Tuesday, February 28, 2006

And Life Goes On

The olympics are over, my Kiri shawl is completed, and life goes on. My Mom graciously agreed to pose for the "bee-hind" pix of the shawl. The picture doesn't really do justice to the shawl, but Mom thought the contrast provided by her yellow house robe would enhance the view. Uh, well, I guess so. I'll have to try again later, maybe in the daylight in a room that doesn't have "Georgia Red Clay" paint on the walls. A red shawl does need a contrasting color in the background to be fully appreciated.

I spent most of yesterday cleaning. All the little things that I didn't do during the olympics once again captured my attention: things like vacuuming, dusting, and putting clean linens on the bed. Today I turned my attention back to schoolwork. I really *do* want to graduate this year! But not to worry, I haven't abandoned my knitting just yet. In fact, I'm so energized by my olympic success that I'm back at work on another shawl--this time it's Evelyn Clark's Flower Basket Shawl.

Actually, I started the FBS before the olympics, right around the 1st of February. The FBS was much easier to knit than I had anticipated and the first few repeats worked up rather quickly. My early success with the FBS really was the motivation for choosing Kiri as my olympic project. Of course I couldn't do the FBS for the olympics because I'd already started it. I wasn't about to frog the shawl when I had the beginning plus 3 repeats already done! I just tucked it away for a fortnight until after the olympics, and my olympic shawl were finished.

I'm knitting the FBS with 2 strands of Knit Picks Alpaca cloud (Peppermint pink) on size 7 Addis. I'm using the pattern published in the Fall 2004 Interweave Knits (or you can download the pdf file for free from the Interweave website) which is a small, shoulder shawl version of the original design published by FiberTrends. I finished the 7 repeats called for in the IK pattern, but after Kiri I think I want a bigger shawl. I certainly have more than enough yarn to do a full-sized version. I looked at the specs for the full-sized shawl, did a little math, and have deduced that the big version has 12 repeats of the lower basket chart (10 rows). I'm pretty sure I'll do at least 10 repeats, but I may just go for the whole thing. Who knows?

I even have my next lace project all planned out. The newest issue of IK (Spring 2006) has another Evelyn Clark design, this time it's the Trellis scarf. I bought the issue for this scarf pattern. It's that yummy! There's other good stuff in this issue, but the scarf is what made me whip out my wallet. I hit my LYS on Saturday and bought a ball of Jaggerspun Zephyr in a bright coral pink--one of my favorite shades and perfect for a spring scarf! I have some Zephyr in my stash, but it's red and after Kiri I needed something different. Yeah, yeah, just another excuse to buy more yarn, I know. After all, a woman has to have her projects all lined up so she has something to look forward to knitting next. Gotta keep at least one lace project and one pair of socks OTN at all times :-)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Olympics Day 16: Flame's Out

I just finished watching the closing ceremonies of the Torino Olympics on TV. I took a closer look at the festivities on the NBC website before coming here to blog my closing thoughts. My beautiful Italian red shawl is completed. I waited until tonight to weave in my beginning and ending threads, just so I could say I really ended my shawl as the games ended. It was a wonderful, challenging two weeks. As someone who struggles to stay devoted to just one project until it is completed and ready to be seen in public (ie. no loose ends or unsewn seams), this was a great success. It was also a big success in that I rose to the challenge placed before me, and I kept my confidence all the way through the project, even while tinking back to fix mistakes. I would not be discouraged--a life lesson that I need to hold on to going forward.

I made new friends by joining Team Deseret--wonderful people that I probably would not have met had it not been for the Knitting Olympics. Thanks Geo for initiating the team and extending your warm friendship. I hope our little group continues to knit and blog and grow!

The olympic flame is out. It's time to return to life. But for me, it won't be life as usual. I've really been blessed by this experience. And each time I look at my beautiful red Kiri shawl I'll remember the knitting olympics, the friends I made, and the things I learned not only about knitting, but about myself. Arreviderci Italia!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Olympics Day 15: Blocking on the Bed

I've had a day to recover from the elation of casting off Kiri. Actually, I needed to recover from all the walking I did at the Dogwood Arts Festival Home and Garden Show at the Knoxville Convention Center yesterday afternoon. I walked so much I thought it was an olympic event! LOL

Since I wasn't able to easily locate suitable wires for blocking, I just ran a long length of fishing line through the top of the garter stitch border prior to bath time. I used some lovely Italian bath gel(Elaria Jasmine by Perlier) for Kiri's warm soak in the sink. Twenty minutes later it was time to rinse, and rinse, and rinse, and rinse some more! My lovely red yarn made for lovely red rinse water! I added some white vinegar to the 6th rinse and called it quits after that.

