Thursday, March 30, 2006

Lady Vols Lose, Tink-Tink-Tink

It was a rough night Tuesday. I was working on the coral lace shawl and watching the Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team play North Carolina for the right to go to the NCAA final four. Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols have been to the final four a lot. When you come to TN to play for Pat, you expect to be in the final four. Women's basketball is just that good around here. They even built the National Women's Basketball Hall of Fame here in Knoxville. Yup, our downtown has two big round symbols: a big orange basketball at the WBHOF on one side and a big shiny gold ball atop a tall tower on the other side- the Sunsphere from the 1982 World's Fair.

The Lady Tar Heels lead from the beginning of the game and Pat's girls just couldn't seem to find their rhythm. I knit on my shawl all the while hoping Candace Parker & Alexis Hornbuckle would get everyone revved up. That's when I found the booboo in the shawl a couple of rows down-a centered double decrease was not centered and I had too many stitches. I tried going down to fix just the messed up spot, but it looked awful. Lesson learned: when knitting a shawl from small point upward, you will have extra yarn hanging out when you forget to psso and end up with too many stitches. On Kiri or the FBS boosboos meant that your tension might be just a tad tight in the spot, but blocking would solve the problem. Not so with this pattern.

Of course I had no lifelines in place as I hate putting them in and hate knitting around them once they are in place, so I had no simple rescue. The only safe solution was to tink back 3 rows, one stitch at a time, and fix my mistake. Blast! It's kind of like playing a bad game of Mother, May I? where you were progressing along just fine with your baby steps. Then suddenly the mother shouts "take 3 giant steps backward!" Tinking back takes at least 3 times longer to do than knitting in pattern did in the first place. By the end of the night I managed to make a net progress of zero on the shawl. And the Lady Vols never did really get into the groove of the game and ended up losing. It just wasn't a good night. Period.

I had to take a break from the shawl yesterday. The weather finally warmed up and I ended up spending the day in the yard doing a little garden stuff while supervising the nice man who came and demolished a big stump from an old maple tree in my backyard. Heavy machinery sure can do amazing things! He also got rid of the stumps of the diseased laurel bushes I had Mr. Jim (the yard guy) cut down on Monday. I am deliriously happy to be rid of those bushes! Next up is compost & topsoil, plus lime in the places that will be returned to grass. I might turn some sand into the front bed too before planting new shrubs. Right now I am thinking about a Natchez (white) crape myrtle with Nikko Blue hydrangeas on either side. That should make a perfect backdrop for my pink rose garden! Yum! (Digging in the dirt really is fun!)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I Love FOs

I just love *finished* knitting projects. Being an expert at UFO/WIPs, it's especially satisfying to see a project through to completion. I finished these Regia socks Sunday evening and they turned out just perfect. The fit is perfect--my best pair of socks yet, and the color is totally cool. When I put them on my feet I feel... well, groovy! Handknit socks really do rock!

Finishing a new pair of socks gave me something to feel good about on a weekend when I felt awful physically. Between the wacky weather, wild hormone swings, and fibro my poor body just lost it. Yeeeouch! But I put those toasty warm socks on my feet immediately after grafting the toe closed and ahhhhhh...yes! Warm, soft, yummy, and happy bright! What a way to turn icky into ahhhh! I had my camera at the ready so I didn't even have to move from the recliner & heating pad to snap this pix of my toasty tootsies. Now that's what I call groovy!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

It's Like Christmas!

I just happened to be looking out the window when the mail lady pulled up in front of the house with a big box in her hands--a big box full of yarn from knit picks! It must be Christmas! No really, it's been *so* cold here this week, it even snowed on Rocky Top. It feels like Christmas. I've been doing a little sale shopping for spring/summer clothes & shoes or fabric to make my own clothes, so I feel very indulged in this week. The arrival of my yarn box was just the frosting on the cake.

I couldn't resist the KnitPicks sock yarn sale. I ordered two colors of parade to knit socks for my father. He wants socks that don't touch his ankles as they are very sensitive. It will be an adventure to knit big feet socks but at least I don't have to do much ribbing so that's a plus. The rest of the box is planned for me, but that could change. I love the 100% merino so I bought 2 colors (hydrangea, tropical sunrise) for socks for me and a bunch of the stargazer lily for the Sock Memories Shawl pattern. The shawl is a big rectangle and uses the home sweet home pattern. The shawl looks easy enough but I wish they had charted out the pattern. I'm hooked on the visual of charts now--it just makes so much more sense when you can see the design on paper and match up what you're knitting to it. It's also a lot faster to glance at a chart than read a bunch of encrypted text. I guess I'll be practicing my own charting skills for this one.

