Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In which I distract you from my slackerhood with Interspecies Love.

I seem to have come down with a moderate case of false-startitis.

The symptoms?
  1. Remember how WAY back when, I asked for color advice for a Two-Tone Shrug for my sister? Yeah. I chose a nice dark red, then got about five rows into it before i decided I was totally bored. She'll be getting a cuter than cute hat instead.

  2. I got most of the way through a super thick, squishy log cabin sock in Lamb's Pride Bulky before I remembered Katie's dad can't wear wool. Where is my brain?

  3. I was going to design the world's loveliest cabled scarf for my Dad, but I think I started too late. I gave it several tries, but nothing looked the way I wanted it to. Given more time I'm sure I could pull it off, but for now he'll be getting a seed stitch scarf instead. Classy and simple. (And unphotographed. Sorry.)

The cause? It pains me to say it, but all that knitting mojo I'd accumulated just drained out of me in an instant: I left myself logged into flickr on Katie's computer, and The Super Surprise Xmas Thing is a Surprise no more. I almost cried. I hardly have the heart to finish seaming. But it will still be beautiful and appreciated and loved... just not a surprise. Damn it.

In the meantime, there's one thing I have managed to commit to: Yes, predictably enough, our "foster cat" pretty quickly became our "oh my goodness, you're a kitty! yes you are! my fuzzy little dumpling cat...". He'll be staying around.

Not exaggerating. Best Cat Ever.

My one hesitation was that he was completely freaked out (and I have the claw marks to prove it) by Maya's incessant, pushy brand of affection. But this is what I found when I came downstairs this morning. Notwithstanding that someone isn't actually supposed to be on the couch at all, this is serious progress -- he'll be sleeping on her head before long.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Red and white and warm all over

Somehow, in between the cooking and the houseguests and the visiting of many Portlandy institutions* and the lots and lots of sleeping, I whacked these out over the long weekend and I looooooorve them.

(4 FOs in a week? Who is this knitter inhabiting my body, and can she stick around for the next, oh, 27 days?)

Ze Hat:
Pattern: Koolhaas, by Jared Flood, in IK Holiday Gifts 2007
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk Aran, color #11, 2 balls
Needles: US6 and 8 metal dpns
Mods: I followed the directions for the Women's size, but only did 7 rounds of ribbing, and omitted round 7 of the crown shaping, both because of yardage fears and the lofty, almost bulky weight of this yarn though which made my gauge a bit bigger than the pattern gauge. It worked out just fine: the hat fits perfectly and I had less than a yard of yarn leftover.

This yarn is fuzzy, and so the traveling twisted stitches aren't as crisp in this hat as in most other versions I've seen, but the thickness of it means they still stand out well -- the little recessed diamonds are extra deep and shadowy. Plus, you can't beat this stuff for softness. (cough It's on closeout at WEBS cough)

Ze Meeetens:
Herringbone Mittens (pdf), by Elli Stubenrauch (elliphantom.com)
Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Hollyberry, 1 skein
and Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted in Aran, less than 1/2 a skein.
Needles: US 4 and 6 bamboo dpns
Mods: None, except omitting the poms.

This pattern is awesome. Simple, well written, easy to memorize, and way, way cute. I see more mittens in my future. I found the yardage to be very generous -- I got away with half of what the pattern calls for. YMMV, though, because my colorwork tends to be extra tight. And for reference? The Hollyberry is almost exactly the same shade as the Alpaca Silk.

Also a nice complement to a Rhode Island Red, if you've got one around.

*Powell's, Armory Theater, Japanese Garden, Nicholas' Lebanese Restaurant, KnitPurl, The Lightbulb Lady, Amnesia Brewing, The Meadow, The Spare Room, Montage, Tin Shed. All highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Three small pretty things

I was just noticing that the single sock was my only FO since September, and thinking, "what kind of slacker knitter am I?", when suddenly two little O's were magically effed in one weekend.
I don't have much of an extended family: only two first cousins, both adopted. (This is what happens when your mom is an only child, your dad's brother was gay and died of AIDS, and his sister is a DES daughter.) Since Katie is siblingless and my sister swears up and down she'll never have kids, my niecephew outlook is similarly bleak. But! The adorable man whom Katie has known since babydom and is practically her brother is becoming a poppa in December.

