Friday, April 27, 2007


Here's the yarn from my last post. The green and blue skeins are the sock yarn, Anne, and the brown one is Esperanza, the chunky alpaca. My plan is to work on the socks (as well as my part of a joint baby blanket three friends and I are making for fourth friend, and an Argosy scarf that I'm knitting along with my mom) this month, when I'll be traveling a lot--the Esperanza is just too bulky to be good travel knitting.

I think I've written about the baby blanket before--its going to be similar to some of the pieced blankets that a bunch of other knitters have made, with other of the blanket in yellow (that's my part, because I'm the most obsessive/speedy knitter of the group), and the other half divided into thirds--one light green, one blue, and one purple.(Let's hope I'm remembering correctly that I didn't tell the friend this is for about this blog, huh?) It will be set up kind of like this... but there's all that knitting to get through first.

The yarn is Knit Picks Swish. I haven't tried that many of the Knit Picks yarns (I've actually made socks, gloves, and two shawls from Essential, Merino Style, and Alpaca Cloud, respectively... and I may have also bought some Main Line, Andean Silk and Cotlin to swatch with, for possible designs, but I haven't actually swatched yet), but I've been really impressed by it. You know how when you knit with gorgeous yarn, part of your brain is constantly thinking how great the yarn is? That happens to me with Knit Picks. Who knew I could be made so happy, so cheaply?

Oh wait! I've used Shine too. I take that "I haven't tried that many"back--I've used much more Knit Picks than I thought. Shine is actually the one I've least happy with, since that sweater has gotten a little fuzzy--although in the yarn's defense, it's been heavily worn and washed in the machine (mostly in a sweater bag, but not always) for nearly a year.

And on to the great mother-daughter Argosy KAL of 2007: evidently, my refusal to wear a grey sweater she'd made for me is the reason my mom stopped knitting. (Clearly, I deserved that unloved vest I knit for Kevin!) Now that I know better, I'm trying to lure her back into the fold with hand-dyed wool. Starting May 1, she's going to knit Argosy from some blue Miss Priss and I'm going to knit one from either Alpaca Cloud or Schaefer Andrea. I'm currently leaning towards the Andrea, since I'd like to be able to work on this in Sierra Leone, and I have this feeling that alpaca is not the best fiber for West Africa in May. Also, I think the colors need a less complicated pattern, and I'd like to save the solid yarn for something more complicated.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Yarn Shortage Averted!

So, this post will be temporarily photo-less, because while I took some pictures, they're still on my camera. But I got a bunch of new yarn in the mail yesterday. The April shipment from Socks that Rock (which I won't post pictures of, just in case someone else in the sock club finds their way here and didn't want to see the yarn yet. Apparently, this is a huge deal for some people, but I kind of like seeing the yarn before I get it--even though the surprise is ruined, it extends the fun of project planning, since you have actual information about the yarn to plan with... but I guess if you're definitely going to make the pattern they sent, there's less fun to be had in planning).

I'm not sure if I'm going to use the pattern they sent. It's lacy, and I'm not the biggest fan of lace socks--and since I've already messed with the previous STR kit, I might as well mess with this one too. On the other hand, I have made one pair of lace socks that I really like, and maybe I'll like these too. Tune in after I finish the Hill Country Socks!

And I got a shipment of yarn from Schaefer Yarns--some of their chunky Alpaca in a new color (suddenly, I can't remember if it's 100% alpaca or a blend, and I'm too lazy to look). I don't think it's on their site yet, but it's gorgeous--all different shades of brown. And designing something from this yarn will be perfect--it's wonderful to knit with, but it's so warm that I can't really wear it unless I'm going to be sitting still somewhere freezing. They also sent me 2 more skeins of socks yarn, for some new socks designs.

As usual, this yarn appeared just as I was congratulating myself on having made some progress on my total yarn mileage in preparation for a million woolly events in the next few weeks. The hourglass sweater used a bit more than four of the six skeins of Andy's Merino, and I knit a box (not yet felted) from Mason Dixon Knitting from the rest. Then I whipped up two hats from Wool by Bessie (I'm apparently in a Farmhouse Yarns phase!), to be donated somewhere. That's about 3/4 of a mile of yarn (counting the sweater)... and poof, I have more yarn to add to my mileage. (I cheat a little, and don't add in yarn that's meant for Schaefer design projects... it's not really mine, right?)

Next time... pictures of the new yarn, and my master plan for May knitting. (Let's not discuss my lack of a master plan for my May work-work, okay?)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Knitting Spring

I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I like to think the arrival of spring (at last!) is at least partially my doing: I finished the hourglass sweater on Friday (thick, dense, 100% wool), and had kind of hoped to wear it at least once... but it's way too warm. It's also totally unphotographable. It may look red in photos, but it's actually such a dark red that it's nearly black. To help spring along a little bit more, I also started knitting one of those multidirectional scarves, using the red and brown handspun yarn from a few weeks ago.

I thought of this pattern when I first finished the yarn, because so many people knit it out of yarn with long color repeats, and my yarn looked like it had long repeats too. I've made this scarf twice before, but with Schaefer Yarn. Schaefer yarns tend to have shorter color repeats, so the triangles didn't show up as clearly--the scarves didn't look much different than simple garter stitch scarves knit on the diagonal. I thought briefly about knitting a feather and fan scarf from the handspun, but when I wound it into a yarn muffin, I realized a scarf in that pattern would probably turn out much stripy-er than I'd like, so it was back to the multidirectional idea--which I think it turning out well. Although again, I may be biased, since it's my very own yarn--I was pretty excited about it when it was just a few rows of garter stitch!

