Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Clue 2 Done - Smiling Again

After spending a grumpy weekend digging in red clay mud and frogging the second section of my pi shawl, I think I have recovered. Hallelujah! Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad, but it was also PMS weekend and the combination was near lethal if you know what I mean :-) But the good news is my snowdrops are finished and they look pretty darn good if you ask me.

The silver lining in all this was opting to do the snowdrops, which look much better than I had anticipated. I moved part of the stitches to another circular needle so I could stretch the lace out and snap/scan some pictures. After everything I've been through I just had to get some pictures--not an easy thing with pi shawls I've discovered. So far it measures about 13.5" in diameter. I stayed up late last night moving all the stitches back to my addi and placing another lifeline (a necessary evil I've learned!). I'm using nymo (a nylon beading thread) for my lifelines and finding it far superior to the crochet cotton I've used before. Someone on EZasPi mentioned using dental floss, but I only have the waxed variety which didn't appeal to me. The nymo is finer which makes it easier to place the line and less of a bother to knit around. I use the last row of plain knitting before the doubling row for my lifelines--it's hard enough knitting 2 togs etc after the doubling row without having to fight knitting around a lifeline at the same time! I tie the nymo onto a tapestry needle and move the stitches to the cable section of the needle and the lifeline went in faster and easier than ever before. As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing!"

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Knitting this pi shawl is supposed to be a personal adventure experience, right? Adventure-grrrr! Ok, so I knit the center 3 times until I get it right/to my satisfaction. It's not my style to have to redo things multiple times to get it right, but hey, it's just the center and it's not that big. I only wasted, uh, spent about 5 hours having a "learning experience" with nothing to show for it. OK, it's not that big a deal and besides, I had to reknit because I made mistakes.

So here comes the 2nd big mystery clue on Friday. I finish the last few rows on clue 1 and am ready to to move on. Clue 2 has four options: snowdrop, leaf, corn, or bumblebee. Corn is definitely out. I swatch the bumblebee since I have no idea what it looks like--it gets vetoed quickly too. I just don't love the huge holes left by double yos. Snowdrop sounds interesting, but I'm not sure that's what I want after looking at some images online and in the BW treasury. I like the idea of the leaf motif coming after the swirls of the russian peas--kinda like the leaf canopy formed by the trees falling just below the swirls of clouds & sky. The bonus is the allover design of Mindy's leaf which should look nice as a transition from the swirls.

With the decision made, I set off to knit leaves. I follow the chart exactly as written, but the 1st set of "leaf" motifs look more like swirls than leaves. That might not be awful, but they swirl in opposition to the swirl of the russian peas. The second set of leaf motifs are straighter, but they are still a bit askew from the 1st set of leaves. I'm skeptical, but still trusting the pattern & the process. After all, it is a mystery adventure, right??? Then late last night I catch up on my email and read the group digests where other participants are asking if there is an error in option B because the double decreases in the first leaves didn't line up and went sideways. Arrrrgghhh! So it wasn't my problem after all. No, to get the leaves all straight you had to shift the markers back one and slip the stitch *prior* to the one you think you are supposed to slip in order to get things to line up. I am *not*, repeat **NOT** a happy camper about this.

I'm too irritated to stop and reason out where the problem is. Is it because of the circular knitting? Is it because the chart is in error (well yeah, sorta). Is this a deficiency of charted versus text directions. Maybe there should have been a note warning of this issue and suggesting a remedy in advance of working (well yeah, that would have been a good thing). Maybe I have unrealistic expectations. Maybe it's because this is my 1st pi shawl (uh, maybe). WHATEVER! The bottom line is I hate how it looks and I have to actually *use* that lifeline I put in. I am not happy.

