Wednesday, December 31, 2008

FO: Red Chemo Turban

One more chemo cap cast on, started on December 26 and finished December 30. Amazing what you can accomplish when you have to sit in a dentist's office and then a doctor's office in the same day.

This is another turban knitted from the Esprit Chemo Turban pattern. Like the last one I did in white, the completed ribbed band isn't as long as the pattern calls for when I was done knitting up two balls of Esprit, but it does stretch sufficiently to fit around the head, since the yarn is cotton with elastic.

I think this is the last one I'll knit for this project. I need a little time to wash and disinfect them before shipping them off. I'm also hankering to knit something for myself again!

Friday, December 26, 2008

FO: Man's Chemo Cap (with free pattern)

I've been working away on the chemo cap project and decided that the ball of navy Elann Esprit was going to be a man's cap. Looking at all the caps people have knitted for the project, I'm seeing many women's caps and some unisex caps. They needed some "guy" caps, so I came up with this pattern. It took a bit of work to come up with a set of decreases at the top that I liked. I hope the instructions are clear enough.

If you substitute yarns, be aware that Elann Esprit is elasticized cotton yarn and this cap relies on the stretchy fabric that the elastic produces. If done in another yarn, it might not stretch enough, though it would make a dandy boy's cap.

Man's chemo cap

This cap borrows a portion of the subtle cabling from the Earl Grey Socks on the Yarn Harlot website. If you find this pattern useful, please visit the Yarn Harlot's blog and make a donation to Doctors Without Borders. Thanks.

1 ball Elann Esprit 50 gr ball, navy
Size 7 16" circular needle
Set of 4 size 7 DPNs

Cast on 80 stitches. Join, being careful not to twist the stitches. Knit K2 P2 ribbing for 3 inches. On the last round, place markers every 16 stitches (divides hat in to 5 sections).

On next round, begin cable pattern. Do one cable pattern after each marker. Adjust markers if needed so that K and P sts of first cable round match K and P sts of ribbing, so cabling emerges from the ribbing. Knit all stitches up to next marker.

TR (twist right) = K the 2nd stitch on the left needle, K the first stitch, slide both off together.
CR = P the 2nd stitches on left needle, K the first stitch, slide them off together.
CL = K the 2nd stitch on the left needle, P the first, slide them off together

Round 1: *p1, k2, p2, k2, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 2: *p1, TR, p2, TR, p1, k8* 5 times
Rounds 3,4,5: *p1, k2, p2, k2,p1, k8* 5 times
Round 6: *p1, TR, p2, TR, p1, k8* 5 times
Rounds,7,8,9: *p1, k2, p2, k2 ,p1, k8* 5 times
Round 10: *p1, TR, p2, TR, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 11: *p1, k2, p2, k2, p1, k8*, k8* 5 times
Round 12: *p1, k1, CL, CR, k1, p1* 5 times (correction added)
Round 13: *p1, k1, p1, k2, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 14: *p1, k1, p1, TR, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 15,16,17: *p1, k1, p1, k2, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 18: *p1, k1, p1, TR, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Rounds 19,20,21: *p1,k1,p1, k2, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 22: *p1, k1, p1, TR, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 23: *p1, k1, p1, k2, p1, k1, p1, k8* 5 times
Round 24: *p1, k1, CR, CL, k1, p1, k8* 5 times

Continue in pattern for two pattern repeats (about 4 1/2 inches). Begin decrease rounds, continuing cable pattern for the next eight rows.
Round 1: Continue pattern over first 8 stitches after each marker, K2tog, K6
Round 2: Continue pattern over first 8 stitches after each marker, K5, ssk
Continue decreases in this manner, making K2tog decreases on odd rows at the start of the knit panels and ssk decreases on even rows at the end of the knit panels until there is only 1 stitch between the cable panels.
Next round: *P1, K2, P2tog, K2, P1, K1* repeat around
Next round: *P1, K2tog, P1, ssk, P1, K1* repeat around
Next round: K2tog all around
Cut yarn, leaving an 8 inch tail. Use a tapestry needle to run the tail through the remaining live stitches. Pull tight, secure ends.

If you want to make the hat larger:
- to make the hat bigger around, cast on an additional 16 stitches and work 6 repeats every round.
- to make the hat longer in the crown, add another pattern repeat.

FO: Kitty toys (with free pattern)

Yes, I was a busy little crafter while I was sick and snowed in. The kitties had their share -- a handful of kitty toys stuffed with catnip and fiberfill for them to chase around the house.

Chain 3, join ends.
Round 1: Chain 2, SC in the loop about 8 times.
Rounds 2 and 3: Ch 2, SC twice in 1 stitch, SC in next stitch around
Rounds 4, 5, 6: Ch 2, SC around
Rounds 7, 8: Ch 2, SC in next 2 sts, skip 1 stitch around
Stuff with fiberfill and catnip after round 7
Round 9: Ch 2, SC in next st, skip next st around
Cut yarn, leaving an 8 inch tail. Thread through last loop on the hook. Use a tapestry needle to close the hole at the top, and weave ends in.

