Thursday, May 31, 2007

Knitting Knots

I went to the chiropractor today, as I do every week. As soon as he touched my back, he exclaimed, "Wow, you're tense! What have you been doing?" I was too embarrassed to tell him about the lace knitting, so I mumbled some story about wild sex.

Thank you all for your words of encouragement. I wish I could tell you that I'm settling in and it's moving along. But, friends (deep breath), it's not going well. Does this look like progress to you?

No, I know it doesn't. But I assure you, this represents many, many hours of my life--hours that I will never get back. I was going to blog about the second dropped stitch, and the hour I wasted trying to pick it up before I gave up and ripped back ten rows (Ten rows! Trust me: it's more than it sounds.) But that was so many mistakes ago now that I barely remember it. After several hours of knitting and ripping and re-knitting, I think I am almost back to where I left off two nights ago.

There is a chance that I am not cut out for this. I think I may have a defect that prevents me from knitting lace. Maybe something related to my spatial orientation problem. Because I swear, I look directly at the chart. I copy every stitch. I check them all twice. I count the stitches at the end of the row. And on the next row, I'm missing stitches. Not occasionally. Almost every row. I've checked the pattern. I've looked for errata. It's not the pattern; it's me. Somehow, even as I recite "k2tog, yarn over, knit 1, yarn over, ssk," I keep forgetting the second yarn over. It's not like I've never done this before. My last three sweaters were done in lace stitches. So was the endless blankie. And let me tell you, I can yarn over with the best of them. So what the heck is my problem?

I need a drink of water.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dental Floss Might Have Been Easier

This is the result of two hours of work: one hour knitting, one hour picking up a dropped stitch. On row 14. There are maybe 7000 rows left to go. My husband's helpful comment? "But you only have one square inch done! You messed up already?" To which I responded: "Yes, dear. Thank you for your insightful analysis of the situation." Or something like that. Is it too soon for a "Things I've Learned" list about lace knitting? I may not have done much actual knitting yet, but I've learned a lot. So, for those who haven't tried it yet (or those who've forgotten their first time), here's:

Things I've (Already) Learned About Lace Knitting

1. Ball-winding is not for sissies. The first time I broke the thread (I cannot, in good conscience, call this stuff "yarn"), I gasped. The second time, I swore. The third time, I put my head down on the dining room table and had a little rest.

2. There is a reason they call it "cobweb" weight. A spider would be proud to spin something this fine.

3. It is possible to untangle laceweight, but not with your sanity intact.

4. Only pull out as much thread as you can knit in ten seconds. See number 3 above.

5. Black pets and white cashmere do not mix. If you do happen to have a black-haired pet, you might want to ban it from the room for the duration of the project. And vacuum. And dust. And clean the sofa with a lint roller. And wear an apron and latex gloves. You will still be spending a lot of time picking black hair out of your project, but at least you can tell yourself you did everything you could.

6. Enlarge the charts. Seriously. Who do they write these things for, microbes? I can see that there are markings on the page, but beyond that, it's anybody's guess.

7. Invest in stitch markers. Counting across 523 stitches to figure out where you are in the row after getting up for a drink of water (we all know I mean vodka, right?) could get old really fast.

8. If the pattern requires you to "p5tog," consider very carefully whether this is something you really want to knit.

9. There's a reason they call it a "lifeline." Without it, you just might not want to go on living.

10. If you drop a stitch, you're on your own.


I think I may have made a slight error in judgement. The yarn I ordered for Icarus arrived yesterday. It is beautiful. Cashmere and silk, a creamy white color, gorgeous sheen, ever so slightly fuzzy; in short, perfect. But this is my first experience with laceweight yarn, and, I the only one who thinks there's something wrong with this picture?

Is it really supposed to be thinner than dental floss?!

What have I done?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Now What?

As Sophanne pointed out in the comments to my last post, one must have WIPs in order to have FOs (does anyone else out there find it funny that knitters have their own acronyms, just like government agencies and large corporations?). After my frenzy of finishing, I'm a little short on WIPs. In fact, if you don't count the silk--and I don't, since I've only just cast it on, and I'm not sure if I'm going to go with my design at all--the only thing I have on the needles is Orange, and I'm on the last sleeve. That's it. One project. I don't even have anything waiting to be frogged and re-knit. There's not even a sock in my purse!

Which leads me to another realization: one must have WIPs in order to blog. Without them, there is precious little to talk about. So, since I'm a little short on WIPs right now, allow me to distract you with this: which finger are you?

I'm a pinky. Not sure how I feel about that.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Taa Daa!

Presenting, at long last, SPARKLY!

This started out as a pattern from a local yarn store. I changed the yarn, the gauge, the lace pattern, the length (2 inches longer), and the neckline (2 inches higher, since I prefer my nip---s covered). I added a lace border to the bottom of the back to fix a pesky row gauge problem. I changed the sleeve cap to make it rounder. And I added lacing all the way up the front (the original had only a single hook closure), to allow for the possibility of wearing it in public. A slim possibility, admittedly.

Pattern: Summer Lace Cardigan, from Common Threads (sort of)

Yarn: Berroco Cotton Twist in Fern. I would not use this yarn again. It is inelastic and splits like crazy. The rayon plies snag on everything. It's a shame, because the colors and shine are gorgeous.

Size: 35" finished chest. With the laces tightened, it just barely closes, and I have to squeeze my skinny arms into the sleeves. This very fitted pattern would work better with a more elastic yarn.

But it's done!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Three Down

Here is the completed Ariann II.

Pattern: Ariann, from ChicKnits

Yarn: Estelle 100% Silk, in Moray Tweed

Size: 36 (38" finished chest)

I am particularly proud of having finished this, since it was unwearable in its first incarnation, and has spent the past couple of months wadded up in the yarn closet. Now that it is resurrected, and actually fits, I am far more proud of it than I would have been had it come out right the first time.

Tomorrow: another finished project!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Now That's Service!

