Tuesday, February 28, 2006

About Those Knitting Olympics...

Fiesta Feet and me
Heh, well... needless to say, I didn't make it. Fiesta Feet is definitely a fascinating sock, but not one cut out for record speeds. What you see is the cuff of sock #1. I took this picture about a week ago, so I'm a bit farther along than the picture would suggest. This is an awesome pattern, by the way, and it only gets better the further you knit.

I've come to learn that I'm not really a speed knitter. I enjoy the process too much to be concerned about finishing something quickly. That's not to say that I'm not a quick knitter, I'm just not out for speed. I generally take my time through the first sock, then speed knit for the second. It was a relief, though, to have finished the hat and the argyles as part of the Olympics. They were projects that were hanging around for no particularly good reason, and now they are actually done. Congratulations to all of those knitters who made gold!

I haven't posted in awhile. Last week was a strange but necessary week, and I'm glad it's over. This week, on the other hand, started off with a spectacular contra dance! Lissa Schneckenburger from Boston was playing, and she did a fabulous job. If that weren't enough, fiddle legend Liz Carroll showed up for awhile and joined in on a few tunes! Lots of friends were dancing, too. It's almost like spring is in the air or something.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Argyle Socks

Pattern: Loosely based on Socknitter's Cybersock class
Needles: 2 24" US 2 Addi Turbos
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cotton Wool Blend, and a few mismatched shades of Lang Jawoll grey
Special Technique: Intarsia-in-the-round, blind duplicate stitch, more procrastination
Started: July 25, 2005
Completed: February 16, 2006
Recipient: The Fool

The intarsia part of this sock was a lot of fun. In retrospect, I think it was a huge mistake to combine the worsted weight Debbie Bliss as the foreground with the fingering Jawoll as the background. It caused me great pain when I went to duplicate stitch the lines on, causing much unnecessary procrastination. Next time, I will intarsia up the whole damn thing, lines and all.

If you look to the left of the picture, you will also notice the lovely color gradiation in the foot. This actually isn't a dye lot issue; I had to switch colors as the old stuff was completely discontinued everywhere I looked.

Cabled and Bobbled Hat

Pattern: FiberTrends: Braid and Bobble Hat
Needles: 2 straight US 6 needles, size US 6 dpns for the top
Yarn: some Donegal Tweed we purchased on the Dingle Peninsula
Special Technique: Cabling, bobbling, procrastinating
Started: Some time in February 2005
Completed: February 14, 2006
Recipient: Meg

From this pattern, I learned that written directions can be extremely annoying. As soon as I charted this out, I found myself flying through it. I also learned that I am not a huge fan of cabling. Front crosses appeal to me more than back crosses, as back crosses are much more difficult to knit continentally.

Rosemarkie Vest

Pattern: Rosemarkie from Alice Starmore's Celtic Collection
Needles: 2 US 0 and 1 Addi Turbos in various lengths for various parts
Yarns: Debbie Bliss Merino DK (colors 225608, 225506, 225604, 225001, 225607) and for the main color, Catalina 60% baby alpaca, 40% pima cotton (color 2497)
Special Technique: It's a vest... isn't that special enough?
Started: November 17, 2005
Completed: February 12, 2006
Recipient: Meg

This was my first ever sweater-like thingy. For fair isle, it was super easy to memorize the pattern and would highly recommend it for a first sweater project. Be careful if you follow the pattern, though, as the gauge called for in the pattern was impossible to achieve using these yarns, so be prepared for a decent amount of math.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I can't count, and my house smells like boiled socks

Sometimes, I'm afraid I'm getting stupider the older I get. Once, I opened an old book to find a study sheet from high school trigonometry folded between the pages, and all I could think as I stared at the sheet was, "Wow, I used to know what this all meant." I wasn't much good at math then - it took me a couple running starts to pass advanced algebra.

But I had no idea I would backslide to the point where it takes me 10 minutes to count 222 stitches, divided into thirds on a circular needle and come out with the same number twice.

Compounding matters tonight, I decided to make split pea soup. But the plastic container of split peas transmogrified into a container of split mung beans (?! I don't even recall buying these. What the hell did I think I'd do with split mung beans?) and let me just say that split mung beans aren't quite doing what split peas do when simmered with onions, celery and garlic. Mostly, they smell like ass. The skins boiled off and are floating on the surface of my "soup" like little beany carapaces, and I think I should have started with a pork hock like my instincts told me to.