ETA: Alternately, instead of chaining 2 at the start of each round you can work the entire toy in a spiral. Just be sure to use a marker to mark the beginning of each round so you know when to increase and decrease.

FO: A Hat for James (with free pattern)

It was the Christmas that almost wasn't. I was stuck in the house with pneumonia. Then it snowed. Then we had an ice storm that covered everything in a thick layer of ice and shattered numerous trees in the neighborhood, including the more-or-less dead crabapple in our front yard (that really needed taking down anyway). Then on Sunday evening (Winter solstice, the longest night of the year of course) the power went out.

And stayed out.

And stayed out.

For three nights the DH and I huddled around the fireplace and found out first-hand that yes, most of the heat from a fire in a brick fireplace really does go up the chimney. A little battery-powered fan would have been very useful. A big ol' generator would have been even more useful to get the gas furnace to kick on and keep the deep freeze running. (On this summer's to-do list: have a fireplace insert installed and research generators.) The real saving grace was that we have a gas water heater that doesn't rely on the electrical system to work, so we had hot showers and used a tub full of hot water to heat the bathroom so we had a warm place to put the birds.

On top of that, my son James was stuck in Portland, 45 miles to the north, snowed in. Worse still, he was at a friend's house instead of his own apartment where he'd gotten by bus. The bus routes were shut down because of ice and snow, so James couldn't get home to change his clothes, pick up presents, and come home.

I had no Christmas baking done, no Christmas tree up (though we had a tree -- guy at the tree lot a few blocks away saw that we'd walked to the lot and delivered a tree for us with his tractor), and little to go in the stockings. But dagnabit, I had yarn and was determined to get something nice into my son's stocking. Some Lion Brand Cotton Ease became the mini-cabled hat in the picture above. So yes, James did make it home because...

...on the 24th, just as we were wondering if we should check into a motel, the power came on. The next morning, James' girlfriend borrowed her mother's car with studded tires and drove him home for Christmas. The two best Christmas presents EVER. My mom had us over for Christmas dinner, and my brother stopped by on his way up to Seattle the day before and dropped off cookies. So while it was slapped together at the last hour, Christmas happened.

A Hat for James
Since I had no power, I had no internet access to look up nifty patterns, and so I made up the pattern on the fly. I tried several times to get a decrease pattern at the top that I liked. I hope people can follow what I worked out. Here it is:

Lion Brand Cotton-Ease, 1 skein
Size 8 16" circular needles
Size 8 DPNs

TR (twist right): Over two knit stitches, knit into the second stitch on the left needle, then knit the first stitch, then slide both stitches onto the right needle.
ssk: slip, slip, knit (right-slanting decrease)
K2tog: knit two together (left-slanting decrease)

Cast on 80 stitches onto circular needles (or onto 3 DPNs). Join, being careful not to twist the stitches. Place a marker at the beginning of the round. Work K2P2 ribbing for six inches.

Begin pattern (adjust marker so that the TR aligns to the first K2 rib):
Round 1: *P1, TR, P1, K4* 10 times
Rounds 2, 3, 4: *P1, K2, P1, K4* 10 times
Repeat rounds for about four inches (or more if desired), ending with a Round 4.

Begin decreases (switch to DPNs when necessary):
Dec round 1: *P1, K2tog, P1, K4* 10 times
Dec round 2: *ssk, P1, K4* 10 times
Dec round 3: *K2 tog, K4* 10 times
Dec round 4: *ssk, K1, k2tog* 10 times
Dec round 5: *K1, K2tog* 10 times
Dec round 6: *ssk, K1* repeat to last 2 stitches, ssk
Dec round 7: K2tog around to last st, K
Cut yarn, leaving an 8 inch tail. Use a tapestry needle to draw the tail through the remaining stitches, pull tight. Weave in and secure ends.

The doubled-over ribbing provides thick insulation over the ears. If you prefer, knit just three inches of ribbing and work the pattern for 7 inches instead of four. Either way works.

Friday, December 19, 2008

FO: Green Mobius Chemo Cap

When you're stuck on the couch recovering from pneumonia, when getting up and putting up a few Christmas decorations is exhausting, when making Christmas goodies is out of the question because it wouldn't do to cough bacteria all over them, funny how it's so much easier to catch up on one's knitting.

Here's another cap for the chemo cap project I'm working on. This one is in jade green Elann Esprit, using the Mobius Hat pattern. Though the pattern called for one ball, it would take two complete it as the pattern dictates. I found I was starting to run short on yarn when the crown had reached 4 1/2 inches of the required 5, so I began the decreases and still ran out before I finished the decrease rounds. I pulled the last few inches through the live stitches and pulled them tight enough that it didn't leave a hole at the top, though the crown was more puckered than the pattern shows. Still, the crown was high enough, and I think I could have stopped at 4 inches and had enough crown and enough yarn to finish the decrease rounds.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Elinor's "Your Feet Are Cold" Bedsocks - free pattern

I've been pretty much confined to the house for the past several days since 1) it's been snowing off and on since Monday and 2) the nasty cough I've had turned into fever and deep fatigue which turned out to be pneumonia! My brave hubby took me to the doctor on Monday (over snow-packed streets that were pretty much a skating rink, but then he grew up in the Chicago area and knows about ice) where they did the chest X-ray and even I could see a slight woolly look in one lung. So I've been home, taking my antibiotics, drinking lots of juice, and breathing steam from a vaporizer at night.

