Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tea with the Red Earl

So, having turned the heel on these socks, I've finally gotten to the interesting patterny bits.

Remember, these were deliberately chosen as travel knitting, and yet I didn't want to make something totally plain. Also, while my brother-in-law Tim is a pretty laid-back kind of guy, I didn't want anything too girly (he refers to his wood shop as the Man-Cave, okay?), or more importantly with a lot of YOs that would make the socks less warm than they ought to be. We live in New Hampshire- warm comes first, pretty second.

So in choosing a pattern, it was natural to look to our neighbors to the north, and borrow the Yarn Harlot's charming pattern for Earl Grey socks. I love the little teensy cables, and executed in Tim's favorite dashing red, I thought they would be quite stunning.

But when I got going, I discovered I needed to make a few changes. Because I'm trying to use up as much of the yarn as possible, I decided to knit them toe up instead of top down. And I was knitting these in the car, and didn't print the pictures out with the pattern, so I had to kind of improvise from memory the cabling down the foot. And I was still away from a computer when I got to the top of the gusset, and I had no recollection whatsoever what the transition from foot to the cable panel on the leg looked like. So I just winged it.

I wish I could say knitting the sock with a heel flap was part of some brilliant master plan to compare different heel constructions. But actually, I just happened to have flipped open my book of sock patterns to remind myself of heel proportions and that was the one I happened to get. (I may have to do my next set of socks with an afterthought heel, just so I can collect the whole set.)

We're going to pass lightly over the part where I ripped out the first heel attempt because I was convinced despite the evidence of the pattern in front of me that I was doing a short-row heel. (Peach herbal tea. Really. You were wondering what I was drinking at the time, right? Honestly, if you're sufficiently under-slept, alcohol is superfluous.) We're also going to refrain from speculating as to whether I'll be able to duplicate this piece of seat-of-the-pants knitting on a second sock (why borrow trouble, I ask?).

So, really, the little cable panel up the side is the only true Earl piece I haven't mucked with. But I think that Stephanie, of all people, would understand.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Enough Hobbyists to Warp the Fabric of the Universe

So, yesterday I went out to the Amherst Railway Society Hobby Show, a mecca for model railroading hobbyists of all stripes. Afterward there was lunch, shopping, visiting with in-laws, and more visiting with in-laws and eating. This is how much sock got knit:

I cast it on on the trip out, since the sweater is awkward to schlep, and the fan lace socks (my other WIP at the moment) are a bit too fiddly to be easy to work on in the car. Yarn is Cascade 220 superwash- I've found that one-and-a-half skeins makes a pair of socks. And since I had a bit over a half-skein left from the Christmas socks for my brother-in-law, clearly I needed to get another skein so I could use up the remaining half-skein.

At the yarn store I was quite restrained- I got four plus one extra balls of yarn for my cardigan (no excuses for not finishing now!). And, look, here's another ball of sock yarn. Now I know that I have said I don't buy yarn without a plan. Okay, it has a plan- socks! For um, me. Or perhaps someone else, if someone especially deserves nice wool socks. And I had really only planned to *look* at lace weights, because I have already bought yarn ahead for several more projects. But I loved this silk, and I do have a plan, thanks to the Tsock Tsarina, who recommended a lovely pattern to me. Now I just need beads. No, I've never done beaded knitting before, why do you ask? No, the pattern doesn't call for beads. I just think they'd look cool, and I have an internet and know how to use it, and.. yeah, this is how the whole cardigan insanity started. Hey, I'm having a creative inspiration here, let's not muddy the waters with common sense.

There was model train shopping at the show as well:

My husband and I are modeling New England-type town and country landscapes (in HO scale), and when we saw these kits we just had to snap them up. The house (country bank) is very reminiscent of structures in my husband's home town, and the sugar shack is much like the ones we visit on pilgrimage each March, in search of sugar on snow, maple cream and other maple-drenched sugary treats.

A couple of shots from the show:
There are more train show pictures, if you're curious.

The show is held at the Eastern States Exposition grounds in Springfield, MA. Commonly known as "the Big E"- it's a fairground with permanent buildings suitable for use in January. The hobby show expanded to take up a fourth building this year- and these are not small buildings. Think acres. The crowd was still quite thick, with a bunch more young people exhibiting (a welcome sign in a hobby that is dominated by middle-aged guys). It was a blast, as always. The highlight of the show is the big club layouts (built in sections to a common standard, they are carted to the show individually, and then all joined together to form gigantic super-layouts with room for very long trains.