As you know, I'm trying to pick a yarn for Icarus. A few days ago, I sent an email to one of my favorite yarn suppliers, In it, I explained the project and asked for some advice about the yarn I was considering. I didn't really think anyone would get back to me, but I figured it was worth a shot. A couple of days went by, and I decided to just go ahead and place the order. Last night, I was sitting at home, the phone rang, and--to my complete surprise--it was the owner of littleknits! She saw that I had placed an order and knew she hadn't emailed me back, so she called me at home to discuss the yarn before she filled the order! She looked up the pattern online so that she could tell me all about the yarn used in the original pattern, then all about the yarn I had ordered, compared the two side by side for gauge, and gave me a detailed description of the relative weights, drape, color, and sheen. She was absolutely knowledgeable and helpful. It was easily the best service I've ever had from an online merchant, and frankly, better than I've had in most local yarn stores. And I should also mention that littleknits prices are typically about 50% less than retail on many, many fine yarns. Go see.

If you haven't yet clicked over to littleknits (bad timing on my part, huh?), here's the progress on Ariann.

[Note: this is not the color. The actual color is teal, with tweedy flecks of yellow and blue. I'd like to blame this on my camera, but I suspect operator error is at work here.] As you can see, it is done, except for the buttons and the tie (it can hardly be called a belt) for the waist. Let's hear it for no seams! I made a few modifications to this pattern besides the gauge change. I made the body an inch and a half longer, and the sleeves an inch longer, both to accomodate my height. I spaced the buttons farther apart to account for the length change. I picked up the collar stitches from the wrong side, since I don't like seeing the collar seam on the inside of the neck (and it's hidden under the collar on the right side), and I did the collar in 1x1 rib instead of garter stitch, just for the heck of it (I like the way the ribbing matches the button band). I made the collar about an inch longer to balance the extra body length. Other than that, I knitted it exactly from the great pattern. I enjoyed it so much that I will probably do a second one in wool or alpaca for cool weather wear.

How many more excuses can I find to avoid Sparkly?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Pay No Attention... the sweater behind the curtain. It's not green and sparkly; it's not even there. Look over here instead!

This is Ariann. Ariann has been in timeout in the yarn closet, reflecting on its many, many evil deeds. This is the story of a love gone wrong. When I cast on Ariann, I loved the yarn (pure raw silk), I loved the needles (KnitPicks Options), and I loved the pattern (Ariann from Chic Knits). All one piece, and two tiny seams--how could you not love that? I loved it so much that I knitted it for 22 hours in the car on a trip to Lake Tahoe in February. (My husband still thinks he wanted to drive for 22 hours.) You can get a lot of knitting done in 22 hours. A lot. If, however, you want that knitting to turn out well, you might want to consider leaving the kids and dogs at home. Oh, and the Dramamine. Dramamine and knitting don't mix that well. (Of course, neither do vomit and knitting, so you've got to decide for yourself on that one.)

Sometime after I joined the sleeves to the body and began working the raglan section, I started to wonder if maybe something was wrong. Not terribly wrong. Just a little, tiny bit wrong. Like, the raglan seemed to be getting wider as I went up, instead of narrower. But I drew on my seemingly infinite capacity for denial and soldiered on. After a few inches, I realized that it might be a good idea if I checked to make sure that I was decreasing the lace pattern properly. I wasn't. I was still working yarn overs, even after I had stopped working k2tog's. So while I was decreasing for the raglan, I was inadvertently increasing in the lace pattern. Huh. I fixed that little problem--if by "fixed" you understand that I mean I stopped committing the same error, without actually ripping back and correcting the previous errors.

The raglan began to narrow, but the sweater now seemed to be unusually long in the shoulder area. Still, it was narrowing, and I could see the finish line, and how big of a difference could it possibly make, anyway? Don't answer that. I haven't told you the whole story. See, as usual, I had changed the gauge for this sweater. The yarn I wanted to use was a little thicker than that called for, and I did the calculations and decided that I could just knit the sweater following the directions for one size smaller than I would usually make, and I would get the right dimensions. And I was right, as far as the stitch gauge went. I got exactly the 37 inches in diameter that I was going for. But I totally neglected to consider that row gauge actually matters when you make a raglan, because the row gauge determines how tall the raglan gets. My raglan, with the thicker yarn (and multiple decreasing errors), got really, really tall. Much too tall. So tall, it wouldn't have fit...well, anyone, really.

That it would not fit me became apparent as soon as I finished the raglan and tried it on. The armholes hung down somewhere around my waist. The bottom of this cropped sweater hit about the tops of my thighs. And the sleeves sagged over my knuckles. None of this prevented me from binding it off, picking up ten million stitches around the neck, knitting the collar, weaving in the ends, washing and blocking this freak of nature, and's the kicker...being surprised when IT DIDN'T FIT! At which point, naturally, I rolled it up, stuffed it in the back of the yarn closet, and pretended I had never heard of Ariann.

But it is amazing how productive I can be when I'm trying to avoid a task I don't want to do (even if it's just one frickin' seam on a sweater that shall remain nameless). In a frogging frenzy a few weeks ago, I removed the collar from Ariann and ripped back to the bottom of the raglan. Today, I dug the partially frogged Ariann out of the closet, put it back on the needles, recalculated the decreases, and started over on the raglan. I feel clean. I feel redeemed. Ariann will make an honest woman of me yet. (As long as we all agree to pay no attention to the sweater behind the curtain.)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Two Down

No, it's not Sparkly. Sparkly has become the elephant in the room. I've taken to walking past Sparkly with my eyes shut and my hands over my ears, singing, "la, la, la" so that it can't get my attention.

Instead of finishing the last seam on Sparkly, I dug these socks out of the bottom of my purse, where they've been languishing for months, and finally finished sock number two. Just in time for sandal weather. But hey, this still counts as a completed project, right?

I love this yarn. It is Online Supersocke 100. This is my first pair of socks with it, and I'm glad I bought several balls when they went on sale, because I think it's my new favorite sock yarn. It's a wool/cotton blend that is soft, resilient, and easy to knit. It comes in a bunch of really fun self-striping colors (the only reason I knit socks is the endless entertainment of watching the stripes and pattern unfold). The yardage is great, too. I have size 11 feet, and there was plenty left over, even though I made the ankles extra-long. If you're interested, you can get your own at littleknits (less than $7 a ball; one ball for a pair of socks).

