Monday, October 31, 2005

I'm Old-Fashioned

I'm noticing a trend lately for knitting two socks at once on circular needles. It's really mystifying me, because 1) I don't particularly care if I knit as efficiently as humanly possible, as long as I loosely meet a deadline, and 2) I can't use that technique anyway.

Why not? Well, I guess it's confession time. I have a secret. It's not an easy one to divulge, but here it goes:

For years now I have been avoiding other knitters and knitting circles - not just because of my latent antisocial tendencies (which, perhaps, are a bit more than latent) - but because of my knitting technique. I actually do make pretty good time, that's not the problem.

Is the problem that I am an English style knitter embarrassed to show my face among Continental style knitters? Or a lefty? No. I hold my yarn in my left hand, so I might be a Continental knitter. Might.

The ambiguity about my "style" stems from the fact that no one sat me down and taught me a style and made me stick to it. My grandmother taught me to crochet, but when I began to take an interest in knitting, she was still in California, while I was in Pennsylvania. I had to do what any determined person does:

I went to the library.

And I found a fascinating book on knitting. I ate it up. I dreamt it, I lived it, I fell asleep on it and drooled on it. I almost didn't return it. What was it?

I think it was called something like "The Traditional Knitting of the British Isles", and I suspect it may have been written by Rae Compton. (It's mixed in my mind with a lot of other traditional knitting books now, but I can still see the pictures in my head.) And it taught me to knit.

Belt style.

Only, I have no belt. And once I returned the book, I made my own variations. I put the left handed needle down, not the right. I only wind yarn around my index finger when knitting, and when I purl, I hold it down on the left hand needle with my thumb. The result is I can do colorwork and knit/purl combos pretty fast, but give me a circular needle and I may as well be knitting with my toes for all the progress I'll make.



So I knit my socks one at a time. With long dpns. Hunched over.

Stop laughing.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hi, Grandma!

Blog counters are really handy things. Not only are they entertaining to an obsessive and wandering mind, they also reveal disturbing realities that could otherwise remain ignored, like traffic patterns.

I am the most frequent visitor to my site. The second most frequent visitor is my 78 year old grandmother, who lives 2000 miles away from me. Everyone else is just lost.

This is good and this is bad. It is good because I have just scored 5 balls of white worsted wool and a ball of black/white wool (enough for a hat) for knitting from my Grandma. It is bad because while I have always chosen quality over quanity, I was hoping for a just a little more of an audience. Like, three or four regulars. Hopefully people who make things, too.

I have been working on my boyfriend's scarf off and on all week. Intarsia has never really been appealing to me unless it is strictly traditional, like Fair Isle or Setesdal sweaters, so I wanted to get it over with ASAP so that I can move on to other, more interesting projects, like the fingerless gloves/mittens in Knitty for Sibling #8. Also, it friggin' snowed yesterday! In October! It didn't stick but it gave me one hell of a scare.

Progress shot.

Proof once again that stocking stitch curls.

Finished Object!

I completed it tonight. It was curling like crazy so I gave it a single stitch crochet border in the hope of controlling it somewhat. No such luck. It did however improve the overall appearance of the scarf. (Remember, even though I knit and designed it, I am not really responsible for this scarf's aesthetics. My boyfriend chose the colors and the bold geometric pattern.)

I used four balls of Mission Falls 1824 Wool 100% merino superwash (2 balls red, 2 balls black) and knitted it up using a pair of US #8 dpns. The crochet hook was 4 mm, a little too small. I really , really like this yarn. I'm already fantasizing about a hat and mittens (just in black!) to go with the scarf.

I was too lazy to block it so I just misted it a lot and ironed it out. I'll block it next weekend. Maybe.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Sketch

Three years ago when I was deciding what to do with my life academically it came down to a decision between art school and architecture school. I thought just doing art would bore me, and art schools are notoriously expensive (at least the ones I was interested in attending) so I chose architecture.

I wonder about that choice every semester. I thought I would have time for art in my spare time, but what they don't tell you about architecture school is that you're lucky if you have time to buy toilet paper. I draw something willingly about twice a year. (I hate drawing buildings, so they don't count.) Lately I have been trying to do more art so that I don't get too rusty. (I can already feel my artist joints stiffening, a kind of mental arthritis.)

