Sunday, December 30, 2007

Go Back to Sheep

A long time ago, when Kristen was just a wee little thing, I designed and made her a sheep. It's kind of flat and two dimensional, which makes it also a kind of pillow. It's made of fake fleece and felt. We loved it and played with it for many years, but eventually it ended up out in the garage with all the other old toys.

Then when I started felting last year, I remembered the old sheep toy, and imagined it in thrift-store sweaters felted and re-purposed. I dragged old sheepie out of the garage and used him as a pattern and made a new and woolier sheep, named Go Back to Sheep (since the wool was on a sheep, and then in a sweater, and is now gone back to being a sheep.)

Kristen's buddy Ryan liked him so much he wanted one for himself, so I made another one for him for Christmas. He's the one on the right! (Kristen is the shepherdess.)

He's got an unnaturally long neck and is camel-brown and black. The thick wooliness of the felted sweaters make the two new ones very plump and pleasant for tucking behind one's back in a chair. They don't seem to mind. :-)

A few more pictures

I need to catch up on all the projects about which I blogged but never posted any pictures. Or maybe I should just give up and post new things. Well, let's see:

Ok, this is my current wip: a hat for myself using the basic roll brim hat pattern from Knitting for Peace. I have a hat like this that I made last year, but the colors clash with everything else I own, so I decided to make another so that when I go to Chicago, I won't stop traffic with my mis-assorted knits. So this is a fun and totally simple knit (ducks and knocks on wood to avoid angering the goddess of knitting!). The variegation is lining up and making whole sections of the hat the same color, so this might look, uh, unusual. Hopefully not traffic-stopping, however.

And let's see what else:

Kool-aid dying on old (purchased)wooly lace.

Me, happy to have a digital camera at last!

Oh, and my first, and so far only, sweaterish object: a vest I call Celtic Seas vest, done in Kureyon. I'm happy with it in every way except that the pattern itself is short and boxy, and I don't really need short and boxy added to my image. But the colors are so cool and the double moss stitch came out so good that I have to love it anyhow. It was shown in the pattern book on a hanger, and that's how it looks best.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

One more Christmas project

At the last minute, I knit up this headband/earwarmer for Kristen out of alpaca. the pattern is a vintage one from 1961 that I found online. Theirs was done in either mohair or worsted wool (and looked like the ones I used to wear as a child.) This one is done in DK, same number of stitches as the pattern, so it's narrower than the original, but it's also a lot longer. Made with less than one skein (maybe half a skein) of unlabeled alpaca found for half price at Let's Knit. It wants to roll, despite efforts at blocking, but can be convinced to lie flat when in use. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to knit it--start to finish in less than 48 hours, despite my slow speed and size 6 needles. Maybe the alpaca was just so yummy.

It will keep Kristen's ears very warm in Chicago for the rest of the winter!

See the original (and some other really scary 1961 hats) here:

Christmas Pictures

Guess what Santa brought to my house? Yep. A digital camera of my very own! Now I have to learn to take decent pictures and transfer them efficiently. But here's a start: Me in front of the house.

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Our Christmas tree:

And Kristen drinking a soft drink!

Dear Husband, looking sleepy:

Friday, December 21, 2007

California Sunset Handwarmers

I finished the first pair of handwarmers from my kool-aid yarn, and I love them!

They are so simple and the coloring turned out so good. They are knit flat in 2 x 2 rib and then seamed up. Since I had plenty of yarn leftover, I decided to make Kristen a pair too, but I thought it would be easier to do them in the round. I saw a pattern from WWI for men in the trenches that was done that way, and they way they said to make the thumb hole was just to stop knitting in the round and change to back and forth for a while, and then re-join the round up. Sounded very simple. Well, on magic loop, it's not so easy. The piece is already round, so you can't just "knit it flat." And unlike a sock heel, you want to knit the whole thing, not just half of it. I ended up using 2 dpn's plus a third to knit with, and knitting inside and outside of an odd triangle. I'm on the second one now, and still experimenting. I want to make more of these, they're so fun and useful, but I think I'll go back to the knit flat method and stop complaining about the stitching up bit.

Back to knitting!

Monday, December 17, 2007


Last summer I dyed some wool with Kool-Aid, and I am now knitting it into handwarmers. It's coming out so pretty...much prettier than it looked in the ball. It's making about 3/4 inch wide stripes, rather softly, in warm pink and purple. The grape Kool-Aid didn't come out too good, so I over dyed it by just smooshing the whole thing into the strawberry color, and now it looks great! I can't wait to have these finished. They're so much fun to knit.

I also Kool-Aid dyed an old (store-bought) wool scarf today that was a very ratty shade of light pink. I used strawberry kool-aid and gave it a kind of minimal soak, and it's a pretty soft shade of red. I think it's better than the faded pink. And it will match the new handwarmers!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The socks are finished. Long live the socks!

All good things must come to an end, and a mere 3 months to the day after I cast on, I have finished a pair of grey men's socks. Kitchenered them and wove in the ends at Borders this morning. It's a great relief. These have been like an albatross around my neck.

And now...all the Christmas knitting is done! And I have *nothing* on the needles!

This afternoon, I made the long-awaited sheep for Ryan as well. Kristen told him about the sheep I made from a recycled felted thrift-store sweater, and he wanted one too. So I cut up sweaters and machine and hand-stitched all afternoon. All the sheep needs now is buttons for eyes. So even that Christmas gift is done.

I might try making a Seaman's Cap for my Dad for his birthday, which is January 4th, to match the mittens.

Or I might make myself some fingerless Maine Morning Mitts.

Or I could knit a hat for Kristen.

Or I could start one of the two lovely skeins of sock yarn I bought recently. I want to have a pair done for Kristen when I go to visit her January 18th, or at least finish them while I'm there. I plan to spend 5 days there over MLK weekend.

We put up the Christmas tree yesterday. And most of the Christmas cards are written out--though not mailed because, oh irony of ironies, we ordered stamps by mail and they haven't come yet. It's pretty sad when the post office can't even deliver their own stamps on time.

Well, it's nice to be done with school and done with most of the Christmas preparations, and to have a relaxing week ahead.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Endless socks

Oh my aching fingers, these socks for Sam are never going to end! I knit and knit, but I just can't get them done. The fact that the pair made from yarn from the same source have now practically disintegrated on the sole isn't helping, either. Fearless Fiber yarn is very pretty, even the Smoke grey colorway. But the base yarn is just too thin. I mended a hole in each foot of the Irish Forest Socks, and wore them around the house and to bed, and now there's a quarter-size hole in a new location on the ball of the foot. Very discouraging.

Kristen is home and we are knitting together. It is very relaxing to knit and chat with her. She is designing and making a pair of black flip-top mittens in 50% wool 50% alpaca that is so cute. She knits much faster than me (she does everything faster! Processor speed, I think.) She also cast on a bag in the round in bright-colored wools to felt. Meanwhile, I added a half inch to the grey sock....

On a brighter sock note, I ordered a pair of socks from etsy made in wool and knit on an antique sock-knitting machine, and they are magnificent looking! And they cost only $20, which is less than I pay for most sock yarn! In fact, I love them so much, I'm going to try to get another pair, so I can give one to Kristen and also have a pair for myself. Maybe that will take away the pain of the Irish Forest Socks.

I have 40 essays to grade today, and then I can add up grades and turn them in. The end is in sight!

I also mailed off Christmas packages to Grandma and Karen and Joanne yesterday. Since two of the packages contained hand-knits, I insured them for $200!! And even that wouldn't be enough to make me feel any better if they got lost somehow. I think Grandma and Grandpa will like their hat and mittens. It is a very romantic feeling to be able to give people hand-knits for Christmas. This could be Little Women or something!

Monday, November 26, 2007

One more finished object...

I think.

Unless I decide to have a second go at the buttonholes and binding off. I finished the green Lush Neckwarmer-Pidge last night, and the knitting went very nicely. But Maggie Righetti is right--buttonholes are a bitch. I used her 3 row method and made fairly acceptable burronholes, but then I had a little trouble with the fact that I had added 2 stitches somehow (I didn't quite understand the directions) so I knit another row and k2tog before binding off, but in all that, the moss stitch became seed stitch and the end kind of flares.

If I take it out and try again, will it be any better?

The wooden buttons are largish, which looks cool, but it means I need largish buttonholes too.

I don't know--maybe I'm done, maybe not. I think I will work on Sam's socks for a while and let this one sit.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

More soup.

