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!