Tonight I drew my boyfriend. 2o minute sketch with an EBONY drawing pencil. I have no idea where my pencil sharpener is. I could have sworn I drew it last week, so I defintitely have one somewhere.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Did I Mention I Also Crochet?

My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was about ten, but I never finished anything until I was in my early twenties: The World's Ugliest Afghan. (I'll spare you the pictures, and just describe it instead.) This afghan was composed of any and all free yarn I could get my hands on, usually orange acrylic 4 ply. I started it when I was fourteen and finished it at twenty when I was desperate for another blanket for those frigid Northern Californian nights. (There was FROST on the porch!) I thought shell stitches were fascinating when I was fourteen, so that's what the whole thing is: a full-size bed afghan with a double-stitch border of variegated brown yarn. Eh! Pretty awful.

I still use it, of course.

From Godawful Afghans I progressed to bobble stitch baby blankets for Sibling #1's children, berets, beanies, and then snoods.

I am a big fan of recycling yarn. (Don't leave your sweater overnight at my house.) I am an even bigger fan of yarn from yard sales and thrift stores. Especially the kind that comes on CONES.


Something went wrong in my brain when I discovered the Solomon Knot. It's very simple, but full of potential. I made so many beaded snoods with it I began to worry if I would ever make anything else.

I wish I knew what I did with the rest of this green yarn. I suspect it was a victim of The Great Moving Purge of 2004.

This snood was made from black wool twisted together with gold thread. The band is elastic, crochetted over.

Here it is from the front. I took a lot of shots of it from different angles, but the light was really bad and it's difficult to take a picture of me that doesn't make me look baby-faced and buck-toothed. Mainly because, well, I am baby-faced and buck-toothed.

A Question of Taste (Or Lack Thereof)

I maintained a certain amount of control this weekend and bought what I consider very little. A couple buttons, orange thread for my jacket, four balls Mission Falls 1824 Wool 100% merino superwash (2 red, 2 black; for my BF/P/Whatnot's scarf) and a skein of black Catalina 4 ply 100% baby alpaca, another ball of Wool Ease Quick & Thick, and the latest Knitscene.

There are things in this Knitscene that I find repulsive. Pom-poms, for one. Why pom-poms everywhere? Is this a fad? Thank goodness I have never been truly fashionable, otherwise I might feel compelled to jump on this bandwagon.

I can't stand pom-poms.

Why this adversion to harmless poofie balls of yarn? Well, they remind me of ugly '70's curtains and bedspreads, for a starter. I don't know why gold velveteen with gold pom-poms was so chic 30 years ago. It's one of those mysteries right up there with fake tans, velvet wallpaper, glass float light fixtures, gilded wrought iron sconces, and an obsession with colors such as avocado, pumpkin, and gold. (I am, of course, describing the house of my childhood. Sorry, Mom!)

Also, whenever I see pom-poms I am reminded of Samoan Aiga Buses.

If you've never been to American Samoa, you probably don't know what I'm talking about. You wouldn't understand my oblique references to Samoan Music and dingos and men in skirts (with or without a bra and make-up to match). You'd be totally in the dark.

However, if you have had the misfortune of visiting American Samoa (as opposed to Western Samoa, or Tonga, or some other nice place) then you know exactly what I am referring to: pick-up trucks converted into buses, painted in garish colors, lined with unpadded linoleum. Windows of Plexiglas that rattle, rattle, over each bend along the ocean (which the driver is taking at an alarming rate while simultaneously lighting a cigarette and changing cassette tapes so that he can continue to damage your eardrums with Samoan Music. There is no description of Samoan Music that would do it justice. Just think of pop music all over the world, from Baliwood hits to Afro-pop, and then add Samoa.) And what is that lining the dashboard, the front window, the entire front of the bus? Could that be shag carpeting, Madonna figurines, and POM-POMS? Why, yes, the driver in is a veritable SEA of pom-poms, of course.

I really don't like pom-poms. I did develop a bit of a taste for Samoan Music, though, but don't tell anyone.