Now all they need is to join forces with other area hobbyists, so they can hold a giant fiberarts/knitting/weaving/spinning and quilt show in some of the adjoining buildings. Fun for the whole family. (Not that there aren't women in model-railroading, but they're about as common as male knitters.) Of course I'd be doomed- I'd have to go both days to see everything!

Friday, January 25, 2008

How Many Balls Does One Knitter Need?

Well, I still haven't mustered the willpower to rip back the sleeve, but I have a pretty good idea how much yarn it took- three balls, and when I re-knit it narrower it will be less. Here's what it looks like when the cat isn't making it self-conscious:

The body will take another four, and that's how many I'll need to buy this weekend. The back of the sweater:

And in other news, the cable cuff mitts have been warmly welcomed at their new home. May they keep typing fingers comfy for many moons.

Tomorrow will be a day filled with passenging (yay, knitting time!) and various other excitements. There shall be a full report (and quite possibly cool photos) on my return.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Non-Christmas Cardigan, aka What Idiot Thought This One Up

(Having actually referred to the cat in my header, I thought it was time she put in an appearance- here's Woats, looking cute beside the vexatious cardigan in question.)

The Plan:
In October(!), having finished two pairs of socks and not having any other committed knitting on the horizon, I said "Gee, I've been having so much fun knitting Christmas stuff, I should do more- I know! I'll knit a sweater for Christmas!" So I enlisted spies to ascertain the desired color and obtain measurements, found a pattern and ordered yarn. [Name of recipient has been omitted to preserve plausible deniability should he stumble across this blog. Hint- if you think I might be knitting this for you? Stop reading now, please.]

Why I Might Not Have Been On Drugs When I Dreamed Up this Brilliant Plan:
1. I went on a trip to Hawai'i in November- where I was spending approximately 30 hours in airports or on planes- generally prime knitting time. My original plan said I would knit 30-50% of the sweater while on this trip.
2. I'm a moderately fast knitter. I've turned out baby blankets in about six weeks, which had roughly the surface area of a sweater, and were in a smaller gauge. I've been doing a pair of socks in two weeks- not as big, but they're in fine yarn with lots of stitches. The sweater is thick yarn plus large needles = fast knitting.
3. I chose a top-down sweater pattern to reduce finishing (inspired by the amazing posts of That Laurie), and so the size could be adjusted as I went (meaning that I should never get to the point of discovering the sweater will fit Tiny Tim or the Incredible Hulk, but not any living person of my acquaintance, never mind the recipient of the gift).
4. My database class last semester taught by a (quite good) professor- but he had the remarkable ability to talk for two hours without breathing, drinking water, or apparently noticing that his subject material would stupefy the most enthusiastic computer geek. Even he seemed less than enthralled. (There are topics that will keep me alert and interested for two hours of lecture- relational algebra, entity-relationship diagrams, and transactional concurrency are not them.) Knitting was a necessity. So why not whittle away at my Christmas list at the same time?

Why I Was Totally On Drugs When I Had This Stupid Idea:
1. Most of the flights were early AM. The ones that weren't were redeyes. I mostly slept on these flights. Additionally:
2. Though I had the yarn a week before the trip, the pre-vacation crunch meant that I only had time to swatch to determine what size needles I wanted to use and buy the needles. I had a generic pattern for a top down sweater with a raglan sleeve, but I hadn't yet chosen the patterns to go on it! (The original plan said that I would have patterns all chosen and on the trip I would Just Knit, but I ran out of time.) And while knitting is great for being able to pick it up for a few minutes here and there? Design is not. Many evenings I got in from sightseeing, glanced at the pattern, read half a page of a book instead and fell asleep.
3. I habitually underestimate the amount of work in a project and totally overestimate my own ability to cope, resulting in deadline crunches.

