Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve


It's just another New Year's Eve, just another Auld Lang Syne -- sounds like a familiar Barry Manilow song, doesn't it? ;-) I'm another year older, maybe I'm a little bit wiser or at least I finally have the PhD to prove it, and life goes on. It's been a very good year on the whole, and my knitting has progressed significantly. It's hard to believe that it's only been 2 years since I knit my 1st lace scarf, now I'm addicted to lace knitting. My latest project, the Angel Pearls Beaded Lace Scarf has reached the half-way point and it's really quite lovely. Or at least that's what I thought until this afternoon when I spread it out to shoot a couple of photos. There it was!!!
Here's a closer view...can you see it? A HOLE. A big ugly hole!!! I was aghast. It's about 1.5 repeats from the top, or the equivalent of what I knit late last night before falling asleep. I'm not exactly sure what happened, if I dropped a stitch or simply missed gathering one up in a cluster, or if it's simply a tension disaster. It could be any or all of the above. The alpaca is very slippery and it's not the easiest thing to knit with 3 strands I'm trying not to separate. So it's been hanging out for the evening while I decide whether to frog back (PitA) or forge ahead and do a sneaky repair later. My go ahead side is reminding me that it's at the back of the neck place in the scarf--the place where no-one will ever see it. Of course the perfectionist me wants to frog/tink it, but I know that the risk of losing even more stitches is super high with this yarn. Perhaps my 1st New Years Resolution needs to be getting over my need to have everything done to perfection. Honestly, this gap in the lace really isn't a big deal, isn't it????
I kind of want to finish the Angel scarf before I cast-on and resume working on Thistle's Epistle. It's a great stole, but I know finishing it will test my tenacity to the max cuz it's reached the sigh, ho hum, BORING! point where I want to do something else. Another resolution: finish the UFOs. I did really well this fall finishing stuff, so my WIP/hibernating list is fairly short, but I still have serious get-it-done work ahead of me.

Dick Clark's Rockin' New Years Eve with Ryan Secrest is on, it's 11:00PM here and I'm signing off to go and knit in the New Year. I'll let you know what happens to the BIG HOLE on the flip side. Until then, I wish you PEACE, HOPE, and JOY! Happy New Year :-)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!


Another Christmas Day is coming to a close and I can't help but reflect back on what's happened. The long-awaited socks for Daddy were unwrapped, not with surprise, but with a great deal of joy. Daddy put them on immediately last night and declared them perfect. Ever the critical eye, I thought they looked just a smidge on the snug side. Next time I'll try either a slightly fatter yarn or a few more stitches for some extra give. They also looked a little snug across the toes. They didn't feel too tight and Daddy said they weren't, but once again, I'll add maybe 1/2" on the next pair. He wore the socks with his dress loafers when we went out today and he showed them off to everyone. For as much as I did not enjoy knitting those socks I know I have to knit another pair for him very soon. It's the very least I can do to help his poor aching and sensitive feet find a little comfort.

I showed mother what I had knit on her lace stole thus far. I have dubbed my adaptation of the HeartStrings Scotch Thistle Lace Stole pattern Thistle's Epistle. I kind of like the ring to it, and I got into knitting an adaptation because I didn't go back and read the pattern instructions (the "epistle"). Her response was favorable, although she was so tired and grouchy that any hint of a positive response was a miracle. But, since the stole wasn't going to be under the tree, I gave her a new set of Wolfgang Puck knives--ones that are sharp and safe, unlike the scary things she's using now. I refuse to touch those knives--scary!

A few days ago I was feeling the need to knit a little something simple, yet lacy as a perk me up alternative to the big shawls and stoles I have OTN. I was surfing the FOs at Ravelry and someone posted a scarf by a popular lace designer, Sivia Harding. Off to Sivia's website I went in a flash, threw open the lace files and coughed up some cash! (My apologies to Mr. Clemens, ahem) There are 3 Harding designs I'm eager to knit, 2 of which are med-lg shawls. The other is this sweet beaded scarf called Angel Pearls, knit from a single skein of Kid Silk Haze. After a little math and some scary yarn manipulations I turned a cone of cobweb wt. baby alpaca singles into a triple-stranded center-pull ball. The yarn is a rich golden yellow so I chose silver-lined gold beads to go with it and I cast on. Failure to concentrate did necessitate tinking a row here and there, but I have 1.5 repeats of the center chart completed and things look good. The yarn is a bit tricky to work with as it's very slippery and easy to split the strands, but the fabric it produces is lusciously soft and enhances the lace. The best part of this scarf design--it's knit in one piece from start to finish with no grafting or provisional cast-ons or anything complicated. I'm finding such designs in lace to be hard to come by, so this is a big deal.

My Christmas was everything I had hoped for. I knew what most of my presents were beforehand, but Mom did surprise me with a few things from Coldwater Creek. I love everything I received, but I'm especially liking the new pajamas. A nice, heavy cotton jersey, the red pants are covered in preppy plaid and green triangle "trees" with a white top emblazoned with the word Celebrate right across the "girls". My "big" present was a red suede jacket, which I adore, but I Bet I wear the PJs more ;-D

Ho Ho Ho, it was a very Merry Christmas after all!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Whoa!!!!

I'm pulling on the reins, but it's not because I'm Santa telling Rudolph and the reindeer to take off with the Sleigh full of gifts. Not hardly, rather it's me yelling whoa! Time is going by too fast, faster than my fingers can finish knitting the stole I'm concocting for Mother's present. I have accepted the reality that I cannot complete socks for my sister, nor any other major knitted gifts for other family members. This is not so terrible as I wasn't certain my sister would wear the socks, and everyone else wouldn't really appreciate how much work such things take. Simplify, simplify, simplify, quoting Ann Morrow Lindberg, has become my motto.

I thought I'd share the last photo I took of the Mystic Waters Shawl (MWS). I haven't knit any more rows in about 1.5 weeks, but I think I'll go back to it so I can switch between Mom's shawl and the MWS. Working on 2 shawls really helps with the tedious aspect of repetition. The last clue of MWS was posted last week and Anna posted a picture of her finished shawl on her blog just the other day. She used a finer yarn than I am using, and her finished wingspan was over 90" with a depth of 50+". I suddenly realized that if I knit the whole thing, my shawl would be 100+ inches by 60+ inches-- way, way too big. I'm afraid I'll have no other choice but to knit the "small" version and hope that it isn't too small. My guts tell me I really wanted a finished size somewhere between the two but I don't want an afghan. Stay tuned to see what happens!

I had a difficult time deciding what pattern to use for mother stole. Finding a balance between easy-to-knit and interesting-to-knit with the limit of no knit-on edgings made the pickings a bit slim. But I was delighted to discover that Sandy at The Yarn Haven is carrying patterns from HeartStrings FiberArts, including the hot pattern of the summer, the Scotch Thistle Lace Stole. Problem solved! Well, sort of. The pattern calls for fingering wt. yarn and I planned on using a cone of laceweight cashmere (thanks ColourMart!). OK, so I doubled the yarn and kept the recommended needle size. I read through the pattern after I brought it home, but when I cast-on I just started knitting from the chart. It looks nice, but it doesn't look like the one in the picture. Why? In the written directions you are instructed to repeat specific rows multiple times before proceeding to the next part of the chart. Whoops! I briefly considered frogging back, but decided to go on, unventing the pattern as I went. The unventing is a bit interesting but it has called for a few tinking sessions when I hated the choice I made. You didn't think I was wise enough to throw in a lifeline before forging on did you??? Ha! not a chance (OK, I regretted not having a lifeline last night after tinking about 5 rows, ugh!)

I'm taking notes to share when I'm done with my version of the stole (with apologies to Jackie E_S). I'll post pictures next time. Until then, HO HO HO!!!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Christmas Bliss


I had an experience in Christmas bliss last night that I shall not forget. A bit of background--I am a singer as well as a knitter. I have been in choirs, large and small, for most of my life, singing the classical repertoire for the most part. Excellent choral music is a large part of my joy in life. No one in the family was more delighted than I when my nephew Christopher fell in love with choral music as a freshman in High School. He was in a magnet high school and had an exceptional professor who carefully tutored Chris' talent. He was selected to the All-East State honors choirs every year, and All-State his senior year (maybe jr. too...I don't remember). His gift for music was rewarded with college scholarships and selection for a special a capella men's group called the Seven Bucks his sophomore year. Now a junior at East TN State University (ETSU), he is singing with the ETSU Chorale, a modest-sized group of about 80 singers. Last night was my 1st opportunity to hear him perform with the choir at their Annual Christmas Concert.

