Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Answer to Shalom Question

Anonymous asked if I had published the directions to the Shalom cardigan on my blog. I didn't design it, but you can get the pattern here. It's by Meghan McFarlane, and has been modified many times by many others. The photo is of the original, borrowed from Ravelry. Meghan's blog, Involving the Senses, has a collection of ideas on it, too. My knitting friend Nancy the Quilter has made an especially lovely one with long sleeves. Maybe if she reads this she will post a link to a photo of it. She based a lot of her changes on ones by someone named Ishi--here is a link to her Ravelry page listing them. If you are on Ravelry, just type "shalom" in the patterns area and you will find the pattern, then you can look at all the lovely variants. It's really popular!

My next "really popular" pattern may well be the one everyone is liking so much in the current Knitty, Decimal. But I am not supposed to be starting new things when I have that queue awaiting me! I do have yarn I could use for that one already, another colorway of the same yarn I am using for Bridget!

Speaking of which, time to go work on my knitting. I hope that helped, Anonyous! And you readers are welcome to ask questions at any time!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Babies and Buttons

I have to admit that I spent most of the weekend running errands and working on my slightly knitting-related project, but I did get some knitting done, as well. On Saturday, despite mis-reading the chart and having to rip out 12 rows, I got through Chart B on Flit ‘n Float. Now, I realize if I just worked on that, and didn’t do all these pesky errands and typing tasks, I’d be done already. But, really, kids, let’s remember that knitting isn’t a race! I have to remind myself of that occasionally, too. I am really enjoying the Nyoni yarn, so there’s no harm in taking it slowly as long as I do keep going. I’m in the thicker section, and I like how this is going to be a more sturdy version than many of the others I’ve seen. That’s why I am going to make it a bit longer, so I’ll have a warm and wearable scarf.

As if helping my students, chatting with friends and meeting nice new folks isn’t enough of a reward for going to the yarn shop on a Saturday, we also got to enjoy the new Yarn Shop Baby for quite a while. Little Abigail is very beautiful and has so many nice, hand-knitted things! Pat and I both got to hold her for a while and were trusted to watch her while her mom made daring runs to the grocery store and pizza place in the shopping complex. Even 5 minutes away seems long to the mother of an 11-day-old baby!

During my brief knitting time on Sunday, I worked on the late, lamented Bridget’s phoenix-like reincarnation. It’s coming along splendidly, and I am enjoying doing the body all in one piece. I got up to the first buttonhole, so that’s some progress in a garment with very long rows!

Speaking of those buttonholes, here are the Bridget buttons that I’ve been meaning to show you. Aren’t they beautiful? Each is hand-made by Georgia Morgan, my former knitting mentor. What a nice thing to have for your sweater—buttons with sentimental value! Since the yarn is from Texas sheep and hand-dyed in small quantities, and I am, at least so far, the only person on Ravelry to knit this pattern, it’s going to be quite the original. I hope it resembles the original—I am thinking of doing the sleeves in the round, too. That way the only seams will be at the arms. Woo hoo, I hate seams. Of course, arm seams are my least favorites!

And look, I have more buttons! Lee and I went to the JoAnn Fabrics store and found these big, sparkly buttons to put on Itchy Shalom. As a bonus, we ran into Cloth Lady Suzanne there and got to catch up with what’s going on with her since she left her church job and because head of cashiers at that store. She has been spinning a lot, so I hope to see some of her work when she gets a chance to visit the yarn shop!

I have noticed that my shoulders hurt less when I don’t spend 3-4 hours a day, every day, knitting. I guess this is telling me I was going a bit too strong the last few months, trying to churn out all those gifts and such. That’s another reason to slow down and enjoy my projects a bit more. I hope I can take my own advice, but I must confidentially say that I look forward to a LOT of knitting tonight.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

No Knitting! NO!

That's right. I haven't done any knitting other than a few rows on my socks while riding in the car. I am doing a little project for a potential job, but at least it is a knitting related one. So, no time to knit and less time to blog!

The good news is it is terribly cold and windy today (like hurricane winds last night, or at least strong gales), so I can wear the Kauni jacket one more time to the yarn shop! I hope people are there today, since last Wednesday's huge hail storm meant low attendance!

Maybe I will have more to report tomorrow.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #12: Mary Susan Canova

Today’s Wednesday Wonder is someone I have met, but I don’t remember doing so. It’s my maternal great-aunt Mary Susan Canova (1884-1961). As is my family tradition, she went by her middle name. She was often referred to as “Crazy Aunt Sue.” (Before you ask, no, I was not named after her. I was named after my father’s sisters, Bettye Sue and Doris Ann—see the middle name thing goes on both sides. Suna is my nickname.) She is the central character in the portrait you see (the girls on either end are my mischievous grandmother and her twin sister, and the adults are my great grandparents).

Anyway, Aunt Susan is an interesting story, or at least from what I have gathered. My mother’s family was one of those who never really talked about the elephants in the room or the skeletons in the closets. Until I was well into my mid-twenties, I honestly thought this was an extremely boring and average north Florida family with roots that went back to the Spanish colonists, and an artistic bent. It took forever to ferret out all the fun and fascinating details of their hidden underbelly! I won’t out the Canova clan in a public blog, but I think it’s safe to say that the family history of mental illness was one thing that was well hidden, for the most part. And of course, that’s understandable—there certainly was a stigma against it back then. Thankfully, a certain amount of eccentricity was tolerated, so my “off-beat” great uncles and the feuding twins of which my grandmother was one were all accepted members of society. The extended family was full of talents: there were ceramicists, painters, pianists and of course, crafts people.

And Aunt Susan was the queen of crafts in the little group. This was a very good thing, because she got the worst end of the mental health issues. From the whispers of my grandmother, sister, and mother, I gathered that she had some “issues,” including a bad case of kleptomania. Because of this, I guess she was sort of confined to her home most of her life. Luckily, Aunt Sue made her craft skills into a career. I am told that this woman churned out dozens of crocheted bedspreads, hundreds of tatted doilies, and many embroidered and lace-enhanced handkerchiefs. She would sell a bedspread for some ridiculously small amount, but it was enough to pay her expenses and make “a living” through her long life. I know it had to be hard on her—whatever her problems were, they seem to have prevented her from marrying, living an independent life, or fully participating in society. I am so glad she was talented in her fingers. She obviously was intelligent (she followed all those complex instructions!) and loved beautiful things. At least I know her life was surrounded by beauty, in homes filled with art and music, and the amazingly beautiful setting of a small town on the St. John’s River.

