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'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!