Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Comfort Knitting

Memorial Day weekend was a bit of a strain for me. I'm not a social person. My husband is. So when he invites people over (and he's always the one who does the inviting; I avoid social engagements like the plague), I acquiesce, sometimes graciously (mostly not), and find ways to deal with the noise, mess, and uncomfortable sense of obligation for other people's comfort and enjoyment. I am reasonably adept at social interaction (a legacy of my previous career in diplomacy); I'm not going to curl up in a fetal position under the dining table at a dinner party. But for me, and most naturally introverted people, it is work. I need time alone to recover and recharge my batteries, and when I don't get it, I get pretty stressed out.

Friday evening we went to my parents' house to do some chores and make dinner. With my mom's arm broken and my dad unable to get around, they're having a bit of trouble taking care of some basic needs. Saturday was the usual frenzy of kid activities and many small neighbors racing through my house brandishing Nerf guns and shrieking with excitement. Sunday my grown stepson and his girlfriend came over, and more of their friends soon showed up to hang out and watch movies. They were still at it when I went to bed at 1:00 am, and stepson and girlfriend spent the night and stayed through the morning. By the time the guests arrived for our cookout on Monday afternoon, I was pretty much running on empty.

Fortunately, I had some special yarn put away for just this sort of situation.

This is heavy worsted weight, hand-dyed, spun silk. I have about 500 yards of it, scored from Destash a year or so ago. I intended to use it for a shrug, and in fact had one started, but it was a pattern I was winging, and I've since forgotten the lace pattern I made up and even the general concept for the shrug. But I found this pattern on Ravelry, so I ripped what I had and started over.

This is comfort knitting at its finest. The pattern is simple, but not boring. The yarn is delicious--thick and spongy and as smooth The color is as refreshing as ice water. I snuck away several times to sit by myself and knit a few rows. It definitely took the edge off. I felt a little like a junkie, sneaking off to the powder room for a hit. Monday night, after everyone had left and we had finished shoveling out the house, I surrendered to the sensual pull of the silk and knitted with true abandon.

I'm about halfway through now, and already feeling a little sorry to see this project coming to an end. But summer is coming, and with it, all of the barbeques and picnics and pool parties we always have, so I guess I'm going to be needing some new comfort knitting in short order. Any suggestions?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Just Call Me "Granny"

Boy, it's been all doctors, all the time around here lately. My son has a sinus infection; my dog has an ear infection; my mom had surgery today on the arm she broke racing scooters with my kids. (Yeah, you read that right. Not a Rascal. A Razor. She's a cool nana. The surgery went fine and she is resting at home.)

I went to the eye doctor yesterday.

I don't like going to the eye doctor. I'm not big on people playing with my eyes. I don't like the drops or the little stick he uses to look under my eyelids or the camera with the pokey thing on the end that he sticks in my eyes to see if I have glaucoma (I don't). Mostly, I don't like the little chuckle he always gives me when I explain that there is something wrong with my current glasses. I keep cleaning and cleaning them and they don't get any clearer. He doesn't understand that the problem is the glasses. He insists that the issue is my eyes. Specifically, they are getting old.

You can see why I don't like going to the eye doctor.

This particular visit netted me a prescription for new (stronger) reading glasses. (We will not discuss the eye doctor's continuing insistence that I should be wearing glasses for distance as well, nor the additional prescription he forced on me for said glasses, as it will be joining its fellows from the last two visits in the pile on my desk.) The reading glasses I can live with. Mostly because, without them, I cannot read, use a computer, or knit, and without those activities, I would have far bigger problems than a need for glasses.

The new prescription means I get to order new glasses. I can't wear over-the-counter reading glasses. My eyes are vastly different in the amount of correction they require, and each eye has a different degree of astigmatism. Standard reading glasses make me feel seasick.

My current glasses look like this:

And they're fine. They help me see, and I enjoy that. But they're a little bland. So I ordered something different this time:

A little spicier, no? And since I spend a lot of time reading and knitting outside and always have to choose between reading glasses and sunglasses in those situations, I ordered them with lenses that automatically darken in the sun, like this:

I think they're kind of cute. Maybe even verging on stylish. Still, there's no getting around the fact that they're reading glasses. Sigh. Just call me "Granny." Minus the scooter.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

FO: Death By Cables

Just in time for summer, I've finally finished Death By Cables! This sweater has the dubious distinction of having taken me longer to complete than any other project ever. It's been on the needles since October of last year--that's seven months; longer even than Icarus. Mercifully, the temperature has dropped from its 100 degree high two days ago to an absolutely lovely 69 degrees, just in time for my photo shoot.

