Friday, November 30, 2007

Public Service Announcement

If you have kids who are old enough to use the phone, or someday will be, please read this post from Sheepish Annie.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Math Lies

I know many of you are true numbers lovers. Just mention math and your eyes get all dreamy and you sigh with fondness as you drift away on a sea of equations. You know who you are. You weigh your yarn and count your rows and calculate your yardage. You swear by the numbers and smile to yourselves smugly when some other, less-number-oriented knitter makes a whopping huge mistake that could have been easily avoided by a few minutes with a calculator.

I am not one of you.

I am not a math-hater. Not really. I did very well in math in school and took the requisite three calculus courses in college. But I've never much liked math. Never saw the point, to tell you the truth. It all seemed like reinventing the wheel to me. Someone already figured out the answer/did the proof/made a chart, so why should I do it all again? And what's it all good for, anyway? I can't think of a single time in my life when I've actually used calculus outside of a classroom. I mean, I've never once said to myself while driving down the street, "If car A (mine) enters the intersection traveling south at 40 miles per hour, and car B (the other guy) enters the intersection traveling west at 60 miles per hour, at what point will car B impact car A?" I just slam on the brakes and cuss like a sailor.

Still, I recognize that math has a valid place in knitting. I use math, for example, to calculate the number of skeins of yarn I need based on the yardage. I use math to figure out how many stitches to cast on to get a certain number of inches in width. I even use math to check my gauge, although, as we all know, gauge is really just a myth.

But I know the truth about math: math lies. Examples are rampant in blogland. No amount of calculating and planning will guarantee that you will have enough one-of-a-kind, hand-dyed, laceweight silk to finish that gift shawl the night before your mother's 60th birthday. No matter how much math you have done, you will run out. Math cannot save you when you substitute yarn for a raglan sweater knitted in the round and have to calculate row gauge for the raglan decreases. You will end up with a sweater fit for an orangutan. And don't expect math to come to your rescue when you painstakingly measure the diameter of your baby's head to make absolutely sure that pullover will, in fact, pull over. It won't. Why? Because math lies.

Case in point:

I am working on a project using a laceweight yarn held double. I knitted a swatch (even though I doubt that there is anything truly useful to be gained from such an endeavor), measured my gauge, and calculated the yardage I would need for the project. I ordered just that much. I know this is tantamount to waving a red flag in front of the knitting goddess, but it's cashmere/silk, so, you know, I didn't want to raid the kids' college fund. I checked my gauge again when I started knitting, and all was well. I kept an eye on my yarn usage as I worked. And even though the numbers told me things were peachy...I ran out. Not a few rows early. Half a sleeve early.

I considered ripping and reknitting the whole thing with a single strand of laceweight, but even I couldn't stomach the prospect of ripping out that much lace. So I bit the bullet and ordered another skein, which is more than I need to finish. But since I'm holding the yarn doubled, I needed to turn one skein into two balls. After a little consideration, I set up my ball-winder and swift, got out the postal scale, weighed the bobbin for the ball-winder (15 grams), weighed the yarn (50 grams), and determined that, if I wound until the bobbin plus yarn weighed 40 grams, I would have divided the skein in two.

So I did. When I hit 40 grams, I cut the yarn, slid the ball off the winder, and wound the second half of the skein. Then I weighed the two balls. They weighed 25 grams each. In theory, and if math were not the stinking little liar that it is, they should each have had the same yardage, right? This is machine-spun yarn, after all. There should be very little variation in the spinning. Blithely moving ahead with this assumption, I fed the end of each ball into the ball winder and began winding them together to make a single, double-stranded ball. Things were humming along according to plan until, to my surprise and completely without warning, one ball--and only one ball--ran out.