Every year for Thanksgiving, I cook wild rice, which Sam likes a lot and I like moderately well. But there's always too much, and it's hard to use up. So this year, I went in search of a recipe for Wild Rice soup, and with some modifications, came up with this:

Wild Rice Soup

2~3 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup cooked white rice (optional)
1 med. onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 sm. can mushrooms, drained
1/2 stick butter
around a cup of flour
8 cups chicken or turkey broth (add drained mushroom juice)
1 c. (+ or -) chicken or turkey, or use chicken tenders)
1 cup half and half cream
salt and pepper (quite a bit of fresh-ground black pepper)

Saute onion, celery, carrot, and mushrooms in large pot till soft. Sprinkle flour over and cook until butter is all absorbed into flour. Gradually add broth, stirring to make a nice thick soup.Add rice and chicken and simmer for a while. Turn off and allow to meld flavors for several hours. Add cream at the end and bring just to the boiling point. Serve with croutons or garlic toast. Makes about 8 cups.

Glaciers melt faster than this!

It seemed to be taking me an unreasonable amount of time to knit a small rectangle of moss stitch, so this morning, under ideal knitting conditions, I timed myself to see how much yardage (or inch-age. or milimeter-age) I produced in 30 minutes. The sorry truth--a half inch! Of a scarf that's only 5 inches across. This seems unbelievably slow to me. And I'm actually cruising along pretty well now too (this doesn't take into account the screw-ups that had to me frogged or the time spent trying to figure out how the heck the pattern actually works. I totally understand it now, and the k1 p1 motion is automatic. And yet, it takes me an hour per inch!!?? I believe this will need to be somewhere between 21 and 28 inches when it's done. Is it possible that it will take me 30 hours to produce a mini-scarf? (Because I have to make button holes and sew on buttons. And I have to think and figure.) God, no wonder the official ones cost $250 and up!

Well, anyway, it is soft and pretty, and I have hope that it will turn out to be attractive and useful.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The hat is in the bag!

The nice thing about a hat is that when you finish it, you don't have to make a matching one! After all the socks and mittens I've been making, that seems like a nice change of pace. (Even sweaters need two sleeves, two fronts, etc. A hat is a great thing!)

And the hat is quite sturdy and attractive. The pine green and moss green go together nicely.

So this is the one-year anniversary of learning to knit. In that time, I've made quite a few items:

*small purse
*eyeglass case
*small shoulder bag
*ribbed scarf
*roll-brim hat
*mittens for me
*hat and scarf for Karen
*mittens for Kristen
*vest for me
*2 pairs of socks for me
*a pair of socks for Kristen
*2 pairs of Fetching fingerless mitts
*mittens for Grandpa (plus a defective mitten)
*scarf for Grandma
*baby sweater for Prudence
*fingerless mitts for Karen
*half of a pair of socks for Sam
*a felted case for knitting supplies
*a small felted bowl

And I taught Kristen to knit!

Today, I started on a scarflette for Kristen in Lush (angora and wool) using moss stitch, which is the same stitch pattern as the sweater I intend to knit for myself in January. But after about 20 rows (31 stitches per row and looking lovely), I lost my place in the pattern. I've ripped back a couple of rows 3 times now, and if I don't get it right this time, it will be time to start over. This is making me wonder if an entire sweater in this stitch is going to be more pain than pleasure. If it's for me, I can live with the occasional screw-up. But Kristen can't. It offends her OCD. And after all, a scarflette is small enough to do it right! So I don't know how this will end. I also don't actually know if I even have enough yarn to knit this, so the whole thing may be an exercise in futility.

But it's Thanksgiving, so I will be thankful for wool and needles and free internet patterns, and knitting friends, and eyes to see, and hands to knit---and people I love, to knit for!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sock Anxiety

I had to put the Smoky Mountain Socks on hold again while I recover from Sock Anxiety. I mended one of my Irish Forest Socks and boldly wore the pair with by Birkenstocks to go sit in Borders and knit. When I got home, there was a matching hole in the second sock. Then i took out a bit of that yarn and tugged on it to see just how fragile it is. It is very fragile. It is just way too easy to break it. And the Smoky Mountain socks are made of the exact same stuff. I wish I'd known before I started these socks, but I didn't. So I still plan to finish them, but I just can't do it right now while I'm in mourning.

So I started a hat to match the Pine Tree Scarf for my Mom. Actually I started it repeatedly. Over and over! I had decided that I would use magic loop knitting to make a hat, thus avoiding the problem of switching to dpns or anything else at the end. I ordered interchangable tips in sizes 7, 8, and 9 and two cords, in 24" and 60" lengths. (Don't ask me how I came up with those numbers because I have no idea. One is too short for the intended purpose and the other is miles too long. But I thought excess length might somehow be a plus.) Excess length is NOT a plus. It's mass confusion. No matter how careful I tried to be, I kept getting the knitting twisted around at the halfway point when I switched needles. There were magic loops looping all over the place, including around my ankle.

I gave up and cast on for the third or fourth time on bamboo size 8 circulars that are 16" in length. 100 stitches, all stockinette all the time. It is finally off and running. I think I will add a band of color halfway along, and make a very simple hat. And recover from sock anxiety as well as magic loopitis. In between grading research papers that all sound pretty much alike. (I need new topics! I can't read about Rosa Parks many more times!!)

Monday, November 12, 2007


The early darkness and slight chill in the air make thoughts turn to warm comforting soup even here in Souther California. Vegetarian Times sent me a recipe for soup that I quickly adapted into a tasty soup for meat-eaters!

Sausage and Bean Soup

1/2 to 1 pound mild Italian sausage (or hot. Or other fresh sausage)
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 carrots, peeled, cut in half, and sliced
2 stalks of celery, cut in half and sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
oil (olive, if available), salt and pepper

Open and break up sausage into chunks. Saute in olive oil till it loses pinkness, breaking it up as it cooks. Add onions and garlic and saute. Add vegetables and beans. Add 2 kinds of broth. Simmer for a while, then turn off and allow to sit for an hour, covered. Re-heat to serve. Makes 6+ cups. The flavors improve the longer it sits.
I was knitting sock #2 at Borders this morning, as I tend to do, and a lady about my age or a little older sidled up to me and whispered, "I haven't seen anyone doing that for years!" I don't know if she meant socks in particular or knitting in general. I showed her sock #1 and told her that knitters are all over the internet. She was suitably impressed. Sock #2 is now 3 1/4" long.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

And a sock!

I have finished the first of a pair of socks known as Smoky Mountain Socks which will be for Sam for Christmas. I love the color and I love the 2 x 2 ribbing all the way down the leg, followed by plain stockinette for the whole foot. But I am also living in fear, since the pair I made myself wore right out.

I stitched mine back together just now and put it back on, but all its knitterly perfection is gone. And I fear the Smoky Mountain socks will meet a similar fate. What's odd is that although I used size 3 needles, my stitch gauge is 9 per inch. So I'm not exactly knitting loosely. Maybe what I'm doing is putting the yarn under tension in order to get that tight a gauge with that large a needle size? I don't know.

It's a little daunting to cast on the second sock. Actually I did cast it right on, and then managed to mess it up on the first 4 stitches and pulled it off again. I will do this! They will be nice house socks, if nothing else. As will my Irish Forest Socks.

I do so love Fearless Fibers colorways that I am considering trying her sport weight yarn to knit a pair of socks. That should at least have enough heft to it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


It turns out that no matter how slowly you knit, if you keep on doing it, eventually, you get to the end. And I did! I finished a pair of size large garter stitch mittens last night, in charcoal grey with stripes of scarlet red. All the loose ends are woven in, the holes by the thumb are closed up, and they're ready to go. The second of the pair went much better on a circ held straight. I was trying to use dpns with a cap on one end for the first one, and it was too tight a fit. Maybe that's why they seemed so awkward. But I'm happy now.

I know this would be more interesting, even to me, if I had pictures. Need digital camera!! must be time to finish up the first sock of the Smoky Mountain socks for Sam. I tried it on his foot the other night, and he drew the conclusion that it is for my Dad (since I told him the mittens were) and he commented that he likes the color. I'm a little leery of these socks since my pair knit of the same yarn at the same gauge got a hole already. But probably he will mostly wear them at home. In any case...onward!

Thursday, November 1, 2007


I heard that a friend's daughter is collecting unwanted yarn to make mittens for people with cold hands in the area where she ministers. So it was the perfect excuse to go through all my old yarn and clear it out. I separated all the yarn into: send to Atlanta/give to Goodwill/throw in trash. I am only sending yarn that is suitable for mittens or perhaps a scarf or afghan. No eyelash or other frou-frou stuff.

That was put into the Goodwill bag, because I will not be knitting frou-frou any time soon.

And some yarn was either tangled ends or just too small amounts of old acrylic to be useful for much of anything. So I threw it away. Shocking, I know. But it feels kind of liberating.

Now all I have in the house is pretty decent yarn that I bought in the past year. I don't have to have the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that maybe I should knit a scarf out of Jiffy yarn, just because it is there. The Homespun in homey colors? Gone. The skein left from my sport-weight red shawl? Gone. Baby yarn? Gone. I was left with two plastic underbed-type storage containers (which don't actually fit under any of my beds). So I got all my and Kristen's stash of new yarn out of shopping bags and into those.