The concert was held at the Munsey Memorial Methodist Church in Johnson City, a beautiful old cathedral-style church in the heart of the historic downtown district. In the first picture I tried capture the exquisite architecture of the chancel area. Above the altar was a soaring brass fretwork engraved with images of Christ and the apostles. It was difficult to see the detail from where I sat, but I was impressed nevertheless. The choir did not use the chancel area, rather they stood on risers in front of the pulpits and along the outer aisles. For the opening number, an early 17th century work by Allegri, a quartet stood in the rear balcony, the women were on the risers and the men in the aisles so the audience was literally surrounded by a glorious polyphonal sound. It was breathtakingly beautiful to listen too. I could not believe my ears I was so stunned by the exceptional quality of the Chorale. I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about choral music and *very* picky about things like intonation and timbre and the like. Frankly, I never even considered the possibility of music of this quality coming from a small university in the hills of Appalachia. I was so wrong, it was that good!!!

Perhaps the most joyous aspect of the experience for me was simply watching Chris sing (the redhead in the center on the top row). It wasn't hard to see that he was loving every minute of it. He was a bit nervous about his part in a solo quartet in a Ralph Vaughn Williams number, but he sang well. Daddy made the journey with me and he simply glowed with joy over the whole thing. It truly is a miracle that he even had strength to come and sit in a crowd for that long so late at night.

After the concert we were pleasantly surprised to learn that Alison(the ex) brought Matthew(nephew #3) and Connor(#4) up from North Carolina for the concert. The boys were *so* excited to see their Grandaddy! It was a Fuji moment and I was lucky to snap a couple of pictures--good pictures! (From left to right: Chris, Connor, Grandaddy, & Matthew) Matthew looked, well, (can an aunt say this???) HOT! He was decked out in a beautiful suit and tie--boy he cleans up good! Connor was in great spirits too, so it was a great family moment for us all. It was a concert event that will be the highlight of my Christmas this year. Ah, bliss!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Narcissistic Yarn, Acts of Desperation, and Other Random Thoughts


Today I added a few photos to go with the ramblings on of a distracted mind. Here's my completed "Smooshy Socks" aka Socks for Veronik. The yarn lives up to it's name. soft and smooshy! I wore them yesterday and got gushing raves everywhere I went. That's pretty impressive for socks. With each pair of socks I knit, I learn something new. From the smooshy socks I learned how to knit socks that would fit around my curvy calves and still fit at the ankle. At last I can knit a sock with a longer leg, right? Not so fast.... They fit just great, they just don't want to stay there. Chalk another one up for gravity as the socks retract comfortably to just above where all my other socks sit. Some battles just weren't meant to be won. Back to knitting 4-5" cuffs.

I knew I had to go to the doctor's office yesterday and with no "current" socks OTN I needed a project to take with me. So I resumed work on Daddy's Christmas socks. I knit the heel flap over the weekend and got all the stitches picked up for the gusset. Lots of stitches since these are big socks for big feet. I was testing the limits of my favorite KnitPicks needles with all those stitches. Desperate times call for desperate acts. I knew I couldn't just pitch these socks into my purse and go without losing stitches everywhere, so I grabbed my 32" KP circular and started knitting a la Magic Loop style. My stitches are saved from drop-offs! It's pretty awkward in that you have to fight the natural curvature of the cable, even if it's a super flexible cable. Messing with the loop is fiddly and I'm not yet convinced this is superior to dpns. I am knitting in all stockinette at this point, so that's pretty simple, but working in pattern may be more tricky. Magic Looping does demand the use of stitch markers, things I never used on dpns as the spacing of stitches across the needles served to mark where you are at in the pattern. I may switch back to dpns once the gusset decreases are done, but for now it's magic loop time I guess.


My last photo is symbolic of how my day has gone today. We had terrible wind storms last night, I didn't take my usual sleep med (forgot to get it refilled) hence I didn't sleep too well. So I'm not in my best form when my four-legged friend came to see me this morning. Miss Emme, aka Her Royal Majesty of Supreme Rottenness, decided it was time to be picked up and put into my bed. Dachsies are short, my bed is tall--enough said. Emme has her favorite way of occupying my bed, and this morning's offering was not up to her expectations. It was a rough night, after all, so there weren't many blankets left on the bed. I was trying to knit on THE SOCKS (they will be done this year, Daddy, I promise!) but NO! I must move. I must fix the blankets. I get up and start to make the bed, but before I can crawl back in She took over. Rotten I tell you, rotten. Parked right on top of my heating pad. I know when I have lost. I relocated to the recliner with my knitting, sans the heating pad.

This should have been a sign portending things to come. I picked up a new shawl pattern while I was at the Yarn Haven yesterday. Oh yeah, I hit the LYS! I bought another skein of Araucania Ranco to knit socks for my sister for Christmas (or her B-day if I don't get done in time). While I was there I thumbed through Sandy's pattern collection. She's been expanding these things and I was happy to learn she is carrying FiberTrends and HeartStrings patterns. I've been looking at HeartStrings patterns for awhile, but didn't have a convenient source--until now. I loved Jackie's Scotch Thistle Stole design when she released it last summer. Others liked it too, as there was quite a rush on the pattern and dyed-to-match Schaefer yarn that was meant to go with the pattern. When I saw it at TYH, I knew it was my answer to what to knit for Mother for Christmas.

After careful deliberation and review of finances, I opted to forgo buying new yarn and use some cashmere from the stash. This is the pretty brick red yarn that I ordered hoping for a ruby red. Sweet Richard at ColourMart found some ruby red and sent me both cones. The Brick is perfect for Mom, and if used double stranded, is perfect for the Thistle Stole. No problem, right? I'll just wind off half the cone with my trusty ball winder, then knit from both for the stole. I've done this many times without a hitch, but not so today. They say yarn has personality. Different yarns say different things, like "Hey. look at me! I'm bright and sassy" or "I'm soooo soft and sweet, don't you want to pet me?" The brick cashmere has a personality all right, a narcissistic personality. It's very fond of itself. It's also quite flighty, as in flying off the spindle when I had about 40g wound off. That means the ball gets to sit on the floor next to the partially unwound cone to go through the winding process all over again. Bothersome, but not problematic, right? Wrong! I've heard folks whine about yarn barf before, you know, the big globs of yarn that spew forth from center-pull balls to crate havoc and knots while you work. Yarn Barf! I'd never had any bad barf before, but this self-absorbed stuff puked constantly and didn't want to be separated into one long line. Bad yarn! I hissed my way through rewinding and now I have yarn ready to knit. I hope it behaves better while knitting. I put some nice hand cream on while rewinding the yarn in the hopes of discouraging it's stuck-on-self ways in the future. And here I thought narcissistic people were difficult to deal with. Who knew yarn could be too!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Frivolity

There's nothing like a Monday afternoon to engage in frivolity. You know the stuff-- fun, interesting, or pleasing but generally unnecessary activities. Well, maybe unnecessary in somebody's point of view. I am in the midst of decorating the house for Christmas. That means setting up 2 Christmas trees, one upstairs (mine) and one downstairs (the family tree), plus all the other accoutrement that makes our house suitably attired for the season. I intend to have fun doing the decorating this year. Last year was not fun as I was in the throes of my dissertation and very stressed out. Last year the downstairs tree & decorations never emerged from their off-season hiding place.

But hauling boxes around and setting up trees (those beautiful, pre-lit trees are HEAVY!) is physically demanding and not especially compatible with my fibromyalgia-ravaged body. This means I have to take frequent rest breaks. More frivolity I guess, since I saw this on someone's blog and decided to take the quiz. It's called your personal DNA and it's kind of a take-off on those personality tests you took in freshman psych class (ie. Myers-Briggs, etc.). Anyway, here's what they said about me:
Animated Inventor


Hmmm, sounds pretty OK. There are a few things I questioned, but then I had a hard time answering quite a few of those questions where sometimes I'm one way and other times I'm the opposite--a true Gemini. Some of the rest reflects more of what I used to do/be or would like to do/be, but not necessarily what my life is like right this minute. Geez, I could over-analyze anything half to death! Thinking, thinking, thinking.... One of my favorite bloggers calls this stuff useless blather. I agree.

On the knitting front, I finished my Smooshy Socks for Veronik yesterday. No FO pix just yet, but I'll get some posted later. I'm quite happy with how they turned out and I look forward to seeing how well they wear. Some recent dialogue about sock yarns on Ravelry brought to light the importance of reserving judgment on the wonderfulness of a yarn until after the finished item has been worn/used and laundered for a period of time. Things that seem great at first don't always retain their wonderfulness. I wore a pair of socks I knit a year or so ago using some soft Knit Picks Sock Garden yarn. I think I pulled 2 dozen fuzzy balls off of each sock---the stuff pills like mad! It's no so bad for house socks, but I wouldn't be so pleased if it was a sweater.

