That Damned Ice Blue Sweater

I can explain. I really do think I will like this sweater once it is done.  I could have titled this post “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.  It’s the decreases this time that are giving me fits.  Normally I do increases and decreases reasonably neatly.  This pattern does a slip-knit-pass-stitch-over type of decrease for one side of the garment piece.  They just look sloppy in this bulky shiny yarn.  The real b***h of it is that I didn’t decide this until I got to the sleeve cap on the first sleeve.  After I had finished the front and back pieces and put those stitches on holders.  I re-did the sleeve and like it much better, and then looked at the finished front and back pieces, and my gut just says I need to rip those back to where the decreases start and re-do them.

Here are a few pictures.

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I don’t have “before” pictures of the sleeves, and I am not taking close ups of the big pieces to show the sloppiness.  I’ll just say that I am not pleased.  It doesn’t help that this is a long sleeved wool turtleneck sweater, and it has been in the high 80’s here.  I want to be knitting a snappy little cotton tank.  I know if I set this aside that I will forget what the hell I have changed when it’s time to pick it up again.

Just for some fun, try the Essay Generator.

Here is what I got when I put today’s blog title in:

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Gadgets

Here are a few of my favorite knitting gadgets.  I have a whole room full of the usual knitting stuff; some of my “indispensable” gadgets are the usual ones you would find in a knitting store.  Others are not so usual.

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This is my current knitting project notebook.  I have separate tabbed sections for each project, with a copy of the pattern, and loose leaf paper to take notes.  I keep a ball band from each project in the pocket in the front, and I have a zippered canvas pocket that fits into the binder to keep a pencil or anything else that I need to carry around.  I’ve looked at some of the ready-made knitting journals that are available, but this is just more functional for me.

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This is my favorite row counter.  It’s a “clicker counter” from the office supply store.  I have 4 or 5 of these, so I have them in every project bag.  They are cheap, and count up to 9999, in case you have a project with that many rows.

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Pins.  I have lots of these.  My favorites are the no-coil safety pins, though I like the plastic ones also.

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String tags are a great way to keep track of what you are doing.  If I want to mark something on my knitting that I did differently from the pattern, I’ll write it on one of these and pin it right to the spot.  From the office supply store, and cheap.

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I made these.  They are probably not as practical as just plain ring markers, but they sure are pretty.

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These are the more garden-variety kind of markers.  My favorites, hands down, are the flexible rubber ones.

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And a box in which to keep everything.  This is from the hardware store…another great place to find knitting notions.

John’s Sweater

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Yarn: Classic Elite Provence, in mariner blue and ivory shades. The pattern called for the blue stripes to be 2 different shades of blue, I just used one. The yarn is 100% mercerized cotton; very nice to knit with.

Pattern: Seaside Stripes, from the book A Close Knit Family, by Melissa Leapman.

Started: I think I started this in about 1999, when I first started knitting.

Finished: June 12, 2004

For: My husband, John (the model)

Knitting Update

Not a very imaginative title, I know.

I am finished with the knitting parts of John’s striped sweater.  Here are a couple of photos (this is before I knit the collar on):

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Sew the thing together, and I’m done.

I also worked on this sweater yesterday.

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The second photo is the beginning of one sleeve.  It has about 7 inches of ribbing on each cuff, which I didn’t think I would like, but so far it is OK.

What I have learned so far from this sweater is to take notes as I knit.  I modified the cable down the front, as well as the raglan increases.  I set this aside a couple of months ago to work on John’s sweater.  Fortunately I had written about the increases in a previous post, so I could look that up.  I didn’t write down anywhere what I had done with the cable; I couldn’t remember if it was an 8 row cable or 10.  It looked more like 10 so that’s what I did for the top half of the sweater.  I think there is a rule somewhere that if you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, you will pick the wrong answer 100% of the time.  Ripping ensued.  I have no idea why I didn’t figure this out until I had 3 separate cable crossings done.  I tried to just rip out the cable part in the middle, but decided quickly that it was more fiddly than just ripping it back to where I goofed.