As soon as I can, I will upload photos of a couple of her items that got passed on to me. My mother knew how much I loved to crochet and tat as a young person, so she gave me a few samples of Aunt Susan’s work. I even copied the motif from the filet crochet table cloth she made, and used it as a decoration in my teen bedroom. These pieces of tatting, crochet and embroidery mean a lot to me. They remind me that I am indeed a part of a family tradition, and they also remind me that doing my craft activities help me stay stable and sane (though, thankfully, I don’t have any crippling mental health issues to deal with!). Even though I never had the chance to talk to her or get to know her, she influenced me in my desire to make my work the best quality I can, and to stick with long and complicated projects.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Yarn, I Love Yarn

Knitting is back to making me happy again, where it had been feeling a bit like an obligation for a while (I must finish this project or else no fun, I must do this because I am obligated to, I like what I am making even though this yarn feels unpleasant so the knitting isn’t fun…).

Yes, much as I love that Kauni Jacket and am happy with how the Itchy Shalom came out, I am quite ready to knit with pleasant, soft and sumptuous yarn. So, I am!

As the photo shows, I have started the Flit ‘n Float scarf from the current Knitty, designed by my email list and blogging companion, Birdy. I took the photo Sunday afternoon, so I am a ways farther on it now. I am ready to start Chart B as of lunchtime knitting today. I chose the pattern because I liked the big ole ruffle at the bottom and also how there is a very lacy part at the end, but also more solid parts in the center. I have chosen to knit it on fairly small needles, US size 4, to make it perhaps more solid than the original, to bring out the yarn.

The yarn is Fleece Artist Nyoni, which is wool, silk and mohair sock yarn that they forgot to make superwash, or something, so they didn’t want to sell it as sock yarn. Instead, they sold it in 800 yard hanks for use in scarves, shawls or garments. It sold out very quickly. (I went over all this last month in this post). I just love the way this yarn feels in my hands, which is good, since I’ll be working with it a while on the scarf! And I also love the way it looks—there is a bit of sheen and a tiny bit of shine on top of that. I have a feeling there will be leftover yarn when I am finished, which just might become a beret to go with the scarf. That would be pretty.

That’s not the end of my fun with yarn that feels good! Last night I re-started Bridget, as I promised I would. I had completely forgotten why I whipped out the entire back in such a short time last go-around! It’s because that single-ply merino yarn from Plain and Fancy Wool, Co., is just heavenly to touch. It practically knits itself. And I get to use nice, wooden needles on it, too. After using the honking big metal needles on that slippery wool for Itchy Shalom, that’s a relief (I am using my trusty Addi Turbo Lace needles on Flit ‘n Float, because my wooden size 4s are occupied on something—probably it’s the other lace scarf I need to finish, Juno Regina from November 2007 (sigh, I will get to THAT one, too—it’s on the WIP list, though I moved it to “hibernating” on Ravelry).

So, on Bridget, which you may recall is a simple cardigan with seed stitch borders, I decided to do the body all in one piece this time. That way I will KNOW if it fits or not. Now, of course, I am worried that it will be too big. I went from US 4 to US 6 needles and am making the largest size. In my gauge swatch from yesterday I still wasn’t getting 5 stitches per inch—more like 5.25, so I figured I would go up a size more than I originally intended. I think I will end up with the right size, and in any case, it won’t be WAY too big, just not snug, if it’s slightly large. I’ve only done the cast on and three rows, and it is looking about right. I just enjoy knitting on this—there’s just the minimal shaping on the waist, and otherwise, acres and acres of stockinet. It’s a nice project to work on when you can’t concentrate! I will show the buttons I have for Bridget next time—I keep forgetting to take a picture of them.

So, I am all happy with knitting at the moment, which helps distract from job hunting and such. That’s why there haven’t been many hints or technique discussions—my mind is full of decisions, financial thoughts and that kind of thing. That will pass!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Keeping My Bargain with Myself

I am proud of myself. At the beginning of the year, I said I would complete a work in progress for every new item started. I also vowed to try to use up my stash. And lookee here. I finished the Itchy Shalom sweater that I started back in September, thereby removing another item from the WIP list. And it used up my Brindle Hill Leicester Longwool stash, too. The colors are beautiful, aren't they? They do sort of remind me of Red Hat Ladies, but those dears don't own the colors red and purple, do they? I'd be scary if I put on my red cowboy hat with this, though!

As you can see from the back view, I did not put any sleeves on it. I have a little yarn left, so I may tighten up the sleeves a bit. But, I ran out of yarn right where I'd hoped to end the body of the sweater. Nothing left for sleeves.

As you can see, I made it shorter than the original. It looks funny on the bottom because I haven't blocked it yet. That's next on the agenda.

I am waiting to get buttons for it, since week after next I am hoping to go to Old Oaks Ranch as part of a Hill Country Getaway with Lee. They say they have lots of buttons there, so I wan tto check that out. I am holding the sweater together with a hair clip.

Speaking of hair, yes, it is a different color. But at least you won't have to look at my gray patch for a while. I have job interviews coming up, so I want to look young-ish.

Now that I have made two of these sweaters, I will give them a rest. Everyone I know seems to have made one since my original last fall--the ones with sleeves have been very nice, so I am kind of tempted to get enough yarn to do that...at the same time there are so many other options for patterns that I hate to repeat the same one over and over!

I have started my next "new" project, the Flit 'n Float scarf that Birdy designed. I will share my progress on that one with you tomorrow. For my next "WIP" project, I will re-start Bridget with larger needles and more stitches. That's one I can work on without too much thought, so it will be a good carry-along project.