I picked up Daddy's Socks out of the UFO basket and resumed knitting on them. He will get them, finished and ready to wear this year! I'm still in anguish over what to knit for Mom. Do I suck it up and knit a black shawl, which is what she wants (and I dread the mere thought of), out of fingering wt. yarn, which would make it warm (what she wants) and fast to knit (good for me). I would have to buy yarn for this as I have nothing black. But, I have some beautiful cashmere from ColourMart (Thanks Richard!) that is a lovely heathered brick shade that would go with lots of her clothes and would look fabulous on her. Decisions!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Promise Kept



I've had an longstanding promise to take my father for a drive to our favorite place, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. More specifically, there is a small isolated community at the very edge of the park called Cades Cove that is our most favorite place to visit. There is a narrow, winding one-way road that makes an 11 mile loop around the cove, passing the restored cabins and churches and other places that were the home of a thriving mountain community in the late 1800's. Each time we visit we stop at one or two of our favorite "points of interest" to see what has evolved.

The first photograph was taken from the front yard of the Missionary Baptist Church. I was smitten by the brilliance of color and light in the distant fields and the contrasting dimness in the shadow of the trees surrounding the church. I usually stop at the Methodist Church as it's my favorite, but lately I've been intrigued by the architecture of the Missionary Baptist Church, with it's protruding chancel (is that what it's called???) at the front of the church where the pulpit is located. It's really a very fancy detail for the period and setting and none of the other churches in the cove have this feature. The old wood of the interior walls and pews make for amazing acoustics. Daddy and I can't help but break into an old gospel hymn like Amazing Grace when we visit.


Our next stop was at Abrams Creek. With the severe drought we've suffered this year the water levels in the Smokies are lower than I can recall ever witnessing before in my life. Just after the Loop Road crosses Abrams Creek there's a short road to a parking area at the head of a group of hiking trails. As we pulled off the main road, daddy noticed these unusual plants than were in an area that is traditionally moist and a bit like a bog. I have no idea what these are, but they had a large seed pod that is shaped like a bird's body and is about 4-6" long. When the pod splits you see at the 1st inner layer of tiny, flat brown seeds. Attached to each seed and comprising the innermost layer is a silky, feathery fiber that is ~2-3" long. It was shimmering in the sun and had the fluffy nature similar to a dandelion seed, only much stronger. The fluff just glistened in the sun and truly looked like silk. I was completely fascinated and took a number of photos to help me identify the plant. Very cool!

We proceeded on to the parking area and stopped to take a little stroll along the creek. Once again I was stunned by how low the water level was, and how different the creek looked there by the bridge that crosses it. You could see through the clear steely blue/teal water to the creek bottom. A natural dam had been created by a fallen tree. Subsequent limbs and branches flowing downstream got caught in the fallen tree creating a bit of a pond upstream, and a mill-race-like waterfall for the water that moved overt he top of the mass of sticks and leaves. The sounds and the colors were rather eerie and I thought of the Mystic Waters Shawl KAL I'm participating in. I was looking at real mystic waters! Double cool!

By the time we got to the backside of the Loop road it was getting later in the afternoon and the white-tailed deer were starting to come down from their daytime hideaways in the mountains to the green fields in the Cove for their evening meal. November is rutting season and by this point the dominant bucks have stated their claims over the does and are stalking them until the perfect day when its time to mate. They only get 24 hours once a year. This 3-point buck was standing in the middle of a large field, apparently alone. But on closer inspection there was a single doe sitting in a brushy are on the edge of the field. Clearly Big Daddy Buck was waiting and watching over his girl. Not just yet big fella! As we drove on around the bend there was a field full of does, maybe 8 or 10. We decided they were all a part of that bucks harem. Let's face it, the deer have it very good in Cades Cove.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Quarantine Over

It was a nasty little virus. Sneaky in it's approach, insidious at best, but boy oh boy did it knock me out of commission! Almost 2 weeks it's been since the initial migraine and sinus congestion. I think I can safely say it's over now as I ended the day with yet another migraine. The miserable things, they get you coming and going.

So I slept a lot, contemplated knitting projects a lot, and got a fair amount of knitting done. The downside--it had to be relatively uncomplicated knitting most of the time because my head simply wasn't up to knitting complex shawls. Uncomplicated means socks. I love my Monkey Socks. I love the pattern enough that I might just knit it a second time, with a few changes of course. Some of the folks over on Ravelry have knit the lace motif without the purl stitch sections on the 1st few rows. They chose to knit those little wedges instead, making it much easier to execute without detracting from the esthetic appeal of the lace.


Right now I'm working on the "Socks for Veronik" pattern from the latest IK Holiday Knits magazine. I'm calling them my Smooshy Socks since I'm using the Dream in Color Smooshy sock yarn I bought at the Yarn Patch. This is truly luscious sock yarn---so soft and squishy, lots of loft. In fact, it's a bit deceptive becasue the yarn looks much fatter in the skein than it becomes once knitted up. It's that smooshy factor I guess. Whatever, the yarn is delicious and the subtlety of the variegated dyeing adds richness to the look of the sock without competing against the lace. I wonder if I can convince Sandy or Jinka to carry this yarn?

I may not be able to buy DEC Smooshy here in town, but I did score a skein of orange and white sock yarn the Sandy at The Yarn Haven had custom-dyed by J Knits. Called Go UT! this is the Superwash Me sock yarn that I've alos heard very good things about. I picked up my skein this afternoon when I stopped by to drop off the Havenly Scarf pattern. At $24.99, it is a bit on the pricey side, but it was a custom order and the skein is huge! Mine weighted 125g which is practically enough to do a pair of short-cuff socks and a pair of footies. I will definitely be casting on this yarn for my next pair of socks. The question is, what pattern should I use? There are oodles of great sock patterns out there plus the socks that are merely ideas in my head--it's no wonder I have trouble making decisions about what to knit next :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What do you do?


What do you do when you're sick with a respiratory virus and feel basically awful? Well, I've been watching Tennessee athletics, knitting socks, and surfing Ravelry. Oh, and sleeping...lots of sleeping. Phil's guys pulled out the miracle game on Saturday against in-state rival Vanderbilt. Tonight it was Bruce's boys bouncing the B-ball against Middle TN State in a blow-out. JaJuan Smith had a stellar game and Ramar Smith hit his free throws, something he couldn't manage to conquer on Friday night. The football team heads to Lexington for a tough game against Kentucky on Saturday while the B-ball team heads to NJ for a tournament and their first real test of the season. I'm optimistic that both teams can come out victorious---something that hasn't happened at TN for a very long time.


I took my completed Monkey socks out into the yard for some artsy pictures among the fall leaves. Yes, this year the fall colors peaked here after the 10th of November--it wasn't cold enough before then. It's been a strange year weather-wise. I planed to post some of those pictures but Blogger is also "under the weather" apparently, as I get nothing but error codes and apologies out of Blogger. I did post one more picture on Flickr, but I've maxed my Flickr account uploading pictures for Ravelry so I can't add a bunch of pix any more without deleting something else or sending them moola (which I don't have at present). The 'net does have its limits.


With the Monkey socks done, it was time to choose another sock yarn from the stash and cast-on. I've been poring over patterns for weeks, so that choice was the hardest. The pattern choice also dictated which yarn to grab. I've been dying to cast-on the Smooshy yarn I bought at the Yarn Patch last month and the latest Mona Schmidt sock pattern in Interweave Knits Holiday 2007 seemed like the patch match. The pattern is called Socks for Veronik, apparently because Mona originally designed adn knit a pair for fellow designer Veronik Avery. I'm calling them my Smooshy socks after the yarn, which is smooshy soft and very nice to knit with.



My only complaint about the yarn thus far is the 2 terrible splices I've encountered--and I'm only 13g into a 113g skein! They are unsightly and I had to do a little trimming on one, but I suppose it could be worse---it could have been knots instead. But the semi-solid aquatic blues colorway (Blue Lagoon) is simply wonderful. The subtle color variation adds life to the sock without obscuring the lacework. The lace is a variation on a horseshoe lace, incorporating a p3tog instead of a knitted central double decrease. The p3tog is much easier and faster to knit and I love how it looks. I took a few risks with my needle selection in an attempt to vary the size of the cuff to fit my curvy calves. Mona intended the leg portion to be 7" above the heel flap, something that wouldn't fit me without modifications. So I cast-on and started with 3.25mm dpns, gradually tapering down to 2.25mm for the heel and foot. I knit 8 or the 10 suggested repeats of the lace pattern and guess what??? It fits!!!! I'm thrilled to be able to knit a sock that will add a little more coverage and warmth for the winter. I'm almost done with the gusset decrease, so I should have the 1st sock done in a couple of days. Cool, very cool!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Way Too Close!

