Sunday, December 31, 2006

My year of sweaters

In these final hours of 2006, which Mr. Strange and I are spending quietly at home, I find myself sitting on the couch (with my laptop!!!), sipping on a fine brew (Sebago Brewing Company's "Frye's Leap IPA") and struggling to write my final post of the year. For some reason, I feel this pressure to say something meaningful.

Being a future-oriented thinker, I rarely spend much time looking back. That's not to say that I am immune to nostalgia or introspection. I just am constantly thinking about what's next. That said, I have to confess that if I were to characterize this past year, I would call it my year of sweaters, or rather I should call it my year of sweat, because, in the past 12 months, I have finished:

  • 17 Sweaters (all made for me, but one given away)
  • 7 Hats (5 for me!)
  • 5 Pair of Socks (all for me!!)
  • 1 Kate the Kitty (for a friend)
  • 1 Nautie (for a friend)
  • 1 Pumpkin (yeah, me)
  • 1 Vest (me)
  • 1 Dog Sweater (Zippi)
  • 2 Sheep Ornaments (one for a friend and one for me)

(I'm feeling more than a bit selfish.....)

Notice that I am not counting things that I have cast on and abandoned or frogged, like the Sunburst Pullover, Ivy or Pomatomus.

With the exception of the Titilating Tam that I knit for my MIL, the Fair Isle Pullover, and the Yoke Pullover from Vogue Knitting Winter 2005 (which I am wearing right now), they all appear in my newly updated knitting gallery. Speaking of the gallery, I've finally posted the pattern for the Casco Cabled Cap (see sidebar). Please let me know if you knit it - I'd love to see pics!

It comes as no surprise that I'm a little sweatered out and have been floundering for something to knit these days. Unfortunately, the only thing I really want to knit is the Land's End scarf, which has become a Dead End scarf.

It all started when I used some stash Malabrigo to write out the pattern and fell in love with the color and drape of the fabric it made (top swatch in photo below). Since then, I have started and stopped this scarf with 5 different yarns, all of which just don't measure up to the Malabrigo. Unfortunately, both of my LYS's that carry this yarn are out of the color I want ("Natural") and I can't even order it online because everyone (yes, I checked eBay) is out of stock. That said, the instant gratification factor has been driving me to seek out a readily available substitution. After the botched Encore attempt, I spent over an hour at Korner Knitters before Christmas, and after much fondling and deliberation, selected and set aside 8 skeins of Laines du Nord Dolly Maxi in a lovely cream color which Mr. Strange was kind enough to give me for a gift. Excitedly, I cast on, and row by row decided that it wasn't right. Too stiff. Too thick (second swatch). No drape. I know it looks fine, but trust me.I sampled some Patons Classic Wool and a no-label 2 ply merino/cashmere blend from my stash. Nope. All wrong. So yesterday, I took the remaining 7 skeins of the Dolly Maxi back to Korner Knitters and spent the next hour and a half hemming and hawing over the Malabrigo in "Shocking Pink" or "Geranio" vs. Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in a lighter than desired cream color. My friend Lori met me there and, after recovering from her own fit of yarn lust/color indecision, very patiently watched me waver and quaver and repeatedly change my mind. Finally, I chose the Debbie Bliss and as soon as I walked out the door knew that I had made the wrong choice!! It was so WHITE!! Oh No! Too embarrassed to go back in the store again, I brought it home, thinking that maybe it wouldn't look so WHITE in different light. Well, I got over the white thing, but I don't like the way it knits up. Contrary to what I expected, it's like knitting with cotton. It has no bounce. No stretch. It's stringy. It's mean yarn! My scarf looks malnourished! Waaaah!

I am so embarrassed! This is like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, only my locks are artificially enhanced and I had the one that was "just right" to begin with! Now I have to go back to the shop and get something else. I have temporarily put the dead end scarf on hold until I can get my hands on the "Natural" Malabrigo. (If you happen to notice that your LYS has 3 or 4 skeins of this color, please please please e-mail me!!!)

I'm thinking that I'd like to knit the "Here and There Cables" scarf from Scarf Style with the Reynold's Odyssey. I've been itching to knit with that yarn for ages and I have Christmas $$$ burning a hole in my pocket....

I have plenty of other things to keep me busy in the meantime. Behold my Christmas/Birthday knitting bounty:

Knitting books! A Boye Needlemaster Set! A Stitch'n Bitch Calendar! Vera Bradley zippered pouches for my little knitting notions! Yeah, I'm a lucky girl and yes, I did say birthday. It was Friday. Pooh. Glad it's over. You may notice that there are some needles missing from that set...

While casting about for something other than a sweater or scarf to knit, I remembered a felted sheep pattern I had:

I thought that this would be my last FO of 2006, but it looks like it will be the first of 2007. I know it's not the month of March, but I am hoping that it will induce January to arrive like a lamb.

I wonder why I keep knitting off-white things? How strange...

