Sunday, April 29, 2007

Finished, Finished with, and a Fresh Start

Now that I have finished my dissertation and everything required of me for graduation, it's time to get to work and finish some knitting projects. I have decided my UFO list is entirely too long and must be dealt with one way or another. I started things off by finishing the Lilac Socks. I am *thrilled* with how they turned out! I love both the pattern(Jeanie Townsend)and the yarn(Cherry Tree Hill). I also love how I can actually take a crisp, clear photo of my wonderful new socks with the new digital camera I received as a graduation present. Check out that detail shot taken with the Macro lens--Wow!

And speaking of digital photography, I had to shoot the latest flowers in my garden--a hot pink single peony and Spiderwort (a wonderful shade-loving wildflower/perennial). The spiderwort blooms last just one day, but there are oodles of them. The plant is a great investment too--you buy just one and watch it spread all over the place. I dug out a bunch of divisions early last spring and could have done the same again this year if there had been time. The fascinating part about spiderwort is that the plant completely disappears once It's done with it's late spring/early summer blooming. By August there will be no trace of it visible to the eye.

So, back to the knitting front and finishing things. I finished chart A of the Spring Things Shawl and started knitting on the next lace section on Chart B. I was hoping to like it better, but didn't. That's when I decided it was time to get real with myself. Life is too short to knit lace shawls from patterns you don't love out of yarn you aren't all that crazy about either. I KO'd this project from my list and ma moving on to better things.

While I was at it, I also KO'd the Branching Fern Socks KAL from my list as I never did get around to knitting the socks and am not in the humor to start them right now. I did decided to go back and pick up my first Zephyr project, the Lavender Lace Shawl from Nancie Wiseman's Shawls and Scarves book. I got kind of bored with it and didn't love the yarn, so I put it aside last fall to knit other things. Now that I've resumed work, it's not so bad. The bright coral Zephyr is pretty and the yarn is in much better condition than the white I've been knitting with (which was sort of ratty if you ask me--more like a mill end or second than full-price 1st quality stuff). The LLS pattern is quite intuitive so it's easy to knit with only a rare peek at the charts. I'll use it as my portable project for now. I also found the Ribbed Cuff Socks and finished off the toe of the 1st sock. I'll cast on for the 2nd sock and also tote it for almost brainless knitting.

With all the finished and finishing going on, it's also time to start something new. Yes, it's time to go Bugsy! Mindy posted the 1st clue for the Bugs in Your Garden Mystery Pi KAL. I grabbed some size 4 dpns and the "Screaming Watermelon Pink" ColourMart Cashmere I had in the stash and cast-on for a shawl. The twist in tehis Mystery KAL was the choice to knit a shawl or a top-down sweater. The idea of a sweater intrigues me, but I'm not in the humor to do all the figuring to get a proper fit and I don't have any suitable yarn for a sweater. I will take notes though, and consider knitting one later, but for now I really had my heart set on another Pi shawl so that's what I'm doing. The first clue included ladybird/ladybug lace motifs so I'm already a happy camper!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Not a good week for knitting

Thus far I would say this has not been a very good week for knitting. It started off on Monday. I was up half the night Sunday finishing a manuscript that had to be turned in to finish of a class I got an incomplete in. The deadline for the corrected grades to be on file with the Registrar is Friday. No grade change, no graduation--it's that simple. So I head to campus Monday afternoon to hand deliver the paper. I stop by my major professor's office and she strongly encourages me to wait until the prof who is to receive the paper gets out of the class she's in at the time. This is smart advice and I know it, so I agree to hang out and wait for 1 1/2 hours to see to it the everything gets taken care of properly. The worst part, I forgot to grab any knitting on my way out the door so I had *nothing* to do but just hang out all that time. This was not fun! I was hissing about grabbing the paper and forgetting the socks.

Next not good thing is my current shawl project. I keep plugging away at the Spring Things Shawl even though I'm not loving it at all. I am motivated by being in the KAL and I know I'm not thinking clearly, so I can't really trust my opinions at present. Now that I've finished everything the University needs for me to graduate, I can allow myself to relax just enough to know I'm exhausted beyond recognition. When I'm this tired, I am cranky, grumpy, and otherwise see things cross-eyed, so why should lace knitting be excepted? Well, maybe that argument works, but not really, because even in a grumpy mood I love what I love.

So here are the latest pictures of said controversial shawl, currently being knit out of white Jaggerspun Zephyr, a yarn I also can't seem to force myself to feel positively towards either, on 3.25mm KnitPicks Circular needles (now these I love!). I'm putting up with the yarn because I wanted a lightweight white shawl to wear with summer things and I'm putting up with the pattern because 1)I like the bottom part of the lace design, 2)I coughed up $6.50 to buy the pattern, 3)I joined the KAL, and 4)I'm too darn stubborn to admit defeat! A reasonable person looking at these pictures would think the lace looks OK, some will think it looks really nice. Hey, I only have a few more repeats on Chart A before I move on to what I hope is the good part. If I still hate it then, I will swallow my pride, frog the thing, and move on to the new Bugs pi shawl which is about to start.