And then I knit a row on mitten #2.

I also bought Knitting for Peace today, and a very cool Premier edition of a new magazine of crafts in the Waldorf style called Living Crafts. I love their instructions for a felt angel and a felt heart and a snail made of a real shell and molded beeswax. Too bad I'm not still home-schooling a little kid. Too bad I didn't know how to knit when I was!

Anyhow, good day.


I am making all new mittens for my Dad. The wompy mitten will remain a one-of-a-kind mistake. I decided to follow the pattern in Knit Mittens! for a mitten called Lillemor's Mittens. The pattern is rather odd--you knit a square of garter stitch flat, leaving a place for the thumb to be picked up, and then you stitch it up and knit in the round for the fingertip decrease section. I think the original point of it was that it is knit without a single purl stitch. (I added 2 inches of k2p2 ribbing at the cuff however.) Another point of it is that garter stitch makes a denser fabric than stockinette, and dense is good for mittens. I also think the texture of garter stitch makes it easier to hold on to the steering wheel or whatever.

However. Large swaths of garter stitch at a tight gauge (worsted weight on size 5 needles instead of the more typical size 8) is a bit of a bitch to do. In garter stitch, you are entering a purl stitch every time, so you have to go in at a slightly sharper angle than for stockinette. And the size large mittens are more or less enormous--12" long when finished. The flat piece of knitting looks like it could be the back of a baby's sweater! But I pressed on, including stripes of red against a background of charcoal grey (which makes garter stitch not match on both sides, btw).

And I finally got the the decrease section, had the hand all stitched up, had the color change in place--and then somehow I dropped a stitch in the garter section. Did you know that it is very confusing to pick up a dropped stitch in garter stitch? Well it is. Especially when you have two different colors at exactly that point. I picked and pulled at it for about an hour, and the yarn was getting all fuzzy from being poked and prodded so much. I finally managed to get it back on the needle in something like the original configuration, but I see that there is a dent where that stitch was. Oh well. I can live with a dent!

I have now cast on the second mitten and knit an inch and a half or so. I will definitely get them finished in time. But from now on, I'm making mittens in the round in stockinette. I do not love garter stitch. It is not easier than purling. Imagine the Einstein coat--an entire coat in all garter stitch! No thanks!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Holey socks!

It took me from mid-July till the end of August to knit the Irish Forest socks. And it is now less than 2 months, and they already have a hole in the bottom! I wore them to work today under my tennis shoes, and when I took them off, I found a hole about half the size of a dime on the ball of one foot. This seems completely unacceptable to me, and rather discouraging. I will try to mend it, but I don't want to spend 6 weeks knitting socks that last only 8 weeks!! I used fearless fiber wool, and it felt kind of weak to me, but I expected it to last a year, at least. I am using the same wool to knit Sam's Christmas gift, but if they don't hold up any better than that, why bother? I used size 3 needles, which is not the tightest gauge, but it is also not exactly loose either. I can't knit socks on size 0 or 1--it will take me forever! Sigh.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Dog has been claimed

On Tuesday, we finally got a call from animal control that the owner of the dog had been located. Turns out he lived just a block away, and our Dog Found signs were just doors away from his house. He claimed that he looked all over, and visited several animal shelters looking for the dog, but somehow never saw signs on the telephone pole on the corner. Also, he has only owned the dog since September and she's run away 3 times already by jumping the fence. Funny she didn't jump our fence and run back home. But in any case, we gave her back.

One of the strangest things is that I had been thinking of names for her, and the name Heidi occurred to me. (Since Heidi is my favorite book of all time!) When he called, we asked her name, and it was Heidi. I swear, the dog was sending me the name by ESP!

Anyhow, we both agree that having a dog is a mixed blessing. She was very sweet and fun to have around, but also a big responsibility and a lot of work. So since she has an owner, we are satisfied that she went home.

On the knitting front, I am making garter stitch mittens now for my Dad, using a pattern called Lillemor's Mittens from "Knit Mittens!". Garter stitch using worsted weight wool on size 5 needles is tedious and kind of stressful on the hands. But I press on. I'm about halfway done with the first one. But I don't think I will use this pattern again. I think in-the-round stockinette is easier. The angle at which you enter the "purl" stitch every time is quite sharp and not as easy as entering a knit stitch to knit.

I spoke with Mom and Dad yesterday to assure them that the Southern California fires don't threaten us at all, and they told me it was 80 degrees in Maine yesterday. Will there even be a cold winter this year? Climate change is awfully visible these days. Nevertheless, I think mittens will still be needed!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Dog

On Friday afternoon, I am driving home from grocery shopping, and in the little cul- de-sac next to mine, I notice an obviously lost dog, running aimlessly. I make eye contact and sympathetic noises through the closed window of the car, and I notice in the side mirror that the dog is chasing my car. I come around the corner and pull up in front of my house, and the dog catches up. I open the door to get the groceries out, and the dog jumps into my car and begins lapping my face! I don't know this dog from a hole in the wall, but she pushes past me and as I open the door to tell Sam that she followed me home, she gets in the house ahead of me and introduces herself!

We check for tags, and she has a tag that says she has a chip embedded, so we call that number, but they tell us that, unfortunately, the owner has not registered their name or phone number. She is also wearing a Torrrance dog tag, so she's local. The chip people give me another number to call, LA County something or other. We call there, and a recorded message tells us they're only open Monday through Thursday, and gives us another number to call, which is busy all evening.

So. We seem to have a dog, at least for the weekend. We give her water, and a hotdog, and she finally calms down and makes herself at home. After dinner, I buy 2 cans of dog food. She is a good size, a little smaller than a German Shepherd, maybe about the size of a Border collie, white with black spots, short hair, with a curled up tail and pointed ears. And she's very intelligent and well-trained. I tell her to sit, and she sits. Hmmm, give me your paw? Yup. The other paw? Yup, that too. When we eat, we tell her to sit, and she averts her eyes and minds her manners.

Saturday morning I put Found Dog signs up all around the neighborhood and look for lost dog signs, but no call.

Sam likes her a lot. She's very mellow and quiet. The only time she has barked is when a van came at 2 am to pick up the neighbor for dialysis. Perfect watchdog behavior.

Probably on Monday, we will call the county and they'll have the number of whoever had the chip embedded, and we'll give her back. But it's been really nice experiencing a dog. So far, we're just calling her "pup," but if she stays much longer, she's going to get a name. And if we don't find the people, we will keep her. The only bad thing would be if we kept her for a month or two and then her owner turned up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mittens and Scarf

I was on a finishing kick the other day, so I finished the Pine Tree Scarf off. It looks really pretty, and I'm sure Mommy will like it. And then I decided to finish up the first of a pair of mittens intended for my Dad. But I've been making this pattern up as I go, and it turned out all wompy. I started out by trying to make it extra large, so I knit a lot of cuff and hand before putting in the thumb opening. Then I picked up stitches for the thumb, but there seemed to be too many (like 22!) so the thumb was turning out too wide. So I decreased in the middle of the thumb, which left it looking like a rocket with several stages. Then I added Fair Isle across the finger section, which turns out to be a funny looking place for a little design. And finally, when I ended it off, it was too soon, given the dimensions of the other parts of the mitten. So the thumb is too close to the top.

So now I have a couple of choices. I could undo the finishing, undo the thumb, and add more length and try to decrease the thumb in a more rational manner.

Or I could start all over, knit another mitten using an actual pattern, and then knit a third mitten, unraveling this one for extra yarn if needed.

Or I could press on and make one which matches the wompy one.

I'm thinking maybe I'll use the actual pattern for the garter stitch mittens and just make a pair like that. Should be fast and do-able, and it should produce a pair of mittens that actually look like normal mittens.

In my angst over the wompy mitten, I decided to try something simple instead. (Sock is on pause at the moment. I needed Sam's foot to measure before I do the same stupid thing to it. He's home now, but it will have to wait a bit yet.)

So anyhow, Nancy and Tesesa both made good looking fingerless mitts by making a simple rectangle of 2 x 2 rib and then seaming it up, leaving a hole for the thumb. So I decided to make a pair of those for Karen for Christmas. The nice thing is that in worsted weight and size 8 needles, they go so fast. Even for me. I'm using the second skein of the Ocean Blues that I used for Kristen's mittens last year. I'll call these Maine Morning Mitts. And I'll finish them this weekend and then get back to mittens for Daddy, followed by the never-ending socks for Sam.

Also, I've decided on what I want for Christmas: a simple-to-use digital camera! And then I will illustrate my blog, like every other blogger on the planet! And I'll have pics for my Ravelry page! I'll ask Kristen to pick out a suitable camera for me. And I'll use the laptop to easily upload the pics. Then the world can see the wompy mittens.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Traveling Tales

Ok, I'm not exactly a frequent flyer, and I travel for business about once a year, if that. But this year I had to fulfill an obligation to go up north twice in one month. So I got to see what the life of the frequent business traveler is like.