I put an old comforter on the guest bed so any red bleeding wouldn't be an issue. I blocked Kiri to the pattern specifications wingspan 77" and top to tip 36". The shawl was a little bit wider than the bed was long, but I was able to fudge it.
I needed 3 measuring tapes for this pin out job. Who would have ever thought about that? Not me. Pinning out the tips proved to be easier than I anticipated because they lined up perfectly with the quilting on the comforter. That was a pleasant surprise. Using the fishing line made pinning out the top edge very easy--no dimples where the pins were. I will definitely use that trick again.

I plan to let Kiri dry for 24 hours. That will give me enough time to pull the pins and wrap up in her to watch the closing ceremonies tomorrow night. How cool is that?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Olympics Day 14: Wheeee! I'm done!

Wheeee! Woo-Hoo! Yee-Haw!!! I'm done, I'm done! I'm so pleased with myself I can hardly stand it. My Kiri shawl is off the needles and looking great! I *am* an olympic champion!!! Raise the flag, play the anthem, clutch the bouquet of flowers and grin. I DID IT!

I knit like crazy last night during the Ladies Figure Skating long program and finished the edging. Long was an appropriate word for those last few rows of Kiri. Very long. I waited until this morning to cast off so my edge would be nice and even. I wasn't exactly alert at midnight when I knit off that last long purl row. I used the technique recommended in the pattern, a new cast-off for me, and I think it looks really nice. In essence, you use a needle one size bigger than you used for the shawl and you knit the sts together rather than passing the 1st st over the 2nd. Not only does this keep the cast-off edge "loose" but it keeps the stitch size very even--something I've found to be challenging in the past. Right now the edge looks quite ruffled, but that will disappear once I get the shawl blocked out.

I went to Lowe's looking for long skinny metal rods/wires to use for blocking. I read about these from one of the knitting lists, but I couldn't find anything suitable. Maybe I need a "real" construction supply type place rather than a big box hardware store. I think I'll try another technique in which fishing line is used instead of a blocking wire. I'll run the line through the eyelets of the garter st border before bathtime, then pin the line in place rather than pinning the shawl. Of course the leaf points will have to be pinned as usual. I hope to block/dress the shawl tomorrow. If all goes well, I'll wear my Kiri while watching the closing ceremonies on Sunday night. How cool is that???

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Day Eleven: The Morning After

It's the morning after the big Ice Dancing Final. I have a headache. I want to go back to bed and sleep for 3 more hours. I was up late last night watching the skating. No, I was consumed by the riveting action of the fancy red and black costumed wonders twizzle-ing around the rink. Well, some of it wasn't exactly riveting, but all of it was intensely interesting. A little too intense, too interesting for knitting. I *needed* to knit during the last set of skaters just to keep myself together. I was so nervous for Tanith and Ben. But they were spectacular. No, not perfect. No, they were not the best on the ice last night. Russian team clearly excelled and earned their gold medals. But the American team was hoping for a silver medal, being happily real about it all, and they succeeded! It was so groovy, uh, oh, yeah, totally awesome! (I forgot what decade I was in for a minute ;-)

So this morning I paid the price with very tense and sore shoulders...needle gripping I tell you! And Kiri showed the evidence as well. Break out the crochet hook and tink, rip out, and redo all those leaning decreases 2 rows back. Somehow in all the excitement many ssk stitches became k2togs, and yes, the k2togs were ssks! My leaf lines were so crooked! I would have laughed if my head wasn't hurting so bad. And no, the only substance I was under the influence of was diet coke, so you can't blame that for this AMs misery. The only cure I know is to take my usual 2 in the morning, wash it all down with another DC, tink out my errors, and get ready for the Ladies short program tonight. Will Sasha pull off the big upset of Irina? I doubt it. My prediction is a Russian sweep of all the golds, but I hope Sasha skates well enough for silver. She'll have to have the skate of her life and hope the Japanese skaters don't upstage her. The grooviest thing would be if Emily Hughes makes the medal stand. Who says miracles can't happen--just ask Sarah! I just love those Hughes girls

