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.

Book Game

“1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the sentence in your journal with these instructions.”

“HDL cholesterol levels appear to be a particularly important risk factor for IHD in women.”
from Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 15th Edition; Braunwald, et al.

Boy, do I need to get a life.  No wonder I have no problems with insomnia, with that as my bedtime reading.  One paragraph, I’m out.  I need a good trashy novel.

I actually cheated a bit on this one.  My closest “book” is “No Ordinary Time”, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  However it’s an audio book, and I could not figure out what page 23 and sentence five would be.  I received an Ipod for Christmas this past year, and have discovered the joys of “reading” and knitting at the same time.

I’ve done more knitting on the same things.  I also think I might have found the perfect yarn for a bucket hat, but I’m just not posting any more pictures till I swatch it up to see.  It’s more of a DK weight than a worsted, so I’ll have to do a little fiddling with the pattern.

There were a couple of comments to my previous post about the “front porch” culture, and why we have so much trouble making connections in our own neighborhoods.  I think many of us turn to blogging for this reason.  Since we became civilized and moved our family activities to the back yard instead of the front porch, it is not unusual to live in a community for years and not know one’s neighbors.    Heck, there might be knitters right next door.  Maybe I’ll drag the hammock out to the front driveway for the summer.  At the very least it would entertain the locals.

Knitting & Blogging

In the past few days there have been two posts on other knitting blogs that I have found interesting.  One is from confused knitting.  The second was Kerstin’s from April 18th.

I have been thinking about why I knit, and why I want to write about knitting.  Knit blogging is a curious phenomenon to me.  It seems to me that as knitters we want to share our love for our craft with others who enjoy the same thing.

In my mother’s era, women met regularly to do the crafts that they loved.   The knitting or sewing was the initial reason that they got together, but ultimately their homemakers’ groups or craft clubs became a source of friendship and support that would last for years and sometimes decades.  My mother and her friends shared their knowledge of their crafts, but more importantly, shared their lives and all the joys and sorrows that happened along the way.

I think that we miss this type of friendship and connection in our lives.  Most people I know are too busy to have much of a social life outside of their jobs or their children’s activities.  Recently I discovered that an acquaintance of mine is a knitter.  We decided that it would be fun to get together for an evening and share a glass of wine and knit together.  Six or seven emails later, we still haven’t been able to settle on a date.  Between her busy life and mine, there is not one evening in the next month that works for us to get together.  Our lives seem to be dictated by our day planners.

I think that blogging about our craft/art is a way to fill that void.  I have a list of blogs that I read on nearly a daily basis.  I look forward to reading what my “friends” have written today, and to seeing what they are up to now in their knitting lives.  I feel like I know many of these women (and a few men!) quite well from having my morning coffee with them over the past year.

It is reassuring to know that there is someone out there who has the same love for knitting that I do.  I don’t think that it is just the actual knitting that I enjoy, though that is certainly a big part of it.  There is a definite satisfaction in doing something that women and men have been doing for centuries in essentially the same way.  Though we have a much wider array of raw materials to choose from than did earlier generations of knitters, the process hasn’t changed much.  I can easily imagine a knitter many centuries ago sitting with neighbors or family members and knitting an essential garment while gossiping or sharing household tips.  This isn’t much different than the current “stitch and bitch” sessions that our generation seems to think we invented.  And I don’t think it’s too far a leap to compare these long-ago knitters to the online knitting community of today.

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I am still knitting the same stuff.  I think I have decided to use the Interlacements Seeds yarn from my previous post for a sweater.  It keeps staring at me and whispering “sweater”.  So it’s back to shopping for bucket hat yarn.

It’s Your Fault

This is so not my fault.  I really had every intention of not buying yarn for yet another project when I have so much perfectly good yarn upstairs.  But between Bonne Marie and Becky, I just had to have yarn for a Bottoms Up Bucket Hat for the Bucket-along.  And I really looked in all the yarn boxes for something appropriate before I bought this:

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Here’s another picture:

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And a closeup:

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This is Interlacements Seeds yarn, which is a rayon/polyester blend, in the Summer Fruit color.  I haven’t swatched it yet, but the stated gauge says it will work for the hat, and that color just screams summer.

The astute reader will perhaps note that there is significantly more yarn than needed for a bucket hat.  (My husband, not easily fooled, looked at this and said, “That’s a lot of yarn for a hat.”) There were only 2 hanks of this yarn in this color left, and I figured if by chance it doesn’t work for the hat, I’ll have enough for a sweater.  Even with the hat, there will be enough for maybe a vest, or a shawl/stole.  You all just need to check out their website…I want more yarn in many varieties and colors.

I’ve been working on that blasted striped sweater still.  I swear I am not starting another project before I finish it.  So does “not starting another project” specifically mean I can only work on projects already on needles?  Or can I stretch that definition to mean projects for which I actually have patterns, needles, and yarn, and have taken pictures of and talked about on my blog??