The pattern is pretty plain vanilla. I worked top-down on 60 stitches in a 2x2 rib for the entire top. I'm lazy. I don't like shaping ankles. I did a slipstitch heel flap, then continued working 2x2 ribbing on just the top of the foot until I reached the toe. Simple, no?

Friday, May 18, 2007


[Note: Comments were inadvertently disabled on this post. They are enabled now. Thanks for the tip, Faith.]

Woo hoo! I've been tagged! I think I may be unreasonably excited about this, but then, I never was one of the cool kids. Faith! (of No More Sweaters!) tagged me for the "8 random facts" meme.

1. Each player starts with 8 random facts about themselves.
2. People who are tagged write a blog post about their 8 random things and post the rules.
3. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and post their names.
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

8 (weird) things about me:

1. I went on my first date when I was 13. I only went because my best friend wanted to go out with a boy she liked, and he would only go if his best friend came along, and HE would only go if my friend found a date for him, too. That's how I ended up going on my first date with a boy who was known far and wide for once peeing while playing on the swings in elementary school. I didn't go on another date until I was 18.

2. Although my IQ places me well into Mensa territory, I have absolutely no sense of direction. I can get lost only blocks from my own house. I went to a job interview in downtown Philadelphia once, only a few miles from my apartment (in a straight line on the same street), and ended up in rural New Jersey. I also dropped a friend off at the train station and somehow found myself driving around underground, across the railroad tracks, in the pitch dark. Scared the living daylights out of me when a train came through.

3. I collect animals like some people collect snow globes or bobble head dolls. I pick them up while I'm out, or people give me their cast offs. I'm not even sure where some of them have come from. At the moment, I'm on a pet diet--we only have two dogs, a snake, a gecko, a tortoise, and some bugs.

4. I've had the same hairstyle since I was 16, not because I like it, but because I have no idea what else to do with it.

5. I turned down marriage proposals from three different men before I agreed to marry my husband. I was never all that excited about marriage, but oddly, I'm blissfully happy married to my husband.

6. My right butt cheek is significantly larger than my left (is that too much information?). This bothers me enough that I secretly fantasize about having liposuction to even them out, but not enough that I will ever really do it.

7. I have an excellent memory, and I recall in perfect detail every embarrassing thing I've ever done or said. These memories regularly pop up at inconvenient moments, causing me to blush profusely for reasons that are completely unknown to those around me.

8. I once pulled an all-nighter forging then-President Bill Clinton's signature on a bunch of formal cards to members of the Russian government. I was a junior diplomat assigned to deliver the official gifts from the President to the Russian government during a presidential visit to Moscow, but the gifts had been addressed by the White House using an old list of government officials. When I got the gifts, I discovered that most of the officials listed had since resigned, been kicked out, been arrested, or died. When I called my superior in a panic, I was ordered to rewrite the cards to the correct people and forge the President's signature. I spent the whole night hyperventilating, convinced that I was going to be found out and sent to wherever it is they send people who forge the President's signature. I only realized later that chances were, no one ever even looked at the gifts, much less the cards. But somewhere out there in some storage unit, there may be a bunch of forged cards on fake White House stationery.

Whew! If that doesn't satisfy your appetite for weird random facts about me, you can click on "100 Things About Me" in the sidebar.

I'm tagging:

Alaska Stick Girl
Quail Hill Knits
Cosmicpluto Knits!
A Few Things to Say
Knittin' Mom
Dogs Steal Yarn
Life's a Stitch
Anny Purls

I don't think any of you have been tagged yet, but if you have, or if you just don't want to play, you can disregard this.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

One Down

I'm happy to report that I've finished the endless blanket for my son. Amazing that something so small can be such a pain. The blanket I mean. Actually, I guess that applies to my son, too. I did get a few days' reprieve after I finished the body of the blanket while he decided whether he wanted a border on it. My crossed fingers notwithstanding, he decided it just wasn't complete without one--and he was right. It did turn out to be pretty cute. Almost as cute as he is, dragging it around everywhere and petting it when he thinks no one is watching.

Next up: Sparkly.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Icarus It Is

The bloggers have spoken, and my husband has confirmed: Icarus it is.

I am talking, of course, about the wedding shawl for my friend. Everyone who expressed an opinion liked Icarus best of the options I presented. Icarus was actually fourth on my list of four, but who am I to argue with The Bloggers? It is a beautiful pattern, and has the added advantage of being relatively simple, or so I believe. Time will tell how "simple" it really is. I still have to choose the yarn--I'm considering a cashmere/silk blend in ivory--and I'm trying to decide on needles. Since I don't have any that are appropriate, I have a perfectly legitimate excuse to buy exactly what I want. I'm thinking either Addis or KnitPicks Options (which I love).

In related topics, I met the groom-to-be over the weekend. They were in town to celebrate Mother's Day with the bride-to-be's mother, and my husband and I took them out to dinner on Saturday. I am happy to report that he passed muster. He's a soft-spoken, mild-mannered, intelligent type--just what I would have chosen for her if the decision had been mine. He clearly adores her, which was lovely to see. And he bought her a Rock, with a capital "R." So now I feel perfectly comfortable being absolutely delighted for her, and I can begin her shawl in good conscience.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Moral Dilemma

This is not a knitting post, except in the sense that I am knitting to deal with my shock and horror. Yesterday I attended my monthly "Community Collaborative" meeting at my kids' school. It's a really great and very effective collaboration (as the name suggests) between the school, the police department, and different community representatives, including the management of two large apartment complexes, several churches, and local homeowners/parents (whom I represent). During this meeting, the issue of child predators came up. There have been several incidents lately with children being approached on their way to or from school by an unknown man or men trying to convince them to get in the car. This sort of thing instantly raises the hackles of parents and teachers and is cause for an all-out effort to identify the culprit or culprits and get them the hell away from our kids. Now.