This is what was left:

This is not a small amount of yarn. This is many, many yards of laceweight. And when it costs more per gram than, oh, caviar, gold, or enriched uranium, this is a lot of yarn to waste. There is, of course, only one explanation for this, and I will say it again: math lies.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Heaven's Waiting Room

I went to the doctor today. This is a momentous event for me. Having had some serious, mysterious medical issues in my past, I have learned to avoid doctors. It's not that I don't like them, or don't trust them, but medical science is really still in its infancy in many ways, only no one seems to have told the doctors that. I think someone takes them aside in medical school and tells them, "Listen. Patients expect you to have all the answers, so if you don't know, for god's sake, don't tell the patient! Make it up if you have to! Stick them full of needles. Pump them full of drugs. Cut them open for a look-see. But never, ever admit that you don't know what's going on! And if they question you, give them your most superior look and hand them a paper towel with armholes and the instructions to 'change into this and wait here.' Then leave them alone in an icy examining room for two or three hours to contemplate the error of their ways. You are all powerful. Never let them forget it!"

Or something like that.

I'm not sure what else could account for a neurologist telling me that, at age 28, I suddenly had epilepsy and should take anti-seizure medicine for the rest of my life (even though it causes birth defects and I was trying to get pregnant), when in fact, I had a growth in my brain--only revealed after I refused the meds and insisted on more tests.

Or the ob/gyn on call in the emergency room who told me that I was suffering from muscle pain and, "all pregnant women experience some discomfort; you'll just have to get used to it," when in fact my intestines had tied themselves into a knot, were weeping fluid into my abdomen, and had caused several blood vessels in my gut to become so distended that they were within moments of bursting by the time the surgeon finally got in there and untwisted everything. That time, it was only my husband's flat refusal to take me home from the ER for a third time in two days that forced the powers that be to admit me and do the necessary tests to discover what had turned an otherwise sane woman into a writhing mass of moaning, animal agony. Muscle pain. Yeah.

But I'm rambling. I went to the doctor today. Only the need for a prescription refill to prevent the arrival of any more joyous blessings can get me through the door of that office. I tried to get one in my usual fashion--booking the appointment, getting the doctor to call in the prescription, and then canceling with the promise to reschedule "soon"--but, apparently, they are on to me. The scheduler politely pointed out that it had been "quite a while" since my last "visit" and that they "have missed me." In this case, "quite a while" means "since shortly after the birth of my seven-year-old," "visit" means "forced appearance," and they "have missed me" means "ain't no way you're getting a refill unless you show up."

I know when I'm beat. I went in.

My doctor's office is probably a lot like most others these days. It looks more like an airport waiting area than a doctor's office, except that instead of vests and ties, the people behind the counter wear scrubs, and instead of a miniature pillow with someone else's hair oil on it, they hand you a scrap of faded fabric they grandly refer to as a "gown." Other than that, you can expect to sit around for hours past your planned departure time, crammed into an uncomfortable seat, with babies crying and sick people hacking on you until you wish you had just stayed home. The one thing that is different about my doctor's office than most is that the average age of the patients in the waiting room is about 103. And that's only the ones who still appear to be breathing. It's located in well-known retirement area. I privately think of it as "heaven's waiting room." I used to go to a nearby gym--it made me feel really, really young and fit.

I suppose I was fortunate. The office only rescheduled my appointment once--twice, if you count rescheduling it again with another doctor after mine decided to take vacation the week of my appointment. And then the doctor was only running 45 minutes behind. Add to that the 15 minutes in advance of the appointment time that I arrived in order to sign in, fill out forms, and pay my ever-increasing co-pay (because, after all, it would be rude to show up late and make the doctor wait for me), and it only took five weeks, plus one hour, of waiting to get in to see someone I would really rather not see at all. Oh, the joy of HMOs.

How is all of this relevant? Well, during all that waiting, I was knitting. I still can't show you a picture of this project, but I can show you how much yarn was left by the time the doctor finally tapped on the door and entered the exam room where I was stylishly wrapped in a hanky and a kleenex, shivering my over-exposed rear off while I knitted away on the exam table.