It's another Saturday afternoon in Knoxville Tennessee, home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers. Saturdays in November mean football around here--serious football against long-term rivals. Today was no exception as the Vanderbilt Commodores traveling east from Nashville for the big game. As a Vandy alum I can attest to the fact that playing Tennessee is *THE* game of the year. The football game they want to win above all others. Tennessee is not as serious about Vanderbilt, saving such emotions for teams like Florida, or the Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier (currently at South Carolina). Citing the last 3 years as evidence, the Vols need to be much more concerned about playing Vanderbilt, cuz' their football team is no longer the cupcake it once was.

I was concerned by half-time when our offense was faltering badly in the 2nd quarter and Vandy was ahead 17-9 at the half. A good start in the 3rd quarter had Vandy up 24-9 and left Vol fans worrying where the offense had disappeared to. Then it happened. Just as I was considering turning the game off and taking a nap (I've got a little virus and am feeling a bit under the weather) the infraction occurred. TN had the kicking team out on 4th down to punt the ball when a VU player ran into the kicker. One roughing the kicker penalty later, TN had moved up 15 yds. and had a fresh set of downs to try again to move the ball downfield and score. The tide turned and the offense began to click. They scored 16 points in the 4th quarter and the Vol defense played fiercely to stop teh 'Dores from scoring again. The Vols win in a miracle comeback!

Intense ball games are great for making progress on knitting projects. Instead of fidgeting I knit faster. The result today was another pair of finished socks--the Monkey Socks designed by Cookie and published in Knitty. I remember seeing the pattern when it was published about a year ago, but it wasn't until I saw how many people on Ravelry were actively knitting Monkey socks that I really thought twice about this pattern. Now that I've knit my pair, I totally get why as this is an awesome pattern! Lots of texture, very attractive, yet not at all hard to execute. The lace pattern was easy to remember and the knitting went quickly--even without a close fottball game to spur things on :-)

I'll post more pictures once I get some taken. For now, I'm trying to decide which socks to knit next. I'm leaning towards the new Mona Schmidt pattern in Interweave Knits latest Holiday special issue--"Socks for Veronik". I think they'll be a good match for the skein of Dream in Color Smooshy that I bought a few weeks back. Smooshy is a very appropriate label for this yarn which is why I'm anxious to have socks knit from it. yum...smooshy socks :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cross another one off the list

Yup, you can cross another WIP off the the list and move the Little River Socks (Panda Cotton-Fall Herbs) to the FO list. I only have one pair of UFO socks left to finish (Christmas Daddy, I promise they'll be done by Christmas this year). I took some pics but they're still in the camera so you'll just have to wait for that "footsie" pose. NBD, really, I promise as this pair was the ones where the yarn clashed with the lace patterning. But they're still comfy and the right colors for immediate wear, and that's what counts right now.

Having completed 2 pairs of socks this week, I can now cast-on some new socks from all this amazing yarn I've stashed over the course of the summer. The first pair up was also dictated by my need for socks to go with brown pants and shoes, so I cast-on a pair of Cookie's Monkey Socks published in Knitty last winter. I'm using the new Araucania yarn that Sandy gifted me and I have to say, the yarn and pattern are a perfect match. That sounds so simple and obvious, but with all the handpainted, space-dyed, and/or otherwise interesting, non-solid-colored sock yarns out there, making a perfect match has become anything but simple. One only has to surf the web a little to see countless pairs of hand-knit socks, including the ones I just finished, where the match-up, er, well... just didn't match.

So I cast on and knit the ribbing and a couple of pattern repeats on Thursday night. This morning I tinked back about 3 rows to fix mistakes (what, me count????) before forging on and I'm into the gusset decreases. That's what I call a pretty fast knit! I love the lace pattern, both how it looks and how easy it is to both knit and remember. However, the cuff has more dimpled textured than the Geosphere at EPCOT, which means these socks will require proper wet-blocking. Note to self-find tutorial for how to make own sock blockers from children's wire clothes hangers (I hope I bookMarked that link way back when).

As if casting on one pair of socks wasn't enough, no, I cast-on another pair last night. This time I grabbed the ultramarine Panda Cotton and tried out a Mystery Sock pattern Mona Schmidt (of Embossed Leaves Sock fame) is doing on her blog this month. the pattern has some interesting design elements, like casting on 80 sts and knitting the ribbing on size 0 needles, then decreasing to 60 sts and going up to sz 2 ndls for the lace cuff. The pattern is interesting and I'm learning new tricks, but this yarn has a ply of shiny bamboo twisted around a core of wool so it splits and snags easily--not good for fiddly lace on tiny needles. I've put this sock in time-out for the moment while I think about it, but I suspect I'll frog this one and go for a different yarn choice.

Friday was a time-out from knitting day as I went to my favorite fine craft show of the year--the Foothills Craft Guild Fine Crafts Marketplace. I've gone almost every year since I've been back home and I've gotten to where I know quite a few folks now. I was there for 3.5 hrs and it wasn't nearly long enough top see everything. Reg, teh great gal that she is, allowed me to reneg on my promise to do a yarn shop hop with her this weekend, so I was able to afford to buy a few treasures to bring home. I skipped the blown glass ornament (Mark Sanders) that I've been collecting and opted for some exquisite lampworked beads that are covered in tiny flowers. Stunning! They had my name written all over them. I also bought another shawl pin from a silversmith out of Crossville. I love the one I bought from her last year and I wanted another one to diversify my collection. For the other purchases I was helping Santa, so mum's the word :-) Once again, I'll try to get some pics up in the next day or so.

Saturday was for recovery---I was *so* exhausted after being on my feet all the time at the Craft Show. so what did I do??? Watch football, of course! It wasn't hard to be glued to the TV seeings as my beloved TN Vols were playing their best so far this season and they whooped up on Arkansas and their Heisman hopeful Darrin McFadden. The defense was so good I was speechless. Where were they the last 2 months???? We've got 2 tough games (Vandy, Kentucky)to finish out the season and earn a trip to the SEC championship, but we can do it. Amazing. Truly amazing. (The Diet Coke, remote control, recliner, and knitting are all ready and waiting :-) Go Vols!!!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Goodies!


My wonderful mail lady just came and brought me not one, but 2 packages from Richard at ColourMart. Goodies!!! And not just goodies, but goodies on an achy breaky bad body day that had me feeling rather grumpy. I was expecting one package from Richard, but 2 was a pleasant surprise. This man is *so* generous! I ordered a cone of red cashmere laceweight hoping it was a deep ruby red, with blue undertones and not orange ones. i don't look so good in the orangey stuff. I put a note with my payment indicating my color desire, hoping I had make a good choice as my monitor is old and not color reliable at times. Richard wrote me back to tell me the color I had chosen was probably not what I was hoping for, but he had just come across some Loro Piana cones that he thought would be more to my taste. Sweet man, he sent me a cone of each yarn. Sure enough, the first cone was a bit too "brick" colored, but the 2nd cone was perfect! I am casting on for a new shawl tonight!


The cashmere wasn't the only "just because I like you and you're a good customer" complimentary skein I received this week. Nope. Sweet Sandy at the Yarn Haven gifted me with a skein of Araucania sock yarn I was admiring last Thursday. It was her way of saying thanks for the lace scarf I designed and knit for the shop. I was so thrilled with how the Havenly Scarf turned out that I had to take it to her even before I had finished writing the pattern. All the ladies at the FNKC had nice things to say about it and I think I motivated at least one to venture into lace knitting :-)


I got a bit artistic with the photo shoot for the Havenly Scarf, but the fall colors in the trees and the summer colors lingering in the garden was just too much to pass up. I'm *so* pleased with how the scarf turned out. The yarns were so bright and cheerful! The Madil Kid Seta provided wonderful softness with just the right amount of FF (Fluff Factor) and the Cascade Copa added sheen and rich body--just the right amount of heft--to the airy ZigZag patterning. I'm feeling the "designers itch" again and my sketch book shows it. I've got a shawl and a sock pattern in the works, plus a sock pattern that just needs to be typed up. Designers get their inspiration in all kinds of places. You won't believe where the inspiration for my shawl came from. Even I can't believe it! You'll have to wait awhile for the results though, as they won't be ready until after the 1st of the year at the earliest. this much I can tell you, the main pattern did not come from any stitch dictionary (evil grin :-)))


Lisa brought homemade drop spindles to FNKC and many of us got our 1st lesson in spindle spinning. I did just fine with the yarn "practice" but I had a harder time with the fleece. I think my issue is with getting a proper draft as I couldn't seem to get the fibers to separate and thin out enough to spin a nice fine yarn. The fact that I'm not used to "fat" yarn complicated matters too. But Lisa sent me home with extra roving, both wool and silk, and the spindle so I can fiddle around with it on my own. Cool!