I also ordered 3 hanks of alpaca cloud in the mist colorway for another lace shawl. I used the peppermint pink AC for the flower basket shawl and it is totally yummy. I've worn my FBS so much! It has been the perfect thing to wrap around my neck and shoulders while puttering around the house or dashing out to run errands in the chilly March winds. I never thought I would wear it as much as I have. The pale periwinkle shade of my new alpaca cloud is lovely. I may just knit another FBS with it since the price is right--I already have the pattern and needles I need.

I've been knitting away on socks this week. My colorful Regia socks are coming along. I finished working the gusset on the 2nd sock last night. I hope to finish the pair this weekend. After all my false starts with this yarn I finally have a result I'm pleased with(the socks that is, the picture is terrible). I'm glad I knit a long cuff and even my experiment with extending the ribbing partway down the top of the instep looks interesting. I wanted the top ribbing to be there to assure a snug fit. The other pair of socks I knit without a real pattern ended being very baggy at the instep/arch and I didn't want that to happen again. I now know that I would have been OK without the extra ribbing as my heel flap depth was perfect this time, but a little extra caution never hurts!. And I now have the right yarn/needle size & stitch count to make simple socks that fit me perfectly. How cool is that?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Knitting Socks, Vols Lose

It was rather late Friday night when it bit me--the urge to knit socks. I have a some WIP socks in my basket, but they are patterned "fussy" socks that require thinking and fancy maneuvers. I wanted to knit simple, almost no-brainer, no pattern needed socks. I think the urge may have had something to do with the Townies sock knitting group I belong to. These folks are plumb crazy about knitting socks! They buy lots of expensive fancy sock yarn and knit amazing apparel for feet. But they are loads of fun and they are most respectful of us humble sock knitters.

I bought this colorful Regia (sorta pricey for me) sock yarn on sale at the KnP in January. The colors are fabulous. But I was less than thrilled with my inital swatches and beginnings of cuffs, so I relegated the yarn to the frog pond and started knitting lace shawls instead. A helpful Townie assured me the yarn was really great and a smaller needle size/higher stitch count would solve my frustrations. So I opened a new set of Crystal Palace bamboo dpns (2.25mm/US 1) and cast on using my favorite 2x2 rib cuff. When stretched out, I think a 2x2 rib has a superior appearance over the usual 1x1 rib. And since I dislike knitting ribbing, 2x2 is much more tolerable (less manipulating of the needles and yarn to form the knits & purls for us throwers). Ribbing is even better tolerated when worked in superior quality needles and these CP needles are smooth and sharp and totally awesome to work with (translation=much better than Clover/Takumi dpns). Two hours later when I was ready to kiss Miss Emme (the dog) goodnight for the last time and turn the lights out I had a very respectable start to a cuff. I convinced myself to stick with it and knit a cuff long enough to fold down rather than just a quickie anklet. After all, it was pricey yarn--no sense having a bunch leftover in my basket.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon and time for my beloved Vols to play in the 2nd round of the NCAA tourney against Witchita State. I debated between the coral lace shawl (the lucky project in the 1st round game) or the Regia socks for my game time sanity activity. I decided to stick with the socks since I was already on a roll with them. The basketball game was very close--again. Too close--again! The ribbed cuff grew fast with the distraction of the game. The Vols went on a run late in the 2nd half. I was excited and knit fast. Then suddenly the ball stopped going down the basket. The lead melted away as only 2 minutes remained. Andre' Patterson fouled out. Ouch! Dane Bradshaw missed critical free throws. Oh no! The Big Orange went down! Moan, groan!!! Maybe I shoulda stuck with the shawl.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Vols Win, Shawl Progresses

It was a long, nail-biter, but my beloved Tennessee Vols Mens' basketball team won their first round game at the "Big Dance." Winthrop was tenacious, but a last second miracle shot by Lofton put the Vols ahead and guaranteed another game and another chance at victory. The arrival of Bruce Pearl in Knoxville has brought about a mighty miracle both on and off the court. It's been fun to watch the same guys who repeatedly lost last year suddenly come to life and upset the big win teams. It's been 6 years since the Vols won a game in the NCAA tournament. I find great inspiration in this, as I try to overcome my own "formidable opponents" in my personal life. As Pearl has shown Vol fans, attitude is everything. After all the hard work and discipline, ya gotta believe you can do it. Believing is the hard part. After that, the doing gets easier. Not easy, mind you, but easier.

