March 5, 2008

It’s Sprung!

Spring, that is! Early March and here on the San Francisco Peninsula, we’ve had a couple of good soaking storms during February, and now we’re about 10 days into nice – though we can expect more rain at some point in the next 60 days unless global warming has completely mucked up our climate, so it’s not all sunshine and picnic for a bit longer.

But when I walked out this morning to enjoy my morning caffeine ration on the patio, this is what I saw:

spring1.jpg

This corner of my garden used to be occupied by the oak tree whose stump you can see, surrounded by a 70s-era redwood hot tub that was, to put it kindly, rather decrepit. That is, the deck of the hot tub was ok to sit on, but the tub itself had lost whatever was holding the staves together some time in the distant past, and had become a haven for every six- and eight-legged creature native to the area, and probably some that were more exotic as well. For all I know (no way was I going to brave it) there could have been hissing cockroaches from Madagascar!

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March 3, 2008

Tulips and Toesies

At last report, the Tulip was in detention for being way too tense in its I-cord; happily, it saw the error of its ways, voluntarily frogged itself, and reknit itself while I was sleeping… NOT! However, it was very cooperative on the whole process, and I was able to finish it off in a couple of hours, which makes me almost feel like a “real knitter!”

I’m not one of those perfectionist knitters; I approach each new project with the attitude that ripping out is a learning experience. And I get LOTS of learning experience every time. With the Tulip, I was feeling pretty sure of myself, since I’d completed the Rocketry version last summer without too much un-doing. But, different pattern, different techniques. With Rocketry, once I’d gotten past the gauge issue, it essentially just skipped along. I love these patterns because they are easy enough to understand, but the color changes (and the methodology thereof) give you a bit of a pick-up every eighth row. Downside to that pickup is that every eighth row, you have ends to weave in. And as we know, getting a little over-confident is like a large neon sign to the Knitting Goddesses saying, “OK, whack me upside the head with a stupid and easily correctable error that will have me tearing out my hair and using words no self-respecting cat companion should be forced to endure.”

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February 19, 2008

Glub, glub, glub…

I finished the sweater! Unfortunately, I finished a sweater that would fit someone about 6 sizes bigger than I am – and I’m not one of those eensy-beensy little waifs either. I seem to have difficulty reconciling my body image with my body. Of course, no other knitter in history has ever done this, I’m sure. Still, I am determined to have a sweater I can be proud to wear, and fortunate that I’d decided on a top-down raglan. The neckline and sleeves are just fine, but the body from the armholes down seems to be sized for one of the dancing hippos in Fantasia, and has some very odd shaping to boot. Having put about $120 into the yarn for this, I will be giving it a second chance.

Rather than simply going with a stockinette body, I’m thinking to re-knit it with ribbing beginning under the arms and tapering into the center. In theory, this should give me a much better silhouette and be visually slimming as well – two birds with one stone! I’m also thinking that the bands at the cuffs (which you can’t see but are the same length as the one at the hem) should be about twice as wide; the way they look now seems a bit truncated. However, maybe the hem border will come off and I’ll just have it on the sleeves. So we’ll see if I can manage to redo this before warm weather strikes again.

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February 1, 2008

Good Intentions and Foul Results

Good intentions – hah! The sweater hasn’t been touched in three weeks; two days before a scheduled departure for parts snowy, I had about 3/4 of the first sleeve done, and tried it on. Either this was a very good thing, or really stupid. Had I just kept on knitting, I probably would have had a warm sweater for the trip – but it would have had sleeves wide enough to carry groceries in! OK, so it’s probably good in the long run, but I didn’t have time to finish it before leaving, so I thought I would take along a baby sweater to knit on the trip. I was going to try EZ’s Baby Surprise, and thought I had it well in hand, but I should know that every time I want to start a new project, I shouldn’t try to do it on the road. What with airports and hotels and a baby to tend and hours in a van, you would think it wouldn’t be that big a deal to do straight garter stitch.

In my insanity, I first managed to decrease only on one side of the markers; about 10 rows in, I realized the problem and ripped it out. Then I started over and was decreasing on both sides of the marker, but got confused (I think it was the 4:30 am departure without caffiene) and decided I was doing it wrong. Yeah, you try reading a xerox of the pattern in Midway Airport when the cleaning crews are all working and there’s a wide-awake baby making conversation and the TVs are all set to some shopping channel that is at a volume appropriate for a football stadium. So I gamely started it again. Somewhere near Albany NY, I gave it up and cast on for a top-down raglan cardigan.

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January 8, 2008

Finish-itis

Seems as though the holiday knitting, being all finished and gifted, has given me the boost to finish up something that’s been languishing since spring. I began this sweater in Autumn 2005, but got sidetracked by last year’s holiday knitting, and some doll-making as well. By the time it was all done, it was May and the weather was too warm to sit with a mass of wool (OK, not just any wool, but Louisa Harding Grace, a 50/50 wool/silk combo that just floats though your hands) on my lap. And as the weather cooled, it was time again for the holiday knits, but on Boxing Day I pulled it out and got back to work.

When I pulled it out of the project bag, it was just long enough to cover the bust. And there were only 4 balls of yarn left. Meaning I had to figure out whether I wanted to switch to the purple of the same color, make contrasting sleeves, or find more of the peacock blue. I lucked out and found it online, and went back to work with the goal of finishing it before I leave for snowy climes on Monday, since we California girls don’t often see that white, cold stuff and our wardrobes don’t work so well at below-freezing temps.

The extra yarn arrived yesterday, and this evening, here’s where I stand:

I got sleeves

Yup – body done, sleeves started and ready to transfer onto the double circs to work them in tandem. I think there may be hope that I can not freeze to death in the next two weeks!