As if all that isn't enough to smile about, I finished (finally!) a pair of socks that has been in my UFO basket for, well, I don't even know how long. Yes, the Morning Glory Ribbed Cuff Socks, so named for the Knit Picks yarn I used, are finito and ready to warm my tootsies on cold winter nights. Double Cool!

I'm knitting furiously on the Fall Herbs socks too. I turned the heel and finished the gusset on the 2nd sock last night so I'm getting close. I'm highly motivated to finish these because 1)they are the perfect color to be wearing now, and 2)I need the needles to knit the next pair of socks I'm eyeing. At what are they, you ask? Well, the hottest pattern OTN right now according to Ravelry. Cookie's Monkey Socks. I think the Monkey Socks will work well with the Araucania yarn to make a great pair of socks that will be the perfect go between my new brown twills and my favorite brown clogs. Triple cool!

I have more things up my sleeve, but they will have to wait for another post :-) I just wanted you to have a reason to come back....Bwha ha ha ha!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat???


Can you believe that October is over??? If you ask me, it's really some kind of cruel trick, especially considering we've had no real "Autumn" to speak of. Here in East Tennessee we've had nothing but record drought and record high temperatures. Today, on Halloween, my rose garden looks more spectacular than it has all year. Go figure? The little sticks of lantana that I planted back in May have grown into an enormous hedge where, this afternoon, I had my first little Trick-or-Treater come to visit. Isn't that a spectacular photograph? I was stunned by the beauty of this Monarch butterfly perched on the lantana.


I haven't posted in a week (blame Ravelry), so I have lots to say. Of course I can't resist a beautiful baby, especially when that baby is my great-niece. My nephew, Tyler, and his wife, Mary Katherine, had their first child back in June while Tyler was in specialty training with the Navy. He graduated last week and is on leave for a few days before he has to report for duty at Pearl Harbor (I know, rough assignment--Hawaii!). I don't they were in TN more than a day before making a bee-line to our place so that great granddaddy Plaas and great aunt Kristina could get their hands on baby Isabella. Oh she is just too cute for words! She totally looks like her daddy...everything except the red hair :-) She has the same tiny ears, and cheeks and chin, and....there's a lot of Plaas in that child. Bella loved my Father...she couldn't take her eyes off of him, which simply delightful to us all. I was thrilled to get this especiialy good picture of Bella with my Mom.


I've been doing my fair share of knitting this week too. After excessive agonizing over what should be my next lace shawl project, I finally cast-on. The funny thing was I pored over a long list of "wanna knit" shawls for weeks only to rather spontaneously jump in an cast-on for a mystery KAL (Mystic Waters) after liking the image on the 1st chart. I didn't think about it much, I just grabbed some purple cashmerino I recently acquired from ColourMart and started knitting. I'm not quite finished with the 1st clue and the 2nd one was released today, but I'll catch up. So far I'm quite pleased with the outcome :-) You never know with "mystery" knitting... bwah-ha-ha-ha


I couldn't focus exclusively on the Mystic Waters Shawl because I was busy with a lace scarf project I volunteered to do. I love Sandy, the owner of my closest LYS, The Yarn Haven. She has been so gracious to me and I'm thrilled she opened her shop in a location that is literally just across the street from where I live. I want her to do well. So when I dropped in about 2 weeks ago I was thrilled to discover she had added Madil Kid Seta to her lace yarn section. But when she showed me this viscose thread the vendor had persuaded her to buy as a carry along fiber for the MKS, I had serious doubts about it's "marketability". So, in a moment of spontaneity I volunteered to come up with a lace scarf design using both yarns and knit a shop sample for her. If folks could see how they could make something wonderful with these fibers, then I knew it would sell.

I left the shop with my offer open and the next day Sandy emailed me back to take me up on it. I was quite excited and went over to pick up the yarn. I bounced a few ideas off on her at the last FNKC meeting and went home to finalize my design. It was to be for newbie lace knitters, something easy to knit, yet pretty enough to make for holiday gifts. The picture here was taken after 2 days of knitting. I used size 8 needles and the yarns together were bulkier than my norms, so my body protested with screaming pain in the forearm. I had to slow down for a few days until the flare subsided, but even still I had the scarf finished in only 11 days. It could easily be knit in a week as I'm not a particularly fast knitter (I'm good, just not fast ;-)

I took the finished scarf to Sandy this afternoon. We were both thrilled with the outcome. I'll post my details and photos (hopefully) tomorrow. I still need to finish writing the pattern up. I promised to deliver it on Friday when I head over for the next FNKC gathering. This was so fun and I was pleased to be able to do it just because, not for money or to get anything back for myself--well, other than the sheer joy of doing a good deed for a really good person. That's the best part of all :-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What a good girl am I !

I've been so good and for 2 days in a row! On Tuesday I stopped in at Loopville to retrieve a ball of Kid Silk Haze (KSH) that she was holding for me. I've been wanting a rich, winey red shawl for this fall/winter and I had picked up what I thought was 3 balls of KSH in the perfect color Liqueur. So when Romi's design Muir was published in the fall issue of Knitty AND she set up KAL groups on Yahoo and Ravelry, well it was just meant to be. Almost, that is, because I really need 4 balls of KSH to knit Muir. I called Jinka on Saturday and sure enough, she had one more ball in the same lot so I was in luck.

The good part comes in with everything else I didn't buy that I saw at Loopville, like several amazing colors of Colinette's new sock yarn Jitterbug. Oh, it was supremely hard to leave that one behind--it required repetitive chanting, "I have enough teal sock yarn, I have enough sock yarn!" As if that wasn't bad enough, then there was the new arrival of Misti Alpaca Laceweight. Hmmm, nice yarn, I think I will like it very much thank you, but not this go 'round. I really didn't feel inspired by any of the colors Jinka chose (black, dark green, gray, chambray blue), they were all rather dark and boring looking. Of course this was enhanced by the fact that I want to knit something in a rich, vibrant, winey red. You know, a ruby red--something that will look smashing against my favorite gray wool skirt. So I was saved again by the fact that my taste in colors is very different from Jinka's. But at least I got to see and feel the yarn so I know what size it really is--very important when evaluating patterns :-)

So I was good at Loopville yesterday, today it was the Yarn Haven. The one thing left between me and casting-on Muir is a needle. The one size 6 Addi-lace needle I own (32") is in use on the Old Shale Scarf, which I am sporadically knitting on. I don't need a 32" needle for the scarf, but I will want it for Muir, so today's task was to buy a 24" Lace needle. What's new at Yarn Haven is Madil Kid Seta in very bright, happy shades of blue, hot pink, purple, and ?(I don't remember, maybe turquoise?), plus some cool rayon variegated carry along thread to go with the MKS. But I was good. I looked, I lusted, I did not buy. I chanted to myself, "I have enough mohair lace yarn, I have lots of mohair lace yarn!" I did show Sandy my Old Shale Scarf and offered suggestions on how to promote/best use the MKS to her customers. Heck, I even did what i've never done before and offered to knit a shop sample for her--if she was interested that is. She seemed surprised by my offer but I affirmed that I was serious--she provides the yarn and we negotiate what I would knit. I left leaving the offer open. I don't think she'll take me up on it, but it could be kinda fun, or at least different.

So I have everything to cast-on Muir and I head over to sign up for the Yahoo group. There folks are discussing a formal Nov 15 start date for a KAL, which sounds fine as I could finish some other things up. Or, I could just jump in and start on my own. I hit the stash trunk to find the other balls of KSH. I had already pulled the one ball I knew was in a basket on the bookshelf. Way on the bottom (of course) I find the zip-lock bag with the KSH in it and oh surprise--there were 3 balls in the bag. That means I already had 4, and now I have 5 which is way more than what I need for Muir and enough for one of the big shawls in Victorian Lace Today! I think I'll be looking for something else for Muir now as KSH is too expensive to have left overs. Maybe it's a good thing the KAL is starting on Nov 15th as I'll have enough time to find another yarn for the project.

Decisions. It's never easy, is it?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Happy, Very Happy


What can I say? I'm happy, very happy with how my Icarus Shawl turned out. My anxieties over the potential conflict between the lace pattern and multicolored yarn proved to be unfounded as in the end, they came together quite nicely. Thanks to Kat and Regenia for encouraging me to stop overanalyzing and just knit. I have this issue with obsessing over every little detail-- it gets in the way of a good project every now and then (sigh). Fortunately I got over it quick with Icarus and I have a fabulous shawl to show for it. Knitting *is* good therapy ;-)

I took a bazillion pictures of my Icarus after casting-off--more than I've taken of any other knitting project. This is a side effect of being a knitter on the net. I need pictures for everyone and everywhere...Blogger, Flickr, Ravelry-it's gotten outta control! No longer are just plain photos of the shawl being blocked or draped on something sufficient; no, they must be artistic! I traipsed, shawl and camera in hand, from the bedroom to the family room, to the deck, and out to the garden in the quest for the perfect photograph. Knitter, set director, art director, and photographer all-in-one!