Pattern: Dickinson Pullover by Kathy Zimmerman from the Fall 2007 Interweave Knits (my favorite issue of any knitting magazine ever).

Size: I followed the pattern for a 40 inch finished bust. Mine is not actually 40 inches. I'm not sure how to measure accurately because the ribbing and cables draw in the fabric so much, but I have a 35 inch bust, and as you can see, the finished sweater is fairly clingy. (This may change. I haven't washed and blocked it yet, which is also why the cables are a little uneven looking.)

Yarn: Berroco Softwist Bulky (wool/rayon) in burgundy. Seven skeins, I think. The yarn is beautiful: drapey and soft, with a gorgeous sheen from the rayon. I will never, ever use it again. It was the biggest pain in the world to knit with. The rayon is not only incredibly slippery, but splits like nothing I've ever seen and snags on everything. Working numerous cables and textured stitches in this yarn was like slowly peeling off my own fingernails. The only yarn I have ever disliked working with as much is Berroco Cotton Twist, which is a cotton/rayon blend, and for exactly the same reasons.

Needles: Size 8 (for the body) and 6 (for the collar) Knit Picks Harmony circulars. They were perfect for this slippery yarn.

Mods: I made the body two inches longer and the sleeves 3/4 of an inch longer than the pattern called for, to accommodate my height. I'm very happy with the finished length of both body and sleeves. Other than that, I followed the pattern to the letter. There's a first time for everything, I guess! If I were to do this again (and I won't--not ever), I would leave out the textured stitches on the sides of the large cable motif on both the body and sleeves and knit those sections in plain stockinette. I like the textured stitches, but they added four whole charts to the pattern, and those charts were not in sync with the cable charts and were impossible for me to memorize. Without those, the pattern would have been much, much easier for me to follow, and I would undoubtedly have been able to finish months ago. So although I like the way they look, I wouldn't knit them again.

Do you think this finally gets me off the hook with the KG?

Monday, May 19, 2008

And On It Goes

I consider myself a decent knitter. I've got yarn; I've got needles. I even have many, many completed projects that look good and fit correctly. But recent evidence indicates that maybe I need to reconsider how I think of my knitting skills.

I've been through a whole string of knitting disasters lately: gauge issues, fit problems, seaming goofs, running out of yarn (that's been a big one). Last night I discovered a whole new way to screw up.

I finished the knitting for Death By Cables! Yes, despite 100 degree temperatures, I've been plugging dutifully along on a chunky weight cabled wool pullover. And--who'd have thought?--all that knitting led to a finished sweater. Or, um, at least a finished something.

What's wrong with this picture?

If you guessed, "Hey, someone sewed those raglan sleeves to each other!" you're right. Just for the record, I don't have two right arms. I do, however, have a sweater with two right sleeves. You should have seen me trying to make it fit. I have spatial orientation issues, so it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that no amount of pulling and adjusting was going to get the left sleeve onto the left side of my body when it was sewn to the right sleeve.

Fortunately, I have other projects to share with you.

We have a pool in our backyard, and, like most pools, it is in full sun. This is lovely when one is floating in cool water, but not so lovely when one is steaming in the hot tub. For years, I've wished our hot tub was located in the shade, but there didn't seem to be any way to arrange this, since the hot tub is integrated into the pool. And then I saw a picture of an offset umbrella and a lightbulb went on.

We faced a small dilemma. The very large weighted base required to support the cantilevered umbrella would not fit on the narrow strip of concrete that edges the hot tub.

So my brilliant former-engineer husband came up with an alternate solution. He bought a pre-formed concrete footing and bolted the bottom section of the umbrella pole to the top of the footing.

Then he dug a big ol' hole in the raised bed behind the hot tub. He dug down far enough to sink the entire concrete footing below the level of the patio.

Then he reinstalled the landscape blocks and backfilled the hole. We put the umbrella into the base, and voila!