More Ripping

Jeesh, this is supposed to be an easy pattern.  Big needles, bulky yarn, mostly stockinette stitch.

I didn’t like the second version of the cable on the blue sweater either.  I realized that what it needed was a purl stitch on each side of the cable to set it off.  It was just too smushed into the stockinette stitches surrounding the cable.  Instead of taking the whole thing back to that damn garter hem, I just undid one stitch on either side of the cable and let it unravel (ravel?) down.  Just like running a nylon.   Here is what it looked like on the second side:

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Then I used a crochet hook and purled that stitch back up.  Now here is what it looked like:

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And a few rows later:

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This, I like.  I might do this cable up the sleeve with a garter hem instead of the wide ribbing.  We’ll see.

Someone asked about the stitch markers.  Yes, I made them.  I went sort of nutty in the bead store and bought a bunch of beads along with the necessary tools and hardware and spent an afternoon making a bunch.  They are quite festive; it takes little to amuse me, as you can see.

Ripping Virgin

I’ve done another 5 or 6 inches on the front of the blue cable sweater.  Actually I’ve done 10 or 12 inches, because I knit it once, didn’t like the cable, ripped it out, did it again.

Here is the first attempt:

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I just did not like where that cable was headed.  For one thing, it doesn’t look like a cable.  It is also too skinny in proportion to the sweater front.  I slept on it last night (not literally, though the cable needle somehow ended up in bed with me).  Today, inspired by  Kerstin, I ripped.  I made the cable a couple of stitches wider, and substituted one that just twists one direction.  The color in this picture is closer to the real thing (taken outside).

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I like the second one better, though I think I will knit something else and ruminate on this for a day.  I’m no longer a ripping virgin!

I’ve had a couple of requests for the gin drink recipe from my Peeps post a few days ago.  It’s gin and grapefruit juice.  The one in the picture was ruby red grapefruit juice, though I’ve used the regular.  If you use the calcium fortified variety, you can prevent osteoporosis as well as scurvy.  There is your unsolicited medical advice for the day.

Ice in tall glass
1 shot (more or less) gin
fill glass with juice
shove mint leaves/sprigs down the side of the glass
Stir and drink
Repeat as necessary

If I don’t have mint, I’ve used lime slices.  If you have ever made the mistake of planting mint in your garden, you are already aware that running out is  generally not an issue.

And here is the cat picture of the day; Willie, tiptoeing through the tulips:

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Friday Five, a day late

1.  What do you do for a living?
I’m a physician specializing in internal medicine.

2. What do you like most about your job?
It is a constant challenge; I learn something significant almost every day.  I’ve not met a patient yet that has read the textbook and follows the “rules”.

3. What do you like least about your job?
Having to think about the financial issues; in the larger sense money does affect patient care.  I just don’t like to think in those terms, or have money concerns factor into my clinical decisions.

4. When you have a bad day at work it’s usually because…
Someone hasn’t done as well as I expected; the worst is when somebody dies when it was not anticipated.

5. What other career(s) are you interested in?
Seriously, none.  I love what I do; it tends to be an all-consuming passion.  Independently wealthy is a close second.

Wonky Stitches

I said I wouldn’t show a picture of John’s Sweater until I got to the front shoulders, but this is just to prove I actually have been working on it.

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I was worried that I was going to run out of yarn on this project, but I think I’ll make it with a skein of each color to spare.  Now that I don’t have that to worry about, I’m finding new things to fret over.  Like seaming.  I have learned a few things since I started this sweater…I began this about four years ago, right after I had learned to knit and purl.  I didn’t have a clue about selvedge stitches, which would make seaming this thing a lot easier given the slip stitch pattern.  When I did the fuschia baby sweater, I put a selvedge stitch edge on it because of the eyelet pattern.  It made seaming much easier.

I have gotton a bit bored with this, so for relief I did some knitting on this:

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This is where the wonky stitches come in.  The back is knit straight up until you get to the raglan decreases for the sleeves.  The pattern calls for a K3tog on the right edge of the sweater, and a sl1, K2tog, psso decrease on the left edge.  I ripped this sucker out twice last night because it looked like this:

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I think this is a combination of which decrease is going on which side, and the bulky nature of the yarn.  After the first rip out, I tried the left side decrease with a slip 2 knitwise, knit one, pass the slip stitch over decrease.  It looked just as bad.  The K3tog on the other side wasn’t bad, but just looked messy.  So I switched them.   It makes more sense to me to put the left-leaning decrease (the slip-knit-pass decrease) on the right garment edge, and the K3tog on the other side.  I’ve only got 2 sets of the decreases done, but I think it will look a little neater.  I hope so, the yarn is starting to get a bit on the fuzzed up side from ripping and re-knitting.

I finally found a picture of what this is supposed to eventually look like:

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Except, of course, blue.  I’m not sure I like the sleeves either but will knit them and see.  What’s with the down-to-the-fingertips sleeves on every published pattern these days?  These girls must never eat.