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.

The Angst of Socks

Ok, so I cast on 64 tiny stitches onto two circular needles, and with considerable difficulty, I got a 2 x 2 rib going. And then it went along rather well, so that after a day's work I had 2 inches of ribbing and started on stockinette, which is supposed to be the easy mindless part, right?

At 10:30 last night, I decided to do just another row or two, to see how the stockinette section was looking. But oddly, the transition from K2 P2 to all knit was kind of tricky. I split the yarn a couple of times and somehow ended up with 65 stitches on the needles. Ok, I can fix that. So I fiddled with it, trying to find where I had made an extra stitch, and finally got everything back on the needles.

Yeah, ok, there's a bit of a glitch right here where the ribbing changes to st st, but I can live with that. I mean, look at all this attractive ribbing. Look how nice the colors look. Look...huh, funny...what's this? Back in the 3rd row? Isn't it odd how the stitches sort appears that I have an entire half of a round all in purl stitches! What the...? Ok, well, if I rip back, I can eliminate both the little oddness where the st st begins and the mess up in the 3rd round. So I rip out 2 inches of my hard-won 2 1/2 inches, and then I realize that getting those 64 stitches back on the needles was going to take more time and stress than simply doing the whole thing over.

So I ripped it all out. All of it.


I know that knitting is a lesson in the impermanence of everything.

I know that there's no sense in being attached to my work, and there's certainly no sense in continuing a piece of work that will have a big blunder in it forever.

But I don't know if I can start the socks again right now or not.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours

Or more accurately, bound off, blocked, stitched, and all ends woven in--the Celtic Seas vest is mine all mine. If only I could post a picture! But I will have to use a thousand words to pay for the lack of one picture.

So let me say first of all that it came together very nicely--all the pieces matched up, the rather mysterious shawl collar fit together perfectly, and following Maggie Righetti's instructions in Knitting in Plain English, I was able to create seams that are smooth and neat. (Incidently, her written instructions are good. The illustration doesn't depict what the words say, so I went with the words and it worked.)

The colors of the vest are delightful, and the texture is also pleasing. And it fits. And in the end it only needed 6 skeins of Kureyon, not 9. (Kristen wants the leftovers.)

That's the good news. On the other hand...

Well, I added shaping to the arm openings, but it's still quite boxy in appearance. The shoulders extend at least 2 inches beyond my actual shoulders on each side. And this is not a particularly graceful or flattering look. And the addition of horizontal striping to what is essentially a short square sweater contributes to the boxiness. So while it fits, it does not truly flatter. If it were much longer, say a tunic with side slits, perhaps the effect would be better. Or if I had somehow knit it in the opposite direction, making vertical rather than horizontal stripes, that too might be nice.

However--it's my first-born sweater, and I will wear it with pride and joy. And it is WARM. I went to Marukai Pacific Supermarket, which is always freezing cold due to dozens of open freezer cases, and I laughed in the face of cold! Ha.

So my take-away is that whatever amount of skill is required to knit a sweater that is shaped like a female body is skill worth acquiring, because simple-to-knit is not good enough. And it will be a while before I have the fortitude to attempt a sweater that includes maybe 6 or 8 more inches in length plus two full sleeves, because this sweater is quite minimalist and yet it took 6 weeks of quite focused work.

So, I think I hear some socks calling me....and who ever heard of unflattering socks?

PS: I now understand why self-striping sock yarn is wildly popular but self-striping sweater yarn is not so common--the stripes come out different widths, they aren't going to match up, and if you had sleeves, it would be even more discordant. But I am committed to loving the self-stripiness of my vest. But in the future, unless the thing is knit sideways, I will find other ways to add interest to a sweater.

So. On to the socks!


The vest is all knitted, and is being blocked as I type! I stayed up till midnight to get the last bit done so that it can dry overnight and I can stitch it up tomorrow. Pictures some day.

Now I can wear it in chilly San Francisco next week. And...I can start on the socks! Tee hee.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

I have succumbed...

to the sock-knitting siren. Or at least the buying-of-supplies-for-sock-knitting siren. A few weeks ago I bought a whole book of sock patterns, and then I also bought Cat Bordhi's over-rated book on knitting socks with 2 long circular needles. And I have the Yarn-Harlot's book, which includes generic instructions for a basic sock. So it was inevitable that I would have to buy needles and yarn soon.

Today was the day! Kristen went yarn shopping in Chicago and is hard at work on a felted Rubik's Cube intarsia bag. And I'm still plugging away on my double moss stitch vest. Sigh. So I decided to stop by Let's Knit just to look at needles. Just to lift my spirits. And I ended up buying 2 bamboo size 3 needles (29" each) and 2 skeins of Patons Kroy Socks Jacquard yarn. Total damages, $28. That's a lot for a pair of socks!! That don't exist yet and may never exist!

