Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Like I need another WIP? Bring on the Dragon Breath!

Since several of us came back from the spring yarn crawl with some lovely skeins of Malabrigo sock yarn, naturally someone suggested a Malabrigo KAL. There was some discussion about patterns, but considering that some of us are novice sock knitters and others are experienced, we may all go with our own pattern choices and enjoy the Malabrigo loveliness with whatever skill level seems appropriate.

I took my "Persia" Malabrigo, wound it up, and decided on a pattern called Dragon Breath, a twisty, scaley, but not-too-difficult pattern that suits the smokey blue-and-teal colorway. It's a free download from Ravelry.

Yeah, I really needed another WIP, didn't I? I wouldn't want to get bored...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On the needles: The Secret Project

Shhh. It's a secret. It's a lot of garter stitch, it's a stash-buster, and I'm not telling what it is just yet because... well... because that would spoil the secret.

Hmmm. And the colors came out funky in the photo. Good. It's a disguise.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

FO: BFL Socks

Hooah! ::wild applause:: There they are, my first real socks, all done and on my feet! It's my BFL socks, done in hand-dyed Blue-Faced Leister yarn using the basic sock pattern from Knitting Rules! Interesting how the colors came out all stripey on the left sock but pooled slightly more on the right sock.

One thing's certain -- when you start out as a sweater knitter and then go for socks, the whole second sock syndrome thing isn't so much of a problem. If you've knit front, back, and both sleeves of a sweater again and again, heck, what's the deal about a second sock? Psht!

Wait... what's that I hear? Surely not the Second Sock Fairy! No, I take it back! I didn't mean it! Noo, not when I have so much luscious sock yarn in the stash!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spring Yarn Crawl!

Gizmo thinks she's going to make off with a skein of sock yarn from today's yarn crawl. Oh, I don't think so, kitty!

Yes, we're back from the yarn crawl! What a day it was! Six yarn shops, plus lunch, a button shop, and a couple of folks made a side trip to a high-end Goodwill boutique. Much enjoyment was had by all, without excessive damage to the budget.

We all met at the Blue Pepper in Salem, filled up mugs with coffee and tea, and were off by 9:00 on our way to Portland.

First stop: Dublin Bay Knitting Company, in the historic and picturesque Pearl District. Here are three from our group (and two babies from our group along for the ride) taking a look around at the offerings:

Of all the shops on our tour, Dublin Bay was the best prepared, refreshments that included fine pastries and French bottled Limonade. It was a cozy nook for non-knitters while the rest of us drifted around and petted the silk and cashmere while estimating how much it would be with the generous group discount they were offering.

Oooh, the silk and camel blend was so hard to resist, but it would have put me over budget on the first stop.

About the time we were ready to check out, another group on their own yarn crawl arrived -- and wow, were these serious knitters! Check it out -- they came by chartered bus!

Armed with serious looks and equally serious credit cards, they swarmed the shop.

Our group beat a hasty retreat and hoped to keep waay ahead of them. I managed to score two skeins of Lorna's Laces sock yarn and one of Cat Bordhi's sock knitting books, New Pathways for Sock Knitters.

On to Knit Purl in the heart of downtown Portland. It's a high-end yarn shop with plenty to oooh and aaahh over. And again, it's a shop where any of us could have gone waaay over budget with just about anything we saw there. They, too, offered a nice group discount. Here Nancy and Janita have a look at the stitch markers:

while Katie posed with the sock yarn she bought and the rest of the group takes a rest:

I scored two skeins of Alchemy Synchronicity silk and wool blend, which was already on the sale rack, so with the group discount it came out to a very nice price. I'll be making a scarf-sized version of the Clapotis out of this:

On our way back to the car, I had to stop and check out the giant Persian rug on the side of a building near where we parked because it looked so real. It was a giant photo printed on panels and glued to the wall but it sure looked convincing.