The set director really liked the neighbor's split rail fence. the photographer, though, thought the late afternoon sun was a bit much and would wash out the colors. The art director loved the ficus trees under the deck, but it was a bit shady and the wind was blowing--good for models with long hair but not so good for gossamer lace shawls. Thankfully everyone agreed the deck rail showed off all the best attribute of the shawl. (Multiple personalities anyone? LOL)

The final statistics for my Icarus shawl:
Size: 84" x 42" (big, but light as a feather)
Knitting time: 28 days
Yarn: JKnits Lace-a-licious "Wyoming" (100g used, 13g left over). I totally "heart" this yarn and will definitely use it again. It's a fine lace weight yarn to be sure, but it was beautifully spun without slubs or clumps of fiber and there were no knots or noticeable tie-offs in my hank. I bought mine at the Loopy Ewe, an online retailer I highly recommend.
Needles: US3 (3.25mm), KnitPicks Classic Circular 32" to start, switching to Addi-Lace 47" once I reached 400sts.
Final st. count: 571sts (I needed all 47" of those Addis!)
The last Baaa, baaa: Ewe-Nice approves! 'Nuff said :-)

Friday, October 12, 2007

It's Done

It took me almost 2 hours to cast-off all 550+ sts late Wedsnesday night. I was practically cross-eyed by the time I finished the row, but my Icarus shawl is done. I only added one repeat and I probably could have added another as I had 13g of yarn left over, but as it is Icarus looks pretty big. I finished weaving in the ends today, but I didn't have the courage to do the blocking...or should I say my BACK didn't have the courage to do the job. Maybe tomorrow :-) I don't think the wingspan will fit on the guest bed, so this one will have to hit the floor in the family room. My back screams at the very thought :-(

So now it's time to figure out what to knit next. I have three 2nd socks to finish, none of which inspire me. I have several new sock yarns in my stash which are inspiring, but which pattern to knit next? There are at least a dozen on my list, and the list seems to grow at least weekly. So many great sock designs, so little time.

It was OK that I didn't have anything serious to knit on today because I spent a good chunk of the afternoon sucked into the time trap that is Ravelry. This site is so cool! I love having one place to go to find out all the nitty gritty details of my projects. Gathering and entering that stuff is time consuming, but once I'm up to date the maintenace will be simple. I still have lots to figure out and I haven't gotten into the forums yet. I'm not a big fan of the Forum format as I prefer the e-mail digest features of Yahoo Groups. The up side, Forums are much easier to deal with when there are huge numbers of people involved, as in some of the mystery KALs I've joined. The menial email volume on Yahoo is more than I can stomach, but Ravelry is much better since I can bypass things and cut to the chase. This may be especially good for the SOTS KAL as the moderator hasn't been consistent about sending out the Special Notices mail for when the clues go up, etc. It may not matter, however, as I've been rather unimpressed by the 1st two clues. It may be the way the charts have been drawn, though, so I'll wait and see what the knitting looks like before I pass final judgement. Strange charts...I don't know what program she's used, but these are the only charts I've seen where I can't really visualize what the lace looks like. It's taking the mystery thing a bit too far for me.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Chart 4

I'm finally on the last chart of Icarus. Yes...the end is in sight. I am really ready to move on to something else. I'm on the middle rows of Chart 4 which is nice, but the Wrong side rows are no longer "easy" knitting and everything requires concentration. It took me forever to knit just one row while waiting for Daddy at Cardiac Rehab this morning. I really do like my plain purl rows :-)

I would probably be a few more rows closer to finito if it weren't for Ravelry. Such a cool site! I spent hours this weekend logging in yarns into my stash and documenting my projects. Being the O/C person that I am, or at least a stickler for details, I am finding I have to dig out the yarns/labels to get all the info recorded. I'm just getting going with the projects, but already I'm cross-eyed because I can't remember the exact start and completion dates. Some are recorded on the patterns and others are on my blog--all require digging to find the info I need. Oh bother! I just have to add a little each day and eventually I'll get there. Heck, I haven't even scratched the surface of all the stuff you can do on Ravelry. No wonder everyone has raved about this site...it's *that* good!!!

Turning Ravelry off for now....back to knitting :-)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Back to knitting

While I was having my little freak out over my Icarus on Thursday night, Regenia was happily casting-off the last stitch on hers. I guess this means I'll be taking that yarn crawl up to the northeast corner of the state. What a terrible thing to have to do, and in late October/early November too when the colors in the Smokies are at their peak. I was about to say their best, but with the terrible drought and the prolonged, excessive heat we had this summer the fall colors will definitely not be at their best this year. Better luck next year I suppose :-(

Kat was right about my shawl. Sometimes I get a bit too O/C about my knitting. It helps to have caring friends to remind me to just shut up and knit! Actually, you could see the lace edging much better in the photo than I saw in person at the time I was freaking out. The lace looks even better now that I have another dozen rows added too. I'm ready to finish and move on to the next project. Of course, I'm obsessing over what the next project should be. The 2nd clue for Chrysopolis is out and I really like what I'm seeing thus far. This is seriously lacy, but still has plain purled wrong side rows...just what I like. the 1st clue of SOTS came out yesterday and I'm not feeling the same enthusiasm for it. I'll wait a bit longer before passing judgment on SOTS. Of course Romi just started KALs for Muir Woods, her new design published in the Fall issue of Knitty. Muir looks like a nice design too, but it kind of reminds me a bit of the basketweave I knit forever on Hanami--I think I need a bit more time before I knit that kind of patterning again. But then, it's not the same as Hanami either...and I do like it.... I think I'll put it on the To Do List but just not at the top of the List :-) I wonder if Muir Woods would look nice in a fingering weight yarn? I saw a yummy alpaca yarn at the Yarn Patch in Crossville yesterday that I would love to have knit into a stole. Ah, a girl can dream, can't she????

I guess I'll stop worrying about what to do next and just focus on what I need to finish first. I'm quickly learning that I'll never get any knitting done as long as I keep on sitting behind this computer trying to fill in all the holes in my Ravelry notebook. It's a very cool site, but I need to pace myself filling in all the gaps and figuring things out. Tonight I started adding in my yarn stash. I didn't think my stash was really all that big before tonight. Now I've changed my mind as I've hardly scratched the surface. Filling in all the projects, even just the ones from this year, is going to be a huge job too. When do normal people with jobs and kids and stuff find time to do this? I can't even imagine....

Thursday, October 04, 2007

There's something about feathers

and lace knitting that I seem to have trouble with. First it was the MS3 Swan Lake Stole where the feathered wing and I never did see eye to eye very well. Now it's the feathered finish of the Icarus shawl that's doing the squawking. Or maybe I should say not squawking...... 'cuz it's pretty darn hard to see those complicated stitch patterns
against the color variations of the yarn.

So last night I had a "where are the feathers?" induced panic attack. Now that I'm halfway through the third chart (2nd chart of real lace, aka feathers) I got the bright idea that I should spread my work out and actually look at what I was knitting. What a novel idea! And that's when I realized that all I could see was color and the pattern was barely discernable. OK, well, maybe not that bad. After all, the shawl was in it's unstretched/unblocked state when lace usually looks like a jumbled mess AND it was very late AND I had a wicked headache; NOT a good time to decide anything. I pitched the thing in a corner in disgust and went to bed.

This morning I started pulling out patterns and books and engaged in a generalized state of frenzied behavior aimed at how to rescue the shawl. Of course I would have to frog the feathers and do something else, but what? Knit a different, simpler lace motif. Diamonds? Waves? Maybe I should just add a frilly ruffle and call it a day - that would look nice. BUT WAIT, there's just one huge drawback to the frogging plan, NO LIFELINE. OK, I hate the things, lifelines that is. They are a pain to put in, but even worse, they are a big pain to knit around. Do I REALLY want to go back and put in a lifeline now, then pick-up 450 sts just to double them and knit a 700 st (or more!) ruffle. Imagine casting that off! YIKES!

The headache is now a full-blown migraine and the dog has arrived to claim her rightful spot on the bed. Nap time Mom. I clear off all the stitch dictionaries and Over the Edge books and let the dog take over. That 's when the little voice in my head said stretch it out and look again. Either I'm having a psychotic episode or maybe I just needed a fresh look at my Icarus. Things somehow tend to look better in the morning. I cleared off the comforters and pinned out a section of the edging. Surprise! The feathers really were there! No, they aren't as obvious as they should be, or would have been if I had used a solid colored yarn, but I knew that was the risk I was taking when I started.