I put my chemo cap project on hold until I stop coughing pneumococci all over everything. I'll have to thoroughly disinfect everything I've knitted for the project already. I wonder if you can autoclave Elann Elite?

One has to keep oneself occupied even when confined to bed or the couch, so out came the needles and some spare Lion Wool-Ease from the stash, and I set to work on a project I'd barely begun for the Jane Austen Book Club knit-along on Ravelry. We're in the middle of Sense and Sensibility, and I thought of the scene in the 1995 Emma Thompson movie, where the sisters and their mother move into Barton cottage, and on the first chilly night, Marianne and Elinor share a bedroom. Elinor gets into bed where Marianne is already curled up, and Marianne whines, "Your feet are cold." Elinor gets up again and struggles into a pair of woolly socks.

So for Elinor, here's a pair of warm woolly bedsocks, knitted in worsted-weight yarn and with a simple openwork pattern:

Elinor's "Your feet are cold" bedsocks

Lion Wool Ease or any other standard worsted-weight yarn, 1 skein MC, 1 skein CC. One pair of socks uses only a small amount from each skein -- you can probably get three or four out of two skeins.
5 DPN size 8

Gauge: 3.5 st/inch approximately

Size: These fit my size 9 1/2 wide feet a little loosely. I'll add a couple of changes in parentheses for people with more fashionably-sized feet. If you have narrow feet, try the smaller size and size 7 needles.

I borrowed the Easy Toe cast-on for toe-up socks from Knitty issue Winter 02 to begin these socks, so go and print a copy of that before you get started. The instructions come with clear illustrations, so better for you to go and get their instructions that for me to try to summarize -- that is, plagiarize -- them here.

With waste yarn and a large hook, crochet a chain of about 12 stitches. Tie a knot in the end you draw through so you can find it again and undo it easily. Use CC, cast on 8 stitches by knitting into the "bumps" on the underside of the crochet chain. Work in stockinette stitch for 4 rows. Undo the crochet chain and put the live sitches on another dpn.

Continue with the instructions for the Figure 8 cast-on from the phrase "Begin knitting circularly." You will divide the work onto 4 needles, and place a marker that marks the beginning of the round. Continue working until there are 10 stitches on each needle (stop at 9 stitches for smaller feet than mine). End with a non-increase round, and stop at the end of Needle 3. (Next needle begins stitches for the top of the foot.) Move all stitches for the top of the foot (needles 1 and 4) onto the same needle -- 20 (18) stitches. You will work the lace rib pattern on the top of the foot.

Tie on MC. Knit 1, PM, begin lace pattern on next 18 stitches, PM, K last stitch.

Lace rib pattern:
Round 1: K 5, P 1
Round 2: K 1, YO, sl 1, K2tog, psso, YO, K1 P1
Round 3: K5, P1
Round 4: K2, YO, ssk, K1, P1
Round 5: K5, P1
Round 6: K5, P1

When foot is long enough (5 lace pattern repeats for my size 9 foot), begin short-row heel. You now have 20 (18) stitches on one needle (pattern needle) and 10 (9) stitches on each of the other needles. Work the heel on these two needles only.

Short-row Heel:
Tie on CC.
Row 1: K to last stitch, W&T
Row 2: P to last stitch, W&T
Row 3: K to last 2 stitches, W&T
Row 4: P to last 2 stitches, W&T
Row 5: K to last 3 stitches, W&T
Row 6: P to last 3 stitches, W&T
Row 7: K to last 4 stitches, W&T
Row 8: P to last 4 stitches, W&T
Row 9: K to last 5 stitches, W&T
Row 10: P to last 5 stitches, W&T (stop here and skip to row 13 if working the smaller size)
Row 11: K to last 6 stitches, W&T
Row 12: P to last 6 stitches, W&T
Row 13: K to first wrapped stitch, knit stitch & wrap together, turn
Row 14: Sl 1, P to first wrapped stitch, purl stitch & wrap together, turn
Row 15: Sl 1, K to first wrapped stitch, knit stitch & wrap together, turn
Repeat rows 14 and 15 until the last of the wrapped stitches have been used. End on a P row, on the side where the MC yarn was dropped.

Turn work. Pick up MC.
Across 2 needles at the back of the sock:
K 1, PM, begin lace pattern across needles (divide sts as needed to work lace pattern) until 1 st is on needles, PM, K1.
Continue around leg of the sock, knitting lace pattern between markers. Yes, there will be a K2 rib on each side between the lace panels. If this bothers you, leave the back of the sock plain and work the lace only in front. (If you stopped at 9 stitches at the toe, you won't have the K2 rib -- just lace pattern all the way around.)
Work two repeats of the lace pattern (12 rows) or longer if desired.

