Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Things I never planned to do in 2009.

Well, that was fun. Lets see, I started and finished a major piece of Starmore colorwork in a month, had surgery, lost 50 pounds, saw my first hockey game thanks to Happy Goth and her husband, and that's just the highlights. When I wrote my ideas of what I'd do in 2009, I don't think I'd really thought beyond taking a year long break from travelling back and forth to New Orleans to visit. I never in my wildest dreams thought that life would pan out the way it ultimately did.

Things I lost other than weight in 2009: Bellringing, fear of anaesthesia, 4 hamsters, 2 cats, 2 chickens, some more emotional baggage which was residue from a traumatic trip to London all the way back in 2000. My mind is a given, of course. Oh, yeah, and lots of my hair.

Things I gained. Hmmm. This is very ephemeral and personal in a way. But mostly, I gained a true and deep appreciation for my home, and for being there, an appreciation for the resilience of the human body, a deeper and richer faith and, most importantly for this blog, lots of mad knitting skillz.

I did not mention my husband, because I have always appreciated and been thankful for him. Only this year have I stopped saying I don't deserve him, because I finally really understand that I don't. But I still have him. So now I'm just thankful for him, without any of the other baggage, which is far nicer.

When I started this blog I had several goals. One was to document my knitting progress. Another was to become an active part of the online community of knitters. Another was to hear myself talk. That's just honesty.

Well, Ravelry lets me manage my projects far better than a blog, and I spend most of my online time there now (or on Facebook, but that's another story and also is where all of my social worlds collide) and the blog is of less and less use to me. So in 2010 don't look for me here with any regularity at all. My hope is to do more actual knitting and less online stuff, and although I might post, don't go counting on it. It is also my hope that when I hear myself talk in the future, it will be in actual, not virtual, space, and in dialogue with others, not just self centered rants.

I need to get out more often. Now that I'm lighter and it is easier to move I need to be in the back yard, or walking, or biking, or anything but moving (as I have been) mostly from the couch to the computer and back. Since I have some energy back, I need to use it in lots of different ways, so I don't lose it. Again.

2010 may make a big liar out of me, in which case this blog will flourish. But unless it does, you'd best catch me on Ravelry. I do thank everyone who has read this over the years, you have all been great and I will still be reading many of your blogs. And I wish you all the very best, and a very Merry Christmas, because that is how I roll.

Peace on earth. And peace out.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


So, obsession. Figuring that I may as well be honest with my own blog, we're going to talk about what I'm obsessed with right now. Starting with the double knitting. (Crappy pics courtesy of my serious lack of photography skillz).

I have managed to add a few more inches since these pics were taken, but they are going to have to come back out. Certain mistakes in double knitting are not fixed simply by dropping back and laddering back up. Oh, well, lesson learned.

The next lesson I learned was that going from dk right to 1x1 ribbing is dangerous. The two maneuvers are just too similar, and I had to reknit a bunch of times. You just want to keep skipping your purls. Since October is known as Socktober, I had to cast on a sock. (Yeah, we're not going to talk about all the socks already cast on, or halfway finished.) So here is my next obsession, arch shaping:

This is my first Socktober sock, cast on October 1. Since I began knitting socks I have been on a quest to have a perfect sock pattern. Seems to me, if I'm knitting my own, I ought to be able to engineer a pattern to fit my foot perfectly. One of the big problems I have with the socks I have knit so far is that none hugged my foot enough to keep me from feeling like the sock was slipping around in my shoe. I thought arch shaping might be the next thing to work on, so I grabbed a ball of Opal in Harry and Ron and set about exploring sock architecture.

Well, the jury is still out on this sock. The pattern is here, and yes, it is a Ravelry link. This sock feels really strange to me when I put it on, but put a shoe over it and walk around and it is perfect. Without shoes, just going sockfooted, it pulls funny over the instep. Ok, you say, so wear shoes, wasn't that the point? Ah, but I am looking for a perfect sock, and since I spend most of my time at home in socks without shoes, this one won't do. I'm knitting the other one today, so I'll finish the pair, but I'll be moving on to other sock architectures and continuing my search.

Next obsession? Not knitting at all.

I am totally obsessed with cooking over fires, open or contained in a fireplace. Hopefully I'll be getting a chance to use it soon. Damn thing is heavy (duh) and topheavy. Bringing it home in the car was almost an adventure. Had to put it upside down on the floor of the car to keep it from rolling around. And 20+ pounds of cast iron rolling around the interior of the car while you're trying to drive and keep your car interior from being damaged? Too much adventure for me.

Then there's the latest instant obsession. You know what those are. You stumble across something you have never heard of before and for some reason you become completely consumed with it. I am like that with Mooncakes. Since this morning. Really instant, I know. I might be over it by this afternoon for all I know, but for now I can't stop googling for pics and info. I rather doubt I'll be over this one too soon, though. It combines too many things I already have an interest in. The moon. Cake. Asian design. Asian cake. Wooden molds. Lotus designs. Collectability. Accessability. Fall. Fall festivals. Obscure stuff I didn't even know existed before 45 minutes ago. The ability to mesh this is with my ma'amoul molds and scandinavian molds and decorate my kitchen with it. Because my kitchen is so big and there's so much wall space in there to decorate. Yeah.

And I'm obsessed with painting my kitchen heliotrope. Don't ask. I can't explain.

In sad news, the hamsters are passing, one by one. According to the vet they have exposure to a slow growing disease from birth and they are either immune to it or they will eventually succumb. We lost Genghis first, then Hai Shan, now Kublai is going downhill fast. These are all the hams that got that skin problem early on. The other two, who never got the skin stuff, are fine. They are still together and have shown no signs of anything at all. I can't help feel that there's a connection here.