The migraine got much worse as the day rolled on, but at least I can take comfort in knowing I don't have to frog back and pick up 450+ sts and knit something else. Icarus has risen again from the ashes...oh wait, wasn't that supposed to be a Phoenix? No, no Phoenix shawl. I need to lay off the feathered things for awhile. Please pass the Diet Coke and the Excedrin. The knitting will resume again tomorrow.

PS. I'll fill the tank Regenia. Where shall we start the Tri-City tour...Jane's Fiber & Beads or Yarntiques?

PPS. I got my Ravelry invite!!! Yikes, there's a huge "suck time away from real knitting" distraction! I've started filling in the blanks already :-)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Progress Report

I'm feeling pretty pukey puny tonight so just a quick note to report that I have completed chart 2 of Icarus and have moved on to chart 3. After 2 weeks of being lulled into the complacency of sameness, I was rudely awakened part way through chart 2 to discover that there were both knit AND purl stitches on the wrong side rows. Oh whoops! It's a good thing no one can tell that I purled those sneaky little knit stitches for a couple of wrong side rows. By the time I needed 3 knit stitches, I noticed my error. Let's face it, there's no way in heck I was gonna tink/frog back 4 rows at 400+ sts/row to fix those Knit 1 spots. And if you think raveling back each spot and hooking back up was any better, NOT! Let's just say that sometimes using handpainted yarn has hidden benefits :-) If all goes well, I should be ready for Chart 4 on Wednesday, or Thursday at the latest. I need to focus now that Regenia only has 4 or 5 rows left.

Knitting on!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Chart 1 is done

It only took me what, 16 days of knitting to finally finish all the repeats of Chart 1 of my Icarus shawl. I still had almost half of my yarn left, most likely enough to add a second repeat to the extra one I've already knit, but the mere thought of doing another repeat was more than I could stand last night. I am moving on! After counting to 7 ad nauseum, now the mantra is only 3. Nevertheless, I still catch myself counting to 7 on occasion and I have to stop and tink a couple of stitches before proceeding. Even still, I feel like the end is in sight and what's left is all the fun stuff--the lace!

Maybe, if all goes well, I will be finished knitting Icarus by next weekend. Surely that will be enough notice for Regenia to knit the last few rows of her shawl so she can beat me to the "finish first" prize. Well, not exactly a prize really, but more like bragging rights :-) I think Regenia already has her prize (wink, wink, smile).

The first clue for the Secret of Chrysopolis KAL is out and I must admit I really like what I see. Even though I hadn't anticipated knitting this project anytime soon, I may just change my mind and cast-on after Icarus is done. If you are interested in joining the KAL, sign-ups remain open through this week and the link is in the sidebar. While the group is a German language group, the clues are given in both German and English, in chart and text form, and the leader, Moni, is fluent in both languages. In short, don't let language stop you! There are plenty of English speaking knitters participating to help you as needed.

I added to the yarn stash this past week with another package from Richard at ColourMart. This time it was a cone of 65%/35% cash/silk in my favorite BonBon pink. Oh this is yummy stuff! It has the lovely sheen of silk with all the fluffy softness of cashmere. All this and the yarn is still on the cone and hasn't been washed yet. I've petted this cone everyday, but I have yet to decide what project to knit with this yummy yarn.

My other yarn acquisition was a couple of balls of Panda Wool in shades of teal and blue called Ultramarine. Sandy at the Yarn Haven just received a new shipment from Crystal Palace restocking the Panda Cotton and adding Panda Wool to the mix. I've already cast-on a pair of socks, but I'm not sure my gauge is right. I'll let you know more once I make sure I can get the cuff over my foot! Until then, Knit on!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Way Knitters Write...

or What is a Repeat. I'm knitting away on my Icarus Shawl and looking forward to getting beyond the boring plain section and moving on to the interesting lacy section at the bottom of the shawl. I want this shawl to be big enough to really wrap up in when I'm freezing to death in church on Sundays. It's surprising how such a fine shawl can provide so much coziness and warmth while weighing practically nothing.


I have 112g of a slightly finer lace yarn than the designer used. She used 90g for her shawl, so I have at least a 20g "fudge factor" which is a good thing if you are considering increasing the size of your shawl. I'm thinking I may need to work more repeats because my fine yarn will most likely block out a little smaller than the original. This led to an interesting discussion, mostly with myself of course, of what is a repeat? I came to the conclusion that the way knitters write patterns and the way we really think about what we're knitting are two very different things. Icarus is an excellent example. This is what the pattern tells you to do:
Work R1-42 of chart 1;
Rep R19-42 five more times (aka 5 repeats)
Work rows 19-34 one time.

My logical math brain adds up the number of times I have to knit the same series of rows and says 7 repeats, but my pattern reading brain says there are 5 repeats. No wonder so many knitters get confused! It's a brain teaser game... Q: When is a repeat not a repeat? A: When it's the first or last time you knit a pattern sequence, or not!

Regenia says she knit 7 repeats on her Icarus and she ran out of yarn. Did she knit 2 repeats too many...or not? Who knows, but one thing I know for sure and that is I have knit the rep R19-42 5 more times and I'm on R25 of the next repeat. I have more than half of my yarn left-- which is more than enough to knit an extra repeat, which will result in a bigger shawl, which will make my already crowded needle even more crowded, and will take even longer to knit, which will almost guarantee that Regenia will finish her Icarus before I finish mine. I wonder where Diana is on her Icarus?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Equinox

Equinox: 1) Either of two points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator intersects the ecliptic; 2) either of the two times each years when the sun crosses the equator and day and night are everywhere of equal length.

Think about it... for one brief moment, twice each year, there is perfect equality of light and dark on our planet. A perfect moment of balance that has existed from the first day of Creation. And God pronounced that it was good. I find I have to remind myself that the change in the balance of daylight and darkness, the changing of the seasons is a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I love autumn with its brightly colored leaves, crystal clear blue skies, and crisp cool mornings. I love pumpkins and squash and juicy apples and the smell of cinnamon and big, bushy pots of chrysanthemums. All the traditional symbols of autumn are beautiful it's that change in the balance of light and dark that I have trouble with.


I need light. I crave daylight the way some people crave chocolate or pregnant women crave strange things like pickles and ice cream (or so they say...I have no experience in these matters so what do I know?). So despite the fact that it was just another 90+ degree hot and dry day like most of the days that have preceeded this day, it was *not* just another day. So to counteract the dread of darkness that grabs me on this day each year I went out into my garden to commune with the flowers that have lingered despite the drought. The roses are beautiful. They are blooming with gusto, seemingly oblivious to the dark and cold that lie ahead. That's the beauty of roses-- they burst out early in May and keep on going until a hard freeze tells them to stop for awhile. And so, given adequate water and a bit of pruning and fertilizer and they are content.


Roses stick around for months, from mid-spring late into the fall, but not all flowering plants are like that. Some wait until summer is almost over before showing their true colors. The flowers in this picture are like that. These sedum grow into huge mounds of chubby green "leaves" over the course of the summer, but they are just now coming into full bloom. I love their lacy lavender heads filled with hundreds of tiny blooms. In a few weeks, the flowers will shrivel and transform into dark burgandy stems that will provide interest in the winter. Others of my flowers develop purple berries that are a feast for the birds. Neither of these things would transpire if a change in the balance between light and dark didn't occur twice each year. So long summer... it's been good sharing the light with you.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday Update

Another week has rolled past. The Vols are playing Arkansas State at Neyland Stadium tonight--not a big enough game to be on the usual TV stations so I'm listening to the game on the radio. It's a trade off not being able to watch the game...it's much more fun to be able to see what's happening but I get more knitting done tuning in to the radio broadcast. I much prefer our UT announcers over anyone else, so that's a big advantage to following the game on the radio. No matter, the bottom line is the Big Orange desperately need a seriously good win after the shellacking we suffered at the hand of Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators last week. No defense! Things are looking good as they just scored another TD with 1 min. LTG before halftime. Leading 31-14 at the half sounds a lot better to me!