It's really boring. And you have no way of knowing how long any trip is actually going to take. And even knitting is not enough to make it pleasant.

I flew from LAX to SFO to a little place called Chico on Thursday afternoon. Smooth as silk. Enough time to hang out in LAX for a while and knit, then an hour flight over interesting landscape, avec knitting, and then a little while to scope out the food choices in San Francisco (Impressive. Dim sum at the airport? A soup bar? Who knew?)

And then I arrived at the Post-office-sized airport in Chico and got right into a Holiday Inn shuttle and whisked to my hotel room.

I ended up eating dinner a little later than normal (8-ish) and I over-ate some yummy shrimp fettuccine with pancetta (and 3 slices of warm bread with lots of butter) and then found that a heavy meal right before bed is not such a good idea. I watched The Office for the first time on tv and laughed, and fell asleep (I made sure I had some Ambien in my little case, and then left it home, but luckily I didn't need it) despite a rumbly tumbly.

Friday, I got a ride to Butte College and did the Basic Skills presentation, and then got a ride back to the airport. I knew I would be early, since the only flight out was at 6:10 and the conference ended at 3, so I was anticipating about a 3 hour wait. But when I arrived, the passengers from the 2 pm flight were still waiting, and I was told that my flight would go at 8:30 rather than 6. Ho boy, 5 1/2 hours in an airport so small that all they have in the way of food is a candy machine!

I decided to check out the rather remote neighborhood, and discovered a ratty little roadhouse about 10 minutes away, and got a bottle of water, mainly to get dollar bills in case I needed candy. I talked to Kristen for an hour as I roamed around, and I talked to Sam for a while as well. And then I waited. And knit. And waited. And knit. And walked back to the ratty roadhouse and got a (delicious!) hamburger for supper. I admired the sunset, and then waited some more, and finally I was just too tired to knit another stitch.

After a seemingly endless wait, we flew to San Francisco, arriving in perfect time for the 10:15 flight out, only to be told that that flight was going to be delayed until 11:30 pm. By this time, I was barely in my body. So I waited again, finally arriving in LA at 1:30 am (I don't even remember all the details, but apparently we left at more like 12:30.) And then I step outside to find that it's raining rather steadily (for the first time in 6 months) and I wait for the shuttle to take me back to my car, which is parked in a very close, very convenient parking lot.

Except that the shuttle doesn't come. After seeing every other parking shuttle cruise by 2 or 3 times, I call the Park N Fly lot, and they say, ok, we'll send the shuttle over. I wait some more. Everyone else is gone. Another group of passengers arrive, they all get picked up, and I hear another guy calling and asking, Do you even have any shuttles running? I ask him where he's parked, and no surprise, it's Park N Fly. It was 2 o'clock by the time I finally got back to my car. The nice lady driving the shuttle informed us that 2 drivers didn't show up tonight because it was raining and they don't like to drive in the rain. And then I had to drive home on the 405. In the rain. I don't like to drive in the rain either, especially when I'm so tired I'm having out of body experiences. I drove slowly, since there wasn't a lot of traffic at that ungodly hour. The road looked totally unfamiliar in all that dark and rain. But thankfully, I finally made it home by 2:30 am. Gee, only 11 1/2 hours after the conference ended!

I did not feel bad about my 50 mph speed when I heard this morning that a bunch of big rigs had a huge pileup on another road and turned a tunnel into an inferno that may have caused structural damage to I-5, the main road between southern and northern California. I might have looked like a granny, but I got home safely!

This morning I woke up at 6 am, same as always, and decided just to lay in bed and drink coffee and enjoy being supine. I went to Borders and perused the Kaffe Fassett book and knit a bit on the Pine Tree Scarf. My eyes are really burned out from sock knitting at the moment. The Pine Tree Scarf remains at the exact same length and with the exact same half-a-ball of yarn left, no matter what I do. It refuses to be finished. I really should finish that and the mittens before I press on with the sock, since they have to be mailed to Maine for Christmas, while the sock just has to go under the tree. Christmas seemed a long ways off, but it's rapidly approaching. September to December is gift-knitting season! The reward at the end is that I get to start on my Minimalist Cardigan. And I get to have nice gifts to give! :-)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

In which I discover the downside of wool

I like wool. I love its warmth and its bounciness. I love the way it takes color. I love to knit with it. But this week I discovered a drawback to wool--when it is warm and/or damp, it smells bad. I made two items of wool in which this is a rather serious drawback. The first is the below-mentioned hotpad. Hotpads sit on dining tables and absorb heat and moisture from pots. When the odor of wet sheep mingles with the odor of warm stew, it is not appetizing.

And then I made a warming pad filled with flax seeds and dry rice out of a recycled felted sweater. The flax seed in cotton has a rather distinctive odor which is not entirely unpleasant. But mix that with the odor of heated wool and yuck. So now I know why they don't make these warming things of wool or felt.

Luckily both of these little projects were more in the way of experiments than serious amounts of work and commitment.

The Smoky Mountain socks continue apace. I have turned the heel and decreases the gusset and am now at work on the foot section, which I will be at work on for quite some time, it appears. I have to keep quite a tight tension on the yarn in order to maintain 8 stitches per inch, and I just knit slowly at this gauge. So I'm still on the first sock, which means that I'm only about 1/4 the way through a pair of socks. However, they are turning out quite lovely, and I slipped it on Sam's foot this morning without telling him that it was a sock for him (he is very incurious), and the leg fits great. So onward. I will be traveling on Thursday and Friday this week, which seems to lend itself to some serious amounts of knitting. Perhaps I can finish up the foot by next Sunday.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

In which I crochet

I got home tired but happy, and my eyes were too bleary for much in the way of knitting. So I decided to revert to crochet and make a felted hot pad/pot holder out of the yarn I just bought. The first thing I noticed is how amazingly fast crochet is. Maybe it's my lack of knitting experience, but crochet just seems to fly. In the time I would be casting on stitches, I finished several inches of crochet in the round. Unfortunately, I was in such a rush that I didn't bother to follow the rules for how to make a flat piece of crochet. I just kept going, and in maybe an hour, I had used up the entire ball of thick yarn. And, um, well it buckled. A lot.

Oh well, press on. Let's see if felting will block the buckling out. So I hand felted it, and it did felt up pretty well, though not enough to close up all the gaps that double crochet creates. But with some serious tugging and pressing under a book, I ended up with a hot pad that is more or less flat. A little less, actually. And it looks pretty funky. Kind of 70's, especially the colors, and also just kind of old-ladyish, like something you'd see at Grandma's house (if you grew up in the 50s.)

I could throw it in the washer and dryer and try to felt it a bit more--it's not particularly thick, as I imagined, and it hasn't lost stitch definition. But then crochet has a different texture than knitting to begin with, and I don't think it's possible to disguise double crochet. Oh well--it's my souvenir of Redding, CA, handmade, and it will make a good potholder, if not that great of a hotpad.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

On the Road

So I came to Redding, CA today for a conference sponsored by the Basic Skills Initiative. It was a fine flight, 3 hours total, including a stop in Eureka. I was able to see Mt. Shasta from the airplane, and can also catch glimpses of it from around town here. I worked on the Smoky Mountain Sock most of the way up, and have 4 1/2 inches of 2x2 ribbing done. I also graded a few papers.

When I got here, after a bit of business about how the Chancellor's Office intended to pay for my room, I got checked in and went looking for lunch. I decided to walka round town a bit and see what I could find. I was about to settle for Dairy Quees, when I spotted a local coffee shop called Sue's Java Cafe. I'm so glad I held out for a local place rather than tried and true chain food. This was delicious! I got a bowl of tomato basil soup with sour cream stirred in, which was served with two yummy buttery slices of sourdough toast, and a cup of tabouli (made with couscous and grape tomatoes and plenty of oil) which was also outstanding. And I had an iced latte on the side, which came with crushed ice. Since then I walked all over town, but 2 hours later, I am still feeling stuffed, so there must have been something very filling in the so-called soup and salad! The soup was really good--made from scratch with fresh tomatoes. I had a cozy Irish mystery novel to read, and it was just perfect!

Then I had an urge to find out if there might be a local yarn shop in town within walking distance. I found a sewing machine shop that also sold quilt fabrics (and a cute kit of wool puffs for felting--but I resisted!), and I asked them if by any chance there was a LYS in town. In walking distance they asked? Why yes, I replied. Sure, turn left at the Subway restaurant and walk one block to Sew Simple. This too proved to be mainly a quilt shop (with tons! of lovely fabrics, including some mellow wool pieces that tempted me.) But it did have a small assortment of yarn. And I picked up a ball of Granito by trendsetter, made in Italy 100% wool very loosley spun, in variegated shades of orange to brown with some pink. I thought it was $9.50, but when I paid, it was 50% off! And she gave me a pattern for a cute felted bowl she had made of the same wool. I might make that, or I might make a felted hot pad. In any case, it's a nice souvenir.