Instant shade (almost)! We've been delighted to find that the hot tub remains in full shade until about 3:30 in the afternoon. After that, the late afternoon sun slowly creeps under the western edge of the umbrella and lights the hot tub. But during the hottest part of the day, the hot tub is in lovely, cool, refreshing shade, while the pool remains in full sun. No frogging required!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Look! It's a Meme!

Romi tagged me for a new meme, and since I do love a good meme, here we go:

"The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer."

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?
I was living in San Diego, recently married, with a new baby, and had just started law school.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):
Get my nails done, teach astronomy to fifth graders, clean the bathrooms, go grocery shopping, read bankruptcy law

3) Snacks I enjoy:
Cheezits and milk, granola bars, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal, candy

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Seek excellent financial advice, pay off debts, set up a charitable foundation, buy a farm and raise fiber animals

5) Places I have lived:
San Diego, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Russia, Germany

7) 6 peeps I wanna know more about:


But since I'd actually like to know more about all of you, please feel free to play along if you'd like! (And, as always, if I tagged you and you don't feel like playing...don't.)

Dear Knitting Goddess:

You win.

Dickinson it is.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Halfway through the second sleeve, I've run out of yarn.

KG: 12
Knitter: 0

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sometimes It Takes a Bitch

After I wrote my post yesterday morning, I started thinking about the dishwasher saga, and the fact that I paid a lot of money and wasn't getting what I had paid for, and no one seemed at all interested now that they had my money, and even threats of legal action weren't helping, and people...I got mad.

So I did it.

I packed up a load of dirty dishes in a cardboard carton and drove to the showroom. I made a brief effort at containing my righteous anger, but when the store manager attempted to tell me that his service department wasn't responsible for my problem in the first place (even though I've been dealing with them for six weeks), because my dishwasher was no longer covered under the original warranty, and I needed to call the extended warranty people...well. I unloaded a whole heap of crazy pissed off bitch all over the place. Several people ducked under desks and I'm pretty sure at least one of them pushed the panic button. When my head swiveled 360 degrees and flames shot out my nostrils, the manager got on the phone. I overheard his end of the conversation. I took careful note to make sure it didn't involve words like "hostage" and "insane" and "police". It did involve statements like "in my store right now" and "not at all happy" and "I really don't think that's going to go over well at all".

The end result is I'm getting a brand new dishwasher, installed, at no cost. With a brand new warranty and a brand new extended warranty, also at no cost.

And I got out of there before the police showed up.

Score one for my inner bitch.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Ranting follows.

Last February we bought a dishwasher. A very expensive Bosch dishwasher. We also bought an extended warranty plan.

The dishwasher never seemed to work right. It left spots. Or streaks. Or food. But it was very expensive--and very quiet, which was the reason we bought it--so I kept trying to make it work. I read the manual. I called Customer Service (many times). I fiddled. I fussed. I finally got it to a point where I thought it was working pretty well. For a while. And then it wasn't. A couple of months ago I got sick of it all and called for repair. This meant calling the repair department of the place where I bought it.

A repair guy came out. He looked at it. He ran it. He cleaned it. He fiddled. He called the office. He called customer service. He called the appliance gods. He finally concluded that everything needed to be replaced. The pump, the motor, the seal. It had probably never worked right, he said. Defective from the factory. He'd order the parts and come back. It would take about a week. Someone would call us.

So we waited. After a couple of weeks, no one had called, so I called them. The annoyed woman on the other end clicked on her computer for a while and announced that the parts hadn't arrived. When might they arrive, I inquired politely. Because, you know, we keep eating, and keep making more dirty dishes, and it's been two weeks. She would call the distributor and get back to me in a couple of hours.

No one called back. After another week, I called again. Oh, those parts are backordered. They'll be in next week. Someone will call you to schedule the repair. When might that be? I inquired, perhaps a little less politely. Monday. Tuesday at the latest. Better make it Wednesday.

Monday came and went...and Tuesday...and Wednesday. Thursday I brought in the big guns. My husband called them. He was polite. He was firm. They assured him they would have the parts the following Monday and they would call to schedule the repair.