And the surprise scart for my niece? Here’s what it looked like BP (before pulling). Baby alpaca, yummy colors, and entertaining as well!

surprisescarf.jpg

January 7, 2008

Stealth Knitting

Finally! No more carols in the stores, no more mailbox full of catalogs of useless junk, no more expectations; in short, the holidays are over and I am celebrating! I can finally reveal what was filling up the hours in my days for the past couple of months, because all the projects were gifts, and I really couldn’t say much about them. But now that they are given and gone, I can claim bragging rights!

The biggest project was a modified Cobblestone Pullover (Interweave Knits, Fall 07) for my son.

Almost done!

This was my first grown-up size sweater, which I worked on for three months, beginning with Lyon Brand Wool-Ease as I took off on a 2-week tour of the East Coast. I got about 4″ into the body and decided that I hated the yarn, so I left it in the hotel room with a “please take me home” note for the staff, and found the nearest yarn shop to Williamstown, MA. (FYI, it’s in Adams, about a 15 minute drive.) There I found a much nicer Marks & Kattens Natura and restarted the project (OK, that was actually the 4th restart, as I seem to have swatching issues and learn more if I just start something and muck it up a few times!)

I had just received my sent of KnitPicks Harmony birch interchangables and was amazed at how the sweater just zipped through my fingers! I’m not a fast knitter – or at least I didn’t think so – but was able, thanks to being on the road in a van with a string quartet and a year-old baby (I’m her travel nanny) for many interminable knitting hours, to finish up the body of the sweater by the end of the plane trip home from Boston. That’s record time! The sleeves (knit at the same time on two circulars) took another couple of weeks, and by December 10 I was ready to join sleeves and body and do up the yoke. And that’s where I fell into the black hole of knitting…

Did I mention that Noah is just over 6 feet tall? That the arms to that sweater were just under 22″ each? Or that the yoke evidently is sized to accommodate the wearing of protective gear? At least that’s what it seemed like as I knit on and on and on. Oh, and there was the neck modification, as he didn’t like the rolled neck and wanted a higher, stand-up collar, with buttons? But on I slogged, and on December 22nd, finished up the neck with a crochet edging! Huzzah for me! Most amazingly, the sweater fit just right, and he loved it, even with the cat hair additions to the fabric – Super Mom strikes again!

All done!

Of course, that didn’t mean I was done yet; there were stilll my sister and my niece to take care of. I’d begun a handbag for my sister in October, knitting up the front, back, and gusset/strap of it on my knitting machine, and adding my first Fair Isle attempt on the edge of the flap. I did manage to get it felted before I left on the sweater trip, but it sat unfinished all the time I worked on the sweater, so it was time to make a nice lining, de-fuzz the bag, and make it usable (and presentable!) While, as the maker of said bag, I saw all the goofs, but am happy to report that the recipient was delighted with it – especially the handy cell-phone pocket in the lining and the lovely silver/abalone shell button that closes it. And she promised to send me a picture of it, since I left my camera at home that day (and hadn’t yet learned to use the camera on my phone, tech-o-phobe that I am!

For my niece, I had picked up a lovely hand-painted baby alpaca in blues and browns when I was in Tucson, and wanted to make her some fingerless mitts (we are in California, so mittens aren’t really a necessity here.) No special pattern, I had just cast on and started working them both flat in Bluebell Rib, but here it was xmas eve and I realized that my knitting looked like crap… I had dropped stitches, gotten the pattern all wonky, and generally mucked the project up completely. So the niece’s present was a bag with the unfinished project. At least she thought the yarn was pretty and soft! But she wasn’t all that impressed with the idea of fingerless gloves, so I frogged the entire thing and did up a surpise scarf that I picked up from the Yarn Harlot’s At Knit’s End – simply knit every row (I did this on US4 needles) and when all the yarn is used up, cast off, dropping every other stitch. What you end up with is a very short scarf – mine came out just under 24″ – but when you pull on the ends, the dropped stitches unravel and the scarf gets longer and a bit lacy! A very cool trick and my niece got a laugh out of it as well – which is amazing given that an 18-year-old is too cool to laugh at anything her embarrassing aunt does!

So the holiday knitting is done, received, and appreciated. Now maybe I can get back to that Victorian Lace scarf I ripped back almost all the way. And a Baby Surprise jacket for someone who’s expecting a second girl in February. And finishing my teal wool/silk sweater before the 14th when I take off for another tour with the quartet to parts cold and snowy (Toronto is on the itinerary and I plan to do some serious yarn-crawling!). And getting a business plan put together, and finishing up a book layout for a client. But there is always time to knit – where did I stash that sock yarn?

December 8, 2007

What the Flock?

Aloha, Shalom, Salaam Aleikum, Bienvenue, Wilcommen, and Hello! What the Flock is my first attempt at blogging, and thank you for taking a moment to check it out. It represents how bemused I am at the rate at which knitting is taking over my life. You’ve heard the one about what the sheep herder did when things got heavy – he got the flock out of town…

I’m a semi-accomplished knitter who took up the craft about 5 years ago; it seems I’m a very slow starter but am getting up to speed and enjoy finding ways to challenge myself to develop my range of techniques and build my confidence, as you’ll see by some of my projects and how they grow.

Depending on the circumstances, knitting is an obsession,a learning curve, a tonic, and a depressant. But Obsessive seems to be the dominant mode.The fact that my car seems to have developed a yarn compass, or that yarn seems to be hiding in an inordinate number of places in my house, could be an indicator that I’m well into the compulsive stage. If I find myself in a new town, is it a problem that the first thing I do after putting down my suitcase is to look in the Yellow Pages for a yarn store – that is, if I haven’t already Googled that information, located my hotel, and mapped a course to everything that’s conceivably in reach and ascertained their hours of operation?

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