Now I must go to my room and think about what it is I am supposed to do at this conference. And then knit.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A small bit of Fair Isle

I decided to experiment with Fair Isle by adding a small design to the mittens I'm making my Dad for Christmas. They are charcoal grey, but when I put in the waste yarn for the thumb I noticed how nicely dark red perks up charcoal grey. So I decided to give it a shot across the finger area.

I charted out a super-simple design of three rows of offset 4-stitch squares, and carefully made sure it would line up. And it did. Except that I forgot that all circular knitting is actually spiral knitting. So at the end, it is offset. But that must be the case in all Fair Isle ever done. I wonder why no one has commented on this?

In any case, it looks fine, and I am now picking up and knitting the thumb. I don't even remember what pattern I am using for these mittens, so it's all kind of seat-of-the-pants anyhow. But they look pretty good.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Smoky Mountain Socks

I did a few more rows on the Pine Tree Scarf, but the sock craving wouldn't let me go, so I put it aside again to start on the socks I want to make Sam for Christmas. The yarn is Fearless Fibers Smoke, and I'm using size 3 needles, which is a bit loose, but the other socks turned out fine, so I'm going to go with it. I have size 2's waiting in the wings in case this seems inappropriate after a while.

I cast on 72 stitches on 9/15 and have a good 2 inches done in 2 x 2 rib. I plan to rib all the way down the leg, for a manly look. The color is very pleasing and the ribbing looks and feels good. Not at all tight, but I think it will stay up all right. Since Sam has diabetes, I definitely don't want the leg to be too tight.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Oh. Is this thing still on?

Ah, yes, I got my Ravelry invite. Finally. And all my spare cmputer time has been spent roaming around there. I don't have the technology to actually put any projects up there yet (ie a digital camera that I control), but it's so much fun looking at other people's projects. Let's say I want to knit the minimalist cardigan (and I do!). I can see a dozen or more people's starts, a few speed demons' finished ones, and see how it looks on real people and in various yarn, and what pitfalls people ran into, and so on. I can see a hundred different incarnations of Fetching! It is so cool! I sent a comment to Cast-on's Brenda Dayne and she responded to me! All the way from Wales! The internet has just become an order of magnitude cooler. Between Ravelry and Etsy, I could spend all my free time online.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I love Fetching!

Kristen's pair turned out so pretty. Soft, snuggly, charming, fetching in fact! Lush is the ideal yarn for them, too.

So, what next? I guess I can add a few more rows to Grandma's Pine Tree scarf, so that I have some easy knitting ready to work on without having to actually cast on or think. The next couple of weeks looks pretty hectic. I'm really glad to have finished Kristen's socks and mitts for her before she goes back to Chicago. She will feel embraced by hand-knit items.

I love knitting! :-)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Heat and Ravelry

OMG, it is too hot here! This is not the kind of weather that is suitable for even looking at merino/angora yarn. I cast on and knit 2 inches at Borders in the morning on my Fetching gloves--I just love it! And after the super-thin sock yarn, this feels so thick and buttery. But then I came home for lunch, and I tried to knit in the house, but despite a fan right on me, my hands felt sticky and the yarn didn't want to slide across the needles. I may spend the whole day at Borders today!

Last night Sam decided it was not only too hot to cook, it was too hot even to eat in the house. Good call! So we closed up the house and went to Mitsuwa and I had cold noodles (well, they were cool if not cold.) And then we wandered around the shops for a while, and then drove in the nicely air-conditioned car to the 99 Cent store, which was very cool, and shopped aimlessly for a while, and then stopped at Nijiya to get bread. By that time, it was about 8:30 and dark, so we went on home. We knew it would feel warm in the house, but I literally couldn't believe it when I opened the door. It felt like we had left a furnace running. I actually went and checked the thermostat to make sure it wasn't somehow accidentally on. It read 90 degrees. Luckily the patio was cool by then. This morning, the house is still quite warm. I definitely need to find somewhere else to knit!

In other news, I checked my Ravelry status:

* You signed up on July 1, 2007
* You are #11840 on the list.
* 850 people are ahead of you in line.
* 18472 people are behind you in line.
* 36% of the list has been invited so far

Only 850 people ahead of me! That's just 3 digits. There are 5 digits worth of people ahead of me and behind me! Woo-hoo! This looks like fun.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


I finished the Irish Forest Socks, finally!! They're a little bit snug, but I think the fit will work out ok. It took me over 6 weeks to finish them! The only problem now is that it's 92 degrees here, and too hot to even touch wool, much less wear it on my feet!

Tomorrow I cast on Kristen's Fetching gloves. In an air-conditioned location!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Socks and swatches

The second sock is well underway--the nice smooth homestretch, just plain knitting down the foot till it's time to decrease for the toes. Maybe another 2 or 3 days worth.

Meanwhile, I swatched the new merino-alpaca yarn in moss stitch, and it's really lovely. I can't wait to knit it.

Sadly, Flex day (ie orientation) is the day after tomorrow and classes start on Monday. Work cuts into my knitting time something awful. (It does help pay for yarn though.)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Get Back

I hope to get back to my sock knitting this week. Karen and Ben spent 8 days here, and we had a great time visiting all the Southern California beaches and theme parks. But that didn't leave any time for peaceful knitting. At the moment, my row count is kind of out of whack, but I'm just going to carry on with some of the cables a little shorter or longer than intended. I still haven't finished the second leg section, so I don't think I will finish the sock before classes start a week from Monday. And then before Kristen goes back, I want to make her Fetching fingerless gloves.

I fell in love with the minimalist cardigan in the fall issue of Interweave Knits, and ordered the yarn for it already. I won't plan to actually start knitting it till after Christmas. I think the January-May time slot is perfect for making my first sweater.

This pattern:

In this yarn:

Ah, edited to add that the yarn arrived today. It is Plymouth Yarn Suri Merino, a 55% Suri Alpaca/45%extra-fine merino blend in color 1977, ordered online from Webs ( Webs screwed up Kristen's order earlier this year, but this time the order arrived very quickly with no difficulties. I am really looking forward to getting started on this sweater. The yarn feels wonderful, a lovely warm pink color in a weight that's a little on the fine side of worsted. Now I want to run out and get size 7 needles and knit up a gauge swatch. Hmmm, need to finish socks and Fetching.....!!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

One down, one to go

I finished the first Irish Forest sock. :-) Two weeks on a single ankle sock isn't very speedy, but I am happy with the results. Must cast on the second one right away!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Irish Forest Socks

Do they have forests in Ireland? Perhaps not. But the color of the socks I am knitting is a lovely forest green, and the cable pattern feels Irish to me. I want to try to write the whole thing out here, for posterity.
Size 3 US circular needle (30" or so)

Cast on 65 stitches, join. Divide 30 stitches on one needle, 35 on the other. (Stitches can be added or subtracted in sets of 5, if needed to change size.)

Knit 4 rounds of K4 P1 ribbing.
Row 5 =Cable Round: Slip 2 stitches onto cable needle and hold to back. K2, K2 from cable needle, P1. Repeat across entire round.

Repeat rounds 1-5 until you have 55 rounds, or until leg is the desired length.

Make heel flap on 30 stitches. Leave other 35 stitches on the resting needle. Working back and forth, begin with right side facing:

Slip 1 knitwise, K1. Repeat slip 1 K1 across row. Turn
Slip 1 purlwise only once, purl all remaining stitches across row. Turn.

Continue these 2 rows until you have 14 rows of each.

Turn heel, working only on heel flap. (The following instructions are from Knitting Rules by Stephenie Pearl-McPhee more or less verbatim. They work. I have no idea why or how.)

With RS (right side) facing, Slip 1 K17 ssk K1 Turn.(ssk =slip a stitch to the right side, slip another, now knit into them on the front.) It's ok that there are stitches leftover. Just turn.

Slip 1 P5 P2tog P1 turn
Slip 1 K6 ssk K1 turn
Slip 1 P7 P2tog P1 turn.
(See what's happening? Each row has a gap. You work 2 stitches together over the gap and then knit or purl one more stitch. Keep doing this until you have no more stitches left.

Knit across the heel one more time. Then pick up 16 stitches down the side of the heel. (I don't know if this is the right way or not, but I use a small crochet hook, stick it through the largish loops along the side one by one and pull a loop of yarn through, then deposit that loop onto the needle.)

Knit across the 35 stitches on the needle. Pick up 16 more stitches on the other side of heel flap. Now you have your sock back into a circle, but you have too many stitches, so you will work decreases each round, as follows.