As part of the discussion, the school counselor reminded us of the existence of the Megan's Law website. Megan's Law is a California law (also passed in other states, I believe) that makes available to the public the names, photos, addresses, and criminal histories of people convicted of sex crimes against children. Now, I'm not an alarmist, and I believe that people should not have to pay forever for their crimes, once their sentences are served. That said, I also believe that sexual predators are not curable, and that the interests of the public in keeping our kids safe trump the privacy interests of child predators. So I think this website is a good idea, but I seldom check it myself.

As of yesterday, though, this has changed. I got home from the meeting and logged onto the Megan's Law website. I put in my zip code, pulled up the map, and noticed a flag on a nearby street. Curious, I clicked on the flag. A picture popped up, my jaw hit the floor, and I almost fell off the couch. I know the man in the picture. Not only do I know him, he is the live-in stepfather of one of my son's friends. My son has been to their house--without me. And this man's been to my house and been swimming in my pool with my kids. This is a guy my husband and I spent time with and determined was a "nice guy." Some nice guy. He's been convicted of "lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14." And he has five kids of his own, in addition to the stepson he lives with.

Now that I have this information, I am in a moral quandary. My son will not be going to this man's house again without me. I can manage this without telling my son why or making an issue of it. I can also avoid ever having this man at my house again. But what about the other kids who are friends with this kid, whose parents may not know about his stepfather? Some of these parents are friends of mine; most of their kids are friends with my kids. Do I tell the parents? Do I strongly suggest they check the website and let them discover it for themselves? Or do I just butt out? I don't know exactly what this guy did. The website doesn't give any details. We all know that the justice system does not always work the way it should, and people sometimes get off for bad things they do or get convicted for bad things they didn't do. I would hate to be responsible for making this guy an outcast if he's innocent, and I would hate to see his stepson ostracized for something that's not his fault. But I would also hate to sit by while someone else's kid is put in danger. What a mess. What would you do?

Reversed Shaping

Is there a paper shortage I'm unaware of? Has the price of printing ink spiked? Is it really so freaking expensive to print patterns that designers are compelled to cut out that extra paragraph it would cost them to actually write out the directions for the right front of a cardigan? Or do they just take perverse amusement in giving complex line by line directions for the left front, and then dispensing with the right front by writing: "Complete to match left front, reversing shapings."

It sounds simple enough, I know, and maybe it is for someone without my spatial orientation issues. I, however, find it nearly impossible to mentally turn "at end of next row" into "at beginning of next row," while making my "ssk's" into "k2tog's". If I also have to "bind off 6 sts" at the beginning of a purl row instead of the end of a knit row, or--god forbid--reverse a pattern stitch, I may as well start frogging before I begin.

As you may have guessed, I screwed up the right front of Orange. In fact, I did not mess up my "end of row's" or my "ssk's". No--I was so busy making sure I got every freaking "dec 1 st at end of next and 4 foll 4th rows while increasing 1 st at beg of 3rd and foll 8th rows" that I completely missed the directions for "shape front slope" that should have preceded "shape armhole". It wouldn't even be noticeable if I were four inches shorter on the right side than I am on the left.

Needless to say, I'm feeling just a little bit cranky.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"Things I've Learned About Kentucky"

I am still working on Sparkly. I have nothing to say about it that doesn't invlove four-letter words, so I've decided to share something totally non-knitting related with you.

A while ago, my dear brother, whose passions include antiquing, gourmet dining, and libertarian politics, decided to move from downtown San Francisco, where he had lived for about 20 years, to rural Kentucky. I don't know why; don't ask. But shortly after he moved there, he wrote the following, which never fails to make me laugh out loud. I understand that one of the local residents discovered this little essay online and circulated it through his tiny Kentucky town, and my brother is now rather notorious in those parts. In the interests of not offending anyone who may take this a bit too seriously, may I say that my brother fully intended it to be humorous, in a dry, tongue-in-cheek sort of way. Enough said. So here, without further ado, is:

Things I’ve Learned About Kentucky

Mufflers are apparently optional on cars and especially on pickup trucks. Of course, a beat up old Ford pickup truck, with big tires, and painted with a do-it-yourself, five-toned camouflage paint job would be pretty incongruous with a prissy, quiet exhaust tone.

Camouflage is surprisingly versatile. It not only hides dents and rust on your pickup truck, but it’s great for clothing too. You have your outdoor camouflage for duck hunting, your casual camouflage for shopping at Wal-Mart, and your formal camouflage for dinners with the missus at Arby’s. Camouflage works for pants, shirts, sweats, jackets, baseball caps, and for all I know, underwear. Fashion clothing designers: are you listening?

Speed limits are for sissies. Just because the highway has only one lane, is barely wide enough for your car, has deep ditches along each side instead of shoulders, and is wet or icy is no excuse for driving at a reasonable speed.

Churches are nearly as common as houses. There are about four churches on my street, which is about a quarter-mile long. There also seems to be a thriving real estate market for churches, judging by the number that have “For Sale” signs on them.

Rats weigh up to 20 pounds around here. Shoot, why risk getting BSE from eating beef when you have rats that size? And rats are free.

It can get cold here. You can tell it’s cold because you can see steam rising from your hands while you’re driving the car. That and the fact that after sitting on the cold car seat for five minutes, you can’t feel your butt anymore.

If you see an abandoned building, think again. Plenty of buildings around here look abandoned, what with boarded up or broken windows, collapsed porch roofs, junk strewn about the front of the building, and weeds three feet high growing all over the property. But chances are that the building, whether it be a house or an old gas station, is probably occupied by some old codger.

You really can’t have too many rusted cars in your yard. The problem comes when you don’t organize them properly. For instance, it’s better to put them in a neat row than leave them strewn haphazardly about the yard. Also, it’s nice to color coordinate them. Don’t put the red ones next to the green ones. Put the red ones next to the purple ones. I’ll bet Martha Stewart could come up with a clever way to turn all that raw material into something artsy.

Food, Gas, Beer. Three little words you always see on signs for mom and pop convenience stores. I guess that pretty much sums up life’s priorities around here. Actually, they left off Ammo, except that Ammo is two syllables. Oh, and beer really means Bud. Bud Lite if it’s a classy place.

