that are sometimes handy to have around in a class.

On the other hand, I am excited to be remembered and yes, possibly even in demand. OK, I realize that sounds sort of pathetic, but it isn't meant to.  What it means is, I have been reconnecting with knitters I haven't seen or heard from literally in years — some in person, some in emails — and it has been immensely gratifying to see how far some of my former students have come with their knitting skills and enjoyment.

One such knitter graciously wore and allowed me to photograph her "Ribwarmer Restyled" vest, which was a class I taught back in 2009 – 2010.

If you're familiar with Elizabeth Zimmerman's Ribwarmer, you may be aware that the actual "pattern", if you can call it that, is about one medium-length paragraph and is only given in one size.  For my classes, I wrote up a 7-page handout that included a schematic and I did a lot of math to allow knitters to make the project in a range of sizes.Ribwarmer Revisited Back

But of course, when you are a teacher, you teach that last class and away everyone goes.  You don't always get to see how it works out.  So I was super-pleased to see the finished product live and in person!

And I am reading comments and emails like this one:

"…so glad to hear you will be teaching at Nitro Knitters!  I took one of your "fix-it" classes years ago at the Knitting Bee and it has empowered me ever since."

Now THAT is an awesome thing to hear from a knitter!  As a matter of fact, my "Knit Fixes" class is one of the very first ones I put on the new schedule.  It has always been one of my favorite classes to teach, and I loved seeing novice knitters gain so much knowledge and confidence in the course of two hours.

"Empowered," she wrote.

I mean, that's what I set out to do, but I'm not sure I was ever really convinced that I had done it.

Now I find out that I did do it, after all.

And better than that — I get to do it again.  How lucky can a girl get?

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What Do You Mean, It’s 2014 Already?

 

My goodness, where does the time go?

 

OK, yes, the blog died. If any of you remember where we left off, I was knitting the Paloma tee. It ended up fitting OK, but it looked terrible when it was finished, and I decided I didn't like the yarn anyway. At least, I didn't like the color. So, it got frogged and overdyed into a nice blue-green color, and I swear I took a picture of it, but I'm damned if I can find it now.

ETA: found it!

Overdyed yarn

 

My beloved Morgan cat died in the spring of 2012, leaving me catless for the first time in 19 years. A few months later I adopted first Pierre, a handsome senior black boy about 9YO, with a white chest spot and a pair of white undies (not shown),

Pierre Chimay Blanche

and then Chimay Blanche, a young, sadly abandoned cat, who seems to be mostly a Turkish Angora with a blue eye and a gold eye, and who has turned into DH's cat.

 

We had to let Max the dog go, too, at the end of 2012. Now we have a blended family, with good ol' Kodi dog and the two new cats able to all be in the same room at the same time. Wonders may never cease.

 

For the most part, 2013 was not a great year for me.  A big chunk of it was spent dealing with some seriously lousy crap regarding my siblings.  It was difficult and depressing.  But I got through it.  And I most sincerely thank those of you who lent a sympathetic ear every time I needed one.

 

To add to the fun, I got a new computer last January, and decided to rearrange my entire office — at which point I actually rendered it practically unusable.  A few months ago, I picked that project back up, and this time I managed to arrange the office in a way that I really like.  I still haven't finished going through all the old computer's files — 10 years' worth of stuff takes a while to go through.  Apparently I saved a lot of crap that seemed useful at the time.

 

After three and a half years, we still LOVE the so-called "new" house.  But my studio is still smaller than it was in either of the two previous houses.  I've started to overflow into the guest bedroom, but I'm eyeing that daylight basement area with serious plans afoot.  😀

 

I think that's about everything important.  What's been up with you?

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The Dude and his Sweater

It's amazing how a couple of weeks can just disappear.

Well, of course, I've just been doing things other than blogging:  for one, I have really truly been making some serious progress on the new website.  No, seriously!

Then of course there was the bit where ol' Morgan cat started getting stem cell injections, as part of a study on feline kidney failure.  The first one went very smoothly; I think the cat took it more in stride than I did.  Tomorrow we have another one, though I am much less freaked out about it this time around.  It will be very interesting to see if he shows any improvement.  If he does, he may continue to get injections every month or so into August.

I know in the previous post I claimed I was starting on a new project — but since I didn't get gauge right off the bat, I have begun to reconsider the wisdom of trying to knit an adult-sized sweater on size 2 needles.  So in the meantime, I have been sorting out the remainder of The Stack, which is what I call my knitting project graveyard WIP rack.  ("WIP" stands for Work In Progress, and "WIP rack" is a term left over in my head from my days working in chip manufacturing.  In that context, a WIP rack is where you pile the stuff that is sitting around waiting to be worked on.  It's very fitting.)

So far, I've got one pair of DH's worn-out socks back on the needles after taking off the old feet, in preparation for knitting new feet; I've frogged one entire project that didn't fit at all, and half of another one that turned out to be not very flattering.

But I'm still apparently on the lookout for new projects.  DH is a huge fan of the stupidest movie ever made, so he recently sent me an article from the Oregonian about the original sweater from "The Big Lebowski" going up for auction, and now — well, you know what I'm thinking, don't you?

I'm thinking I could SO make a much better copy than this one.  And after knitting that teeny little swatch the other night, the decidedly large gauge on this bad boy looks rather attractive… the gauge on that thing is so big, it would be no trouble at all to figure out the charts from the photo…

And I'm thinking it's at least a 50-50 shot that I have an authentic, vintage pattern of the appropriate style, somewhere in the studio library, that I can modify… and if not, there's always Ravelry…

DH says he doesn't think the original sweater is really "his" colors.  I say, there's the beauty of the whole plan, right there.  You think greys would look better?  and I can do it for a lot less than eleven grand, too.  😉

 

ETA:  holy crap, I might have known the interwebs would be way ahead of me.  Here is a link to the FREE pattern on Ravelry!

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Use the Damn Saw, Already

Photo credit: ronnieb from morguefile.com

Pop quiz:  What do "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", Terry Pratchett and the New York Times all have in common?

I'm pretty sure you didn't guess this:  a knitting epiphany.

But with the confluence of those three items, I may have found the answer to one of the biggest knitting frustrations I've had in the past few years: 

Why don't I get any knitting done?

Up until this year, my excuse has been "teaching".  But I'm not doing so much of that these days.  So I've got to get to the bottom of the problem.  (Failing that, I've got to find a new excuse, or I'll have an awful lot of yarn to un-stash…)  

 

Let's start with "The Seven Habits" book.

Even if you are not familiar with the whole book, you may have heard of

Habit 7:  Sharpen the Saw.

Wikipedia says, in part, it means "to sharpen our skills in order to achieve better results."

Well and good.  I've spent a lot of time over the past several years sharpening and even honing my knitting skills to a rather nice sharp edge.

What I haven't accomplished is getting a lot of actual knitting done.

You'd think I'd have a closetful of sweaters, wouldn't you?  Or DH would have more socks than he can shake a stick at?  uh-uh.  Well, why not?

 

I hadn't been giving this problem a lot of active thought, but it has been nagging at me for quite a while.  Then, not too long ago, I read this article on memory techniques in the New York Times.  It's a fascinating article in its own right, and it's also very long — so I'll save you the trouble and give you the part that made me sit up and take notice:

In the 1960s, the psychologists Paul Fitts and Michael Posner tried to answer this question by describing the three stages of acquiring a new skill. During the first phase, known as the cognitive phase, we intellectualize the task and discover new strategies to accomplish it more proficiently. During the second, the associative phase, we concentrate less, making fewer major errors, and become more efficient. Finally we reach what Fitts and Posner called the autonomous phase, when we’re as good as we need to be at the task and we basically run on autopilot… To improve, we have to be constantly pushing ourselves beyond where we think our limits lie and then pay attention to how and why we fail.

I think by this time, it is safe to say my knitting skills are firmly in the "autopilot" category.

For example, when my friend Kim asked for some hats, and told me which ones she liked, I whipped out all three in a couple of weeks with very few issues, other than those brought upon myself, mainly by yarn substitutions.

So, given that I can pretty much accomplish any knitting project — why don't I?

 

The coup de grâce came while listening to Terry Pratchett's Discworld audiobooks, in which a saying keeps cropping up:  "You're so sharp, you'll cut yourself."

Generally, it's used to tell a person he's a bit too smart for his own good.

I'm thinking for me, this just might be the knitting gods, or the universe, or whatever, trying to tell me I've gotten a bit too picky snooty ambitious about my knitting.

I almost never just find a pattern and make it.  No, I have to be a show-off and design something new EVERY FREAKIN' TIME, just because I can…

…or do I?

 

Maybe not every single sweater I make must be designed by me from the ground up?  I can use Ravelry to find cute existing patterns that work with the stash, no?

Maybe not every new pair of socks for DH must be a unique and different stitch pattern?  Do I really think he'd complain if his next pair was plain 2 x 2 rib?

Hmmm…  maybe my saw is sharp enough, and maybe I should just start using the damned thing?

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Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

… which translates as “thus passes the glory of the world”, or “worldly things are fleeting”…

I say this because I have managed, all on my own, to use up a ball-winder.  One of those little white-and-blue plastic Japanese ones, which begin to make a loud “CLACK CLACK CLACK” noise as they get older and the gears start to strip.  This was happening to mine, although the coup de grâce was when the handle finally broke clean off this weekend.

Honestly, I think that’s quite an accomplishment.  You don’t usually get that kind of wear-and-tear on a ball-winder unless it’s in a shop.  I guess this makes me a true professional!

I bought my swift and ball-winder combo sometime after I got married, but before we moved to the Pacific NW — which puts its age at between 10 and 13 years.  At the time, the current popularity of knitting was not much in evidence; certainly not in Texas.  I’m pretty sure I bought them online, which frankly was a spiffy thing to do way back then.  But there wasn’t much to choose from, and so for the past decade I’ve used this hokey, sort of flimsy metal swift and this plastic ball-winder.  And they have served me well and faithfully, it is true.

But by now, I think I’ve earned my stripes, so to speak, and I really kind of want to get a nice set.  And I have a birthday coming up, too…  but I have NO IDEA what is out there in the way of nice stuff ball-winders and swifts these days.  I do know I’m not fond of the Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder style seen here — I don’t like how the handle is situated.

Anyone have any suggestions, Sheryl?  😉

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A Very Quick Post

…to say that I am sorry I haven't been able to respond to several new commenters here in the last few days.  I love seeing comments (as do most bloggers) but unfortunately, what with being in Chicago for my niece's wedding over the weekend, flying home on Monday, and then DH's APPENDECTOMY yesterday — well, I just haven't found the time to respond.

Yeah.  I was surprised too.  Didn't have that on the schedule.

Thankfully, it all went as smoothly as something like that could go, I think.  He felt bad all Tuesday night and didn't sleep at all.  First thing on Wednesday we went to see the GP; got a CT scan around midday; then it was off to the emergency room for laproscopic surgery in the evening.  It was a loooooong day.  He came through with flying colors and is doing as fine as could be expected — he's awfully sore and kinda cranky, though.  (I don't exactly understand why, because I did do a little knitting on a sock for him while he was recovering from the surgery.)  😉

I'll have more on that sock project later, because there's an interesting historical/vintage twist to it.  And I'll be sure to post pics of the chemo hats I'm working on for my friend — thanks for the kind words!  But for now, this is all I can manage.  I'll be back when things have calmed down a teeny bit…

 

P.S.  And can you believe this?  My niece had a seamstress sew her a cute little shrug to wear in the church over her retro/vintage strapless wedding dress!  Pfffffft.  I'm pretty sure I could have found an authentic vintage pattern and everything!