Off to salvage soup and sweater.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I'm sure you've all been losing sleep

So I will cut the suspense and tell you all that I regained pretty much all the ground I lost when I ripped out three inches or so of knitting to change needle sizes. There. Feel better? I do, especially because a couple parts that didn't look so hot looked much better the second time around. I'm about 16 rows away from the Interminable Body part of the knitting. Can't wait. It's much easier to knit straight stockinette in the car at red lights than to knit cabled stuff. The light always changes when I'm in the middle of the cable crossings ... I jest, of course. I do my cabling at stop signs where I can sit as long as I like.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

In what the announcers would call

"A significant setback," I am experiencing a few difficulties with this Olympic Knitting thing. Well, only one difficulty. One enormous, hairy, bulgy-eyeballed difficulty.
After knitting three or four inches on Eris last night, I discovered today that I knit them on a US 5, and not a US 6 circular needle.
Who needs gauge anyway?
So at lunch, I ripped and picked up stitches, and I'm not even sure I did that right, and I haven't got the markers back on the needles yet and I have an utterly ginormous ball of red yarn that I unwound and, and ... I get to enjoy the cabled raglan increases all over again tonight.
Yes. I'd like some cheese with that whine, thank you very much.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Olympic knitting continues apace

While the Fool regales you with tales of hats and socks, I'm slogging along on Eris. I had a small amount of the collar knitted, but it lay dormant for a while. So that became the Knitting Olympics project, especially as in good conscience, I can't start anything with so many UFOs lying around.
Below, that's the collar looked like after some car knitting on the way to Cincinnati.
There's a tricky bit in the middle where you have to pick up stitches from left to right to knit the second half. After you do it and tear it out three times, it's not so hard.

Last night was the third men's knitting night, which happened to coincide with Valentine's Day. We're not so much for celebrating holidays because Hallmark tells us to, and besides, I believe that all the flowers and chocolate on Feb. 14 won't make up for being a dillweed the other 364 days of the year, but that said ....
Several of my coworkers thought the Fool was crazy for making any plans on V-Day that didn't include me, (actually, he's on the phone with his mom now, and I can tell she's berating him) but I didn't mind. I got some dinner, watched some TV and spent a quiet night knitting.
But I was still very pleased when I came home and found this on the table:

I can't wait to get back to socks....

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Men Knit 3

Tonight's meeting, though slightly smaller than our last, proved no less enjoyable. Aidan and I were the first people to show up, and a fellow named Leif joined us later. Aidan stayed away from the hibiscus tea, opting for an orange Rooibos, and I took a pot of white tea. Leif ordered a cup of something, though I'm not sure what it was.

Aidan knitting his asymmetrical wrap. It's for his son's fundraising auction. Nice socks, by the way!

Leif working on a cabled camouflage scarf. When he's done, he'll be able to hide in the forest quite well.

Me in my flying spaghetti monster hat. Actually, they are strands for the braid Aidan later helped me with.

Tonight was simply one of those evenings where I kept screwing my projects up. I had thought that the hat would lend itself to a nice, easy finish. Instead, I misread the directions and threaded a whole bunch of strands into the top that ended up being too short. On the train ride home, I screwed up my duplicate stitching again and had to rip out all of the progress I had made.

And I forgot to bring a copy of Rachael Ray's magazine to stab with our knitting needles. Next time.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Knitting Olympics Update: UFO Fest

This weekend, over 4000 knitters picked up their needles to cast on for the 2006 Knitting Olympics. Alas, I was not one of those knitters. Instead, I'm taking this opportunity to finish three UFOs from my ancient knitting past. I suppose this should make me a participant in the UFOlympics, but I didn't sign up in time, and, well, the Yarn Harlot's just seems better for some reason, even though I am technically breaking the rules.

The hat so far has received the most attention. Originally an annoying pattern by FiberTrends that has somewhat tarnished my ability to love knitting cables, I have converted it into a chart (twice, as I lost one of them). This is my third attempt at knitting it. The first one involved me modifying the pattern to use a provisional cast-on to join the ends instead of sewing them up. After realizing this wouldn't work, as I only knew how to graft stockinettely, I frogged. (I have since learned how to graft any kind of knitting together, including cable crossings, so, um, grrr...) About 5 repeats through the second attempt, I realized that the hat was going to be vertically enormous, even when folded up. So I frogged again, eliminated about 10 stitches from the pattern, and the third attempt is the incarnation you see here. I actually just bound this off and am about to pick up stitches around the top of the hat. I bet I will be done with this by Tuesday evening, assuming that we have a set of size 6 dpns at home...