While some of the group lingered at Knit Purl, several of us dashed up a few blocks to the Button Emporium & Ribbonry and looked at the offerings. While two ladies also checked out the nearby Goodwill boutique for some high-end goodies, the rest of us went to lunch, and managed not only to stumble across a Big Town Hero, but it also managed to be the one where my son, who is working his way through college at Portland State, happened to be working. And dagnabit, I forgot to whip the camera out and get his picture amongst our yarny loot, which I'm sure he's glad of.

Back in the cars and back on the road again. Now we dashed across the river and off to Close Knit, a cozy little shop on Alberta street.

Stephania (an indie yarn dyer herself) checks out the offerings -- and there were plenty of them, tucked into all sorts of cool vintage furniture:

Kate made off with some yummy stuff:

While her good little miss, Lina, took it all in:

I dove into a cubby full of Malabrigo sock yarn and came out with this lovely blend of blues and blacks:

At this point, half the group went off to a bakery, while our car headed off for a little tour of the cool historic east Portland neighborhoods until we found Twisted. How about that entire wall of sock yarn, huh?

There was a cozy knitting nook by the big front windows, and dern it, I missed getting a picture of the young man on the right who was knitting a sock rapidly and expertly, without a pattern, and from yarn he spun himself. He knew the pattern well enough he could knit it from memory.

In that great wall of sock yarn, I found this skein of hand-dyed yarn from indie dyers Black Trillium:

Off we scooted to the Yarn Garden, hoping we'd catch up with our group, but we got there after they'd already left. Still, why not have a look around? There were three rooms as lovely as this, all loaded with yarn:

Nancy found a rack of knitted display sweaters and fell in love with this neon number which was marked just $25. What a great summer sweater!

I dug through their sock yarn and finally found a skein of self-patterning sock yarn with colors that I liked. The Berroco isn't as soft as the other yarns I'd found that day, but I'll give it a try. It may soften after washing.

By this time I was drooping, but our car had just one more shop on the list: Abundant Yarn & Dyeworks. Wow! Fleece, fiber, yarn, studio, dyeworks, and coffee shop, all in one!

Okay, okay, one more skein of sock yarn. I picked up this skein of denim blues from indie dyer Hazel Knits:

By then it was 5:30 and we'd all had enough. We'd managed to squeeze a lot of shopping and lot of knitting into one long day. Time to head home and pet the loot before putting it away in the stash.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And I thought I had problems...

Okay, so maybe it's not exactly knitting and needlework related but...

{/begin rant}
Here I am counting up the cash from some stitch marker sales, thinking about how best to spend it this Saturday as my Ravelry group goes on a spring Yarn Crawl, pondering how much more I can afford, what exactly I should be looking for, what I can set aside for impulse purchases... and I'm supposed to be sorry for this Bailout CEO's wife? Because, ZOMG, she can't be seen buying presents for friends at Bergdorf's because someone might possibly look daggers at her for spending bailout bucks at Bergdorf's? And this isn't an article from The Onion? Seriously?

Mind you, she still can afford to buy presents at Bergdorfs. She just has to be cagey so she isn't seen doing it.

Damn, I wish I had "problems" like that.

And here was I, fretting about piddly things like, oh, wondering how we'll be able to afford to replace the roof that really has to be replaced because if we don't, it will turn into an even more expensive problem... or making sure we set aside enough money each month to send to my mother-in-law so she doesn't have to choose between food, heating fuel, and heart medicine... or trying to save money ahead of time in anticipation of the inevitable vet bills that come with being soft-hearted enough to rescue and care for seven cats... or wondering if the DH's school district really will have to cut his salary to get through the next budget cycle... or wondering how soon my stepson will be able to find a new job since his company cut 25% of their employees and he was one of them...

Well, you get the picture. No worries here about whether I can be seen getting into a taxi with fistfulls of Bergdorf's shopping bags. Heck, I never even heard of Bergdorf's until I read this article.

Still, I'm one of the lucky ones. I have a job. DH has a job. Both of us have health insurance and retirement plans. I can afford some yarn, and even a Kindle.

Lamest quote from the article:

It also means we’re part of the community of more than 400 companies that have received government bailout funds, whose fall from grace has been swifter and harsher than any since Mao frog-marched intellectuals into China’s countryside.