Despite always looking ahead, I don't make New Year's resolutions, but I do have a few changes I'd like to make next year:

  1. Blog regularly (hmmmm. I seem to remember starting every diary I ever had as a girl "Dear Diary, I am going to write every day....").
  2. Stop lurking and start commenting on other people's blogs (yes, I do it too).
  3. Use up stash (fabric and yarn).
  4. Read more (I used to read all the time before I took up knitting!).
  5. Knit for others.
  6. Pay off some stupid credit card bills.
  7. Get rid of stuff I don't use (yarn and fabric excluded).

Not very meaningful. Here's the real deal: I'm in the midst of my annual post-holiday birthday blues, which are bad enough all by themselves, but throw in the fact that Chloe's cancer has grown back and she is having surgery on Tuesday morning, and I'm not sure if it's the right thing to do, but if we don't it's only going to get worse, but it's going to get worse sooner or later no matter what, so it's hard to get excited about a new year when I know that sad things are going to happen, and I can't even decide what movie to rent at the video store, so it's no wonder I can't pick out yarn or what to knit.

Big {sigh}.

Really, truly. I would like to take a long winter's nap. Please wake me when it's over.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Diary of a Technophobe

This is my first post using my new laptop. EIIIIIEEEY! I can figure a lot of things out on my own, but let me just tell you that figuring out something as simple as flipping the bl**ping "wireless antenna on/off switch" took over an hour, and that's with my friend's brother-in-law on the phone providing well needed tech support. So far, posting photos are a bit beyond my capabilities, but the learning curve should improve once I get used to the idea. It is so nice to be able to sit comfortably on the couch and do this, especially since I don't have to wait for Mr. Strange to finish surfing weird websites about nuclear weapons and men who wear socks with sandals. (That's my guy).

Speaking of socks, I'm off now to start a new pair of socks using the Cherry Tree Glitter yarn in "Northern Lights" I got from Santa Mom. Photos soon!

Wireless rocks!

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Greatest Gift of All

Santa was very good to me this year, but the one gift I am most grateful to receive is to see my little girlie playing with wrapping and enjoying the festivities.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Gone to the dogs

This gal sure knows how to relax:

I wish I could just hide in a bag because ohmygosh it's almost time and there are so many things to get done and why do I do this to myself every single year?

When I haven't been shopping (did I ever tell you how much I dislike shopping for non-knitting related things?) I've been knitting, but don't have many photos to post because:

a) Mr. Strange had my camera for several days, and
b) when you finish knitting something at 11:30 pm to mail the next day, taking a photo is not the first thing that comes to mind. That said, here's what's been going on:

I knit the Titilating Tam, this time in the size Medium, with Malabrigo in black for my MIL. It is soft and I hope it fits. I think I would rather have it smaller, but her head is larger than mine. Oh well, if it doesn't fit, I'll knit her another one because it is in the brown as we speak.

The little sheep came out very cute and not at all pornographic. I added ears and a tail to the pattern and have started another using some Dale of Norway Tiur from stash but with black face and feet (Mr. Strange has not stopped making rude comments about this one).

In the meantime (time? who has time?!?), I am knitting my mom's little dog an aran sweater. Yes, you read that correctly. An aran sweater. In Lion Brand worsted, which is like knitting with yarn made from recycled plastic soda bottles. Why? Because, like a fool, when she got the little guy, I was so excited to knit him a sweater, but kept putting it off because he was still growing and she keeps asking for it. Arggh! Here is part of the telephone conversation I had with her this evening:

Me: How big is his neck?

Mom: Well his head is larger than his neck, I'll measure that.

Me: No, not his head, his neck. The neck will stretch to fit his head. I don't want to strangle him.

Mom: HOLD STILL! He's licking me! His neck is 7 inches. No 8 inches. No 7 and a half. He won't stop moving.

Me: OK, let's call it 8 because the pattern size is 8 and a half. How far is his neck from his legs?

Enter laughter from Mr. Strange

Mom: From the front of his legs or the back?

Me: His front legs. How far is it from his neck to the front of his front legs?

Mom: 2 inches, no 2 and a half...SIT STILL....I guess I would say 3 inches.

Me: OK, how big is he around the chest, at his ribcage?

Mom: ZIPPI STOP!! His chest? From his legs?

Me: Yes, how big around is he?

Mom: 11 inches I'd say.

Me: OK, now how far away from his neck is his wee wee?

Mr. Strange collapses in a fit of laughter

Mom: Well he's a very long little dog. That's the problem. SIT STILL! His wee wee is about 5 inches from his neck, but you know, I can always wash it if he pees on it.

Oh my, the things we do for those we love.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Crash and burn

I used to work with a young woman who was perpetually "exhausted". She went from one specialist to the next trying to find out why she was so tired all the time. Even after a battery of tests and procedures, it was a mystery why this 33 year old woman could barely stay awake. Here's the thing: she drank Mountain Dew and ate Pop Tarts every day for breakfast. For lunch she ate frozen appetizers and several jello cups. I can't even tell you what she ate after work, but I'm sure it involved sugar and starchy junk of some kind. Hello!!! Can you say malnutrition?? I'm telling you this because I finally figured out why I've been dragging around for the past few days. I have been eating way too many peanut clusters and potluck pasta meals. We won't even talk about the beer. I need a break! Sugar is evil! It whispers in your ear: "eat more, you're hungry, you know you want it, you deserve it, it's the holidays..." Humbug! Tomorrow I eat salad!

