Friday, February 29, 2008

My Collection

I was trying to think of something interesting to post for this contest at Life With.... The idea is to post a picture of one of your collections. The problem is, I don't really collect anything. I don't like clutter and I've never really seen the point of having stuff just to, you know, have it. My stuff is all stuff I use, or have used, or think I might use (despite what my husband says), and so not particularly interesting or decorative. I do have a lot of books (one person's "a lot" is another's "not nearly enough"; by "a lot" I mean I have full bookcases in almost every room, and more books under the beds and in baskets and boxes and stacked on the backs of the toilets...what can I say? There's a reason I majored in literature, and it wasn't because lit grads are so well-paid.) But I don't consider my books to be a collection. They're not nice copies or first editions or anything. They're mostly paperbacks and many of them are falling apart because they've been read so many times. I am a firm believer in re-reading. I always get something new out of a book each time I read it, and re-reading a book for the fourth or fifth time is like visiting a favorite vacation spot.

I thought about posting a picture of my younger son's Lego collection, which is truly impressive. There's nothing like Lego kits for an obsessive kid with strong perfectionist tendencies. Need to keep him busy and quiet for several hours? I guarantee he will not move until that 700 piece Lego is complete. Not for fire or flood or bathroom emergency. But that is his collection, not mine, after all.

I even debated whether my garden could be considered "a collection." I do have a quite a few plants, and many of them are unusual. I love to garden and can rarely resist a new and interesting plant. I have a small yard, so I generally buy only one or two of each plant, which lends a "collection" sort of air to my garden, but really, I'm not a plant collector. I buy plants for their beauty and adaptability to my garden, not for their uniqueness or value.

In the end, I decided that the only thing I really collect is...yarn. I buy it to use it, of course, but that cannot account for all of it. There's lots of yarn in the stash that I will probably never use--yarn that I bought, not because I had a project in mind for it, but because I simply loved it. And, let's face it, there may be more yarn in there than I ever can realistically use, especially since I continue to buy more yarn, and at a rate that may be faster than the rate at which I am actually using yarn. The jury is still out on that, though. I've been forced to conclude that my yarn may be the only thing that I truly do collect, so even though it is painfully unoriginal (at least for a knitting blog; I suspect it may be a little more unusual in the world at large), here is My Collection:

This does not, of course, include the yarn that is currently in use, sitting in project bags or baskets, stuffed down beside the couch, or already knitted into completed projects. It also does not include the spinning fiber. That is in a separate stash near the spinning wheel. We're talking yarn, here, not fiber.

I'm sure many of you will be surprised that the stash is so small. Others may be surprised that it is so large. Stash size is relative, and personal (see "a lot" above). I think my stash is moderate. If I were to cull the yarn I don't like or don't think I'll use, I could cut it down by a third. If I were to add all the yarns currently on my wish list...I'd have to move.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I'm Knitting As Fast As I Can

And in the case of Death By Cables, that's not very fast. It's not the knitting that's slowing me down, so much as following the charts and making sure I'm not knitting row two of chart one with row 12 of chart two (because that would be bad), and repeating chart one every two rows, chart two every 4 rows, chart three every 10 rows, and chart four every 46 rows, and now that I've hit "shape the shoulders by decreasing one stitch every other row 10 times and then one stitch every fourth row 31 times and at the same time shape the neck by decreasing on stitch at each neck edge every fourth row 13 times then decrease one stitch every other row 22 times", in addition to maintaining the four (yes, there are four, not three, as previously reported, and that doesn't include the reversing of three of the charts for the second half of each row) different charts and keeping my row count for the front the same as for the back, and, well, I did four rows during the Oscars. I need a spreadsheet. Except that I suck at Excel, and there is no way that could possibly lead to a better outcome, unless by "better outcome" we are talking about me sucking down vodka martinis and while simultaneously sobbing over my computer and swearing at my knitting.

Allow me to make clear, however, that this is not Kathy Zimmerman's fault. She is obviously a knitting genius of the highest order, and I can only bow down in reverence to the mind that is not only able to execute this sort of complexity without resorting to illicit drugs, but that actually conjured the, darned...thing out of thin air in the first place.

You know, of course, that if this thing doesn't fit when I'm done, there won't be enough chocolate in the world to make it better.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thank You

My family and I thank you from the bottom of out hearts for your sympathy over the loss of our beloved Molly. Although we miss her terribly, we are comforted that she was with us on vacation, playing with the kids and wrestling with her sister until the day before she died. She had a full and wonderful life with our family, and we will never forget her.