I 'm excited about the Bugs! I may knit it using yarn from my stash, *or* I may wait for some new yarn I just ordered from ColourMart to arrive. I ordered a cone of the blue iris silk and a cone of pale blue cash/merino/viscose. I'm thinking the blue would make for a lovely pi shawl and I don't have any blue shawls at present so that is a motivator. I still have a bunch of KnitPicks Shimmer in Turquoise Splendor which could be very pretty. I'm just not sure I want to do another variegated pi shawl. I have some Bare laceweight which could be really pretty too--just plain and natural, or the cone of screaming watermelon pink cashmere. I guess it just depends on what the lace patterns end up being as to what yarn I'll choose. The Mystery aspect of these Pi KALS make such decisions rather difficult because you don't know what's coming at all!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ribbit, Ribbit

My mother and father went out shopping yesterday afternoon and came home with things to help "spruce things up" a bit on our favorite summertime living spot--our deck. Apparently this summer will be spent in celebration of frogs, or toads (which really do live on our deck in the summer), or whatever one chooses to call those hippity-hoppity little croaking creatures that knitters all know as Ribbits (aka Rip-its). My mother can bring home some dorky things on occasion, but this time she struck a home run as far as I'm concerned! I now have my own personalized froggy to stand watch over the frog pond.And since I've been spending a fair amount of time at the frog pond with the Spring Things Shawl project, I decided it was only fitting that I take a picture of the Mr. Ribbit with the a few of the cast-offs from the SpringThing (yeah, there were more).

I would like to blame all my problems with the SpringThing on being cognitively compromised by the Big D, but then I would be abdicating all responsibility for its failure and that wouldn't be fair. After all, mature people accept responsibility for their mistakes and imperfections. So I went through 3 needle sizes, four different yarns, and algebraic numbers of swatches/restarts and was about to give up in disgust when I got this bright idea. Not too bright, mind you, as all the other ones seemed pretty bright too, but this one said go back to the White Zephyr and knit the design as written (I had been improvising in my last several rescue attempts) using a 3.25mm needle this time. I'm up to the 5th repeat on chart A and I think I can live with it this time. I won't ever be in love with the lace pattern in chart A, but I'm sufficiently motivated by the $6.50 I shelled out for the pattern and the border lace design to knit on through the first section. It's not difficult to knit, or even remember the pattern sequence, so that helps. I figure in 2-3 days I'll be on to the better part. It better be better or I might lose it >:o(

What *is* better are the Lilac Socks. I've just turned the heel and picked up the gusset stitches on the 2nd sock, so it's pretty smooth sailing from here on out. I'll post **great** photos using my **great** new digital camera once the socks are done and on my little tootsies. I'm having a good time tinkering with my camera. I took an amazing close-up photo of my first peony blossom this afternoon and the finished pix was perfectly focused before editing. Just wait till I turn in my last paper on Monday, then I'm headed to the Smokies to capture the spring wildflowers with my new toy. Graduating is a good thing in more ways that one ;-)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Unexpected

A lot of unexpected things have happened this week, and not just for me. Take for example the horrific shootings by a desperately disturbed young man on the campus of Virginia Tech University. On a seemingly ordinary Monday morning in a small college town just 4 hours from where I live, suddenly 32 innocent lives were taken. You can't anticipate such things ever happening. But they do, and it did, and we are left to mourn, then carry on taking with us fond memories and hopefully lessons learned that will help in the future.

My unexpected events of the week may pale in comparison, but still they are powerful to me. For example, the phone call I answered yesterday that just so happened to be from my best girlfriend, Donna, who lives in Salt Lake. We haven't been together for 5 1/2 years and haven't even talked to each other for 2 or 3 years, that is until I called her on Sunday evening a couple of weeks ago to tell her I was graduating. So she called me yesterday to inform me of her decision to fly out and attend my graduation and spend a few days with me. I was both stunned and elated as I never dreamed she would come, even though I really wanted her to be here for the big event. Donna isn't particularly adept with technology, so I agreed to help look for a cheap airfare. I've always had good success on Travelocity so I went there first and was horrified to find nothing but expensive fares with terrible times and connections. So I headed on to Expedia where I found one, and only one flight with a great price. The catch was 2 layover and a very long flight time, but Donna was OK with it because the price was so cheap and it was a major airline. I know this was just another in a long line of unexpected miracles God has provided me in the last year that has allowed me to be facing graduation. He *does* create pathways to lead me where I could never go alone.

And now I have one last paper that I'm struggling to write. Things have not gone well today or yesterday because I've been having strange, several allergic reactions. What I'm reacting to is only a wild guess, because I really have no idea. All I know is I woke up from a nap yesterday afternoon because the palms of my hands were itching like crazy. I went to the bathroom a discovered that my whole face was swollen and covered with itchy red blotches characteristic of a serious allergic reaction. I was not having difficulty breathing so I didn't feel forced to go to the Emergency Room, but I took a big hit of benedryl instead. I was OK this morning, except for feeling very fuzzy that is, but the rash was gone. By afternoon I was itchy again, but the rash was still gone. I can't write on Benedryl, so I stuck with Allegra today.