I smiled pleasantly as she apologized for the lengthy wait, using phrases like "patient emergency" and "not my fault," and I politely agreed that "these things happen," and gave her my most patient and understanding nod. "Oh, are you knitting?" she asked then. I held up my project, deliberately displaying the eight inches of yarn left dangling from the end of my needle. "Yes," I replied, quite mildly, looking her straight in the eye. "And you arrived just in time." You know that moment when someone goes really still, and starts paying really close attention? Like, when they've just realized they are in mortal peril and should back slowly away from whatever is staring them straight in the eye? Yeah. She gave me two years of refills. I don't think she wants me to come back any time soon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Death By Cables

I have been knitting, but much of it has been unbloggable. No, I'm not knitting gifts! I am working on a project that I'm hoping to submit to Knitty, though, so I can't share it with you yet.

But just so you don't feel too left out, here is some knitting I can show you.

This is the Dickinson Pullover from the Fall 2007 IK (my favorite-ever issue of any knitting magazine). I love cables. I love the texture and the appearance of movement and the way I feel so unbelievably clever when I execute one successfully, even though I'm just following the pattern. With my spatial orientation issues, the reordering of stitches to form fancy shapes is like a little miracle to me. But it is possible--just possible--that there may be a few too many cables in this sweater. And not only are there cables, but there are also pattern stitches and ribbing and shaping and charts. Oh, yeah. There are charts. Each row has three different charts, which all have different row repeats. Meaning, for each row, you have to figure out which row of each of three different charts you are supposed to be working. This is fun and challenging, but makes this project not terribly suitable for working while supervising children, sipping wine, talking, watching tv, breathing...

There's been a lot of frogging and tinking around here lately. And there may be a small row gauge issue happening, too. I substituted a completely different yarn, of course, and although my stitch gauge is fine, my row gauge is...not. I probably could have figured this out in advance, had I actually swatched in pattern, or even checked my row gauge at any point before completing the back of the sweater, but I didn't. Because this is a raglan sweater, the row gauge matters. One might think I had learned this lesson as a result of my ill-fated Ariann, but apparently, I am a slow learner. I am still telling myself that it's not significant and that an extra inch, or two, or three in the armhole will make no difference in the finished sweater. It will block out, right? And anyway, I hear dolman sleeves are making a comeback.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanks, Sarah!

Sarah designed a new button for our movement, and she is obviously far more talented than I in the graphic arts department. You can get it here. Thanks, Sarah!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No Knitted Gifts Button

Okay. For those who want it, here it is. I admit it's not that impressive, as buttons go. I'm not the most technologically savvy blogger. If anyone wants to dress it up, be my guest! (And let me know, so that I can grab it, too.)

No Knitted Gifts!--The Movement

Hello, my name is Suzanne, and I am a knitaholic. There is nothing I love better than knitting, except possibly receiving knitting-related gifts. And because I feel this way, I also believe that there is nothing better to give a loved one than a knitting-related gift. If I had any loved ones who knit, I would know exactly how to make them happy for the holidays with gifts of yarn and needles and tools. But since none of my loved ones knit, I try instead to make them happy by giving them knitted gifts. This does not always work.

Hard as it is to believe, not everyone appreciates knitted gifts. Even those who have witnessed first-hand the amount of time and effort that goes into producing them may not be all that eager to find one wrapped up under the tree. No matter how lovely the yarn, how intricate the pattern, how well-executed the design, they simply are not interested in receiving, owning, or wearing wonderful, wooly things that would melt the heart of any knitter. I won't go into the many sad tales I could tell of knitted gifts that earned a resounding, "Oh...thanks," and wound up buried at the bottom of a drawer or lining a pet bed. You can probably imagine, and anyway, I don't want to make anyone cry.

So this year, in the midst of all the buzz in the blogosphere about holiday knitting and deadlines and stress, I have made a resolution. I will knit no gifts for the holidays. That's right. None. Instead, I will knit things for myself alone. I will buy the loveliest yarns and find the most beautiful patterns, and I will wrap the finished gifts in perfect, shiny wrapping paper and put them under the tree. When I unwrap them, I will ooh and ahh over the softness of the yarn and the detail of the stitches. I will exclaim over how long it must have taken and how much thought and love must have gone into each stitch. I will put them on and marvel at the fit and the comfort. And I will be happy to receive such wonderful, personal gifts. Everyone else is getting Starbucks cards.