There were things I liked in Knitscene, fortunately. (Why else did I buy it? I'm not that compulsive.) I am in love love love with the "cravat" (06) . I have to make that. I also like the double-breasted jacket (05), the tweed-silk cardigan (21), the afghan (23), the tam (25), and the cherry red cardigan (26), although if I made it, I would shorten the sleeves and it wouldn't be such an eye-searing red. A color like that would severely hamper my near-superhero like power to blend into the shadows at the slightest provocation. (Really. Have you seen me around?)

I finished the scarf for Sibling #5. This was my first encounter with making fringe - something I had previously allocated a position very near pom-poms in my catalog of trimmings- but I think it looks good. Could it be my sense of goods taste is waning? (Assuming I had any at all?)

I began my boyfriend/partner/whatnot's scarf last night. Moss stitching is out; it was making me crazy. I consulted my boyfriend/partner/whatnot (hereafter referred to as "Joe") and it turns out he would be satisfied with a large pattern that has a "wrong side" and a "right side". This is as far as I got last night.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Gift Queue Starts HERE

Last night I used up the last of the red Wool-Ease Quick & Thick yarn while watching Batman Begins. Two surprising things happened:

1) I found I could knit it in the dark. The yarn is so bulky I could feel if it was a purl or knit next, even if I lost my place.

2) Batman Begins wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I actually liked it better than the other Batman movies. (It did have the drawback of starring Christian Bale, who is yet another one of those actors who, above the neck, I find quite unattractive. SEE: Matt Damon for another example.)

This is where I got to when the credits started to roll. I definitely need more yarn. Six inches more would be a good length, plus some fringe of some kind. I'm considering loops.

Bulky? Yes. Comfy and red? Definitely. A little too wide? Er... Perhaps, but there's no turning back now. (Read that as: I am NOT starting this over. I have three more sisters to go!)

My X-mas knitting list is extensive:

Sibling #1: I don't know what she wants, but durn it! I'm gonna make SOMETHING. Something machine washable. She's allergic to cats, and interwoven cat hair is one of the things that distinguishes my knitting/crocheting from the average scarf/hat/sweater too small for any human being to wear. I need to be able to wash out the cat hair and sterilize it somewhat in the drier.

Siblings #2, #3, & #4: They don't get anything! They're BOYS! (maniacal laugh) They might not even notice being excluded, come to think of it. (Siblings #1 and #5 through #8: If you tell, I will make you something ugly!)

Sibling #5: Red scarf, of course.

Sibling #6: Black hat. But what KIND of hat, I have no idea. If she doesn't reply soon, I'm going to make this kitty hat. Teenage gansta girls love this kind of stuff, right?

Sibling #7: Light blue scarf. Already mailed. I promised to give her back her name if she sends me a photo of herself wearing it. I guess she likes her name. (Personally, I think the numbers are easier. Mom doesn't remember our names, so why should I?) It may actually happen - in her email she seemed pretty determined.

Sibling #8: Black mittens. Pattern pending.

Mom: Light blue socks. She has no choice in the matter; I'm making socks.

Dad: Fair Isle hat. (Because just one more plain hat wouldn't be hard enough.)

Paternal Grandparents: Socks! That is, if they give the go-ahead.

Bob (not a family member): black fingerless gloves.

My boyfriend/partner/whatnot: black wool socks. AND a scarf.

Why also a scarf? Well, after he took a picture of me wearing Sibling #5's unfinished red scarf I started to work on my Gentleman's Shooting Socks. I was once again pausing to ooh and ah over them (and making him feel them again. Aren't they lovely almost-socks? Isn't this nice yarn? Look! It's turning BLUE!) when he suggested that maybe they were taking so long because I spent so much time fondling them, rather than knitting them.

I told him that wasn't the case. Socks take time. I did the math.

72s = 1 row
11 rows = 1 inch

I have over 4 inches. That's more than 3100 stitches I've done!

Wonder why it's taking so long?

I don't think I'll be hearing much more criticism of my knitting diligence in the future from him.

Oh, but I was talking about his scarf, wasn't I? Well, I'm getting to that.