The sock is moving along a few rows per day. It'll move along faster next week when I have waiting to do and can't carry the big bag around.

I hope you had a good weekend!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Days to Celebrate! Yarn to Salivate...over

My personal knitting is not very exciting right now. I am heading up the leg on the Charybdis sock, and it is a fine looking sock. Everyone said “ooh” and “aah” when I tried it on yesterday. And I do a few rows on Itchy Shalom each day—that’s as much as I can handle of the slippery yarn plus slippery needles combo. Mostly I am concerned that I won’t have enough yarn to put any sleeves on it. And I don’t think I can integrate any other bulky yarn I own into it, because nothing at all has a similar texture. But, I have a candidate or two, and may have to give it a try!


I usually get a lot done on Wednesdays, but yesterday I chose to chat and mingle during Chicks with Sticks, rather than sitting and knitting. There was a lot to talk about! One of our most regular readers and commenters, Katie G., had her baby on Tuesday, so there was a lot of talk and excitement on that topic. We can’t wait to see baby Abby, though I am trying to leave the family alone, and know they have tons of visitors as it is. There will be lots of visiting time soon enough!

And yesterday was the 4th anniversary of my local yarn shop, or shoppe, as they spell it. I showed up right on Day 1, and have been there at least twice a week most weeks ever since then! It’s a little home away from home. In these rough economic times, it really pays to hug your LYS owner, and to remember to buy something! (Heh, after spending my wedding gift certificate, I think I own all the yarn I will ever need from there, but I am sure I can be persuaded to change my mind.)

Note that today's photo (from July 2007) combines both exciting events. There's Pat staffing the LYS cash register, and Katie long before baby Abby was an imminent presence. Glad we still have both Katie and the shop to enjoy!

Tonight some friends and I are trying out a new tea shop in Round Rock, whose owner said she’d welcome knitters. That sounds good to me—the menu has delicious sandwiches on it, and I hear there are really nice couches to sit and knit on! I will report on this tomorrow!

Cool Yarn

I’ll end on a cool yarn alert: Dena bought some Araucania Ruca yarn in her travels over the weekend. This is 100% sugar cane derived! Finally, sugar that won’t make me fat! You can’t see it in the illustration on the link, but it has a lovely sheen, slightly “sugary” even. It feels very good, dry like cotton, but not harsh. I gots to get me some of that! They say you can make socks out of it, though it is DK weight. I’ll get at least two skeins, so I’ll have enough for socks or a scarf, but I’ll probably wait until my job situation settles out (and I have some prospects, so there’s hope I can smoothly transition from my current contract to something else!).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #11: NOBODY

I’m going to vent and share some opinions now. Your mileage may vary, and you are free to disagree with me. Polite and respectful comments will be shared! And you, my readers, always seem to be polite and respectful. Thanks. (By the way, the free clip art image you see is supposedly an angry knitter, though she just looks mildly perturbed to me.)

Sorry friends, but I don’t feel like anyone is a Wednesday Wonder today. In fact, I’m pretty much unhappy with the World of Internet Knitting right now. I am very disappointed at a lot of stuff going on in knitting’s largest online community as well as outside of it right now. I’ll just summarize what the official post on the site said, which is that some people had behaved badly on the site, and when their forum was shut down, they went to a private site and used it to somehow “disrupt normal site activity.” (Going to a private site is FINE—using it to plan attacks on others…questionable—and I oughta know—I’ve done it myself in non-knitting contexts, and gone through a lot of self-examination on account of it.)

My newer readers won’t know this, but at one time I helped design and then was the “super moderator” of a large online community. I have dealt with my share of disruptive activities, rudeness, and unhelpfulness. I know how hard it is to write community guidelines, how hard it is to set procedures for giving warnings and for finally banning people, and in general how difficult it is to moderate disputes. I also know there are certain types of folks out there who actually enjoy raising a ruckus, poking at people, and generally causing a wee bit of trouble. I have a LOT of sympathy for the nice young people who run the site. I have been in their shoes, and I have faced the wrath of people who hate any perceived authority and run here and there crying “woe is me, I’ve been treated unfairly,” and blabbing one skewed point of view on a topic, while you have to zip your mouth and take the high road and not engage them in dialog (also known in my old circles as “airing your dirty laundry.”

I have no doubt that some people one one side of an issue went out and joined groups on another side, just to pick on them or take offense if something wasn’t worded perfectly. I have no doubt that this also took place going the other direction. Neither behavior was constructive, nor would either tactic in any way convince members of one camp that they ought to convert to the other side (really, would YOU change your mind if someone got in your face and called you names? Of course not). And besides that, none of this helped people share their love of knitting or crochet, share patterns and yarn ideas, or help each other with craft issues. No, it just divided people into camps. They’re dividers, not uniters! (I am so witty, nay?) None of these folks are Wednesday Wonders.

But that’s really not what made me sad. This sort of thing happens in online communities all the time. Why I am sad is that some rather harsh consequences were meted out that had some really awful repercussions. Users were banned from the online community. Now, that is a reasonable consequence if warnings are not heeded and behavior persists. Most people apologize and back off when confronted with their mis-use of a community. Some don’t. Then they get banned.

But, not only were the people engaged in the behavior banned, anyone who was ever a member of some group was also banned. I guess that’s the only way to make sure everyone who did offensive things gets removed, but it also means people who were members of a group but never participated were also caught. I actually don’t have a problem with that—people could write in and explain, and I am sure a reasonable administrator could check records, see they’d never said anything, and let them back on. The worst, though, is that any IP address ever used to log on with one of the offenders’ logins was also banned. I personally know at least three people who suddenly found themselves banned from the site having never had a warning or anything (because they weren’t members of the problem group). Their crime? They let a knitting friend log on while visiting their home. Guilt by association!

But you know what? I have no clue what groups many of my knitting friends are members of. They could be racists, sexists, homophobes, godless heathens (oops, that’s me), radical fundamentalists, believers in alien abduction, pro-choice, polygamists…heck, how would I know any of this if all we’ve talked about is wool vs. acrylic? I don’t know the beliefs of all my blog readers, either. They just want to read knitting stuff and an occasional bit of a Suna rant. I sure would not want to be banned by Blogger because someone they didn’t like commented or something!