Place marker at point where top of foot and picked up stitches meet on each side. Slide all stitches onto the cord and re-divide so that each needle has one half of top of foot, 1 side and one half of the heel.

Knit around, and as you approach each marker, look to see whether the leg of the sock is hanging down on the left side or right side.

When leg is on the right, pass marker, K2tog
When the leg is on the left, ssk the last 2 stitches before the marker.

(If this is working correctly, all the decreases should be done on the picked-up-stitch portion.)

Continue knitting around and decreasing until you are have 68 (or 64 or 66, your call) stitches left. Knit a half round so that the working yarn is at the division between top and bottom of sock. Slide all stitches back onto the cord again and re-divide so that the top half of the sock is on one needle and the bottom half is on the other needle.

Knit plain stockinette (k every round every stitch) until foot is 5 " long or comes to the base of your big toe. Begin decreases for toes:
Odd rows:
First needle: K1 ssk knit across K2tog K1

Second needle:same as above. (K1 ssk knit across K2tog K1)
Even rows= st st around
Continue decreasing in this manner on every other round until you have 16 stitches remaining (8 per needle.) Graft ends, per kitchener instructions.) I'll post kitchener instructions later.

That's it. Now do it again! A pair of socks!

The basic template for socks is derived from Knitting Rules. The concept for the cable pattern is from's Fetching, but I just kept going every 5th round all the way down the leg. Smart people could continue the pattern on the top of the foot, but I wasn't sure how or if I'd like the feel.

Some day there may be a photo or two added to this post. Don't hold your breath though.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The socks are dead, long live the socks.

Ok, I am taking a little break, actually, on the Paprkia socks. They are coming along nicely, but due to the size 0 needles, they are awfully small, even though I added stitches. I can put it on my ankle, but it takes a tug to get it over my heel. So when the new size 2 and 3 needles I ordered from knitpicks come, I will try the other skein of yarn on size 2 and see what I get.

So in the meantime, I have cast on with the forest colorway from fearless fibers. The color is very subtle and evocative, and the yarn is finer than nymph was but not as fine as the Paprika. I'm back to size 3 bamboo and it's working well. And I'm making cables all around the leg! This is my first venture into socks with a pattern other than what's built into the yarn, and until a few minutes ago, my first 25 rounds worked out beautifully. I just forgot to cable on the second half of my last round, so I have to tink back a row at the moment, but overall, I am very happy.

Kristen just set us up with a new wireless router, so I can use my laptop more freely (ie without stealing access from an unknown neighbor.) This will make multitasking easier and should lead to more frequesnt posts. Now if I could only get organized to have her to help me take and upload some pictures of all this knitting....

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Casting on and on

Yesterday I decided to cast on my next pair of socks, using the paprika colored yarn I bought some time ago. That yarn is considerably thinner than the two forms of sock yarn I've used so far, so I decided to give addi turbos a try. The only size available at Let's Knit was size 0 (2 mm) 32" long, so I bought that. It's not so drastic as I thought. And darling daughter has been knitting socks on a size 1 addi turbo, so I figured it can't actually be impossible.

And it's not. But it took me a few tries to get this thing right. The socks I've done before were 64 stitches, and I figured I needed more. I tried 68 and that resulted in me having to start the second side with purl stitches, which was awkward, so after a few rounds, I ripped it out. Then I thought that maybe 64 would work after all. But after a few rounds, that was obviously too small. So I ripped that out. Then I started my third cast-on, this time 72 stitches, using the long-end cast on. Only got to 60 stitches and was running out of long end. Sigh. FOURTH time's the charm! I now have about an inch of 2 x2 ribbing done, in several hours work.

This yarn doesn't seem as soft and springy as the last one at all. The color is pretty but it almost feels like cotton as I knit with it--somewhat dry and stiff feeling. But I will go one for a while and see if my taste for it increases. I hope so because this yarn was quite expensive. ($14 a skein, if I remember, and needing 2 skeins for a pair of socks.)

I have also decided that in the fall I will definitely make Sam a pair of socks, in the colorway Smoke from Fearless Fibers.

And while I'm ordering from her, why not another pair for me this fall in Forest:

Did I mention that I love etsy?

And Kristen is in love with the spring green socks. She wore them today inside her tennis shoes. :-)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th of July Socks!

I have finished the socks for Kristen! And they turned out so lovely--soft variegated green in just her favorite spring-time shades. I was able to re-do the backwards bit, with a bit of effort--I ended up ripping back to where the heel flap ended and re-doing the turning of the heel and picking up of stitches. I still don't actually know how I have managed on several occasions to knit in the round such that the stockinette side is on the inside of the circle. But I undid the damage. And even kitchener is starting to make sense to me and go smoothly. The secret is to keep all the stitches and yarn below the points of the needles from which you are casting off. I did these at Borders this noontime, and it just worked.

So, um, photographic evidence? Maybe this weekend??

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What the...?

Ok. So I knit one lovely sock in the beautiful light green merino yarn. And I knit the leg of the second sock. And the heel flap. And I turned the heel. And then I was ready to pick up stitches. And after I did that, I noticed that the yarn was coming from the bottom needle instead of the top one. Odd that. But perhaps it doesn't matter. Just a question of taste, right? Carry on, eh? So I knit two rounds of the decreases for the gusset, and things are looking, um, odd. Somehow, I am knitting backwards or something, because the stockinette stitches are once again showing up on the *inside* of the sock. And the outside looks like garter stitch!

So now I have to take all the stitches back off, get back to where I was somehow, and pick up the side stitches again. I think I must have somehow started off in the wrong direction at some point along the way. Most disturbing. Taking stitches off a circular needle is not easy. Getting them all back on again in the right direction without losing any is not easy. It will probably take me 2 hours or more to undo the damage. Sigh.

Every time I think I finally know what I'm doing, something weird happens and I am completely confused again.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Time flies

Whoa, I got a little sidetracked here. I have neglected to post because now I have no excuse for not having pictures, but I still don't have pictures.

I do have knitting, though.

I finished the first pair of Fetching fingerless mitts before Kristen got home. They are lovely! The 50% angora yarn makes the cable design somewhat muted. They almost look felted. But they are warm and soft and adorable. I made a pair with only one skein of the yarn, so now I'm not sure what to do with the remaining skein. I will make Kristen a pair in green a little later on as well. And I'll probably end up with a skein of purple and a skein of green left over. Could I make something nice with the two colors combined? Maybe a hat? Hmmmm.

Then I cast on for the pale green socks for Kristen. She loves the color, and my first pair of socks fit her quite well, so I am again following my adapted version of the Yarn Harlot's basic sock recipe. I am using just one needle, and I got all the decreases for the gusset to work out on the first try. I am now on the toe decreases. Then comes the somewhat dreaded kitchener stitching, which I will probably get to today. Will the third time be the charm? I hope so!

I've also done some felting. Bought some old sweaters at the Goodwill store and washed the heck out of them. I made Kristen a little felted zipper case for storing her knitting supplies. I plan to make a stuffed sheep as well, based on a pattern I invented as a toy for Kristen a long time ago.

My class for summer got changed, and now it looks like I'll have to do a lot more work than originally planned. My beginning ESL writing class had only 5 students registered, so they cancelled it, and after a bit of a roundabout process, I am signed up to teach regular English 1A for the second session, which means it will start next week instead of this week. I am curious about how a group of American students react to the same material that I have been using for ESL students. I got the schedule all planned yesterday, and submitted the whole summer's worth of photocopying (I hope). So it will be a lot of work grading 6 sets of essays in 6 weeks and pulling them through 2 novels and a research paper in that amount of time, but we will see how it goes. And if it's a disaster, at least it will be over quickly! :-/ I hope it doesn't cut into my knitting time too severely!

The main computer was dead but has been resurrected by a secret method discovered by wonder-daughter. I hope it continues to work! At the moment I'm afraid to shut it down at all, since it has to open in DOS. But once up and running, it appears to run fine. Fingers crossed.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Knit Against Global Warming

Ok, that seems a little over the top. But I think there is merit in the basic idea. Brenda Dane, on her very cool podcast Cast-on ends by reminding her listeners, "If you're cold, put on a sweater--that's what they're for." Makes sense, doesn't it? And if more people wore sweaters to ward off a chill in their homes, as President Carter recommended many years ago, we could save heating oil, gas, electricity or whatever else we are using to keep warm. Wool socks, fingerless mitts, sweaters worn around the house would provide cozy warmth without the need to burn fossil fuels.

In addition, if we insist on knitting with wool, we wil not be using fibers created out of a petroleum base. So there too, we might be doing our small part to cut down on oil consumption.

And wool is, or at least can be, a very sustainable domestically-produced product. Groups like the Green Mountain Spinnery and many small suppliers of fleece and hand-spun and hand-dyed products provide jobs that are often home-based and thus further save on the consumption of fuel.