Anyway, not to leave on such a sad note, The chickens are very fluffy and are laying every day. The lotuses are going dormant and the fish are beginning to slow down. Leaves haven't started turning yet, but I have high hopes for plenty of good fall color. Spring cherry blossoms and summer lotuses aside, fall is my favorite season. I love everything about the whole season, not just one or two flowers or holidays. Maybe it's memories of playing in leaf piles, or all the food-centric holidays, maybe it's the memories of birthday parties or the relief from the oppressive summer heat in New Orleans, but Fall always seems to lift something off my shoulders and make me feel lighter and happier.

And cool weather makes good painting days. Now, where can I get good heliotrope paint?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fresh From Estonia

Really! Smell the freshness!

I'm ready for winter. Bring it on.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Warning: This Post May Not Make Much Sense.

I'm only warning you because right now I'm in the middle of making up time at work. See, even though pharmacists are salaried, they keep track of hours missed, so basically we are only salaried when it is to the company's advantage. I really can't complain, though, because I'm making up time from my surgery back in June, it's just that I'm tired and prone to rambling and blithering. So if I stop making sense at some point, you know where that is coming from.

Anyway, DragonCon. We were in the parade and were surprised how well the chariot held up.

We had a great time being in the parade and saw Nell and Haley in the crowd. At the end of the line we were greeted by the Seed and Feed Marching Abominable, and I couldn't help dancing. The rest of the day we wandered around, taking in all the wonderful costumes, and being stopped for photos of John. I had changed out of my dress for comfort's sake, and was happily staying out of the frame all day.

Meanwhile, the backyard is taking off:

Mushrooms magically appeared overnight, spectacularly sprinkled throughout the back yard. These are pretty big, and I just love them.

In knitting news, I have lost my mind. I am double knitting. Do not ask me why I suddenly got hit with this particular bug in the midst of pulling all these makeup shifts at work. My relaxation activity now officially hurts my brain. But I am catching on.

Details coming soon. For now I'm heading back to work. Have a great day!

Friday, September 04, 2009

And We're Up and Running

That is all.

It's here. Color. Brought to you by black and white.

Eve will have Bollywood soon. We did it for her, you know. Not because we wanted a big honking tv or anything. And Happy Goth needed to see Paheli. The things I do for my friends.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chicken Check and New Wheels in the Driveway

As you may know, not long before Ophelia passed on to that great free range in the sky, Pearl and Snowflake joined our odd little family. They are two Plymouth Rock pullets, and they were pretty traumatized by the whole human interaction thing, having been pen raised. They are beginning to warm up to us, though, and a few days ago left pullethood behind.

One of these was laid neatly in the center of the nestbox, the other outside in the run. They are tiny, as are all pullet eggs, but they will grow into laying regular sized eggs soon enough. I felt the occasion should be marked as the rite of passage that it is, but I did not know what would be best. There are no little pamphlets entitled "Today You Are a Hen", celebrating henhood and giving basic instructions on the changes your little chicken body is undergoing. There are no rituals, no bok mitzvah ceremonies, nothing like it. I checked. So, as their deity, I wished them long and happy laying lives, and that will have to do. Today there was another tiny egg in the run (not in the box where it is supposed to be, grumble, grumble). So now we have to try and figure out which chicken is thinking like Felix Unger and which one is our Oscar Madison, and try to get across the idea that that pile of straw is there for a reason. We'll just see how well that goes.

Now for a surprise. About a week ago my husband and I took a little staycation, which was really wonderful. While we were buzzing around town, we decided to take a Smart Car out for a test drive, just to see what they were like. They are cute and amazingly roomy on the inside, but don't have much pickup, possibly due to the engine which is about the size of a large tackle box. Still, the mileage was great, the price wasn't bad and the whole thing seems marginally safer than a scooter, which was another getting around town cheap option we had been bandying about.

Still, for all the good points, and the cuteness, let's not forget the cuteness, the Smart Car was rejected in favor of an alternative fuel vehicle which we greatly prefer:

Now, if at first you are skeptical, let me point out that this type of vehicle has been the choice of emperors and military leaders for hundreds of years, and won races for just as long before being supplanted by new fangled modes of transport which, face it, just aren't nearly as stylish.

And it's plenty roomy, just look!

That will hold one fully decked out hero in all his armor with room to spare! And horsepower? How many can you harness up to it? And the thing basically runs on chicken feed.

This chariot has been living in my basement for the past 15 years. It was a gift to my husband when he was King of Meridies, the SCA kingdom we live in. He is dusting it off and spiffing it up for the Dragon Con parade, which is the Saturday of Labor Day weekend downtown. While he will be appearing in Roman splendiferousness, I will be walking alongside in my own splendiferousness. We will get pictures, do not fret.

It is funny what happens around this time of year. Even though this summer, and particularly, this August have been unusually temperate, the body knows where it is in the year, and you find the urge to grab wool and make something flees you somewhere in the middle of June like the proverbial bat out of hell. Nevertheless, in late August, often in zillion degree heat and record breaking humidity, the body knows fall is coming, the summer lace project gets tossed in a heap and your instinct impells you toward the pile of shetland wool you created in June in a fit of heat induced catharsis. ZOMG! Winter is coming! Every fiber of your being screams at you to cast on! cast on! cast on! If you don't, YOU COULD FREEZE TO DEATH THIS YEAR! All reason flies out the window until somehow you forget you live in a centrally heated house in Georgia. So I did what any self respecting knitter who is the boss of her knitting would have done under these conditions.

I cast on like 9 things.