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HI! didja miss me?

Wowsers, it's been an eventful couple of months at my house.  At my NEW house, of course — where I'd say we are about 2/3 unpacked by now.

I'm estimating it will take until December to get the rest unpacked and put away, donated, recycled, or thrown away.  Way back in the beginning, I said this was going to be a year-long project.  We first went out househunting with the realtor on December 29th, so at this point I'm still sticking with my original estimate.  (Although I keep hearing from people about how they have boxes still to unpack from moves that were three years ago.)

I discovered something very important about DH during this exercise:  he was under the impression that the way you "sort stuff out" is, you bring it all to the new place, put away as much stuff as you can, and then chuck the rest.  Arrrrgh!  I wish I'd known this sooner!

This house is smaller by about 10% — one full bedroom — and actually, it's been much LESS difficult downsizing than I was concerned it might be.  Admittedly, the extra storage afforded by the mammoth crawl space and "man cave" under the house has a lot to do with that — but still, there's quite a bit of storage on the main floor.

Although the studio space has once again been significantly downsized, I've been cramming organizing a lot of stuff in there and I haven't yet run out of room.  Ya gotta go vertical, baby!  Floor to ceiling.

(Those first two bookcases are 100% knitting books, BTW.)studio

pile o' yarn

EXCEPT there's one big problem.  I haven't even started trying to fit this in:  the YARN STASH.  Yup, all those good-sized moving boxes are chock full of yarn.  OK, there is a piece of furniture under all that, but there's still a lot of yarn.  Those medium boxes are 3 cubic feet apiece, so we're talking well over 20 cubic feet of yarn here. 

This picture is a tad out of date, even, as there is a bit more yarn that has been unearthed, in some of those dread boxes marked "MISC".  I'm starting to hate those boxes.

(Never fear:  my fallback plan involves a platform bed with built-in storage drawers.  Also, I began referring to the guest bedroom as "studio overflow" even before we moved, to get DH in the right frame of mind.)


It's also been an eventful couple of months over at the old house, which has now been rented – hooray!

So instead of trying to sell that one, we can now concentrate on doing cool stuff to this one.  I've already redone the back deck and put a screen room on the front, complete with a ventilated litter box enclosure.  Well, in my head, anyway.  Trust me, it'll be AWESOME.

Actually, it's already awesome.  We are both enjoying living here so much more than the other house.  Someone asked us the other day if it has all been worth it — we both were like, "HECK YES!"  Even with boxes everywhere and a wood floor I haven't quite figured out how to keep clean, I sort of can't believe I live in this terrific house — in much the same way that some days, I can't believe we don't live in Texas anymore.  w00t!  w00t!

Teh Joy uv SunbeemzMorgan the Emperor is still doing well, and with his creaky old arthritic legs, he seems to be enjoying the single-level house a lot.  And both cats have discovered the Joy of Sunbeams on the wood floor.

The dogs have adjusted well to the smaller back yard, although the Fourth of July was difficult for them:  the house is pretty high up, and we had an excellent view of fireworks all around us.  LOTS of fireworks.  Consequently, we administered lots of doggie downers.  For like, a week.

Of course, all this means actual knitting has taken a little bit of a backseat.  But not as much as you might think!  For the first time, I decided to teach a class at the Garden Home Rec Center over the summer.  Marlene said I could teach anything I wanted, so I took the gamble of doing a design-your-own sweater class.  And it has exceeded my wildest expectations.

These pictures are a little bit out of date as well, but you can see that we have a few well-fitting sweaters coming right along!  Thanks to DeDe, Stephanie and Linda!

DeDe's sweaterStephanie's sweaterLinda's sweater

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Holy Lolcats!

OK, OK — in between freaking out about carpet, flooring, paint, and drywall demolition, I sneaked off for a little fun.

June 3 was the second annual "I Can Has Cheezburger" night at the Mariner's ball game in Seattle.  And I was there.  Oh, yes.  And so was the New York Times, who decided to not only publish my (thankfully unidentified) picture right smack at the beginning, but also quote me.

Here are my now-apparently-immortal words of wisdom:

Tess Mattos, a 41-year-old knitting instructor who traveled up from Portland, Ore., for the event, said she had been a fan of the network’s flagship site for three years.

“It’s just a good, simple break from real life,” she said, adjusting the pair of sequined cat ears she was wearing. “It’s clever, but not mean-spirited.”

“People think we’re weird,” she quipped. “But have you seen the fans of ‘Twilight?’ ”

The article has now become the #1 most popular emailed, viewed and blogged-about article in the Technology section.  Z.  O.  M.  G.  I have been mentioned by name here.  And here.  And here.

Must've been a slow news day!

I can't remember where I encountered this quote, nor can I find it online — but as somebody, somewhere, once said:

"I'll cope with any little bit of fame I can get."

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I’m kinda bizz-ee

(Yeah, Lady Gaga got that line from me.  It's OK, we're soul sisters.)

For me, the last few weeks have been all about NEW HOUSE and especially, FRESH PAINT.

Up to now, most of it has been pretty no-brainer stuff.  For instance, I chose which bedroom is going to be the studio:  one of them is half a foot bigger, and has a much larger closet.  That was easy.

I spent most of a Sunday thoroughly cleaning the garage.  That wasn't exactly "easy", as the former owners do not appear to have even swept it out in 6 years and the accumulated dog hair, dead bugs and cobwebs were not to be believed.  And I think they spilled something out of the "bait fridge" because there was a very odd smell in there, and a suspiciously organic-looking spot on the floor.  (While even I do not normally scrub garage floors — in this case, an exception was made.)  But it's not like it was a tricky decision to make.

We tore out the odd little section of railing that did nothing except block access to part of the living room.  That looked easy, except that whoever put the thing in must have been a freakin' gorilla, because it took some serious torque to even start moving those screws.  But again:  not exactly a difficult, agonizing decision with permanent and/or expensive consequences.

The painters started yesterday, and did all the stuff I was confident about:  stripping the 80's wallpaper, re-texturing walls, and painting ceilings.  (FWIW, Devine Color's "Icing" is hands-down the best neutral, slightly warm "white" color ever.)

They also primed the unattractive brick fireplace in preparation for painting.  That was an easy decision for me, although selling it to DH turned out to be very difficult.  Yesterday, within 15 minutes of me telling the painters that the fireplace was indeed to be painted, a coat of white primer started going up, just like that.  DH walked in a couple of hours later and immediately said it looked better already.  Pffft.  Next time I should probably just leave him out of the loop.

The painters are back there today, and I am blogging as a means of avoidance — because today the color starts going up on the walls.  Along with Icing, we have Venetian Mask, Pumpkin Cream, Crisp Celery, Celery Powder, Stone Walls, Mushroom, and Tranquil Pond — plus Pompeian Red for the fireplace, because DH thinks "bricks should be red".  We'll see about that last one.

But hey, it's only paint, right?  Yeah, Rock Star says basically the same thing — to which I must point out that a fair amount of it is paint on walls that soar up to high, vaulted ceilings.  Walls that will not exactly be a snap to repaint.  And those walls just happen to be in the most important rooms:  living room, master bedroom, and family room.

I did everything they say to do.  I gathered probably hundreds of paint chips.  I bought something like 20 of those little paint sample jars, to the point where the paint guy at Home Depot says, "See you tomorrow," when I leave.  I bought big pieces of foam core and painted the samples on them and moved them from room to room, checking the colors in daylight and in the dark (and this was probably the most useful thing I did).  I had Rock Star over a couple of times.  I even decided to hire a professional decorator for a few hours of consultation.

And after a couple of weeks of tweaking, it all looks great — in theory.

But I'm still pretty terrified to see what it looks like on the walls!

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A Distinct Lack of Blogging

What can I say?  It's been 2.5 weeks since I last posted anything.  What kind of far-fetched excuse reason can I come up with this time?

view from new house How about this one?  it's because we're moving!

Yes, indeedy!!  we are moving to a new house.  But don't panic — that's my job I'm not going very far away.  In fact, we really like the general location we are in:  what we don't like is the house, which is simply too darned big for two people, and has a layout that doesn't suit us very well; and the lot, which is also too big and rather steep — so while our two dogs used to enjoy it more, they are now getting a bit old and arthritic to be running up and down the hillside like they used to.

The whole project started back in the fall, when I proposed to DH that we think about moving "in a couple of years".  He agreed, and we started planning to fix things up around the house — new carpet and such — with a view to selling it in, oh, maybe 2011.

I'm not entirely sure how we got from there to here, but the new house purchase was finalized last Friday, and we will be moving in roughly a month from now.  How exciting!  How exhausting!

Much time has been spent shifting our belongings from room to room, packing & storing some, getting rid of others, and trying to arrange what's left in a way that will make potential buyers swoon with delight.

Almost the entire yarn stash has been packed up and stored — mainly because we installed the aforementioned new carpet in the current house a couple of weeks ago — and I can't tell you how stressful that was.  I did find one bag of yarn I decided I can part with.  One.  Bag.  Out of how many?  oh, I don't know — certainly dozens, and just possibly into 3 digits.  Um, four boxes, I think?  And not small boxes, either.

So, I hope you both can understand that I don't have much scheduled in the way of classes for the next couple-three months, and I probably will continue to be fairly erratic on the blogging front for the same timeframe.  Unless you want to hear about packing box after box, and then unpacking them.  No??  Not thrilling?  Funny, it doesn't sound that thrilling to me, either.

I'm sure I will be much more thrilled about it when we finally get to move in.  We are looking forward to quite a few things about the new place.  One is that the floor plan is a single-level, and is just about 10% smaller than our current house.  That means less cleaning and a lot less yard work!

And while it is "officially" a bit smaller — not included in the official square footage is a crawl space/daylight basement that provides DH with his very own version of the studio, although he persists in calling it a Man Cave.  It has a half-bath down there, so I'll probably never see him again, except for meals.

My studio technically becomes a bit smaller, so it must be loveOTOH, I figure on spreading the contents of the studio out into a couple of different areas, and I'm also pretty sure it won't be too hard to finagle part of the "man cave" — thus it will be easier to disguise just how out of hand my studio has become.  Win-win.

Oh, and there's that excellent view of Mt. Hood, from over half the rooms.  Maybe it's only visible for about 1/4 of the year, but it beats the view we currently have by a long shot!

So again, please excuse the lack of blogging (and knitting) — I'll be back to business after the summer!


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My Knitting Wish List for 2010

magic ball and beginning of raglan sweaterHey, I finally put together a list for What I Want to Knit This Year!

Yeah, well, so what if it's mid-February?

This idea has been kind of nagging at me for a month or so — but what finally prompted me to get it down on paper was an incident last week, when Linda asked, "So what are you knitting for fun?" — after seeing what I was knitting on for work — and I had to say, "Nothing."  That, my friends, is a sad state of affairs, and one I thought I ought to rectify.  I've gotten started on it, as you can see to the right, although that item happens to be the very last one on the list.  You'll have to read ALL THE WAY THROUGH if you want to know what that noise is all about.