Dinner theatre consists of chili dogs and beer (i.e. Bud) at a tractor pull event.

Chitlins is actually a food. I never knew that. You can often find it in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. Served warm, with some barbecue sauce for dipping, it makes a great appetizer.

Mobile homes are common. You have your single-wide homes and your double-wide homes. That is, until a tornado comes through town and you have to get a new one. Like buildings, just because a mobile home has boarded up windows, exterior paneling coming off and flapping in the breeze, and rust stains down the side doesn’t mean that it’s abandoned. Clue: if you see a beat up old pickup truck with a camouflage paint job parked outside such a mobile home, it’s probably not abandoned.

Barbecue is big around here. There are even regional barbecue cook offs. Meat is usually barbecued in a separate shed because every now and then the grease catches fire and burns down the shed. Barbecue is usually served with beer (i.e. Bud).

There’s a lot of wildlife around here. Unfortunately, much of it is road kill. Dead possums, deer, skunks, squirrels, and dogs litter the highway. Strangely, they don’t seem to stick around very long. Come to think of it, venison and possum stew are pretty popular around here...

New cars aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. The most popular kind of car is one that’s fifteen to twenty years old, preferably American, with shot springs so it rides low to the ground, windows that don’t roll up all the way, or better yet, are just plain missing, and pieces of the car dangling off it. I think the dangling bits of shiny molding scare off crows that might otherwise attempt to take up residence in the vehicle when it’s parked. Rust on the body is also a plus, as is smoke belching from the tailpipe. Point of style: never, never apply a camouflage paint job to a car. Camouflage should only be used on pickup trucks, and then liberally. It is, however, acceptable to wear camouflage while driving a car.

Baseball caps are always fashionable. In fact, if you see a male dining in a restaurant and he’s not wearing a baseball cap, he’s probably queer.

Periodically throughout the day I go on “bug patrol” around the house. The only real problem I have with bugs is from these creepy, inch-and-a-half-long, orange and black mud daubers (like a wasp) that wriggle their way into my house, from who knows where. Usually they hunch in the middle of the carpet, their black wings erect, creating a most aggressive appearance. But the other day I was sitting on the sofa watching TV and one of the little buggers appeared on the armrest next to me! What nerve! Twice I’ve had the disturbing misfortune of stepping on them, leaping into the air both times. I’ve nicknamed my toilet the WDU (wasp disposal unit).

Backyard playground equipment can be fashioned from almost any discarded appliance or automobile part. Washing machines, refrigerators, stoves, broken office chairs, metal or wooden desks, and rear axles from cars (preferably with the wheels and tires attached) make excellent toys. Basically, anything you don’t feel like hauling to the dump is a great candidate for turning into playground equipment.

You can actually find a taxidermy shop here for all those varmints you bag. You can’t say that about the city. So if you don’t feel like eating the 20-pound rat you killed, you can get it stuffed and display it on your mantle.

The large tree right outside my bedroom window is some kind of friggin’ nocturnal animal meeting place. Squirrels, birds, and raccoons regularly travel up and down it, chirping and chattering at one another, while dogs literally bark at the moon at the base of the tree. Every now and then a squirrel makes an acrobatic leap from a branch of the tree onto my roof and gallops across the roof overhead.

Religion is important here. Where else can you hear a diner at the next table in a restaurant say “I love preaching”? Or hear the word “god” uttered 67 times, “lord” mentioned 33 times, “pray” mentioned 14 times, and “preach” mentioned 23 times at one table in just half an hour?

The Civil War is still important. Do people around here realize that the American Civil War happened about a hundred and fifty years ago? It’s time to move on people!

Old tires – car, truck, ATV, golf cart, any kind – make excellent planters. You can stack them to make taller planters, and paint them white for a classier look.

Copyright © 2004-2007 Dave Eriqat

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dances With Yarn

Sparkly and I have come to an agreement. I will spend every waking moment with it, and it will cease to torment me with gauge problems, seaming nightmares, and fit issues. So far, we've accomplished only the first part of that agreement. That's the problem with these good time floozies: high maintenance, no substance.

I bit the bullet and took the first sleeve out of the body (again--for those who might be counting, that's three times). I ripped and reknit the last part of each sleeve cap to make them rounder. Then I sewed both sleeves into the body--with nice, rounded seams.

As I started to seam the side, however, that little gauge problem with the stockinette stitch back returned to bite me in the butt. The back was at least an inch shorter than the front. I sat and thought about that for a while. I definitely did not want to remove all my hard-won seams and rip out half the back to lengthen it. I also did not want the weird line that would result from picking up and knitting down from the cast on edge. So instead, I used the trick I figured out when I wanted to redo the ribbing on the Split-Personality Cardigan. I wove a needle through the back, picking up one leg of each stitch. Then I cut the knitting and picked out the loose threads, leaving live stitches on the needle. Instead of attaching the yarn and knitting down, which would have been visible (the stitches would have been upside down), I knitted a separate edging piece in the same lace I used on the front, and then grafted it (kitchener stitched it) to the body.

Yeah. 64 stitches of grafting. No joke. I pulled it a little too tight, which is why it looks like there is a seam there. I tried to loosen it, but there was no way. I'm hoping (all together now) it will block out.

I nearly have the little monster sewn up--just one more side/sleeve seam to go, but I've hit my limit for today. At least, I think that's what the twitch over my eye is telling me.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Science, Not Silk

The injustice of it all still rankles. I resisted. I did not knit the silk. Instead, I worked on Sparkly's seams (more about that little fiasco tomorrow). I promised myself that I could have the whole day Saturday with the silk. Just us, no interruptions. Then, at the last moment, my son mentioned that the science field day would be outside. As in, in the field. The dirt field. I just couldn't do that to the silk. What if I dropped it? What if there were burrs? What if someone spilled? But I also couldn't face an entire day with no knitting, so my old friend Orange came along for the ride. Orange, of course, is good, solid, reliable, washable wool. Orange is dependable. Orange can easily take a little dirt, a few burrs, even a soda spill or two. Orange is back in my good graces. Orange now has a back and one cardigan front.