And you know what? I don't care! I have UFOs from 5 years ago I could work on, but why? I have new shiny stuff to play with. I don't knit out of necessity, although it is my one truly useful hobby. So that's just a bonus that I get stuff out of knitting that is useful. If need be, I can buy socks cheap at Wal Mart. Some UFOs need to age, like wine, to reach their full potential anyway, at least I'm convinced this is so. New yarn needs to be bought, aging in a shop doesn't marinate it quite like mingling in your stash at home does. So here are a few of the new hotnesses:

Dubbelmössa in unspun Icelandic wool from Schoolhouse Press. Just one example of the high quality project you can achieve through careful stash marinade.

The rather excitingly named "Wimple No 3". Sounds like a piece of art, no? You won't be catching me without some kind of headgear this year, apparently. A Fiddlesticks pattern from the Needle Arts Book Shop.

Not last and certainly not least, my newest obsession is twofold. One fold of it is the Glitten. Just go and see. Yes, it is a Ravelry link, but there is no more waiting list to get on, although I think everyone who wants to be there is by now. The other fold is the semi solid line that Dream in Color is producing. All the colorjoy of Malabrigo in a smooshy high twist yarn for your cabling pleasure. Two? days ago I cast on in Classy colorway Absolute Magenta. What do you think?

Sorry about the crappy pics, but I am entirely too excited to operate a point and shoot camera correctly right now. They're Sleestak Gloves, people!

Um, you DO remember Sleestaks, don't you? It's all too awesome for me, I may need to go have a lie down now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Well, I am back in action for sure now. During this summer I have had the opportunity to step back and take a look at the direction my life has been heading and do a little thinking on it. So far, what I think is this: I'm going in too many directions all at once.

Now this is actually the usual state of my life, so it is hardly a big shock or anything that I feel I need to fix right away. Except that I really want to, because I think it will make me happier. So here it is, and I'm pretty happy with what I've hammered out.

First, the knitting stays. Period. That was actually on the table for a minute or two, simply because somewhere between casting on a ton of big projects and now I have lost 35 pounds. This is great, and it is about half what I ultimately need to lose, but it means I have lots of stuff on the needles (and even finished *gulp*) that needs ripping and restarting. That alone nearly did me in when I realized the extent of the possible destruction needed. Or the gifting. That's not decided yet, but since the knitting keeps me from stabbing people, I thought it would be a good thing to continue.

The SCA stays. But on my terms. Really, it has to stay, because my husband enjoys it so much (and I enjoy it, too, sometimes...) but I will hopefully enjoy it more now, thereby making us both happier. First thing I did was change my persona from the 14th c Welsh thing I haven't really been doing to late Roman Empire, and changed my name to start. The rest, it will come, but not at the expense of my inner peace, so the time frame will be very relaxed. This will also prevent me going all stabby. And this is good, right?

The glass stays. I truly enjoy hot and cold glass, and with a newly discovered resource for classes and supplies, and a new configuration for my torch, as well as a whole new world opening up for me with borosilicate and blowing techniques, glass is a keeper.

The bellringing may be going. Not that I don't love it, I do. But I'm spread too thin. Maybe if I had found it at another time in my life, but right now I have only so much time to allocate and some of it needs to be rest. And I realized that I was a lot less exhausted before I started ringing because I wasn't running somewhere every evening to do something somewhere else and I need that down time back.

Spinning is going for now. I am far more in love with the idea of spinning than the reality of it. The end.

The blog is staying. But it will change a bit. It will begin including glass and SCA as well as anything else I want, because I don't intend to have a separate blog for everything. Plus, I now use Ravelry for much of what I had originally intended to use this blog for in the first place, asit is much smarter and better organized than ever I could be on my own, and that only leaves ranting for the blog. Even I would like it to be more than that.

The knitting machine is staying. I still get shivers thinking about all the stuff I can do with it when I have the time, so it can stay, albeit in semi hibernation, until I have that time.

Mean people are going. I used to try to be civil and polite to everyone, especially those who were not so to me (and that mostly out of sheer bloodymindedness). All bets are off now. I don't have time for it. If people are rotten to me or my friends, to hell with them. And since I am lucky to be friends with the best people in the world, I win.

BTW, lack of inclusion in the above links does not signify anything more than I ran out of words I wanted to link to.

So there. I'm about halfway through the weight loss and halfway through my life reclamation project. It must be time for Skycoaster!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Terrible Twos

I have heard that the phenomenon know as the "terrible twos" is a function of mental development exceeding language acquisition in children when they hit roughly the age of two, and the frustration created by this disparity.

As a knitter, I am totally there.

I have ideas in my head that I can draw on paper, but I have no idea how to knit them. I am really frustrated by my lack of comprehension of stitch and fabric manipulation. As I have knit many of my previous projects I have come across techniques which are clever and should be useful in making my ideas a reality. However, I have no clue as to how to choose the right technique for what I want, or how to apply it to my ideas.

As I have returned to sitting, I have returned to knitting. And I have realized something about my knitting. I excel at shapeless garments. Socks fascinate me, but their three dimensional nature is not beyond me only because of the glut of really well written patterns. Otherwise, we are back to great success with shawls and scarves.

Knitting is at once two and three dimensional, and I am lost to try to reconcile that in my brain. I am currently knitting a pattern for a little top that I had hoped would help clarify a few things for me, but I find myself struggling every step on the way to understand the pattern as written with no hope of learning enough about it to modify it or take away anything useful I could turn into design knowledge. Part of the reason is that the pattern is written with an enormous assumption that I know what I'm doing in the first place.