The argyle socks are slowly but surely being crossed with duplicate stitch. A word of warning to anyone who wants to duplicate stitch fabric: do not attempt to duplicate stitch loosely-knit fingering weight black yarn. It will drive you up a tree. In retrospect, intarsia would have been easier, but I wanted to keep that part as simple as possible since this was my first intarsia project.

The challenge is going to be to get Fiesta Feet done in the time left. Right now, that's 13 days, and the clock keeps ticking. I figure I'll be able to do this if I can get the hat and argyles done by the 16th, possibly even the 18th. If they come in much later than that, I think I'm screwed, as all I have finished are the cuffs (one isn't even complete yet). I had said long ago that I was going to use the purple for the main color and various color scraps for the variegated yarn. That is still my plan, though I'm not sure exactly how it is going to pan out.

It's going to be a bumpy ride, so fasten your seat belts!

A Great Weekend

We had a great time in Cincinnati this weekend. We left home on Saturday morning, taking turns driving so that each of us could get time to work on our projects for the Knitting Olympics. Our first stop was Lambikins Hideaway, located in the merry village of Hamilton. It has that lived-in feeling to it, which both Meg and I love. The shopkeepers were wonderful to talk with, and two of them were working on their Olympic projects as well. The world feels so much smaller when you meet fellow Olympic knitters. We bought some nice sock yarns, too, but I didn't get out the camera to photograph them yet.

Our next stop was local Saturday night contra dance, our main reason for driving to Cincinnati. We were at the top of our game, and the dancers loved us. The caller gave us lots of information about each dance which enabled us to pair them with appropriate tunes easily (much like pairing wine with cheese). We had lots of fun, and I hope they have us back in the future.

After staying with some wonderful hosts in nearby Park Hills, the next morning we made a pilgrimage to Jungle Jim's International Market. If you've never been to Jungle Jim's, you have to promise yourself to visit if you are ever in the Cincinnati area. It's quite an experience! We stocked up our pantry with various hard-to-find goods and headed back towards Chicago.

The whole weekend was filled with patchy snow storms that would come with a fury and then completely disappear within minutes. I think this must have caused rapid freezing and thawing near Lowell, Indiana, because we got caught in traffic there, just before a nasty patch of black ice. I believe the state police temporarily shut down the highway to salt the roads, so we ended up getting into town a bit late. We opted to skip going home and instead went straight to the WHPK radio studio (we do a Celtic music show on Sunday nights). Instead of bringing our music from home this week, we dug into the fabulous collection of Celtic music at the studio. It was a blast! We got to play a lot of Irish music LPs from the early '80s and got exposed to some great albums we hadn't heard before.

I topped off Sunday night by finishing Rosemarkie! I don't have a photo of it because Meg wasn't feeling photogenic, so instead I've brought you the next best thing:

Anyone want to take a guess at what this is/was?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fair Isle is contagious

... and I, who was content to happily knit Aran things with twisty cables, felt the urge to take up a Fair Isle project. I turned to a book on hats by Anna Zilboorg, which I like for two reasons - they're small, and they're weirdly shaped.
I learned that Anna's not so much into writing lengthy directions. It took me four tries, a spate of really undignified pouting and several running starts to figure out exactly where she meant for the various increases and decreases to go. At least the repeated frogging gave me a chance to get my tension right.
Blocking something like this presents an entirely different set of problems. The top of the hat is pentagonal and it's got that funky point on it which is not shaped anything like any ironing board I have. The very top is unblocked, which I need to fix, because it's also a little corrugated.
Anyway. I present to you a pentagonal hat from "45 Fun and Fanciful Hats to Knit" by Anna Zilboorg. The yarn includes two colors of Cascade 220, a little bit of Merino Style and some Wool of the Andes, dyed by me, using logwood purple, a natural dye extract.
I present it to you atop the Fool's head, because the hat suits his long face better than my face.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


There it is! Rosemarkie in the process of being blocked. Spoot, our dear tabby cat, is peeking over my shoulder to see what I am doing.

This is what it looked like this morning. The hat came along in the middle of the night to keep the vest company. Now all we need is Meg to model everything. I can hardly believe that it is 99% done. Just some steeks to tack down and several buttons to sew on.

This morning, I went back to knitting up the first Leaf and Tendril sock on the train. I have to admit, I missed toting around the bulky vest in my bag, even as the sock pattern came back to me quickly.