Switch to CC. Knit 1 inch of K2P2 ribbing (or longer if desired).
To bind off:
K 2 sts, slip sts back to left needle, knit them together through the back of the loop. Purl next stitch, slip both sts on right needle to left needle, purl together. Continue binding off in pattern, knitting (or purling) 1 stitch, moving both stitches from the right needle to the left, and knitting (or purling) them together in the back of the loop until all stitches have been bound off. Sew in ends.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Teeny Weeny Jaw-Dropping Knits

If you've got a good connection, go here: Coraline's Bedroom

Once the page loads, click on the upper drawer of the white bureau on the left. This will load a short movie on the fiber artist who has been knitting intricate sweaters on the micro-scale for the upcoming movie, Coraline (based on a Neil Gaiman novel).

We're talking this kind of scale:

For the animated figures in the movie:
'Kay, then there's another movie I have to go see for the knitting!

Now, if you want a pattern for the starry sweater in the picture above, click the bottom drawer on the white bureau. You can download a free PDF knitting pattern for Coraline's sweater -- in a wearable size, not microscale!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Introducing... the cats

The cats have made an occasional appearance in various posts, but they've not been introduced yet. So here's the herd:

First, there's Licorice. He turned up as an abandoned half-grown kitten in someone's garage, and we took him in. This was shortly after we'd adopted a kitten who died at nine weeks, so we had a lot of new kitty stuff and no kitty to go with it. Licorice was a sweet boy at first, but later developed some odd emotional problems. For one thing, he wants to be the only cat in the house and goes bonkers when he's cooped up for more than a few hours indoors with other cats. Consequently, he's the only one of the herd who goes outdoors on his own. Indoors he has a vile temper. Outdoors, he's a sweetheart.

Belle (a.k.a The Princess Belle) was the runt of a litter that was being passed around my husband's school. Everyone wanted the bigger, healthier-looking kitties, so the teeny one came home with us. She may weigh about as much as a paper clip, but she packs a pile of energy in that pint-sized body. Some mornings she rockets around the house, doing banked turns two feet high in the corners. With her light weight, she can get herself into the oddest places -- like on the top shelf of my closet. She's got the softest fur ever, like bunny fur.

This handsome boy is Wild Bill. He was the survivor of a pair of kittens that were born to a stray mama kitty in our back yard. We caught the mama and got her fixed, and took in Wild Bill when he was about ten weeks old. That's just on the edge of the period in which kittens can be socialized, and Bill was probably third-generation feral. He's a gentle boy, but not even remotely a cuddler. He thinks human touch is kind of creepy. We kept feeding and caring for his mother, but sadly she vanished the winter after we took him in.

The next three are all from a litter that was born in our back yard to yet another stray. There were four in the litter, but something got into the nest and killed one (probably a tom cat or a raccoon). Their mama, Toast, is a beautiful tortoiseshell that we think was born outdoors to a cat belonging to some renters across the street. They left, leaving the half-wild kitties behind. By the time Toast found food at our house, she was visibly pregnant. I kept feeding her, hoping to keep her around where I could take care of her and the kittens. That May she had her litter under the Japanese Aralia bush in the back yard. The neighbor's nosy kid discovered them when they were just over five weeks old (the kid who is not supposed to be playing in my yard, mind you), and said his mom was going to have the Humane Society come and get them. So before the neighbors could interfere, I trapped Toast and got her spayed, rounded up her babies, and brought them indoors. My intention all along had been to tame and foster them for later adoption. Foster and adopt out. Uh huh. That went well.

So here's Gizmo, who was the biggest of the litter. She looks just like her mommy. She's also got a weight problem. She gets diet food, carefully measured, and we make sure she gets exercise, but she's still a big kitty, so the best we can do is make sure she's healthy. But she's a pretty girl and a sweet cuddler, preferring to sleep by my feet at night.

Gizmo's sister, Sprocket, is a gorgeous calico with a cute little face. She's the shyest of the bunch, and always runs and hides when people she doesn't know come to the house. She likes petting best if she's up at human level, like in the cat tree or her hammock, or here, on top of the bird cage. When she's there, she lets out a little "queek!" that says, "Okay, pet me now!"

The third in the litter is my darling Edison. The first time I met him, before his eyes were even open, he hissed and spat at me. I thought he'd be a fighter like his daddy Bruiser (who looks a lot like him), but he's a sweetie. He's the goofy little brother of the trio, a bit of a runt when he was little, though he's bigger than Sprocket now. He was born with several bone deformities in one leg, and had surgery last summer to correct most of the problems. Of all the kitties, he has the loudest voice, and trumpets away like anything when it's feeding time.

Last summer, a starving ginger tabby with one bad eye arrived at the outdoor feeding bowl. I thought at first he was a feral boy, but after working with him a bit, I found I could pet him and he'd purr up a storm. This was no feral -- this was an abandoned cat. When I could handle him safely, I picked him up, put him in a cat carrier, and took him inside. I took him to the vet to get him fixed and get his shots. His bad eye was abscessing, so that had to be removed. We named him Odin for the one-eyed king of the Norse gods. We had intended to find a home for him, too, and may still, but first he has to learn to use the litter box and only the litter box, not the bed and not the couch. Now that he's well-fed, he's a lot fluffier than in this picture, taken shortly after he had his stitches out.