In the turn of the last century lots of patterns were written making these same assumptions. I have seen so many patterns that read like this: Using the chart, cast on as many stitches as needed for the border and knit 3 repeats, then continue with the sweater in the usual way. The assumption is that we all know how to knit sweaters, and in the time in which the pattern was written, it may have been a pretty safe assumption to make. But in our day and age, we depend on more experienced knitters to work out all the missing details and write them up in a form we will understand. This is why I buy Nancy Bush's version of the patterns instead of knitting directly from Weldon's Practical Needlework and its ilk. But I'm getting tired of knitting other peoples' designs. And my brain is not Nancy Bush's, and I'm cranky about it.

So I think I have at least identified why I am tending to knit a bit, then storm around my house throwing needles and yarn across the room, only to cast on something else I hope will help and, ultimately, throwing that in an ever growing pile of WIP dissatisfaction.

That pretty much wraps up the tale of my summer knitting.

Before I go I really want to thank everyone who send me good wishes for my surgery. After a few minor setbacks I am well on the road to full recovery, at least physically. All your comments really cheered me up when I needed cheering, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chicken Tragedy, Butt Surgery and Other Tasteful Subjects

Ah, so here I am updating after long last. It has been one hell of a ride, folks. Where to start? Well, let's just dive right in, shall we?

First, not long after I posted about the pullets, my hub and I awoke to an empty cage. Door wide open, no signs of struggle or carnage, but no pullets anywhere to be found. We still don't know whether it was vandalism, animals or not fastening the door well enough the night before, but them chicks is gone. When I'm up to it, I'll be getting at least one more hen, probably closer to equal size with Ophelia so they can go in together from the start. One thing for sure, the Eglu is secure.

Second, there's the whole "when I'm up to it" thing. Well over a month ago I started having trouble with the tailbone area hurting like hell. Eventually it was obvious I needed to seek medical help, so off to the doctor I went. That's when I learned a new term. Pilonidal Tract, to be exact. Um, don't do any google image searches if you don't have a serious amount of intestinal fortitude. Ok, now that I know you are all going off to look at gross pictures, I'll give you a minute.

Fun, eh? And surgery was the only way to deal with this for me. And yes, it isn't butt surgery, strictly speaking (thank God!) but it's close enough, let me tell you. So last Thursday I had surgery and I'm actually doing better than I thought I might. Sitting, and therefore driving are still out of the question, but I can stand like a champion.

The biggest improvement I had hoped for was in my general health and energy levels. You see, for years I had weird problems with my immune system, and had often so little energy that even though I personally don't hold with the whole Chronic Fatigue thing (no hatemail, please) at the same time I was starting to think I had it. Which was a tough little conundrum for yours truly. And there was no explanation for why my body reacted as it did to stressors and illnesses, but it was acting like I was immune compromised and would throw off all sorts of other crazy reactions. Now we think that I had a low level infection in my PT for years, and my body was constantly trying to fight off something it couldn't get to, leading to my immune system conking out and all the fatigue.

I have to say that aside from issues with the incision itself (just the usual post surgical stuff) I feel better constitutionally than I've felt in a looooooooooong time. I'm not hoping for a miracle or anything, but even if I stay where I am now, after this heals completely I'm way ahead of where I was. And I really expect to get better. So we shall see.

Yesterday was the first day I knit in a long while. I'm currently working on a pair of Embossed Leaves (rav) socks in the Bugga! Blue Orchard Bee colorway, which got put way on hold when I started feeling really bad with the abcess. I haven't even updated my Ravelry page yet, but I'm just taking things one at a time. Right now I am blogging from our secondary computer which I can stand at, but none of my pictures are on this computer so I will have to post pics later.

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in and give you all a little status report. Ophelia is hanging in there, still laying eggs for us, the postman is still delivering yarn, and I'm getting better every day. Hang in there, I should be fully operational shortly, then I'll have lotus pictures to share as well.

You may all post butt jokes in the comments now.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gang of Four

I have 3 new handmaidens. The old one is not pleased.

Even chickengoddesses have to live and learn. And I have learned. The answer to the question of introducing new pullets to a single old hen is, um, don't do it.

You see, I have been intending to get Ophelia new friends since Gladys was killed, years ago. And probably had I done it then while she was still young it would have been fine. But not so now. I brought home 3 pullets today and tossed them in with the best of intentions. At first, they were acting like one big happy family. Then I noticed that Ophelia had started pacing and talking a lot. Whole lots. She started getting kinda schizo with the pacing and talking to herself, but was still largely leaving the pullets alone. Then she started pecking them, but only like a warning, and only when they came near her. I had hoped that this was as far as it would go, but sadly I was wrong. About the time my husband came home for lunch she had started seeking them out like some kind of chicken terminator. The littlest one found shelter between the roosting bars and the floor where she could just fit, but she couldn't stay there forever. The other two were getting bloodied and I had to do something, so I pulled Ophelia out and put her in the bathroom while I ran out and borrowed an old rabbit cage from a friend. It will definitely do for now. So now everyone is separate and safe, until the new girls get big enough to go in with Ophelia.

Originally I had named my chickens Gladys and Ophelia because those were the names my sister and I would assume as children when we played dress up at my Gram's house. But now that there's only Ophelia, I have decided to go with the theme of Shakespearean females, and after today sticking with the tragic ones seems only right. So here's Juliet (the white one), Desdemona (the black and white one) and Cleopatra (mostly black) in their first blog appearance, with Ophelia being angry, which is what she does best today. Any guesses how long before she starts laying again?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Saucy Jack

I have to tell you that the one thing you really don't want to announce on a blog is that you are going to name something. While you are writing it, the idea is just popping into your head and flowing out you fingers. And, largely, bypassing the rational thought centers of your brain. Next thing you know, it's out there and folks are commenting and now expecting some sort of greatness. And while I can't say it was well thought out at the beginning, the knitting machine bailed me out by giving itself a name worthy of your expectations. So now I and my newly working friend will show you our stuff.