On the knitting front,I did manage to get another repeat knit on the cuff on the 2nd lilac sock. I finished the last round of cables, so I'm almost home free. The only fiddly part left is picking up the gusset stitches, but that's not really all the bad. I do adore these socks and suspect they will see a lot of wear. I also knit another repeat on the Spring Things shawl. I still have my doubts about this one. The yarn is really a bit too skinny for my taste. It looks just fine, and it is very light and airy, which is desirable for a summer shawl, but I'm still not feeling the love for this one. I could frog and try knitting with the yarn doubled but I didn't like the doubled yarn when I tried that with the yellow Gentle, so doubling may not be the answer. I think I'll just persevere for now and see if I can get through Chart A. Maybe getting past this first lace pattern, which I don't care for, will help improve the situation. I hope I last that long ;-)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I turned my dissertation into the Dean of the Graduate School yesterday afternoon. It's DONE!!!!! So what's time is it now? It's time for the presents! I celebrated the event by stopping in at the Yarn Haven on my way home. My intent was to purchase another skein of CTH SuperSock yarn since I'm so happy with the socks I'm knitting from my 1st skein. The problem was I *so* tired I couldn't get excited by any of the colors I saw, or to be more precise, not excited enough by any one color to be able to choose *only* one (there were several I really liked). So I started looking around the shop and noticed Sandy had gotten in some new lace yarn from Skacel. Of course the pink caught my eye, but I didn't want to knit another pink shawl just yet as I need some diversity in my colors. Fortunately there was a very pretty soft lavender that appealed to me. The deal was sealed when I glanced up at the Crystal Palace Kid Merino that was the shelf right above the Skacel Merino lace--the Kid Merino was is a fuzzy melange of soft lavenders that matched the Merino Lace perfectly! Suddenly I knew that's the yarn I needed to knit the Spring Things Shawl--you know, the shawl that I cast-on and frogged umpteen times in different yarns with different needle sizes and haven't been happy with any of the choices to date? That shawl!

Well I cast-on yet again and this time I think it's going to work. I so hope I have found the right combination. I've never had this kind of trouble before. Usually it's just the opposite--I have more good choices available to me that the really decision is which one should I use first. I thought about this a lot over the last couple of days and have come to the conclusion it the specific lace pattern that is the majority of this shawl design. I've had troubles with this pattern before when I was trying to knit a scarf out of some lovely Habu Textiles Silk/Mohair kusa. I started and frogged this scarf 3 or 4 times before relegating this magnificent yarn to the frog pond for an extended visit (it's still there). I didn't realize that Spring Things used this lace pattern as I only really "saw" the lace in the border. Had known this in advance I would have chosen another shawl pattern I think, but I do like this shawl, so I'm hanging in there for now.

I have a couple of pictures of my new yarn acquisitions and the latest start of the Spring Things. I know, it looks pretty OK, maybe a little too lacy as the Skacel Lace Merino is *very* fine yarn, but it's OK. It's doesn't look like SPL's shawl in the pattern, but it's still OK. But what is noteworthy is.... (drum roll please!) the crisply clear, close-up photo! It's my graduation present which was delivered yesterday too! I told you I got *lots* of presents yesterday;o) It's the digital camera of my dreams. All the options I deem essential in a good camera. It's a Fuji FinePix s700, which has a 10x optical zoom in addition to the customary digital zoom features and it has a 2x macro feature which allows me to shoot an object as close as 4" away and be in perfect focus. This will be awesome for taking pix of wildflowers and knitting, two of my favorite subjects. The price was fantastic too (<$300) thanks to a today's special on HSN. So this means I'll have lots and lots of pictures to enhance my otherwise wordy blog. Presents are a good thing!

Monday, April 16, 2007

I Like Finishing Things Too!

Tonight's post is all about finishing. The picture is the 1st sock of the Lilac socks which I started a few days ago and finished in the wee hours of this morning. I have already cast on for the 2nd sock so as to not be guilty of SSS--again :-) Not that I would not finish this pair anyway because I am so in love with both the yarn and the pattern and the fit that I want to finish the 2nd one ASAP!

And why was I knitting in the wee hours of the morning you ask? Because I needed to unwind after finishing writing my dissertation. Yes, I spent a goodly portion of today proofing and making final tweaks and edits, but the thang is hereby declared to be finished!!! I have my multiples copies along with fancy forms and other red tape all ready to go to the Dean of the Graduate School tomorrow. WooHoo!!!!

In light of such valiant achievement, with its accompanying sleep deprivation and otherwise brain overload, I hereby do declare my brain as finished too! not too finished yet, as I have one quick paper to rip out to meet a long overdue class requirement for graduation, but I'm writing on it tonight already and since it's about my research, it shouldn't be too awful to finish fast! Fast is good too, 'cuz I'm fading fast. yup, finito, finished. VBG!!!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bugs and Spring Knitting

Is this not the cutest KAL button you've ever seen? The knitty gang over at EZasPi are gearing up for this years' spring KAL which is a sequel to the Pi shawls we knit last year. Last spring the Mystery Pi KAL had a garden theme where folks could choose from flowers, veggies or just green foilage lace motifs to create their own unique circular shawl. Mindy, the wonder designer, has been coordinating these KALs and has done a marvelous, mammoth job of keeping everyone going in circles. The Garden KAL was my 1st pi shawl and after that I started the Shetland Tea Shawl from A Gathering of Lace (which still needs an edging). I went back to triangles and rectangles for awhile, but now I'm ready to knit another pi shawl. This time the group decided to use Bugs in the Garden as the theme since most of us really like ladybugs, butterflies, dragonflies, etc. I have no idea what Mindy and her helpers have come up with this time, but we're supposed to get our pre-start instructions on yarn selection, etc. sometime in the next week or so. I'm still debating on what yarn to use, but I'm awaiting further instructions from our fearless leader before deciding to knit from my stash or buy something new.

