Monday, June 30, 2008

NOOOOOOOO!!!!!


I cut the wrong strand!

If I were one of my kids, this is the point at which I would come running in, crying, "Moooooommmm!"

I finished seaming Sligo, wove in the ends, and then remembered that there were supposed to be slits at the hip. So I pulled and tugged at the seam until I found the seaming yarn and carefully snipped it...and I was wrong!

What now? I have a big ol' hole growing the middle of the lace pattern and I still can't find the right strand to cut to pull out the seam! Mooooooommmmm!!!!!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Illusion of Size

Thank you all for the encouragement on sticking with the plan to knit "too small". As you can see, I've managed to resist the urge to rip so far, but it's been an uphill battle. I think I'm reaching the point of no return, though--the stage at which I've knitted enough of a project that denial kicks in and nothing can get me to rip back--so I may be out of the woods for the time being. I'm starting to look forward to seeing how this fits.

Several of you made really interesting comments (and due to Blogger's refusal to release your email addresses, I couldn't respond). MJ's explanation of how she decides on measurements to use when she designs for herself was especially illuminating. If you haven't read it, check the comments to the last post. I design some of my own stuff, but my approach is decidedly less sophisticated. I usually "design" by holding the flat pieces of knitting up to my body as I go and decreasing or increasing according to how it looks. This works even less well that one would expect. Her method would probably result in garments that actually fit.

I was also struck by Tracy's comment that she always picks the size that comes closest to her actual measurements without going over. (Sort of a "The Price is Right" approach.) I have to admit, I read this three times to be sure I was understanding what she was saying. I usually start by finding the size that is closest to my actual measurements without going under. But considering the stretchy nature of knitted fabric, her method really does make much more sense, unless you want a drapey, oversized sweater.

And I have to acknowledge all of those who commented that they seem to be bigger than they think they are! Truly, I can relate. But since that issue only seems to affect my, um, lower body, it doesn't come into play in my knitting, because I have a strict rule about never knitting any garment intended for wear below the waist--ever since that unfortunate bikini incident when I was a teenager.

Oh, and as for the yarn, it's Jaeger Roma. It's not a yarn I would normally choose, because it's mostly viscose with a bit of nylon and angora, but I got it on sale for $1.99 for a 137 yard ball (www.smileysyarns). It retails for $10.95 a ball, so I couldn't resist trying it. To my surprise, it's a really nice yarn. It has a rounded construction and is smooth and soft. It is also very stretchy--almost elastic. The ball band recommends a gauge of 22 stitches to four inches with a size 6, but if you are going to buy some, you should definitely disregard this. I did multiple swatches, and anything smaller than 19 stitches to 4 inches makes for a somewhat stiff fabric. I'm working it at 18 stitches and 28 rows to four inches, and I love the results. I washed my swatches and there was no change in gauge. If you're counting, this means you can knit a women's size medium sweater from this stuff for about $20!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Too Small?

Does this look too small to you? Because it does to me. That's a 24" circular. And that's the beginning of the Gathered Pullover, for me.

I seem to have chronic problems choosing the right size to knit for myself. My thinking goes kind of like this: "I have a 34" bust, but I wish it were 35", and I know I'm going to wear a padded bra, so I'll say 36". This pattern has sizes for a 34" and a 38". 36" is bigger than 34", so that one will be too small. Better pick the 38". But what if my gauge is off? If I'm off by just 1/2 a stitch, it'll be too small. I'd better go with the 42", just to be safe." So I knit the 42", and my gauge is a little loose, and it ends up being 44", and then I wash the finished garment, which grows like mad (which I wasn't expecting, since I didn't wash my swatch), and somehow my new sweater turns out big enough to fit your average linebacker.

I think we all have misconceptions about our own body sizes. Did you know that a number of different studies have shown that most women believe their bodies to be significantly larger than they actually are? I am often surprised when I unexpectedly catch sight of myself that I look smaller than I feel. And I apparently have trouble accepting that the numbers on the tape measure reflect my actual size. (I've never found numbers to be all that convincing in the first place. We all know that math lies.)

Adding to the problem is my inability to believe in the concept of "negative ease". This just seems wrong. How can something smaller than my body possibly end up fitting? The fact that I have any number of items of spandex clothing that aren't big enough to fit a Barbie doll, and yet end up stretching over my ample butt just fine, does not seem to figure in my calculations. Nor does the fact that every single thing I have ever knit has ended up growing with time, wear, and washing, and not one has ever shrunk.