Why The Design Matters:
I'd have been much better off if I was doing a plain sweater. I'm not. [The recipient] loves cable-knits, and once owned a cabled cardigan* which he passionately loved and wore constantly until it fell apart. Several years ago, [my spy] mentioned that he'd really like another, but I was busy with a quilt, and deferred the request. Until now. So I wanted to knit the basic sweater pattern but with some modifications- make it a cardigan with a V-neck (like the old one) and with a new cabled pattern of my own devising.

Seems fairly simple, right? Wrong. It's the combination of the raglan sleeve and the damned cables. All the increases between neck and shoulder? Have to be done in pattern. That means I can't just add a stitch- it has to be the right one, to be part of the pattern that will be *below* it on the sweater (when it's longer). And it's not like I'm adapting a pattern I already had lying around (where I could have penciled in some additions). No, I'm picking a bunch of different cable designs I think will look good together, arranging them to suit myself (and the sweater) and trying to add *those*. Then, keep in mind, I love symmetry, and nearly always when knitting cables I'll try to make the left and right be mirror images. So in half the sweater I'm also flipping the instructions right to left to get the cables to mirror each other. Not surprisingly, this all turned out to be *way more* than I could do in my head. WAY MORE. So I spent most of the trip designing. Picking cables. Charting them in order and marking the increase lines so I could see what I needed to do for each set of increases. Making some minor changes to the pattern to help me keep track of what I was doing.
*Now that I think about it, the original cardigan was finished at 4 am Christmas morning. That was 15 years ago. Evidently, I have not learned anything.

Once the planning was done:

I only started knitting at the end of the last flight home (jetlagged, underslept, and all). I knew when I got back (mid-November) that I was basically screwed as far as the Christmas deadline. I still kept obsessively knitting until about the second week in December (I was totally in denial), but eventually I had to face the evil truth. So I put it aside (cursing mightily), and did other last-minute Christmas stuff.

At New Year's, I had part of the body and half a sleeve done, and a sinking feeling that I was running out of yarn. Also, the almost-completed sleeve? Was sized for the Incredible Hulk. So I ripped it back, and redid it. Two weeks later, the nearly-completed sleeve was sized merely for a body-builder with upper arms the size of a man's thighs. Rip, rip, rip. I put the sweater in its basket to think things over for a couple of weeks while knitting mitts and a hat. (Also, it's getting bulky enough to be less useful as travel knitting. Also I clearly needed a review of basic arithmatic.)

My mission this week? Reknit the damned sleeve and figure out just how much more yarn I need so I can get it this weekend at Webs.

Things I have learned from this experience:

1. Two pairs of socks ≠ a sweater.
2. A baby blanket ≠ a sweater. And even if the blanket and the sweater have the same number of stitches, the added complexity means the sweater will require more time. (This seems quite obvious. Now.)
3. Hofstadter's Law applies to knitting.
4. Hofstadter's law applies to knitting even when you take it into account.
5. No matter how carefully you calculate, if the project has a deadline, you will run out of yarn. Unless you seriously overbuy, and then you'll find you have enough to knit four sweaters (no, I am not kidding- here are two of them).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Season of the Mitts

I seem to have mitts on the brain this winter. Have you ever had that happen, one kind of project just takes over your life for a while? I still haven't settled on a pattern for Fair Isle fingerless mitts for myself, but I came across this leftover ball of Dark Horse Fantasy and thought- 'Ah, a pair of cable cuff mitts would be perfect for a friend of mine- she was saying her hands get cold typing.'

So I grabbed the ball and the pattern on my way to hang out with my friend Mary Ellen for a knitting date. She wound up taking down the Christmas tree while I started the mitts, but we had fun chatting. She's recovering from a severe attack of children, grad school and work, and was recently converted to the knitting side of the force by another friend. (I'm quite impressed- dragging a non-knitter repeatedly into fiber stores and making her fondle luscious yarns seems to have done the trick. Of course Mary Ellen was a weaver years ago, so arguably her resistance was low to start with.)

The cable cuff mitts are moving right along:

I find it curious that although I've knit this pattern at least three times before this- I still found two errors in it. Evidently I came up with a correction or workaround for them each previous time, without even realizing they were there. This time, I made a note on the pattern.

And in the interest of spreading the fingerless mitt joy, I wrote out the pattern for the alpaca fingerless mitts I made for my sister. (Okay, I also wanted to start saving patterns in a place I could find them again.) I should point out that these are totally worth making *just* to try the yarn- beautiful, beautiful stuff, and *so* soft.