It's a good thing I still have a little time before the Bugs KAL gets under way as I have to finish my Lilac Socks and the Spring Things Shawl first. I still haven't cast-on for the STS for real, but I have ditched several swatches. I'll try again later this week, but right now I'm totally smitten with the Lilac Socks. I'm working on the instep of the 1st sock now, and I swear the thing gets prettier with every row! I *so* love this Cherry Tree Hill yarn! I never thought that I would be happy to see the Knit n Purl close, but with it's absence and the opening of 2 new LYS, I now have ready access to yarns I never would have seen at the KnP. I've learned that each yarn shop has it's personality and each owner buys what they like, or what they and their customers like, but if the owner isn't interested in a line of yarns you are pretty much out of luck. And right now I feel pretty darn lucky!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Be right back...I left something out front

In my last post I gushed all over myself about this amazing sock yarn from Cherry Tree Hill that I *had* to get at my LYS the other day. Well, I didn't let this beauty languish in the stash, no way. I joined in the Lilac Socks KAL and cast on late Wednesday night. I had the cuff done last night and I just finished turning the heel and picking up the gusset stitches this morning. This is the dreamiest sock yarn I've had the pleasure of using to date. I love the way the yarn is plied and twisted so that it is firm, yet soft all at the same time. The stitch definition is crisp and the melange of colors is nothing short of spectacular to my eye. I was a bit concerned about pooling, but things ended up working out OK without needing a cut and splice intervention.

I've learned a few new things in the process of knitting Jeanie's lovely pattern. First was how nice a k2p1 rib looks--better than k1p1 (which I hate) or k2p2. Next was how to knit tiny cables with tiny yarn on a project using 4 tiny dpns. Talk about fine motor control--yikes!! I haven't done much with cables lately and this was my 1st encounter with charted cables. Oh, I've seen them charted, I just haven't knit them from a chart so I needed a way to remember when to hold the stitches on the CN to the front or the back--I never can remember which is what when I'm knitting on a project that calls for both. I came up with the perfect little ditty to help me get it right. To make a right leaning cable the stitches are held to the back of the work and in a left leaning cable the stitches are brought to the front. So right is back and left is front became "Be right back...I left something out front." Ta da! I chanted my mantra and didn't have to tink a single cable for going the wrong way!

Now for the confession--knitting tiny cables on a project using 4 tiny dpns is a big PITA. Yuck, yuck, yuck! I do not like it Sam I am. In fact, I hated it so much I left the cable out of the last pattern repeat on the cuff. I figured it didn't really natter at that point and it was after midnight get my drift ;O) If I'm going to continue to knit cabled socks I need to either master cabling without a cable needle (Grumperina shows how) or learn the "Magic Loop" technique or both! I am not knitting another pair of socks with cables on dpns--nope, no way! I considered leaving the cables out of the Lilac socks but darn it, I liked the swirling effect at the base of each "flower cluster" so I made the sacrifice this time--but never again.

The Lilac socks pattern is really wonderful, as are many of the sock patterns Jeanie has so generously shared for free to members of the Townsend Sock group. It's not a beginners sock, and it's knit cuff down with a traditional heel flap which might not make devoted toe-up sock knitters very happy, but it sure works for me. If you want your own copy, follow the link above or in the sidebar and join the group! It's a busy list, but folks are friendly and you can always lurk as needed (I do). I'm thrilled with how pretty the yarn is and how the sock is turning out. I will definitely be buying more Cherry Tree Hill SuperSock in the future--especially now that Sandy at my LYS across the street is carrying it. All I need is 10, maybe 15 minutes and some moola and I can have a new hank in my hot little hands ready to plop down and cast-on. How's that for instant gratification?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Rainy Days and Wednesdays

There's something about rainy days that just leaves me feeling yucky. Fibromyalgia and rainy days are arch enemies, ditto for SAD. I can't go for very long with out bright, cheery sunshine or I find myself in a blue funk that just ain't cool. Wednesdays are rough because Tuesdays are my most demanding day of the week, thus by Wednesday I'm weary and not very productive. Add the two things together and, well.... it's not a pretty sight.

The good news is the Big D is now at what my mother calls the Mini-skirt stage, that is the end is in sight. My major professor returned the last draft with her final edits and told me she didn't want to see it again--fix what needed tweaking and turn it in to the Dean of the Graduate School. WooHoo! The edits are quite minor, so that's nice given I still have to do a final proof of the reference list. Once that's done I can drop the page numbers into the Table of Contents, created the PDF file, and be done with it. Let me tell you, I am *so* ready to be done with it!

