Friday, January 26, 2007

I am curious: Yellow?

Baby it's cold outside. How cold? Single digits. Negative numbers. So cold that your nose hairs freeze. So cold that you have to breath through your mouth, and when you do, you can taste the salt from the roads that leaves a dusty white residue on the sidewalks. So cold that smiling hurts your teeth. So cold that it feels like an iron spike driven in your forehead. So cold that I'm thinking that I'd like to knit with Lopi. That kind of cold. It might explain my recent obsession with the color yellow. Maybe I'm craving sunlight and warmth. It's not a color that I naturally gravitate towards, mostly because I look terrible in it ("jaundiced" doesn't even begin to describe it's affect on my pasty winter complexion) but lately, I can't get enough of it. Mustard! Cheddar! Buttery popcorn! Macaroni and Cheese! Peanut M&M's! It must be the mid-winter blahs. This time of year I'm always thinking of Bruce Springsteen because "I wanna change my clothes my hair my face". I desperately need a hair cut and color and I feel like there isn't enough lip balm and moisturizer in the world, and a pedicure wouldn't hurt either. I completely understand why people flock to the Caribbean this time of year! Since travel just isn't in the budget these days, I'll have to play with yellow instead.Since wearing yellow near my face is out of the question, hats, sweaters and scarves are not an option. Maybe some yellow mittens? I've been toying with Corazon and Eunny's Anemoi Mittens. Unfortunately, the only "right" yellow I have is this half used skein of Lamb's Pride Worsted. Gee, I'll have to go buy some yellow yarn! In the meantime, I finished knitting Zippee's sweater and only have to weave ends in, and I am nearly done the right front of CPH, which is a good thing, because all that brown tweed is a bit dull to look at after a while.

In local news, knitting has once again caught the attention of journalists looking for young, hip trends: "Knitting Comes Full Circle" from the Portland Press iHerald. Putting aside the annoying stereotypes of grandmothers knitting and the way popular media only seems to skim the surface of what is really going on, the one thing that really stuck me in this article is the power of knit bloggers to spot, drive and promote new trends. I've often thought that shop owners would be well served to spend some time on the 'net, checking out what we are up to. Often, they haven't heard of Knitty, Chic Knits or Craftster. I did have a great experience it Knit Happens in Alexandria, VA a while back. While shopping in there, I found some gorgeous Koigu KPPPM that I knew would be perfect for Jaywalker, but wasn't sure if 2 skeins would be enough. I asked the clerk if she had heard of the pattern, and she not only knew of the pattern, but quickly found it online and checked the yardage! Oh! If that could happen more often!

Maybe my wish will come true. Check out the Interweave Spring preview. Talk about the power of knit bloggers! I see patterns by Eunny, Stephanie, Kate, and the Grumperina herself! Doesn't it make you want to get out your pom poms and do a little cheer?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Comfort Zones

When Mr. Strange goes away, I like to change things around the house. Usually it's something small, but I like to torment him with the "Notice anything different?" quiz when he gets home. You probably can't tell by the looks of things, but I did something new and brave to my computer and am so pleased with myself! I'll spare you the guessing game. I downloaded my photo software to my laptop and transferred photos directly from my camera!! All by myself! OK, that may not seem like such a big deal, but I am such a techophobe that I have been wasting a ridiculous amount of time switching from our desktop pc to the laptop because I was afraid to try something new! Wow! What a difference! I feel so free! Now I can blog with pics anywhere! Tra la la! I still wont be posting from Mom's though; she doesn't know about the blog.
Speaking of Mom, we had a very knitterly weekend together. I finally finished the left front of CPH: Here's a close up with tape measure:See why I am a little freaked out by how small it is? I am making the size 36, and this is supposed to block out, with an inch and a half button band, to 9 1/2 inches. I think that means that the fronts should measure 8 inches before the band is added. Right now it's measuring about 5 1/2 inches unblocked. Then there's the seam allowance. Hmmm.

I would like to have cast on the right front, but I told Mom that I would knit a replacement sweater for her dog Zippee. (I didn't bring any more of the yarn for CPH just to keep myself honest.) In addition to making this version one size larger, I've added a couple of inches of ribbing and another inch to the section before the armholes (ooops, make that "front legs").