Oh, but you want to know if I've been knitting!

Coral Crossing re-blocked very nicely, but still didn't fit me properly so was given away to my friend Cathryn who wears it very well. Ahh. That's a relief!

I finished the longer version of the Cable Hat, and will post the pattern for both versions in my knitting gallery soon. Here's the long version, knit in Lamb's Pride Worsted.

As you can see, it covers my ears. On Mr. Strange it fits like the shorter version fit me. I will also add the directions for a version that will fit a larger head to cover ears. In honor of the fine body of water surrounding my little city, I'm calling it the "Casco Bay Cable Hat".

I must be on a cable kick, because I started a little aran sheep ornament I bought in a kit at Patternworks this spring. The finished product is supposed to look like this.
Mine, however, in it's pre-blocked state, looks like knitted porn. O'Keefe Sheep! {blush}

While browsing the Lands End catalog, I came across this scarf and fell in love. Their online catalog has a great feature where you can click on the image and zoom in so closely that you can actually count the stitches, which is what I did. This is my version, knitted up in the Malabrigo in color Natural. The really, really stupid thing is that I only have about 120 yards of this yarn. There isn't a snowball's chance in Jamaica that I can knit a 60 inch scarf with that amount of wool. A smart knitter would find another yarn. I am not a smart knitter. I am downright nuts. How else to explain why I keep going? I even went to the Halcyon Yarn store to find 2 more skeins, but they were out. I briefly considered buying another color, but changed my mind because (this is the really dumb part) they didn't have a swift and winder in the store and I was visiting my mom for the weekend and she doesn't have one either and I wanted to start knitting right away. So I bought 3 overpriced skeins of Encore in the same berry color I was attracted to in the Malabrigo. I knit 3 repeats (that's 48 rows) before coming to my senses. It's acrylic!! It wont block! It looked beautiful and felt cheezy. So, I continue to knit the scarf that can never be finished.

In an attempt to stay on the higher moral plane before the pilot makes an emergency landing, I will not rant about our office-party-from-hell, but I will show you the gift I made for our Yankee Swap. I didn't feel like spending money, so instead I spent 5 hours. Oh well. The whole time I was making it, I knew that it would be perfect for one woman in our office, whom I will call "Grace".In case you have never heard of this particular gift exchange, in the version we play, everyone brings in a gift with a $10 value. On the big day, each person draws a number. The person with #1 takes a present and unwraps it. The person with #2 has the option of stealing the gift from #1 or taking a different gift, and it goes all the way to the last number, with each person having the option of stealing from any of the previously opened gifts. At the end of it all, the person with #1 gets one more chance to steal from everyone else. Other people play it differently.

OK, the moral plane is going to lose altitude.

In our office, we had one spoiled brat who lost her gift (Grace stole it) and had to pick a new one. She pitched a fit and said, while opening it, "Great, just what I need, more Christmas crap!!" ~ It was a table runner with matching kitchen towels. We were all horrified. I felt so awful for the woman who brought the gift, (who, I found out later, was Grace). When it was my turn, I stole the gift from Grace who had to pick a new gift from under the tree. She just happened to pick my gift and was really pleased and no one stole it from her. Today she showed me a photo, taken with her cell phone, of it hanging on her door.

There is good karma out there somewhere.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Let the silly season begin

This is the first of what I am sure will be a month of spotty, lame-ass posts, so I apologize in advance. Not that anyone else has the time either! Here's my last week in a nutshell:

  • Monday: worked, shopped for HOURS looking EVERY where for the "perfect" fabulous outfit to wear to a big Christmas bash. Didn't find it. Watched "Heroes" and crashed on couch.
  • Tuesday: worked, went to Walmart (of all places) and found a passable top but kept looking anyway, went to Pilates, crashed on couch.
  • Wednesday: worked, shopped some more, looking for something better. Found some bling bling. Came home, posted on here and crashed on couch.
  • Thursday: worked, went to Pilates, altered top (which turned out to be fabulous after all), painted nails, crashed on couch.
  • Friday: worked, went to bash, danced all night and broke my groove thing (yeah yeah), crashed on my friend's couch.
  • Saturday: crashed on couch, went out for beer, crashed on couch.
Which brings me to today. I have not laid on the couch once today. In fact, I accomplished quite a bit; it must be Yankee guilt kicking in over all that sloth.

First, I finished weaving in all the ends on Coral Crossing. Ta da! Here it is. I'm a bit disappointed with the fit. It's bagging in some places, which I didn't expect because I knit it 2 inches smaller than my bust size. Oddly, one sleeve is looser than the other. Either I was angry knitting on one of them, or I blocked it too big.