Now...who's with me?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Eenie, Meenie...

So check this out:

I've been swatching for the as-yet-unnamed blanket for Older Son's room. The swatch on the left, obviously, is knitted. The swatch on the right is crocheted. The knitted swatch on size 10.5 needles gives me a gauge of 13 stitches and 20 rows to four inches. The crocheted swatch on a size L hook gives me a gauge of 10 stitches and 12 rows to four inches. And therein lies the dilemma.

I may be a tad spoiled after Blue Skies. I really enjoyed crocheting a generous afghan in the time it normally takes me to knit a sleeve. Say what you will about crochet, this sort of speed is heady stuff. For Blue Skies, the fact that it was crochet was not especially important, since the boucle yarn completely hid the stitch definition anyway. But in this case, the yarn is soft and smooth and wonderful. This is Malabrigo, people. And crochet...well, crochet does not make the most of soft, smooth, wonderful yarn.

There are certain advantages to crochet, beyond the speed. It makes a thicker, warmer fabric. It is easier to work large projects because you don't have to keep the entire project on the needles while you're working it. With hand-dyed yarn, like this, is breaks up the colors differently than knitting, which may or may not be an advantage. And then, there's the speed...

But, to be honest, I like the look and feel of the knitted swatch better. The fabric is softer and smoother, I like the little stripey effect, and the v's...I'm a sucker for the little v's.

So what do you think? Knit or crochet? The fate of the universe hangs in the balance!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

FO: Blue Skies

Blue Skies is finished!

If you remember my original plan, you will note that there are something less than 35 squares here. In fact, there are only 20. I did not run out of yarn or motivation. But I've been sewing the squares together as I go, and when I reached 20, my younger son asked me if I could please stop, since it was already so heavy he was having trouble carrying it around. This seemed like a reasonable request to me. I was planning to make it big enough to cover his whole bed, but if his plan is to carry it around for snuggling, a smaller blanket makes more sense. So I stopped and put on the border. Again, you may recall that the original plan was a cream colored border, and I did in fact do an entire edge in cream before deciding that I didn't like it. The cream was too stark a contrast with the blue and brown. After a little consideration, I came up with the border you see, which I like much better. But the important thing is what my son thinks of it.

The night I finished it, I took it upstairs and draped it over him while he slept. He immediately curled up in it and smiled hugely in his sleep. I think he likes it.

Yarn: 20 skeins of KnitPicks Twirl (10 each in Summer Sky and Earth).

Needles--I mean, Hook: Size L plastic

Finished size: 46" x 56"

Weight (just for kicks): 2 kilos; about 4.5 pounds.

Friday, November 16, 2007

FO: My Son's Room

My son's room is done!


My older son is ten years old. Although this was a great room for him even before the makeover (although a bit messy), there were a couple of problems with it. First, the walls had not been painted since we moved in eight years ago. Can you see the puffy clouds on the baby blue walls and ceiling and the toddler transportation-themed border? It was really cool when he was three. Second, the dresser is way too small. It never occurred to me that kids' clothing gets bigger as they do and requires more space to store--until recently, when I could no longer fit even his relatively modest wardrobe back into the drawers on laundry day. So the plan was new paint and a new dresser, with a bit of cleaning and reorganizing.

The hardest part was clearing out the room so that I could paint. Unless you've done it, you cannot imagine how much stuff accumulates in a kid's room over the course of eight years.

By the time I got to this point, I had completely filled the guest room and the upstairs hallway, as well as several trash bags. I also discovered some unpleasant truths about children.

They have dirty hands:

And they wipe...things...on the walls:

I have my suspicions about what these rock hard, greenish raisins stuck to the walls actually are, but when you are the one scraping them off, it's best not to think too much about it.

I also learned something about "strippable" wallpaper. "Strippable" does not mean you can strip it off the walls. It means that you can strip the walls off with it:

Not to worry, though. A can of spray-on texture and a coat of primer and no one will ever know the difference.