I’m in a bit of a project-finishing frenzy.  I have a zillion things I want to start, but I think I want to finish both of these sweaters first.  Of course I won’t be able to wear that blue fuzzy thing for a few months, but at least it will be done and ready for the first cold fall day.

The National Pastime

No, I’m not referring to knitting, but to baseball.  I screwed up somewhat today.  It was (still is, actually) a glorious day in the Puget Sound area.  In honor of my first day off in 7 days, my husband and I went to the Tacoma Rainiers baseball game this afternoon.  It was in the mid to high 70’s, clear skies, a hint of a breeze, and just a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

I really love our local minor league ball club.  It’s close to home, and just seems more like what baseball should be.  There is the really cute mascot, Rhubarb the Reindeer, who is all over the stands for the whole game.  There are the cute boys dressed up in baseball outfits running all over the field.  It’s more unpredictable than going to a Mariners game.  When a major league batter whacks a pop fly into left field, the guy out there almost always catches it.  Boring.  With AAA ball, sometimes they catch them, sometimes they don’t.  They don’t always get the obviously “easy” double plays either.  Our home team won today, which made it even sweeter.

Then there are the between-inning activities to keep people glued to their seats rather than out at the beer stand.  My favorite is the one where all the little kids line up on one side of the field with Rhubarb, and they race across the field to the next exit.  The kids love it, and occasionally there are a few adults too.  A close second is the Chicken Dance.  Those of you from the Midwest know what this is:  I’m originally from North Dakota, and you are not legally married there until they have played this song at your wedding dance.  The college age kids working as ushers etc. get up on the dugout roofs and lead the crowd in performing this very dignified dance.  They do this every game, all season.  I certainly hope they get paid well.

The tickets are cheap; a beer costs more than the price of admission.  Heck, a hotdog almost costs more than the ticket.  All in all, a great way to spend an afternoon.

So how did I screw up?  I forgot my camera.  What a perfect blog photo shoot!  I took my knitting bag and did a little knitting off and on during the game.  Here is a photo of my DBKP  (Designated Ballpark Knitting Project):

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And a close up:

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This is Schachenmayr Rainbow, in White Rainbow (from Elann).  The pattern is the Bottoms Up Bucket Hat from Chicknits.

Of course, now we have to go to another game soon, so I can get pictures.  There really is very little that is more fun than sitting at the ballpark on a beautiful afternoon, beer in one hand, knitting needles at the ready.

Knitting Books, Part 1

I decided to do a post about my favorite knitting books.  Part 1 will be about my current two favorite books; who knows if I’ll ever get to Part 2 or beyond.

June Hiatt’s Principles of Knitting is one of them.  At 571 pages, this is at one extreme of the knitting book spectrum.  You can find just about anything in here, and if you want to know nearly all the ways to do a particular knitting task, this is the book for you.  Unfortunately it is out of print, though there are frequent rumors on the knit lists that it is going through a re-write.  It is not casual reading, but more of an exhaustive (exhausting?) reference work.  If you have friends who refuse to take your knitting seriously, this book on your coffee table might just impress them.  I do love this book, even though Ms. Hiatt can be very opinionated when it comes to the best way to do something.

If money is no object, you can buy this on Ebay or other online sellers at exorbitant prices.  Or check your library.  If you decide to spring for it, look at a copy first.  She illustrates her work with line drawings rather than photos.  I actually find this helpful; I’m not distracted by the color and texture of the yarn used and can focus on the technique illustrated.  Others just don’t like this and work better with actual photos.

At the other exteme is Nancie Wiseman’s The Knitter’s Book Of Finishing Techniques.  This is short and sweet, at 128 pages.  The title is somewhat misleading.  This is much more than a book about buttonholes and hems.  She discusses selvedges, seams, picking up stitches, grafting, casting on, and binding off, as well as other techniques.  I use this book all the time; it has a permanent place in my knitting bag.  It has a spiral binding so it opens flat in front of you while you are working, and the photos and instructions are clear and direct.