But check this out.

This science field day thing was no small event!

There were 53 teams from 44 elementary schools--at least 700 kids, with parents, teachers, and coaches in tow! It was amazing. Incredible. It was like a major school athletic event, only for nerds. And there was cheering, and food, and prizes, and the kids were so proud of themselves. It didn't hurt that about half of the teams in each event won awards. Did I mention cheering? Major cheering.

It was worth getting up at 6:45 on a Saturday, spending 8 hours hunting for patches of shade, getting sunburned, and driving an hour out of the way with a carload of kids to avoid a pile up on the freeway coming home.

I'd do it again tomorrow for these smiles.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Of course I have none. At least when it comes to yarn. You all knew I had to cast on the silk, right? Here it is, in all it's glory:

And, oh, I love this stuff! It's like knitting with...well, silk, actually. It's soft and spongy and has a beautiful sheen, and it slides like butter over the needles. In an effort to make my 400 or so yards go as far as possible, I am working it in a very open lace stitch that I came up with while swatching. The yarn is pretty thick, so I'm thinking the finished fabric will have sufficient body to hold its shape despite the open pattern. I'm also trimming it all in a modified garter stitch to help give it structure.

Here's the swatch (unblocked, sorry), for a better idea of what I'm thinking.

I've worked out the pattern and started the back, just to make sure my gauge is correct, and now I'm trying really, really hard to resist working on it until tomorrow, when I will have many hours of free time sitting at science field day. What do you think the chances are that I'll be able to hold off? Yeah. Me too.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Ever have a project you had to finish that just didn't interest you? Of course you have. You're knitters. I have one going now. It's this "blanket" for my son. Does it look bigger?

It should. I think I've knitted about a hundred repeats of a lace pattern that just will not stick in my head, meaning every row is a new experience, and not in a good way.

But look at the ball of yarn. It doesn't seem to be getting any smaller, does it? That is not an optical illusion; it doesn't seem to be getting any smaller from this end, either. Ordinarily, yardage is a good thing. In this case, not so much. Since I have to knit until I run out of yarn, the more yarn...well, you understand. I think the knitting goddess is laughing at me. If this were a project I really wanted to do, and I had the very last ball of a discontinued yarn, you can bet I'd have run out by now.

But this weekend I am driving five fourth graders to an all-day science field day, where there will be nothing at all for me to do, except knit. (Yes, my kids are nerds. So was Bill Gates. I'm okay with it.) I've decided to console myself by starting something with this:

It's hand-dyed spun silk, soon to be a lovely summer camisole. Just as soon as I finish the endless blanket. Cross your fingers for me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


I've been hoping to finish the sewing up of Sparkly so that I could show you the finished product, but it's slower going than usual. The yarn is quite slippery, which is making it hard for me to sew it up evenly. And I'm not all that thrilled with the design of the sleeve cap. It's very squared off on the top edge and doesn't fit neatly into the curved armhole. I've already sewed the first sleeve in three times, trying to get a nice, rounded seam. My last effort still isn't perfect, but I'm wondering if I can ever get it any better. I suppose I could re-work the sleeve cap to make it more rounded, but honestly, my attention is waning. There are so many other projects I want to get to work on that I wonder whether it's worth the trouble. What do you think?

And then, there's this.

Those who have been reading this blog for a while may have picked up on the fact that my younger son is...persistent. And ever since he finished painting his very first skein of hand-dyed, he's been on me to make him a blanket. Out of one 100 gram ball of worsted wool. Well, okay. You don't get to be Mom without learning a few tricks. Notice the openwork pattern. And the fact that I'm knitting it on larger-than-normal needles for worsted weight yarn. And what you can't see in the picture is the large ball of burgundy-colored wool that's waiting in the wings, destined to become a border. A wide border. By the time it's done, it should be a fairly respectable small blanket.

And now for something different. I try to limit my posts to mostly knitting, because I figure that's what you're here for, but I'm so proud I had to share. I've been trying for years to get an Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia) to grow in my garden. I'm on number three, and none of them have done well. But this morning, I woke up to this:

I guess persistence does pay off.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Kool-Aid Dyeing Experiment Number 1

[Warning: picture-heavy post. Apologies to those on dial up.]

I've been wanting to try Kool-Aid Dyeing for a while now. I've never dyed anything before (except tie-dye t-shirts in the 70s), and since I love hand-dyed yarns, it seems a natural. I toyed with the idea of jumping straight to acid dyes, but it's more expensive, messier, and a bit more complicated, and besides, I love the smell of Kool-Aid in the morning.

Friday, when my younger son got home from school (the seven-year-old knitter who can always be counted on to help out with an art project), we went to the grocery store and bought every red or purple flavor they had. Then, following the instructions in the Knitty tutorial on Kool-Aid dyeing, we:

1. Prepared our yarn.

My son's is Patons Classic Wool, already in a ball, so we had to unwind it into a skein for dyeing. He doesn't seem to mind.

Then I tied the skein to keep it together for dyeing.

My skein (on the right) is fingering weight raw silk. Don't worry--it's been in the stash for a couple of years, and there are three more just like it. If I screw it up, it's not a big loss.

2. Then, while the yarn soaked in the sink (no picture; you know what that looks like), we prepared our pots for steaming:

3. And then mixed our Kool-Aid and prepared our work surface. All those baby medicine droppers are pretty handy.

4. Finally, we got to move on to the fun part. (Yeah, sorry about the picture. My hands were wet and I had to prevail upon my nine-year-old to take it.) I love variegated yarns, so we decided to do hand-painting, instead of the simpler solid color method.

5. Once the yarn was saturated with the Kool-Aid, we put it in the pots to steam.

This is the silk:

This is the wool:

The wool turned out much paler than the silk. The colors look almost pastel on the wool, and fairly bright on the silk. All of the colors are darker than they appear in the pictures. Evidently, steam interferes with digital camera colors.