I have never had to frog back to a lifeline and pick up stitches and start over before. It is a real PITA (pain in the a**). I dig out a set of size 1 dpns to do the deed after discovering that picking up with the size 6s I'm knitting with is a complete nightmare. I down my afternoon pain meds with a diet coke, take a bunch of deep breaths, a dive in. My mom comes out to join me and starts to chat/talk at me. I growl something about bad timing and pick up my weapon, uh dpn. Lifelines may save you from having to start over from the beginning, but they sure do squiggle around and get in the way of picking up and knitting real stitches. They save your life but they are a PITA. Nevertheless I capture all those little buggers, redo my doubling row and am ready to start clue 2 again.

Releasing the shawl from the needles before frogging gave me a chance to get a good look at the leaf pattern. I pull this way & that on it and decide I don't like the leaves at all. I check out the snowdrop chart (option A) again and decide that it is better. At least I won't be battling shifting markers and slip stitches. This time I will trust my instinct and experience more than the chart. I will trust my eyes and good esthetic sense. I plan on knitting this section again only once. Adventure--- GRRRR!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Third Times a Charm???

I just had to do it. I just couldn't let my 1st pi shawl have this weird extra loop at the center. So I pulled it off the dpns and stretched it out to get my 1st really good look at the thing. That's when I knew I was going to make some changes on my 2nd attempt to my KYOAPiShawl. For one, I realized that the size 4 needles really were too tiny for the lace. OK, so I should have believed everyone on the various lace & knitting lists that were recommending much larger needles for laceweight yarns. The other realization--I didn't love the leaf design (option C). The best part though--I do love the sunrise yarn! Oh goodie!

So last night I spent a couple of hours knitting my center again. This time I used size 6 needles and the Russian Pea lace pattern (option B). Wow what a difference! I love it! Well, that is everything except there was this one spot that looked kinda uneven on the start. I used a different start that I read about on one of the lists this week. This one is called "Round and Round" and the gist of it is you do a knitted cast-on (k1, yo, k1, etc) into the hole of a slipknot (the slipknot itself is not a stitch). Once you have all your stitches one your working dpn, you pull the other dpn out of the slipknot and pull the knot until it disappears. Divide your stitches onto your dpns and start knitting. This is even easier and neater than Emily Ocker's crochet cast-on IMHO. Well, that is unless you make the fatal error I did and accidentally twist one of the dpns so you knit the stitches off in reverse order. Then you get a weird looking center that's hard to figure out. Back to the frog pond I go! Why is it that I can't figure out I have a problem before I finish the center *and* the 1st clue???? So I'll be reknitting the start for the 3rd time tonight. But then we all know the third times a charm, right??? LOL

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Gardening & Knitting

I just can't help myself. As soon as the daylight stays around long enough and the weather warms up, I gotta go dig in the dirt. No, I'm past the days of making mudpies and I don't mound it up to pitch balls from, it's all about the flowers. Beautiful (I hope) flowers. Pink flowers. Oh, they can be white, blue, purple, and yellow too, but it's really all about the *pink* flowers. The other flowers and foilage only serve to enhance the beauty of the pink flowers.

In bloom right now are some very large pink tulips plus some nice fuschia tulips. The pink hyacinths are fading but the bleeding hearts (dicentra spectabilis) are coming on strong in the shade garden. Being a frugal gardener, I prefer to buy small potted perennials as they cost less and grow just as fast as their costlier big pot neighbors. the exception is if the big pot plant is such that it can be divided so the beauty can be spread around. I started out with one bleeding heart and this morning I had four. Tonight I have 7 plants after digging up one poor performer. No wonder it wasn't thriving as it was being choked out by fat roots from the tulip popular tree! Add a little insect trouble and voila--sad bleeding heart. But tonight that little beauty is now 3 plants relocated to the new shade garden that has lots of compost & manure enriched soil. Just add water and smile! It's a beautiful thing.