First, meet Jack. Jack is a Studio SK360 from some time back in the 80s. The SK360 is a standard gauge machine. That means needle spacing is 4.5mm, also referred to as pitch. It handles fingering weight yarns (a range of sizes, probably up to a thin DK weight) best. For those of you who have or have seen the Bond Incredible Sweater machines or Ultimate Sweater Machines they have a pitch of 8 and handle worsted best. Mid gauge machines would really handle DK and sport weight best. Fine gauge machines would knit very fine yarns and threads. There are bulky machines as well. I have 2 Bond ISMs as well.

The SK360 is a manual machine. This means there are no onboard or integrated electronics. It has a punchcard reader and a knit radar built in (the integrated knit radar is, I think, unique to this machine. Otherwise it is sold separately as an attachment). Punch cards provide a mechanical method of knitting limited designs singly or repeated in either colorwork or in lace type patterns. The knit radar "reads" a schematic of the garment and tells you when to do the shaping. I am not fooling with either of these things right now. I don't know enough about them and I don't need them for this first project.

My machine came with lots of accessories. I believe it in fact came with all the accessories you could get for this model. I have a ribber, which is a second bed of opposing needles which would allow you to knit and purl simultaneously. Otherwise, ribbing on a single bed requires you stop every few rows, drop the desired stitches, then latch them back up in the correct orientation. It is a royal pain in the butt if you have lots of ribbing to do, or if you're on a standard gauge machine.

The best thing about machines? They're fast. I swatched Socks that Rock lightweight for gauge on 3 different settings. It took me about 10 minutes, and I was really distracted.
Here is your typical machine knitted swatch. What this swatch says is that the gauge I want with this yarn, 8st per inch, I can get with the carriage set to 6 (See the little eyelets above each sample? That's how you tell.) . It also told me that I had a bent needle 5 needles to the right of zero, which I replaced. If you look you can see the column of slipped stitch mess.

Armed with this knowledge and this book I prepare the machine to cast on for a sock. Today I am not using the ribber, but am going to knit it with a picot edge, top down.

Open a new window for Pandora. Check. Carriage dial set to 6, phasers set on stun. Go!

Note to self. For this sock, the hem is 6 rows, knit a 7th and make eyelets every other stitch, reset row counter to 0 and knit to 61 rows. This is where we are now.

And if we peek behind, you can see the picot edge hem behind the waste knitting.
And now the heel. I'm going to shortrow down to 12 stitches, then back up. Here we go...

And back up...
Now a zillion more rows all over for the foot. As I'm knitting this I see that I will not need anywhere near as many rows and the calculations suggest. I cut it to 61 and I still may have a large sock. Well, we will see after all is said and done. So here we are with the toe done. Boy, these are going to be some psychedelic socks!
And the sock on waste yarn off the machine...
Lets get this seamed up and see what we have!
A large sock! But it is a sock!

My thoughts on this whole thing.

1. Machine knit swatches are dirty lying bastards just like hand knit ones!
2. The seam is not objectionable at all and can be done better with more practice.
3. The heel is too deep and the foot too big, but these are easy adjustments and I'd have the perfect sock!

I hope you have enjoyed this brief look into my crazy day of machine knitting. Me and Jack are getting to be better friends all the time. Oh, and I hope you guessed his name by now, it is...

Wait for it....

Jack the Ribber!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Stitches South, the third

So, while I am swatching madly on the machine I thought more yarn would be a nice distraction. But before that, I am going to take a moment to share a few observations regarding vendors.

This is the first fiber expo I have attended, but it is hardly the first time I have experienced this format. I have been to dealer's rooms at SciFi and anime conventions, and even been through the halls of swag at professional venues. I was surprised at some of what I encountered at Stitches.

The setup of your booth should not be so packed with stuff it blockades the customer from actually entering and continuing to browse. It should be inviting. If all you did was sit hidden and dejected in the rear of a booth like this, it is no surprise you did not do well.

If there are two people working a booth, one of them should excuse themselves from the non buying chatty customer who is only seeking attention to help the new customer who has been seriously trying to catch someone's attention BEFORE she leaves the booth. Following after me as I walk away and asking if there was something I needed help with after I wasted 10 minutes of my time trying to catch someones' eye will always result is me telling you, no, I didn't need help. You have lost a sale. I will find what I need somewhere else, because I can, even if it was your display that sold me on the item. You have lost my business.

I was also surprised at the amount of snarking I overheard from other vendors, loudly telling customers why not to shop at another particular booth. If I am not trying to eavesdrop and still hear you, I might ultimately take your advice, but I add your booth to the list as well. Except for ease of availability, there was nothing there I couldn't find somewhere else. People, this is the 21st century. Thanks to the internet, the world is my LYS.

Lastly (and I'll mention that although I did not patronize the booths I am referring to above I did eventually buy something from these last although they came close) if you are dealing in limited unrepeatable colorways, you might want to be more up front about it. I asked if there was a kit in the color of the model. I was simply told no. Then I asked if there would be anymore in the future. Again, the no. Then I had a question regarding a pattern, which I was told was not available separately outside of a kit that didn't come in any of the colorways I was interested in. Could I get any of what I wanted and they repeatedly did not have later from a website or something? I'm happy to do that. No. Were they trying to run me off?

The disturbing thing about the array of vendors at Stitches was that there were a larger number of negative experiences than I have ever come across before. I don't know if anyone else found this, but I sure did.

Excellent vendors did abound, though and they got my money. Boy did they. Aside from Gryphon, I dropped a bit of cash at Tess Designer Yarns. I did not merely buy yarn there, I bought the night itself...