So that's the herd. In addition, we've got one lone finch surviving from a small flock, one very bossy lovebird, and one guinea pig who was a literal roadside rescue. We also feed and look after Toast (probably the most spoiled stray cat ever, with her own bed and a microwaveable bed warmer), and two stray toms Bruiser and Murphy (who will, one of these days, get fixed, too). They do keep us busy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

'Nother FO: White turban (chemo cap project)

Another project checked off! This is one I began back in November for a chemo cap charity project I'm working with through one of the Ravelry groups I'm in. I have until early January to crank out as many chemo caps for the University of Chicago's Cancer Center, in honor of Madelyn "Toot" Dunham, grandmother of president-elect Barak Obama.

The center takes in serious cases, and there's a big need for caps for the chemotherapy patients, especially given Chicago's chilly climate. Those winds whipping down off of Lake Michigan -- brrr!

This turban was knit from a pattern offered free from Esprit Chemo Turban. The yarn is Elann Esprit, a blend of cotton and elastic. Strange, stretchy stuff, and it takes a bit of getting used to. I read lots of reviews on Ravelry from people who said they hated it. I didn't hate it, I just had to get used to working with yarn that kept springing off of my finger. I can see lots of possibilities for this yarn, in situations were you want DK-weight cotton and a lot of stretch: socks, baby garments, close-fitting summer tops, that sort of thing.

Or a close-fitting hat, as the case might be, one that's warm but not overly-warm.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

FO: Shawl Collar Vest

In spite of October and November's busyness (this has been an incredibly fast-paced fall term), I managed to get something off of the needles. This shawl collar, shrug-like vest using the Bingo Shawl Collar Vest pattern and done up in Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend (violets colorway).

After completing the piece and blocking it, I discovered that 1) silk really does stretch during blocking and 2) the Manos yarn doesn't draw up as much in the ribbing as the original yarn the pattern called for. Consequently I had a lot more ribbing than I needed. I had to rib back the bottom ribbing and re-knit it to narrower dimensions. Once that was done, I stitched up the seams and tried it on. Second time is a charm!

Because of the softness of the yarn and its variegation, the textured pattern on the back doesn't show up as clearly as it would with a crisper worsted and a single color. Still, I like my little vest, and the Manos yarn is as soft as a cloud. Mmmm! Goes well with the vintage cashmere turtleneck, also soft as a cloud (something my mother ::gasp:: didn't want any more and asked if I'd be interested in).

Now it's back to bed to try to get the better of this nasty chest cold I seem to have picked up. Hack, cough, hack.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Radical Knitter Nabbed by Border Patrol

While yes, a border patrol is necessary to a nation's security, isn't it great to live in a country where we can poke fun at authority?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Free pattern books from Bernat

I'm not sure how long this offer will last, so check it out soon. Bernat is offering two free PDF pattern books if you take the Bernat e-survey. Choose your books before taking the survey, because there will only be numbers to choose from at the end. There are two books of baby patterns, two afghan books, and two books of women's garments.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Simple Roll-Brim Suede Hat (free pattern)

The month of November has been all about keeping up with mountains of papers to correct, attempting to keep up with housework and gardening, and, as though that wasn't enough, National Novel Writing Month. I am but 3000 words from the 50,000 word goal, and I shall win! I shall!

But of course there must be knitting time. I managed to whip out this not terribly elegant, but soft, stretchy, and comfortable hat out of some leftover Lion Suede in the stash for a charity project, improvising a pattern of my own. Here 'tis:

4 DPN size 5 for S/M, size 7 for M/L (shown)
1 skein Lion Suede (the hat uses about 2/3 of a 122 yard skein)

Cast on 60 stitches and divide between three needles. Join without twisting.
Knit 5 rounds (though looking at it now, I think 7 would give the brim a better roll)
K2P2 ribbing for seven inches.
Decrease round: K2, P2 together all the way around.
Work 2 more rounds in pattern (K2P1)
Decrease round: K2 tog, P1 all the way around
Work 2 more rounds in pattern (K1 P1)
Knit 2 tog all the way around
Work 1 more round in K all the way around.
Cut yarn, thread through loops on the needles. Pull tight and tie off.

Simple enough, and knits up pretty durn quick. A fast knitter could complete this in an evening.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Swiftly winds the swift

So I've been wanting a swift for some time to make winding skeins of yarn into balls a lot easier. It's tough to get someone to sit still and hold the yarn, and draping the skein across chair backs only kind of works. Still, I balked at spending $70 or $80 on a device that I didn't use all that often when chair backs do kind of work.

Then someone on Ravelry clued me in to this fellow who makes very simple swifts from hardwoods and sells them in the $25-$30 range on eBay, under the seller's name of cbgerstner. Now that I could justify! I dashed over to eBay and ordered me a lovely solid oak swift! (Later when I found out the seller sells on Etsy through the Scotts Mountain Crafts store, I wished I'd bought it there. Etsy's fees are much better for artisans, I find.)