At least he'll get some use out of it. It was freezing out this weekend - Mother Nature is punishing us making up for all those warm days. What better way to spend the Saturday than at a cozy yarn shop having a big sale? Yardgoods Center, my favorite not-so-local shop, was having its annual January sale: 20% off all yarn. My heart be still. In my last post, I linked to a site selling Koigu KPPPM after seeing Parikha's Hedera Socks. So to give credit where it is due, I must thank her for re-introducing me to this pattern! For some reason they didn't do much for me in their solid version, but ZOWIEE, I love how they look in the Koigu! How convenient, then, that Yardgoods had some in stock: (color # P513). But wait! There's more! Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in "Water" - I think it looks more like valentine conversation hearts candy.
I'm thinking of Baudelaire or Falling Leaves.... better yet, I'm sure I saw a sock pattern once that had little lace hearts. Any idea where it was?
I am so influenced by color. It's not unusual for me to purchase yarn that matches what I am wearing while shopping. Can you tell I was wearing a pink tee when I bought the Supersock and this Cascade 220 for Ariann???

It wasn't that easy though. I was sorely tempted by all the shades of green and brown, but I really need a break. What better than this pretty icy pink? It just screams "Spring!". I don't know about your mom, but mine has certain colors she likes to see me wear. This pink just happens to be one of them. The teenager in me felt like choosing a different color for that very reason, as though I were still fighting to assert my own identity. Which you would know is really silly if you saw how many pink things I have. Sometimes mom really does know best!

What mom doesn't know is how to read knitting patterns anymore. I had to help her several times with her first Great American Aran Afghan Challenge block (I bought her the book for Christmas). She says that it's because directions have changed so much over the years, but I suspect it has more to do with her weakening eyesight and attention span issues. She used to be so brave about trying new things and figuring out complicated patterns. Now it seems that she gets confused so easily. To her credit, she keeps plugging along and doesn't quit. I wonder if that will happen to me? Will there be a point when the world moves faster than my brain to keep up? Since I don't have children, who will hold my hand and help me? That's partly why I made myself do the camera thing tonight. I need to step outside my comfort zone and feel the breeze!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Eye Candy

It's a little late in the day for "Eye Candy Friday", and I didn't take any of the photographs, but it is Friday, and if you happen to have nothing to do but look at beautiful pictures of yarn, then look at this. If you click on the thumbnail, you will get an eyeful, but hide your credit card and put on a bib first.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Random bits

I'm going to make this quick because I've been experiencing technical difficulties all evening. Seems to be an issue with Google. I apologize for randomness and lack of links in advance.

After a long hard day of work and Pilates on Tuesday, I came home to a package from my Secret Pal! 2 skeins of Debbie Bliss Merino DK in the most gorgeous color, a box of Mini Milano Pepperidge Farm Cookies (that's an empty box - I already ate them all, oink), a Fig Candle that smells divine, a great CD made just for me, and Rowan's Vintage Style (lots of great, classic patterns). Thanks Kirby! You've been a great Pal to me!

Look how well the Debbie Bliss yarn goes with the Jo Sharp DK wool leftover from my Fair Isle Pullover! I'm thinking that I'd like to make a striped something with it.
The back of my Central Park hoodie is finished, and I've started the left front, which looks alarmingly small. I have to remind myself that there is going to be a button band, but I suspect that I am going to be blocking this puppy like crazy when I'm done! Here's a close-up of the bind off at the neck. I used a tip learned from Elsebeth Lavold: I bound off in a contrasting yarn rather than putting the stitches on a holder; it makes for much easier blocking. I also decided not to do the last cables just before the shoulder because on the right side (your view) the cable row was the bind-off row, and it would look funny to cross on the left only. It does mean that I won't have any cables before the shoulder on the front either, as I'll be knitting the same number of rows. I really love this sweater and am seriously considering making another!

Beckie asked me how I liked my Boye Needlemaster set. Like many of you, I am very picky about my needles. I have yet to find one brand of needle that I like to use for all yarns. Addi Turbos will usually be my first choice, but I don't find them pointy enough for some projects that require double decreases or cabling without a cable needle. The best feature in Boye's favor is the packaging. I am a sucker for nifty packages and I love the compact way these needles are packaged. I can tuck in scissors, cable needles and a number of other doo dads and zip it all up in one pouch. I also love the bright colors, and that they are very sharp. The two drawbacks are that the shortest cable is not short enough for some projects (I'll still use 16 inch circulars) and the needles themselves are not as slippery as the Addi's. I tend to describe them as "sticky" but it's really a matter of drag. The yarn doesn't slide easily as I knit stitches from one needle to the other. This seems to be more of a problem with yarns that have no give (like tweeds). The needles do become more slippery as they "warm up". If I were a relatively new knitter, and I wanted a lot of bang for my buck, I would buy this set. That said, I could never have too many knitting needles, and have been known to try 3 different brands before settling on the ones that feel right for a particular yarn or stitch. It's really a matter of personal preference.