Promptly after his discovery (maybe 'discovery' is the wrong word. 'Confirmation', perhaps?) of my masochism he put in a request for a scarf. A scarf of any width, fiber, etc., but it had to be at least three feet long and have this pattern:

In exchange, he would do me a favor.

I said: "Buy the yarn."

Cripes. I've been thinking about this scarf all morning. I hate making one-sided scarves, so the pattern must be reversible. My knitting schedule is already full, so double-knit in a fine gauge is out. Thank goodness I know how to make Argyle socks! I'll just knit it like moss-stitch Argyle, in triangles instead of diamonds. Yes! Yes! That's what I'll do! Moss stitch hides everything!

Oh, man, I am so doomed.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tuesday Night Sock Update

That's right! It's Tuesday night and I'm going to show you my sock! (The fun never stops here.)
This is the Gentleman's Shooting Sock from Knitting Vintage Socks. I cast on 72 instead of 84 to adjust for my size. The pattern called for a three inch band of ribbing, which is practically half my leg, so I took the liberty of only knitting 12 rows of ribbing. (Variable of 6, just like the pattern, and about an inch high. Sure. Why not?)
The yarn is Meilenwiet.

True, it looks like a wristband right now, but I love it anyway. Here's a detail.

Also, before I run off and do something other than stare at the "Picture Uploading!" icon for minutes on end, here is a sneak peek of the red scarf I am making for Sibling #5. See how big the purls are? Don't they look like bobbles? This scale problem is causing me considerable anxiety. I'm already half-way through the skein. Should I start over with fewer stitches cast on? If I don't, I may have to buy more. If I do, I may have to buy more. It is an insidious trap.

And yes, those are sharpened 1/2" dowels I'm using as knitting needles.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Heaping Up the Yarn Hoard

Saturday I went and splurged once again on yarn and knitting books. It's all part of the X-mas knitting spree. (Not that I'm particularly about X-mas, but it is a handy excuse for waylaying relatives with knitted goods, isn't it?)

I hit two different yarn stores in my quest for yarn fullfillment: Windsor Button and Woolcott & Co.

Here you see 2 skeins of black Jaeger Matchmaker merino 4 ply, 2 skeins of charcoal Scheepjes Invicta Extra (70% virgin wool, 25% nylon) , and a skein of blue Sockotta (45% cotton, 40% superwash wool, and 15% nylon).

I got two skeins of the black merino just in case one skein wouldn't be enough for Sibling #8's mittens. (100% merino wool for mittens for a 13 year old. Am I crazy? Well, at least she doesn't have a drier, I know that for a fact. ) The blue Sockotta is for TV socks for my Mom. I haven't received confirmation yet that she's prepared to accept a pair of hand knit socks but I think she roll with it; I know her shoe size. The charcoal Scheepjes Invicta Extra is for socks for yours truly, as a reward for finishing all of the above.

Sibling #5 chose a red scarf for X-mas, so I bought a skein of red Wool-Ease Thick & Quick. The skein of black Meilenweit is for my boyfriend's socks.

The buttons are the ones I used on the hat from Rowan #36 that I liked so much. Turns out they're some kind of dyed nut. I don't know exactly what I'll use them for but I'll certainly come up with something sooner or later.

I think I went the way of the red Wool-Ease out of guilt for making Sibling #7 a scarf out of kettle dyed Malabrigo merino wool. I think she's 14 and I really can't picture her carefully washing it in cold or luke warm water and then pressing it with a towel before laying it out to dry. Mom would have to dry clean it. At least this way Mom will only be dry cleaning one scarf, but Wool-Ease is not kidding about Thick & Quick. I cast on the scarf while I was waiting for these pictures to upload (Did I mention I don't have DSL?) and not only have I made it three inches, the moss stitching looks like bobbles. It's really got me concerned. I may have to add a fringe just to make it look less hulking. At least it's soft.

These are the two books I got. The Traditional Fair isle Knitting book I got for the insight into making a fisherman's hat for my Dad. My dad is a Hat Person and a hat is the only article of clothing I can conceive of him wearing on a regular basis without something tragic happening to it, like roof tar. I got the RYC Classic Collection Book Eight ("Classic Weekend") because of the jacket on pgs. 38-39, "Thistle".