Uh, really? Lady, you really think this is harsher than the Cultural Revolution? You've really been imprisoned inside of a Chinese concentration camp or its near equivalent?

HuffPo has a nice, rip-n-tear analysis of the article here.

{/end rant}

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mmm... new sock yarn!

There went a chunk of my birthday money! I ordered these two skeins of 100% merino sock yarn from Three Fates Yarns on Etsy. Stephania brought them to the knitting meet-up this afternoon and we all got to pet and cuddle them. The shades fo blue and bronze at the top is Pirate's Cove, while the blue-purple blend at the bottom (which looks a shade more purple in real life) is Blurple. I don't know what patterns I'll use yet for these, but I know I have plenty of good patterns to choose from!

We also got to check out some of her newly-dyed rovings and bamboo sock yarn. She's doing a special order for me in shades of deep blue, purple, and black, so I'll have yet a third skein for another special pair of socks pretty soon.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Knitting: Now 100% Healthier!

As if we didn't need even more incentive for stash enhancement... this just in from the Mayo Clinic, via CBS News: Knitting and crochet are good for you! Finally, science bothers to look at humble needle arts and in so doing catches up to what knitters had figured out and kept quiet all these centuries.

Knitting is good for the brain! All the mental work that we do while knitting -- counting rows, following complex Fair Isle or aran or lace patterns, figuring out where to hide the latest additions to the stash before anyone catches you -- stimulates the brain and reduces memory loss in the elderly by 30%-50%. Notice in the video that they refer to knitting and crochet as "intellectual activities." Finally, someone realizes that knitting isn't such a daft activity after all!

Knitting is good for the mood! The repetitive action of knitting soothes away stress and can even help relieve pain and depression and improve the immune system. Okay, maybe not so much when you're first learning and your shoulder are up around your earlobes with tension, but as experienced knitters know, the tension goes away and the knitting or crochet gets a lot smoother. Lots of meditative techniques rely on repetitive actions: repeated prayers, handling prayer beads, repeating a mantra, chanting, what have you. What I like best? Knitting and crochet put that repetitive action to work, so not only do you have a soothing activity, but you have the pleasure and satisfaction of having something nice when you're done. What the video didn't mention is that setting and achieving realistic goals is also one approach to managing depression, and that's exactly what we do when we knit. Okay, so some of us aren't quite so realistic when we plan to knit a whole baby blanket today for the shower tomorrow, or 50 pairs of socks in December as Christmas gifts. Call them learning experiences.

Did you see that lovely purple Clapotis that one woman was wearing? Um... maybe I feel a cold coming on... yeah, I'm sure I've been exposed. And stress, yeah. I've had some stress this week. It would be a really good idea to get some nice silk blend and make a Clapotis for me. I'm sure it would be. And some sock yarn while I'm at it, because sock yarn doesn't really count as stash, right?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The future is here

As for the wonderful birthday present that the DH was hinting at?

Taaaa daaaah!

I can has a Kindle 2!

It's the newest incarnation of the ebook reader from Makes me feel like Jean Luc Picard sitting there reading novels on one of those flat reading tablet thingies -- of which I could not find a picture, but this is kinda close:

The thing has its own wireless communication direct with Amazon, so I can be anywhere and buy ebooks if I want. The screen is not backlit, rather it's essentially electronic ink, so it uses very little battery power. I kinda wish there was a low backlight option for reading in bed at night without a bedside lamp, but otherwise the screen is very readable.

The selection of Kindle-ready ebooks on Amazon isn't bad, and is getting better. I do find I have to wade through a lot of self-published drek (there are some gems in there, true, but a lot of dross to sift through to find them, and that, my children, is why it's so freaking hard to get published through a traditional publisher, because that's the kind of dross and drek they're buried under on a daily basis), but there are also some interesting things that people are putting out there. Vintage knitting patterns at very low cost, for example.

I'm not sure how well knitting patterns will work on the device. If it's not too complicated, maybe.

My first purchased book to download? Wendy Knits by Wendy Johnson. Essays translate to e-book format very well, indeed.