REALITY CHECK:  I didn't make my end-year goal of finishing my last two UFO's, so there's no real reason to think I'll get anywhere with this list, but who knows?  A knitting miracle may occur.  And some of these goals could actually be combined in one project, as you'll see.  So, in no particular order — and mostly just to have it documented — I hereby bravely unveil the list:

  1. Make felted slippers for me — after I repair the soles of DH's pair, somehow.
  2. Maybe make another set of fingerless mitts, since I seem to wear the one pair fairly frequently.
  3. Make a cardigan similar to this Cropped Cardigan by Nashua (first row, far right) except perhaps not quite as cropped, and without the unfortunate placement of the pattern st change right at the bustline.  I even have yarn chosen:  a combination of a MOHAIR and a wool boucle in a lovely handpainted collection of blues and greens.
  4. Make something machine-knit.  I found a good machine-knitting book in New Zealand for, like, 50 cents or something, and I'd like to do more with that.
  5. Knit something from the pink AB MOHAIR that was a birthday gift, um, a while ago.  Possibly pair it with some glittery No Smoking and knit an old VK pattern that I've always liked.
  6. Knit something from the green MOHAIR birthday collection — I have an idea for that, but it's very hush-hush.  Because it might not work.
  7. Complete brown beaded Rowan MOHAIR shrug — I bought some beads, but they don't show up well in the swatch, and why go to all that work if you can't see the damned beads?  So I need to try some other beads before I can get going on that one.
  8. Finish the green "lion" cardi and the Rowan Biggy Print vest — both in finishing stages.
  9. Knit an unspecified number of pairs of new socks for DH.  The ones he has have started sprouting holes and thin spots more and more frequently, so it's time to get on the stick.
  10. Make a patchwork sweater made of squares in a mixture of yarns, according to a drawing that my friend Peggy gave me even longer ago than the birthday yarns.
  11. Make a short-row sweater from a pattern I purchased only last year or so.  It too calls for a mix of yarns.
  12. Make an Anny Blatt sweater that's been on the list for a while, also in multiple yarns, and multiple st patterns.  Am I sensing a theme here?
  13. Potentially make a free-form sweater, although this is kind of low on the list after all the other multi-yarn ones.
  14. Make something from the many Japanese knitting books I've been purchasing and not using.  One pattern in particular is an adorable cardigan with sort of fluffy polka dots all over it.  Gotta find the right fluffy yarn for that one, though.
  15. Recycle two ponchos that do not get worn much anymore.  One will involve multiple yarns also, à la the "Magic Ball" technique.  (Yes, I know the "m" word is in there, but that's typically what it's known as — so I bow to convention.)  This is a technique where you make your own version of something akin to the commercially available Be Sweet's Magic Ball, or Prism's Wild Stuff.   If this "Mmmph Ball" idea intrigues you, a few resources on how to do this are 1) here at Knitter's Review, 2) here and for some reason, 3) here in the Alaska Daily News.

So far, I've started on recycling the ponchos and the Mmmph Ball is becoming a raglan sweater… and I do have a pair of socks for DH on the needles…  and it's mid-February already…  Yikes!  Nothing like a stretch goal to keep you up at night.  I guess we'll just see what happens!

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Not Exactly Juvenile, but Delinquent

Good heavens.  It’s been a week and a half.  I’m a delinquent blogger.

According to the thesaurus, you could also say, "behindhand, derelict, disregardful, heedless, inattentive, indifferent, lax, lazy, negligent, regardless, remiss, slack, thoughtless, uncaring, unmindful".

Welll…  thoughtless?  uncaring?  No, no.  Let’s call it "unmotivated" and blame it on the computer class I’ve signed up for, at which I hope to learn stuff that will enable me to restructure the whole of TessKnits.com and Polar Bear Patterns in a much more useful way.  The closer the class gets, the less inclined I am to spend time on the current setup.  And the class is next Monday.

I am hopeful that exciting things will then begin to happen.

Not to say that there haven’t been a few exciting things happening in the past, oh, 12 days or so.

For one thing, there was this!

tasul the polar bear

This is Tasul, one of the two polar bears at the Oregon Zoo in Portland.  DH and I signed up for a photography class which was described as including "tips on how to get good shots through glass" at the polar bear exhibit.

Two days prior, we got an email saying that we had permission to go "behind the scenes" in the polar bear exhibit!!

It was amazing.  We were about 30 feet above the polar bears:  no glass, no bars, no fences.  And it turns out, polar bears like cream cheese.

lion cardi from cruella's, nelson, NZ

Another thing that’s been going on is that I got started on this project:  the "Lion Cardi" which I purchased at Cruella’s, in Nelson, New Zealand.

I had an idea that this nice spongy wool bouclé might be tricky to count stitches in, so when I did my gauge swatch(es), I put in a piece of white cotton scrap yarn to delineate the 17 sts I was hoping would measure 4".

lion cardi swatch

And looky there!  Well, this is actually swatch #3.  But I got there in the end.

measuring lion cardi swatch

This finally got rolling on the 6th, and as of the 22nd, we were blocking the back and two fronts. 

blocking lion cardi

In case you are wondering, in this picture the bottom part of the back is a lighter color because it isn’t wet.  I had already blocked the back after getting somewhere past the armhole shaping, to verify that things were going according to plan.  So I didn’t totally re-block it.  (After all, I had run out of T-pins.)

I am loving the shape of it, especially the neckline.  I plan to put clear plastic snaps on the floofy collar and cuffs to attach them to the sweater, rather than sewing them on, because to be honest I am just not sure how practical those fringed cuffs are going to be.  To that end, I did not follow the directions that said to discontinue the 5-st garter bands on the fronts once you get to that shapely neckline — I continued it all the way to the top.

I also don’t love where the buttonhole ended up, which you can’t see here — but trust me, it’s weird.  And the fronts aren’t designed to overlap, anyway, so I am going to close up that buttonhole with a spare piece of yarn, and instead add a loop, a hanging plastic snap, or a hook and eye. 

Last night I did the shoulder seams, basted the side seams together and held my breath.  For fitting purposes, I overlapped the fronts a teeny bit and used a glove needle to hold them together…

trying on lion cardi

whoo-hoo!

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New Tricks?

Well, apparently it isn’t true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  I learned a new one a couple of days ago.

OK, technically, I’d heard about it a long time ago from Marlene, who once told me that she often knits while working out.  Yeah, I admit I was skeptical — how the heck is that going to work?

Turns out that what Marlene does for her knitting workouts is ride on a recumbent bike.  Keeps her hands free to do far more important things, like stockinette.

Well, a couple of years ago DH and I inherited a recumbent bike from some friends, who just wanted it the heck out of their garage.  So now it sits in our garage.  Occasionally one of us gets a wild hair and rides it for a bit.  And during our trip to NZ, my house-sitting MIL used it quite a bit for her doctor-recommended exercising.

And then I had the big ol’ birthday, and well, that metabolism just isn’t doing what it used to do.  For a couple of months now, my jeans have been getting tighter and tighter.  Uh-oh.

The "uh-oh" here is because, basically, I loathe exercise in almost any shape or form.  About the only thing I really, really like to do is skate — ice or inline, either one.  Unfortunately, neither is all that convenient when you live in a very hilly area where it rains often, but rarely freezes, and is not near a pond.

Well, in my world, vanity eventually overcomes a lot of things — including the reluctance to exercise.  I finally bowed to necessity, and the other day I spent 20 minutes on the recumbent bike.  And I thought of Marlene, and said "what the hell" and took my knitting with me.  I had the back of a cardigan going, and was past the armhole shaping, so it was conveniently at the "work even until armhole measures" stage.

Shortest 20 minutes I have ever spent exercising.

And 10 more rows on the cardigan.

Holy crap.  Marlene just might be on to something!

 

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You Guys Rock!

Last week, I wrote about some great things I am fortunate to have in my life:  DH, yarn, a specific cat.

This week, I have even more great things to write about:  specifically, Ben and Jerry's "Cake Batter" ice cream some really fabulous, generous knitters and blog readers, not to mention family and friends!  My heartfelt thanks to all of you — some of whom I have never even met!  You all blew right through the $121 fundraising goal:  now the Cat Adoption Team has almost $200 OVER $200! to help with the food bank, or finding homes for homeless felines.

I am touched, and proud, and happy.  What a perfect birthday present!  It's just what I wanted!  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(Now, those of you who said you were going to contribute, and haven't yet — Rock Star — get on the stick.  Oh, and one or two brothers.  http://www.firstgiving.com/cheezfrenz, hint, hint. )

But if I thought it just couldn't get any better, I was wrong.

See, I've had my eye on one of CAT's cats — a siamese mix named Victor — who's been living over at a local Petsmart, waiting for a forever home.  Well — a second forever home.  Poor Victor's owner had to give him up, because he or she had to move into a nursing home, and couldn't keep 13-year-old Victor.

On top of that, Victor had stopped seeing the v-e-t a few years ago.  Whether because of money or transportation or forgetfulness, I don't know — but Victor no longer has any teeth.  He can only eat canned food.  (I know what you're thinking:  yeah, poor kitteh.  Well, it is sad, kind of.)

I met Victor at the Petsmart store a couple of weeks ago — he's a sweetie — and when I got home, I looked him up on CAT's website.  I even took the ASPCA's personality test and found that ol' Victor and I were a perfect match!

Uh-oh.

See, it's not that DH has ever said I can't get a third cat.

What he actually said was, I have a choice:  between him, and a third cat.

And it didn't help that the reason I was sitting at home surfing on a Friday night was that DH was out with some buddies, watching college hockey and drinking.  It was sort of a tough call.  But in the end, looking up Victor on the CAT website was how I found out about the Care-A-Thon Challenge, so it's all good — right?

Right.  Except that poor ol' toothless Victor remained on my mind, although I knew I really couldn't bring him home.  My belurved Morgan kitteh would pretty much hate that.  Sigh.

Then, on the day of the actual birthday, DH took me out to one of my favorite places for dinner — which happens to be near the Petsmart.  About halfway through dinner, I decided that to round the birthday off nicely, we would visit Victor on the way home.

You can probably imagine that this idea was terrifying to DH.  I mean, here it is the actual birthday, I've had a glass of wine, and now I want to go visit this poor elderly toothless cat that's a perfect personality match and ripe for adoption.  Let's face it:  DH can't exactly say "no"…  the best he can hope for is that we don't get there before they close, or that Victor is no longer at the Petsmart.

No such luck.  There was Victor, sitting in his cage.  But when I asked to visit him, the CAT representative got a little confused — because at first she thought I was the woman who was coming to take Victor home!  YAY!!

So not only did I get to give Victor a few goodbye skritchies, but I get to keep DH, too.  YAY!!

And thanks once again to everyone who contributed to CAT!

Best. Birthday. Ever!


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Home Is Where the DH Is!!

One of the cold hard truths I learned when I quit the engineering job and started setting my own schedule was this:

You can’t get anything done on the days when DH is home.