6. After about 45 minutes, we took the yarn out and rinsed it gently in lukewarm water. And here's where things got a little snarly. The wool rinsed out perfectly, no bleeding, and looked lovely. The silk, however, bled, and bled, and bled. The instruction say to rinse it "thoroughly." I rinsed it so thoroughly that most of the color rinsed out with it. I guess the color didn't set properly during the steaming process, either because the silk doesn't take Kool-Aid colors as easily as wool, or because I did something wrong (what are the chances?). So I decided to overdye it using the stovetop method. I mixed up more Kool-Aid in a pot, put in the silk, brought the whole thing almost to a boil, and let it sit for an hour. Then I took out the silk, let it cool, and rinsed it. This time, it still bled, but not as much, and I decided to let it dry and see how it looked. It's now a "nearly solid" shade I'm thinking of as "mixed berry." It's okay; not great. I'll show you a picture if it ever finishes drying. My son's, on the other hand, is beautiful:

The actual color is a bit less orangey; more of a berry-pink, but this shows the variegation pretty well. I found that the colors blended together and mellowed a lot more than I expected, probably because I wasn't particularly careful to keep them from running together during any of the stages, including the steam-setting. The yarn went in the pot striped, but came out blended. Very interesting result.

Here's what I learned from this attempt:

1. Use more Kool-Aid. Although I followed the prescribed "one packet per ounce of yarn," this does not appear to be enough, at least for hand painting. If you were to just dye the yarn in a bath of Kool-Aid, you would probably get a darker color for the same amount of Kool-Aid.

2. If you use the stovetop-steaming method, be sure that the level of the water in the pot is BELOW the level of the steamer basket. Otherwise, you boil the yarn and wash out the color. Ask me how I know.

3. Not everyone likes the smell of Kool-Aid.

4. Even fewer people like the smell of yarn cooking on the stove.

5. Wet raw silk smells like wet tea, and takes days to dry. (Some people have a problem with this.)

5. Do not splash in the Kool-Aid when you get bored. (This rule applies more to the younger set, admittedly, but it's still good advice.)

6. In case you were wondering, Kool-Aid stains. That's why you can use it as dye. Duh.

7. Wear gloves. I cannot stress this enough. Wear. Gloves. And maybe an apron. And a mask.

8. Wool is easier to dye than raw silk. In the future, I will probably stick with wool for this method of dyeing.

9. The results are sort of unpredictable, which makes the process really interesting, but it might be hard to duplicate a particular color or blend.

10. It's really fun! If you are at all interested, you should definitely give it a try. It was much more exciting than I expected.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Meet the Contenders

As you might expect, I have been combing the internet, my shelf of knitting books, and the local bookstores, looking for a pattern for my friend's wedding shawl. I did consider designing one myself--for about a second and a half. Since I've never even tried this sort of project, and it's important to me that it not turn out looking like something the cat shredded up, I'm pretty convinced that using a published pattern is the way to go.

I have the list down to a few contenders. I have been careful to keep in mind my inexperience, and the fact that I have other things to do over the course of the next several months besides work on this project. Many of the truly stunning patterns I have found are so complex that they would consume hundreds of hours--and then only be appreciated by other knitters, which my friend is not. So I am going for effect, rather than a display of technical prowess. With that in mind, the contenders are (in no particular order):

Rosebud, from Heirloom Knitting

Icarus, from the Summer 2006 Interweave Knits

Snowdrop, from Yarn Harlot

and last, but not least,

Wing O' the Moth, from Knitspot

I do not want to bias you by telling you which way I am leaning. I would, however, appreciate your honest thoughts on the subject. If you were the bride, which one would you most like to receive? If you were knitting it, which one would you most like to knit (and why)? If you have any other suggestions, I'd be delighted to hear them. I figure I can take my time deciding (which, for me, means about 24 hours, since I'm a little obsessive when I get an idea).

Thanks for the help. I'll let you know my decision when I make it.

And now, the progress on Sparkly:

The fronts are done. The back is done. The first sleeve is almost done, as you can see. In its unblocked state, it is an unruly little minx, but it should block out fine. I have only one tiny qualm about it: I have already knitted 20 more rows than the pattern calls for, and this sleeve is still not as long as the measurements call for. Now, this could just be a matter of row gauge, I admit. But, oddly enough, the lace sections knitted up exactly to measure. It is only the stockinette sections that seem to be completely off. I noticed this, and blithely ignored it, while I was knitting the (all stockinette) back. I matched the rows counts and increases/decreases to the fronts, and came out with a finished piece that was noticeably different, size-wise. I am still going with "it'll block out" for the time being. But on the sleeves, there is no amount of blocking that's going to make them fit my freakishly long arms without adding rows. So I have. But I'm still concerned. See--this is why I write my own patterns. This uncertainty is disturbing. At least when I write my own, I expect to have to make corrections and reknit.

At this point, I'm thinking that either the back will remain too short after blocking, in which case I will have to reknit and lengthen it, or the sleeves will end up way too long, and I will have to reknit and shorten them. Either way, there is frogging in my future, and I'm not that thrilled about it. It won't be long now, though. A couple more days and I should have a finished Sparkly to show off.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

"Everything I Never Wanted"

My best friend from childhood (since the day in second grade when I chased away the playground bullies who were tormenting her) called me today with the stunning news that she is engaged. She is 38 and has always wanted a husband and kids, but she just never was able to find the right man. For fifteen years, she has tried every dating service, accepted every fix-up, been on every dating website. She has been on more first dates than I have dates total in my life. This is even more remarkable because she is one of the shyest people I have ever met. The mere idea of public embarrassment is enough to make her blush. I myself (not the shyest person in the world) would rather give up my stash (well, maybe not the whole stash) than go on a blind date, so I am terribly impressed by her courage and perserverance.

She is an amazing, talented, brilliant woman, and I have a theory that the more wonderful and accomplished a woman is, the harder it is for her to find an appropriate man. My friend is definitely at the top of the "wonderful and accomplished" list. So I was delighted (albeit shocked) when she announced today that she is engaged to a man I didn't even know she was dating. She has known him ten weeks, and, according to her description, he is "everything I never wanted." She is a nice Jewish girl; he is a Buddhist. She is Ivy League all the way; he doesn't have a college degree. She's an opera singer and voice coach; he's in construction. And they live in different cities. But she says he treats her better than anyone ever has, he's read everything and is very informed and intelligent, he has season tickets to the opera, and he's moving to her city to be with her. They've both met each other's families, and everyone gets along great and is very supportive of their decision.