Ah, now for a color screen...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Party, party, party!

iz mah birfday

And it is, too! In a stunning bit of irony, the universe decreed that I, whose father was an accountant, should have a birthday that fell on April 15th. Good thing Dad wasn't a CPA busy with other people's taxes. He worked for the state. Plus, I was born on a Sunday, so everyone had one extra day to get their 1040 forms filled out.

For all those "teabaggers" out there protesting my birthday, I give you Paul Begala's essay on patriotism. So there. Schools, roads, and the rights we claim when we shout, "I have my rights!" don't come free, yanno. Now settle down and have some cake with your tea, and let's not forget that the original tea party was about taxation without representation, so if you don't see the irony in notifying your representative about how you don't want to pay taxes, you're not half looking.

I've got reservations for the new French restaurant in town this evening. It's the only French restaurant in town, as a matter of fact, which means the last time I ate at a French restaurant was on my one and only trip to France about ten years ago. We'll see if this one compares. The DH has been giving hints about really good presents to follow.

Speaking of birthdays, the baby for whom I knit Pondemonium made her way into the world yesterday. There will be pictures, I am sure!

see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In disgrace

This little girl:
got herself in trouble. She discovered that my big knitting bag:

sometimes has a little gap where the cover folds over the top. Sprocket, dainty little calico that she is, loves to go "fishing" in places like that.

First I found a skein Andean Silk for my Twist and Shout sprawled out on the floor with a few pieces chewed off. Hmm, I thought, there is a wool-eater in the house. I put that skein safely away.

Then, less than an hour later, I caught Sprocket red-handed fishing Twist and Shout itself out of the bag. All the damage it sustained was a couple of small snags and some stitches pulled off the needle, and the working yarn chewed through about a foot from the work itself. That was quickly repaired. The whole business went into a canvas tote bag and now hangs on the back of the bedroom door, out of reach of wool-eating kitties.

Obviously leaving wool blends in the bag was a bad idea. Then I began a project in cotton yarn. Surely cotton wouldn't be a target for a wool-eating cat.

Oh, but yes! Balls of cotton yarn are lovely toys! She fished out two. One I found in the living room, and one was trailing down the stairs.

That's it. No more storing projects of any kind in the big knitting bag.

And in other news, Belle, the Princess of Crabby, actually snuggled with our relative newcomer, one-eyed Odin. Now there's something worthy of marking on the calendar in indelible ink.

Belle really is a teeny girl, isn't she? The perfect lap size.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I like indie dyers...

...especially when they're in my knitting group and bring yummy sock yarn to drool over like Stephania does. Here's her Etsy shop just full of goodies:

Come the 15th I'll have some birthday cash just itching to be spent on something nice. Sock yarn sounds nice...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

On the needles: so far it's a wriggle and a wheeze

That's what I have so far of Twist and Shout -- not quite a full twist and not quite a shout yet. It's coming along swimmingly, but oh my, there's a lot to keep track of. The waist shaping decreases are on an 8-row repeat and the cables are on a 6-row repeat and two twist to the left and two to the right. Every time I cross the cables I have to stop and check -- did I twist 'em the right way? Really? Really, truly, I won't curse and swear and stomp my feet ten rows from now because of a mis-crossed cable? Okay, then carry on. In a few rows more, there will be armhole decreases to keep track of, too.

The front gets even better. There you have to increase on one side, decrease on the other, and cable at the same time, and then make certain to do the armhole shaping and neck shaping at the right moments.

In the meantime, his Lordship, Mr. Licorice, distrusts the knitting tote and demands a bedtime snack before he heads out to hang with the street kitties and cause trouble all night.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tale of a Prodigal Sock

Once upon a time, there was a skein of hand-dyed Blue-faced Leister sock yarn. Blessed with a lovely blue, lavender, green, and bronze colorway, like a Monet painting of iris in a reflecting pond, the skein lay in a local yarn shop waiting for its Forever Home. It had not long to wait.

Along came a knitter (that would be yours truly) who had completed the arduous task of writing and submitting an academic paper for publication (::fingers crossed, still hoping, still waiting to hear::) and was seeking something nice as a self-reward finishing the task. Lo, the lovely skein of sock yarn went home with the knitter.