Here's the back. See how it's baggy? I don't like that! Yes, I have a tattoo. It's a cat in a triangle with stars and a crescent moon and some swirley stuff. I was really into ancient female symbolism when I designed it about 12 years ago. I like it, but I forget that it's there. Anyway, about the sweater. I decided to re-block it. I was hoping to wear it to my quilting groups' annual Christmas party, but I really doubt it will be dry in time for next year's party. In the meantime, I started on the longer version of my cable hat and am about halfway there. As soon as I finish, I'll post the pattern . This one is in Lamb's Pride. Not as soft as the Malabrigo, but the color is pretty. I also managed to put away all the fall and Halloween decorations (how lame is that?) and cleaned my sewing room so that I could mess it up again. We have a "Yankee Swap" gift exchange at the quilt party, so I made this little wool applique pillow from a Buttermilk Basin pattern. After that, I went shopping for some toiletries to donate to the charity we are sponsoring at this years' party: "The Family Crisis Shelter" for battered women and children. I was feeling really crabby about having to go out, but then I reminded myself that I have everything I could ever possibly want, so I could at the very least spend some time and money on someone who doesn't. Gotta keep things in perspective. Speaking of perspective, most of my friends have agreed that we would much rather spend time together than shop for each other, so we are going to go out and celebrate the season instead. Who needs more stuff when it's time spend with those we love that really matters?

Gosh it's late! Time to go crash on the couch!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My Life. My Blog.

I have not knit a stitch since Sunday. Are you amazed? I'm a little stunned myself. Where did the time go? I am becoming deeply attached to the couch and my "bankie" these days....

Since I don't have anything interesting to show you from my knitting world, I thought I would share some secrets using this great meme I found here. I used this photo, rather than a self-portrait, because I feel like it capures the "real" me even though I was only 4. I'm still a fussy little thing, I still don't like to eat the bellies of steamed clams, and I have made that face so many times that it is permanently etched.

My "soundtrack" is just one song that I first heard while watching the movie "I've Heard the Mermaids Singing". I think it is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. Someone once used it for a television ad and I was apalled. Not to be morbid, but when I die, this is the music I hope to hear.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Tickled Pink

Wow! I can't believe how many days have passed without posting! I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving (if you celebrate). I, for one, have had my fill of pie for at least another 25 days...

When I arrived home on Friday morning, look what was waiting for me!!! Another package from my Secret Pal!. Hello Kitty Band-Aids (wrapped cleverly in a printout of this post). So cute!! A Hello Kitty notepad (how did she know that I am nuts for notepads?), Pretty variegated pink yarn, deep deep dark chocolate (ordinarily, it would be gone by now, but I'm feeling a little fat from feasting), and the cutest little sweater knit just for me (but not to wear)!! It's definitely going to be hanging on my tree this year! The sweater came with a copy of this post with a note that I could make teeny tiny sweaters when I get tired of the big ones. I love it all! Thanks so much for your thoughtfulness!

Knowing that I was going to be spending Thanksgiving with another knitter, I brought along another Soule Mama hat (pattern here) and finished it Friday morning while everyone slept. It being a bit chilly here these days, I've been wanting a new cream hat. Not just any hat though, the RIGHT hat. This wasn't the right hat, even though I like it (Gak! I need Botox!!!). For inspiration I turned to a store bought hat that I have (I know, but it was on sale). This is my version, worked in the Malabrigo color "natural". This yarn is so incredibly soft that I want to make pajamas out of it! OK, maybe just a big cozy sweater. I'll be posting the pattern in my knitting gallery soon, but first I need to knit a gauge swatch and try a longer version. This one comes just shy of covering my ear lobes. I haven't stopped wearing it since I finished. I like to wear hats in the house. I'm weird like that (our house is cold).I pretty much followed the pattern of the original hat, but I omitted the sequins. This crown is worked differently than usual for a cabled hat. Instead of decreasing gradually, all cables stop with a major decrease and, after several rows of stockinette, the remaining stitches are drawn together. I like the result. It reminds me of a starfish. Here's a comparison of the two. Even though my version looks smaller, they fit pretty much the same except for the length. The purchased hat has a fleece facing sewn inside the band. I was too lazy to do that. I'm still on the cream hat kick, though. I'm thinking I'll try Shedir next, especially after seeing this one by Pat (I'm assuming that's her name by the blog title - I found her post in the Fall Cable 2006 KAL.) In Pilates, there is a move called the Teaser (no that is not me demonstrating). It is one of the most challenging moves, mostly because it comes late in the series of mat exercises when you are already pretty tired. You start the move laying flat on your back and then, using your "powerhouse", you 'float' up into the posoition shown. Some days it works like a dream and you fold up like a piece of paper. Other days, it feels like your legs are made of lead. In knitting, this is a teaser.... (much easier)I've finished the neckline and one sleeve cap of Coral Crossing. A-l-m-o-s-t done. I had a lot of trouble sewing the set in sleeve this time until my friend Aimee recommended that I start at the center of the sleeve cap and shoulder seam. Ahhhh....such wisdom. It worked perfectly. Now I just have to do the other sleeve.
Just for giggles, I found this little quiz while cruising the Secret Pal 9 participant list yesterday and forgot to make note of whose blog I saw it on. Anyway, have fun.