It was surprising to me — after all, why on earth should it matter if he is upstairs in bed sick with a cold?  But it does matter.  Am I wrong?  I don’t think so.  The phenomenon is pretty universal, according to discussions I have had with many knitters.  Just recently, I casually made mention of this curious fact as an aside in a conversation with a new-ish knitter — who first gasped with surprise, then said with relief something like, "Oh my god!  It’s not just me!"

(Of course, maybe it’s just knitters who have this problem.  Whether that is true or not, I don’t have any data — and I don’t care, because obviously I’m stuck with it.)

Anyway — this issue comes up because DH is still on his sabbatical, and he has been underfoot home with me ever since we got back from New Zealand.

Let me repeat that:  I’ve been trying to get caught up from a 3-week absence, not to mention the holidays, and my husband has been home the whole time.

And lately it’s been just maddening.

Some examples:  yesterday, I was getting ready to leave for my Monday evening rec center class, and he looks at the clock and asks, "What time does your class start again?"  OK, it sounds like an innocent question, maybe — but remember I’ve been teaching this class for a good, oh, FIVE YEARS NOW.  Suddenly, he’s all concerned about what time it starts??

Also yesterday, he went out to get some stuff at Home Depot.  He came back saying, "You said something about wanting to stop at Old Navy, so I did, and they didn’t have what you were looking for."

Today, he tried to "help" me get a box of bread machine mix out of the pantry — by lifting a couple of cake mix boxes that I already had my hand on.

I looked right at him and snarled, "Get.  Away!"

His response:  "I’m just trying to help!"

Luckily, he understood just how goofy that sounded, in the context of trying to pull boxes of cake mix out of my hands.  He understands what he is doing, and even why it is annoying — we call it "hovering" — and so he agreed to go out and get some stamps for the Xmas cards.  (Yes, I know it is late January.  Ours are always late.  It has become a tradition.  This year, my sister’s card showed up saying, "I may be late, but I’m ahead of you."  It’s a pretty safe bet.)

After asking "How many stamps do we need?" — answer:  we don’t really need any, frankly, but you’re going anyway, and you’re the one who addressed all the envelopes for cryin’ out loud — DH came back with stamps, a loaf of French bread, and a CD of the Click Five.  I’m a little surprised he didn’t get a haircut while he was at it.  Oh, right — that would be because a haircut is something he actually needs.

But, yeah, I’m keeping him anyway, because the Click Five CD was for me — this is a band I just discovered through the magic that is Youtube, and I’m listening to it right now and it’s really pretty good.  That, and he’s off playing hockey and by now, probably out for a beer with the team, and so I’m able to try to write the blog post that I didn’t have a snowball’s chance of getting done today.

What could this possibly have to do with knitting?

Well, today he also started working on a "project" that’s been hanging out in our living room for several years:  refinishing the antique hutch that we bought to use as a bar.  It has a bunch of nasty wallpaper on the inside, and after we carried the top part out into the garage, he got started on tearing all that out.

Or at least, I thought he did.  When I went out to the garage later, though, the hutch didn’t look too different.

Turns out he spent a couple of hours mostly moving the shop lights around.

I rolled my eyes at first, but then it hit me:  this is exactly what happens when I go into my studio!!  For example, just this weekend I went in there and spent at least an hour or so going through the stack of UFO’s, bagging up new projects that had been piling up on the table, etc. etc.  Didn’t actually knit a stitch, but I did get thoroughly depressed reacquainted with 2 dozen bags of guilt in various stages of un-completedness.

And then I wonder why I never get any knitting done…

…oh, right.  It’s because he’s been home all the time.

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Let It Snow

Here is what it looks like from my office window and my backyard these days:

 

red tree in snowyard in snow

feet in snow

And here is the yoke to my top-down raglan sweater so far.

sweater yoke so far

With all this snow, and everything being cancelled, you might think I’d have gotten a bit more knitting done, wouldn’t you?

However, there have been extenuating circumstances.  A couple of colds (DH’s first, and now mine); several physical therapy sessions for my back before we go on this 3-week (kayaking and hiking) trip to New Zealand; arguing about discussing and finalizing the trip itinerary with DH; talking him out of doing a bungee jump; setting up the pet sitter and the cleaning lady; getting a haircut at the proper time so the vacation pics will look fabulous; making sure DH gets a haircut some time before we get on the plane; and trying to put together the notebook of "important info" for the house-sitting in-laws, like "where is the extra toilet paper" and "where do the cats like to hide".

Oh, and thanks to the snow, getting chains for my car so the in-laws can drive it while we’re gone, plus a new set of chains for DH’s SUV, since the old ones finally broke.  Like I needed some more chores to do.  (And just try to find chains the week before Christmas in a city where it hasn’t snowed like this since 2003.)

I did start setting out some clothing selections for the trip, and I now have the fear of packing firmly entrenched in my soul.  I really don’t like leaving home — I like my home, thankyouverymuch — and I don’t like to pack, because it means I’m going to be leaving home soon.

Although, I did cheer myself up a bit by deciding that my traveling color scheme is going to be sort of "leopard" — you know, black and brown and beige — and so I bought a cute little leopard print camisole to take along.  Just to tie it all together, you know.

Oh, and then I got this crazy idea to knit a fabulous wrap for myself before the trip.

Well, it’s not quite as crazy as it sounds.  I recently checked out a dozen or so travel books from the library, and I read in one of them something to the effect that "a lightweight shawl or wrap can be a woman traveler’s best friend."

So, I thought:  I can easily machine-knit a wrap out of the three balls of black laceweight MOHAIR I have in the stash.  Just cast on the width of the needle bed, knit stockinette until the yarn runs out, and then put an edging on it if I have to — in my spare time, of course…

MACHINE KNIT LACEWEIGHT MOHAIRHey, great idea!  And it would be, too, if the knitting machine wasn’t skipping stitches every time I’ve tried to do it so far.

 

 

 

It looks a teensy bit more like a piece from Rodarte than anything else:

RODARTE1RODARTE2RODARTE3

However, I am on the verge of deciding that it looks kinda funky and cool and I like it anyway, and to go ahead with the plan.

Oh, and it turns out that I have five balls of black laceweight MOHAIR, not just three — so I have enough yarn to knit about 10 feet of this.  Which would be quite a fashion statement:  specifically, stating that I think wrapping 10 feet or so of poorly-machine-knitted black laceweight MOHAIR around myself would be kind of hip and edgy and funky and cool.

What exactly does that say about me?  Not sure I want to know, really…

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Not Guilty, Your Honor

Oh, boy.  It’s been, like, a week and a half.  What happened to blogging?

Well, I’ll tell you what happened to blogging.  Life happened, that’s what.  That, and as I mentioned recently, knitters wanting knitting lessons have reappeared this fall with a vengeance.  In the past month, my teaching hours each week have been up 50-70% from the previous month.  Yeah, that cuts into the blogging time a tad bit — let alone the knitting time.

Add to that a VIP cat with a urinary tract infection that showed up late last Friday, when our regular vet was out of town, etc etc, blah blah blah, so on and so forth.

OK, now that the excuses are out of the way, the biggest news I have to tell you is:  I’m no longer feeling too guilty about the lack-of-handknit-socks-for-DH situation.

Don’t worry, I’m still going to knit socks all over New Zealand — that is too good a plan to change, I think.  But I have definitely gotten over the guilt.

At the time — was it only two weeks ago? — I was feeling so bad, I actually started him a brand-new pair.  And not only that, I let him pick out the yarn and the stitch pattern.

So first of all, he selects a lovely green Colinette Jitterbug — "Velvet Leaf" — which frankly, I had purchased for myself.

(Yes, I know you know that I don’t really like handknit socks for myself.  And I know you also know that it would be foolish of you to think that means I don’t buy myself sock yarn anyway.)

I tried to get him to choose the Dream In Colors Smooshy, in the taupe-y, grey-ish, manly color I had purchased especially for him — after all, his usual wardrobe color choices are black, grey and blue, with a little brown and some white.  He doesn’t even wear red.

But no, he chooses the lovely, lush, leafy green.  Fine.

Next, we move on to the pile of Barbara Walker stitch dictionaries, and the Japanese stitch dictionaries, and a few other stitch dictionaries — which he flips through maybe two of them.  Aaaaaaand he picks out a funky diamond-shaped ribbing thing.  (Which, to be fair, does look pretty cool.)  But, having offered up a plethora of knitting possibilities to try to assuage my guilt please him, there I am going, "Are you sure?  You haven’t looked at this book yet…"

Can you believe he asked WHY he would need to look at any more stitch dictionaries???

OK, so we turn our backs on the plethora of fascinating knitting possibilities.  Twenty+ years of honing my craft has been reduced to a lousy ten minutes of browsing stitch patterns.  Fine.

I cast on the toes and get motoring up to 72 sts, to fit the pattern stitch multiple.  Oh, and I decide to do both socks at once, for whatever crazy reason — probably just to punish myself some more.  Two socks on two circs.  (No, it’s NOT "magic loop", thankyouverymuch.)

Turns out that 72 sts is, of course, TOO BIG.

So now what?  Well, it’s rip back two partial socks, get them back down to 64 sts apiece, and put ’em back on the two circs.  And then I get the fun of cutting the st pattern down from a multiple of 18 sts to a multiple of 16 sts.  Well, heck, I’m an Excel goddess and a former engineer.  No problem!

But of course, I’m teaching all hours of the day and night.  So I end up taking it to one of my group classes, and doing it with a pencil on graph paper during a lull in the festivities.  Well, still not really a problem.

I have a vague recollection that somewhere along the line in all of this, and it seems like it was probably late at night, I started doing the pattern stitch all the way around the foot, instead of leaving half of it in plain stock.  I think that was back on one of the 72-st versions — lucky for DH mercifully, it’s all starting to blur together a little bit.

OK, so anyway:  now we got 64 sts, and a new pattern stitch chart.  Once again I get going on the feet, and soon it dawns on me that halfway through the first pattern rep, the whole thing shifts over by 3 sts — and back again after the second half.

Well, this wouldn’t be much of a problem either, really — except that I’m doing two socks at once on two circs, remember — and while I won’t go into details, it turns out that moving 3 sts from the front half to the back half, or vice versa, is an incredible pain when there’s a whole freakin’ other sock in the way.

At this point, you’d have thought I’d have put one sock on hold, and switched back to dpns, or something, wouldn’t you?  But no, I’m tough.  I throw a couple of dpns into the project bag to use when the big switcheroo occurs, and I soldier on.

Then the socks sit for about a week while I feverishly work on the yoke of my raglan sweater for the Friday Group Knitalong.  Fresh helping of guilt, anyone?

So yesterday, when I had a couple of hours between appointments, I grabbed the Bag o’ Socks from Hell, thinking that now all the design issues have been worked out, and my sweater yoke is finished, so I could finally get some lovely, peaceful knitting time in.

And when I sat down and pulled out the socks, I was reminded how the last time I worked on them, one of the circs BROKE OFF at the metal base.

Well, I am sitting in a knitting shop.  BUT — this shop doesn’t have bamboo circs in size 1 — only Addi turbos — which I despise.  Sigh.  So much for getting any knitting done.

At some point in all of this, I showed the socks in progress to DH, and he tried them on and said they fit fine and they look cool and, "How come they’re both the same?  Shouldn’t one be a mirror image of the other?"