Monday, February 20, 2006

Olympics Day Ten: The Unexpected

One of the reasons why I love watching the olympics is the "unexpected" factor. The Torino games thus far have been no exception. For Americans it started the very first day When Bode Miller, who was expected to win gold in the Men's Downhill, didn't. Ditto for the combined. But the unexpected isn't always a bad thing--just ask Ted Ligety!

But sometimes the unexpected factor leaves an ugly mark, uh, like the aftertaste of burnt food. If would have been so great, if only I hadn't burned it! No matter how much water you swallow and how hard you try to choke it all down, that awful sensation just refuses to go away for a long, long time. Meet Lindsey Jacobellis, the U.S. snowboarder who lost the gold medal yesterday. Nope, she didn't win the silver, she had to settle for the silver due an immature moment of celebration before the race was over. It was a moment gone very wrong. She forgot that it isn't over until *after* you cross the finish line. The unexpected can and does happen, in the olympics and in life. Lindsey will have 4 long years to think about it, but she's young and will have a chance at redemption if she so chooses. But the bitter aftertaste of that choice will last a lifetime.

Last night's ice dancing was fraught with unexpected falls by even the best of the couples. If looks could kill, Barbara Fusar-Poli sure sends the daggers with her eyes towards her partner last night when he skidded, lost his balance, and dropped her during a crucial required element. A year of hard work, coming back out of retirement to skate for gold in their home country, all crashed in an instant. I can't even imagine how awful that must be.

What I do know is that I tinked more on my shawl last night that I have through the rest of the shawl because I was so distracted by these highly unusual falls. Nevertheless, Kiri is getting nice and fat! I didn't knit much on Saturday because I was busy preparing my Sunday School lesson. Nothing like Abram & Lot, Sodom & Gomorrah to keep one distracted! But the topic did make for some lively, dare I say unexpected, conversation in class. But I did make progress last night and now have 2 repeats and the edging left to go. I'm pretty much ready to be done with it as the repeats are starting to get, well, repetitive.

Tonight's pictures tell another story of the unexpected. The weather in East Tennessee in February can always be counted on to deliver the unexpected. On Thursday I had 4 more daffodils bloom, basking in the 72deg warmth. By Friday night they were drooping under snow! Yikes, snow two weekends in a row! We had even more snow on Saturday, followed by a sub-20deg night so the snow didn't melt like it usually does. But I'm happy to report that my daffys were quite perky this afternoon as the temperatures returned to a more respectable 40something. Better yet, they were joined by the first pink tips of a hyacinth opening up. Oh joy! I celebrating the occasion by buying new gardening gloves for the upcoming season. You go flowers!!!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Day Eight: We're Passed the Half Way Point

The Winter Olympics in Torino moves into the second week of competition today. We're at the half way point in the games and my Kiri shawl is past the half way point too! I'm working on the 10th of 12 repeats and I'm quite pleased with my success. It's pretty tough to capture Kiri's progress in pictures, but my knitting pal "Ewe-nice" was willing to help out as best she could.

I'm finally starting to make friends with my addi-turbo needles. Thanks to all who offered helpful responses to my whining. I actually made a concscious choice to use the slippery turbos after swatching on my usual clover bamboos proved to be too draggy for this yarn. I decided the new needles would be a part of my olympic challenge. While the needles are slick as all get out, the cable is a dream to deal with, unlike any of the cables I've used up till now (which were stiff and determined to go in any direction except the one you want).