There is no way I will ever get this color to photograph just right, so I'm not going to try. It just looks like the sky at night where there is no moon, just a few clouds glowing somehow. I love it. I'd better, I bought lots.

Next is the totally fun Zauberball

which is a really long change color shifting yarn. In Germany you can even get Zauberball Crazy, but those are not yet here. I have one Crazy coming from Germany at some point. I like the idea of color changes long enough to still use complicated stitch patterns and not obscure either the pattern or the colors.

There's more, but this will be it for now. Friday I should have a tutorial of sorts on machine knitting for you, right now it's back to swatching for me!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Stitches South, part deux, the director's cut extended version

What I didn't expect to find at Stitches was machine knitting stuff. But lo and behold, a booth I passed like 90 times without even looking (for some weird reason) suddenly manifested on my 91st pass, and there was Fran's Knitting Boutique, all full of knitting machines and machine related stuff. You could have knocked me over with a hank of Bugga!

Many years ago I bought a used knitting machine on ebay. I know, I know, but it really was a good deal, was an excellent model year and came with every accessory ever made for it, all for a low price when compared to buying new.

The first problem was that it was in Oregon, and I have never been anywhere near Oregon, so shipping was going to be the dealbreaker. But then I found out a friend was going to visit family in Oregon the very next month and would be within reasonable driving distance and didn't mind picking it up for me and bringing it back home with them.

If that isn't a clear message from God telling me sure, go ahead and buy a used knitting machine sight unseen on ebay, well, I don't know what is. Now, the Old Testament is really clear on what happens to people who don't obey, so I bought it. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

And everything went without a hitch and in a little over a month, I had a Studio 360 machine with a ribber and all the extra stuff you could ever have for it, and I had no idea what to do with it. So it kinda sat.

Then I found a local KM dealer and got with her and had the machine cleaned and serviced and got some basic lessons on the main bed and went home and did almost nothing with it. So I put it in storage for a while, so it could age to perfection. Ahem. Meanwhile, the dealer seemed to magically go poof! and disappeared, so I lost what support I had for the machine. Things looked bleak for my future in machine knitting.

Then, when that Rowan issue came out with the Kaffe Fassett Kidsilk Haze extravaganza of stockinette, I thought, hey, what a great project for the machine! Mostly because I hate the thought of miles of stockinette. And it worked great. But I never even began to figure out all the features much less started trying to understand the ribber, which I didn't seem to be able to even hook up. I chalked it up to ignorance and when the project was over, back into storage the machine went.

But Kim was busy catching the machine knitting bug, and I offered to lend her the machine and all it's accessories so she could take a class in KM stuff, figuring when she came back I'd pick her brain. That was when I found out the second problem.

The ribber was bent.

That would explain a lot, though, and when I got the machine back I rather sadly packed it all up for storage, possibly this time for good. Until I saw Julia's blog (go check out the awesome spinning wheel her father made for her!). She knits socks on her machine. Excuse me, I could knit socks on the machine? Why hasn't anyone told me this? (Why didn't I think of it myself? Ssh, we're not going there).

So now it was important for me to have a functioning machine with a ribber. And there was nothing I could find on the internet or in the phone book or anything that could point me in the right direction. Till Stitches, and Fran. Who sold me a new sponge bar and gave me the courage to have my husband take a hammer to the ribber bed. Seriously.

Do you know how many people at a fiber convention will stop you and ask you what you have if you walk around the vendors room carrying a sponge bar for a knitting machine? I am seriously thinking about carrying one routinely at every fiber event I go to from now on. Vendors came out of their booths to stop me and ask me what I was carrying. It was freaky. At one point a really nice lady came directly up to me and said,"That's a sponge bar for a knitting machine! You have a knitting machine! So do I!". There was a desperate edge to her voice. I realized that I had just met another lost and frustrated knitting machine owner with no support system. I gave her my contact info, I hope she gets in touch with me.

But yeah, tons of people who previously had limited their conversation with me to "excuse me" all of a sudden were consumed with curiosity. It isn't even that special looking.

Anyway, where all this longwindedness is going is that I just spent an entire day with my machine and John and I actually fixed the damned thing! I can rib! I can knit in the round! In the round! I can do other stuff I don't even understand enough to name now! And all I keep hearing in my head is James Earl Jones's voice saying,

"Now witness the power...

...of this fully armed...

...and operational battle station."

It's like owning the death star of knitting machines. I may have to name it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Stitches South, Installment the First

In spite of illness I finally made it to Stitches South today. There would be tons more pictures except photography and such were not allowed. Highlights were Rick Mondragons' leopard pants (once seen, some things cannot be unseen), a cavalcade of bizarre sparkly knits, having a lovely conversation with Lisa Souza and finding the one item which is apparently THE icebreaker for a knitting/fiber show. For todays installment, though, I will share with you my triumph, indeed, the reason that about 30 minutes in I could have packed up and called it a good day and gone home happy. That would be the Bugga!

In the foreground is the Blue Orchard Bee colorway, in the back is Blue Morpho.

And here in front is Orange Assassin Bug, followed by Hologram Moth (I bought two of those) and bringing up the rear is Scarlet-Winged Lichen Moth.

And they glow, people, they just glow. I have never successfully snagged any Bugga! at all during any of the Sanguine Gryphon's updates, so being able to touch sweater quantities of all the colorways was almost too much for me. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it yet, but I really don't care. Whatever I do will look spectacular because of the amazing depth of color of this yarn.

More new stash tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It's All Good

Now that I've gotten THAT out of my system, we can return to our regularly scheduled madness.