Dudes, this is the closest I may ever get to having a niece. Ergo, Shedirlette! I followed these directions for babyfication, though to my untrained eye it looks more infant than newborn sized. I used roughly half a skein of Calmer leftover from Fifi.

Second in the lineup, proof that boring knits can be pretty.

Ignore that yarn tail for the moment. I can't find my tapestry needle.

This scarf was a request from a friend, and the yarn he chose is heavenly -- 4 balls of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Flamme in Serge -- but I have to admit it had me a bit stymied at first. I had all sorts of great ideas, but none of them seemed to fit the solid color and drastically thick and thin texture. With reassurances from the recipient that "simple is fine, really", I ended up with plain old 2x2 rib, and you know what? I love it.

Finally, the third soft pretty thing that's hanging out at my house these days:

We signed up to be a foster pet family, and this is the first little fellow to come home with us. He didn't come with a name, so we've been calling him Helo. They were going to euthanize him because they said he was unfriendly, difficult to manage, and wouldn't use a litterbox, none of which have proved even remotely true.

He is, however, hard to get a decent picture of, because he literally spends 90% of his waking hours doing this:

I'm going to have a hard time when he has to leave.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

139 days (It's a leap year.)

I just ordered the last of the yarn I need for Xmas projects, as well as a post-holiday project that I've been scheming about for months, now... and with that, I begin my fast. Hear me now, believe me later: I will not buy any new yarn until April 1st.

I know, I know, Gail, I said March, but after reviewing the evidence, April should be no problem. Don't you worry about me.

Here's what I've got either on the needles or awaiting a mate:

Details? Clicky clicky.

(Plus, of course, the Super Secret Xmas Thing, which is rapidly nearing doneness.)

Then we have yarn with a precise and imminent purpose:

Details? All will be revealed in the fullness of time.

(Plus what I just ordered -- a scarf and a sweater's worth.)

See? Piece of cake, right?

It wasn't actually this stock-taking that spurred me to temporarily swear off the LYS -- quite the reverse. It's just money is a little tight and I thought to myself, "Self, prolly we should hold off on the yarn-buying for awhile, eh? Maybe a few months even. I mean look at all these things we have lined up already." Once I looked, there was more than I'd reckoned. So this is more queue busting that stash busting.

After all, I'm not much of a stasher. Once we take away the leftovers from old completed projects, and the yarn bought with a specific project in mind (see above), we're left with this.

Oh, Shibui. What am I going to do with you?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Beating the blues.

Thank you so much for all the tips, y'all! Besides getting advice, it's nice to be reminded that I'm not alone in my winter blues. It seems that the coping mechanisms fall into two rough categories: First, guarding against depression by making your body healthier and happier (light, exercise, sleep, healthy food). These were the ones that I had mostly anticipated. The second category though, I tend to neglect: making a point of ENJOYING the winter. Maybe this should have been obvious because I don't actually dislike winter itself, just the way it saps my energy. So yeah. Here's to attending to the good stuff: fires, cider, soup, and obviously handknits.

In that spirit, 3 more things that are making me happy:

1. Organizing and pretty-fying my house. Every time I walk into this room I think, "Wow. I love my life."

2. Crafting with the ladies of said house. In the organizing craze, I tackled the basement as well. It's where the TV lives, since I have a deeply ambivalent relationship with the television and won't allow it in the living room. But the basement had also become the bottomless pit of Un-unpacked Shit. So I finally spiffed it up a bit and now, although not as cute as the upstairs, it's perfect for making stuff while watching stuff.

There's The Lady painting*, yers truly working on a pretty but very boring scarf, and our new housemate Ronica, sewing lavender stuffed eye pillows. Mmmm.

3. The interweb! I love my sock, Elinor loves her sock, y'all are out there making stuff and telling me about it and it's all just so awesome. And on that note, the random number generator (actually random, since it's based on atmospheric noise... so cool) picked number 23, so Kath, check your email!

*Speaking of which, go check out her latest painting in her etsy shop. It's our first joint project!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A very merry unblogthday, to me (and you)!

I've had a shitty couple of weeks. Don't worry, nothing serious -- neither I nor anyone in my immediate family is dead, destitute or seriously ill. Just work, bills, weather, and a minor breakdown where I realized I've been neglecting really important parts of my life. But it was the necessary kind of freakout and I felt better almost immediately afterwards. By last night I was 100% back in the saddle, and here's why:

First, I finished this.