I scrolled through the list of Knitting Olympians on Stephanie's blog yesterday. Wow! From my rough scan, it looks like 15 other people are also knitting Kiri. There may be others but I wasn't about to check every link that said "lace shawl" as the declared project. One knitter even set up an Excel chart to count every stitch in the shawl and posted a line graph to track her progress against her projected daily requirement of stitches needed to finish by the end of day 16. Sheesh! Excuse me, but isn't that just a wee little bit OC about the whole thing? Apparently she has a thing about cats too. To top is off she and another cat-adoring knitser friend are both knitting and tracking and graphing out their Kiri olympic experiences together. uh, well, go team Kiri...I think?!?! ROFLOL

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Day Five: The laps are getting longer

Well, it's day five of the winter olympics and the games are forging onward. The men's figure skating short program is in the books and Yevgeny Plushenko is already 10 huge points ahead of the rest of the pack. No surprise there. And Bodacious Bode Miller bombed out in the men's combined. Hey, it must be hard to keep those skis together flying downhill on ice, swatting at giant flies, uh oh flags, as you go. For Bode a big slice of humble pie must be even harder to swallow. At least the other brat on the US team, Johnny Weir, skated beautifully last night. They both could use some lessons on how to be gracious and grateful for being olympians. They didn't get to Torino all by themselves. A lot of other people worked hard and sacrificed much for those 2 boys. Too bad their behavior so disrespectful of this fact. I have a hard time stomaching disrespectful people.

OK, enough editorializing. On to knitting! My Tuesdays are spent on campus (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) working towards getting a dissertation done. The phenomenology research group meets at the College of Nursing on Tuesday afternoons. It's a diverse group of students, faculty, and folks from the community and the research projects generated out of the group are fascinating. We've examined everything from the experience of being an elite athlete, to owning large tracts of forest land, to obtaining religious education for disabled children, being a minority student on campus, or being the parent of a child with an eating disorder. Let's just say the dialogue is never boring. But sitting in a room and focusing on the topic at hand and not how much my body hurts is often difficult for me. I get very restless and wiggle like a toddler in church. My therapist helped me solve the problem though, and now I knit during research group meetings. As long as my hands are busy creating my mind focuses in on my work with shocking clarity. Heck, I've even started knitting in church. I wiggle much less and I get so much more out of the meetings.

I didn't bring Kiri with me to group as I figured it required more concentration than I can offer to avoid mistakes. Frogging lace is not fun and I haven't placed any lifelines, so a major mistake would be lethal at this point. I've worked on a simple lace scarf in group, but I usually knit socks as they are easy and very portable. I finished another sock, so I now have 4 pairs of handknit socks. This pair was a simple ribbed top anklet out of Knit Picks Parade. I finally succeeded in knitting a well-fitting pair. My 1st pair was a little long in the foot, the 2nd was even longer, and the 3rd pair was only a little long and too big all around the way around. I learned that pure merino socks don't have the same stretchy resilience that the blended yarns have. No matter though, as I wear them all.

My shawl is getter bigger, but the rows are getting so long! I'm not really used to working with addi-turbos, having a preference for bamboo for much of what I knit. I've had to make changes in the way I grip the needles and the way I throw the yarn in order to maintain an even tension and not have the slippery suckers slide right out of the stitches. The difference is most noticeable at the beginning of rows and on the wrong side rows which are purled. It's quite fascinating to analyze the tiny differences in motion when purling on the addis and on my usual bamboos. Last night, when I was quite tired after being at the University all afternoon, my arm was hurting after only one purl row. I opted to not push my luck, so I knit one more lace row and called it quits for the night. That is until I woke up at 1AM and couldn't sleep. I picked up Kiri and finished knitting another repeat.

I'm up to seven repeats now and I've only had one spot where I ran into trouble and had to tink and repair. I dropped a stitch at a k2tog at the base of a leaf and had to take a crochet hook to go down a couple of rows and reclaim the lost stitch. Once repaired, the k2tog ended up looking more like a ssk so the edge of the leaf doesn't have that perfect line. Of course it was 2 more long rows done before I realized the repair wasn't perfect. Without a lifeline I really couldn't safely frog and tinking back 440+ stitches was not my idea of fun either. So at 2AM this morning I convinced myself that the problem was only a minor cosmetic one, and wouldn't even be noticeable to anyone except me. I have given up my perfectionistic ways--one side effect of having a disabling health condition. My knitting doesn't have to be perfect. I don't want big flaws, but a little zit here and there is ok. After all, acne happens!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Olympics Day Three: No Pain, No Gain