So above is a picture of my new oak swift with a skein of Terra yarn on it just for a pose. Today I needed to wind a ball of Manos Silk for a new project on the needles. A lovely spinny thing on the floor attracted Edison's attention and he came over to inspect:

And to get a closer sniff and even a taste, but swifts are not chew toys:

Oh, what a lovely spinny thingy, that goes around and around and around...

And around some more...

And soon we came to the end of the skein and the end of the fun. The swift works beautifully. Edison approves, and I am pleased.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An off-topic political message: VOTE!

Dearest U.S. readers, consider all those who have struggled, fought, and suffered for your right to cast a private ballot in any election, from the Revolutionary War to the Suffragettes to the volunteers right now who oversee elections to make certain they are conducted fairly. Honor them by casting your vote on or before November 4. (For those in Virginia and other places were the dumb flyer went out telling people of a particular political party to vote on November 5th -- ignore it. It's a stupid, desperate attempt by some to negate the votes of others.)

But when you vote, vote informed!

Rumors are flying at the speed of electrons around the internet about both presidential candidates. Make abundant use of,, and, and to check your facts. Here is just a sampling of the many false rumors about both candidates that need to be trashed:

Rumors about John McCain:

"McCain admitted to being a war criminal who intentionally bombed women and children." Fact: It was only when he was coerced by torture in a Vietnam prison that McCain wrote this "confession." In a 60 Minutes interview, McCain admitted that he cracked under the pressure.

"McCain fathered an illegitimate black child." Fact: John McCain and his wife, Cindy, have an adopted daughter named Bridget. Cindy McCain had found Bridget, who has dark skin, at Mother Theresa's orphanage in Bangladesh.

"McCain wasn’t born in the United States so he’s not a citizen." Fact: McCain was born on a U.S. military base in Panama to U.S. military personnel who are U.S. citizens.

Rumors about Barak Obama:

"Obama’s career started in Bill Ayres’ living room. Ayres is a known terrorist." Fact: Ayres was a radical in the 60s and did commit illegal acts – when Obama was 8 years old. Later as adults they were both hired by William Annenberg to serve on the Woods board. They do not “pal around” as rumors claim.

"Obama is a Muslim" Fact: Obama is a Christian. And even if he weren’t, the U.S. Constitution grants everyone freedom of religion. There is no religious requirement for the presidency.

"Obama wasn’t born in the United States so he’s not a citizen." Fact: Obama was born in Hawaii two years after Hawaii became a state. The birth certificate can be found in the public records in Hawaii, and a birth announcement appears in the archives of the local newspaper.

"Obama plans to raise taxes for 95% of U.S. citizens." Fact: Obama’s plan actually lowers taxes for people making $200,000 or less – the majority of U.S. citizens.

"Obama suspended his campaign and went to Hawaii to [fill in unfounded rumor of your choice]." Fact: Obama's grandmother is dying and he suspended his campaign to be with her, as any good grandchild ought.

Vote informed! Look up the facts, read your voter's pamphlet, think, question, reason -- and most importantly, VOTE!

ETA: Comments will be screened. Nutjobs from both ends of the political spectrum need not waste their time trying to post rants.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day Post: Sharing the Love Through Knitting

The score so far:

2 thick, woolly baby blankets and one all-wool child's sweater for Afghans for Afghans.
3 knitted bears sent to Africa to comfort AIDS-afflicted children and AIDS orphans via the Mother Bear Project.
1 scarf for a local women's shelter.

And still to come, a hat or scarf or two for Gayla Trail's collection on the You Grow Girl site for a women's shelter in Toronto.

When you love to knit and you love people around you, it's natural to love to knit for the people you love as well as for yourself. Extending that love to people in need isn't much of a leap, as knitters are often naturally generous people who take care of each other as well as others around them. Just ask the lovely people at any knitting group.

Today is Blog Action Day, and this year's theme is Poverty. I took a few moments to reflect on what I have done, and what I might done, to help alleviate poverty in my community and around the world. The Charitable Fund drive is on at work, and I've submitted my pledge in support of a group of local charities. I help provide capital for microloans through Kiva, taking on all the risk and earning no interest other that the good feeling of helping people across the world help themselves. I donate to Heifer International, the worldwide organization that believes in gifts that keep on giving, as the gift of a livestock or trees through Heifer carries the expectation that the recipient will pass on the gift by distributing offspring throughout his or her community.

And I knit. It's easy to sit back in the comfort of my own middle-class home -- pallatial compared with the housing most people in the world live in -- and write checks. It's easy to sit back and knit there, too, but at the very least, knitting requires a certain amount of physical effort on my part. The gift of something made by someone's hands carries with it a personal message of caring that money alone might not convey.

Readers -- and I know I have at least a few -- can you add to the measure of knitted love that's going out into the world? Even just one small item -- a hat, a scarf, a pair of socks? There are so many charities one can knit for, both locally and abroad. Hospitals are often in need of preemie clothing and chemo caps. Women's crisis centers appreciate gifts of toiletries for women who have had to flee from ghastly domestic conflict with only the clothes on their back, and a hand-knitted scarf, cap, or vest is a thoughtful addition to their comfort. Organizations to help pregnant teens and single mothers are in need of baby clothing and blankets. Homeless shelters need warm hats, scarves, gloves, and vests for people who spend most of their time on the streets. Project Linus provides handmade blankets for children enduring trauma. Adopt an Elder needs hand-knitted socks and donations of wool yarn, food, and financial support for impoverished Dineh (Navajo) elders.