Two days later, here is the final product:

In the above picture, you can just see the corner of the IKEA dresser that took me all afternoon to assemble. Here's a slightly better shot. It's almost impossible to get a picture of anything located under this window:

It is one of those flat-packed things that comes in a shoe box, weighs a thousand pounds, and, with the aid of 10,000 fasteners of various sorts, assembles to create a life-sized replica of the Titanic. It is a lot bigger than the old dresser and easily holds all my son's clothes without the need for complex origami folds.

You may have noticed that the ceiling does not yet have its planned constellations. We are still in negotiations about those. On the whole, though, I'm pleased with this makeover. No major changes, but a nice update for little money in a short time. And just because I'm so pleased with how well it all coordinates, here is another shot of the swatch that inspired the makeover:

Is there any question as to what I'll be casting on next?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Not So Crazy

All right, all right. I'm not really redecorating my son's room to match my stash. That's just a happy consequence of the much-needed redecorating. And if the yarn I chose for his afghan inspired the color scheme, that's not so crazy, is it? I love to decorate (are you surprised?) and I regularly redo rooms. In the eight plus years we've been in this house, I think I've painted each room at least twice, and some more than that--except my older son's room. I've done other things in there over the years, but there are lots of shelves and things mounted on the walls, and he has lots of heavy furniture, and just tons of STUFF. So his walls still retain the toddler cars-and-planes border I put up when he was two and the baby blue ceiling is painted with puffy white clouds. My son is ten. He's into science and computers and riding bikes and climbing trees. His room should reflect that, right?

So I thought about what I'd like to do, and I asked him what he'd like to have, and this is what we came up with:

The walls will be the light green on the top paint chip. It is green. I know it looks yellow in the picture, but it is a bright, spring green. The blue paint (which is more of a midnight blue) will go on the ceiling and extend to the upper parts of the walls in a sort of circus-tent curve. At my son's request, there will be constellations painted on the ceiling in silver metallic. How many and how large will depend on how long I can hang backward off a ladder, painting upside-down over my head. The fabric is the new bedding, which apparently could use a good ironing. And the knitted swatch? That, of course, is the new afghan I will be making. The yarn is Malabrigo Chunky in Lime Blue, from my stash. Yes, I do in fact have almost enough to make a whole blanket. No, I don't know why.

His room already has a nice, thick wool rug of multi-colored blocks. We're keeping that. His bunkbed and desk are light, natural-toned wood, and we're keeping those, too. His red-white-and-blue dresser and night table are too small and will be stripped and moved to other rooms. I bought him a new, larger dresser in a light wood to blend with the bed and desk. I have high hopes that this redo will last until he goes away to college--or at least for a few more years!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Seamin' Demon

Thank you all for your concern about Molly. She may be just a dog, but she is an important part of our family and her illness is distressing to all of us. She is doing somewhat better. The aggression has gone away, but she is quite wobbly and tends to lose her balance without warning. We think she has been having small seizures, because she has brief periods where she shakes or twitches or stares vacantly. She also has periods of puppy-like playfulness and energy, but they are infrequent, and mostly she seems very tired. She is eleven, and we think this may be the beginning of the end for her, but she doesn't seem to be in any pain and her family is here.

On the knitting front--or perhaps I should say the "crafting" front, the afghan for my seven-year-old's room has a name. Allow me to present "Blue Skies":

It's obviously not done yet, but I realized, looking at the growing pile of squares on my side table, that if I waited until I had finished 35 squares to start the assembly process, my well-documented dislike of seaming might well get the better of this project. So I took a break from crocheting and started sewing like a maniac. As you can see, there are 15 squares here. I need 20 more for this afghan. It sounds like a lot, but since I've only been working on this for less than a week, it's really not that much work. Once it's all put together, I'm planning on crocheting a wide border around the whole thing in a cream colored wool, also from the stash. My son's room is painted sky blue, with cream and brown furniture and a grass green rug and bedding, so I think the blue-brown-cream combination will coordinate really well with his room.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I'm having a great time making this blanket. I haven't crocheted in years and years, and it's really fun. Compared to knitting, it's so simple and quick, and the squares are the perfect take-along project. And of course, there's no pattern to follow, no shaping or fancy stitches. It should be incredibly boring, but it's not at all--just very relaxing. All of which is a really good thing, since the instant my ten-year-old son learned that I was making an afghan for his little brother, his face took on the unmistakable expression that means a sibling rivalry outbreak is imminent. Being the experienced mom that I am, I didn't miss a beat before telling him that the moment I am done with this one, I will be starting one for him.