You are the World

"I am the World, I am the Children......" sorry, makes me think of that song.

Completion, Good Reward.

The World is the final card of the Major Arcana, and as such represents saturnian energies, time, and completion.
The World card pictures a dancer in a Yoni (sometimes made of laurel leaves). The Yoni symbolizes the great Mother, the cervix through which everything is born, and also the doorway to the next life after death. It is indicative of a complete circle. Everything is finally coming together, successfully and at last. You will get that Ph.D. you've been working for years to complete, graduate at long last, marry after a long engagement, or finish that huge project. This card is not for little ends, but for big ones, important ones, ones that come with well earned cheers and acknowledgements. Your hard work, knowledge, wisdom, patience, etc, will absolutely pay-off; you've done everything right.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I can cook

Mr. Strange is in Virginia. This means 2 things:

  1. All the lights in the house are on.
  2. I ate popcorn for supper.

I'm also sampling a new brew (new to me at least): Sebago Brewing Company's "Slick Nick Winter Ale". Not too bad. A little sweet, but very seasonal.

I have not touched any knitting this evening. Instead I went grocery shopping for THE BIG DAY. The stores are amazingly quiet at 8:30 pm. No lines. No waiting. I feel like I have the best Thanksgiving plans ever: I'm going to an all girls pajama party Thanksgiving sleepover at my friend Lori's. My contributions to the feast are: Scalloped Sweet and White Potates in Maple Sage Cream Sauce, Green Beans with Bacon and Shallots, Mama Stamberg's Garlicky Cranberry Chutney (simmering cooling this very minute), and a large bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz. I'll let you know how the Chutney works out. I've made her Cranberry Relish before (it's very pink) for people who were not cranberry lovers. This crowd seems more open to new things.

Here's the recipe for the Green Beans. I've made this dish every year for 6 years, and every time I bring it to a dinner, it becomes a favorite. It's very easy and the ingredients are inexpensive!

Green Beans with Bacon and Shallots

from Bon Appetit, December 2000

2 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces

8 bacon slices, thinly sliced crosswise

3 Tbs Butter

2/3 cup finely chopped shallots (about 4 large)

Cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Rinse under cold water. Drain well. Pat dry with paper towels. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Wrap in paper towels; enclose in resealable plastic bag and refrigerate.)

Cook bacon in heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels and drain. Discard all but 3 tablespoons bacon fat in skillet. Add butter to skillet and melt over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until tender and golden, about 4 minutes. Add beans and saute until heated through, about 6 minutes. Add bacon to skillet and toss to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Serves 10.

Edited to add: The chutney is fan-freakin-tastic! Zowie! Hot! Yum! This is the kind of stuff you'll want to eat in a sandwich with leftover turkey or with cream cheese and crackers!

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Barbara Wa Wa Curse continues

After my last post I picked up CC to recover from the sock incident and discovered that I had accidentally cabled 3 times instead of two. Grrrr. Tink tink tink. But wait! There's more....

Yesterday I was at my mum's watching "Dr. 90210" (Dr. Ray is such a jerk) and forgot to increase on my last row before beginning the sleeve cap. I didn't discover it for another 20 rows....and no beer was involved! Spent my lunch break today frogging.

Maybe I shouldn't knit while watching bad televsion.

More time to post for "real" later this week. Busy busy days!

PS - My mum's dog is a Papillon. The picture I posted earlier was taken several months ago - he's now 8 months old and freshly neutered. He's still cute, but not in that pick him up and squeeeeze kind of way that he was before. And he barks. A lot. Nope, I'm not a dog person.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Power of Persuasion

After completing row 45 (out of 126) of Coral Crossing's second sleeve, I decided it was time to switch to Pomatamus, while half-watching Barbara Walter's "30 Mistakes in 30 Years". I only made one mistake and it took about 30 minutes to realize it. I just finished frogging all 6 rows I knit during the show.