So instead of editing the Big D or writing the journal article that is also due ASAP in order to graduate, what am I doing? Yup, surfing and knitting. I stopped by the Yarn Haven on my way home yesterday thinking I would splurge on another 3.5mm Addi-Lace needle, this time in a 24" length. This is my favorite size needle for lace knitting and I really wanted the shorter length to start knitting on the Spring Things Shawl. It was just my luck, though, that Sandy had sold all US4/24" needles. She has them on order so I will get one when they come in, but in the meantime I'll just have to knit on with the 32" ones. I softened the blow by looking at all the yarn in the store--there are so many new ones I hadn't seen! I was especially taken with a skein of Cherry Tree Hill Supersock yarn in variegated hues of muted spring greens, purples, and yellows. The colors reminded me of irises, lavender, and pansies and I was so tempted. Then my left brain kicked in and reminded me of all the sock yarn I have in the stash already, and how I haven't knit much on socks recently (or anything else other than shawls for that matter), and how I needed to be frugal in order to have enough money at the end of the month to buy something if I so wished (and not be too broke to do so). I went home empty handed, feeling very proud of myself for exercising such restraint.

Can you guess where this is going? I thought about that yarn all evening, I even saw it in my dreams! Then when I woke up to a gray day and felt so achy breaky I knew that was it--I *had* to have that yarn! To top it off, Jeanie Townsend sent me her latest sock pattern for, of all things, lilac socks! And what would be perfect for lilac socks? The CTH yarn of my dreams. I stumbled out the door and made the 2 minute drive to Yarn Haven and bought that skein fast, before anyone else beat me to it (there was only one skein in that color). I confiscated my favorite dpns from some ufo socks and I am headed off to cast on. At last, something to smile about today :-)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Uh oh, It's another one of the quiz thingies

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

"When your friends think smile, they think of you. There is not a day that goes by that you can't find something good about the world and your fellow human."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

I love Easter! It's my most favorite holiday and spring is my favorite time of the year. Even the record cold temperatures (low's in the 20s YIKES!) couldn't damper my spirits on this, the most significant day of the Christian year. I admit to getting a slow atart as I've had a migraine since yesterday afternoon, but fortunately for me church doesn't start until 12:30 so I was able to get things drugged and under control enough to make the Easter service. One of the unique things about being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormons) is that multiple congregations (called wards) meet in the same building (called a meetinghouse). The Wards take turns as to gets the morning or afternoon schedule. It's not so bad here in TN when there's never more than 2 wards in a meetinghouse, in Utah it's common for there to be 3 or 4 and you could be going to church from 2-5PM. Not being much of a morning person, I always look forward to being on the afternoon schedule :-) If you are curious, you can find out more about the church here.

Mother suggested I stay home from church, given the migraine and all; however, I couldn't help but entertain the possibility that it might be my Father's last Easter on this earth (his health is so fragile, who knows?) and I knew I could not forgive myself if I wasn't sitting next to him singing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." The threat of death is a strange motivator I suppose. I dug in the back of my closet and pulled out a heavy spring sweater, one that doesn't get enough wear here in TN, and then in a moment of clarity, I wrapped up in my Garden Pi Shawl, secured with a bunny pin that was a gift from my dearly departed best friend Laura Lee, and headed off. I sang with my father and felt only marginally guilty about not singing in the choir again this year--I had a very good excuse this time :-) The choir was wonderful. It doesn't hurt that Phil and Caryn, our aspiring opera singers, have elevated the sound of the choir to an all-time high. But the highlight of Sacrament meeting was the talk given by my dear friend Mitch Borden about Christ and the Good Shepherd. He talked about shepherds and sheep and told of the history behind the text of Psalms 23 as a part of his Easter message. This information was new to me and held special meaning in light of my newfound interest in sheep and wool and my knitty friends who raise sheep. Mitch promised to send me a copy of his message. I'll try to post a copy when I get it if I figure out a way for folks access it online.

As if listening to Mitch Borden's wonderful message wasn't enough to lift my spirits, my friend Elaine, listmom of the EZasPi group, sent the endorphins soaring. You see she posted a darling photograph of a laughing little boy and a lamb from Diana Cooper on the group homepage then asked group members to come up with a suitable caption. In a moment of Dissertation-induced delirium, I submitted my idea. You can see the photo and caption on Elaine's blog, Out of Hand. Apparently Elaine likes puns, so my caption was named the winner! How cool is that??? Diana responded by saying "Seems I'm destined to illustrate Kristina's words...congrats, Dr. K." These girls are just the best kind of friends!

While I was trying to find my equilibrium this morning (do you like that phrase? That's what my mother calls becoming "conscious" in the morning) I cast-on for the Spring Things Shawl. I nixed the plan to use the white Zephyr, as I have 3 balls and want to do something bigger with it, or at the very least knit the Estonian Lace Shawl with it. I didn't have enough of the Habu textiles silk mohair yarn and I didn't want to knit with the KSH I have in my stash as it's a smoky teal color (wrong color for the season). I could use some ColourMart cashmere, but I have enough for a big shawl and didn't want to "waste" it knitting a small shawl. I finally settled on a new lace yarn I just purchased from the Yarn Place called Gentle. This stuff is really cobweb wt, not the laceweight it is labeled. A 100g ball has 1350 yds. which, when doubled, would be just the right amount for the Spring Things shawl. I purchased 2 colors, but chose the butter yellow for this project thinking it would be perfect for a lot of my summer things. I rewound the ball using my ball-winder so I could pull one strand from the inside and one from the outside to knit the shawl without making a permanent commitment to double-stranding the whole thing-- just in case;-) I cast-on using my new Addi-Lace needles in a US5/3.75mm as suggested in the pattern but after knitting just a few rows into chart A I can see the look is a bit too lacy, so I'll frog it and start again with my old reliable size 4 needles. I want to use the new Addis, but they are already in-use so I guess I'll quickly knit off the last few rows of the Shh! It's a Secret Shawl so I can have the needles I really want. How's that for motivation to finish a project?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Spring Things Shawl

I just stumbled on a nifty new lace shawl pattern from Susan Pierce Lawrence called the "Spring Things Shawl." I really like this one, so of course I purchased it immediately! I'd show you a picture of it, but it's "strictly prohibited" so you'll just have to go look at it yourself. It's a triangle shawl similar in form to Kiri or the Flower Basket Shawl. You can see the details and purchase the downloadable pattern here. Although this pattern is truly "hot off the press" there's already a KAL forming, which I am joining right now!