Actually, the thought had never crossed my mind before that moment. After the kids went to bed, I searched the stash for yarn appropriate for his room and finally came to the obvious conclusion: his room needs redecorating. None of my yarn matches it. The next day we sat down together in his room and worked out a plan. After two days of shopping, I now have a garage full of paint, molding, electrical parts, furniture, and bedding. When the kids go back to school on Tuesday, I will be taking apart his room (a daunting task in itself) and beginning the process of reinventing it to match my stash. Just think of the savings!

Thursday, November 8, 2007


This has been an unsettling day. It got off to a bad start and went downhill from there. This was my morning to sleep in, meaning I get up at 7:45 instead of 6:30. I treasure my sleep-in mornings. I am not a morning person. I'm not even a before-noon person. (I barely survived the sleep-deprivation of the baby years and live in mortal terror of having to suffer through that sort of torture again.) As a rule, I don't get up until I smell the coffee brewing, because until I have my coffee, I am a danger to myself and others. My husband accommodates this habit because he is a generous and wonderful man, and because he fears what might happen if I had to function without coffee.

This morning, I was not awakened by the smell of coffee brewing. Instead, I was awakened by the sound of someone pounding--loudly--on the floor beside my bed. My family is well aware of the folly of waking me before I absolutely have to get out of bed and would not do so except in the event of a dire emergency. Since the only thing I recognize as a dire emergency while I am sleeping is a fire actually in the bed, and I did not smell smoke, I was pretty sure no human in the household was responsible for the pounding. After several long moments of denial, I finally acknowledged that this might be something requiring my attention, despite the lack of caffeine in my system.

I rolled over and peered blearily in the general direction of the pounding noise, only to see my beloved dog Molly in the middle of a massive and violent grand mal seizure. She was lying on her side and had clearly been asleep, but now her paws were pounding the floor, her head was thrown back, and she was foaming at the mouth and panting so hard I was afraid for her heart. I put my hand on her side, and at that point, my husband, who had heard the noise from downstairs and at the other end of the house, came running in, and with him, our other dog, Sophie.

Now, seizures are not unusual in Golden Retrievers, and Molly had a few when she was much younger, but not for several years, and never anything like this. It was very intense and lasted for several minutes. Finally, she stopped seizing, looked at me, wagged her tail, jumped up, and abruptly attacked Sophie. I mean snarling, teeth snapping, going-to-rip-your-head-off attacked her. We managed to separate them and I pushed Molly out the door, keeping Sophie in the bedroom with me. I figured Molly was just disoriented and didn't know what she was doing. So I got dressed, brushed my teeth, and opened the door to go downstairs. Molly was waiting right outside the door, and when I opened it, she promptly attacked Sophie again. Once again, I separated them, this time with Molly inside and Sophie out. Molly flopped down on the floor next to me and rolled over for a belly rub. After a few minutes, I tried to get out the door again, and once again, Molly went for Sophie. This happened over and over again for the next hour, every time Sophie came within ten feet of Molly. Finally, I put Molly in the laundry room and called the vet.

Apparently, there's not much we can do. It is common for dogs to display odd behavior for several hours after a seizure. I suppose trying to rip out the throat of a pack member constitutes "odd behavior," but it seems a bit extreme to me. I can't leave Molly alone with Sophie, and even though Molly practically raised our boys, I'm afraid to let them get near her while she's acting this way. When they got home from school today, she looked at them like she had never seen them before and stood very warily while my older son petted her on the back. I am hoping she'll return to normal after a good night's sleep, but what if she doesn't? Do dogs get senile? If anyone has any experience with this sort of thing, any advice would be welcome.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Speed Demon

Okay. I understand the appeal of crochet. I've been knitting so long, I had completely forgotten how incredibly fast it is, especially with bulky weight yarn. Fast, I'll admit, is not normally a criterion for knitting pleasure for me. In fact, I often choose projects in smaller gauges to prolong the enjoyment (and stretch my yarn budget). But when you're making a blanket for a twin-sized bed, and using stash yarn, speed has certain advantages.