You’d believe me if I said I haven’t been able to blog because I only just got out on bail, wouldn’t you?

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Knitting on the Other Side of the World

OK, I know both of you were kind of worried about it, but I believe I have figured out an elegant solution to a looming knitting problem:

What on earth do I take along to knit in New Zealand??

See, it’s a three-week trip (not to mention a loooong flight), so I couldn’t possibly go without taking some knitting.

And not only that, we will be renting a camper van (RV), which I believe will be a manual transmission, so DH will be doing the driving.  Which of course means plenty of co-pilot knitting time.  (I figure I’ll spend a fair percentage of that time napping in the back of the RV, of course, but you can’t sleep all the time.  At least, I don’t think so.)

But, taking along a sweater or other big project is not really feasible, either.  And I don’t really like to wear hats, nor socks.  (Besides, it will be summer there!)

What to do?

Well, the other day when I was repairing several of DH’s socks, and messing around with "new" ways of grafting, it occurred to me to count up the number of pairs he actually has.

The tally is embarrassing:

1 – pair his mom made him,

2 – pairs that he’s inherited from me (well, one pair was stolen),

3 – pairs that I have knit for him.

That’s right, the poor man — who is the DH of a woman who’s been knitting for over 20 years, and the son of a woman who’s been knitting for probably 20 years longer, and who loves his hand-knit socks so much he wears them out — owns only a half-dozen pairs of hand-knit socks.  And a third of those weren’t even knit for him, originally.

You’d think he’d feel more put-upon, wouldn’t you?  Or at least he’d make snide comments about my yarn stash, or something.  But no, I believe I must have one of the most patient DH’s in existence, at least where fiber is concerned.  You see, that mom of his trained him early and well about what to expect vis-a-vis yarn and fabric:  time spent in shops, amounts stashed in closets, number of projects, and so on.

So, anyway, you see where this is going, don’t you?  Yup.  I plan to knit socks for DH throughout the trip.

It’s a brilliant plan.  Socks are maybe the quintessential portable project.  I can knit them without referring to a pattern.  I’ll still be able to look around and enjoy the scenery as we drive across New Zealand.  And just think about the wifely credit I will rack up with this loving, selfless endeavor.

And think about the fact that I can make him stop at yarn shops…

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Sasquatch Report

Hey, we’re back from our trip to [Sasquatch->] over the Memorial Day Weekend.  And it was an interesting weekend.

(BTW, this post really does include something pretty interesting about sock heels too, although that bit’s way at the end.  Just skip down there if you must.)view of stage

Sasquatch is a big 3-day music festival held annually in an outdoor amphitheater in the Columbia River Gorge.  DH has gone a couple of times in recent years, but I have not.

I knew it would be crowded, and the weather would be iffy.  I knew the days would be long:  11:00 a.m. start, midnight finish.  I knew there would be a lot of college-age kids, which equals modern-day hippies, and many of them would be camping overnight at the site — thus, certainly by the second day, some of them would smell.

I was OK with most of that, although admittedly perhaps not exactly thrilled.  But what I didn’t count on was that for a vast majority of the attendees, the main attraction had absolutely nothing to do with the music.  Evidently, instead it was the opportunity to get completely and totally f***ed up in public without having to worry about driving or getting caught by the authorities.

This key point wasn’t lost on the event organizers though:  not only did they not discourage anything (legal or illegal), they actively encouraged it.  For example, they didn’t sell anything smaller than a 24 ounce beer — because that’s where they make their money, of course.  Over two days, I saw no evidence of any officials trying to squelch pot usage.

After seeing all this, I am surprised that they are able to obtain insurance for the event — but evidently they are able to make enough money to pay for insurance, however costly it may be — and then if someone gets hurt, well, presumably that’s the insurance company’s problem.

It’s sad but honest for me to say if it weren’t for the widespread chemical abuse, I’d probably have had a really good time.  Unfortunately, instead, I had an OK time.  For two days, I spent hours sitting on the grass, breathing huge quantities of second hand smoke (cigarette and other) — and occasionally having to watch drunk people feeling each other up.  And, if I wanted to stretch my legs a bit, I could maneuver around people lying in patches of vomit.

DH wasn’t able to forewarn me about all this because the previous times he has gone, the weather has been crappy, and presumably this kept many of the partiers in their tents.  This year, the weather was really pretty nice most of the time we were there.

Also on the plus side, I saw some very interesting clothing and hair, some really unfortunate tattoos, and some creatively ungainly dancing.  So it wasn’t a complete loss.

But the smoke was the worst.  My eyes were burning (literally and figuratively!) — so badly that I had to go out and buy a bottle of Visine just to get through the second day.  When you realize that this was outdoors, in a place known for being quite windy, maybe you’ll get an idea of how much smoke there was.

It’s not like I was expecting a convention of Mormons or anything like that, but I’m pretty sure this is a sea change from my own college days.  My friends and I didn’t smoke — I didn’t know many people who did — and it was a big surprise to me to see just how many college kids are smoking.

There was even someone sponsoring a "Be an Ex" anti-smoking campaign, which tells me it is considered to be a problem by someone other than me — although I admit I did laugh when I saw one of the sound guys standing under their "Be an Ex" marquee, beating up a pack of cigs, trying desperately to get one out.

And sure, we drank in college — and sure, sometimes we threw up — but that was mainly at campus parties, or really cheap bars — and the beers at Sasquatch weren’t exactly cheap.

But when I was in college, and we shelled out the big bucks for a concert ticket — and it was our own money, not our parents’ — and BTW, 2 days of Sasquatch for two is well over $200 — by golly, we went to hear the music.

That said, the top three bands of the weekend for me were

We went to see that last one mainly because I don’t get the name AT ALL, and they turned out to be pretty entertaining.  R.E.M. put on a show which was good enough to stay for in the light-but-still-wet rain and chilly 50 degrees on Saturday night.  And Ozomatli, out of L.A., is just a whole bunch of fun.  I’d probably also say I enjoyed seeing the White Rabbits again, if we had gotten there in time for their show the second day.  The worst band, hands down, was M.I.A. — which IMHO was just a bunch of incredibly loud noise.


But what, you ask, does this have to do with knitting?

Well, knitting is probably what kept me from being arrested for assault.  Fortunately, I had a pair of socks tucked in my backpack to work on, and believe me, I got a lot done.  I only had the toes done at the beginning of the weekend… but look at ’em now!  regia_socks(And I only worked on these at the festival — not on the car ride — the car knitting’s a subject for the next post, I think.)

On Saturday, we’d been staking out our primo viewing spot since 11:00 a.m.  Late in the day, when the premium bands were getting ready to play, a pair of drunk twenty-something girls tried to encroach upon our territory using the strategy of flirting with three middle-aged married men.

Here’s a big hint, girls:  I know you were incredibly drunk and all, but when a married guy’s wife is actually physically present, it’s not a great idea to start making fun of her bright yellow rain jacket to her face, and then try to flirt with her husband.  Not when it’s me, anyway.

So when they started trying to talk to DH across me as though I wasn’t there — as if they could ignore me in my bright yellow jacket, hah! — I pointedly plopped myself down directly between them and DH, turned my back on them, and re-commenced knitting on my pretty stripey socks.

This allowed me to pretend not to listen to them arguing to our friends that they were really nice people, so therefore we shouldn’t mind them trying to take our spot.

Still, I couldn’t help hearing them asking what my name was — and having trouble spelling it — when it’s only four letters and two of them are the SAME —  which pretty much had me gritting my teeth.  But I just kept knitting… and knitting… AND KNITTING…

Fortunately for everyone involved, all three guys were more music fans than stupid drunk chick fans, and eventually the girls figured out that no one was about to give up any of our hard-earned turf to them, so they left.  Phew!  Knitting saves the day, again.


On the second day, I turned the heels and because I was desperate for some kind of mental stimulation to keep me from going bananas, I tried something that turned out kind of interesting.  One of the things I noticed while trying out all those different short row heels is that the first half of most SRH techniques, where you are short-rowing "down", looks a lot better than the second half, where you are short-rowing "up".

So, I thought — why not just do the first half twice?  I mean, basically you are knitting two wedges, like so —   sr heel wedges



 

and even if you turn one of them upside down, it will add up to the same shape in the end.sr heel wedges flipped



 

You can’t get away with doing this on a SR toe, of course.  A toe has to fold in half at the narrow part.  But a heel — now, that’s different…REGIA SOCK HEEL ANNOTATED

It works!  and it’s pretty cool, too.  Here is a closeup, with an attempt at drawing in the afore-mentioned wedges…

 

sr heel on regia sock

…and here is a closeup without any drawing.  This pair was done using the first half only of the double st SR heel technique — but doing it twice.  If you look at the pic above of the full pair, you may be able to pick out the heel "wedges" on the topmost sock, due to the self-striping yarn.  On this sock, with a mostly solid-red heel, you almost cannot see the heel turn at all.  And in a non-self-striping yarn, I think it would be pretty much invisible.  Very slick!

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Karla’s Gift

Earlier this year, one of my very good students & friends moved far, far away.  Very sad.  She is living somewhere warm & sunny now, so I’m not even sure what she’s going to knit from now on.

One of the things I like best about this friend — I’ll call her "Karla" —

(hi Karla!  I warned you about showing up on the blog!)

— anyway, I really love Karla’s taste in yarn.  And specifically, her taste in yarn COLORS.

See, Karla is also a REDHEAD, which means she automatically has a certain level of good taste — but she goes above and beyond color, into the realm of good fiber, too.  So I always loved to see what goodies she had recently acquired.  Beautiful teals, cinnamon-y reds.  Some even with sparkly beads on.  As I say, my kind of girl.

On the very last day that she came to knit with me, she brought me a present, and it actually almost made me cry:  absolutely one of the best knitting presents I’ve ever received.greenbag

Now, you may know already that it’s often a bit tricky to knit something for a knitter.  It’s usually a much safer bet to gift a knitter with yarn.  (Am I wrong?  I don’t think so.)

But Karla really did it up right.  Not only was it a gift of yarn — and not only was it really nice yarn — and not only was it really nice yarn in the RIGHT COLORS — it also came wrapped in a cute little handknitted green bag!

…which she confessed to having thought of doing only the afternoon before — so she got cracking and whipped it up that day — and a little bit late into the night, if I recall correctly — which again, totally makes her my kind of knitter. 

(I mean, isn’t this exactly what happens to me every stinkin’ December?  "Oh, well, I can’t find anything I think is suitable for person X at the mall, so I’ll just go home and whip up a fabulous little something."  As the management at my former engineering job were fond of saying, with an airy wave of the hand, right after they gave you a time-sucking new assignment:  "Five-minute job."  NOT.)bagandyarn

I’ve had the ensemble hanging up in my studio ever since.  I’ve been kinda-sorta trying to decide what to make with it — but to be honest, I haven’t really been trying too hard.  I just like looking at it!

Those are so definitely the right colors.

Thanks, Karla!

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I Think I’ll Keep Him

Over the weekend, I had a touch of  "the depression" *.

Specifically, I had the knitting depression.

I didn’t have a single decent current project, the UFOs were one big pile o’ crap, I hated everything in my hotlist **.

I HAD NOTHING TO KNIT.