But what could I do? I was helpless! And then I swatched, the cunningest little swatch you ever saw, 1" by 2", and it is love at first sight. The yarn is sherbety shades of pink, orange and soft green, intersperced with grey and white flecked sections.

So now this is to serve as motivation. I am not allowed to cast on the socks until the vest is done, or I might live forever with a 3/4 finished vest. So on to finish the vest ASAP so that I can experience the joys of sock-knitting! Help me God. Amen.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Things to Knit by

Not things to buy and knit, you understand. No, things to knit by. Meaning, things to do while also knitting. Now, I know some people can knit in movie theatres, and some people can watch DVDs and knit. But I am a newbie who has to actually look at what I am knitting. So although I can certainly knit while a baseball game is on tv, I find that I am either going to mess up my (simple) pattern or not really follow the plot of anything more demanding than Ugly Betty. So my mind-amusement of choice while knitting is something that is meant to be listened to rather than watched.

An obvious choice, of course, is the radio. I love npr, and it is really fun to listen to A Prairie Home Companion or This American Life while I knit. But the timing of those shows is not always conducive to my knitting life. And just when I have a couple of free hours of a weekend evening, KPCC is likely to be broadcasting some colossal bore like Michael Feldman's "Whaddya Know? Not Much," whose quirky charm entirely escapes me.

Then it dawned on me: I've been hearing the word "podcast" and had some vague idea that it was like radio only on your own schedule. Could that be the answer? But I don't own an iPod--does that leave me out of the loop? Ah, no, it does not. If I have a computer and a speaker, as I do, I can download podcasts and listen to them through my computer. And what luck--my computer speakers are right next to my comfy chair and the best light in the house!

So off I go to look for podcasts. My first stop is A Prairie Home Companion, and yes, they do allow me to subscribe to the monologue News from Lake Wobegon, but that's only 15 to 20 minutes long. Conveniently, however, that download points me to other podcasts that people like me have chosen, and I soon add Irish and Celtic music to my mix. And then! I find that there are entire hour long podcasts devoted entirely to knitting and knitters!

Cast-on ( the only such podcast that I have given a spin so far, and it will keep my mind and ears occupied for quite some time, since there are at least 46 hour-long podcasts already in the waiting list! Brenda Dayne is the mind and voice of cast-on, and she sounds to be an American woman now living and knitting in Wales. Her podcast is very professionally put together, with reviews, interviews, general conversation, and bits of appealing music in between.

A list of other likely-looking knitting podcasts can be found at

Since I found that the technical skills to acquire a podcast were well within my reach (they just arrange themselves in iTunes, in the podcast category, and iTunes was already on my computer--whether automatically or because Kristen downloaded it, I don't know.) The iTunes store has lists of music and podcasts that are either free or available for a price. It's totally simple.

Then another idea occurred to me: The Teaching Company. I get their catalogs, since I once ordered a set of VCR tapes on Calculus (which remains in like-new condition, I might add...) and a lot of their topics sounds moderately interesting. But I never got around to ordering a $49.95 set of CDs of The History of Early Britain and other captivating topics. Have they perhaps moved into the digital download stage? Indeed they have! And while many of their series cost over $50 (ie enough money to cut into one's yarn budget), there was a series of 12 half-hour lectures on the Probelm of Consciousness for $19.95 that could be ordered and downloaded in one easy step. So I did it. These located themselves on my desktop, and when I click on them, they open in the music section of iTunes, which is ok except that when each 30 minute segment is over, a random tune from Kristen's collection follows hot on its heels. It's kind of odd to move from lecture hall to Europop so seamlessly.

The lectures are also fairly dry. There is a smattering of applause at the start of each lecture, but there's no indication that these were actual lectures delivered to an actual audience. Instead, the professor simply reads his lecture, and his writing style is much more written than conversational in tone. But I paid my money and I'll get my (belated) education. And maybe I'll try a series on the story of human language in the future. But compared to free, these are a little steep.

And this leads me to the question of whether I might listen to books on tape (actually on CD). I kind of doubt it. I did listen to some books on tape back when I was commuting to grad school back in Chicago. But I prefer to read my books the old-fashioned way, I think. Radio is a different medium than reading, and the podcasts are actually more enjoyable than the philosophy lectures (duh!)

Anyhow, the upshot of all this good stuff to knit by is that I have finished the first front for my vest, and it is now drying on a thick layer of towel in the computer/knitting room! One more segment to go and my first actual adult-size garment will be complete. The front went much more smoothly than the back, because I really do understand the pattern now. And after several tries, I finally figured out that instead of trying to decrease for the shaping of the armholes, I could just bind-off. (Actually that didn't go completely smoothly, because I didn't quite grasp that one should bind off only at the start of a row and not at the end. But I got it straightened out.

So now I'm on Spring Break and willl make at least a good start on the second front piece (the first took 2 weeks)--so in 2 weeks or less, I should have the thing finished. Just in time for spring weather, which is not exactly conducive to wool sweaters. But maybe it will be a cool spring, who knows?