This is the result of less than two evenings of work. Each square is ten inches. I figure I need 35 of them, plus a border, to make a decent blanket. Even at my most intrepid and unrealistic, I would quail at the thought of knitting 35 ten-inch squares for a single project. But as you can see, I have seven squares after only two days, which, if my math skills are up to the task, means I am one fifth of the way done already. I'll let you in on a little secret if you promise not to tell. Each square is only 20 stitches by 20 rows. That's exactly the size I make my knitting swatches--which is generally less than a four-inch square. These are like knitting swatches on steroids. I almost feel guilty calling this project "handmade."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The C-word

Some time ago, in the throes of an online yarn sale, I ordered some bulky alpaca-wool boucle yarn. A lot of it. Don't look at me like that; I had a plan for it. I wanted to make this jacket for my mom. I thought she would like it, it would be a good Christmas present, and it would be great for wearing in her freezing cold office in the winter. I liked the jacket so much that I decided I would make one for myself as well. (It was a sale.) So I ordered some cream-colored yarn for her and some brown for myself and waited impatiently for it to arrive.

When it arrived, I discovered that the color I had picked for my mom's jacket was bad. Ugly. Like a dirty sheep, only not as pretty. So I packed it up, schlepped it to the post office, paid the postage, and sent it back for another color. And I waited impatiently for it to arrive. I refused to cast on for my own jacket, because, all evidence to the contrary, I am pragmatic and realize that the chances of my losing interest in a project before the end are high, and the chances of my ever managing to repeat the same project are low. Getting my mom's jacket done was my first priority.

Finally the yarn came. It was just what I had hoped for--a sky blue the same shade as her eyes. Perfect. I immediately wound it into balls and cast on for a swatch. (I do swatch. See "pragmatic" above.) And that's when things started to go wrong. The yarn seemed unusually stiff. And difficult to work. And produced an unpleasantly uneven fabric. And my hands and wrists were aching before I even finished the swatch. I changed needles. Plastic. Bamboo. Metal. Straight. Circular. Different sizes. Finally, I wadded up the whole mess and stuffed it in the back of the stash closet to age, like a fine wine. Clearly, this yarn was simply too new. It needed time to mature.

And so it sat, for months, until last night. I was lying in bed with my seven-year-old, in his sky blue and brown bedroom, doing our nightly Harry Potter reading, when it occurred to me that a warm, knitted afghan would make his bed much cozier. A warm, sky blue and brown alpaca-wool afghan, to be specific. As soon as we were done reading, I dove back into the stash and pulled out the yarn. I collected a variety of needles and headed downstairs to watch Jurassic Park for the umpteenth time and swatch. I tried different needles, different sizes. I knitted tightly. I knitted loosely. I ripped and reknit and ripped again. By the time the helicopter finally arrived to rescue the scientists from the velociraptors, I had this:

A two-inch by ten-inch strip of stiff, lumpy knitting. My hands and wrists were throbbing and I was not having fun. Since this is the first of 28 balls of this yarn, the future of the afghan was not looking bright. And then I had a radical thought. What about that thing I used to do with yarn that wasn't knitting? The thing with the hook?

Like many knitters, I know how to crochet. I learned as a child in the 1970's, when everyone knew how to crochet. It was like macrame and long hair. You couldn't avoid it. But once I learned to knit, I stopped crocheting, because knitting is--what's the word?--oh, yeah. Better. So much better. Once I picked up the needles, I turned up my nose at the humble crochet hook and never looked back.

Last night, in my desperation, I crossed back over to the dark side. In half an hour, I had this:

A ten-inch square, perfectly suitable for a warm, fluffy afghan. At this rate, my son will have his new blanket by Thanksgiving. And with the boucle yarn hiding the stitches, you could almost mistake it for knitting.