Bad-Ass Knitter

There is a new button on the sidebar.  Check out Wendy’s Bad-Ass Knitter Manifesto here.

And my Bad-Ass Knitter award for today goes to Norma.

Rule 11.

Never keep knitting something you hate.

Four Easy Pieces:

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I see seaming in my future.  Actually, near-future; this is on the agenda for today.  I think I need a good movie to watch.

Audrey; Reunion

I am back from North Dakota!  The family reunion was fun.  I was raised in a little farm town of about 800 people, and we had the reunion there so it would be easier for the oldest member of the clan to be there.  My mother had 8 siblings; her father had 7 siblings, so it potentially could have been a huge gathering.  It started out as a reunion of my grandfather’s descendants, but expanded when we were contacted by one of his siblings’ grandchildren; our second cousins twice removed, or something like that.  I had met one of them as a kid, but otherwise none of us had ever met before.  So it was a great experience to get to know some relatives that we didn’t know, and a way to re-connect with the cousins that we haven’t seen in years.  As the older members of the family are passing on, there was more of a sense of urgency to talk to the remaining elders to preserve memories.  There is an old family feud from the previous generation that rather stupidly has passed down to my generation, so one branch of the cousins decided not to show up.  We laughed and ate, took a lot of pictures, and just in general had a great time.  We made a pilgrimage out to the original family farm that my grandfather homesteaded in the early 1900’s.  The original farmhouse is long gone, but the house that I grew up in is still there, though it hasn’t been occupied in years.

Here is my old home:

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It was truly sort of weird to be there.  The house was open so we walked through it.  It is still actually in good shape other than a lot of cosmetic things that would need to be done.  I don’t think I have the fortitude to live in a North Dakota farmhouse in the winter though!

Here is what main street looks like.  Note the pickup drivers stopping to visit:

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We had a couple of meals in the local cafe.  This is the sort of place where you are in your seat for dinner promptly at 12 noon; not 12:05, but noon.  “Supper” is in the evening, and “lunch” is that meal you eat between dinner and supper, or maybe between breakfast and dinner if someone stops over at 10 AM.  The whistle blows exactly at noon and 6PM so you know it’s time to eat, and again at 9 PM so you know it’s time you got your butt home if you’re a kid.

Here’s the day’s menu from the cafe:

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On to knitting news.  I got a bit of knitting done while there.  I worked on the Rowan Audrey sweater, and am about two thirds done with the first piece (front? back?).  Initially I didn’t like the shaping but it is growing on me.  I think the darts really help draw the eye in the direction it is supposed to go to make it look shapely.  I don’t think I would have figured them out on the first try without this from Norma.  The directions in the pattern for the increases/decreases leave a little to be desired.

I don’t have good pictures.  I tried to get pictures tonight but the light is just not right, and they just suck.  So rather than showing pictures that suck, I will try again.  Actually I am going to block the pieces to that blue sweater this weekend and seam them together.  My goal is to finish this next week; I still have to knit the turtleneck collar after the seaming is done.

Yee-Haa!

I finished knitting the pieces to the ice blue sweater. Or, rather, reknitting them. This time the decreases turned out pretty nicely.  Not perfect, but good enough.   Now I just have to block them, sew them together, and knit the turtleneck collar on.

My timing is a bit off for finishing this project.  I leave town tomorrow for several days for a family reunion in North Dakota.  (This is why there are no pictures of the finished pieces; the camera is already packed.)  Blocking and seaming on the road just doesn’t sound like it will happen.  So I guess it will have to wait till I get home.

And you all know what that means.

A new project!!

I dithered quite a bit about what I will knit next.  God knows I have enough yarn to choose from.  I think it will be the Audrey sweater, from the Rowan # 35 magazine.  I have the yarn and the pattern already, so I think this one will go in the carry-on to start swatching on the airplane.

This will be our first real family reunion.  My mother had seven siblings; there are three surviving, and a multitude of cousins from my generation.  We are meeting in the little town where my grandfather homesteaded, and are planning a whole long weekend of fun activities.

I’ll be back in a week!

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:

Download Essay.html

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…