I would have continued in the garden but my allergies were so fierce that I finally had to retreat inside. Tree pollen is the biggest culprit, but the grass & mold are bad too. Even Allegra and (horror!) a face mask couldn't win against this stuff. My poor immune system has been on the rage. The worst was on Easter Sunday while sitting in church. Some dear sister walked in late (later than I was even) and sat across the aisle from me. Her perfume was so strong it went into a full blown allergic crisis--red swollen face, burning eyes and difficulty breathing. I had not taken any allergy meds that morning, so I was defenseless. I moved to the far end of the pew and used a linen hanky as a face mask to help with breathing. It was just enough to get me through the service (I didn't want to miss Daddy singing in the choir and my dear friend Bro. Clark giving the Easter sermon). Then I had to hurry home and take Benadryl as the reaction was so bad nothing else would do. I don't know why people have to wear that wicked garbage to church. I mean I like a nice light fragrance, but the stuff some people douse themselves in even oxygen can't resuscitate the rest of us to have to breathe it. The only thing worse is cigarette/cigar smoke.

Now that I've wheezed on, I guess I should talk a little about knitting. I just finished my 8th repeat on the leaf lace shawl. I'm pretty bored with it and the rows are getting terribly long, but I'm using the pi shawl KAL as motivation to get this one finished ASAP. The LLS is simple knitting so I work on it when I'm tired from working in the garden and need a break or at night while watching (also boring) tv. The biggest challenge is trying to get most of the dirt out from under my fingernails before picking up the knitting. I promise I do wear gloves when I'm digging in the dirt and I wash my hands thoroughly afterwards--but you'd never know it by looking at my nails! I wound another skein of the sunrise into a ball last night. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna redo the start to my pi shawl. Everytime I look at it that little loop of extra yarn on the first row just screams at me. I know I won't be able to stand it so I'll probably reknit it tomorrow. That way I'll be all ready when the 2nd clue is posted on Friday. Oh boy!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

My First Pi Shawl, KAL Begins

When I knit Kiri for the KO, I fell in love with knitting lace shawls. So I started joining eGroups for shawls and lace knitters, including the EZasPi group which has as its focus the works of Elizabeth Zimmerman and her daughter Meg Swansen. The EZasPi group is a bit different than the other knitting lists I've been reading. These folks chat--about everything! No knitting content only rule here and yet I find I enjoy reading what everyone is saying rather than exercising my finger on the delete button. This is a really fascinating group of folks!

When I joined EZasPi I really was only looking to glean tips and technique ideas from experienced lace knitters, I wasn't planning on knitting a pi shawl anytime soon. I lurked and learned--and then it happened. I got bit! Bit by the "we're starting a new pi shawl KAL" but itwasn't *just* knitting a pi shawl. No, it was a mystery shawl KAL where the clues to the lace designs in the shawl are doled out once a week. Hmmm...sounds well, intriguing. But this mystery KAL has the added twist of multiple choices of lace patterns given in each clue. You pick the option you want to knit not knowing what your next option will be. The only thing you know is that the overall theme is garden. Choose your own yarn and needle size and have a go at it! It was a temptation too good to pass up. After all, I love gardens and all the pretty colors and images that gardens bring to mind.

I have at least 4 skeins of KnitPicks Gossamer laceweight merino in my stash. The colorway is "sunrise"--a blend of a chambray blue and 3 values of muted pink. I bought it with the intent of knitting a faroese shawl but started knitting a lace scarf instead. The scarf never did speak to me so I frogged it after a couple of months in the UFO pile. I'm not sure the sunrise is the right yarn for this project either so I ordered 2 different lace yarns from KnitPicks on Thursday, but started off with the Sunrise yesterday on "cast-on" day. Actually, I think it looks really good at this point, so I'm pleased. I am using US 4 needles for my shawl. I know others are using larger needles with this yarn (size 6-7 or even 8!) but I don't like my lace to look too loose/lacy. I played a bit with a size 5 which looked ok, but I let my practical self decide to go for the 4s. I had to buy both the dpns (Crystal Palace bamboo-my fav) and 16" Addis for the project--not cheap! I knew that I would use the size 4 dpns a lot more for knitting socks and such in the future making them a wiser choice for my meager budget. Ta Da! The shawl will be on 4s! I just love the flexibility of knitting lace! Or maybe it's just that I hate the battle to make gauge for sweaters and things where it matters.