No pain, no gain. It's the mantra of most athletes I know. Pain is simply the price one pays while striving to achieve one's personal best in any chosen sport. Look at Grandma Luge. At 50-something, she wasn't about to let the bangs and bruises of training keep her from her olympic goal-simply to be there and participate. Unfortunately broken body parts from her last training run in Torino got the best of her so she won't be competing after all. But she came and she gave it her all. Ditto Michele Kwan. Now there's a woman with class! She managed to sit there in front of a zillion reporters and cameras and maintain her composure while all she really wanted to do was bury herself in the arms of her family and cry her guts out because this time the gold eluded her for good.

So I guess my continuing migraine/sinus headache really isn't that big a deal, is it? After all, I did knit a few rows yesterday if for no reason other than it helped to distract me from my misery. When you live with chronic pain every day as I do, distraction is essential to survival. I knit for my very survival some days. I hope this doesn't disqualify me from the race. As a member of Team Deseret I pledged to not knit on Sundays, but I just needed to do it yesterday. I apologize to my team members. I'll try to do better next weekend. Meanwhile, I'm on the 6th repeat of Kiri and she's growing quite nicely. I had to do a little tinking after a Flying Tomato distracted me last night, but Shawn got the gold so it was worth it :-)

Oh, BTW, the snow came and went at my house very quickly. All gone! I have returned my snow boots to their proper place at the back of the closet. May they stay there gathering dust and cobwebs!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Olympics Day Two: Making Progress

The first day of Olympic competition is over and Team USA already has its first gold medal thanks to a newbie speed skater Chad Hedrick. I guess it doesn't always take a lifetime of passion and training to be a champion in one specific sport. Hmmm, sounds like knitting. How many of us Knitting Olympians started out in a sport other than knitting, only to convert sometime later on and find our passion in the clickety-clack of the needles? I know for me, I learned how to knit when I was 9 or 10, but I wasn't converted until a classmate in graduate School at Vanderbilt persuaded me to put down my crochet hook and give the needles another try. She took me on a field trip to a *real* yarn shop, and I ended up knitting my first sweater fit to wear out in public. Thanks Vicki! You changed my life!

I'm making good progress on Kiri. I have the pattern repeat memorized now so I can knit faster and don't have to worry about the pattern hitting the floor every time Miss Emme decides to take up residence on my lap. She's liking the olympics pretty well thus far, but then she's already a devoted watcher of figure skating I finished 2 more repeats so that's 4 down, 8 to go. Of course, those repeats get longer and longer as the shawl progresses, so 2 is good progress. I knit about 3 hours on Kiri, plus another 45 minutes on a second sock I want to finish so I can wear them. I need more handknit socks now that I'm addicted to wearing them. 3 pair simply aren't enough to keep my tootsies happy.

Kiri is too big for the scanner now, so I have to depend on my crummy digital camera. It was a promo freebie and it's better than no camera, but 5.1 megapixels aren't worth much with a crummy lens and no optical zoom. But you can sort of see the shawl growing in size at least.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Olympics: Day One

The opening ceremony is over and the hockey matches are already in full swing as we head into day one of olympic competition. I cast on my Kiri shawl at about 6:30PM EST and knitted on through the opening ceremonies. The OC were nice, but somehow they didn't seem to capture me the same way that the OC at SLC or even Nagano did. Maybe I'm just getting old and it's harder to grab me. Maybe it was the knitting that kept me sufficiently distracted. After all, lace knitting does require more attention than socks or sweaters. Maybe it was all the stupid comments my mother kept blurting out during the broadcast. If I had been using long straight needles I swear I would have jabbed her accidentally (on purpose) a couple of times-- esp. during the cow costume section. OK, so they did look kinda dorky dancing in big black spotted gowns.

I really liked the aerialists and the olympic rings. Now that was pretty cool. And then there was the little girl singing the Italian national anthem--she looked so nervous!!! The parade of nations is always interesting. Since I am a huge fan of figure skating and I watch all the broadcasted competitions throughout the year, I knew many of the athletes from other nations. What I didn't get was why they played old 80s American pop music throughout the parade. For heavens sakes, they're in Italy! Where's all that great Italian music???? I got all the opera music thay played, since I'm also way into opera, but there's so much more to Italian music than Verdi and Puccini. But alas, they didn't disappoint for the finale. Of course it would be Pavarotti singing Nessum Dorma. Why, of course!!!