I went thrifting and picked up this silk shell top. Isn't it nice? What I especially liked about it was how it was too big for me and put together so well that if I were to, say, cut a couple threads, the entire thing would come apart in my hands in one long strand of silk yarn... Hmmm...

I also got this knifty teapot!

Tonight I did a little art in the form of a decorative card. I was planning to draw my cat, but he wouldn't lay still. So I drew my hand, which is somewhat more inclined to obey my commands than that little furball. My efforts were somewhat restricted by my inability to sharpen the pencils once I got started, but I don't think it's bad. I am bothered that I did much better hands in high school. I also had a larger vocabulary. (When I read my old diaries, I have to look up some of the words! So sad!) This is what work does to you; eats away at your time to doodle and read. *sigh*

Friday, October 14, 2005

An Ambiguous Animal

As promised, here's my carved cat's head bead. I went through a brief beading phase a couple years ago. It coincided with a carving phase, which makes sense if you know that my dad spent eight years in the South Pacific carving mammoth ivory necklace charms. The two things are linked in my mind that way.

My carving has been very limited. I have a half-finished gargoyle bookend and chunk of yew wood predestined to become a flying pig sitting 2000 miles away in my dad's woodshop. Hopefully this fine woodworking workshop I'm taking will improve matters some.

This cat head bead is the only carving I've completed. (I haven't even finished carving a bar of soap.) My boyfriend is a luthier, so I got a couple small chunks of mahogany from him and borrowed his Dremel. I drilled the hole first so that I knew it would be straight and then carved it with the ubiquitious #11 Exact-O knife architecture students wield. (It's loosely based on a brown tiger-striped cat that used to live with me by the name of Milo, an excellent winter foot-warmer.) I sanded it, painted it with oils and gave it a polyeurythane finish so that the pigment couldn't fall off the un-primed wood. I let it dry on a bent paperclip and put the bead drop on it so that the cat wasn't always looking up at me.

Some people have suggested it doesn't look like a cat, more like a fox or something. That may be; the muzzle is a bit narrow. But I'm happy enough with the results anyway.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I'm a Renaissance, sort of

I hate to disappoint you craftsters out there, but this blog isn't just about knitting and quilting. Oh, no! It's also about art, my homework (yes, you read that right. I'm an architecture student. I make a lot of models and stuff. It's interesting. Really.) and writing (although I'll try not to subject you to too much of that.) I have a lot of stuff knocking around in my 250 sq. ft. of shared space to dust off and give an internet airing, which is fortunate since my knitting is going slow this week. Maybe all the other pictures of Things Other Than Knitting will keep you - my one or two readers - from really noticing this distressing fact.

So here we go. Tonight, my homework, the door with figure sketch. (Click on the image to see it bigger.)
I waited until the last minute to draw this, so the doorway is a school doorway and the figure is a hapless school librarian I managed to con into standing against the doorjamb for five minutes while I sketched her.

So, what do you think?

Should I try to knit faster?

Coming tomorrow:
That necklace with the cat's head bead I carved with and Exact-O knife out of a chunk of mahogany. Yeah!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

That's Just Crazy

About four years ago I started quilting in a casual, DIY manner. I had just moved out of a squat and into a house that rivaled my former abode in tidiness, modernity, and functionality. The only plus to the place was that I was unlikely to be evicted in my sleep and that it had running hot water and a toilet that flushed at the repeated jiggle and coaxing of a handle. I suppose all this luxury went to my head, because I took my old Salvation Army wool blanket and made it into a crazy quilt.

A few points:

1) I've never had a viable sewing machine, so the crazy quilt had to be sewn by hand or by nothing - unless, of course, elves appeared in the night to make my crafting dreams come true. (This is a common fantasy with me.)

2) I was broke. Damn broke. Everything I used was either found or given to me, except for the thread, which I bought at a thrift store for 50 cents.

3) Wool is a terrible thing to use as a quilt filler, but I didn't know that then.

The "Right" side. Composed of 1 tacky yellow clown suit; 2 skort dresses; 1 full skirted dress; and 1 button-up shirt.