The shawl is medium sized (30x60") and can be knit with ~550 yds.of a fine mohair (she used 1 ball of Karabella) or one 2 oz. ball of Zephyr according to the pattern. I think you could probably knit this design with a very subtle ombre yarn, but I'm not so sure about a variegated one. I have some white Zephyr that I just purchased that would be wonderful for this shawl. I could really use a white shawl to knock off the chill in church this summer. I don't know why it is that the coldest place on earth seems to be the chapel. I swear they keep that cold so the devil won't try to invade the flock, if you know what I mean ;-D On the other hand, I may have just enough of the pale green Habu Textiles silk mohair that I recently pitched in the frog pond. It would be pretty, but maybe not with nupps. Deciding which yarn to use is half the fun of knitting.

The upper border has nupps in the design, which look cool. I've not knit them before, but I'm armed and ready to learn with my new Addi-Lace needles. If the nupps don't work out, the designer provided an option to use beads instead, or you could just skip the nupps and beads altogether and just leave the center of the leaf-thingies just plain. After all, designs were meant to be tampered with

I'm coming oh so close to being done with the Big D. When I shut off the computer last night, after a 12 hour marathon of writing and revising, I could finally see the end is in sight. I should have most of the work finished tonight and ready to go back to Sandra (my *wonderful* professor) on Monday. As soon as that's off, then I need to rip off a quick manuscript for a journal article to finish an incomplete I've had hanging out for way too long. I'm going to write up the study, so it will be a useful exercise in writing to meet a class requirement. I ordered the graduation announcements from Jostens and mother is making plans for the party we're throwing the Saturday after graduation. I keep reminding her it's the "wedding reception" I never got the opportunity to have (and most likely never will).

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I Got Lace Needles!

Sandy at the Yarn Haven e-mailed me yesterday to let me know the Addi lace needles were in. Needless to say I dashed right out and bought 2 sets-- sizes 4 & 5. I switched over to the lace needles on my Shhh! It's a Secret shawl and knit about 4 rows this morning. These needles are definitely different from anything else I own, but here's what I think so far:
1. The golden brass color of the needles is great for knitting with light colored lace yarns. I can actually see the yarn, even in less than ideal lighting, which is a very good thing.
2. The needles aren't as slick as the Turbos or the Knitpicks circs, but they are more slippery than plastics or bamboos. It's a little different from the turbos, which I adore, but I adjust quickly and am satisfied that these are slick enough that I won't go crazy shoving stitches back and forth.
3. The tips are the pointiest things I ever seen--even sharper than the new KnitPicks needles. The taper is totally smooth and gradual enough that there are no humps or bumps to contend with. Here again, these new needles win first prize in my experience.
4. The cable is super flexible, with absolutely no memory or curves to fight with. This cable doesn't have the wire core that the Turbos have and I don't think I would want a heavy, bulky sweater hanging off of it, but then I'm knitting lace so that's not an issue. This cable is at least as good as the KnitPicks, possibly better. I need more time to declare a winner, if there is a winner in this aspect as they are both really good.

I found it so much easier to knit multiple stitches together or lift a stitch to pass over with the Lace needles. Because of the super sharp tip and long taper, you don't end up distorting the stitch in order to manipulate the yarn. While I'm knitting with a very springy wool right now so it's not as big an issue, I think this feature will be a big plus when knitting with fibers such as silk, cotton, or alpaca which don't have the give that wool does.

I have to give the Addi Lace Needles a big 2 thumbs up. If I were a rich woman I would buy them all and make them my needle of choice for all my fine knitting. As it is, I will probably stick to my original plan, which is to use the KnitPicks for sizes 1-3 and the Addi Lace for sizes 4 & up. I don't have the size 1 KnitPicks needles yet and I may give in and buy Addis when I come to a project that requires that small size, or if I finally learn to magic loop my socks :-)

My favorable experience with the Lace needles lessens my motivation to buy the KnitPicks Options, esp. in light of the numerous reports of difficulties folks seem to have with the Options sets. From what I can surmise, the Options tend to be fiddly, requiring frequent tightening with this little dohicky to keep them from falling apart. I don't see myself paying close enough attention to such things while I have a WIP OTN. Nope, an all-in-one-piece circular seems like a better choice for the way I knit. Knit on!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Happy Dance

This has not been a good day for making measurable progress on anything. Well, that is unless you count wading through about 30+ e-mails progress, which doesn't count when the Big D needs a revised Chapter 5 like yesterday! But I have this ugly sinus/trying to be a migraine headache and I have been cooped up in my house for going on 5 days now, and...well I could just scream about now.