And it was good.

(Good? Heck, it was great! Luscious colors, soft fiber, oh glory be!)

When the time was right, it was wound on a ball winder into a ball suitable for knitting:

And not long after, became the beginning of a sock:

Between knitting sessions, the yarn lived in a little canvas tote bag that was often stowed at the head of the bed for some just-before-sleep knitting, or carried in the car for riding-in-the-car knitting, or even toted into restaurants for some waiting-for-the-food knitting and waiting-for the-check knitting and where-did-all-the-waitresses-go-we'd-like-to-pay-and-go-home-please knitting.

And then one day, alas and alack, the tote was not there!

It was not at the head of the bed. It was not in any drawer. It was not in the stash box, nor the copper wash boiler that holds ongoing projects, nor any other place that an errant knitting tote might get stored. Might the knitter have left it in the hubby's car? No, it was not there. Ah, she must have taken it to the office for some sneaky under-the-desk knitting. But no, it was not there, either.

She called upon St. Anthony for aid, that patron saint of lost things, but if he knew he wasn't talking. Except for a niggling little voice that kept saying, "It's not lost. It's just misplaced."

Yeah, but where, Tony? Where?

The bereaved knitter called every restaurant where she had knit while wondering where the wait staff had gone just when the check needed paying. She even called the theater pub where she thought that maybe she might have possibly taken the knitting. Alas and alack, none reported any knitting in their lost and found.

Not in the stash. Not in the car. Not in the office. Not in any lost-and-found box. Yet that same niggling voice kept saying, "Not lost. Just misplaced."

Then one morning the knitter got up and happened to glance up at the bedroom door which as usual sat ajar so that the herds of cats may roam in and out as they please all night. On the door hangs a set of hooks and on the hooks hang robes and pajamas and... and... and...

... she remembered now that she had not long ago had the brilliant idea of hanging her knitting on one of the hooks so it wouldn't get sat on and where she would always remember to look for it (yeah, that worked). She leaped up, heart lightened with hope, and blessed be the knitting saints, there was the errant tote bag!

Not lost. Just misplaced.

And it was good.

Now when she is done knitting on the sock, she places the tote on the hook behind the door where it will not get sat on and she will remember where to look for it each time. Oh, yah!

Monday, April 6, 2009

FO: Blu

Second baby gift complete for another expectant colleague! I had all the knitting, embroidery, and paint done on Blu last week, but finally got around to sewing the waistband casing over the elastic. The elastic I used is a little stiff but made to stand up in waistbands without flopping over. So without further ado, here is Blu:

Back side, with felt "designer" label:

Front side. I decided to paint on the button:

Not exactly your lacy little baby kimono, is it? But itty bitty widdle blue jeans... squeeee!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

C'mon, c'mon baby now... Swatch it on out...

Now that I've finished a couple of charity projects, it's time to celebrate the year Two-thousand-and-MINE with a project for myself. I've had some Knit Picks Andean Silk sitting in the stash for a while just waiting to be turned into the lovely Twist and Shout that was featured in last fall's collection from Knitty.

The yarn, a blend of wool, alpaca, and silk, feels like a dream. My only beef is that the Imperial color that I selected looked rich and plummy on the website but turned out to be more muddy in real life (looks positively brown in my own photo there, but the lighting is weird). There's a woman in my knitting group who dyes fabulous sock yarns so I think I'll ask her if an overdye might improve the hue.

Now, normally I'm pretty swatch-lazy and tend to knit up a quick square to see if I'm at least within range. With this project, though, I'm dealing with a silk blend and silk has a notorious reputation for growing after washing. Swatching, including measuring the stitch count before and after, is a necessity for that reason alone. Plus, look at all that cabling. I don't fancy getting eight or twelve inches into the project and then discover that the size is way off even before washing and have to frog it all and start again. Nope, this time I must curb my usual impatient startitis and do some proper swatching. The first swatch did indeed grow, and now I've got my second one drying on the sweater rack to see if I'm closer.

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