There are so many charities one can knit for that the only difficult part is deciding which ones to adopt. After that, it's a simple matter of setting aside a little time each week to work on a charity project. I've discovered that knitting for charities, particularly those with deadlines, has increased my total knitting productivity. Amazing what a deadline can do! And amazing what a little knitted love can do, once it's sent out into the world.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Oh, baby! It's booties!

When there's a baby shower coming up quick, and you just have to knit something... 'cause either everyone there KNOWS you're a knitter and are expecting something hand-knit... or, as in this case, everyone there IS a knitter and it's just kind of the order of the day... booties in DK weight or bigger can be whipped out in no time in anyone's busy schedule.

This pair for a surprise shower coming up this weekend (which I'll have to miss ::sniffle:: because of family obligations that popped up, but I'll still send this gift along) I worked on in bits and pieces, taking about a week to do it, a little at my desk at work, a little at home. If I'd sat down to do them all at once, they would probably have taken no more than an afternoon all together.

And after doing them up in this lovely speckled aqua blue (Cleckheaton Country 8 Ply DK washable wool blend) it finally registers that people have been saying this baby is going to be a girl. Well, never mind. Girls can wear blue, too.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Afghans for Afghans sweater is done!

Last night I finished doing up the seams in mattress stitch -- and now that I've carefully followed the directions in Finishing Techniques for Hand Knitters: Give Your Knitting that Professional Look by Sharon Brant, I understand how to do mattress stitch properly, so that the seam is flattish and the strand I used to sew it up is hidden completely.

After the sewing up came the weaving in of ends, and then it was done! It's ready now to box up and ship off to the Afghans for Afghans collection center.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Absolute unassailable knitting rules

All hail the absolute rules of knitting!
  • Never stop in the middle of a row. Always, always finish the row before you set down your knitting!
  • Never store your knitting for long on the needles. Always put the live stitches on a holder!
  • Never start a project without making, washing, and blocking a swatch. Do not scrimp on the swatch! Do not skip the washing and blocking of the swatch! In fact, do several swatches!
  • Never under any circumstances join a new yarn in the middle of a row. Never! Always join at the ends of a row!
  • When knitting in two colors, always carry floaters loosely across the back of the work. Never weave them in as you go! The color might happen to peek through!
Ah, phooey. Never say never, I say. I've broken every one of these rules at one time or another, and the knitting police have never shown up at my door. Of course, there are consequences for breaking each one of these rules, but if the consequences are terribly minor and you can live with them, then carry on as you will.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fancy stitch markers -- Now on Etsy

Besides knitting, I've been doing bead jewelry for some time, and while I'm revamping my website, I've started putting some of my stuff up on Etsy. I dearly love the beautiful stitch markers I've been seeing -- jewelry for the knitting needles -- and I've listed some heirloom-quality sterling silver markers on Etsy. I fashioned these to be dual markers: one small solid sterling ring and one large one, so they can be used with various size needles and give double the service, double the value.

Here's a "silver oddments" set, made with various single Bali beads that had been accumulating in my collection:

A set of six gemstone and sterling markers: amethyst, white jade, and smoky topaz:

And another set of six gemstone, sterling, and Bali silver markers, in rose quartz, green jade, and moonstone:

I just got a shipment in of some adorable glass beads, so coming soon are rubber ducky, bunny hop, and fruit salad stitch markers. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The A4A sweater: knitting accomplished

The knitting for the Afghans for Afghans Youth Campaign sweater is done. Here 'tis yesterday before the neck was knit up, but all the other parts were done. The shoulders are joined with a three-needle bind-off, then I washed and blocked the front and back. The sleeves I washed and blocked on the needles after completing them, and knit off the sleeves onto the body using a technique illustrated in Finishing Techniques for Hand Knitters: Give Your Knitting that Professional Look by Sharon Brant.

The original pattern was a Boy's Fair Isle Sweater on the Caron International site. Instead of the Fair Isle pattern, I made stripes of variegated yarn that I had left from an earlier project.

Last night, after I took the picture, I picked up and knit the stitches around the neck, and all there is left to do is the side seams.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A UFO becomes an FO: the Fuzzy Scarf

Some time last year I fished two balls of a Red Heart's Cupid yarn out of a "discontinued" bin at the variety store where we get groceries. While I'm not a fan of Red Heart, especially the scratch acrylic worsted that people used to crochet granny square skirts and toilet tissue covers out of, this particular yarn is soft and I liked the pastel pink-violet-green-white colorway. Over on the You Grow Girl forums, Gayla Trail has been collecting knitted stuff every year from folks to give to a women's shelter in Toronto, and I've knitted some hats for her drive. This yarn seemed like a good pick: fuzzy, warm, washable, but with a luxuriant softness. I started a simple scarf in moss stitch, but set it aside and hadn't worked on it in quite a while.