Ok, entrelac. Yes, I'm gonna talk about it some more. But it's ok, just wait. I gave it a truly fair shot. I knit it until I was actually becoming proficient at it, and it's actually very simple, if fiddly. Now, projects like the Forest Path Stole are demystified, and I feel confident that I will be able to encounter entrelac projects in the future in a spirit of opennness, judging them on their own merit and not just reacting to the entrelac portion of the technique. See? Nobody died.

I did, however, finish the cuff of one sock before pulling the needles out and making the calm and reasonable decision to trash the project. And you know what? In the end it was not the entrelac that got me (although entrelac in socks is skirting the edge of madness) but the yarn. Noro sock yarn. Sucks for socks. That is all.

Meanwhile, I have been in a cooldown period over Shipwreck, during which time I thought I'd just order the undyed yarn and use the shipping time as a waiting period before casting it on again. I charted out Madiera directly from Barbara Walker no. 1 and cast on. I haven't gotten too far because I've had to work for the past 4 days, but what I've got, I love, love, love.
I probably won't get too far before the weekend either, because today's my only day off and I have to clean The Horde's room. They have been in apocalypse mode now for a few weeks, and they are hoarding seed and hiding it everywhere. So cages are a mess, and hams need their health checks (So cute! Everything about them is so cute!) Tonight Happy Goth and I will be watching the second half of Veer Zaara and drinking beer and knitting. See? It's all good.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The White Hot Fury of a Thousand Burning Suns

One of the things I like most about myself is my ability to stick with something even when it isn't what I originally signed on for. Some call it integrity, some call it stubbornness. Some call it marriage, but I call it (for lack of a better term which would more aptly describe the hidden evil within) entrelac.

Ok, it is tomorrow, and there is no burning of wool, no wailing and gnashing of teeth. There is, however, a slowly growing sock whose every stitch is imbued with pure unadulterated hatred.

I am human, I say, possibly the highest form of life on this planet, I say, and I am superior to mere yarn and therefore I will triumph. I say. This will not beat me. I have a brain, and cells and protoplasm and I can operate computers and cook and make stained glass windows for crying out loud. I can make these socks. And I will.

Last night for the first time in 15 years of marriage my husband came the closest he has ever come (possibly in both his marriages) to instant divorce. He was watching me struggle with this, this thing I am knitting, and he said: "I know it's giving you trouble, but it's pretty". Ok, that didn't get him in trouble, it was when he went on to say: "So when you are finished, you have to knit another one, right?". Instant divorce. No judge would blame me. My jaw actually dropped when he said that, and I just stared at him. Just stared. Then I merely said, "Gee, thanks, honey". He may never know how close he came to losing me in that moment.

Enter my best friend. Who apparently wanted a divorce as well, because when I told her about what the husband had said, she said: "You know what would be really funny? If you knit both the socks and then your cats ate them". Apparently, this is what I need friends for. Divorce, I tell you.

So now I'm just knitting out of shear bloody-mindedness. I will have these socks because they are awesome. I may be friendless, divorced and alone, but I'll have these socks, dammit.

Just thought you'd all like an update on my progress. I'll take a picture with the blaze of my fury stops interfering with the camera.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

When a Shipwreck becomes a Trainwreck.

Well, all my talk of project monogamy is total tosh. As soon as Knitty released its latest issue I had cast on the Shipwreck Shawl with stash yarn and got beads together for it. It was not going to be a perfect attempt, the yarn I had was already dyed green, but it was the right stuff, Knit Picks Gloss, which is the same base yarn and I was going to overdye it with the blue and black and hope for the best. I thought it fortuitous that I had a chance to use up the Gloss, I had purchased it for Thermal originally. Only after swatching for Thermal did I realize that I hated knitting that stitch pattern and the thought of having an entire sweater in that pattern made me cringe. So I ripped back my swatch and cast on and had instant success. St. Brigid went into what I was sure would be a quick hibernation. I was flying through the pattern. Until the Madiera chart section.

I would hardly consider myself an expert knitter. Usually, when a pattern or chart isn't working, it's my fault, and earlier projects taught me the errors of knitting hubris when it comes to lace patterns, so I figured the reason this chart wasn't working out was me. But for some reason, I plowed ahead, and I got through the first section of leaves on common sense. It was then that I had a brief conversation with Janice, who told me the chart was borked and that she had brought this up on Ravelry and the new charts fixed the problem. So I downloaded the new charts, which were different, and proceeded to get so confused I asked her to call me, feeling mere email exchanges weren't going to be good enough. Starting the second set of leaves, the chart seemed weird again, but she said to trust the charts, and I did. It wasn't perfect, but it turned out ok, and I got all the way to the tips of the leaves before things went horribly, horribly wrong again. I had thought I was clear, but no. Completely frustrated, I got out the original pattern in BW1 and charted the thing out myself from her instructions and lo, there was a chart that looked like it would work. So I ripped back to the center of the pattern and started again. Only now I was two stitches short. Somewhere. I could not for the life of me figure out which repeat lost stitches, and thought I saw a few rows down a problem, so I ripped some more.

After a certain point, there is no point anymore, so the whole thing has been frogged. I decided to take a break for a while before I revisited Shipwreck (which I have almost renamed Trainwreck). So did I pick St. B up and go back to cable heaven? Heck no, I cast on these socks. I have been obsessing over them ever since Pat put them on her blog, and although I have up till now been avoiding entrelac as if it were the plague, I figured the beauty of these would give me the intestinal fortitude needed to face entrelac.

OMGWTFBBQ11!!eleventyjillion! I hate it. I HATE IT! NO PROJECT CAN BE WORTH THIS! This is why people go postal, entrelac is, and I'm nearly there. I have never considered harming myself in anyway UP TILL NOW. There was a moment I really contemplated sticking a dpn in my eye BECAUSE SURELY IT WOULD BE MORE FUN THAN ENTRELAC!!!!!!!!!!