I have found my new found love of knitting lace to be a perfect companion for watching my favorite sports on TV. This was confirmed knitting Kiri during the olympics. When the game is a little dull, I focus on knitting. When the game is so intense I feel like exploding, I knit like a mad woman and I feel like I'm a little bit more in control-- of myself at least. Yesterday's basketball game was close from start to finish. Too close! I managed to knit 2 more repeats on my coral lace shawl as a result of this "madness." This shawl pattern is really wonderful (Wiseman, 2001. Knitted Shawls, Stoles, & Scarves, pp. 62-64). It is really quite simple to knit and would be a perfect 1st lace shawl for just about anyone because it doesn't have all the complicated manuevers of many lace patterns. There are only 3 stitches: knit, purl, and sl1 k2tog psso. That's it! Add a few yo s and you have lace! It's very dainty in laceweight yarn, but I suspect this design would be just as wonderful worked in a DK or WW yarn on larger needles. I will probably try this as my mom wants a warm shawl to wrap around her neck and shoulders during little naps in the recliner. Just another project to add to my list. It's a *long* list!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

One of Those Days

It was one of those days. You know, the kind of day where nothing seems to go right and Murphy's Law reigns supreme. Tuesday was one of those days for me. I didn't feel all that great when I got up---not all that unusual for me since I have fibromyalgia, but still not as good as I feel on good days. I had my usual morning bagel and diet coke breakfast while watching Martha Stewart teach the world the basics of cooking. Not so bad. then I crawled in behind my computer to capitalize on a moment of inspiration and work on my dissertation. These moments are not common, so I have to go at it while the brain is functioning. Time is irrelevant in these moments, it just goes by.

So I was late getting out of the house to go to campus for my weekly research group meetings. I arrive at the freeway to find it a parking lot. Stopped dead. I hate road construction! The drive down the back roads was beautiful, but it took twice as long as usual. Then a female (she was no lady) driving a clunker car older than mine (mine's old!) ran the red light and tried to hit me as I was turning into campus at the arena. At least my car has good brakes. Hers squealed like crazy as she gestured madly and flapped her jaw at me. I'm an extremely careful driver--the post-traumatic stress result of 2 bad life experiences involving cars--so I had been watching this woman carefully even before I turned. I thought she really was going to stop and I had plenty of room, but it was clear she was not paying attention to anything except where she intended to go. I won't post the evil thoughts that went through my mind at that moment. She didn't hit me and I survived to get to the parking lot--which was full. Totally full. I don't usually have trouble parking, but it was one of those kind of days. Finally someone leaves, I park and hike up the hill to the College. I get to the conference room only to find that the meeting was cancelled due to the fact that most everyone was gone. Its hard to do group work with only 3 people. My professor, who is in charge of the group, was away in Salzburg, Austria presenting at a conference. Oh duh, I forgot it was this week.

I get in my car and head home. Traffic is OK and no one tries to kill me this time. I'm in an awful mood, so I stop in at the Knit n Purl on my way home (it really is on my way home, no detour needed). There's been a fair amount of chat about the Branching Out Scarf (from Knitty) on the knitlist lately, mostly whining about the chart being difficult. It doesn't look hard to me, I've wanted to knit this one but I did't have anything suitable in the stash. The designer recommended Doceur et Soie, which I love but the KnP doesn't have any good colors left, or Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool. The KnP has lots of Silky Wool in bright, vivid colors like pink, periwinkle, and turquoise. I'm wearing a new jean-style jacket, hot off my sewing machine in shades of white, lime, and turq so I opt for the turq SW. I pick up another set of Addi circs to add to my collection and walk out of the store feeling much better about life. Visiting the KnP has that effect on me. I always feel better after a visit to look at the colors and pet the yarn.

I went home and cast on the BOS. The SW yarn is quite textured. I suspect the silk content is silk noil as the texture resembles the nubbiness found in silk noil fabric. But it is nice and I can see why SW would make a great wear-it-all-the-time cardigan. In reality I will never know this as I can't afford to spend approx $100+ on yarn to knit a sweater. I am on a very tiny fixed income. I just don't have that kind of money to spend on yarn. If I *did* have that kind of money, I'd buy a really amazing sweater that I didn't have to spend months knitting. But I can buy a skein or two of an expensive yarn for a lace scarf. And that's exactly what I did!