So after 20 years of knitting things that are too big, I'm trying an experiment. I am deliberately knitting this sweater "too small". Even though I "know" the 32" size will never fit, I am knitting it for myself. (Well, sort of. My gauge is intentionally slightly larger than the pattern calls for and should give me a finished bust of 33.7", if my calculations are correct and I knit to the same gauge as I did in the swatch, neither of which is a certainty.) I can't tell you how anxious and sweaty this is making me. I have talked myself out of ripping and starting over at least 12 times--and I'm only on the second round.

I think it may be time for an intervention of some sort.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Day Camp

"Mom! Mom! We went to a creek today and we saw tadpoles and frogs and minnows and water striders! And I caught two tadpoles in my hat but I had to put them back so I could wear my hat...oh, sorry...that's from my shoes--I wore them in the creek. And we climbed on these HUGE rocks and...it's just a little rip, and anyway, these are my old shorts...and then we had a secret mission and we all had to grab each others' arms and run in a big circle with our eyes shut and we built a fort and our fort was so cool and...I'm not bleeding, that's punch!...and our driver Kristen said if we can get all the way to 120 in the number game she'll buy us all donuts! She's so nice and she knows all the best jokes. And we went to the pool and I went off the high dive, like a hundred times! And tomorrow we're going sailing at Mission Beach...Mission Bay...Mission...I don't know, but we're going sailing and they're two person boats and we get to go by ourselves! Stop that--it's just a little sunburn...And the next day we're going rock climbing at Mission...I don't know where...somewhere and there's a rock wall that's 60 feet high and we get to climb it! We have to wear helmets and harnesses and everything! And we get to climb it! Oh, and I need a t-shirt for Friday because we're going to tie-dye them, and can I get a blue one? We're supposed to bring one from home...no, it's just sunscreen...Mom! Stop trying to get that out of my hair! You're pulling it! And did you know we went to a creek today? I caught two tadpoles!"

Newfie Knits

One of the things I love about knitting is that inspiration can come from anywhere. Even this:

For those who may not have met her here before, this is Sophie. Sophie is a Newfoundland--a very large, very drooly, very hairy dog. Sophie is a sort of living litmus test for dog lovers. You've got to really love dogs to put up with a 100+ pound dog that sheds constantly and drools like a teenage boy watching "Bay Watch." People who truly love dogs see her and exclaim, "What a beautiful dog!" People who maybe don't love dogs quite as much as they think they do invariably say, "That's a big dog!" But everyone follows up with, "Does she shed much?" Which never fails to make me smile.

This is the result of today's brushing. What do you think--does she shed much?

So you can understand how this much free fiber inspired me to buy a spinning wheel and start turning it into yarn. Which led me to the question, what do I do with all this dog hair yarn? It's very warm--too warm to wear in this climate. And despite all my efforts to spin a really soft yarn, it's more mohair than angora, and not the sort of thing I really want to wear.

The other day, I got this in the mail. Can you read what it says? "The Crafty Newfoundland Knits: Knitting Projects for Dog Lovers". It's full of charts for all sorts of intarsia pictures of Newfies doing what they do: pulling carts, swimming, running, guarding the farm. At least, I guess that's what some Newfies do. This picture is more apropos for MY spoiled suburban dog:

I laughed out loud when I saw it. And it occurred to me that the perfect project for all that dog hair yarn would be a sofa throw with this picture worked into the center--in fuzzy, black Sophie yarn!
Next winter.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Swallowtail

All the recent knitting and finishing has left me with nothing on the needles except for one lonely purse sock. So yesterday, I did a little stash diving for a new project. And I found this:

This is hard to photograph, but really quite lovely and soft in person. It is alpaca/silk that I spun a few months ago from a commercial roving. The weight is somewhere between fingering and dk (I think), and I thought it would work well for a heavier weight Swallowtail shawl. Now, my only other experience with a lace shawl was the infamous Icarus, and I've been avoiding casting on for another ever since. But it's not exactly sweater weather here (over 100 for the third day in a row), and I figured, there's no deadline for this, it looks very simple, and with heavier yarn, it should go really fast, right?

And it would be going fast, if I didn't have to tink back half of every other row. I don't know what's wrong with me, but I keep ending up with the wrong number of stitches at the end of the row. See how the needles are in the middle of a row? Yeah, well, that's because that's how I left it last night, after tinking back that half row six times! Each time, I checked the previous row against the chart, and each time, it was perfect. Each time, I carefully followed the chart for this row, and each time I ended up with the wrong number of stitches at the end. I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. The real kicker is, this is the fourth repeat of this chart, and every other repeat has worked out. So there's nothing wrong with the pattern. This is purely a matter of operator error. I'm hoping that it will magically work out this morning, with no children or guests around to interrupt my counting.