My knitting mojo was seriously messed up during our vacation. Despite my oath to finish Death by Cables, I...uh...neglected to take it with me, and instead cast on for Juliet. And that was the last successful bit of knitting I accomplished. I ripped back four times trying to get the sizing right, and remembered all over again why I have so much bulky weight yarn sitting untouched in the stash. It hurts my wrists. Not as much as falling on them 300 times trying to learn to snowboard, but still, enough to keep me from enjoying the process. I finally gave up on Juliet and, since I had no other yarn with me, cast the same yarn on for a top-down pullover. I knitted on it faithfully all the way home (while I wasn't silently praying and keeping the car on the icy mountain road by sheer force of will) and finished almost the entire body, only to conclude that it may be the ugliest piece of knitting I've ever produced. Ever. It must be the Knitting Goddess's punishment for breaking my oath about Death by Cables. I am duly chastened, and will finish that project before casting on for anything else.

I did, however, finish my CPH on the drive up, before the wrath of the KG doomed my Juliet to ignominious failure. It turned out well--really well, even--and probably deserves a post of its own, but I'm tired and a little down and there is a mountain of laundry waiting to be done and the boys need haircuts before school tomorrow, so here it is:

Pattern: Central Park Hoodie, from the Fall 2006 Knitscene

Size: 36"

Yarn: 5 1/2 skeins of Malabrigo worsted in the Vaa colorway

Needles: Size 8 Knitpicks Options

Buttons: My own, made of polymer clay
Modifications: Very few. I lengthened the body by two inches (and should have added one more inch). I left the sleeves the length called for in the pattern. I probably could have made them half an inch longer. I grafted the hood together instead of seaming it.

Notes: This design wears smaller than it appears from the pattern. By this, I mean that it fits much snugger than you might expect from the measurements. I have a 34 inch bust, and normally a 36 would fit with relaxed ease, but this design is an overall leaner fit than I consider normal, with thinner arms and a clingy nature. I am happy with the fit, but if you're between sizes, I would definitely recommend sizing up rather than down.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Goodbye, Molly

September 29, 1996-February 20, 2008

Goodbye, Molly. You'll always be Real.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I will be incommunicado for the next week, playing in the snow with the kids, hiking with the dogs, and trying not to break my neck learning to snowboard. I hope everyone has a lovely week!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Shock and Awe

First, I want to thank everyone for the great suggestions. I've looked at all the patterns and I love many of them. But with the CPH all but done and winter on the wane (and rapidly around here--it's been in the mid-70s all week), I've made a radical decision. I will not cast on a new project for my Tahoe trip. I know, it's shocking. Instead, I will finish this:

Yes, it's good old Death By Cables, otherwise known as the Dickinson Pullover by Kathy Zimmerman. This juggernaut has been on the needles since October (and is my only UFO), and I believe I have finished at least four other sweaters and one afghan in the meantime. It's not that I don't love it--I do--but just look at the thing! There's a lot going on there, and I rarely have the sort of uninterrupted knitting time I need for this degree of complexity. (I'd appreciate it if you could not point out that this may not be the ideal project for working in the car with two large dogs and two small children bouncing around and demanding snacks and stops and attention. I have high hopes and I do not want them dashed. Besides, if I take no other projects with me, I will be forced to work on this--or find a yarn shop.)

I've finished the back and most of the front, and then there are the sleeves left to do, and the collar, and the finishing. There should be enough to keep me busy for the week we're gone, especially considering the frogging factor. For every twenty rows I work, I invariably have to rip back five to correct some error in one of the three charts used for each row. And if I do finish early, what better reward than a little side trip to a local yarn shop?

As for the CPH, it is all sewn together and I am knitting on the hood. Then it just needs button bands and buttons, and it will be done. And speaking of buttons:

I made these this morning. I really enjoy making buttons like this. It only took a few minutes and maybe a dollar's worth of polymer clay. Since I like a rustic, handmade look, I don't have to be too precise or drive myself crazy trying to get them perfect. It's simple, inexpensive, and fun. If you need buttons for a project, I highly recommend trying it for yourself.

I can't for the life of me get a decent picture of the buttons against the sweater. My camera keeps trying to compensate for the reflective quality of the buttons against the matte fabric. You'll have to take my word it that the buttons do look very nice with the gorgeous Malabrigo. I made them to blend in, because I don't want anything to call attention away from the beautiful colors in the yarn.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Missing: six skeins of Noro Silver Thaw. Purple, turquoise, and green. Very soft and slightly fuzzy. Has never been out of its bag, and is probably frightened. Was picked up by UPS on January 21 and hasn't been seen since. If found, please contact me. I miss it!

Yes, sadly the sweater's worth of Silver Thaw that I ordered weeks ago is missing in action.

Good news: Sue at Little Knits is wonderful. She's saved me more than once when I've failed to plan ahead (most notably with Icarus), and she's always willing to go the extra mile for a customer. She has determined that UPS picked up the package (she has a receipt), so she can file a claim.