We also are doing our small part to respond to the Walmartization of America, which is based on the premise that cheaper is always better and that it doesn't matter where the products you buy come from or how they are produced as long as the prices are "always low." The aesthetic choice of wanting something unique and designed for our own taste rather than the lowest common denominator of what the country as a whole will buy may not help prevent global warming, but the willingness to work with our own hands to produce something of real worth is important.

So knit on!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

How fetching!

It takes me a certain amount of time to build up a head of steam in order to be ready to start in on a new project. I bought the Lush wool/angora last Saturday and I mulled over it all week. On Friday I stopped by Let's Knit and bought a 29" size 6 bamboo needle, and before dinner I re-typed the pattern to make it easier for me to follow. I fell asleep thinking about starting Fetching.

This morning I was ready. I got up and wound the first purple skein into a ball, using the back of the chair to hold the skein. Then I cast on. The join for circular items is always tricky, and for the first round or two I can't be quite sure that I did it right. But I got it on the first try. 45 stitches cast on and joined and 4 rows of K4 P1 ribbing.

Then came my very first attempt at cable knitting. I've watched Kristen do it, I've watched Christine teach Nancy how to do it. I saw Nancy's results. I felt ready. And it worked! I tried several different cable needles--a thin J-shaped needle, a slightly less thin one with an indentation in the middle, both in aluminum. I even gave a bit of thought to the needle-less cable technique on the net (but it's hard to pick up stitches several stitches over so I gave up).

After the third cable round I decided that I prefer using an ordinary bamboo dpn. Even without the hook or indentation, the bamboo is "sticky" enough to hold the stitches more securely than the aluminum ones, and it's faster and easier to knit off of it as well. I made the third cable row on row 19 instead of 18 by mistake, but who will ever know? As long as I make the same "mistake" on the other hand, it is just a design choice, not a mistake. The 2-stitch cables are so clever and cute.

So I have 21 rows, a wrist's worth, of knitting done, and it is so soft and charming! I am really looking forward to wearing these silly little fingerless gloves. (Why do they seem to be gloves and not mittens? I guess because the rounded end is the essence of mitten-ness to me, and the presence of 5 fingertips seems to indicate gloves.)

Of course, I should have been grading research papers instead of knitting today. I *did* manage to grade a few. Maybe I'll do a few moe tonight. But my enthusiasm for reading these, after reading the rough drafts just last week, is very low. I have to get them done by Monday afternoon, however--because I have a batch of beginning essays coming on Monday and another batch of advanced essays on Tuesday! Yikes!

Nevertheless I am satisfied with my day's work. A new skill and a new smallish project to make me happy. (The Pine Tree scarf is on hold. I've used up the first two skeins, it's about 48" long, and I can't decide whether to make it longer or stop there. So I just set it aside. Perhaps later I'll make a hat to match and then re-visit the scarf.)

Fetching is calling my name!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

More Stash Enhancement!

Ok, so my knitting to-do list just got a little longer. But it is well worth it. I am working away on the Pine Tree Scarf, which I like a lot. And I have the paprika sock yarn and the pale green sock yarn for summer knitting. But today, after a great show-and-tell time at Teresa's house, we went to the Alamitos Bay Yarn Company in Long Beach. Very cool yarn shop! You drive to the end of a Marina, not exactly a yarny-looking location, and there's a lovely inviting yarn shop awaiting you.

I could have spent an hour there, admiring all the samples and touching and feeling lots of unusual yarn. But unfortunately I had to be back at El Camino by noon, so I only had about 20 minutes to peruse the yarns. I made a quick decision: I had thought about getting some Cashsoft to make the Knitty pattern called Fetching (

But then I saw some absolutely beautiful worsted weight yarn of 50% wool and 50% rabbit angora. Angora can be wildly expensive, so $11 for a 50 gram skein didn't seem out of line. I decided to buy 2 skeins, to be sure I would have enough. I chose a lovely soft mossy green color, thinking, Oh this is a color Kristen likes. I'll make myself some fingerless mitts. Then I thought, Wait, Kristen will want the mitts! I'd better get another color for myself, so I picked an equally soft purple color. So I ended up buying 4 skeins. $44 worth. But I worked at ECC in the afternoon and earned more than that, so I felt justified in treating myself. It is really lovely rich feeling yarn. And if you're going to keep your hands warm, wouldn't soft angora yarn be just that much better?

I had to miss the rest of the yarn expedition, but I had a great time visiting with Nancy and Teresa and Christine and Yoshiko, and now I know another great LYS to return to again sometime. And a Saturday afternoon spent grading other people's research papers didn't seem so bad when I told myself I was earning yarn by doing so!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Pine Tree Scarf

Here's the pattern for the diagonal rib scarf.

Cast on 28 stitches (multiple of 6 plus 4 extra stitches for a 2-stitch border on each side)

Knit 4 rows of  garter stitch.

Odd number rows are the pattern side.

Row 1: K2 (for border) K3 P3 across, ending with K2
Row 2 and all even rows: K2, knit the knits and purl the purls, ending with K2)
Row 3: K2. P1, K3 P3 across, ending with K2
Row 5: K2. P2, K3 P3 across, ending with K2
Row 7: K2. P3, K3 P3 across, ending with K2
Row 9: K2. K1, P3 K3 across, ending with K2
Row 11: K2. K2, P3 K3 across, ending with K2
Row 13: K2. K3, P3 K3 across, ending with K2 (= row 1) Continue to row 3, etc.

The pattern is equally attractive from both sides, and doesn't curl at all. It has a lovely dimensional texture, and once you get the hang of it, it's quite simple to see where you are and what you need to do next.

Thanks to Nancy for this great pattern!

Monday, May 14, 2007

A washrag??

I was sure I would never knit a dishrag! How could anyone spend their valuable time on such a thing? How could I bear to soil my precious stitches??

Well, I did make a dishcloth, and it was fun. It's such a sunny yellow, and the double moss stitch made a lovely scrubby texture. I might even make another one some time, since it only took a day and a half.

And now, I am at work on a scarf which shall be named the Pine Tree Scarf, because it is destined for a home in Maine, the Pine Tree State. I'm making it for my mom for Christmas, out of pine green yarn that is 70% merino wool, 27% silk and 3% cashmere (called Kashmir, but clearly, that's a bit of an exaggeration.) I got the pattern from nNncy and I really like it: it's called Diagonal Rib, and it's just patterns of knit and purl, like a 3 x 3 rib stitch, except that each time the stitches are offset by one stitch, so that the rib travels diagonally up and across the scarf. To me, it almost resembles a cable pattern, but much simpler. It does take a bit of attention, but the yarn is nice and soft and worsted weight, size 8 needles, and the scarf is only 28 stitches across, so it is moving along quickly.

I had a lovely Mother's Day, and the end is in sight for the school year. All good!And I am wearing my hand-knit socks to school today! :0)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Magic Loop Knitting for a Sock

I want to try to record the method I used for my sock while it's still in my mind. Even though knitting on one (or 2) circular needles is much simpler than on 3 or 4 dpns, it does require some special adaptations when you're using a pattern, because the patterns explain the decreases in terms of needle 1, 2, and 3, and you have to reinterpret that.

So first of all, you cast on all your stitches on one end of the long circular needle. Then you slide the stitches to the middle of the cord. Count half the stitches, and pinch and pull the cord through a space between the 2 middle stitches. Now you can slide the stitches back to the tips, half on either side.

Next, you need to make a nice smooth join. The method of exchanging stitches seems to work well for me.
Move the first stitch on the left needle onto the right needle, and then slip the original first stitch on the right needle over and onto the left needle. Then the stitches on the farther needle, from whence the working yarn is coming, are pushed onto the cord, and you pull the needle so that you have just a small amount of loop on the left and plenty of free cord on the right side, and you knit. I pull the first stitch really tight each time to avoid ladders.

Ok, so the ribbing and the leg are perfectly simple. Round and round you go. When you come to the heel flap, it's perfectly simple since half your stitches are already on one needle and you just knit back and forth.

The tricky part is when you pick up stitches and then decrease. My method was to slide all the stitches back onto the cord and re-divide them so that each needle has half the stitches from the top of the foot, one set of picked-up side stitches and half the heel stitches. And then, place markers at the point between the top of foot and the beginning of the picked-up stitches on each side.

Then, when you come to the marker, look at where the sock is hanging down. If the sock is on the right, pass marker and then K2tog. And if the sock is on the left, ssk just before the marker. In the first few rounds, it's obvious where to do it because you are along side the heel flap, but as you keep going, you get further away and you need to pay attention.

When all the decreases are done and you're back to your original number of cast on stitches, slide the stitches onto the cable again and re-divide them so that you have the top of the foot on one needle and the bottom on the other. Knit round and round till you get to the toe decreases.