I'm also not entirely sure about this yarn/needle choice. Being handspun--my handspun--it's not terribly even. I'm a little worried that it is too rustic for a lace pattern. And I'm not sure I picked the right size needles. The fabric looks a little open to me. I don't know if this is good or bad. It may be okay, since the yarn is heavier, and knitting it tighter might make for a stiff shawl. I would probably rip and reknit on a smaller size, just to see, but this yarn is a little fuzzy and doesn't rip well at all. (Think mohair.) I don't have any extra, so I'm pretty much committed.

But one little shawl isn't much in the way of knitting. I think I need another project. I'm not that interested in socks, and I don't want to start another shawl, but I need something that won't be uncomfortable to knit during this heat wave. Nothing in my Ravelry queue is exciting me at the moment. Any suggestions?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summertime...


...and the livin' is easy!

And a little busy. The first week of summer vacation tends to mess with my schedule a bit, until the old muscle memory kicks in and I remember how to deal with having kids home every blessed minute of the day. We've been having lots of fun: playing with friends, swimming, shopping, lunching, going to movies, reading Harry Potter.

Yesterday we went on a field trip to explore San Diego's Old Town, which is really pretty cool. We visited a 170 year old Spanish hacienda, a more modest adobe house, San Diego's original one-room school house ("boys and girls playing together--eight lashes"), the original, teeny tiny "offices" of the first local newspaper (still going strong), the office of the "dentist" (who was also the barber and the surgeon--heaven help us), the old Catholic graveyard, and--best of all--our primary destination, the Whaley House, described as "the most haunted house in America." Stories abound of strange and ghostly experiences, and the boys took their cameras in the hopes of capturing a ghost on film, but alas, all we saw were a whole lot of live people. But we enjoyed good Mexican food, root beer floats, and freshly pulled taffy, so they weren't too disappointed.

(What do you think: does that bright blotch on the wall to the right have a face?)

I have been knitting, too. A lot, actually. I've finished the ribbed lace shrug, Sahara, a mystery pullover, and Sligo, but it was over 100 degrees today for the second day in a row, and I'm just not willing to model sweaters during daylight hours. It is supposed to be even hotter tomorrow. Thank God for air conditioning, though I shudder to think what the electric bill is going to be this month.

The kids start day camp on Monday, so I'm hoping to get back to a more reasonable schedule and catch up on my FO blogging next week. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wild

Yesterday was one crazy day. (Also known as "The Day of Bad Pictures.") First, it was the day of Older Son's fifth grade promotion. As one of those responsible for organizing and pulling off this little event, I was there at 7:00 am to set up. There were the usual minor glitches--not enough sun shades, missing extension cords, my son's name inadvertently left off the academic achievement roster--but on the whole, the event went smoothly. Funny what two months of planning will do for you.


Congratulations, Boo! Middle school, ho!

By 11:30 the clean up was done and we headed home to drop off our stuff. Minutes after we walked in, my best friend called to tell me she had her baby! This wasn't a surprise, since she went in to be induced on Tuesday (a week after her due date, with the baby already weighing nine pounds--and she's tiny). After 20 hours of hard labor, the baby got stuck and became distressed, so she ended up having a c-section, but mom and baby are both fine.

We took the kids out to lunch and a movie to celebrate Older Son's promotion. Ironman. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. It's really fun and entertaining and Robert Downey Jr. is great in the role. There is some violence, but I didn't think it was too much for most kids. I covered my younger son's eyes three or four times. (I'd say it was about on par with the Indiana Jones movies, and not as bad as the Spiderman movies, the last Star Wars movie, or Transformers, if that helps. We pre-screened it last week and decided it was okay for our 8- and 10-year old boys.)

By the time we got home, it was dinner time, and then I raced across town to visit my friend and her new baby at the hospital before visiting hours ended. And so I can present to you:

(Yes, it may well be the worst baby picture of all time, but it is the only one I managed to take without visible nipple, so bear with me.)

Nicholas Andrew
Born June 11, 2008 at 5:33 am
9 pounds, 1 ounce

Welcome to the world, baby boy!

Now I have to run: I've got to cut up watermelon and deliver pizza for 30 fifth graders before I serve donuts and juice to 20 second graders. And then I have to go order a birthday cake and buy 20 squirt guns for Saturday's birthday party. And we're out of dog food, live crickets, and dead mice (don't ask). It must be summer!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

YARN SALE!