I'm pretty sure that this is the Best Sock I've Ever Knit. It's on its way to a friend who lives 1813 miles away, and will knit up the second sock herself. I'm a little afraid that it will be too big, but I tried a needle size down and that was definitely too small. Fingers crossed!

Speaking of friends (oh, I am so FUNNY), this arrived yesterday, and is the second reason for my return to happytown. You have spoiled me rotten, Leslie. Thank you!!!

Thirdly, we're selling my Subaru wagon and have bought what is, if possible, the only dykier vehicle: an old compact pickup. Please welcome Smurfette to the family.

I don't know if I'm blinking or squinting or what, but don't let it confound the fact that I LOVE HER. She's cute, she's practical, and she's old enough to drink.

Lastly, rounding out the list of Good Things, yesterday was my 1st blogthday! I worried a little when I first started this blog, that I was just doing it to feed my ego. But you know what? That's not why I've stuck with it, at all. Sure, it's awesome to get positive feedback about a project, but heart of it is that I feel more pride and joy and love for this craft, and the people who practice it, every single day. There, I did it. I got all sentimental on your collective ass. And to thank you for being here and putting up with my maudlin self, what else but a contest??

So, because my streak of good vibes can only last so long in this sweet gray city I call home, I want you to tell me your tips and tricks for keeping your chin up through the winter. I don't have full-fledged SAD, but I do have a rough time of it most years. Comment by midnight on Monday the 5th, and you'll be entered in a random drawing to win a delicious yarny prize, which I have yet to photograph, but I will, by the weekend for sure. But take my word for it, it is delicious, and it is yarny.

ETA: See, I told you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Quick, cozy and purple.

Every time I looked at Pam's gorgeous fall photo (which was often), I found myself wanting, nay needing some fingerless mitts, and fast. Faster than I was realistically going to finish that second Endpaper. (Yeah, remember that?)

This pair is actually for The Lady, as they're more her color than mine, and I'll whip up another pair for myself soon.

The Dirt:
Hand/Wrist Warmers, by Joelle Hoverson in Last Minute Knitted Gifts. (Also excerpted online here.
Yarn: Cascade 220, not sure which color, at most 1/2 a skein.
Needles: US 6
Mods: 8 rows seemed too small for the thumb slit, so I did 12 instead. When I make these again, I think I'll try 10 rows, as these are tad large.

Katie loves them, and knitting them was a snap. Highly recommended for all sorts of outdoor fall activities. Like teaching your middle-aged dog new tricks.

High five. No... well, yes, that's the peanut butter. High five. High five!!

ps. Thanks for the input re: knitting in class. I think y'all are right -- I should either ask or just not knit. I've only done it twice so far and frankly I'm not even sure she's noticed, but I'm still thinking I'll go with the latter. Couldn't hurt to take more copious notes anyway.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Trying to avoid being a heel.

I started my Microbio class a couple weeks ago, meaning that I don't get home until after nine two nights a week, which is totally harshing my mellow, man. It's also cutting into my already not that frequent TV-knitting time, so it's all but a miracle that I've made it halfway through the heel of the Bee.

Which I'm still loving, btw. I wasn't sure about the Pond Scum for this pattern, but it turns out it looks like twisty tangly vines. Awesome.

The other good news is that Thing Three is cranking right along, despite being a commute-only knit, for secrecy's sake. Well, commute and class. Which brings me to my dilemma, a propos of which I want to conduct a little informal survey: Is it ever acceptable to knit in class? I know some of you folks teach -- would you be offended if someone were knitting during your lectures? In this specific case, it's a class of about 50 people, I sit at the back, keep my knitting in my lap, frequently pause to take notes, and am engaged in discussion when there is any. In other words it's nearly all review so far and I'm arm-gnawingly bored, but I think I hide it pretty well. The prof is a nice lady and I don't want to be rude. I thought of just asking her if she minds but that feels weird somehow too, like it's making it a bigger deal than it is... Thoughts?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Kicking off the 'fest.

What better way to start Socktoberfest than with one sock finished and one begun?

I don't think the Twisted Tweed will be getting a mate for a good long while. It's soft and beautiful and I love the pattern and everything, but there's so much else on my plate right now.