I cast on Kiri using sz 7 needles. I swatched with sz 6 & 8 needles, but didn't get the chance to verify that 7s were what I really wanted. I figured I could always frog if they didn't work out to my satisfaction, but that proved to not be necessary. I had to do a little tinking when I got off the pattern, usually when I was distracted by mom's annoying remarks, but fortunately that wasn't very often. By the time I was ready for light's out I had knit for about 5 hours and had finished chart 1 and 2 repeats of chart 2. Only 10 more repeats to go! LOL

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Citius, Altius, Fortius: I'm In!

I have responded to the clarion call of the queen knitting blogger The Yarn Harlot Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and participating in the first ever international Knitting Olympics. Faster, higher, stronger, I have challenged myself to go where my knitting needles have never ventured before and knit a red lace shawl over the course of the 16 days of the Winter games in Torino, Italy.

When I first signed up for the KO I elected to participate by knitting my first-ever pair of toe-up, short-row heeled socks. Since knitting my 1st pair of socks in November I have become addicted to handknit socks-- both to make and to wear. They knit up quickly and are so soft and warm and yummy to wear. I have 3 pairs completed and nicely worn in, and 2 more OTN. I hope to finish one of those pairs tonight, before the games begin tomorrow. I figured socks would be a reasonable, doable, yet challenging enough project for my olympic event. After all, finishing my dissertation *is* my current priority, not knitting. But somehow socks didn't really seem to be challenging enough, not special enough for this big deal. Not truly *Olympic* in scale for me.

Last week I was in the Knit n Purl (my lys) and I came across a huge hank of red lace yarn. It was that pretty deep rich red, not a hint of orange or tomato in it. A great Valentine's Day red-- my kind of red. And it was a 50/50 blend of cashmere and fine merino wool from Italy. How olympic, I thought! And its so soft and yummy...I fondled it for almost 30 minutes, I think. But my budget called out...do you really need more yarn right now???? You have plenty of yarn in your stash. My heart replied, but it's a pound of cashmerino, 2000 yds. for only $42.50. It's a bargain!!!! (I think it's been hidden away at the bottom of a corner shelf for a long time). I petted the hank once more, put it down, and went home. It followed me home. All I've been able to think about for days is that delicious red yarn. What a yummy shawl it would make! A red lace shawl is truly an olympic project to knit. Much more olympic than socks.

OK OK OK!!! I've give in. I went back to the KnP on Tuesday, dashed in quickly as I was running late for my research group meeting on campus, and told the gals I wanted the red yarn and could they please wind it into 2 balls for me??? I don't have a swift and my crude method for a swift substitute would have been a nightmare trying to wind my own balls. Since the shop only has a small swift, it wasn't exactly easy for them either. I barely made it back before they closed to collect my prize, but they had another customer they were helping (a local VIP person, no less) so it was ok that I was 5 minutes late.

So I've been gathering patterns and swatching for 2 days now. Trying to decide what pattern to knit hasn't been easy. I already have a flower basket shawl OTN out of KP alpaca cloud. It's come together very quickly and looks great. In fact, the success of the FBS is what really pushed me over the edge about doing a shawl for the olympics. Ingoing through the patterns I had on hand, I narrowed things down to 4, and then 2 designs: Kiri from All Tangled Up or the Kimono Shawl from the Folk Shawls book. I have enough yarn to do the Kimono (it calls for a pound of laceweight silk) and I like the idea of a rectangular shawl, but it looks really long and I think I might get really crazy bored with it before it's over. Plus I doubt I could finish it in 16 days. That leaves Kiri. I *love* the design of Kiri. the leaf motif is not too diferent than the FBS and I like the center top worked out and down technique. You can quit whenever you think it's long enough, less if needed or longer depending on looks and time left. While my yarn isn't fuzzy like the mohair in KSH, I think the Kiri will still look lovely in the cashmerino. Lace is very adaptable after all.

Swatching the shawl: Kimono, Kiri