I am thrilled for her. I have personal experience of the instantaneous relationship; my husband and I got engaged on our third date. We've been together (and happy) for more than 14 years, so I think you could call it a success. My parents married two months after they met, and they've been married 48 years. And my other best friend married her husband two months after they met, and they've been happily married for 4 years now. So the fact that she didn't know he existed 10 weeks ago does not worry me at all.

What does worry me a little--and here's where the knitting content comes in-- is that I immediately decided to knit a wedding shawl for her. They're planning on having the wedding next spring, so I have plenty of time. But I have never done a shawl, never worked with lace-weight yarn, and don't have a pattern in mind. I also don't want her to feel obligated to wear the shawl for the ceremony; it's more important to me that it simply commemmorate the occasion. Does anyone have experience with this sort of project? Any advice on materials, patterns, or etiquette? When is the appropriate time to give the gift (bridal shower, at the wedding, privately some time before the wedding)? And how do I convey the meaning of the gift without making her feel she needs to wear it for the ceremony?

Any thoughts are much appreciated.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Holy Freakin' BFL!

I recently joined my local knitting guild. It seems to be a pretty good group of people. Certainly they are very talented. I am about a generation younger than most of them, but I learned something very, very important from them today: older knitters have better yarn. Or maybe it's just that this is a particularly affluent guild, being located as it is in one of the more expensive areas of coastal California. Whatever. I don't care. The guild had a yarn sale yesterday. Members donated their unwanted yarn and the guild put it up for sale to raise money. I was expecting their cast-offs to look like my cast-offs; you know, the bulky neon green acrylic, the half ball of leftover alpaca, and the scratchy magenta thick-and-thin wool that I bought online before I learned how to decipher online descriptions?

Hah! The very first bag I picked up was 22 (count them!) balls of Bluefaced Leicester at an absurdly low price--so low that my brain momentarily short-circuited, leaving me completely paralyzed for a good two minutes, and causing me to miss out entirely on several other equally good deals because I couldn't get my hands to release the bag long enough to grab the 1200 yards of handpainted worsted from Twisted Sisters ($20) or the 6000 yards of cream colored lace weight alpaca ($10) or the 20 balls of leaf-green mohair ($10). And this was all at the first table! By the time I recovered enough to check out the other two, there was nothing left that I wanted, although there were some lovely things. I can only be thankful that my temporary paralysis prevented me from flinging my body across the table and screaming, "Mine, mine, it's all mine!" like a raving lunatic.

What really surprised me was that most of the women barely gave the yarn a glance. There were ten or fifteen of us rummaging through the yarn, but most of the other 200+ women in the guild were sitting quietly in chairs, working on their latest projects or wandering around socializing. There was even yarn left over--and not crap yarn, either! I passed on about 40 balls of lovely superwash merino in heather grey and cream colors which were still there (calling my name mournfully) when I left, and there was a whole table of summer yarns in primary colors that don't look good on me but would be gorgeous on someone else. All I can think is that these must be some privileged (or very stoic) knitters!

So, anyway, does anyone know what I can make out of 2300 yards of worsted weight bluefaced leicester in a beautiful camel color? Since most of my sweaters take about 1100 yards of worsted weight, and the largest sweater I ever made, with a 50-inch chest and allover cables, still took less than 2000 yards, I'm thinking maybe a house cosy?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

How Long Is Too Long?

How long is too long to wait for yarn?

Yesterday, an unprecedented thing happened. I was sitting on the sofa with my laptop (no, that's not unprecedented--it's practically a constant), looking at yarn online (no, that's not it, either), and my husband asked what I was looking at. Silly question. But I answered that I was looking for a good deal on some expensive yarn. And he responded (I swear this is true), "I'll buy it for you." Since my husband considers yarn for me to be the equivalent of heroin for an addict, I was a little surprised. Well, stunned. But not so stunned that I failed to leap on the opportunity, and within seconds, a sweater's worth of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in Aslan had been ordered and paid for (I know--if I'd had my wits about me, I'd have gone for cashmere. Give me a break. It was the shock.)

Today, I got a confirmation email from the yarn shop. Everything was in order, payment received, yarn to be shipped in...July?! Excuse me? Three months from now? What, they have to grow the sheep first? I wrote them a (mostly) polite email back, explaining that, while I really love the yarn, and their prices are good, and my husband is actually paying for it, three months is just too long to wait for yarn. Even for me.

So instead, I've been busy working on spring knitting. Sparkly is coming along nicely. I've finished the front and the back and started on the sleeves. There--now you know. It's obviously a top of some sort, right? And since the cat's out of the bag (more or less), here's a teaser:

Isn't this a lovely stitch pattern?

It is incredibly simple; it's just once lace row, alternated with a row of purl stitches. It's not blocked here, though I did pin it to give you an idea of how the eyelet will look. I'm sure it will block out a bit more open. I'm very pleased with this project. It's drapey and lacy and a beautiful color, and I love the design, which is--at least mostly--one from a local yarn shop. I did change the yarn, the gauge, the lace pattern, the length, the neckline, and the sleeves, but for me, those are pretty modest changes. About the only thing I don't like is the yarn I chose. It's Berroco Cotton Twist in Fern, which seems to be three plies of cotton and two plies of rayon, very loosely twisted together. As you might guess, the yarn is completely inelastic, which makes for somewhat uneven stitches. But it also splits like nothing I've ever seen, even on blunt bamboo needles, and the rayon snags on absolutely everything. The finished fabric is quite lovely, but it's so annoying to knit that I probably won't use this yarn again.

And now, a request. I've been told that Blogger has been keeping people from commenting recently, and (separately) that people have been unable to access my recent posts. If you are reading this, will you please try to leave a comment (anything will do) so that I can see whether my posts are making it out and comments are getting through? Thanks for the help!