Bad news: That was the last six skeins of the color I want.

Good news: There is more coming in soon and she will send it right out.

Bad news: This was to be my Lake Tahoe project, but will not arrive in time.

Good news: I get to pick a new project.

Bad news: I have two projects in the immediate queue, but neither one is the sort I want for a long car trip. Too complex.

Good news: I know lots of knitters!

I need something fairly simple, but not boring. I want a sweater, of course. I don't want to design it. I'd prefer a pullover. I have lots of dk and worsted weight yarn in sweater quantities. I'm in the middle of a couple of house projects that need to be finished before we leave, so I'm short on time for hunting for patterns. But I know you all have lists of great sweater patterns just waiting to be made, so I've decided to put myself in your most capable hands. Recommendations, anyone?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Sometimes I Knit

Yes, sometimes I do knit. Despite testing and karate and music lessons and birthday parties and painting and volunteering and shopping and cooking and cleaning and laundry and pets and plants and "Moooommmmm! He took my (fill in the blank) and won't give it back!", I have been working on my CPH.

My love affair with Malabrigo shows no signs of cooling anytime soon, and I continue to get perfect gauge, much to my surprise. After some fiddling, the picture above shows the color pretty accurately. The back and the fronts are done, and I've almost finished the first sleeve. I've made the body about two inches longer than the pattern calls for (and now I'm thinking I should have made it longer still), but I am resisting the urge to lengthen the sleeves. I always, always make sleeves too long, no matter who the garment is for, but especially when it is for me. I have unusually long arms, and every shirt, sweater, or jacket I have ever bought has had sleeves that are too short. It drives me crazy. I hate pulling and tugging at my sleeves all day, trying hopelessly to make them cover my bony wrists. I am so determined not to make the sleeves on my sweaters too short that I invariably make them too long. And since I usually knit them from the cuff upward, it's not easy to change them once they're made. Even when I knit from the top down, they usually end up too long after blocking, since knits tend to grow in length. And because I'm never sure how much they'll grow, I err on the side of too long.

I generally add an inch to the sleeve length when I use a commercial pattern. But in this case, all the FO pictures I've seen of this show sleeves that are waaaay too long for the wearer. So I'm thinking I might do well to use the measurements given--which are the same as I usually use for my own designs.

I'm debating whether I want buttons or a zipper to close this one. I had decided on a zipper, until I remembered that I already have a dark green zippered cardi that I made last spring. So maybe I'll use buttons for this one. Maybe I'll make buttons for this one. I can picture something in swirly green and black.

I'm hoping to have this one finished before next weekend, when we will be driving to Lake Tahoe for "ski week." I don't know if the rest of the country shares this tradition, but around here, most schools close for the week of the Presidents' Day holiday, and everyone who can seems to hop in a car or on a plane and seek out snow. I suppose most of you don't have to travel to see it, but around here, it takes a little effort to find winter. Not only would I like to have this to wear, but I'd also like to start a new project for the car trip. I have my husband convinced that he really likes driving for 11 hours straight.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Guess who's eight today? My baby! He's the one in the hat. Happy Birthday, Goober!

Now I'm off to bake a cake (carrot, as requested).

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

FO: Dorothea

At last. This has been done for about two weeks, but I only just got pictures.

Pattern: Dorothea by Elsebeth Lavold, from Designer's Choice, book ten ("The Kashmiri Love Collection"--but let's not go there).

Size: Medium (38.5")

Yarn: Believe it or not, Elsebeth Lavold Chunky Al, the exact yarn called for in the pattern, in color 006. 13 balls, which is what I had in the stash. I ordered two more, thinking I would run out, but the Knitting Goddess loves practical jokes, so I had plenty--and two more balls still en route. Anybody know what to do with two balls of chunky alpaca?

Modifications: Not too many. I lengthened the body by three inches and the sleeves by one inch (a mistake, by the way. They grew a lot after wet blocking. At least my hands won't be cold.) I added waist shaping. And the observant may notice that the collar on my sweater is not the same as the collar in the picture I showed you here (scroll down for a link to the picture on the designer's website). This was not really a modification. It was more an accident. But it works for me, so we'll call it a design choice, 'kay?

Thoughts: The pattern was perfect (despite my not believing this and the resulting "design change" to the collar), and the yarn was just lovely to work with. Very soft and surprisingly drapey, but a little prone to snag, since it's a softly twisted single ply. I don't imagine it will be terribly durable, but it is a pleasure to wear. The only weird thing--and I'm not crazy, several other people have confirmed this--is that the FO picture in the book clearly shows the stitch pattern as a diamond lattice. In reality, it is a square honeycomb pattern. See?

I triple-checked my reading of the instructions, and the designer even calls it a honeycomb pattern. But the picture shows something very different. Odd.