Fingerless Mitts or Elbow-length Fingerless Mitts

Yarn: Reynolds' Andean Alpaca Regal (Bulky), 2 skeins (220 yards) (You can probably get wrist length mitts from 1 skein- I used every last inch of yarn in these, so if your hands are the same size as mine, you'll either want a third skein or be okay with the elbow length mitts falling a bit shorter.)
Needles: Size 5 US (dpn)
Gauge: 5 stitches/inch

Note on sizing: These were sized for for a large woman or med-sized man's hands.
Hand diameter at palm: 8 inches
Wrist diameter: 6.5 inches
Palm length: 4.25 inches from end of wrist to base of fingers.

These are cast on at the end of the wrist- for the fingerless mitts, use a provisional cast on.

Cast on 32 stitches (in working yarn for wrist-length fingerless mitts, with waste yarn for elbow-length). Divide onto three needles roughly equally, leaving the start of the round at the junction of two needles.

Wrist and hand to base of thumb:

Work in K1P1 ribbing for 2 1/2 inches.
Change to stockinette and knit six rounds.

Thumb increases:
Round 1: K15, M1, K2, M1, K15
Round 2 (and every even round): Knit
Round 3: K15, M1, K4, M1, K15
Round 5: K15, M1, K6, M1, K15
Round 7: K15, M1, K8, M1, K15
Round 9: K15, M1, K10, M1, K15
Round 11: K15, M1, K12, M1, K15
Round 13: K15, M1, K14, M1, K15

Round 14: Knit
Round 15: K15, cast off 14 stitches, Knit to end of round.
Round 16: K15, cast on* 4 stitches to cover the gap across the thumb, then continue knitting on the hand stitches.
* I cast on by twisting a loop of working yarn twice and putting it on the needle.

Knit 6 rounds.
Change to seed stitch (K1, P1) and knit six more rounds (or as many as needed to cover the palm to the base of the fingers. Cast off.

For elbow-length mitts:
Sizing notes- these are for an arm 12 inches in diameter just below the elbow and 9.5 inches from the inside elbow to the base of the wrist (that's 7" above the ribbing)

Unzip provisional cast on and put stitches back on needles.
Round 1: Knit
Round 2: *K8, M1* repeat 4 times.**
I found that a M1 in this yarn was nearly invisible, so I spread out the increases evenly around the arm. If the increases are more visible/less attractive in your yarn, you might want to instead M1, K1, M1 at the start of the round, and then increase 2 stitches every half inch up the arm to reach the desired diameter.

Knit in the round, increasing 4 more stitches every inch until reaching 1-2" short of the desired length. Change to K1, P1 ribbing. Knit the last 1-2" in ribbing and use a stretchy cast-off (I used a standard cast off with a larger needle for the first ones, then tried a sewn cast off for the second.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

La, a Note to Follow Sew

In between work and karate practice, I hung out in a bookstore for an hour and finished the hat:

To get the clean color transitions in ribbing, I used the trick of knitting the first row after the color change. I spotted this on a blog quite recently (within the last month or two), also for a hat, but I can't for the life of me remember where. And while a Google search has turned up a couple of mentions of this trick, I'd love to find the blog that I read it on. Anyone?

And now that the hat is sewn up, I've stopped wondering if it's big enough and have started wondering if it's *too* big! I tried it on and ribbing aside, it slithered right down over my eyes until my nose stopped it. Then of course I had to go measure my own head to try and figure out if it's exceptionally small- seems there's a five and a half inch difference in head circumference between me and the intended recipient. I'll hopefully be seeing him this weekend, and will find out if it fits!

Other than that, I'm still sewing drape, and finally got a finished picture.

As it turns out, there's more drape pinned now than I can sew tonight and pass along before the weekend, so the sewing will continue on the weekend and into next week. My goal for the weekend is to get enough done that I can get the library cleaned up and move the mess back into the sewing room.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sew, a Needle Pulling Thread

The project goal:
Make reversible sound baffling drape, (one side light, the other dark) until the light-colored material ran out. Then make plain black drape with any remaining black material.