So, I am not happy that these folks who just happened to know someone with ill-behaved associates got thrown off without warning. I am also unhappy that they didn’t get a chance to download their data. I have 289 items in my stash all nicely categorized on the knitting community, and records of 195 of my projects carefully dated, notated, photographed and labeled. I would be mighty, mighty upset to no longer have access to that data (you can download an Excel spreadsheet of your stash, but there’s no way to save your project info). I’d be upset enough to whine and complain to all my friends…which is exactly what is happening, and making matters worse. This is leading to people on my email lists getting up in arms and saying they’ll leave the community in support of their friends, or un-list designs of theirs that they have shared. What a mess that could turn out to be! I love checking out my friends’ projects, seeing what their favorite patterns are, etc. And I won’t be able to do that if they leave in a huff.

Darn, darn darn.

I figure I’m relatively safe. I have only posted to forums 281 times, nearly all on the topic of something I knitted. I removed myself from the “godless heathen” forum, because I know sometimes testiness occurs there. But gee, I hate feeling unsafe and paranoid in my pleasant online community. And I hate the idea of losing contact with friends there.

Because I try to “assume good intent,” I will hope that people inadvertently caught in the cross-fire will be reinstated. And I will hope that maybe, just maybe, people will have the maturity and grace to stop sniping at and saying unkind things to people whose views differ from theirs (OK, it’s just a HOPE). Maybe knitters will learn to let people who share common views discuss them in peace amongst themselves. Maybe administrators will learn from this and be less heavy handed in the future, even if that’s hard to do given technological constraints. And maybe, instead of trolling in other people’s groups to try to irritate others, knitters will go knit something.

If we all just stuck to our knitting, we’d have a chance of being Wednesday Wonders.

I wish you all peace, love for your fellow human beings, and good knitting. And crocheting. And tatting and quilting. You get it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Buttons for Kauni and Intention Yarn!

Nothing as exciting as yesterday's parade of Kauni, but I did want to show you the buttons I got for the jacket. They are fastened on it in the picture. Aren't they a good match? I really like this whole series of ceramic buttons. The red was my favorite shade, but it didn't come in the 1 1/8" size, so we took the green and blue. Thanks to Katie for her help in picking them out, and good luck to her as she tries to squeeze out a St. Patrick's Day baby tomorrow!

I'm still amazed at how nice the jacket came out. Lee just said to me he really didn't think it would end up as nice as it did, which is sort of what someone said on one of my email lists: are you sure it's the same jacket? Well, good for me. We'll see if the Itchy Shalom also comes out well. Right now I am just hoping I have enough yarn to finish it. I don't have but 400 yards of the Brindle Hill Farm Leicester Longwool, and it may not suffice. Ah well. It sure is SLIPPERY stuff. It keeps sliding off the needles because the yarn and the metal KnitPicks needles are both so slick.

In other news, at long last the first installment of the Intention Yarns club offerings has arrived. I don't usually do clubs, but I like the idea that these are dyed with thoughts of a particular wish going on as they are dyed. This first one is my favorite colors, and called Bliss. It's a wool/bamboo blend, again, my favorite. So it has already made me happy! They also sent a nice button that says "I love Yarn" on it, and some candy and a brown piece of cloth. Not sure what that signifies--there wasn't an explanation, but I could have missed the newsletter or something, since my junk mail filters are a tad "over zealous."

Thanks again to all of you who said such nice things about the jacket. It sure feels good when a project lives up to how you thought it would look in your mind's eye!

Now let's see how the other stuff goes!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Glimpse at the Final Glory--what it means to be a knitter

Not all that much to report this weekend, but I do have these lovely photos of the finished Kauni Jacket with the edging on for you. Really came out well, didn't it? Lots of photos, but hey, I like them.

Also, here's the photo of the new socks that I promised in the previous entry. I took a better picture now that I am further along on the Charybdis socks. Pretty pattern, pretty yarn. OK!

Sorry the jacket is a little wrinkled--I'd been sitting on the couch. Doesn't the black edging make it look sharp?

Anyway, I had lots of fun at the yarn shop yesterday--I got to help more people than usual, since it was crowded. And it was fun hanging out with the regulars and meeting new folks, both. After a while, Katie and I went to the new JoAnn's Fabric store to get buttons for the Kauni jacket, and so she could walk and walk and try to go into labor. Once I get them on, I will share one more photo. We found a blue and a green ceramic button that goes perfectly with the rustic qualities of the jacket. There were all sorts of really pretty buttons there, so I can't wait to use some on other products. (I already have the handmade buttons for Bridget when I get back to that project, though.)

A number of the usual knitting gang went to a baby shower for our other pregnant friend, Jen, where I think we overwhelmed her family and other friends by whipping out our socks. I was asked if I was able to listen as I knit. Boy howdy, I'd have had trouble in grad school if I couldn't! I think sometimes, when we spend most of our time with fellow knitters we forget the ideas others have about it. I guess most people probably think we all knit stuff and sell it to make money, that most knitters are grandparents (I was asked if I was retired--really need to get that gray in my hair recovered I guess), that Red Heart is "good" yarn, that making socks is amazing and complicated, and that knitting and crochet are the same thing. You just forget what assumptions you can make if the folks around you are knitters.

I should know this. I should remember what it was like when I went outside my little world of "attachment parenting" when my kids were little. It was like a different world. It was surprising to learn what odd ideas people had about me when they found out I held certain parenting beliefs. But I've mostly learned to cope with the wide variety of other ideas out there--I need to hang out with the "outside world" a little more so I don't get so surprised at the ideas people have about me because I knit.