Goodnight Barbara.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


For whatever reason, I am off my knitting game these days. It seems that the closer I come to finishing Coral Crossing, the less I want to finish it. Maybe it's one of those process/product things, but I suspect it is due more to the fact that I have been slammed at work than to any deep psychological anti-finishing pathology. Here's Pomatomus, stalled just after completing the gusset, but {sigh} I have no interest. Here's Coral - I have about 99 rows to go. I know that I could easily do about 30 of them tonight, but {sigh} no interest. What I really, really want to do is cast on for something new.... I am thinking this might just be the ticket... "Sienna Cardigan" from Fall Interweave 2006 in Berrocco Pleasure. Or maybe I could work on some quick Christmas gifts....this is a possibility, the "Fake Fair Isle Hat" from the November Mag Knits. I have a number of odd ball skeins of Noro Kureyon rolling around, waiting for a project like this. Not terribly challenging, but fun and quick. I could, as my Secret Pal suggested, start making children's sweaters, but alas, I have no children to knit for. My friend Aimee has a little boy who is 5 (I am his honorary "aunt" ), but she is just an avid knitter as I am, so there really isn't any need. But my mom's pup, Zippee, now this little guy needs a sweater. If kitties wore sweaters, I could knit Chloe one to cover her little velvety naked parts, but somehow I don't think she would appreciate it. Besides which, she is becoming a wee chubette these days because someone in this house has been feeding her lots of treats, and I think the extra fat is keeping her plenty warm. See the little beggar:I hesitate to say more on the Chloe story. Some of you may be thinking, "Oh boy, here she goes with the cat thing again", but this is good news. The kind of happy happy joy joy news that I just have to share. We got the lab report back on her tumor excision and get this: yes, it was malignant, BUT, the pathologist added a note on the report that it appeared very "clean" (as in self-contained) AND her lymph node was cancer free. The bottom line is that it appears as though it was all removed and there is a possibility that whatever appeared in the x-rays was not lung cancer. She is doing fantastic. Now there is a reason to {sigh}. The vet was a little concerned that we would be angry at him for all we went through emotionally before arriving at this point, but both Mr. Strange and I are so thankful. All I can think of is that I really learned some valuable lessons from this:

  1. Don't spend your days worrying over what hasn't happened yet and may not happen at all (or at least not now and possibly not soon).
  2. Things are not always as they appear.
  3. Don't grieve for the living.
  4. Drinking 2 beers every night for a month to ease your anxiety will only give you a beer belly.

Monday, November 13, 2006

True Confessions of a Selfish Knitter

After my last post, I have been giving much thought to this whole knitting business. The question that I keep turning over in my head is this: "Why do I have a manic compulsion to knit sweaters, when I don't have a strong desire to wear them when they are done?" That's not to say that I never wear my own sweaters. It's just that I rarely make one that is a favorite. This year has definitely been my "year of sweaters" (16 so far and counting), but few of them have been sensational. Sure, they came out well and, for the most part, I enjoyed knitting them, but when it comes right down to it, if I saw most of them in a store, I wouldn't buy them. Why?

After much deliberation, I have decided that it is largely a matter of gauge. Most of the sweaters I have knit were done on needle sizes 6 to 8 with an average gauge of 5 stitches to the inch. When I examined those that I recently purchased, the gauge was anywhere between 10 and 17 stitches to the inch. That, my friends, is small. To illustrate this, here is a close up of a sock that I knit on size 1 needles with a gauge of 9 stitches to the inch beside a strand of the yarn I used. This is the smallest gauge I have ever knit, and it seemed to take forever. In a rare display of knitting in public, I was working on this sock while waiting for my brunch at a restaurant, and the waitress asked me if I was knitting with toothpicks.

Here is the same strand of yarn held beside the yarn of one of my new sweaters, which has a gauge of 17 stitches to the inch. Had to get my peepers out to count those stitches!I couldn't tell you what size needle it would take to get that kind of gauge with yarn that thin, but it would probably involve at least 3 zeros. I'll be the first to admit that I have absolutely no desire to test this theory. Here's a close up of that sweater. It's 80% cotton and 20% angora rabbit hair. An odd combination of fibers that is very soft and comfortable (I wore it today). This is another of my new sweaters. It has a whopping gauge of 10 stitches to the inch. When compared to the previous sweater, that seems quite reasonable.... until you compare it to Pomatomus, which is knitting up at 8 stitches to the inch on size 2 needles. Being a person of somewhat smallish proportions, I like wearing multiple layers of thin garments. I feel puffy in heavy sweaters and, lets face it, I like to be able to bend my elbows. I have a vivid memory of being a teenager and wearing a heavy rag wool sweater over an oxford shirt with a turtleneck beneath. Whale motifs were involved. It was the 80's, everyone was doing it. Thanks to "What Not to Wear", I have learned that this is not a good look for me.

Unless I decide that I can stretch my knitting attention span to say, 2 sweaters per year, I am not going to be knitting myself any sweaters on size 0000 needles. Which brings me to the other issue: intricacy. While I love to wear garments worked entirely in stockinette stitch, I find them deathly boring to knit. I must be pretty vocal about this too, because when Mr. Strange saw a photo of "Refined Raglan" he remarked: "That's a lot of plain knitting. Aren't you going to be bored?" (He's paying attention!!). However, as much as I enjoyed knitting some more intricate patterns, I feel like they are a bit over the top to wear. Case in point: Dibs on Ribs. I loved knitting this sweater, but I feel a bit silly wearing it. "Woo hoo! Look at me! I knit!". Sadly, the best compliment I receive from non-knitters is "That looks store-bought".

Well, now. I haven't even brought up the cost factor. Here's a newsflash: yarn is expensive. I can buy a cashmere sweater for $39.99 on sale (after Christmas) at Macy's. It would cost me at least $200 to make the same sweater. Would I do it? Maybe. If I found a really good deal on cashmere and the pattern was interesting. Yeah. Would I pay $200 for a sweater? Probably not. I don't like to spend that much on clothes! It's OK to laugh.