We started with two gigantic rolls of fabric:

And we finished with piles of cut fabric:

We had less than 12 inches of each left at the end:

We turned out only 5 completely finished reversible drapes (about 20 linear feet when it's hung), but there are a couple in progress, and with all the cutting done, we've actually done a substantial amount of the work for the whole project. And there's a lot of prep work I can do for the next session without needing a second pair of hands.

The sewing turnout was small (not unexpected given the short notice). But it was a good thing there were some volunteers, as I had overlooked a couple of wrinkles that would have made this project extremely difficult to do alone. For example, measuring and cutting ten foot plus lengths of fabric is easier with two people.

And matching up two different colored pieces of that size and straightening them (for the reversible drapes) would have been quite difficult by myself. In particular, toward the end of the evening, when we were trying to get all the fabric cut, we found that two people made an enormous difference in speed. If I were doing this again, I think I'd try to get one curtain done to establish sizing, and then do all the cutting in one bunch.

The finished drape is on its way to its onstage debut next weekend. And I'll have to see just how much more can be arranged to join it this week. My chances of getting more done are looking up, as I was saved from the pain of shoveling the latest ten inches of snow by my lovely neighbor Bob and his Mighty Snowthrower. All hail Bob!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nothing Like An Overdose of Caffeine to Speed Your Knitting

So yesterday I cast on a hat, so I'd have something simple to take with me to the evening program at the Boston Celtic Music Festival. I got to knit in the car, while hanging out with friends before the concert, during the concert and after the concert while recovering from inadvisedly drinking caffeinated tea Way Too Late. While I am not especially well rested, I did make considerable progress:

start of a hat

Between the caffeine and the fast Irish music, it's coming along nicely. (I can't be the only one who knits faster when listening to fast music, can I?)

And now I need to go buy thread, as I'm hosting a sewing bee this afternoon. Yes, that's right. Sewing bee. Some time back I volunteered to make some new theatrical drape for a local organization. This isn't stage curtains, it's the kind of drape used for sound baffling that gets put up on a framework of temporary pipes to cordon off areas or to stop echoing in a large room. Simple sewing, and I could easily have done it myself if I'd gotten the fabric back in September/October the way it was planned. But no. The drape is needed next weekend, and the fabric only came yesterday. I'm just hoping I get a few volunteers to come help on such short notice. Next weekend- Aiee!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

OCD or Yankee Thrift?

A few months ago, my mom emailed me a question:
Mom: I need you to settle a bet I have with your father. Do you still have the coveralls you took to camp when you were fourteen? I say you do, and I win dinner out if I'm right.

Me: You can start picking out your entree...

My mom was on firm ground in making this bet, because I'm pretty sure she's the one who taught me the rhyme:
Use it up, wear it out
Make it do, or do without!

I call it thrift, though others have been known to remark that I can pinch a penny until it begs for mercy.

Which is by way of explanation for why I just took a cotton sweater-dress and shortened it to sweater length for my husband. It was a unisex design in a neutral color, except for being, well, a dress. In a sweater length it is completely innocuous for a guy.

But I'm a knitter! Why am I not knitting him a sweater, you might wonder? Well. My husband would cherish and appreciate a lovely handknit sweater. But he does indulge in a lot of activities that are not conducive to cherishing handknits. Many of these involve paint, stain, polyurethane, solder, epoxy, wood glue and other items from our extensive collection of adhesives. For these activities, commercial sweaters, preferably secondhand commercial sweaters, are just the ticket. And the investment in time is roughly equal to that involved in getting in the car, driving to a store, selecting a sweater and returning. While burning no hydrocarbons and involving no outlay of cash- my kind of project, in other words!

picking up stitches along the hem
I snipped a stitch about an inch below where I wanted the hem and took out the whole row. Then I just picked it up on needles, did regular cast off, and hemmed it. Result- one unworn garment belonging to someone with too many clothes, transformed into a garment for a man whose current sweaters are engaged in mass suicide.

