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


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


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!