The obvious solution is to stop making sweaters for myself, and start making them for other people instead. Aha! But here's where I get really stuck. I am a selfish knitter! I don't want to spend all that time, energy and money on someone else! As soon as I start knitting for someone else, it becomes "work" and not play. Instead of "I want to do this", I am under the yoke of "I have to do this". Before you start thinking that I am totally awful, I am mostly talking about sweaters. I don't mind whipping up a hat, mittens, scarf or pair of socks for someone else. It's the sweater thing. What's a girl to do? Here's my short list of solutions and accompanying retorts:

1. Suck it up and knit for someone else. I have begged Mr. Strange to let me knit him a sweater. He wants a sweater made with self-striping sock yarn. He's shown me photos of garments parading as sweaters straight out of "The Crosby Show". No. 'I'll do anything for love, but I won't do that'.

2. Design sweaters. I stink at math. Olive nearly did me in. Everything I designed would be constructed from rectangles. Wait a minute, someone has already done that.

3. Knit for Charity. But, but, but....most charities call for hats, mittens, afghans and scarves (phew!)

4. Become a sample knitter for a designer/yarn manufacturer. OK. This one holds my interest, except that it would be work in a way, but at least I could play with fibers, colors and patterns that I would never want to wear. Know anyone out there who needs a knitter?

5. Stop knitting sweaters and start making afghans. Euuuuw. (Ewe?)

Obviously I have not found the solution yet. Until I find the answer, though, I think I am going to invest in some large plastic storage bins and cedar bags to stash my sweaters in. Someday, I may change my mind. Let's just hope they all fit when I'm 84.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sleeving away

There's been some knitting afoot in this happy little household. In an attempt to finish Coral Crossing this weekend, I made every effort to work on nothing else. Yeah right. I did manage to finish the first sleeve this morning. This is probably the most accurate color representation so far, but still not true. It only took 3 days, but it felt like forever. It made me face the fact that I just wasn't going to be done as soon as I thought (unless I was willing to spend the entire weekend glued to it), so I treated myself to a little Pomatomus - I can finally type that without looking at Knitty. This looks, at least on my screen, more like the actual color. I'm only obsessing a wee bit about this "true to color" issue because when I looked at my blog at work, I was shocked to see how different the colors are. Today I decided that it was time to buy some new fall clothes because I have been making zero effort these days to look very "put together". Seriously, I've been expecting to see Clinton and Stacy show up at work with the cameras - not that it would be a bad thing necessarily; who wouldn't like to spend 5 grand on a new wardrobe in New York City? But I could do without the humiliation factor. So I slapped on some eye-makeup, styled my hair for once, and hit the outlets in Freeport. Four hours later, I came home with 4 new sweaters (two turtles in tan and loden, a grass green hoodie, and a chocolate V-neck), a sweater vest (dark chocolate - screw Veste Everest!), some chocolate brown velvet jeans (ooh la la), brown tweed slacks, a camel wool a-line skirt, and an off-white down vest (bet you can't guess my staple wardrobe color). Before you say the obvious, I know. Sweaters. Is that crazy or what?? It made me think about my knitting choices. Should I even be making sweaters? All of those that I bought today were made in a very fine gauge. Maybe I should start knitting sweaters with fingering weight yarn. Man, that would take forever. Hmmm. I wonder if Mr. Strange could use a new sweater....

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Post op

Great news: Chloe made it through the surgery with flying colors and is resting (un)comfortably at home in her newly constructed cardboard kitty condo, complete with cheery beach towel decor. Although she looks pretty pathetic, she was in the midst of cleaning herself, and that is not a flattering shot of anyone. I respectfully edited out the shaved bits. Must protect her dignity you know. We are so relieved. Thanks so much to everyone who sent us kind thoughts and messages. Since I was a bundle of nervous energy all day, I used my time wisely and finished the second tote for the class. I love the way they came out and am excited to teach it. There will be many more flowers available come spring, so I can imagine lots of possibilities! I'd love to make one with small daisies.
And, since I was mere inches away from finishing the front of Coral Crossing, I did what any self-respecting knitaholic would do: I cast on a new project, Pomatomus in the Cherry Tree Supersock.

Socks don't count right? Oh who cares. It's cheaper than therapy and less addictive than Valium.
I've just finished the first 22 row repeat, which wasn't that complicated once my brain recognized the pattern. I am always amazed at how I am able to memorize a lace pattern, but have a terrible time with numbers. This yarn knits up much softer than I thought it would. On the skein it felt like the Koigu, but is definitely much nicer. Only time will tell if it holds up with washing and wearing. Has anyone out there knit socks with this yarn before? I still long for 5 inch pointy metal sock needles. With all the knitting through back loops in this pattern, the Brittanys feel like stubs. I tried switching to some 7 inch Susan Bates, but they were so freakin genormous that I only knit one needle's worth before giving up and sliding them back on the Brittany. Skacel, hear my prayer.