I also spent a bit of time trying to avert the aforementioned mass suicide- resewing seams, chaining up laddered stitches (and sewing the ends firmly to their neighbors to prevent them getting further ideas), and my favorite- knitting patches for holes. I found the closest match I had in my scrap yarn bag, and unplied it to get roughly the same thickness as the sweater.

knitting a patch
I picked up stitches above the hole, and then knit the patch in pattern (including a wee cable) until it was long enough, then cast it off and sewed down the three sides with ordinary sewing thread. No more ventilated elbows. It's only a stopgap of course, but it'll buy him few more months, and around here, we'll seize any excuse to avoid clothes-shopping.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

In the Eyes of the World

I can't imagine that there's any place in the free world not aware of this, but today is primary day in New Hampshire. Yes, this is the season when every registered voter in the state has the constitutional right to have presidential candidates wash their
car and come over for coffee. And all we have to do is endure our mailboxes being stuffed with glossy political ads (any really environmentally sensitive candidate would give up the glossy and at least give me something I can burn in the wood stove- heating oil is expensive), and the phone and doorbell ringing off the hook under the onslaught of canvassers, pollsters, volunteers inviting us to hear candidates speak, recordings not giving us a choice about hearing candidates speak, and similar insanity. Thank heavens it's almost over. All I have to do is delete all the messages on the answering machine, tell a few dozen people I've already voted, thanks, and then wait for the polls to close.

So, what does this have to do with crafting, you were wondering? Good question. *pause while I retrace my train of thought* Ah, yes, so last night we decided to go out to dinner to avoid a few dozen phone calls, and I took these with me:

The second pair of fingerless mitts. The big yarn just makes them fly- I cast them on over the weekend. So these will go off to join their mates with my sister, while I contemplate mitts for myself. I'm thinking of trying colorwork. I have some really lovely merino that a friend gave me, and I've been looking at Fair Isle sites. And in the meantime, some of the merino will go into a hat for my friend Allen. I was quite amused to read this entry in the Yarn Harlot blog, regarding head size- Allen's wife asked if I would knit him a hat because he has a large head, and while he can find knit hats that he can wear, they tend to ride up. (Am I alone in thinking this means they're too small?) I'm thinking it will have to be deeper in proportion to the head diameter as well, and I'll do a folded cuff so he can adjust how far down to pull it.

And in somewhat sad news, today I finished reading all the back archives of the YH blog. That leaves me just the three books still to read. My mother gave me the first for Christmas (after pre-reading it to be sure it was 'good enough'- she enjoyed it as much as I did). And she said that the second didn't arrive in time for Christmas, and I can have it as soon as she reads it. (There is a long tradition of pre-reading gift books in my family, lest you think that this is uncouth. But I don't think I'm unconscionably suspicious to wonder if it didn't arrive in time for mom to read it before Christmas. I mean, I'm sure it really was late, my mom wouldn't fib about such a thing. I just...wonder. Not that I would consider such a thing myself.) But, the end is in sight- soon I'll be reduced to just waiting for new books and the latest blog posts along with everyone else.

Of course, there are many, many knit blogs out there, and at the moment my 'regular read' list is quite small (Hi Karen!). So I have been cruising around checking out others to satisfy my addiction to feed my habit to add to my regular reading list.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

There and Back Again

2007 was the year that I rediscovered knitting.

I've knit for over twenty years- My mother taught me at my request when I was in college. (I'd tried once before, at age 12, and lost interest quickly in a morass of dropped stitches and bewildering tangles. I was an exceptionally poorly coordinated child.) At eighteen, I picked it up more quickly than any other skill I have ever learned before or since, the stitches slipping smoothly and evenly across the needles. Day one, I began a pair of children's mittens for the charity bag. Day three I cast them off. Day four I started mittens for myself. At three months I proudly cast off my first sweater and immediately started planning a more elaborate one.

I knit sweaters from patterns I found in magazines that my mother bought at yard sales, or in books from the library, or given to us by friends. I knit the two-needle flat mittens the same way my mother and grandmother did. I tried all sorts of patterned knitting and made a sweater in several colors for a friend. The result was wearable if not perfect. When I'd finish one thing, I'd cast around for something with a different pattern or technique in it. I quickly found myself well beyond my mother's level of interest in the craft. My mom mainly knits to fill in a few spare moments or while watching TV. This fall she recorded her 1000th(!) pair of mittens for the charity bag, and she's made endless numbers of slippers, mittens and hats for the family, but she rarely ventures anything larger. My late grandmother was a more ambitious knitter and crocheter, but I didn't see her often enough for her to be a real influence on my knitting.