I took a few more pictures of my garden this week. It's still terribly hot and dry, so the garden looks kind of ragged. My roses are filled with blossoms and I've never had such an abundance of lantana before either. They look more like shrubs than flowers and they are covered with big fat fuzzy bees and a multiplicity of butterflies. Miss Emme, the wonder mini-wiener dog, is fascinated by those bees and she gets irritated with me for not letting her go after them. Children!!! I planted some bronze tipped golden mums out by the lamppost and in a few flowerpots this morning. It's still kind of hot for mums, but as long they get plenty of water they'll be OK. I was pleased that several of the little lavender mums I planted last year came back and are blooming quite nicely too. Gotta love those perennials :-)


I chose to share photos of 2 of my favorite plants today. The first is a blue hybrid passionflower. This flowering vine really takes off and starts to spread and bloom in August. Mine is a little late this year because I moved it to the back of the backyard where there would be more room for the vine to spread. I love the complexity of the flower and it's delicate features. It's amazing that a wild vine can produce such spectacular blooms! The other picture is native wildflower here in the Smokies that blooms in the late spring, fades in the summer, but returns with new foliage and flowers again in the fall. The native pink bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia) loves a moist shady location which makes it a bright spot under the trees.


Moving on to the knitting front, I've been focusing all my attention on the Icarus Lace Shawl. Regenia has taken me up on my throwdown so now I really want to finish fast! The pattern calls for 5 repeats of a 24 row section of chart 1 before moving on to the more interesting lacy stuff. I'm working on that 5th repeat but I'm concerned about the size of my shawl and how much yarn I still have left over. The original used 90g of Fino, which is a little bit fatter than the Lace-a-licious I'm using. They are both baby alpaca and I'm using the same size needles, but I'm at about the half-way point and I've only used 20g of yarn. That ain't very much folks. I've pretty much decided to add an extra repeat and I might even add a 2nd one depending on how things look after 6 repeats. A bigger shawl is good, a smaller shawl would be disappointing, and since I have plenty of yarn I'll just knit on!


I love the way the colors of this yarn are working out in this design. Icarus is well-suited to a subtly hand-painted fiber--something you can't say about most fine lace shawl patterns. I just received another cone of new lace yarn from Richard at ColourMart. This time I purchased a blend of 65% cashmere/35% silk in my favorite "BonBon" blush pink. I already have some pure silk yarn in this colorway in my stash, but I was unprepared for how stunning this cashsilk would be--all the softness and halo of cashmere with the strength and sheen of silk. Wow! I think I might like this blend even more than I love pure cashmere. I'm considering patterns for this yarn, but am leaning towards knitting one of the Shetland Sampler Stoles from either A Gathering of Lace or Victorian Lace Today. Of course I have lots of time to change my mind while I finish Icarus, but right now Hazel Carter's Stole in AGOL is in the lead. Oh yummy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Arrrgh!

Arrrgh! That's the word today. I got it from a reliable news source (Al Roker on the Today show) that's it's International Speak Like a Pirate Day. And you thought I was about to tell you about some huge knitting mistake didn't you? HaHaHa...... Actually things are pretty quiet around here. It's been almost a week since I cast on for the Icarus Shawl and I've made steady progress each day. Today is officially Day 7 of knitting and I'm starting the 5th repeat of Chart 1. I'm up to 250+ sts. OTN and the knitting, while certainly not challenging, hasn't been nearly as tedious as I had anticipated. Pretty much this section is about not goofing up the yo, k1, yo increases that start anew with each pattern repeat. The rest is just count to seven, knit, knit, knit.

But with simplicity comes relatively rapid progress. It would be really cool if I could be finished with the knitting by this time next week. I might even finish my Icarus *before* Regenia finishes hers (gasp!) So how's it coming along Reg???? At least Regenia has a special occasion to wear her Icarus while I'm just knitting it to knitting another shaw out of great yarn. The Lace-a-licious has been a delight to knit with even though it is super skinny stuff. The size 3 needle I'm using is just about right--a 4 would be too big for sure.

I've got several KALs casting-on next week and I've added a few lace yarns to the stash in anticipation of my next projects, whatever they may be. Richard at ColourMart has been posting new yarns lately and I've succumbed to a couple of temptations. I received my 1st order on Tuesday, an Italian cashmere/cotton blend in a yummy deep amethyst purple. Even right of the cone this stuff is wonderfully soft. I'm knitting a bookmark swatch right now to see how is washes and blocks before committing the yarn to a shawl project. A few days ago Richard posted some more cashmere/silk blends in lots of colors. I opted for a cone of a soft pink that should match some 100% silk yarn I already have. I feel totally spoiled to be able to have such beautiful fibers at a price even I can afford...on occasion :-)

Knitting on!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Somebody Loves my Socks!


When I first started blogging, I had my doubts that anyone would have much interest in what I had to share. Well, I knew that my close knitty friends on EZasPi and a few others would come visit, but beyond that I had few expectations. Last winter when I was convinced my blog was very lonely I added a visit counter which helped a lot. At least someone--besides Kat, Diana, and Regenia, that is-- was looking at my socks and lace and flowers. Cool! I was happy.

Things started to change this summer when I joined the Summer of Socks KAL. Suddenly my circle of reach expanded beyond mostly lace knitters to folks who are mega passionate about knitting socks. One day I got this email from Dr. Laura of Sirius Knitting. She is perhaps best known in the knitting community for her Friendly Socks pattern books, but she also keeps a blog called Socks and More which highlights socks knit with yarns from Crystal Palace. Most of my summer sock knitting involved an awesome CP yarn called Panda Cotton--a fact not missed by Laura. She asked if she could post some of my sock pictures on the Socks and More website. How could I say no??? She posted a piece on my traveling Meida's Socks several weeks ago. Cool!

Today Laura emailed me to announce that I was "Star Search Sunday" on Socks and More. It turns out she did a collage of all my Panda Cotton Socks and wrote a few nice things about my blog in her weekly feature of other knitters. To say I'm flattered would be an understatement! Of course the best part is I have all these great socks ready to wear with my favorite clogs this fall, but a little acknowledgment from the knitting community and the folks at Crystal Palace doesn't hurt. If you have the chance, hop on over to Socks n More and see all the great socks featured there. Thanks Laura!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Latecomer

Every Southern Lady knows the value of being fashionably late to parties and similar social events. Not terribly late, just a few minutes...say maybe 10 or 15 minutes after the stated time on the invitation. It allows you to make your grand entrance, to stand out from the crowd, or at the extreme, to blatantly draw attention to yourself. I'm certainly not trying to blatantly draw attention to myself, but I am a bit of a latecomer to this party. "What party?" you ask. Why, the Let's Knit the Icarus Shawl Party!


Yes, I have succumbed to what became an online knitting phenom. When Miriam Felton's Icarus Shawl was published in the Summer 2006 issue of Interweave Knits knitters everywhere went Icarus-crazy. Many lace knitters rushed to knit this design and folks who have never even thought about knitting lace suddenly decided to take the plunge. Soon a blog-based KAL was formed and the craze was on. Last summer knitting Icarus was the hip thing to do. I dunno, maybe that's why I didn't knit it? Or maybe it was because most of the design was rather plain, with the interesting stuff coming in only at the end of the shawl. My brain said boring. So I let everyone else Icarus-along and I knit other lacy stuff--like the MS2, which was spectacular. (Funny thing, this year the KAL phenom was MS3, which wasn't even remotely as awesome a design IMHO).

OK, so why knit Icarus now? This lowly shawl that has now risen to grace the cover on Interweave's new anniversary book and spawned them to form blog-based KALs for all their knitting books released this year. Why now, Kristina? Well, it was the yarn. I made an impulse purchase of some hand-dyed alpaca lace yarn from Sheri at the Loopy Ewe (an awesome place to buy skinny yarn). The yarn is the new Lace-a-licious from JKnits in a colorway called Wyoming. Basically, the yarn is shades of putty, terracotta and rose--all muted and very soft. The colorway reminded me of the rock cliffs in southern Utah at sunrise and brought back fond memories of my time living out west. The yarn is an extrafine baby alpaca and it's on the skinny side of laceweight--almost cobweb if you ask me. I cast-on and started knitting a rectangular shawl but the lace pattern didn't show off the beauty of the yarn and the rectangular shape result in zebra-like striped pooling. So I needed a triangle shawl that would do well with the handpainted yarn, something rather plain. That's when the lightbulb moment happened...Icarus!

I still had my doubts about the boring factor, but then I reminded myself that simple could mean "fast-knit" rather than "boring." When I pulled the pattern off the bookshelf and checked out the yarn specs, I knew it was meant to be--alpaca yarn on size 3 needles. Yup, perfect. So I cast-on late Friday night and knit a few rows. I'm almost through with the 2nd repeat of Chart 1 and I'm liking what I see. The design does require a bit more attention than I expected, and I did have one ugly tinking session of a couple of rows when I missed a decrease and everything got shifted and off-count. But, now that Icarus had my attention and my respect I expect things should go well. I have a couple of other shawls I'm working on so I can switch off when if I get too bored.

I know my friends Diana and Regenia are knitting away on Icarus, so I'm not alone at the party. Please pass the chocolate and let the music play on (I'm thinking American Classic stuff like Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett maybe...good party music). A toast to Icarus! Knit on!!!