The "Superman" side. Composed of 1 Superman twin sheet (note red comic book sound effects); 2 Hawaiian shirts; 1 button-up shirt; 1 "clouds with silver lining" pajama top; couple of scraps of plaid fabric; and the remaining pieces of the full length dress and the clown suit, of course.

It took me a few months to finish it, but I have had it on my bed ever since, "Right" side up. It sheds wool and itches like crazy so I always wash it alone and make certain I have the edge of the sheet pulled up so that it can't touch me while I sleep.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Stash That Would Not Die

Yesterday I was organizing my yarn stash and I came across my long-ignored needlepointing stash. I sorted it out and got to thinking. The yarn was given to me nearly five years ago by my grandmother after she cleaned her attic. How old the yarn is, I have no idea, but it ranged from shockingly colored acrylic to subtly-toned pure wool.

When I first got it back in 2001 I knew raw resources such as this shouldn't sit around forever. I wracked my brain for ideas and eventually settled on needlepointing a bass guitar strap for my boyfriend.

That's right: needlepointing an entire bass guitar strap.

Previously, I had consigned and sold a Scotch plaid strap I'd made at a local guitar store. I've never owned a sewing machine that operated properly for more then five minutes altogether, so the strap was made entirely by hand. (As were my quilts, dresses, jacket linings... I had a lot of spare time.) Because that wasn't complicated enough, I decided to needlepoint the Celtic Tree of Life. It would be 37 inches long.

And then I made it.

Okay, I admit it's not quite finished. The needlepointing took only a couple months but the black canvas backing has taken years, simply because it's boring and tedious work. (You can see at the bottom of the strap the loose threads where I haven't finished it up.)

I know that sounds funny coming from someone who did 148 square inches of customized needlepointing in one go, but I think variety was what kept me interested.

However, the bass guitar strap did not significantly diminish the stash. In desperation, I made a pair of Fair Isle socks for a little girl I knew and then put the stash where it would be out of sight, out of mind. I haven't seen it since 2004. Now I have dredged it up again, something which in itself is not a problem, necessarily, except that it does beg the question:

"What am I going to do with it?"

I still have two big shoeboxes of it left!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Showing Off

I know I posted these before on the old blog, but here they are again:

Rowan #36 "Gala" in wine-colored Lion Brand Homespun.

I know, groan, Homespun? But it was 50 cents at the thrift store and it matches the silk scarf I'm wearing, which is my favorite. It's meant for snowy days, so I don't consider the bulk a problem. I went down a size in the needles for the right gauge.

I love the button I found for it so much that I'm considering making the flower neck warmer from Knitty with the remaining yarn just to get more of them.

Also Rowan #36. "Fawne" in Rowan 4 ply (Lot 022) using 2.50 mm needles, which is a bit smaller than what is prescribed, but then so am I.

This year I decided to get a jump on X-mas giving and have started knitting early. For Sibling #7's scarf I used this wonderful Kettle Dyed Pure Merino Wool in Blue Surf from Malabrigo Yarn in Uruguay.

It is incredibly soft and fluffy, much like this cat. Since it's such fancy wool and I have so many other things to make I figured I could get away with just going garter stitch all the way. To my shock and horror, I was halfway done when I realized I had purled one stitch when I should have knitted, more than twenty rows back! (Picture me with a crochet hook in hand, cursing, on a fine, sunny day in a tree-lined park.)

Coming soon:

Gentleman's Shooting Socks from Knitting Vintage Socks (downsized) and "Fern" from Rowan #36!

Do Blogs Believe In Reincarnation?

I am terrible with computer code. I mean, really bad. Horrendous. I am so miserable at it that I couldn't solve a basic format problem, such as a slipping sidebar (it fell, like old, loose socks, to the bottom on the page, and I couldn't pull it up again!) so in an act of desperation, I killed the weblog that used to go by this name. I rebuilt it into what you see now.

Fortunately this is not my journal blog, so all my whining and grousing remains immortalized in electronic type. Enjoy!

If you happen to be code savvy, feel free to email me and give me a clue about how to fulfill my greatest blog desires, such as:

Adding a left-hand sidebar;

adding buttons;

linking to specific entries from my journal, and vice versa;

and adding those handy progress bars for keeping track of projects like the one in this site.