If I could only have one knitting book, and money was no object, I would get the Hiatt encyclopedia.  If I could only have one book, and only had $16, I would buy the Wiseman book.

Well of course you all know I don’t have just one knitting book.  I would post a picture of the knitting book library, if it weren’t so danged embarrassing.  And I would have to collect them from all corners of the house for the photo shoot; there is that, as well.  That’s too close to housecleaning for me.

Holiday Knitting

I did actually get some knitting done this weekend.  I finished the orange boa.  The color looks like creamsicle orange to me.  I’m not sure exactly where I’ll wear this, but the deck on a cool May evening sounded good for a start.

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And one with Riley:

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I think you should learn something from every project, even a garter stitch scarf out of novelty yarn.  So I knit this continental style; I’m normally a “thrower”, so this was a good chance to practice.

I’m also nearly done with John’s sweater.  I have a bit of one sleeve to finish.  I got all the loose ends sewn in this weekend, and have started the blocking process.  I’m using the 3-needle bind off for the shoulders, and wanted to block the front and back pieces before I did this.  Then all I will have left to do is pick up the neck stitches, knit the ribbing around the collar, and seam everything.  I can only fit one side of this on my blocking board, so I’m doing it half at a time.

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I actually enjoy the “putting it together” phase.  I don’t mind seaming, or even sewing in ends.  I am a little worried about the seaming on this sweater.  I started this thing so long ago that I was clueless about selvedge stitches.  The pattern stitch goes right up to the edge, and may not be the easiest thing to seam.   If I were to ever be nuts enough to do this pattern again, I would add a plain selvedge stitch on each side.

I forgot to mention one other knitting related purchase I made in Germany.  When we were in the train station in Heidelberg, there was a man selling a variety of implements: scissors, knives, and dental tools.

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I bought these:

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They are just the right size; a bit bigger than my little embroidery scissors, but still small enough for my gadget bag.

Hope everybody had a good weekend!

What Makes a Real Knitter?

I periodically read some of the online knitting email lists.  I have subscribed to a couple of them for quite some time.  I read them sporadically, post a question now and then when I’m stuck, and answer a question on the even rarer occasion when I know the answer to something.  I tend to read blogs more, both for entertainment and to keep up with what other knitters are doing.

Every once in a while I get terribly annoyed at one or another of the lists.  One such list, which shall remain nameless, has had an ongoing thread for several days regarding what makes a real knitter.  Are you a real knitter if you slavishly follow patterns every time?  Are you a real knitter if you only knit with novelty yarns or acrylic?  Or are you a Real Knitter only if you design your own pieces from scratch without any software or pattern assistance, and only if you use 100% wool yarn?  If you carry this to extremes, you are only a Real Knitter if you raise your own sheep, shear them yourself, and spin the wool into yarn.  Of course you would dye the yarn yourself also.

Gack.

The messages finally trickled off after one lister posted that she thought you were a real knitter if you knew which end of the knitting needle is up.  (That’s a paraphrase of her comment.)

I write about this because I am currently knitting a scarf out of orange novelty yarn.  Now I think of myself of a real knitter.  I have made socks.  I’ve done cables and Fair Isle. (OK, the Fair Isle was a pair of baby socks to fit a 1 month old infant, but, still.)  I’ve knit in every state and country I’ve ever visited in the last five years.  Knitting borders on being an obsession with me.  I used to have just a touch of snobbishness when I saw not-real knitters making endless scarves out of novelty yarn, in any color.

I am a snob no longer.  Knitting with polyester novelty yarn, especially in a color so orange it makes your teeth hurt, is not as easy as it looks.  The yarn slips and slides around on the needles.  It i painfully easy to drop stitches or do unintentional yarn-overs with this stuff.  And it is not particularly exciting to knit garter stitch in an endless rectangle.  I thought that a garter stitch scarf would be an easy project and that I could watch the season finale of “24” while knitting.  Hah.  You have to look at every stitch you do with this.

Lucy seems to think this yarn is related to her.  It might be the color, or the long feathers attached to it, but she keeps trying to bond with it, so I can’t leave it out anywhere in between rows.