This is a public service announcement:

Ram Wools is having a summer sale; all yarn, needles, patterns, books, and accessories are 30% off! Get ye there quickly: the sale is today and tomorrow only, and they've got good stuff! Yes, I already got mine. You're knitters, too, so I know you'll forgive me for waiting to post until my order went through. ;)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Say It Ain't So!

Last night after dinner, I cleaned the kitchen, walked the dog, got the kids headed toward bed, and settled in for a bit of knitting, movie watching, and chocolate. I was working the provisional cast on for Sahara, so I was a little distracted when my husband handed me a piece of chocolate and said, "Here, try this." But it was chocolate, so of course, I paused long enough to pop it into my mouth before going back to my counting.

About halfway through the cast on, I started scratching my chin. Not because of the cast on, although that would have been legitimate, but because it itched. And then my neck started to itch. And my face. When my back and chest started to itch a few seconds later, it got my attention. Not wanting to put down my knitting mid-cast on, I turned to my husband (scratching frantically at my head, which was starting to feel like a colony of ants had sprouted in my hair). "Do I have bites or something on my face?"

He looked up and examined my face and neck, then my back. "Nope," he said. "Hives. Bad ones. I think you're having an allergic reaction. And you'd better go take some Benadryl. Fast. Probably a food allergy. What did you eat?"

Pregnant pause as the horror slowly dawned on me. "Only the chocolate!"

Can it be? I've eaten pounds of chocolate in my life. Maybe tons. Candy, ice cream, brownies, cake, hot chocolate...I am an equal opportunity chocolate lover. And aside from the occasional stomach ache (and that fudge incident when I was a kid that I prefer not to recall), I've never had a reaction to it. But last night I did a pretty good impression of someone with a definite food allergy, and the only thing I had consumed in the previous two hours was a single piece of Hershey's Special Dark.

While the full import of this appalling turn of events sinks in, I'll show you this:

This is the beginning of Sahara, worked in the Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted I showed you yesterday. I'm getting perfect gauge and the fabric is a delightful texture. I'm liking the way the colors are blending together. I'm knitting with two balls, alternating every other row, to prevent any unattractive pooling. I'm a little concerned that the finished product won't look good in a variegated yarn--all the FO's I've seen are solid colored--but I'm going ahead with it anyway. What the heck--it's just yarn, right? If it's ugly, there's always the frog pond.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fly By

I have not one, but two FO's to show you, but I've had no time to get pictures, so it will have to wait. What with the end of the school year and all the associated programs, performances, competitions, and field trips (not to mention a birthday party to plan, Father's Day, and my best friend due to pop out a baby any day now), this time of year would be crazy enough even if I hadn't just picked up a complicated legal project that needs to be done asap. (I've spent the past two days mired in legal complexities--and spent last night dreaming about them. See? This is the problem with working. It's actually work. And it interferes with my knitting.)

So how about a little conciliatory yarn pr0n? This came in the mail today:

This is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted. I've lusted after it since the first (and only) time I bought some, which was for a sweater about two years ago. I drool over it online, pet it at the yarn store, scan the internet for deals, imagine projects...but I never buy any because, for wool, it's bloody expensive and it never, ever goes on sale. Contrary to popular belief (at least, my husband's belief), I am cheap when it comes to yarn. I buy a lot of it, but only on clearance or some other 50%-off-or-better deal. I just can't bring myself to pay retail when I know I can find something just as good at half the price. The thing is, nothing is just as good as this stuff. It's incredibly soft and smooth without any itch at all (and I'm wool-sensitive), hand dyed, superwash, and holds up beautifully. My two-year-old sweater shows no signs of pilling or wear.

I found this on ebay at a reasonable price. Still not cheap, of course, but the colors got me. Well, the colors, and the realization that I could knit Sahara with elbow length sleeves (a la Tammy--Ravelry link; I can't find it on her blog) for under four skeins. It looks pretty colorful in the skein, but my previous experience with this yarn has taught me that the colors really blend together when knit. The repeats are very short, so instead of striping, you get only a couple of inches of each color before it changes again. I found this disappointing with the darker colorway I used before (it looked muddy to me when knit), but I think it will work well with these colors. I haven't swatched yet, so we'll see.

With the exception of a second sock that's nearly done, and Sligo, which is in time out with only half a sleeve to go while I solve a color-matching issue, I have no WIPs. Not one! So I'm planning to reward myself for all the tasks I've had to plow through lately by casting on for Sahara tonight and watching a movie. Throw in a glass of wine and some chocolate, and it's my own little slice of paradise.