No, I haven't ripped it out yet. I'm going to sleep on this, and see how it works out in the morning. To be fair and all. Mostly to cover my ass so I can honestly say I gave it a fair shot before burning the whole freaking thing ritually. Those of you out there who actually LIKE entrelac, what is the secret? I can knit backwards, yeah I am doing that, so it isn't even more horrible like it would be if I had to turn and purl after every 6 freaking stitches. Where's the magic here?

Tomorrows episode: How to clear the smoke of burning wool out of your house fast enough to prevent your fire alarm from going off.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A More Refined Distraction

It is hard for me to pick between spring and fall for my favorite time of the year. Coming from New Orleans, they're both so new to me. The real charm of spring to me is when the cherry trees begin to bloom.
There is something so delicate and graceful about these blooms that charm me to distraction.
So many shades of pale pink, ethereal in their massed glory.
The bark is so dark in contrast to the ghostly color of the flowers.

My favorite haiku sums up my ultimate spring experience:

The cherry blossom
So lovely, so Japanese
Oh God am I drunk

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Plugging Away

Work on St. Brigid is not swift. Add to that the realization that because this is a pieced sweater and not steeked, I have to knit 2 of everything, and sometimes I want to cash it in. But then I look down and see what I've got and I just can't walk away...
It does continue to be eerily easy to knit. I think that all those years of doodling celtic knotwork have paid off because now I pretty much have the pattern in my head and the charts are only there for reference if I need it. Also, not using a cable needle speeds things up a lot. Cable needles are really fiddly and annoying, always tucking the ends out of the way and generally causing me to do more stopping and starting, and I drop the darned things a lot. At this point I have ditched the stitch markers as well, and as much as it is possible for the rows to fly by, they're flying.

So there's plenty of knitting satisfaction going on with this project. I'm really trying to stay monogamous with this one as I did with Rosarie, and hopefully before end of April I'll have another FO for the pile. I think I'll get the Hub to put on his Durrow and I'll don the St. Brigid and we'll have a photo shoot full of celtic goodness.

One thing I have noticed is my penchant for purple. I can't explain it, I certainly wouldn't characterize it as my favorite color, but I do seem to be knitting lots of purple. Secondary colors in general, because my project page on Ravelry has lots of green there as well. I am waiting to see how orange fits in there when it inevitably happens. Orange is not a color I remotely prefer, but I look really good in many shades of it. Ah, well, who knows.

On the Bollywood front I have now seen Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which apparently in Hindi means "lets all cry for 3 and 1/2 hours". Beautiful men crying is definitly worth the time investment. Also we had HappyGoth and her husband and Jen over Sunday night for indian food and Asoka. Let me tell you, an angsty SRK with long hair does not suck.
Thanks to the Tsarina for the recommendation.

Aside from the knitting and the Bollywood, life is going well. The chicken is happy and laying, the fish are tooling around all fresh from their winter naps and the cats and the hamsters are crazy. Not together, that would be a bad kind of crazy, but they're all nuts. Kind of like me. Oh, well, back to cable insanity!

Monday, March 02, 2009

2009 Year of Epic Overachievement

Really, I didn't intend for this to happen. I don't know what came over me, but one minute I'm watching Bollywood movies and living in total denial of my inability to commit to a next project, and the next minute I look down and a repeat of St. Brigid snuck in there.
I suppose it is now safe to say that I will be working on this next. No, really. I was all distracted by the discovery of many dishy Indian men and a world of completely over the top films. The toughest part is that you can't knit anything but stockinette or ribbing and read subtitles, but that was just letting me live in a fantasy world that didn't include the pressure of my project list or the sheer guilt of my stash. But can you blame me for being distracted? Um,
Akshay, uh, hmmmm,
hello, Hrithik. My, is it getting warm in here? Oh.......
dear, dear, dear. It is tough to pick a favorite from these three. Ahem!(SRK)Cough! The movies I picked are hysterically funny, the music is great and they were a nice break after the intensity of Rosarie.

I actually had to lend out the movies so I would stop watching them long enough to, oh, I don't know, eat, sleep, do a little housework, maybe knit. Ahem. I do seem to have something caught in my throat, don't I?

Anyway, aside from taking any opportunity to post pics of these guys on my blog, the knitting is going weirdly well. I mean it. I picked this thing up without really thinking about it, and just started knitting away, no prep except to write out sheets to help me keep track of the multiple chart combinations, and totally forgot to check gauge or worry about complexity. And you know what? If you can knit a simple cable, you can knit this. As over the top as it seems, it is true. I don't know, maybe I levelled up after the last project and got some fancy new skills I hadn't counted on, but I don't think so. We'll see how long that feeling lasts. And of course, a great deal depends on my friends keeping my Bollywood DVDs long enough for me to make the sweater or else it's all over. Then, it's going to be all about SRK, baby. Maybe I should just pencil that in on my schedule right now.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Made of Pure Win

Rosarie is done. I am totally pleased with the result.
I am really glad I knit this first, it's a great way to kick off the year. I only wish the weather was cooler, because this is one hot vest. Here is the front...
And the back.... (crinkled because I wore it in the car going to Knitch. Um, to buy yarn, certainly not just to show it off)
And the inside showing hot steek action... (and cat hair if you click for big)
And the back of the shoulders where I signed it....

And there it is, the first FO of 2009, started January 1st and finished today! I have still got the buttons loosely tied on until I am really happy with placement, but I'm going to have to fiddle with that. It is still a little on the lumpy side because I didn't block it to death, but a few washings and it will finish sorting itself out. I caught the light too late in the day to really capture the color, but I'm not going to fight it. You will all just have to see it in person.