Here are some pictures of the work in progress.  You might note that I am using vintage plastic needles from Australia, color coordinated, of course.  That makes me a little more of a Real Knitter, right?

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I’m calling it a boa; sounds more sophisticated than “orange polyester scarf”.

Book Report

I changed the book titles in the sidebar so I thought I would explain.  I finished “Middlesex”, by Jeffrey Eugenides.  I loved this book, even though it took me forever to finish.  It is a compelling novel about a young girl who is born as a hermaphrodite; genetically male, but morphologically female, at least until puberty.  The book is very well plotted, with scenes and characters that are vivid and alive.   I haven’t read his “Virgin Suicides”, but liked this one so well I will probably get that to read as well.

I am partway through the Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt biography, which sounds horribly dull but is actually quite good.  I have it on audio to listen to on my Ipod, and the narrator cracks me up.  He does a wicked Winston Churchill imitation whenever the author quotes him.

Les Miserables is on the back burner.  It’s also on audio, but I only got part 1 of it, and now the second part is unavailable.  Plus it is nearly impossible to keep track of all the characters while listening to it rather than reading it in print.  Live and learn.

I just started the Da Vinci Code, and am listening to that one as well.  The Ipod is a wonderful way to listen to books and knit at the same time!  I took it on our trip to Germany and “read” and knitted all the way over and back.

The Fforde book is one I am reading in print.  It was recommended by Kim Salazar, and it is truly a wonderful book.  It is not too taxing mentally, but not your typical mindless “whodunit”.  It has enough literary references and plot twists to keep you reading.  I am nearly done with that one, and have the second one in the series at the ready.

So Much Yarn, So Little Time

I wish I was not such a slow knitter.  Between the demands of real life, and the fact that I just don’t knit very quickly, I don’t seem to get many projects done.  I think that is one of the few disadvantages of knit-blogging.  I make my daily whirl around the blog world and get just a little bit intimidated by some of you who finish projects at light speed.  Please tell me that you have a knitting staff who works on your knitting while you are doing the other stuff that surely is part of your lives as well.  I guess I don’t worry about quantity much, but every once in a while I think…good God, those other bloggers have finished five sweaters already this year, and I’m on my first one.

Enough wallowing.  On to pictures of more yarn purchases.  Which are scheduled for knitting projects in about 2008.  This is the only yarn I bought in Germany.  Truly, I exercised uncommon restraint.  It was only because there was an awful lot of impatient foot-tapping going on from the two men waiting for me. It is bad enough having one man tapping his foot and looking like he’d rather be cleaning the rain gutters while you are trying to weigh the different merits of nine hundred balls of yarn; I had two of them.  I did not write down the name of the yarn shop, and the receipt is buried in the folder with the nine million restaurant receipts, and I am not getting up to look for it.  It’s in Heidelberg, it is on the main shopping street in the old town center.  They had a bunch of sock yarn, I bought some self striping yarn for 2 pair:

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And some novelty eyelash yarn for a scarf.  Normally I don’t buy this stuff because I don’t wear scarves, but  I loved the colors and couldn’t resist.  Might be a gift, might be a boa for me.  Who knows, I might actually dress up for the theater some night and need a boa.  Or I might just fondle it now and then.

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Click on the little pictures for a real thrill.

I am at the near-beginning of my 90-hour-7-day work week, so haven’t knit much since getting home.  I am  still pretty jet-lagged also.  And then there was the fun of getting home and sifting through two weeks of mostly junk mail.  And our internet connection was down (now fixed). And our hot water heater was dead when we got home Monday (pilot out, got it fixed).  And my car wouldn’t start yesterday AM to go to work  (dead battery, better now).  I think I’ll go watch JAG reruns…

Germany!

We have been having such a good time in Germany that I have not had any time to post.  We leave tomorrow, which is probably a good thing.  If I consume any more bratwurst and beer I will need to check into a detox center.