Chief among which, of course, is Drunken Bee. Jesus H. Crackers how much do I love this pattern? So much. Much more than before I started knitting it, which was already a lot. The chart was much easier to learn than I had feared, and the result is mesmerizing -- you sort of can't take it in all at once, so your eye just keeps moving, which is one of my favorite qualities of any piece of art.

In fact, I like it so much I'm having a hard time working on anything else.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I sewed!

I think I got turned off of sewing for a while after I finished Plainspoken. Although I love that quilt, and it has a nice prominent place in our house, I just didn't have the tools or the time to make it as nice as I wanted it to be. So my (er, technically Katie's) little machine sat unused for a bit.

Then I realized maybe I just needed to bite off a little less at a time. Enter the One Evening Project.
Oilcloth Lunchbag!

Katie started school last week, so I figured she needed something to make her classmates jealous keep her lunch in.

This only took an hour or two, despite my less than amazing skills, lack of a walking foot, and the fact that these two characters were harassing me the entire time.

If I do my one and only trick maybe you will take me outside?

See how I'm gazing towards the window? I am very subtle.

They can be kinda distracting. So, yeah, don't look too closely at the stitches or anything, but this is a totally useful and very satisfying little project.

The pattern is here (identical print totally unintentional), and I found it via My Half of the Brain, which if y'all aren't reading yet, you should really check it out. That's also where I found this nifty little tutorial, which has me thinking about hand sewing... and maybe hand quilting... and what's that? Smaller bites? I'm sure I never said anything of the kind.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Came for the yarn, stayed for the fluffy bunnies.

This Sunday, we caught the tail end of the Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival -- my first time at such a yarny, fibery, ungulate-filled event. I loved it.

I harbor some not-necessarily-all-that-harebrained fantasies about being a nurse, working a couple shifts a week, and having a little farm with chickens and goats and alpaca.

I mean really. How can you resist such a fluffy beast? (Not to mention the fiber obtained therefrom.)

This dude actually came within inches of following us home. The ANGORA! And the cute! Alas, we caved at the last minute to the notion of wise deliberation and forethought, blah blah blah.

Here's what did follow us home:

If I'm ever going to have that alpaca farm, I have to learn to spin, right? I figured I'd better start small, in case I totally hate it.

My virgin voyage to the land of STR (across a scummy pond, apparently). Oh, yes, my pretty, I have plans for you already.

ps. More OFFF pics here, including a real live yak and camel.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Eye Candy Friday: Farmers Market Edition

I like looking at foods second only to eating them.

Have a good weekend, y'all! I'll be spending mine recovering from a very long week by sleeping, looking at bodies, and *gasp* sewing. If it's not entirely disastrous I might even show you the results. (Of the sewing part.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

FO: Fifi pour Maman

Apologies for the artificial light; it was nighttime when we celebrated Mom's birthday, and believe me, no one else I know could model this. She's wery leetle, my mozzehr. See how the lightswitch is at shoulder height?

She's also in ridiculously good shape. Seriously, she's about 63.2% of my size and could probably kick my ass, if she ever took the notion into her head. She doesn't really like showing off the guns though, so she doesn't wear tank tops or cap sleeves much. I assumed she'd wear Fifi under a jacket or shrug or something, but she opted to wear it over a long sleeve shirt instead.

I think it actually works pretty well.

The dirt:

Pattern: Fifi, by French Girl Designs
Yarn: Rowan Calmer, in "Chiffon", ~3.5 balls. I have no idea how I used so much less than everyone else who made this size, but I'm not complaining. Extra Calmer = Shedir!
Size: Followed directions for 33.5" bust, but at tighter gauge -- I got 6 spi in stockinette.
Needles: US7
Modifications: I added several inches to the length, but other than that it's pretty much by the book. I did lose the pattern a couple repeats into the bias rib section of the torso, so I had to make that one up from what I could remember -- I can see where the change is, but I don't think anyone else can, and both methods look fine.

This shot is 100% candid and I love it. Props to The Lady.

My thoughts on this pattern? Well, since I'm a strong believer in the Good-Bad-Good method of criticism, here goes: As far as the Big Picture, I love everything about this top. The shape of the sleeves, the staggering of the cables, the clear contrast between the yoke and the rest of the torso, yet with the continuity of that one central cable. It's great.