So needles and yarn at the ready, next comes casting on in the round with tiny yarn and fat dpns. I've used Emily Ocker's crochet cast-on successfully for a couple of hats this winter, so that's what I chose. It wasn't too bad, but the finished result wasn't perfect as I ended up with a weird extra loop. It's not that obvious and I can hide it when I weave in the tail. Well, that is unless I return to my perfectionist self and decide to frog and reknit the center. It wouldn't take very long. Maybe I will, maybe I won't...


My life has been filled with wonderful distractions lately. That's good for life, but not necessarily good for knitting or blogging. Spring has arrived and I just gotta go dig in the dirt! I have never had such beautiful tulips and narcissi before--all pink over a carpet of purple and yellow pansies. It'a truly amazing and well worth the killer pain and wipe out I had last fall after prepping the beds (that is digging out honking big rotting tree roots) and planting all those bulbs. I've hit the home depot twice this week to load up on composted manure & top soil, a couple of new bareroot roses (pink, of course), and several pots of perennials. I'm tired, my fingernails are perpetually filled with dirt, but my soul is so filled with joy!

My knitting also took a backseat to Spring Break--for my niece and nephew. My sister works for Uncle Sam and had to go to Washington for meetings the same week her kids were out of school for spring break. Daddy is away getting a PhD so the kids came to stay with us (the grandparents and aunt). I totally loved having the kids. Mark Thomas is 11, calm and studious, and Victoria is 6, very creative and full of energy. I slept for three days after they left. I am an old maid and am not used to the demands of motherhood LOL! After I was able to stay alert again, I spent Monday and Tuesday doing what doting Aunties do--making a pretty Easter dress for the doted upon niece. Victoria helped me cut it out while she was here, but I needed peace and quiet to do the sewing. Thank heavens for Fed-Ex--the dress is now in Georgia and ready for the big day tomorrow.

I did add a few more rows to my leaf lace shawl while the kids were here. I think I'm up to 7 repeats now and it's looking fine. The LLS is a nice pattern, but I think I like the finished look of the Flower Basket Shawl better. The center vein in the LLS is formed by a single purl stitch which doesn't really look that wonderful to my eye. It may have something to do with the softness of the Alpaca Cloud yarn. I suspect that the sharper definition of a merino, cotton, or linen yarn would improve the look. But the shawl is wonderfully soft and lucious and I will use it a lot to wrap my aching shoulders in. Now it's time to head back to my garden and inflict some more pain to my creaky old body. Stayed tuned for pictures of my efforts!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Lifetime Learning

One of the things I have been taught both at home and at church is that one should make a concerted effort to learn new things throughout one's life. Every day provides an opportunity to seek out people, places, & things that are new and to learn all that I can. Reading, and now writing my own knitting blog has been on of those learning adventures. It involves taking digital pictures, editing them & posting them in a web-compatible format. I have to think about what I want to say, write it out, then edit for typos, spelling, and coherence. Most recently I have worked on my html coding skills by adding links and graphics to my sidebar--not a simple task! I am learning and having fun at the same time!

I am inspired by the blogs of other knitters, both in what they are knitting and how they are blogging it. Today I looked at one blog and found this quiz (see below). I determined to learn more about how these things are done and satisfy my curiosity on how a quiz decides "what type of yarn" a person is by asking a handful of seemingly unrelated questions. I confess I took the quiz a few times before feeling satisfied with the declared result. Now this is not cheating, but rather taking a second or third opportunity to choose different, but equally suitable answers to some of the quiz questions. Yes, I would be equally happy to live in the picturesque Carolinas (I love the low country & Hilton Head and I also love Asheville & the other side of the Smokies) or to spend summers on Martha's Vineyard & winters on a tropic island. My 1st trip through told me I was dishcloth cotton-sturdy, love to clean, and hard work. Sorry, wrong number! The 2nd time I went on a lark (Jimmy Choos & 5th Avenue) and ended up at cashmere. Nice for sure, but not really me either. But I finally got it perfect--mohair. Yup, that's me--very stubborn but also warm & fuzzy. The funny thing is that I love to knit with mohair yarn! Nice, soft & fuzzy, warm & cuddly--it's one of my most favorite fibers (along with alpaca, silk, fine merino & lambswool). I guess you could say I learned something new while affirming that which I already knew about myself--not a bad thing if you ask me!