I do have a few pictures; of course knitting related.  The digital camera is truly one of mankind’s greatest inventions.  However, we have at least 7000 photos to sort through, many of them food-related.  John has insisted on taking photos of just about everything we have eaten while here…once I get them sorted out I might just be persuaded to post the pics of the Schweinshaxen that we had last night in Bavaria.  (That’s a roughly German word for pig’s knuckles for the non-Bavarian among you.  It’s as big as your head, and they serve it with the knife stabbed into it.)

We spent the first few days in Heidelberg, where our friends live. One of those days we went strolling through the shops in the city center.  One of those shops, just fortuitously, was a yarn shop.  Really, I didn’t know it was there.  I was only allowed about three minutes inside.

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I felt a little like I had won one of those prizes where you are allowed to run around a store for a certain period of time and keep everything you could pick up.

This unfortunately was the only yarn shop I was able to get to while here.  My husband has a low tolerance for hanging around a yarn shop waiting (it’s his only real fault), and our friends appear not to understand the attraction of yarn.  I like them anyway.

The middle third of our trip was a train trip to Berlin.  We enjoyed many museums and historical sites, and more food and drink.  And shopping, though none of it knitting-related.  The train ride was several hours of uninterrupted knitting time (well except for the time we went to the bar/dining car).

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The third “third” of our trip was a driving trip to Bavaria.  We drove there (more quality knitting time!), enjoying the journey despite a “Stau” or two along the way (traffic jam in German!). We stayed in Garmisch, where the 1936 Winter Olympics were held.  We took in the castles of Ludwig II (I am not getting out the guidebook to spell them correctly!), which are pretty impressive.  It has been fairly cool and rainy the whole time we have been here, so we did not do any hiking.  We had to leave something for next time.

I have made significant progress on John’s sweater while here.  I finished the front before we left home, finished the first sleeve and am about a third done with the second.  All I can say is thank God people only are born with two arms.  I hope to be able to knit on the long trip home tomorrow…I had no problems getting my wooden needles on the plane going this direction.  If not, I guess I will get a lot of reading and napping done.

Colorstrology!

I want to know why we all seem to love these sites, and who thinks them up. I cannot stay away from the internet quizzes that tell me what kind of person I am. Never mind that I am 40-something, tripping towards 50-something, and should already know what kind of person I am.
This one is from Kerstin. It’s the Pantone Colorstrology site; it tells you what color suits you best based on your birthday; and your personality traits based on that color and birthdate.
I’m October 5th, Winsome Orchid, sparkly, intelligent, and outgoing. Have you ever noticed that none of these sites label you as a witless, unpopular dullard with no sense of appreciation for the finer things in life??
You might notice that the predominant color in my blog banner is winsome orchid. This truly was a fortuitous choice, it appears.
I will be absent from the blog world for a few weeks. We are travelling to Germany to visit friends; and yes, I already have a list of yarn shops printed out for every town in Germany with a population of more than ten people. Our friends do have internet access, but it’s dial-up only, so I may or may not get to post for a while. I’ll probably be way too busy eating strudel and drinking German wine to get on the computer.
Have you noticed how knitters have an extra travel challenge? I have not packed or done laundry, or anything else that I really need to do to get from here to there. I do however have my knitting projects lined up, and have made sure I have enough gadgets and yarn to last me for the whole trip. I’ll be back….

Front, Done!

I finally have some knitting progress to post about.  The front half of John’s sweater is done.   I had a bit of trouble with the short rowing on the shoulders.  It seems that doing short rows at the same time that you do narrow stripes makes for some awkward moments.  Let’s just say I have a lot of ends to weave in.  But the front looks mostly the same as the back in the striping and pattern sequence.

Here is the front:

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And a close-up:

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Willie’s opinion of my work:

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As long as I’m doing the pet photos, here is Lucy:

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And Riley, having fun in the lake!

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I’m back at work this week, so am just happy to have a few moments to knit and write.  My work weeks are always somewhat insane.  My week starts on Tuesday, and runs for seven days, so I generally try to get every last bit of enjoyment out of my days off.  Here is a picture of me this past Monday, relaxing for the last time before starting in on another siege:

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As you can tell, it was a very nice day in the Puget Sound area.