When we get down to the details, however, it just doesn't all come together as cleanly as I'd like. Sure, there were the errata, but since I sort of only kept one eye on the pattern anyway, I didn't even notice and just did what made sense, which was, of course, what the pattern should have said to begin with. But also, where the cables are staggered, the spacing isn't consistent or symmetrical. To correct this would have required changing the spacing of the cable twists throughout the whole garment (which coincidentally would have made the cable repeat and the bias rib repeat line up MUCH better, but that's another issue entirely), so I left it alone. No harm done really. Just my spatial, mathy side grumbling a little.

All that said, besides being cute in general, this thing is so precisely my mom's style that I can't be unhappy about it. I'm chalking this one up as a win.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"One, two, three... [Chomp.] Ah-three."

You know how sometimes you're working on something and you promise yourself you won't cast on anything new until it's done, but then it ends up taking a bit longer than planned, so that you have ample time to dream about all the many things you could be knitting if you could just finish that one damned project, and then when you finally do finish it you turn around and find you've cast on for three things in 24 hours?

Yeah, me too.

These are Things One and Two: Charade in Louet Gems Sport and Twisted Tweed in Trekking. I generally go in for intricate, lacy socks, but lately I've had a hankering for something simple and eminently wearable. Still, I couldn't decide which of these two somethings to start first -- I was actually feeling some non-trivial tension over it. WTF? I knit for fun, remember? What is the Liberation Movement for, anyway, if not to remind us that this is our craft and we can do whatever the hell we feel like with it, whether that means knitting one sock or three? Onto the needles they both go. I'm actually not finding myself all that enamored with either of these yarns, though I do love the colors (and of course, the patterns).

Speaking of three, Thing Three is top secret; Xmas knitting has begun! My sincere apologies to the Ravelry-less, but a certain The Lady is among your number, and it's the best place I can think of to keep things from her prying eyes.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Since last we spoke...

I've been busy.

We tackled the next round of renovations: knocked out some walls, rebuilt some other walls, and added a bathroom to the upstairs. (Yes, we got some professional help for this part.)

I married two of my best friends from high school. (Yes, i get a huge kick out of the fact that "marry" is both a monotransitive and a ditransitive verb. As in, "The Oregon constitution won't even let me marry The Lady, but I married two people this weekend!"*)

I spent a lovely weekend at my friend Lara's parents' place on the North Umpqua River. (Yes, Lara's dog Gypsy looks just like Bailey. But with one blue eye!)

I also fell even more in love with our friend Vaden, a little fellow with a temperament as sweet as his vocabulary is enormous. How many 2.5 year olds do you know who say "Stella, you should turn around, the water behind you is so pretty. Can we go down to the river's edge?" THE RIVER'S EDGE. This boy kills me dead.

Then I came home and felted my beautiful yarn. Ugh.

Just to twist the knife a little harder, the unfelted parts look like this:

Still nice and shuzzy, and a really amazing shade of coppery brown. Note to self, and anyone else who might be embarking on their virgin dyeing excursion: Use a pot large enough to stir the yarn freely, or else some parts of the water will get significantly hotter than others. Also, don't make your first attempt with yarn you really love.

It's not actually quite as bad as that first picture makes it appear -- I might still knit up a swatch and see what it looks like. Nevertheless, I feel very very stupid and disappointed.

On a happier note, Fifi is finished (actually finished, as of this writing, not missing a wee bit of sleeve as in the picture). Full FO report to come next week when I get modeled shots from the birthday girl (my mama).

* Uh, actually those are both monotransitive... but you get my drift.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Eye Candy Friday: I do still drool over yarn.

The drooling doesn't cut into my reading time much.

This was the only thing I actually asked for for Xmas last year: a whole pound of Henry's Attic Andromeda. It's luscious and wonderful and a good deal, being undyed and unskeined, but damned if I was going to wind it into hanks by hand. So I put it away and forgot about it for awhile, and then finally...

... I broke down and got myself a Mama Bear Swift. I like it because it's good for both winding and unwinding.

I love this stuff even more now that it's off the cone. It's a 50/50 worsted wool-silk blend, very similar to Lorna's Laces Lion & Lamb, or Sundara's Aran Silky Merino. (In fact, I feel like I heard somewhere that this is the base yarn Sundara uses... but I could be totally making that up.)

But seriously. How can anything be so simultaneously shiny and fuzzy? (Shuzzy, if you will.)

Next week: I try my hand at dyeing. Figure I'd better make a mess of the kitchen before we get around to remodeling it.