On each needle, K1 ssk knit across k2tog K1. Turn to the other needle and do the same:K1 ssk knit across k2tog K1. Continue until there are 8 stitches left on each needle and then kitchener them together. And that's it!

With one circ, it doesn't matter whether you have 64 stitches or only 16 or 8, it still works. I think this would work great on hats too--no awkward switching to dpns at the end.

If you know how to knit on 2 circs, just look at it for a moment, and you will see that if you slip one set of those stitches onto the free end of one needle, you can dispose of the hanging dangling thing and have a much neater little package of knitting. There's nothing to dangle because one end of the needle holds the working stitches, the cord holds the other half, and the other end of the needle is used to knit with.

Here's a picture of how it looks. Unfortunately, they don't sell the booklet directly. However, you can order it online here, $8 plus $4 shipping:

Don't waste your time or money on Cat Bordhi's book on 2 circs.

My needle is 29" Takumi bamboo, size 3 US, and it's plenty long enough for socks or mittens. The join is not as smooth as some, but then again the stitches don't fall off as easily either, so it's a tradeoff I'm willing to make.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Free and Easy Feeling

Now that my first sweater (ok, vest) and my first pair of socks are done, I feel kind of lost, but also kind of free. Sort of like the feeling after studying for final exams, and finally they're all done and endless summer looms. Or even, I was thinking, as if I had finished a thesis or something.

This morning I cast on and got a couple of inches done of a cotton washcloth in sunny yellow. After size 3's for the past 4 weeks, the size 8 feels enormous! And I also added a couple of rows to the set-aside gray mitten (I also converted it from 2 circs to one. Two circs is like training wheels, but really, one is far simpler. Far. Far. And I think I understand now how simple it is to divide up the stitches and join the round--slip the whole thing to the middle of the cable, pull the cable out through the center of the stitches, and then slide the two halves of stitches to the two needles again. How could I not see that before? It makes perfect sense now!

But anyhow, the washcloth will only take a day or two (she said ambitiously), and then what? I'm not really motivated to knit mittens at the moment, no matter what Elizabeth Zimmerman says about knitting mittens in the summer. Soooo....

With my feeling of freedom, I went back to Concepts in Yarn and bought two skeins of sock yarn, 100% hand-wash only merino wool, hand dyed in a colorway called Paprika. It's very pretty (and rather overpriced, since 2 socks worth came to almost $30!) But you know how you pick something up, and then talk yourself out of it, and then you come back and pick it up again, and then talk yourself out of it? Well I had already done that twice with this yarn. So I decided it was meant to be mine, since just two skeins in that color were available, and it was still sitting there, weeks after I first squeezed it. These will be really special socks, since they will be this peppery variegated red color plus hand-washable only. So I will take my time and when I'm ready, I will knit them. :-)

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Pair of Socks!

The pair of socks has just been finished!

The kitchener stitch again befuddled me more than I expected it to. I think I need to get some expert instruction in how to do it, but I was so impatient to finish these and be able to put them both on at once that I just pushed on.

They are like a walking foot massage! They hug, nay they embrace my feet! They feel almost alive!

For some reason the colors didn't line up the same on both feet, even though the leg portions did (perhaps because I did the decreases correctly on the second sock. :-/ )

But no matter. I love them. My very first pair of socks, off the needles and on my feet! Weeee!

I ordered some light green mildly variegated sock yarn on and expected to receive it by today but I just got a note from the dyer saying she was so sorry to be late, but she was recovering from abdominal surgery. Oh. Okay! I think I will wait till Kristen actually gets home to try to knit it into socks for her.

Can't wait for this to arrive!

But all this means that I am project-less at the moment. What to do, what to do? A washcloth? A scarf? Some other socks? Fingerless gloves? Stay tuned! :-)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

knitting nightmares: literal and figurative

I actually had a nightmare the other night that I was knitting my sock and the yarn had turned into some sort of horrid ribbony stuff and the gauge was all wrong and there were holes all over the place. Perhaps I shouldn't knit late at night?

Meanwhile, in real life, I went off to Borders this morning intending to make a nice neat heel flap, (which came off without a hitch on the first one) and I made one mistake after another, and had to take it off the needle, and then realized that I didn't have any of my equipment with me and actually left the store and drove home to get a crochet hook and a needle and thread to salvage rapidly disappearing stitches, and drove back to wait for Sam and continue my "peaceful" knitting. And I still don't have the flap finished yet. And after that the puzzle of picking up stitches again.

I think I have a clue why I got my decreases in the wrong position last time though. It's too hard to explain, even to myself, but we shall see if this enlightenment sustains itself long enough to produce tangible results.

So going to listen to Cast On and try to finish this bit up.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Victory is Mine!

I have completed my first sock!! It is so warm, so cunning! It fits to a T. I am delighted with it!

Ok, so the kitchener stitch was a bit of a bitch. It really isn't hard, but I managed to split yarn and fail to pull it snug till I got to the end, and then I couldn't get it to tighten up, so I had to laboriously undo it and try a second time. But I prevailed. It will never fool an expert, but I think it is reasonably smooth and will hold up.

Oh and did I mention that yesterday, Amy explained to me that I had gotten my decreases running the wrong way? (No way to fix that now--I hope it will make more sense on the next go-round.) AND! I figured out for myself that I don't need two circs--I switched to using just one, and it is far easier. I am now convinced that Cat Bordhi is a fraud. Her book is worthless.

So on to sock number two! Pictures some day.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sock Knitting Continues

I'm still on the first sock (are people really knocking of pairs of socks in a week??) but it is actually turning into a sock! I turned the heel without too much difficulty. I picked up stitches somehow or other. (I hope that when I do it the second time I'll understand better what's happening. I felt so confused and was certain I was doing it wrong, it wouldn't work, etc. but I just bumbled through it.) I decreased back to the right number of stitches. And now I'm knitting away on the straightaway of the foot. So all that's left, after I get enough length, is to decrease for the toe section (which is just like decreasing for a mitten, so it should be ok) and then the beloved Kitchner stitch. For some reason I am convinced that Kitchner stitch will be easy. I know everyone stresses over it. But I actually have a mental image of what it involves and how it's supposed to work (unlike heel-turning, which made no sense to me at all.)

And then...another sock just like it. What could go wrong? Ha.

I think knitting is not so different from flying a plane. They say that consists of long periods of complete boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror. Well maybe "sheer terror" is an overstatement in terms of knitting, but there are certainly moments of panic and frustration, interrupting hours of plain boring, ah, I mean relaxing,knitting. And when I get bored, I can stop and put the sock on my foot and look admiringly at it and feel its warmth. Nice!

Monday, April 23, 2007

More Angst of Socks

But this angst is what Kristen calls pregret. That's like regret, only ahead of time--a premonition of regret yet to come. Well hopefully not. I have completed the heel flap, which involved a slightly new skill, slipped stitches.

I know slipped stitches are easy, as easy as rolling off a log, but I had never done it before, and I found it weird to move every other stitch all the way across the row onto the other needle without actually knitting it. I don't quite understand why, but it does seem to have made a thicker and cushier fabric than ordinary stockinette stitch.

And now I have to somehow pick stitches back up off the sides of the flap and reunite the whole thing into a tube. This apparently is what's known as "turning the heel." I recall first hearing that phrase when I read Little Women, I think. So it feels very romantic. But it also feels like uncharted territory. I can't really picture what I am going to do. I don't understand the architecture of socks. So I plunge blindly on....stay tuned.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


You know what's really great? When a person comes up to me and says, "Oh, I like your sweater." And they don't say, "Did you make it?" :-)

I wore my sweater to San Francisco to a conference, and people actually just complimented me on it. Someone at work also complimented me, not knowing that it was made by loving hands at home. Whee!

The sock continues apace. I knitted while waiting for the plane and on the plane and in the hotel room. But I'm proceeding slowly, because I don't want to make any mistakes--they're too hard to fix! So far, it's just knitting round and round, without any fancy shaping. I will put a safety thread in before I start the heel, so that if there's a problem, I can get back to where I was.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The View from Chicago

Since I don't have on-topic pictures to post, I thought I'd break up the monotony of words and knit-angst by posting some off-topic pictures: My lovely daughter and her dorm room at the University of Chicago.

Get back on the horse that threw you!

I made up my mind that I wouldn't let socks intimidate me. So I cast back on and made it to the same spot I was at last night when it all went to hell. I don't quite know why the stitches seem tighter when I transition from 2 x 2 ribbing to stockinette, but it does. So this time I made a conscious effort not to mess up and to knit a bit looser. So far, so good.

Incidently, neither this sample nor the skein of yarn itself gives a good idea of what the yarn will look like when it's knit up. It looks better than I expected, actually. A stripe of soft green, a stripe of grey and white checks, a stripe of soft orange, a stripeof grey and white checks, a stripe of soft raspberry, etc. Each stripe is about two rows deep. Very attractive.