Which is a roundabout way to say that I've never really known anyone whom I could ask about the more complex bits of knitting. A few years ago, my mother (a passionate and inventive quilter) drew me into quilting for a few years. I made a number of smallish quilts and greatly enjoyed them. But after my last quilt, I knew it was time for a break. Between work and night classes I didn't have a lot of time for designing and piecing a new quilt top, a necessary prerequisite for the quilting. I enjoy the designing, but piecing tends to be an irritating obstruction to be dealt with before I can start to hand-quilt- the part I find really relaxing.

It was at this point that an online friend happened to mention she was knitting a log-cabin baby blanket. Knitting! I remembered knitting! It's excellent for not needing an extended period of prep work. And baby blankets- what a great idea! I had several friends who had just had babies (and I hadn't yet sent a gift), or who were due in upcoming months. And the whole log cabin idea seemed tailor-made for some yarn I already owned- nine skeins of fine, fine baby yarn, in two colors. By the time I saw my friend's log-cabin baby blanket pictures, I had already taken the concept, made a bunch of changes, and was off and knitting.

It was the same friend who, when I bugged her for more pictures, pointed me at the Yarn Harlot blog. And now I was in love- this blog is funny, and creative and simply full of knitting. And links. And I looked at more blogs and websites, and patterns and yarn, new ideas and techniques and articles...and given that I spend roughly 90% of my waking hours umbilically connected to a keyboard, I am really embarrassed to admit that I never thought of looking for knitporn knitting information online. It's some kind of weird blind spot having to do with learning to knit pre-internet, I guess. But that was the start of my year in knitting.

2007 Parade of FOs:

log cabin blanket detail
log cabin blanket
Log Cabin Baby Blanket- the original pattern that my friend was knitting is (I think) from Mason-Dixon knitting, and was a garter stitch based blanket. While I love reversible patterns for blankets, I was afraid I'd find garter stitch boring. Not to mention that I was using a fine baby yarn, and wanted a pattern that would disguise the fact that I was using the largest needles I thought I could get away with. So I chose this lattice pattern (from a book whose information I've long since lost), and resigned myself to a lack of reversibility. There were several useful things I figured out while knitting this, but chiefly, to use a pattern in a log cabin design, you want the number of rows in the side stripes to be an even multiple of your pattern stitch plus any border (so that when you pick up one stitch for every two rows to knit in the perpendicular direction, you come out with the right number of stitches to make complete pattern repeats. Another thing was that I needed to put my garter stitch border rows on the inside edge of a perpendicular strip. On the outside edge they didn't match up with the pieces going the other way for the frame effect I wanted. Yarn is Wintuk Sayelle from Brunswick. And I have no idea where it came from- I think someone gave it to my mom.

Basket Weave Baby Blanket- The log cabin blanket was almost done before I was due to leave on a trip to England for a week. While I don't usually like to have too many things on needles at the same time*, I wasn't going to haul a nearly finished item along an the whole trip. Clearly, I needed more yarn. So I went off to the LYS, and found a nice wool blend. It's an uncharacteristically country sort of pink for me, but it was a lovely soft yarn, worsted weight (I was still twitching from the baby yarn) and this was going to an infant in the north woods of Maine. And it was washable (I think that things intended to be spit up on should preferably be machine washable. Particularly if you want them to be used.) This one was reversible, using a simple basket weave pattern for the center and seed stitch for the border. The yarn is...ah...a mystery. I appear not to have saved the ball band. (Edit: Ahah! I found it. I won't speculate on what the ball-band was doing behind the TV, but the yarn was Plymouth Encore, 75% acrylic/25% wool Color: 0241.)
*I realize that this is not a usual kind of phenomenon, but I am that rarity, the non-stashing project knitter. My 'stash' consists of two small bags of yarn that has been given to me (non-stashing does *not* mean I'm silly enough to turn down free yarn), plus whatever I've bought for projects in progress. While I don't practice strict project monogamy, it's fairly unusual for me to have more than two knitting projects going at once. The number of different kinds of projects- carpentry, sewing, writing, knitting, etc, can be quite large.