I'll just step out, proud to be in my rainbow jacket that screams out to the world, "I am a knitter," and just say "thanks" when people tell me I am super-dee-superly talented for simply picking a nice yarn and knitting some rectangles then sewing them together! It's just who I am.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Converging Ribs Done! And Finding New Projects

I did finish my Converging Rib socks on Wednesday and am wearing them now. They fit really well and look smart and stripey. I regret that I don’t have a photo of both of them, but it has been raining here for three days, and I am trying to get photos of them in the right light so the patterning will show. I really need to design socks using less patterned yarn, but in my defense, when I started these I wasn’t going to do the fancy decreasing, but rather plain ribbed socks. That does mean, though that I have completed one whole pair of socks this year. My previous pair had actually started in November, because I dawdled over it. As a reminder, I put a little recipe on how to do these socks in the blog a few weeks ago. A couple of people have asked me to link it on Ravelry, but really it’s not a pattern—just hints for doing the design element. Maybe I will just go ahead and do it. If it's boring, no one will make it, and that's fine.

I think I’ll go faster on the next pair, the Charybdis , that I mentioned last week was designed by Fiona, who was inspired by my Glacier Lake socks to design her own pair. They are lots of fun, and look way more complex than they are to knit—just what I like in a sock! I may even go ahead and do the short-row heel, just for a change of pace. It’s nice to get back to toe-up socks, since I took a little break from them with the last few pairs.

There are a couple of factors that I hope will keep me interested in these socks. First, the yarn is very different. As I mentioned in a post a little while back, it is Araucania Ranco Multy, which comes in all sorts of nonstandard colorways and is randomly dyed, with lots of splotches and spatters to break it up. The colorway I picked is one I got fairly recently from The Loopy Ewe, even though I already had two skeins of it in my stash. I just liked the way the aqua and lime green blended with the more dominant berry color. So far, it’s just fine to knit with, not splitty or harsh.

Note: I took a picture with my camera phone of the sock toe and have tried to email it to myself, but it isn’t here yet. So, come back later to see the work in progress.

The knitting itself is interesting because I decided to use my new needles that I got at Fibers. They are Chiaogoo stainless steel circulars in size 00, which I hope will make my sock gauge just a little tighter than it has been lately. I am very fond of the clear nylon cable on these. It’s a bit more flexible than KnitPicks or Addi Turbo, but not as overly flexible as the Kollage square ones. This means that I can push the yarn toward the tip without the cable bending back on itself like the collage ones do, but it doesn’t annoyingly insist on poking out like some thicker cables do. I am, however, not sure that I love the slightly bend tips. They remind me of some of those old Aero aluminum or nonstick needles. However, I am getting used to sliding the yarn around the bends, and it isn’t slowing me down. In any case, it’s always good to try a new needle, in case you love it. And these were not at all expensive (I actually think they were just $5), so I didn’t break the bank getting 00s and 000s. That’s a bargain compared to some of the other needles I’ve bought!

I have a tiny project I will probably work on Saturday, then I should be heading into my next UFO completion project, the Itchy Shalom. More on that later!

What Are You Doing Next?

Looking for things to knit? Here are some online magazine ideas (some of which I have already discussed in greater detail, but wanted to group together):

  • Spring 2009 Knitty , featuring a scarf called Fit + Flirt by my friend Birdy in San Antonio and the lovely Decimal sweater by an Austin resident.
  • Spring 2009 Twist Collective, which also has some great patterns, including good ones for guys.
  • Spring 2009 Knotions, which has a lovely scarf and socks, plus a “Spring Kimono” that reminds me of the Decimal pattern, in that it will look good on petite or statuesque folks.
  • Ravelry, every day: What I do most days is click the Patterns tab, then click the small link above the selection of latest patterns that says “see more.” This shows you everything that’s been added, from most recent to dim past (if you have the patience to click that long). It’s a fun way to find inspiration, or to see if someone just published the idea you had (has happened to me). And it can give you a good laugh sometimes. For example, this morning I went to look and up popped a crochet pattern that I think was supposed to be a calla lily, but looked to me like the cup on a lacrosse stick. Ravelry will eventually have all the patterns in each of the other things listed above, but you would miss the articles, so do the advertisers a favor and check out the online knitting zines! I must say I enjoy the ads, too!

Question of the Day: What online knitting magazines have I left out? Tell me more!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #10: Yvonne P!

This week I have chosen to focus on another far-flung friend, whom I have really admired since I’ve known her, and whose writings I really enjoy. Yvonne P is a knitter in the Netherlands (yes, I have now actually featured TWO knitters in the same country outside my own…but I am now out of people who live there to feature). We “met” in 2007 either on Ravelry (online knitting community, for those of you who know me in some non-knitting capacity) or on a sock email list (Yvonne will probably tell me which it was!), when we were both knitting the same pair of socks, a pattern called Forget-Me-Not (and if you follow this Ravelry link, you will see both my pair and hers!). We chatted back and forth about the pattern, then started following each other’s blogs.

It turned out we were both similar in age and both getting married around the same time, so we had lots to talk about. I enjoyed looking at Yvonne’s Flickr pages and checking out her new house as it was being built, etc. After a year or so of reading about someone’s life, looking at their photos, and seeing all their projects, you get to feel like you actually know them! We both comment regularly on each other’s blogs, too, which is a great way to keep in contact.

What makes Yvonne a wonder is her generosity, in many respects. She generously shares her knowledge and ideas with so many people—she’s active on Dutch (and English) knitting lists and does all kinds of exchanges and swaps, too. I am impressed that she blogs in English rather than any of her other languages, so that we in the English-speaking world can also enjoy it. She persists in doing this even though most of her comments are in Dutch. It’s very educational for me, the former linguist, to figure out what some of the words are. I’m very good with the=het, sokkenwol=sock yarn and such. Yvonne has always encouraged me when my projects go wrong, and I appreciate that so much!

I had her on my list of potential Wednesday Wonders all along, but decided that this was her week, so I can share with you the contents of the fun package I received in the mail from her yesterday—a belated wedding gift! This beautiful sock yarn is special in more than one way (as she explained in her sweet note, on the back of the card in the picture). Not only is it hand-dyed in the Netherlands and from the Dutch yarn shop Wolhalla (a pun even I can understand), but it is an appropriately Dutch colorway—Delft Blue, as in the lovely pottery (click the link and you can see lots of examples from a cool shop in the US). The label even has a fabric sample in blue and white, to show you the inspiration for the yarn! Isn’t that neat? That is such a nice remembrance, and such a kind gesture! No wonder she’s a wonder!