Funny Quizzes

What kind of yarn are you?

You are Mohair.You are a warm and fuzzy type who works well with others, doing your share without being too weighty. You can be stubborn and absolutely refuse to change your position once it is set, but that's okay since you are good at covering up your mistakes.
Take this quiz!


Make A Quiz

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Bored & Boring

OK, I admit it. I was bored--bored with all the WIPS I was working on (we won't talk about the WIPS I'm not working on LOL). I added a few more repeats to the cuff on the 2nd of Holly's socks, but I haven't fallen in love with knitting patterned socks yet I guess. Or maybe it just takes too long to knit fancy patterns into the socks and I want really fast results. I knit a couple more repeats on the coral lace shawl too, but working with single strand lace weight makes the growing slow and a bit tedious. I need to have several different things going on simultaneously so I can switch out whenever I get bored. People who can pick one project and work it start to finish before starting another project amaze me. How do they do it??? I am so *not* wired that way!

I cast on a new pair of socks yesterday morning using some KnitPicks Dancing from my stash. Now that warmer weather is finally coming I figure its a good time to try knitting a pair of cotton socks. I'm not following a pattern per se, but I'm going for a simple little anklet. I haven't worked with elastic yarn before, but I'm trying to not stretch it as I knit. I kept to the size 1 needles and 64 sts that worked for my Regia socks. So far I've worked 6 rows of 2x2 ribbing & 10 rows of St st. I'm halfway through an eye of partridge heel over 30 sts and it looks pretty good.

Knitting new socks is a good thing, but somehow I was still kinda bored. Maybe I should blame the weather. It was rainy and icky yesterday and my body was super achy, due in part to excessive gardening/yard work activities this week. When I feel really bad I like to make little visits to the Knit n Purl. I have this shawl pattern I want to make, but I needed a size 5 Addi to do it. I didn't have one so I had good excuse to visit the KnP, right? I booped on over and picked up the needles, but then I remembered that I wanted to check out another shawl pattern to go with the new blue Alpaca Cloud in my yarn basket. You know, that luciously soft, yummy new yarn that just arrived in the mail the other day and has been calling my name ever since, that yarn that wants to be a shawl but doesn't know which shawl to be. Yup, that's the stuff! At first I thought I would just knit another FBS with it, but then I would have 2 identical shawls except one would be pink and the other blue. Nah, that would be boring! I don't want to be bored or boring so I can't do another FBS. I had looked at another Evelyn Clark design before, the Leaf Lace Shawl, and liked it. It's worked in a similar manner to Kiri & FBS, which I like, but it would still be a bit different too. This is good, very good. I bought the pattern and went home feeling better already. Yarn shops are wonderful "medicine."

I cast on last night. I'm getting good at Evelyn's provisional cast-on, garter strip start--this one looks much better than the one I knit for Kiri. I chose to work with a double strand of the alpaca cloud as I did for the FBS. I really like the weight double-stranded and let's face it, at a fingering weight it won't take forever to knit. By bedtime I had the 1st chart plus 2 repeats done with ease. I did give in and place a lifeline at the end of the 1st chart. It's a good habit to get into and it will make it easier for me to count the repeats afterwards. The small shawl calls for 12 repeats, but this time I think I'll knit as many repeats as I have yarn for. I did 12 on the FBS, but maybe I'll do14 this time. Maybe that is unless I get so *bored* I can't stand to knit another repeat. LOL!