It seems that the knitting group I joined is going to collect for our own women's shelter in a couple of weeks, so that was good impetus to finish this scarf. It's amazing what charity knitting does to one's knitting speed, what with deadlines and all. The scarf is about 5 feet long, knit from two balls of Cupid yarn, seven stitches across on size eight needles, moss stitch all the way. Easy-peasy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Okay, this is a little late for Talk Like a Pirate Day...

... but I only just discovered it:

My pirate name is:

Dirty Mary Flint

You're the pirate everyone else wants to throw in the ocean -- not to get rid of you, you understand; just to get rid of the smell. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network
Now go and get YOUR pirate name!

Stash enhancement again -- and really, this must slow down!

Did y'all see the new issue of Knitty? The one with this gorgeous creation on the opening page?

That's Twist and Shout, a most flattering cardigan with some interesting cabling and whatnot that looks so absolutely gorgeous I knew I had to have it. Go and look at it. Do. There are more pictures on the Knitty page. I'll wait...

Okay? So it calls for something called Rooster Almerino Aran, which seems to be a UK yarn, and I couldn't get a good source for. Now watch, since this pattern appeared, every shop in the US is going to carry it by next week. How-some-ever, I shopped around and decided on this -- please pardon the yellowish picture, it was taken under an incandescent bulb because I was too impatient to wait for morning, but imagine it nearly as plummy as the cardigan above:

It's silk and alpaca in a heavy worsted weight. It'll take a little calculation and needle adjustment to get gauge -- or me, I tend to go in reverse, and if I'm not getting gauge, I get out the calculator and figure out how many stitches wide I need it to be, then see which size calls for that many stitches and knit that size. I ordered enough from Knit Picks to make the cardigan when I finally get to it. Very good they were, too, and shipped all dozen-and-a-half balls from the same dye lot. ::Wild applause::

And really, now, that must be enough for a while. My stash box under the bed is so full I can barely close it. While yes, I do have some stash and UFOs in a copper wash boiler, and some leftover skeins in a closet, the stash box is "live" stash, stash that is meant to be something, and I must, must, MUST get it knitted up before I go and buy some more. Must.

But then I did go out and buy some more, but just ONE skein of speckled blue (yes, it's blue, sorry about the yellow light) DK for baby booties that must be ready mid-October for a surprise shower for a different baby, more to come on that:

Because one skein for booties for a shower in a couple of weeks doesn't really count, does it?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Discovering the pleasures of social knitting

I've been knitting now for, well, since before dirt was invented, I think. It's only recently that I discovered the concept of knitting groups, mainly by reading The Yarn Harlot, and more recently still that I went in search of such a group. To my disappointment, the one yarn shop in my town doesn't have a regular group like you read about in books like Debbie Macomber's The Shop on Blossom Street. Last year some folks at the university where I work started a knitting club, but they meet in the evenings at a time inconvenient for me to drive home, feed the cats, get some dinner, and drive back, as I live 30 minutes away and I don't fancy eating dinner away from home and family just to go knit with others. I'd also discovered there was a knitting guild in town, and found out where and when they meet, but the last few months there was always something up on the same mornings when the guild met.

Finally, finally I took up an invitation I received some time ago to join Ravelry, and through their forums, discovered a knitting group in my own home town. This afternoon I made time to go and join them at the coffee shop where they meet. Aren't knitters a lovely bunch? This bunch was, too, and I can see I'm among experienced knitters and spinners. What fun! Pictures to come, I'm sure, as I get settled into the group some more. I have an invitation to the next knitting guild meeting, too. We talked knitting, cats, more knitting, babies, more cats, more knitting... a good time was had by all.

As for Ravelry itself, here's my profile.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

More stash enhancement in Bend

I had to dash over the mountains to Bend for an evening meeting, and return home the next day, so I made time to visit Juniper Fiberworks, a yarn store I didn't get to on my last trip to Bend.

They've recently moved into new quarters and the storefront, on a small side street off of a main drag, still bears the sign of its former occupants. I wasn't sure I was in the right place, but as usual, the wool fumes led me to the right location.

There I found the best selection I've seen in a modest-sized yarn shop. It took me a bit to get used to the arrangement, as the yarn was sorted not by fiber and weight like most stores, but by color. Convenient when one is looking for a specific color, but I would have liked to have seen the yarn sorted by fiber and weight within the colors.

Nevertheless, it wasn't hard to walk out with something nice in hand. In this case it was an assortment of Mission Cotton, a nubby DK weight cotton yarn, in various colors. Why? I have something in mind. A colleague just found out his wife is expecting their second child, and I have something in mind...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Why it would be fabulous to be Myrna Loy

Why? Because she got to wear scads of glamorous, elegant fashions like this:

And like this:

And better still, she got to dress up with accessories like this (the "accessory" on the right of the picture, I mean):

And like this (the "accessory" on the left):

And even the cute little "accessory" in the middle here:

Pity about the hats, though:

Sigh sigh... if only elegance like hers would come back into fashion. I do so tire of "fashions" on the runway that look like a head-on collision between a Vandal horde and a traveling circus.

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