The package also came with two tiny metal tags in a black bag (you can see them in the photo). They say “made for you” and you can put them in your knitted items that you give as gifts. Yvonne said to put one in the Rainbow Jacket (which I am wearing today even though I still haven’t blocked it, because we are having one last little cool snap here).

The moment I saw the yarn I thought of my sister, who collects blue-and-white china (as did my mother) and loves those colors. I know she does, because she sent me a blue-and-white bracelet for my birthday! I am sure my sister would love socks made out of this yarn…but, nah. She may have to live with one of my many other yarns in other blue/white combos. I may have to save this special yarn for myself, so I can think of my distant friend, whom I have never met, but is a friend nonetheless.

I LOVE the Internet. Thanks to it, you can find people you have things in common with, no matter where they are. I am so glad to have the chance to meet and get to know people like Yvonne, Dragonfly, etc.! I probably enjoy reading the blogs of everyday folks who just happen to be knitters more than the “famous knitter” blogs. I love getting a little slice of someone else’s life. You see how much we all have in common, and learn some fascinating differences, as well.

Hey, readers! Have you met any fellow knitter on the Internet and formed a friendship? If you have a moment, tell us about it in the comments!

More on Yvonne:

Her blog, Loisirs et Plaisirs
Yvonne on Ravelry (you need to be a member to see this)
Yvonne’s public Flickr pages

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Birthday Treat

Thanks for all the comments on the Kauni Jacket. I spent last night doing the black crochet edging on it. I used some Cashsoft Cotton left over from a hat, and it looks wonderful. I also did a stripe of decorative crochet a couple of inches above the sleeve edge. It looks pretty good. Crocheting around the collar was a challenge, because I wanted the “front” of the crocheting facing outward all the time, which meant I had to switch directions on it. At least I found the little line I had skipped in the instructions, which said to sew the collar down. It’s a little bitty one, but I got it down! Tonight I plan to wash the jacket, with some fabric softener to soften the wool a bit, then just shape it up a bit. I think that’s the best way to deal with garter stitch—no hard blocking. I do need buttons.

I did want to share what a nice time I had on Saturday at the yarn shop. My big plan was to buy a cake and feed whoever showed up. It turned out that Sue Ellyn, a lady I help with knitting, had her birthday on March 3, so she chipped in for the cake, too. I went out to get an Italian cream cake for the few people who were there, and when I got back, more folks had shown up, with presents! I got some very nice cards, including another of Jen’s beautiful handmade ones that she stamps, colors and embellishes. She also made me a cute knitting bag in a neat spiral pattern, and inside it were two balls of KnitPicks Felici yarn in lovely subdued greens and blues. A really nice color combination unlike anything else I have. The yarn is nice and soft—their stuff has improved. Plus I got me a fine gift certificate to the new JoAnn’s Fabrics where Suzanne TCL works (hey, I need buttons!), AND some earrings. I felt like I actually HAD a birthday after all that. I also got Sue Ellyn some roses and a card, because she’s been really sweet and is always so kind to the people at the shop. I guess I need to open gifts for it to be a “real” holiday.

Now, I say that, but what did poor Lee get for HIS birthday (it’s tomorrow)? I didn’t even get to wrap it, because he met the FedEx guy, who gave it to him. It plainly said “I am a food dehydrator,” on it, so there went the surprise. I did get some strawberries today, so we can try it out for birthday treats!

I digress…what I wanted to say is that kindnesses like these birthday treats, the baby showers, and all that…they all remind me what fine and generous people tend to make up the knitting community. We are all so different, yet we share so much! I am so glad to have made some good friends over the past few years, and also enjoyed so many strangers and people passing through. If you don’t have a knitting circle, group or club, try to find one. Even if everyone’s a different age or socio-economic group from yours, you will find knitting truly brings people together, which then facilitates learning about each other in all areas. A good thing. And THANK YOU to Jen, Deana, Nancy, Pat (and the yarn shop staff) for making it such a nice birthday.

Here’s another good thing, a link to a lovely story about knitting in Peru that a friend sent me. It will cheer you up to read about another culture’s use of your favorite hobby! It really seems to empower women there.

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's a Jacket! Just Not Done Yet

Though it was a busy weekend, it ended up being a weekend where there was a lot of knitting time hiding here and there. So, I actually finished all the knitting on my Kauni jacket! Lee was in photography mode, so I even have action shots of Suna doing mattress stitch (two very, very long seams to try to keep even—my back is now reminding me of how I have to lean over to do that stitching!

In the stitching photo, I would like to point out that the beer bottle does not belong to me. Liquor and precision don’t go together, so I did not imbibe. The beer was a fine reward for planting a bunch of plants, which Lee did!

This picture shows one long seam sewn together while the other is waving around. Note that the horizontal side seems longer. It shortened up once I seamed it.

I had a bit of trouble with the small shawl collar. In fact, I don’t like the collar much at all. It would probably look less awkward in the yarn the jacket originally calls, for which is self-striping sock yarn, but even after I carefully plowed into my leftover skeins to finish the little collar flap that is left at the end of all the other knitting, there was nothing I could do about the fact that one half is blue and the other is yellow, nor of how hard it is to hide the seams. I seamed the collar parts so that the “right side” has seams, because the “wrong side” is what folds over to be the collar. Even my neatest mattress stitch still has an edge. So, I tacked the collar down and will probably end up with a little tack to keep it ending at the same spot on each side. You can sort of see the collar in the picture of the back of the jacket.

The back is another thing I hope resolves itself. Even the Asian lady on TV in the photo looks like she can’t believe how that jacket looks. Definitely the horizontal side is about an inch wider than the vertical side. I think a lot has to do with the different ways garter stitch stretches depending on orientation. That’s probably why the vertical side is a bit longer than the horizontal, too. My current thought is that once I block the jacket (which I will need to do anyway, to try to soften the wool and maybe get out some of the twigs that are still in it), I will be able to block it to the right measurements.