Well, I'm off to my Mum's for the weekend and have already packed my knitting for the weekend: puppy sweater take 2. Since the last one didn't fit, I decided that the wisest course of action would be to knit it while I have him around to try it on. If I finish, and if it fits, I'll be sure to take photos. I hear there's snow in the forecast, so he'll need it! I'm hoping to find yarn for Ariann. Maybe I'll come across that Ella Rae again...

Happy knitting! Have a great weekend!

BTW: Sorry about the comment verification. I got spammed.

Monday, January 15, 2007


There should be an award for those instances when an otherwise capable and savvy individual is so busy getting something done and feeling good about it that they lose their common sense.

You know how it is when you are knitting a sweater and you finally arrive at the sleeve decreases? That point where you know you are on the home stretch? I'm willing to bet that on more than one occasion you have rushed through all 30 rows of decreases only to read the next line of the pattern that reads "At the same time....". Yeah. I know you know what I mean.

I wish to nominate myself for just such an award. I did something so smack-upside the head dumb that I'm sure I will win.

Last night I was reading my secret pal's blog and left a comment. Now, I've done this a number of times since the swap started. I've been really, really careful about using my secret e-mail account (via Hotmail) and only using my secret pal name: Charm. So last night, as I went to leave a comment, I noticed that my computer (I'm sure this is a Google feature) filled in the information for me. "How convenient" I thought to myself! Since I do most of my work on the laptop now, I wasn't used to this new feature.

This morning while at work, I had this sudden thought: what if the information filled in for me was my "real" identity. The one with a link to my blog??? I didn't remember actually reading the fields. "Relax" I told myself, "it will be fine", and forgot all about it.

A while later, my friend Aimee e-mailed me at work to tell me that she sent a message to my g-mail account because I wasn't sure if I was at home or working.

Here's where it gets good.

I had an e-mail on my g-mail from my secret pal! Did that seem strange to me at all? Nope. Not one bit. I had received many e-mail responses to my comments from her....via my Hotmail account. (Can you see where this is going?)

So, I responded to her e-mail as follows:

Hee hee. I had a little panic when I submitted that comment. My google
toolbar automatically filled in the commenter info and I was afraid that it
put in the link to my "real identity", because I didn't remember checking to
see if it was from "charm". Now I can rest easy :)

I'm sure that you are paying better attention than I was when I wrote that,because it wasn't until she e-mailed me back and asked if I were her secret pal with a link to my blog (giant "DOH" sound) that I realized what I had done. For a split second, I considered denying it, but "hello!" it was so obvious!

The funny thing is that I didn't sign my comment "Charm" as I usually do. If I hadn't sent that reply, she never would have known!

Well, at least it doesn't qualify for the Darwin Award, but I feel really stupid!

Without further ado, I present my Secret Pal, Abigail.

I've had a lot of fun spoiling her! She's a great gal and an unbelievable sock knitter (so fast!).

Now when do I get my award?

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Two of the things I love about knit blogs are how it seems that so many people seem to be either doing the same thing I am thinking about or are introducing me to something I want to do. It must be the equivalent of the collective knitting subconscious at work.

Case in point: earlier this week I resolved to spend some time catching up on my blog reading (and commenting) when I came across this post at januaryone where she writes about the Central Park Hoodie ("CPH") from the Fall 2006 issue of Knitscene. As soon as I saw it, I knew that this was a sweater that I wanted to make - immediately. Barely 10 minutes later, I was reading an e-mail from my Secret Pal, Kirby, where she mentioned the same sweater (twilight zone music). Somehow this sweater fell under my knitting pattern radar when I first saw this issue, because I didn't buy it! What's a girl to do? The next day I contacted my favorite LYS to see if they had it. Nope. Yesterday, I went to another shop, and they not only had the issue, but it was half price (score!). The helpful shop owner also directed me to their collection of Tahki Donegal Tweed. Naturally I fell in love with the only color (#818, a dusky pink) that they only have 4 hanks of (I need 7). Being an instant-gratification kind of gal, I drove 30 miles to another store (incidentally having a 20% off sale on all inventory), where, yes, they carried the Donegal Tweed, but not in the color I want. Big sigh. I chalked it up to knitting karma and decided that I really could use stash yarn and save myself $77. I did score something special for my secret pal. They had a small selection of Cascade 220 (for Ariann) but more on that later. Wasn't I disciplined? OK, part of it was the shop owner. I asked her if they had any StitchKeepers, describing them exactly, because I was sure I had seen them on a previous visit. (they are very handy). She said "Oh yes" and proceeded to show me these Clover sweaters. When I told her that I was looking for something different, and described them again, in detail, she said "Well, why can't you use these". I explained that I wanted this specific product as a gift and she repeated "These would work just as well". I don't know about you, but that kind of response didn't make me feel like supporting her business.