Do I even need to tell you where this is headed? Do I need to mention the many follow-up phone calls? The demands for a new dishwasher? The official demand letter warning of the impending law suit? The hasty call from the repair department, telling us the parts were in and the repair guy would be out in two days?

He came. He opened the parts box. There was a piece missing.

He got a little scared when he saw my face.

More phone calls ensued, and another letter, and finally the call we'd been waiting for: We have all the parts. He'll be back Thursday--six weeks after my first call. I reworked my schedule. I agreed to a four hour window. I sat and waited. Thursday morning arrived, I took the kids to school and returned home. I sat and waited. The phone rang. It was the service department. The repair guy was out for service...but there was a problem. He had checked the part, and it was damaged. They would have to reorder. We are back to step one.

I'm thinking of boxing up a load of dirty dishes and taking them to the showroom.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

If You Give a Kid an Instrument...

...he's going to want music lessons.

If you give a kid music lessons...

...he's going to want to play in the band.

If you let him play in the band...

...he's going to want to perform.

And if you let him perform...

...he's going to want to play solo.

If he gets to solo...

...he might end up feeling like this.

And if he feels like this...

...he's going to want to play another instrument.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Long Dry Spell

I think this may be the longest I've ever gone without an FO. By my reckoning, it's been...a long time since my last successful project. There was the Retro Ribby Shrug, which turned out to be a disaster--but only after I seamed it all (twice). Before that was the Dickinson Pullover (otherwise known as Death By Cables), which is currently hibernating. Before that was Juliette--also known as "the ugliest project I've ever made." Well, to be fair, the final product wasn't Juliette at all, because I had unresolvable gauge issues with Juliette that led to multiple froggings and the eventual (bad) decision to just wing it and come up with something interesting--in the car, driving home from Lake Tahoe, on windy, icy, mountain roads, with two kids bickering in the backseat. And interesting it is, just not in a wearable sort of way. All that Rowan Soft Tweed is still awaiting frogging in its quiet place behind the sofa. If you don't count socks (and I've only even completed one of those), or the Messenger Bag, or the baby blanket (and I don't count either of those because you can't wear them, and anyway, they were both gifts), my last finished project was the Central Park Hoodie waaaaay back in February! It's May! How did this happen? (Yes, I know I just explained how it happened. The question is rhetorical and intended to emphasize my astonishment.)

I could blame the spinning, I suppose. But that wouldn't be fair; I've only spun a few skeins of yarn in all that time, and spinning just doesn't take that long. Not nearly as long as, say, blogging. Or reading blogs. Or the great time-suck that is Ravelry (oh, how I love Ravelry!). I suspect I would be completing a lot more if I weren't enjoying following other people's progress quite so much.

But there is progress here. Thanks to the excellent advice from the comments--and also to some of you bravely throwing yourselves in the path of the Knitting Goddess (I appreciate that, by the way)--I ripped back and immediately re-knitted the front of Sligo to create an actual, you know...front. And here it is, complete with the already-finished back:

I even have several inches of one sleeve done, so barring any disasters--running out of yarn, breaking needles, a sudden moth infestation--there is some chance of a successful FO in my immediate future.

And just in case you didn't believe me about the stuff I find in the dryer, here's this week's haul:

No burritos or melted crayons, but check out that wicked looking pocket knife! (The marker, according to house rules, is washable.)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Crack-Me-Up-Saturday: Funniest Quotes Edition

This one is courtesy of Older Son.

I'm not the most easy-going person in the world. I am a little...grouchy. And impatient. I have even been told that I can be intimidating. But for some reason, my husband is unperturbed by my occasional (stop that laughing!) moodiness and bad temper. He finds them inexplicably charming. And he has an unusual talent for defusing my bad moods by making me laugh.

The other day, we were driving home after a very full day of activities, most of which did not go as planned, and I was a bit grumpy. My darling husband--who is the only one who could ever manage this without losing a hand--patted my leg affectionately, grinned, and said, "You're just so cute when you're mad!"

To which Older Son grumbled loudly from the back seat: "Huh! Not in MY world!"

Friday, May 2, 2008

Note To Self

Note to Self:

When knitting the front of a v-neck sweater, remember to read the directions for "front" instead of just following the directions for "back" until reaching the shoulder bind off. This works better if you want to end up with an actual v-neck and not a turtleneck. *&%!