In the microwave line today, some fellow who had obviously seen me knitting before decides to start up conversation with, "Gee, have you been working on that sock all winter long?" Yeah, that big vest that I had on US 1s? I wasn't actually knitting it; I was merely staring at it in the hopes that it would grow. Even if it had taken me all winter to knit half a sock, what kind of conversation starter is that? That's essentially like saying, "Gee, that's taking you forever!" So I made an executive decision to not engage in conversation with this guy by simply answering, "No." After several more equally probing questions of this nature (followed by equally terse responses), he took the hint. He even left our microwave line for the other one!

Some people comment about what I'm doing to the person sitting or standing next to them instead of me, essentially pretending that I can't hear them. They are generally comments (like "I'd never have the patience to do that"), but sometimes they are questions phrased as open-ended statements. "I wonder how long it takes to knit a sock" is code for, "I'm curious about how long it takes you to knit a sock, so if you want to speak up and tell us, that'd be great!" Another one is "They say that knitting is meditative." The real question is subtle. "Do you find it meditative? Have you heard this before?" Seriously, folks. I'm a nice guy, I speak English, and I promise I won't bite if you address me (even if you are the aforementioned person in the microwave line).

The best comment I've ever received about my knitting was from my dentist. He walks into the office, and I am sitting on the dentist's chair, knitting and waiting patiently. After the usual friendly greeting, he exclaimed, "You wouldn't believe how many male patients sit here and knit while they wait for me to show up!"

Monday, February 06, 2006

The 2006 Knitting Olympics

Well, I was going to knit a baby sweater with a hamster on the back for the 2006 Knitting Olympics, but it didn't seem like quite enough of a challenge. Sure, I've never knitted a baby sweater before, but 16 days, even with intarsia, just seems like a little too much free time. So at the suggestion of Meg, I will now be finishing my languishing UFOs. This includes the cabled and bobbled hat, the argyle socks, and Fiesta Feet. It may also include the Leaf and Tendril socks if I plow these three quickly. Since these projects are already cast on, the rule is that I cannot work on them until the flame is lit on Opening Night. This will be good, I think. Some of these projects have been languishing for a long time and need to be finished off.

Rosemarkie is almost done. I've finished the front band and one of the arm bands, and the other band I'm currently picking up. Once the bands are done, I will wash and block it, trim and cross-stitch the steeks, and sew the buttons on. It's in bad need of blocking as it looks more like a pile of colorful yarns than a sweater.

We were reunited with the Celtic Collection last night at the radio station (I was a doofus and left it there last week). After Meg smacked me with the book (paperback, fortunately), all was forgiven.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Oh, and I finished some socks.

The yarn is On Line, color 766. I got it at Stitches Midwest. The socks were done on #1s, with a 3x1 ribbing on the cuff and stockinette stitch through the foot. I finished them in the studio at WHPK, hence the environmental shot of me with my feet up on the table next to the control board.

My dad has this saying

He liked to use it on those days when everything he set out to do went wrong and ended up making even more work.
"Everything I touched turned dark brown and lumpy," he'd say, defeated, at lunch.
Had one of those nights knitting on Tuesday. I went to a class Monday night at a yarn store near my office on how to finish knitting - seaming, that kind of thing. The instructor was terrific, and when we all started talking about knitting in general, she mentioned that she liked to take sweater patterns that were written out and draw them on graph paper when it came to charting armholes and necklines.
Hooray, thought I, that is just what I will do with this vest I'm knitting for the Fool that is making my brain hurt. So on Tuesday, I came home and hauled out the graph paper and tape and a pencil and an extra eraser and merrily charted away, even writing in part of the cable chart. Then I started knitting.
When I paused to admire my work, I noticed that I'd randomly crossed the cables a couple more times in no relation whatsoever to the pattern.
Disgusted, I put the vest down until it was ready to behave itself, and I picked up a Fair Isle hat I started last weekend. It's from Anna Zilboorg's book on crazy hats and I figured a hat was a small and sane enough Fair Isle project to start with.
I was working on a round with increases in it ... and when I got to the end, I had six stitches left on the needle and one left on the pattern and no idea how it all happened.
I put the hat down next to the vest so they could both think about what they had done.
And I picked up my sock. And promptly dropped a stitch. Which I tried to ladder back up, except it was a purl stitch and I fixed it as if it were a knit stitch, as it was getting late and I was Knitting While Stupid and I decided I didn't care about the dumb knitting anyway and nobody was ever going to see this one dumb stitch in dumb variegated yarn on the dumb sock cuff and ... blagh.
I went to bed.
Short story long, I tinked four rows of the vest on Wednesday. Last night I fixed the hat. I still don't care enough about the sock cuff to fix it, although I really didn't mean to refer to Lorna's Laces sock yarn as "dumb variegated yarn." I love knitting with that yarn.