If this sounds to you a bit like closet angst (I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR), you are absolutely right.  It’s exactly the same thing, only at the other end of the house.

For some reason, it never applies to the actual yarn, though.  I never look at my stash and think, "I have nothing to knit."

(It’s more like, "I have way too much to knit."  That becomes a different type of the depression.)

The more obvious reason is that it would take someone completely and utterly deluded with respect to the physical world to be able to stand in front of all that yarn, and think or say that with a straight face.  I have more than my share of issues, I admit, but I do have a relatively firm grasp on physical reality.  OTOH, I can stand right in front of a closet full of clothes, and say with complete sincerity that I have nothing to wear, so maybe I’m full of hooey.

The less obvious reason, I think, is that the yarn in its un-knit state is still full of possibility and promise.  It can be ANYTHING — maybe even PERFECT.


The recent completion of the Nutcracker lulu — though successful — seemed to have left a big void in my knitting world.  Kind of like the usual annual post-Xmas letdown.

So there I was, sitting on the studio couch, sort of sulking.  DH wandered in, in his bare feet.  He did try to help, which was very sweet.  He pointed to various bags of yarn and made some vague suggestions ("Why don’t you knit something with that?").  Just like a man, trying to solve the problem.  Useless.  Sweet, yes, but useless.

I mean no disrespect here, I’m simply stating the truth.  I’ve already explained that he doesn’t understand about stumbling upon old Vogue Knitting mags, so how on earth could he expect to actually solve the problem?  He’d have to say something like, "Why don’t you swatch for that Missoni pullover you’ve always wanted to make?  You know the one.  Or how about that off-the-shoulder Audrey Hepburn-ish one that was in the Then-and-Now from Spring/Summer 1988?"

And then of course he’d have to hit upon just the right one — from dozens, maybe hundreds of potential projects that I intend to knit "someday".

Of course, if he had brought up any of those "someday" projects, I’d probably have just gotten more depressed, or maybe mad.  The true answer is that I don’t KNOW why I don’t ever actually knit these blasted things.  For crying out loud, who waits 20 years to start a project?

I suspect the root of the issue lies in fear of failure, and/or fear of success.  I got all the bases covered.


Seeing that he wasn’t making a dent in my mood by pointing at all the yarn I still haven’t knit, DH then made the strange suggestion that I should knit myself some socks.  He said, and I quote:  "You don’t have very many pairs of socks for yourself."

First of all, he is wrong.  I have more pairs than he does, although you may not want to mention that if you see him.  Second of all, I don’t really dig handknit socks for myself, which he knows.

But then he pulled out a bag of pink MOHAIR and waved it around at me and said, "Socks!  Mohair!  Pink!  What’s not to like?"

I had to laugh at that one.  And I admit, he has a point:  I’d probably love, and maybe even wear, a pair of handknit socks if they were a pretty pale pink.  (Bonus points for MOHAIR, and if I can work in some sequins, so much the better.)

But, I was still a little grumpy, so I pointed at his bare feet and pouted that "well, YOU aren’t wearing any handmade socks."

His answer was that this was because he had a dilemma.  He really wanted to wear handknit socks now, during the day, he explained, but he was also thinking ahead to the evening when he expected to want to wear his felted slippers, and "well, they’re both great, but together they’re just a little too warm."

Awwwwwwwwwww.  Cheered me right up, I tell you.  What a guy!


The end of this little vignette ought to be that I immediately lost my knitting funk and cast on another pair of socks for him — but it isn’t a perfect world, now is it?  Least of all in my studio.

I did, however, resume work on yet another UFO, and actually made some decent headway on it — so there is a happy ending, sort of!


 * the depression:  in memory of my friend Steve in Texas, who had several Hispanic girlfriends, and their command of English varied.  One of them used to say she "had the depression."  For some reason, this one stuck with us, and we used it at work a lot.

 ** hotlist:  part of my project management scheme; it is one of the piles o’ stuff in my studio, consisting of all those patterns that I must-knit-right-now! or intend-to-knit-one-of-these-days, and which I allow to age for a while before casting anything on.  It’s saved me from many a serious mistake, although maybe it has kept me from knitting some great stuff, too.


 

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Happy Birthday to Me!

As part of "fun weekend", DH and I went and visited a place on the other side of the river, called "SCRAP".

SCRAP — The School and Community Reuse Action Project — is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and our mission is to promote creative reuse and environmentally sustainable behavior by providing educational programs and affordable materials to the community.

Actually, I told DH he didn’t have to go, but he claimed to be interested and curious.

And it was an interesting place!  I’m a big fan of the "reduce, reuse, recycle" concept, certainly on a personal level — but this place takes it up a notch, and adds "art".  Thus, it could probably only feasibly exist here in odd-but-lovable, green, artistic PDX.

It’s kind of a cross between a thrift store and a garage sale, but all centered around craft items, or potential craft items.  If you are in need of old slides, pieces of tile, fabric, carpet samples, or plastic keychains for some artistic vision you’ve been nurturing in the back of your head, then this is the place for you.  And cheap, too.

I ended up buying a whole bunch of odds and ends:scrapstuff

  • about a ton of 11 x 17 glossy paper ($1.50 per inch),
  • a MOHAIR brush (used to fluff up the fuzz on your MOHAIR garments),
  • some Dylon cold water dye in "Dawn Pink",
  • five cones of natural color laceweight wool (potentially a MOHAIR blend),
  • a wallpaper sample book,
  • a funky cat stamp,
  • some dry erase board samples (useful for teaching),
  • a book on ribbon embroidery,
  • and another book on temari (which I got mainly for the color and pattern inspiration, rather than any actual urge to wrap embroidery floss around balls.  No matter how decoratively it is done.)

And I only spent about $20 for all these goodies.  Plus I spent at least an hour, just sort of wandering around with my mouth open, looking at all the "junque".  You just can’t get that kind of entertainment in a movie theater, Sandi.  (And while S. may not totally understand the allure of visiting a big room full of crap "stuff", I know she’ll appreciate this next part.)

While all that stuff I got looks like a lot of potential fun — the killer item turned out to be the 4 old Vogue Knitting mags I got for 10 cents apiece.

It was strange, I thought at the time, that I only recognized the covers of two of them.  After all, I have practically all the VK mags from the current incarnation of the magazine, going clear back to the early 80’s (and quite a few from the previous incarnation, in the 60’s).

I bought all 4 mags regardless, thinking I could give them to knitting friends or something.  I hate to see old VK’s languishing, unloved, anywhere.  And there was so much else to gawk at see at SCRAP that I didn’t even crack ’em open, I just bought ’em.new old VK mags

When I got ’em home, though, I discovered that those two unrecognized issues were unrecognizable for a reason:  I was indeed missing the Fall ’96 and Fall ’97 issues.  And I found both of them in one place, for less than a quarter!!

So I now have TWO old-but-brand-new-to-me VK mags to spend some quality time with!!  I’m considering this to be an early birthday present from the knitting gods, and I plan to save them and enjoy them thoroughly on the Big Day in a couple of weeks (if I can wait that long, that is).

I tried to explain to DH how totally cool this is.  He seemed unimpressed.

I’m really not sure how I missed those two issues in the first place.  My only potential excuse is that in the fall of ’96 we got engaged, and in the fall of ’97 we got married.  This works for me, because then it’s pretty much all DH’s fault.

I also tried to explain how unbelieveable it was to find not one, but two missing issues in one fell swoop.  To that end, I even calculated the odds (though unfortunately DH is still pretty unimpressed):

  • There have been 82 issues of VK published from F/W 1982 through Hol 2007.
  •   
  • There were only 7 issues I didn’t have.  Therefore, the chance of picking up any VK mag and having it be one I did not already own was 7 out of 82, or 0.085%.  Slightly less than 1 in 10.  Of course, this is straight odds, and does not take into account the rarity effect — i.e. there are a whole lot more VKs from 2006 lying around out there than ones from 1996, let alone 1986.  I can tell you from personal experience that in reality, the odds are a lot lower than that.
  •  
  • The straight odds of picking up any TWO missing mags is 7 out of 82 for the first one, and only 6 out of 82 for the second one.  Multiply those two together and you get a chance of about 3 times out of 500.  Granted, maybe I have picked up about 500 old VKs looking for the ones I don’t have… but throw in the rarity effect, and those odds skyrocket.

I am one lucky girl!


 

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Latest & Greatest

Admittedly, I haven’t written much in the past week (heck, I haven’t written anything).  But, I have an excellent excuse reason.  Actually, several reasons…


#1 reason is, I have a bad Continental knitting habit of using my right index finger to help out on each and every stitch.  I don’t actually need to use it — I can knit and purl without moving it at all, if I think about it.  As I say, it’s a bad habit, which means I do it more-or-less unconsciously.  I even demonstrate it to new Continental knitters in my classes as a great example of what not to do.

Unfortunately, it’s not merely a bad habit — it also means I get tendonitis in this finger a couple of times a year.  This time, it came about because I spent a couple of marathon sessions last week working on a UFO with some completely inelastic recycled silk yarn in linen stitch.  Pretty, eh? 

Eventually, it’s going to be a bag, which is why I chose to use linen stitch, for its firmness as well as its ability to blend colors between rows, due to the horizontal bars across every other stitch.  But it also means it’s a bitch to knit, especially for long periods of time.

Originally, this yarn was going to be used for a Knitty bag pattern but I just wasn’t happy with the way it was coming out.  I was thinking about whether I should try something else with it, and I looked on [Ravelry ->], where I saw that not too many other people were thrilled with the FO in the end (not that mine was an FO, by any means).  People said things like the bag was too shallow, and didn’t actually hold things very well.  Which, for me, is the whole idea behind a bag.

Sooooooo, I decided to cut my losses and frog it.

Mind you, this decision did not come easily.  I had gotten all the knitting and seaming done, and had cut out a lining of yummy mulberry-colored shot silk, and had even gotten some seriously heavy-duty interfacing stuff to try to whip that bad boy into shape — but nothing doing.  To use Rock Star’s memorable turn of phrase, it was

"like sewing beads on a turd,"

meaning that no matter what other efforts go into it, it still will be fundamentally flawed.  I don’t give up easily, but this particular battle was definitely lost.  I’m a lot happier with the new project, except for the soreness in the finger.

However, this time around, along with the tendonitis, I seem to have some funny nerve thing going on.  Every time I press against the side of my first knuckle, I feel a tingly twinge up around the second knuckle.  Hmmmmm.  (And you wouldn’t believe how many times a day you press something against the side of your index finger.  I have become acutely aware.)  I’ve given it about a week to see if it subsides, because the usual treatment for the tendonitis is a dose of steroids, which I prefer to avoid if at all possible.  But now it’s time to see the doctor… and maybe to try to break that bad habit.  Is it too late for New Year’s Resolutions?


#2 reason is, I’ve been continuing to work on the Great-Studio-Cleanout-No-Really-I-Mean-It-This-Time.  Remember back at the end of 2007 I was brave enough to show you my pile of UFO’s?  Well.  I have diligently winnowed through just about everything in the damned studio since then, and I am pleased to report that the UFO list is down to only 17 items — which all fit into this nice, narrow, organizer stacker thing.

Well, almost.