It didn't take long to see why some of the knitlisters were having a hard time with the BOS. Every version of a 3to1 decrease is in this scarf, often in the same row! The symbols for these decreases were hard to read and required squinting intensely at the chart--not good for smooth knitting. The stitch counts vary and I managed to lose several yo stitches while working the purl rows, typically not a problem for me. I had to tink several times to recover the lost stitches but the good news was that by the end of 2 repeats I had it all figured out and the knitting went smoothly and quickly after that. SW yarn is big compared to lace and fingering yarns I've been using lately, so the BOS should be a very quick knit. I like quick knits!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Pretty in Pink

Pink is my favorite color. I have pink skin. I look good in pink. Everything is prettier in pink. I was so happy to see my pretty pink flower basket shawl all stretched out and blocking on the bed yesterday. I just unpinned her and wrapped up in her yumminess. Alpaca Cloud is definitely a fabulous fiber for shawls and scarves--so soft, so delicate, and with just the right amount of warmth for a Southern Belle. Since the weather can't seem to make up its mind right now, a little extra warmth in the morning is a good thing.

I started working on the Trellis Scarf the other night. My first attempt looked pretty strange, so I frogged it and started over. I got through the first chart just fine, but then came this little monster called a 7 to 5 cluster. Evil monster. I did not knit the future cluster stitches extra loose on the previous row as suggested in the pattern. That would have required knowing what was coming up on the 1st row of the 2nd chart, which I hadn't really studied intensely yet. I did try using a crochet hook to pull the yarn through the 7 stitches, which is fine if you only need to pull through once. It doesn't help for the following yo, k1, yo, k1 that are supposed to be worked in the same place. Next I tried slipping the 7 st to a 0000 dpn, meanwhile shoving the addi forward so the needle is out of the way and maybe I won't drop any stitches during the gymnastics. it worked, but how fiddly is that? I made it through the row (3 clusters) only to discover that I did drop a stitch after the first cluster and the others were all off by 1. Yikes! Its a really pretty scarf, but it's not worth all the headaches to work the 100+ clusters called for in the design. Call that Trellis frogged! BooHoo!

With Trellis is the frog pond, I just had to start something else with the coral Zephyr. I spent quite a bit of time perusing my pattern collection and B. Walker's 1st Stitch Treasury book. I ultimately decided to try the Lavender Linen Lace Shawl from Nancie Wiseman's Knitted Shawls, Stoles, & Scarves. This is a lovely little triangular shawl, more like a large scarf really. Since it is worked with a single strand of laceweight yarn, it is lighter and more delicate than the Flower Basket Shawl or Kiri. That makes it perfect for spring and summer! The pattern is pretty easy to follow & remember, so I should be able to knit away without the chart soon. This lace shawl thing is *so* addicting!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Another Shawl Dances Off the Needles

Yes indeed, another lace shawl has danced its way off my addis and into my heart. I just love the look of the Flower Basket Shawl. It took me a lot longer to memorize the pattern repeats, so it took more presence of mind while knitting than Kiri did. But it was oh so worth it! I ended up knitting 12 repeats to get a shawl that is similar in size to Kiri. I had hoped to do 10 repeats, but it just wasn't big enough. Two skeins of the Alpaca Cloud lasted through 11.5 repeats, so in the future I'll know to plan on three skeins for this design. One or 2 more repeats would have been nice, but frankly I was just ready to be done, so I quit at 12. I think I'll be happy with my decision once I get her blocked.

Next up on the needles is the Trellis Lace Scarf from the current issue of Interweave Knits. Trellis is another Evelyn Clark design, so it should be a well-written and well-conceived project. Clark has an excellent reputation for her lace designs. This time I'm using another very popular lace yarn-- Jaggerspun Zephyr, which is a 50/50 blend of fine merino and tussah silk. I've chosen a bright coral pink, one of my favorite colors for spring and summer. I swatched on the size 5 needles suggested in the pattern, but my gauge was a bit big. More importantly, I didn't like the look on 5s, so I switched to size 4s. I swatched with Balene II needles, which have a fine tip, and with Clover bamboos. I've used both of these on previous lace projects and have been quite happy. Not this time. Oh the drag!!!! I am rotten now. Addi rotten. Those super slick suckers that drove me crazy only 3 weeks ago have become my best friends. The yarn just slides along those lovely flexible cables. Oh my poor budget. I dragged my poor sick, ashy green body out of the house to my lys for some size 4 addis. It's a very good thing I live close by. If I buy a new size each month, eventually I'll have what I want. Add me to the list of needle snobs. I just knew addi addiction was a contagious disease.