In that big pile of e-mails was the monthly newsletter from my new LYS (just across the street) the Yarn Haven announcing the arrival of the new Addi lace needles and lots of new lace yarns. It's the 1st of the month so my meager allowance is at it's fattest, so the temptation was just too much. I grabbed my Get Out of Jail Free Card, er the dog and the car keys, and I did a happy dance right on over. The owner, Sandy just grinned when I walked in the door. She said she just knew I would show up in the next day or so and she was so right. I've been wanting the new Addi lace needles and was sort of waiting for Jinka, the owner of my other LYS Loopville, to get them in since I told her I would buy some. Well, I stopped by Loopvile last week and she didn't order them, so I was thinking I would have to resort to ordering them online. Well brava to Sandy for saving me the grief.

Apparently Sandy has had quite a few people ask about lace yarns in the last month, so she decided to give it a whirl. Don't you just love new shop owners who only want to please you and try to get whatever they can for you ;o). In fairness to Jinka, Loopville is located in a very small place that is just overstuffed with yarns and everything so space is at a premium, whereas Yarn Haven is in a big, very open space with lots of room for displays of nothing but lace needles. I love both shops and patronize them just about equally thus far. In addition to the lace needles Sandy acquired signed copies of Lavish Lace with pricey yarn packs to match, plus NZ Artisan yarns of Margaret Stove fame, plus lots of fancy handpainted lace and fingering yarns from Cherry Tree Hill, plus some great yarns from Crystal Palace that I've been itching to try. Talk about doing the happy dance, just fondling all this stuff made me happier than Zoloft could ever achieve. LOL

In the end I limited myself to 2 sets of needles, a 4 & 5 in 32" lengths. I use size 4s more than anything it seems, and I needed a 5 to knit the FiberTrends Estonian Lace Shawl which I think is up next on my list of "wanna knits". I have the KnitPicks circulars in the smaller sizes (2 & 3) so I don't need to buy the pricey Addis there, but I'm not convinced about using the KP Options so I'll buy Addi lace needles in the bigger sizes.

Deciding which yarn to purchase was not so easy as I wanted them all, naturally! In the end I decided to go for a couple of balls of the new Panda Cotton from Crystal Palace. This yarn is 55% bamboo, 24% cotton, and 21% elastic nylon so it's stretchy, kind of like Cascade Fixation. I chose a subtle ombre of blush pinks they call rosewater which should knit up nicely into this great sock pattern, Early Spring Sock, that I saw on their website last month. This is a totally new adventure for me, knitting with elastic yarn, but the Panda Cotton should be perfect for padding around in in Tennessee summers. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Lessons in Horticulture

Today, my knitting friends, we have a lesson in horitculture. I call your attention to the pictures to your left, most of which I took this afternoon in my garden. The first picture is of one of my most favorite spring- blooming perennials, the bleeding heart (dicentra spectabilis). It's thing of beauty to be sure. I started out with one plant and she has expanded now to five(3 nice-sized, 2 little bitty babies). That's also the advantage of many perennials. if you are patient, a small initial investment pays off with big dividends down the road (sounds kinda like lace knitting, doesn't it?)

Okay, so that's the fancy flower. Next we have the humble Hosta, a gold standard hosta with pretty variegated leaves. My one plant that I bought on sale at the end of the season 6 or 7 years ago is now about 8 plants filling shady spots under towering tulip poplar trees. Hostas are great shade plants, but are hardly spectacular since they are mostly about the leaves. And my point in posting this picture is to call your attention to the leaves.

Next we have picture number three which is also a bleeding heart. This version is dicentra eximina more commonly known as the native bleeding heart. This plant grows wild in my beloved Great Smoky Mountains although I had to plant mine. I have one nice-sized and 2 baby plants thus far. One of the great features of this wildflower is that it has beautiful flowers *and* beautiful foilage. Hence, this picture has both bleeding hearts and leaves.

By now you may be wondering what this has to do with knitting. The next, very blurry picture offers a hint. This is my 1st pi shawl, which I finished off with a bleeding heart edging. The pattern was a modification of the bleeding heart stitch in the Barbara Walker Treasury of Charted patterns (whichever volume that was, don't ask me 'cuz I had to give the books back to the library). I sort of created a way to make this stitch form nice little points so its a great way to finish off any lace project (this is a key point-hint, hint)

And now we have the last picture, also a bit blurry (anyone want to gift me a *good* digital camera?). I am so proud of this red shawl--it's Kiri, my first ever lace knit shawl. Kiri may be the most famous lace shawl pattern out there right now because 1) it's a great design and a good 1st lace shawl knit, and 2) it's a freebie on the web. A leaf motif is the basis for Kiri, a very nice *leaf* design that is good for shawls and such.

So why this lesson on horticulture? Is there a point to the comparing of bleeding hearts and leaves? Well, yes. Call it a lesson learned in the adventures of designing my own lace shawl pattern. I was looking for another lace pattern to finish off my shoulder shawl design after I frogged my first attempt. That's when I remembered how much I liked the bleeding heart pattern in my pi shawl. So I pulled out my sketchbook and retrieved the graphs. Yup, they were a perfect match. I transcribed it to my current design and started knitting. After the first repeat was done I took a closer look at what I was doing (it's a challenge in the deeply hued variegated yarn) and thought, this looks different. This looks more like the leaves in Kiri. That's when it dawned on me. The pi shawl was knit in the round--every row of the bleeding heart pattern was lace. Kiri was knit back and forth with the return rows being all purl stitches. Guess what the difference is between leaves and bleeding hearts? You guessed it, a row of purl stitches. Horticulture for knitters: lesson learned!