That brings me to fit—I did it! The jacket fits just right. It’s supposed to be fairly snug, and it looks like it will meet up exactly in the front, like it should. I am guessing it will fit a little better once I lose the post-wedding ten pounds I am working on, but it is fine now. After poor old Bridget, I am glad to see that I actually CAN get the right gauge and stick with it. Forgive my weird shiny face in the photo. It was a warm day and I’d been sewing under that wool jacket for quite some time. Not my best look, for sure.

I look forward to having true FO photos for you soon. Look forward in my next post to photos of birthday stuff, and a report on how nice my knitting friends are.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Book Review of Knitorama and Not Much Else

How I wish I had something exciting to share with you today. But, all I’ve been doing knitting-wise is continuing down the front of my jacket. I might even finish this weekend, since I am almost to the end of the sleeve, whereupon the rows will be a lot shorter. I did get to the end of my third skein of Kauni, and was thrilled to discover I only had to wind off a few yards of the fourth skein to continue in the striping sequence. I want the front to look pretty, so of course I didn’t want to mar the stripes!

But, wait, I have at least one book to talk about.

Book Review: Knitorama

Yesterday was my birthday, and in addition to the yarn from last weekend, I also got a knitting book. My older son, who forgot to get me anything for Christmas and has had it “mentioned” to him a couple of times, texted me last week, suavely, and asked if I had a book called Knitorama. So, wow, was I surprised or what to find that book sitting on my computer Wednesday morning! He was leaving for the state debate tournament, so he wouldn’t be home for the actual birthday. I was quite impressed at his new and improved technique, probably spurred on by his girlfriend, but that’s fine. He also gave me a really funny hand-drawn card in the format of an SAT question. I’ll always treasure that!

So, I have a book to review, at least! And what a major hoot this book is. It’s from 2005, so many of you may already have it. It was published in England, which may be why I hadn’t seen it. It’s probably not something I would have bought for myself, but once I got to reading it, I began to enjoy the humor and whimsy of both the writing and the projects, very much! The whole book (by Rachael Matthews) is full of photos of young people dressed up in an imaginary “retro” style. Or maybe it’s just “artsy.” They are all holding their knitted items with a glee only found in 50s and 60s ads. And the items are just plain cute. The only pattern I had heard of before is the apple cozy. Yes, a cover for your apple. I’d thought it was a silly item, but when I showed it to the woman who sits next to me in choir, the one who only eats raw food, she got quite excited by it. So, you never know.

Other projects you’ll find in Knitorama are a knitted cake, hand grenade, book (with pages that turn), and the all-time favorite in our family, the crocheted glass of Guinness. I’d thought I should make one for my ex-husband the Irishman, but Tuba Boy texted me most vehemently (if you can do such a think) that HE wanted it!). I happen to have all that naturally colored organic yarn in brown and cream that would be perfect!

I’d say that the most casual knitter or even a non-knitter would enjoy this book, just for the fun writing style, the very beautifully staged illustrations and photos, and the overall light-heartedness. And to top it off, the book is simply well done. The pages are thick and have rounded edges. The publisher, Spruce, did not scrimp on production, which I am predicting will be the rule in the future, the way magazines are getting smaller and on ickier paper, it can’t be far behind for books. I love books, even if I AM Mrs. Internet User.

Here’s a link to the Ravelry page on the book, where you can see samples of the patterns and learn more about it. You can also find it on Amazon, so check it out. It doesn’t even cost too much.

Thanks, Tuba Boy, for the fine gift! And good luck in the tournament (it isn’t over until Saturday night).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #9: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

I grant that this is a pretty obvious choice for a Wednesday Wonder. I have no doubt that nearly every modern knitter thinks she is a wonder. Everyone reads her books. Everyone reads her blog. I have her calendar sitting at my desk, telling me stuff about knitting every day. She's everywhere. So, why did I pick her? It's because this week I have been thinking about how much like me she is, and began to wonder whether every knitter thinks to herself or himself, "Wow, she's so much like me."

In many ways, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is "Everyknitter." Her best talent is not knitting (I think she's right around me in her knitting skills level), but it's her wonderful ability to look at knitting and draw parallels to the rest of life and to see the humor that results in not taking your hobby too seriously. (Plus, she educates Americans on how the Canadian government works.) By using her admirably informal writing style to its best advantage she's attained the goal so many of us secretly have: she's turned enjoying her knitting into a job that pays a living wage! Right there, the fact that she did that makes her a Wednesday Wonder!

I'm sure many knitters see a bit of themselves in Stephanie. I sure do. We have very similar backgrounds and interests outside of knitting--volunteered for the same organization for many years (did you know she is a doula and IBCLC*?), parented in a very similar style, view politics very similarly, are proud to be feminists who chose to stay home when their children were young…to name a few things. She's even sort of a linguist, since she coined the word "kinnear," which means to surreptitiously take a photo of someone, holding the camera low and out of sight--she did that to Greg Kinnear. And we're both writers and knitters, of course. Argh, I wish I were as humorous and as good at self-marketing as her, though (and I wish I could spin like her--dang, her February Lady sweater is incredible)! I also love that, like me, she will take a zillion times to get a shawl started, all for dorky reasons (this happened last week) or agonize over color choices for a project, just like me. It's so me-like that she marvels that anyone would really want to come hear her talk yet really enjoys doing those talks and meeting all those knitters and babies (that is exactly what was my favorite part of my Dysfunctional Nonprofit Organization job!). It just makes me happy, all the way through my soul, to know that someone like me can do what she has done.

Do I think I can do that? Well, no, and wouldn't want to duplicate her success. We don't need more than one Yarn Harlot, really, and she does a fine job of speaking for all of us knitters and making observations for us to enjoy. But, it gives me hope that maybe some day I will come up with an angle that will let me do what I love and make money at it. I am grateful to the Yarn Harlot for inspiring me to THINK about how I could earn income with what I am best at: knitting and teaching. I come close sometimes--I did get to teach knitting some when the LYS was going strong, but with that business dying down, I'll need to come up with another way of really making money from that. Maybe I could do those in-home knitting classes I'd thought about so many times--the one I did was great fun. I know I am not a "knitwear designer" because the people who do really well at that have had the chance to study textiles and the apparel business. I can do socks, but am no Cookie A! But, again, look at Stephanie. She is not a designer, just a skilled knitter. And she's done it. There's hope!