At about the halfway point in the basket weave blanket (and when I was still finishing the log cabin one), I found out that I was about to become an aunt again. But I couldn't face another pastel, so I found a clear bright red for the next one. This is the Diamond Filigree baby blanket, using another pattern from the same book as the lattice one above. The yarn is Dark Horse Fantasy.

By the third baby blanket I was starting to get a bit bored. (This will be a recurring theme, I'm sure.) So I whipped through a few sets of hats and mittens, so I'd remember what decreases were.

And in the meantime, I'd been looking at sock patterns, luscious tempting sock patterns. Socks looked so interestingly not like flat rectangles. And my brother-in-law passionately loves red wool socks. No, I'm not sure why. He just does. And while commercial wool socks are easy to find- red is a lot harder. So I discovered at the library (and later purchased my own copy of) Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks, and knit the first of two pair for a Christmas gift . While I can't provide a comparison with other sock knitting books, I found this one to be very well organized, with a lot of good how-to information and useful charts for sizing.

These are garter rib socks made from Country Yarn for Sox. They are seriously heavy, dead-of-winter, snow shoveling, keep-your-feet-warm-in-a-blizzard socks (fortunately, by Christmas we'd no shortage of blizzards). I also congratulated myself on getting a jump on the holiday knitting. (Ha! As you will discover in future posts, no amount of planning on my part is equal to my ability to bite off more than I can chew.) I also have to say that this yarn is positively enchanting as it knits up. You think it looks like a bland solid? Not so. The subtle heathery highlights made every stitch of these completely captivating. (We shall not speak of possibly rude words I may have uttered during my first attempt at kitchenering the toes.) These are my second pair of socks ever. It was a real wrench giving them away.

At that point, I started thinking that perhaps a pair of medium weight socks would also be good (okay, okay, so sue me, I just wanted to knit more socks!). So I made these- beaded rib, in Cascade 220 Superwash(Color 809).

By now it was clear that this knitting kick wasn't going to be a passing fancy but a more extended affair. In October, I decided to make a sweater for [name elided in case the recipient stumbles across this blog] for Christmas. While this did not actually come to pass (about which more anon), it did keep me knitting. In mid-December I reluctantly admitted that the sweater was not going to be a Christmas sweater, and switched gears to zip through a pair of elbow-length knitted fingerless mitts for my sister (big needles, bulkie yarn- gotta love it for those last minute gifts). The photo, on looking at it, is not very good. But, I'm knitting her a second pair, and will get a better photo of them shortly. Yarn is Reynolds Andean Alpaca Regal- lovely stuff. I chose it not only for the bulk, but for the plushy softness against the skin.

Christmas Day, I polished off the last FO of the year while providing a self-heating sleeping surface for cats beside my sister and brother-in-law's Christmas branch (a whole tree was deemed unwise, as the cats cannot be persuaded not to climb them). Appropriately, the mittens were for the charity bag (they're basically identical to the blue ones in the group pic above, so they won't get their own photo).

Peace on earth, warm hands for men, women and children everywhere.

Who Am I and Why Am I Here?

No, not in the metaphysical sense. Here is where I confess that this idea started more or less as, "All the *cool* kids have blogs, I wanna blog too!" But as I've read more blogs, particularly knitting blogs, I've felt an increasing urge to spam their comments talking about my own projects, babble on at length about tools and techniques, and in general hijack other people's space for my own ends. Which would Clearly Be Wrong. And most of the people I know in other contexts have limited or no interest in a new set of sock needles or the spiffy new bookcases my husband and I built in our library. So here I am, succumbing to peer pressure, not to mention the avid desire to connect with other folks who fondle fiber and approach power tools without fear.

As for who I am- I'm an engineer by profession, and compulsive hobbyist. I have dabbled or practiced all kinds of crafts; from sewing, knitting, quilting and embroidery to carpentry, upholstery, rug hooking and various DIY projects around the house. Knitting is more or less a ground state- small projects go on in the background even when most of my attention is elsewhere. While I certainly have done decorative crafts, my tendency is to gravitate to the practical- quilts to sleep under, knitted things to wear, furniture for the cat to sleep on.

I'm a native New Englander and currently live in southern NH with my husband and our unbelievably adorable cat. When I'm not obsessed with taking a break from projects, I love to read, write, hike, bicycle, ski, rollerblade, practice karate, and play several musical instruments with varying degrees of skill.