Which Jane Austen Heroine Am I?

:: E M M A ::

You are Emma Woodhouse of Emma! You like being the queen of your social circle (small and provincial as it may be), and feel it's your duty to help those less influential than you. You often meddle in the affairs of others, though you do it with a pure heart. You are often deluded in your flights of fancy, but your good intentions and creative spirit make you someone anyone could like.I am Emma Woodhouse!

Take the Quiz here!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Spring Fever!!!

Spring has sprung, the grass has really risen, and boy oh boy is my garden growing! The unusually warm March has everything growing well-ahead of schedule, including the weeds. My time has been rather limited since I *am* writing a dissertation so I haven't had the chance to dig in and do my early spring yard work. Ugh! The beds in the back yard are a complete disaster! Well, they will just have to wait a little longer I suppose.

Today it was so perfect outside I just couldn't force myself to stay indoors hunkered behind my computer all day. Nope, no way. I got Spring Fever and the dirt was calling my name. So I took lots of breaks to slip into my new gardening clogs and well-worn gloves and haul out my little wheelbarrow. I got quite a bit accomplished too! I transplanted 2 small hydrangeas into the front bed in front of a Natchez (tall white) Crape Myrtle and a couple of small Burning Bush shrubs. I bought these hydrangeas for myself last year for Mothers' Day. I bought a small pot that had forced to bloom early in a greenhouse in Canada. After the blooms started to fade I decided to repot the bush into a bigger pot with better soil and was surprised to find not one, but 2 separate plants crammed into one tiny pot. Once separated, I had 2 happy little shrubs that bloomed for months in a sheltered location in the back yard. And now I'm gonna end up with 2 big shrubs that will make happy pink mopheads for years to come. And to think I felt guilty for indulging myself when I bought the plant to begin with ;o)

I got a few more things planted besides the hydrangea bushes. I bought 4 Winky Rose Aquilegias (cultivated columbine) last week for a great price at the Home Depot. I planted a couple of these last year along the north fence and they were beautiful. The front bed gets a lot more sun so I think these new plants will very happy. I added some new Oriental Lily bulbs to the area, all pink varieties (Mona Lisa, Lollipop, etc.), so I should have lots of pretty pink blooms this summer.

On the knitting front, I'm still working on the secret shawl. I'm just starting the 2nd repeat on the new pattern section and so far it looks good. I didn't make much progress today though because gardening occupied my discretionary time. And now it's time to go back to writing. I'll watch the men's NCAA championship game at the same time (I'm cheering for Ohio St. since they beat us to get there). Of course the "big" game is tomorrow night when the Lady Vols try to win it all for the 7th time. "Seven in '07" is the word around here :-)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Happy International Tatting Day

Some of you may have been led to believe that April 1st is a rather infamous "holiday" known as April Fool's Day, but it's actually International Tatting Day. Celebrations, small and not so small happen among tatters across the globe. To honor the occasion I am posting a picture of my favorite "beadntat original" tatting design-- a heart I created in the aftermath of the 9-11 bombing of the World Trade Center in NYC. I also pulled out my favorite shuttles and petted them a little, but I didn't add any stitches to the project as I didn't want to unpick them later if I made a mistake. Tinking or frogging knitting is a piece of cake compared to undoing mistakes in tatting! Since I didn't go anywhere today I couldn't "tat in public" but I did adhere to the other celebratory ritual of eating chocolate--a Harry & David raspberry truffle, Yum!

The first of April marks another important time in East Tennessee. In this part of the world there are only 2 "important" times of the year. The first, of course, happens in the fall when it's "It's Football Time in Tennessee!" This is to be yelled loudly and proudly in support of the University of TN Volunteer football team, our favorite local obsession (I use that term knowing it is an enormous understatement of the situation). But that is the fall and this is spring so the cheer changes to "It's Dogwood time in Tennessee!" This time one can speak in a more dignified tone as the focus is on flowers, flowering trees, and local arts and fine crafts. The festival officially starts next weekend and lasts about 2 weeks and it's lots of fun. But the dogwoods bloomed very early this year-- I can't ever remember them blooming in March before.

I'm continuing to work on my Shh! It's a Secret Shawl. I finished the first section of lace and was quite pleased with how it looks in the highly variegated yarn. Unfortunately the second section of lace didn't end up looking as nice knitted up as it did on paper. I knit about 10 rows into the 2nd section before calling it quits. This morning I frogged back to the lifeline and worked on designing something else. I'm a bit more optimistic about my current plan, but I need to knit a few more rows to know for sure. Designing for highly patterned yarn is a much greater challenge than knitting with a solid color yarn. Fortunately the Kaalund yarn is both durable and delicate so it's holding up nicely to all the tinking and frogging. There's nothing like a good yarn! I should be working on the rewrites on my big D, but I'm feeling pretty icky tonight so I may just do some knitting while I cheer on the Lady Vols who are playing in the NCAA Final Four semi-final basketball game tonight. Go Vols!!!