I could simply lie to you through the magic of photo-cropping, but yes, I admit the pile of "fixers" is mostly on the top shelf of the dark brown bookcase next door, and there is the duct-taped box full of Manos on the bottom shelf of the same bookcase.

But only because the duct-taped box is too big to fit into the stacker.  And one of the fixers has moved into a bag in the stacker, which means it might get worked on someday soon.

The important thing to remember here is that the stacker only comprises 10,620 cubic inches of space — so that means I’ve reduced my pile of UFO’s by roughly 26%.  OK, not a stunning statistic, but not chicken feed, either.  (And I didn’t subtract the volume of the shelves in the stacker, either, so that 26% estimate is a bit on the low side.) 


I’ve been working hard on the GSCNRIMITT project for a few months now, so I will self-indulgently include a couple more pictures of the almost-completely-cleaned out studio.  Here is the overflowing bookcase, now pretty much contained — and BTW, everything in there except the very top shelf is knitting literature.  The bottom right shelf is all vintage material, which I’m defining as 1974 and previous; the second from the bottom is all "retro" which is 1975 – 1994.  On the bottom left are my binders full of finished project info.  More than one person could ever need, right?  Ha ha ha.

And here is the lovely organized closet, which, before I embarked on this whole project back in December, was a breathtaking shade of sunshine yellow.  

Don’t believe me?  Thankfully, just a few minutes after I started painting, I remembered to take pics to remind myself of just how very, very yellow it was.  Kid you not, the evidence is that the entire room was painted this color at one point.

Finally, in the interest of full & complete disclosure, here is the teeny, tiny little pile of things I still have to sort out.

Oh, yeah, and in that brown paper bag on the right is some new yarn.

And it’s sparkly green metallic eyelash.

Old habits die hard.


#3 reason for not blogging for a week is, I actually got something finished. 

Did I say that the list of UFO’s was down to 17?

Oh (she said ever-so-casually), I really meant 16.  Hooray!

This is an "artistic pair" of Stashbuster Spiral stripe socks — instructions available here at hipknitism.com.  I used the leftovers from DH’s Colinette brown socks, and bought a couple of coordinating colors ("stashbusters", my fanny.  Everyone knows there is absolutely no chance that you will have just the right amounts of leftover or stash yarn in just the right colors for something like this).

Yes, the one sock has a blue toe, a berry heel, and a brown cuff.  The other sock has a brown toe, a blue heel, and a berry cuff.  YES, I did it on purpose.

To those of you who always make fun of my supposed inability to appreciate asymmetry — you know who you are, Sandi — I now can say, phooey.  (But in the nicest way possible.)

And I really don’t intend to wear these in public, if I’m honest.  These are strictly bedtime socks — to go with my blue polar bear flannel pajamas — of which no picture is available. 


Most self-indulgently of all, here is a great photo of ol’ Morgan.  I claim a flimsy tie-in with knitting because he’s lounging on the wool throw that my MIL knit for her son / my DH, lo these many years ago.

It’s one of his favorite places to sit, although he prefers that my legs be stretched out on the sofa so he can kind of loll on them.  (I am referring specifically to the cat, although that’s not to say that DH wouldn’t also be interested.) 

While it’s not really a reason for not writing anything lately, it is Morgan’s one-year anniversary of surviving with kidney failure, and he’s still doing pretty darned great.  Just look at those Gorilla Paws!


 

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Cold Feet, Warm Heart?

The other night, I complained mentioned to my loving, caring DH how my feet had been freakin’ FREEZING ALL DAY.

DH was kicked back sideways on the chair-and-a-half, with his legs propped up over the arm of the chair and his feet aloft.  He said smugly in a very meaningful manner,

"YOU should wear hand-knit socks more often."

Well, it was obvious just from the smart remark that he had a pair of hand-knit socks on (and that his feet were probably at a quite comfortable temperature, thank you very much).

So, as he waggled his self-satisfied feet in the air to emphasize his point, I looked to see which ones they were.

Of course, he was wearing the black ones he stole appropriated stole from me.

And of course, I gave him exactly the kind of "stink-eye" look that sort of thing deserves.

 

(And he wonders why he doesn’t get socks all that often…)

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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The upsurge in the popularity of knitting in the past half-dozen years or so, coupled with the Internet, has been a mixed blessing to me.  Browsing the online knitting world, I am continually reminded that there are all kinds of knitters, many of whom I probably have little or nothing in common with.

It took me a while to figure out why "knitting" doesn't mean the same thing to everyone.  "Knitting" is really a medium, like "painting".  Within each of those media, there is a truly breathtaking variety of scope.  For example, in painting, there are:  

  • those who paint in acrylic, and those who paint in oils;
  • those who paint the cathedral at Rouen, and those who paint "Dogs Playing Poker";
  • those who paint portraits on canvas, and those who paint siding on houses. 

As well, I imagine there are

  • those who swear by Brand A of paint, and those who think Brand A is complete crap.

Sounds like knitting, huh?


I do have strong personal opinions on the subject of knitting, so I used to get far too annoyed at the oddball "stuff" some people insist on knitting.  I mean, this is KNITTING we are talking about, which is practically a religion for me.  But having had the above revelation, I now am secure in knowing that My Idea of Knitting is, well, mine, and no one can take that away from me — no matter what bizarre, unattractive items they may be knitting for themselves.

So, I no longer get myself in such a tizzy — though I cannot repress a delicate shudder — when I see that there is a brand new book out on knitted toilet paper covers.  (For those of you who must… click here to see it on amazon.com: Toilet Roll Covers .)

I mean, honestly, isn't this kind of thing best left to crochet?

OK, OK.  That was either a joke, or just one person's lousy humble opinion, depending on whether you found it funny or annoying.  Take your pick.

But, it probably behooves a knitter to figure out where she stands in the knitting world, if for no other reason than it will save her a lot of time.


What kinds of knitters are there?  A lot of times you see debate about product vs process knitters:  those who knit to produce an end result, and those who simply enjoy the act of knitting and don't care if they ever produce anything.  I suppose you could consider yourself to be squarely in one camp or the other — if I had to choose, I'd have to be a product knitter — but if you held a gun to my head and forced me to knit a TP cover, I still don't think I'd be all jazzed about the product.

In my experience, the product vs. process thing really comes more into play during project selection, as opposed to the actual knitting.  For example, I will never choose to knit a project based solely on the "yummy yarn".  Fabulous fiber or no, it's still got to be something I want to make.  That TP cover could be in beautiful pink MOHAIR, with sequins and marabou, and you'd still have to hold that gun to my head to make me knit it.

So forget process and product.  As politically un-correct as it may be, here are some of the categories I've mentally compiled —

Craft Knitting:  knitting a decorative knick-knack, or an entirely impractical object — mostly product-related.  The aforementioned TP covers fall into this category, as well as cupcakes, and any item that would be at home in a publication with the word "bazaar" in the title.  Often these are short-lived and look pretty funny just a few years down the road.  Of course, the incomparable Stitchy McYarnpants has some great ones in her Museum of Kitschy Stitches – here's a fave.

Art Knitting:  knitting to express an emotion or to make a statement — often process-related.  A good example of this would be the knitted Ferrari.  Another would be the woman who is knitting a big nothing piece of knitting, in order to show us what a lifetime of knitting looks like.  I think I saw this article in an Interweave Knits, probably within the last year or two, but I can't remember exactly and can't find it with Google.  (If anyone else remembers this, please enlighten us all.)

ETA:  I found it again!  The artist is Germaine Koh, and you can read more about this and her other projects at her site.

Admittedly, the line between these two categories is a little blurred, but I think in order to make it into the second category, it has to look like it took a lot of time to do.

Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should:  here is where I put the knitted digestive system, the knitted uterus, and the knitted dissected frog that I've only heard about.  You can Google that one yourself, because I had enough trouble dealing with the actual frog in junior high, and I'm not going looking for it.  I suppose these things could be considered Art Knitting, but I don't.

What these all have in common is, these kinds of knitting are relatively new.  Leaving aside such wild and crazy stuff, there is the kind of knitting that most knitters do, and that most knitters have done throughout the ages.  What do we call that?  My first thought is Garment Knitting, because for me it is and always has been all about the clothes.  But that doesn't include socks, scarves, bags, hats, gloves, throws, and the like:  Classic Knitting.

Historically, knitters knit because they had to, in order to have something to wear.  This is what knitting has been used for throughout centuries:  clothing the human body, usually for warmth.  Before now, knitting has always had a use, a practical aspect, which is probably one of the things I love about it.  It wasn't something anyone did solely for fun.

In fact, this aspect of "usefulness" or "utility" is the reason you can't copyright, say, a sock:  even if you have come up with a completely revolutionary way to make said sock.  All you can copyright is your presentation of the instructions to make said sock.  Works of art can be copyrighted, but not socks.  Because socks are considered to be practical, not works of art.

However, the concept of "utility" doesn't rule out the idea of taking something that you have to do anyway, and doing it with style:  For example, Middle Eastern and Estonian knitters throughout history have made useful socks that are also works of art, even though their knitting time was limited — of course, they generally knit these items for special occasions such as weddings.

Our generation is one of the first to be able to treat knitting as a creative art form, as opposed to a practical craft of necessity.

While I'm never going to spend a single minute of my time knitting a Ferrari or a uterus:  just think about that for a minute, and think about how lucky we are!

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Outside the Comfort Zone

On Tuesday afternoons, for the past few weeks now, I’ve been helping out my friend Patricia [(namasteknitter)->http://www.namasteknitter.blogspot.com] with an after-school knitting club at her son’s elementary school.

You have to realize that this is a completely foreign world to me. I don’t have kids. I don’t really like kids. I was the baby of my own family, and I’ve spent my whole life around people older than me. I have never, ever, changed a diaper. I can’t remember the last time, prior to this, that I set foot in a school – but it was before they had metal detectors at the doors. To me, schools mostly mean taxes, and areas where you have to drive slower on certain days and at certain times. (Oh, and they don’t like for you to swear, either.)

So, when The Pats asked me to help her out, my immediate first thought was to run away.

(My second thought – probably like yours – was along the lines of, "she must be either crazy or desperate." I now strongly suspect "desperate", as it turns out the club contains 17 kids! It’s the most popular after-school club they have.)

But then, I got to thinking about the people who encouraged me and taught me to knit when I was young.

OK, so there weren’t any, except one unnamed lady at the local library who got me started on my sad, frustrating little pink garter st rag about 32 years ago. My mother didn’t really knit; my knitting older sister was away at college; my grandmother crocheted.

My maiden Aunt Mary, who lived with my grandmother, did knit – but at the time that Grandma Henchal taught me to crochet, I suspect that the Tragedy of the Pink Rag was still too fresh in everyone’s minds, so crochet it was.

Then, of course, I realized: it has become my knitting duty to save a few innocent kids from learning to crochet knitting frustration.

Deep breath – OK, I’ll do it.

As it turned out, the club is only 1 hour per week, for 6 weeks. Even I can handle that much exposure to "little people". On top of that, the first meeting was canceled because Patricia was sick, so I even got a weeks’ reprieve.

But surprisingly (surprising to me, at least) – it has turned out to be fun. Don’t tell The Pats, but I may even be a teensy bit sorry when the last class comes.