As soon as I got home, I got down to work and started knitting CPH and haven't stopped. So far, I've finished about 12 inches of the back, most of which was done while watching "Kiss, Kiss, Bang Bang" this morning (very funny movie by the way).

The yarn is stash, a two-ply no-label merino cashmere blend I bought for the Tweedy Aran Cardigan (which didn't work). I've also swatched this yarn for the Must Have Cardigan (see sidebar for sources). Seems like 3 is the charm. I'm sure the Donegal Tweed would produce crisper cables, but this sure is soft, and I am using stash, which is a good thing.

In the meantime, I've been pecking away at the Here and There Cables. It's lovely yarn, and the pattern is pretty, but it seems that I am not making any progress even though I'm just ending the second skein. I think I'm in the Black Hole of Knitting, hence the burning desire to start something new.

I've also been carrying this sock around in my purse, hoping to catch a few minutes to knit on my newly shortened lunch break (tired of being "spoken to" for being 6 to 8 minutes late on a regular basis, I traded my one hour lunch for coming in to work later):

A foolish thing really. Just because you bury your working needle in the skein doesn't mean that it isn't vulnerable to breaking:

Good thing I have two sets! I should have been using my StitchKeepers!

About that late thing. If I could make my own hours, I would love to work 9 to 5. Whatever happened to those days? Now, lunch is "off the clock" and even though we are entitled to two 15 minute breaks, hardly anyone takes them. I have had difficulty waking my entire life. Partly because I like to stay up late. I think 11:30 or 12 is perfectly reasonable. When I am an old woman I am going to stay up until 1 am every night and wake at 9. So there.

Here's a riddle: What is the opposite of "good"?

I'm sure you guessed "evil" but the answer is "better". As in: "Gee, this Ella Rae yarn would be really good for Ariann, but I might find something better somewhere else". Yeah. Guilty. I finally bought the pattern on Tuesday and am itching to start. At first I was going to use Cascade 220, but none of the 3 shops I visited yesterday had any colors I like. I was in Craft Mania in Auburn where I saw a nice selection of Ella Rae. (Craft Mania is a local craft store that carries a number of "high end" yarns). I even found two colors I liked but succumbed to that "better" mentality and passed it by. Good thing they have a store nearby in South Portland. Too bad they don't have those same colors.

Do you see a pattern developing here? Must be yarn goddess telling me to finish something and stop obsessing about the next thing.

Speaking of the next thing. I decided to scratch Klaralund altogether and knit Butterfly instead. I only had to buy 2 more skeins of the Kureyon (and the book). As much as I like Klaralund, I don't think it will be a sweater that I wear very often and I'm trying really hard to stop knitting things just for the process. So far I haven't started it yet. Any bets on how long I'll be able to hold out? Factor this in: I'm visiting my mom next weekend and have to make another sweater for her dog to replace the too-tiny one I knit for Christmas. The last one took 2 days.

In order to be able to knit "guilt free" for the rest of the day, I attended to some things of my "don't want to do" list, which included cleaning out the science experiments in the fridge. Why have I been keeping a jar of capers with only 8 or 9 capers in it? How long have they been there? I don't even remember the last time I used them. The same with anchovy paste - two tubes. I haven't made Caesar salad for ages. Euuw. We won't even talk about the take-out containers of brown rice and the leftover pesto. The Christmas tree is still up (it's artificial) and my clean clothes are still in the laundry hamper, but at least I have a clean fridge.

Now I can knit.

PS: Now that my secret pal knows who I am, I have edited this post to conceal the items that I will be sending to her. Text in red did not appear in the original post.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Knitting a la carte

I present "Shedir" from Knitty, Fall 2004 Surprises for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, started Wednesday and finished yesterday. I went to my LYS looking for Rowan Calmer, the yarn called for in the pattern, but none of the colors inspired me. As soon as I saw this color of Rowan Felted Tweed (color #155), vavooom! I felt the rush. The quickening pulse. The "I've gotta have it" voice in my head. AT 191 yards per skein, I knew I would only need one to make the hat. I was a little concerned about the yarn substitution until I did some research and came across Eunny's version. I followed her suggestion and only worked 3 repeats of the main pattern; however, I didn't twist my stitches because my Addi's are a bit too blunt (OK, I didn't feel like working that hard for a subtle effect). I loved working with this yarn, and the pattern was easy to memorize once I started to see the repeat. I'm mostly pleased with the fit. I'm thinking of making another in the Calmer when I find a color I like and will probably add several more rows of ribbing.