And that's it. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is a Wednesday Wonder because she not only makes knitters happy, but she inspires us to find ways to do more than just sit and knit. At least she has inspired me. And just knowing that a truly GOOD, kind, friendly and thoughtful person had all these nice things happen to her restores my faith in humankind just a wee bit.

More on Stephanie

Bio (see, she is real famous, cause she is on wikipedia)
Blog, as if you don't know it already
All her books and stuff

*International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #9: Delayed

While I had a lovely evening knitting with Tina last night, being out every evening this week, combined with a lot of work, has left little time to write up something great for a Wednesday Wonder this week. I will try for one on Thursday!

Monday, March 2, 2009

February Yarn Crawl Report

I promised I’d share the results of my yarn crawl this weekend, so here we go! My friends Deana and Dawn and I braved some incredibly gusty winds to head east, once again. Many kudos to Deana for driving, because I don’t think I’d have done as good a job as she did. It was nice to drive on the back roads, and even nicer to have good conversation and some real laughs. I appreciate them for putting up with their token heathen so cheerfully!

NOTE: I will re-do this post with the images centered later today--I am out of lunch hour time to re-do the photos.

Our first stop was Yarnorama, in Paige. They are approaching their one-year anniversary, which is impressive for an LYS that is in the middle of nowhere, and not really “local” to many people at all. They have closed the cafĂ© part of the store (darn it), but still seem to have plenty of yarn, and even (ahhh) some new stuff.

The first new thing I got there is this yarn, called Haze, from the Queensland Collection. I got this rather subdued colorway, because I am trying to knit more things that go with a lot of clothing, which means neutrals. The colors are rather lovely together, though. What’s interesting about this one is that the yarn is 60% corn viscose and 40% cotton. I think corn does better in a blend, because this feels pretty good and really resembles a fine cotton more than anything else. I like the matte sheen. I plan to make this really cute DROPS bolero kind of sweater with a crochet trim. I do hope I got enough yarn. I bought three skeins.

Another thing I bought with a project already in mind was this stuff. Yeah, I am a sucker for a self-striping yarn, and I’d hoped to find this one somewhere. It’s called Poems and is from Wisdom Yarns. The colorways it comes in are nice and happy, quite reminiscent of Noro’s colorways. But the yarn is much softer and is sort of two ply (it is mostly one thick ply, but there appears to be a sturdy binder thread running throughout, too). The texture and feel remind me of Berroco Foliage, the one that pilled so badly on me, but it’s 100% wool. We will have to see how it works out on the project I have in mind, which is a best made of a sort of mitered rectangle. It’s in the Noro Revisited book where my funny-topped hat came from (I’d link to a finished version on Ravelry, but no one seems to have completed that pattern—it figures, as I seem to be a leader not a follower lately with projects). I got 5 skeins of this stuff, and as you can see I got a more subdued colorway with just a few pops of color.

That is all I was going to get until I touched a sock that Susan, the LYS owner, was making out of this stuff. They also had a beautiful sweater made from it at the shop (one that would be VERY time consuming on tiny needles). This is a merino laceweight, it says, but really is more of a fine sock weight yarn, Lace Merino from Ella Rae. It comes in some really pretty colors, but once again, I went for a neutral. The yarn is very, very bouncy and soft—all the best qualities of a merino yarn! I got some smaller sock needles, since my 00s are all bent up, and I think I’ll make socks from this yarn with a nice tight gauge. I do think these colors are very pretty, in a quiet way. It’s from SWTC, called Jezebel. I got it to be the “dark” color for those Simply Southwestern Socks I mentioned last week.

After we left Yarnorama, where we’d had a very pleasant time indeed, we motored on over to Brenham to see how Fibers is doing. It is doing fine, but I can see that they have sold a lot of yarn and not restocked. It’s not quite as overwhelmingly tempting as it was last time. But we spent a long time there, much of it because Deana’s 5 skeins of pretty slinky yarn took a while to put into balls. But, the ladies persevered and got it done. Deana got lovely white yarn to make a shawl from the Wrapped in Comfort book (I ordered it as a birthday gift to myself, too, because the techniques in it are really fun). Dawn got a nice shawl pin, too, a wooden one.

I’d been looking for a particular kind of sock yarn, but didn’t see any exactly like what I want, so I may end up ordering from DROPS, skeins of the yarn my Kauni Jacket is supposed to be made from. I did run across the skein of semi-solid blackish purple yarn you see above.

Now, this isn’t to say that I found nothing much at the store. Ha, I wish. I discovered a beautiful pale green (the colorway is called shallot) 100% bamboo yarn called Bamboo Soft from RYC Classic. Actually, I discovered the book with a pattern that called for the yarn first. Ooh, it is one pretty book. All spring stuff, and apparently so new it isn’t online anywhere. I fell in love with a lace-patterned vest that looks so light and delicate, but not too frilly for me. I better like it, since it called for 8 balls of some not-very-cheap English yarn! The book also had some nice cotton sweaters that I’d consider, too, and some over-done picture-knitting bags that I didn’t like much. Still, I think this will be a great project. I hope some day to get to it.

Current Knitting Binge

Which brings me to knitting. I got a lot done on the Kauni jacket over the weekend. Only a few more rows and I will be finished with the back. I ran into a weird issue where the yarn suddenly switched colors, then returned to where it should be. It was like they but in a splice, backwards. But, I undid the ties, re-tied it, and though there may be a slightly too-long red section, the colors now keep flowing. This jacket is reminding me of the Baby Surprise. I don’t think it’s going to look “right” until it is sewed together. Then I think it will be just brilliant! It’s really pretty in person. Maybe I’ll get good knitting time in this week and get it done! I’m 75% through almost!