My favorite moment so far was a couple of weeks ago. One little girl, who was knitting quite well, shyly asked me if the next week I could show her how to "vee knit". I had to tell her I was sorry, but I didn’t know what that was. Of course, I kept on pondering what she could have meant. A few minutes later, I figured it out: she wanted to learn to PURL, so her stitches would look like "vees"! And along with understanding her meaning, I understood – as one knitter to another – her desire to produce beautiful, flat, grown-up stockinette.

Then there was last week, when Daisy just sat quietly beside me, while an endless line of hyper kids with interesting and unusual knitting screw-ups handed me their knitting one by one, saying, "I did something funny." As I fixed what seemed like thousands of 10-st-wide disasters, Daisy patiently knit row upon row of perfect garter st, and silently put her hand on my knee after she finished each one, so I could look at it and pronounce it good. Is that just doggone cute, or what?

Along with the hyperactive kids who are struggling to get through 10 sts at a time, there are some kids who can really knit. Today I showed a couple of them how to "read" 2 x 2 ribbing. Little exclamations of "OH, I get it!" as the light bulbs went on. We got a few of ’em started on a simple, knitted-flat hat.

(Don’t tell The Pats this either, but I let Natalie start knitting hers in the round. She’s a 5th grader, and is a pretty accomplished knitter – and I think she was pretty bored with the idea of knitting a flat hat – and she was curious enough to ask about it – so who am I to discourage an inquiring mind?)

We only have a couple more meetings, so I’m not sure if anyone is going to get a finished hat out of the deal. But who knows what little seeds of fiber love have been planted? Maybe the next Elizabeth Zimmerman, or the next Nicky Epstein, will be sitting in one of those dinky little chairs next Tuesday, asking me for help.

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The Queen of Green

You may have noticed – I like green.

Just about any shade of green really, even the ugly ones – with the possible exception of really light minty green. See, I’m a natural redhead, and it’s something I just can’t help. One of my personal slogans is,

“I never met a green yarn I didn’t like.”

Thus it was that, for my birthday the year before last, several knitting friends decided to each get me a DIFFERENT ball of green MOHAIR: any color, so long as it’s green. (I also like MOHAIR an awful lot, but that’ll have to be another story.) BTW, no, I haven’t done anything with it yet – that was only April 2006 – it’s “shop ageing” in my stash.

[Note to self: Must find the perfect project for 8 balls of assorted green MOHAIR. I have an idea in mind from an old VK, but I have to go find it first.]

Anyway, so har-dee-har-har, very funny, girls. Green, green, green.

But really, I like to think I’m open-minded. I admit I kind of smirk at what I call “old biddy” knitters who are always knitting something blue, or purple. How boring! How uncreative! But the awful truth reared its head the other day, in a way that even I could not ignore.

I was really frustrated with a tank top I’d been knitting. I’d done the front & back, and sewed the side seams, and confirmed my suspicions. Once again, it was too big, too baggy under the arms, and I was fed up. (I think it has a lot to do with learning to knit in the wildly oversized 80’s.) So, I decided to FIGURE THIS OUT, ONCE AND FOR ALL.

I got out all of my hand-knitted tank tops, as well as a couple of purchased ones, and started taking measurements and checking fit. And while the subject of this post is not really proper fit – or personal hang-ups – in the interest of full disclosure, let’s just say that I am still coming to grips with the idea that my bustline isn’t really, in fact, a respectable 36″. It’s not even 35″. It’s a measley 34.5″. (BTW, I’m going to insist on that half inch, too.)

Anyway, as I was going through all these garments, something dawned on me. Can you spot it? Here is the list:

  • dk green seed st
  • jones ny stripe (which is teals, gold, olive & sage green)
  • teal blue elsebeth lavold
  • light green ribbon
  • mint green ‘knitting olympics’ tank
  • dk green anny blatt
  • teal blue railroad
  • olive green glace (UFO)

Yes, every single one of them is either green or blue-green.

Kind of freaked me out. Apparently, I need to get out more.

Actually, the most recent (and doomed) one is/was a kind of terra-cotta color, which you might think would have broken the spell. Alas, I have had enough of it – I gave it away to a redhead knitting friend, who has a rather larger bust.

The title of this post is not entirely original: I know I saw it somewhere. I’m probably plagiarizing from an article about landscaping or recycling or something. But I must admit, taken out of whatever its original context was, it fits me pretty well – “The Queen of Green”.

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(Breaking) the Sweater Curse

So, you may have noticed that in the previous post, I said that my sister was knitting a sweater for her fiance.betsandmark

YIKES! but what about the famous, infamous Sweater Curse

I didn’t know about the Sweater Curse then: I was only 6, after all. The Curse didn’t work on her though, because my sister did get married that next April, 1975. And thirty-plus years later, Bets & Mark are still married, he still has the sweater, and it still fits. I finally got to see it again, on the occasion of the wedding of their eldest daughter. A navy-blue, top-down raglan – thankfully, it was in a nice wool.

(I admit to having been worried that it might have been in some nasty synthetic something. It was the 70’s, after all.)

Conversely, and it seems to me rather unfairly, I personally lived and knitted the sweater curse THREE FREAKIN’ TIMES before wising up. Three fabulous VK sweaters wasted upon S. L., J. B. P., and R. M.  And I do not have a single one of those sweaters any more. The pictures are from the original VK mags. curse1

1: from Vogue Knitting, Holiday ’87

S. L. got away with his. After this first mistake, I figured out that, after all that work, keeping the damned thing was a good move (the sweater, not the goofball D & D role-playing boyfriend).

 

curse2

2: also from Vogue Knitting, Holiday ’87

I have to admit, I can’t remember what eventually happened to the one I made for J. B. P. I kept it for a while, but probably it went to Goodwill in the end. This was one of my first attempts at Fair Isle, and it was pretty good, except for the one row of "lus" right smack across the chest which was a bit on the tight side. 

 

3: from Vogue Knitting, Holiday ‘88 (I branched out a smidge)

(Is it me, or does this sweater REALLY look like a chain link fence?)curse3

sm_tx_fair_ribbon.jpg The one for R. M. didn’t even get finished before the Curse took its toll, and it sent me into a knitting drought of about 5 years.

Part of the reason for this was that I graduated from engineering school, and took a job in Tex-ass, which is not known as a place where there is a need for warm, wool sweaters.

(That was also part of the reason we broke up, BTW. He was living in Spokane, and wanted to move back to Ohio. Let me repeat that: he WANTED to move back to OHIO.)

I eventually finished the sweater though, with the goal of entering it in the Texas State Fair. I got third place, too. And I ended up giving that sweater away to a co-worker.

You may have noticed that all these photos show happy, beautiful couples, head over heels in love, wearing lovely handknit sweaters. Guess what? They are being paid to look like that.  Not that I’m bitter, or anything. donssweater

I finally knitted a sweater for DH, after 5 years of marriage – that was 5 years ago and so far, so good.  It’s a version of "Jay’s Silk Pullover" out of "Simply Beautiful Sweaters for Men" by the gals at Tricoter.

(Hmmm…  This garment is not a VK sweater, so maybe that has something to do with it.)

Mind you, he doesn’t wear it often – it is wool, knit in a garter tweed, so it’s rather thick fabric and darned warm.

So, now he gets socks. Occasionally.

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It’s My Sister’s Fault!

I can trace my original fascination with knitting back to age 6. That’s when my big sister, Bets, came for her very last Christmas visit home – because she was engaged, and would be married in April. (Bets and I are at either end of a large family – there are 17 years between us).

And she was knitting a sweater for her fiance.

I was enthralled. It was dark blue, and I think maybe she was using a circular needle, although she isn’t too sure about that. But it was definitely the coolest thing I had ever seen.

I stood by her chair, with my head practically in her lap, staring fixedly while she tried to knit. It was probably a little creepy for her, actually.

I insisted on trying to learn to knit right away, and my mom found some nice lady at the local library who agreed to teach me. I can remember pink acrylic yarn, and red aluminum needles, and a sort of grotty pink garter st rag hanging off them. I can remember that I must have put it down in the middle of a row, and then when I picked it up again I didn’t know which way I was going. I think I can remember that I got very frustrated and mad, and threw it on the floor. Someone picked it up and put it away, and that was the end of that.

A year later, my grandmother taught me to crochet. It was easier: only one implement, and it had a handy hook on the end. (Although my grandmother’s idea of a “large” hook for a kid to learn on was a size 7 steel hook. Which I still have.) I got fairly good at it, so I stuck to that for the next 10 years…

…then I figured out that crocheted clothes look, well, mostly strange.

Sorry, but it’s true. At least, they definitely looked strange back in the late 80’s in Iowa.

And for me, knitting has always, always been about the clothes. So – I figured I was stuck learning to knit. Thus, I sat myself down with

  • the Reader’s Digest Guide to Needlework (a cherished Xmas present from older brother Joe),
  • some acrylic yarn (pretty much all that was available to a 17-year old kid in a mid-sized town in Iowa),
  • and a couple of pencils (remember, I wasn’t too terribly sure this was going to work, and I wasn’t going to spend my cash on a pair of needles if it was going to be like last time).

I opened up the book to the (gasp) knitting section; looked askance carefully at the pictures; and may the knitting gods forever smile graciously on the RD people, because they included instructions and pictures for both American and Continental style knitting.

I decided that Continental looked a fair bit like crocheting: I already knew how to tension the yarn over my left index finger. And away I went.

I had no idea at the time, but I am now so grateful I learned Continental style!  Eventually I learned American style too, for teaching purposes, but for personal knitting, give me Continental all the way.

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In the beginning…

“A year from now, you may wish you had started today.” – Karen Lamb

OK, so I’m starting today. Hiya. Welcome to my blog! I intend for this to be a blog about knitting, mainly, with some color commentary about life and whatnot thrown in.


My goals for this blog / website:

 

  1. to disseminate good, accurate, free information about knitting.
  2. to sell even better, accurate information about knitting.
  3. to babble, preach and vent about knitting.

My qualifications:

Knitting is something I’ve been doing the majority of my life. I was fascinated by my older sister’s knitting at age 6, and have been crocheting and knitting ever since.

I’ve been teaching knitting in the PDX area for nearly 4 years. In that time, I’ve found there are a number of things that a lot of knitters don’t know, that I think knitters probably should know. Things that make your knitting life easier, and your knitting better. I’ve also found there is a lot of knitting misinformation out there, and I hate to see good knitters following bad directions or advice.

And lastly, I’m a big fan of accuracy and technical proficiency. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.


My history:

I worked in the high-tech industry as a process engineer for 11 years. After several “interesting” corporate world experiences, I wised up, and decided to make that female gender-thing work for me, instead of against me: so, with DH’s full approval, I quit. (It’s quite a story, but I’ll save it for another day.)

Theoretically, I was planning to give myself a one year sabbatical, and then figure out some other respectable career to launch myself into: say, technical writing.

In reality, I became a [gulp] housewife.

There I was, hogtied by my strong, Midwestern-bred, raised-Catholic senses of responsibility and guilt, and unable to justify (to myself) sitting around eating bon-bons all day.

So – I started teaching knitting.  Which led to writing patterns, which led to writing e-books, which has now led to writing this blog.

I wonder what’s next?

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