This was just the project I needed to get my knitting engine running again. It's not as though I took a break from knitting for any length of time, it's just that I haven't felt very excited about anything. Now I have the opposite problem: I want to knit everything all at once!! I've heard this phenomenon described as "start-itis", but my friend Aimee came up with a great description of this knitting strategy. When she has multiple projects going at once, she says she is "knitting a la carte". Sampling here and there. A smorgasbord of knitting. So, here's what I've been snacking on:

As an appetizer, self-striping socks (2x1 rib) in Regia Crazy Color #5439 (no new photo since my last post, but I have been chewing here and there.) A spicy little dish, these socks have lots color, but so far too much red for my taste, so I can only handle a little at a time.

"Here and There Cables" from Scarf Style in Reynold's Odyssey (color #404 Lavender/Sage mix):

The delicate balance between color and texture are enough to make this a satisfying side dish, and the cables have the potential to make it an entree for someone of average appetite and attention span, but I need something easy to cleanse my palate between bites....

So I started "Klaralund" from Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton's Hands Knitting Collection Book #2 in Noro Kureyon in color #188. What you see here represents today's meal. I just love this colorway and am reminded of my torrid affair with this yarn last year. Unfortunately, I have decided to knit the next size up to achieve the desired roomy fit and have to frog it all, which is not the same as regurgitating... OK, so maybe I should stop the food analogy here.
So much for taking a break from sweaters! Since I have to frog Klaralund, I decided this evening to cast on for the "Must Have Cardigan" in a no-label 2-ply merino cashmere blend from my stash! While everyone else is on a diet, working out and practicing self-control, I am knit binging. Heh heh. I always wanted to be a rebel!

It must be the weather. Yesterday it was 67 degrees. For Portland, Maine, in January, that was a freakish, record-breaking occurrence. This is the time of year when my knitter brain wants to settle in on the couch in my jammies, working magic with wool. Instead, I was hanging around in a T-shirt, without socks and feeling like I "should" be outside, enjoying the sun, with a big fat confused housefly that eluded execution. Fortunately, it's cooling down rapidly and tomorrow's forecast is for a "wintery mix" (translate to wet slop). Twisted, I know.

BTW: I was tired of hand-washing my Jaywalker socks, so I threw them in the wash (on cold, knit cycle with like colors) and they came out fine. A little fuzzier, but no visible shrinkage.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Laugh at yourself...

Some nutty confessions for a brand new year:

  • I still haven't taken the time to figure out how to load photos directly from my camera to the laptop, so I upload them to Blogger from my desktop, save the post as a draft and then sit and type in comfort on my couch.
  • Speaking of Blogger, I'm too chicken to switch to the new version. Too many technical advances at once - my cranial system is overloaded.
  • I called Toshiba tech support tonight because the laptop froze up (mousepad included) as soon as I turned it on and I couldn't turn it off - yes, I tried ctrl+alt+del and I tried the power button. I was afraid that it would overheat and cause a fire! Silly me. I needed to hold the power button down for several seconds - major "doh" factor. BTW: the Toshiba tech support guy was really nice and I didn't have to wait very long.
  • I cannot figure out what I want to knit, but I did find a great use for dryer lint:

OK, so it's actually Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran, but doesn't it look like dryer lint? It was supposed to be the Tweedy Aran Cardigan from Interweave Winter 01/02, but it is going to the frog pond - kerplunk!!

I thought that knitting something bright and cheerful might be called for, but this isn't tiddling my winky any more than the dryer lint. Geez, almost forgot! Here's my first FO of 2007! A sheep!
Technically it's not completely finished because it's still a wee damp and I need to stuff it and sew up the seam in the bum. (Right now it's full of plastic bags to give shape while drying.) What is it that my knitting brain is craving? Color? Challenge? I happened on two fun pirate socks today: Jack Sparrow's Favorite Socks from katydidknits and Pirate Arrrrgh-yle Socks over at Moth Heaven. Don't ask me why I love stuff with skulls so much. It's not a goth thing. I like to wear them with irony, as my friend Aimee says. Maybe I need some mittens to match my Pirates Hat! I'd also like to gnash my teeth on Shedir from Knitty's '04 Fall Surprises, but alas! I am lacking a skein of Rowan Calmer and can't find a single substitute. All I know is that I have enough yarn in stash to knit at least 14 sweaters, 7 pairs of socks, and umpteen billion hats and mittens but nothing inspires me. What's a girl to do?

This may sound like whining, but really, I feel better today than I have in weeks. Chloe's surgery went well, and she is feeling better by the hour and so am I.

Hope is my new word for the year - or at least for the month. Maybe I should knit something pink!