BTW: What the hell is up with the Blogger spell check? I can understand why it doesn't recognize words like "frogged" and "genormous", but it always picks up "knitter" and "skein"! Tonight it recommended that I change "freakin" to "foreskin". Okaaaay.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Needles and Pinz

Such a stupid little thing. I jabbed my finger with a pin last night while sewing that tote bag. There was a tiny flap of skin that was bothering me at work today, so I pulled it off. Now I can't seem to knit. Ouch!! It's my pusher finger, dangit!At least I can eat to soothe my woes. Chloe has to fast for tomorrow's surgery. It's bad enough when you know you can't eat, but try telling a hungry kitty "No, no, no" every time she cries for food. Poor little girley! I took a cute picture of her staring pitifully at her little placemat with nothing on it but a water bowl, but it shows just how much I have been neglecting the kitchen floor. No need to air all my dirty little secrets!

Elly, if you are reading this, thank you for your kind thoughts : )

Sunday, November 05, 2006

much ado

Had I spent my time wisely yesterday and today, I could be showing you a picture of the finished front of Coral Crossing (the back is done), but noooooo I fell down a rabbit hole trying to replicate the lace design in this sweater, "Madigan" from the Sundance Catalog. My friend Lori brought the catalog to work last week, and ever since then, we have become obsessed with some of the sweaters. Being the overconfident knitter, I said "Oh, I can make us a pattern". Ha ha ha. To my credit, after 7 swatches, I did figure out a pattern that very closely resembles the photo. I even tinkered with some numbers, figured out the armhole shaping (this is knit side to side) and knit several rows using stash yarn (!!!), Bamboo in a Grey/blue/green mix. I do not, however, have a photo to show because I frogged the whole shebang after realizing that I had not followed my own pattern and screwed up the lace. "So let this be a lesson to you young lady", said the voice in my head. Oh well. I wasn't wicked whoopie about the yarn color anyway.

In the meantime, I did manage to chart out the pattern for the "Santa Fe" sweater from the same catalog. It's just a simple drop sleeve turtleneck. We're thinking that this would work up well in the Berrocco Ultra Alpaca. Here's a photo of "Santa Fe" The colors are very dark in the photo, but hopefully you get the idea. Now we just need to find a simple turtleneck pattern that we both like that is written for worsted weight. I see no reason to reinvent that wheel!
We met up today at our local LYS to check out the Ultra Alpaca and both ended up buying yarn to make the "Refined Raglan" from the new Interweave. About that: I was really looking forward to this issue, but once I saw most of the sweaters up close, I lost interest. Feh. I would still love to make the "Venezia Pullover", designed by Eunny, once I work up the gumption. I thought I would like the "Nantucket Jacket", but would prefer longer sleeves. Since I'm in the mood, let me just say that the "Rambling Rose Cardigan" looks like a train wreck. If this sweater were a person, I would like to say "Shut up already and get to the point!" except that I could never be so blunt, even if it was what I was thinking.

Anyway, for once I purchased the same color yarn as the sweater in magazine. Only because I have been loving this yarn in this exact color for ages - what are the chances? The actual color isn't well represented by either photo. It's not nearly as glaring orange as in the magazine, and not quite as tangerine as below. I kept tinkering with the photo to get it just right and this is the best I could do. Lori and I had a little "fight" over who was going to buy the last copy of this book: She let me buy it. Wasn't that nice of her? Every sweater is written with small sizes and shaping! They also had a new shipment of Cherry Tree Supersock and I picked this up at a cool discount because it's a "Potluck" color. The label says that the color is "Earth", but I think it looks like beautiful shades of stained wood. I think that I have finally found the yarn for Pomatomus. I did manage to get a little knitting in. I have about 5 more rows to go before beginning the armhole decreases of Coral Crossing (this photo was taken yesterday). The closer I get to finishing it, the more I want to start something else!! In non-knitting news, I've been laboring away in my little sweatshop, making this tote bag. I'm teaching a class in the Spring at my quilting groups' annual getaway weekend and having been putting this off forever. I was asked to design a bag using the theme "Flower Power". This is the crowd-pleaser, pretty version in Amy Butler fabrics:I'm also making a smaller version in these fabrics. Doesn't it just get you, "Kapow!!" right between the eyes? That brown floral is real vintage fabric that I bought at an auction. The busy floral, which will be the lining, is Kaffe Fassett, and the stripe is from JoAnn's. I had the flowers in my stash but also found the cute buttons at Jo-Ann's.
In kitty news, Chloe is scheduled for surgery Tuesday morning to remove the tumor in her belly. It has ulcerated and needs to come out. The vet tells us that her lungs seem stable and that the surgery is non-invasive and simple. She'll be coming home the same day, providing things go as planned. I wish we could have done this weeks ago, but he really felt that she was going to be suffering from the lung cancer. Instead, she is thriving with the exception of the belly mass. Go figure. I don't want to get my hopes up about how much time this will buy her, but at the very least it will eliminate the immediate problem. Deep breath. Two more days to go. Thank God I knit.

BTW: I got in to the Knitting Bloggers Web Ring. Wahooo! I feel so cool :-), even if it was just luck that I signed up on time.