I got a thank you note from the Orphan Foundation of America for the scarf I sent into the Red Scarf Project in January, and since this scarf is red, I'm thinking about sending it to them next year. (See--I'm not knitting for the wrong season, I'm just planning WAY ahead!)

One of the other women from SnB was working on the sweater she's planning to wear to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, which made me realize that May--which has seemed safely distant for months--is suddenly right around the corner. I say safely distant because not only have I not thought about what sweater to make, I may be going on a scary-but-also-very-exciting trip in May. Without going into too much detail, the archives where I work is thinking about collecting copies of some records from Sierra Leone, and they're sending me there to look at them and meet with the people whose records they are. The flight (don't worry, mom, the carriers will be British Airways and/or Virgin Atlantic) lasts about 68 hours (actually, more like 24), because I'd fly to London, then Dakar, Senegal, then Freetown, SL. The stop in Dakar is only 45 minutes, and I'm not sure if they'll even let people off the plane, since the same plane continues to Freetown. But still--a much more impressive layover than Philadelphia!

This trip has been in the works for weeks, so I've had time to adjust to most of the nerve-wracking things about it (and get a great many shots). And now that I've emailed some of the people I'd be meeting with, it all seems much more real and doable. However, it also seems much closer, all of a sudden, now that it's almost May. And everything about it is still up in the air: I can't buy a ticket till my contacts are sure when the best time for me to visit is, I can't get a visa till I have a ticket, I don't know what I'm going to wear (or eat... traveling as a vegetarian can be challenging)... On the bright side, I think I've decided what to knit: a shawl out of some 100% silk yarn from Schaefer. It won't be too hot, it's small, the yarn is a dark color, and it will keep me amused for hours (the skein is nearly 1100 yards).

And I'm still working away on some socks for the Hill Country Yarn design contest. Since they're the only socks I've worked on this month, I'm going to use them for the Sock-a-Month KAL (if I manage to finish them...). My plan is to take a very blurry photo of them, so the design doesn't really show, but you can still tell there are 2 of them.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sporty Weekend

(Kate, I finally remembered to look up the name of the pattern! The one in the close-ups is called Daintier Chevron, from the second treasury.)

I'm still knitting away on the Hourglass-ish sweater. But something odd seems to be happening: I cast on the same number of stitches for these sleeves as I did for the first one, and they're turning out the same size (I subscribe to the sleeve=gauge swatch school of swatching) I deduced that that meant that the gauge was the same as the original, so I cast on the same number of stitches for the body as I did before (not the same number as in the original pattern, since I'd ripped and reknit the body with fewer stitches), and it's turning out slightly smaller. Not smaller enough that it won't fit, but smaller enough that it's a little weird. Assuming I'm not suddenly knitting tighter, I guess it's just that my gauge was very slightly off, and I needed a bigger piece to really notice... but there's no chance I would have worked a swatch that was bigger than my sleeve (the sleeves are bell shaped, so the cuffs are pretty big), so I'm not going to take this as a sign that I should stop using sleeves as swatches.

But the big activity of the weekend was working out. We didn't do the long run during the week, and we were determined to finally bike outside... but Sunday was forecast to be rainy and windy form the Nor'easter. So we ran 13 miles Saturday morning, and biked for an hour and 20 minutes Saturday afternoon. It wasn't that bad at the time--once the long runs get up to 15 miles or so, you start alternating "short" and long weeks... probably to trick you into thinking "Yay! We only have to run 13 miles today!" instead of "Curses! We have to run 13 miles today?!??" and for some reason that kind of thinking convinces me completely. And biking uses different muscles than running (which makes transitions in triathlons hard, but which works just fine if you have lunch and a nap between one activity and the next). But my legs were suddenly exhausted in the middle of yoga on Sunday. I may have the wrong attitude towards yoga, because what I really wanted at the time (as I suddenly switched to doing the modified, easier version of the poses) was a t-shirt that explained that I was doing the easier poses because I worked out so much the day before. Perhaps I should focus more on yoga being non-competitive?

We basically ran the course of the New Haven Road Race, plus the few blocks it took to get from our house to the course--although we started about mile 7 of the actual race, since that's where it's closest to our house. What's nice about that is that as we were getting close to our finish line, it felt like we should have had to run back to the actual finish line, but were somehow getting to stop early. What's less nice is that starting there meant the hill that's usually at mile 2 was between mile 6 and 7. And hills make me whine.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Otis Remont

I actually took this picture a while ago, but I think I was trying to describe it to someone recently... I never actually wore Otis, the sweater I designed for Knitty, after the photo shoot. I think it was entirely because of the ribbon I picked for the ties--you can't see it in any of the pictures on Knitty, but it was really transparent and shiny, and always looked weirdly dressy when I tried to wear the sweater in real life. Plus, the dress I most wanted to wear it with (the one I'm wearing in the Knitty pix) also ties in the back, so when I wore them together there were too many ties.

So I removed the seed stitch hem from the fronts and back of Otis, put the live stitches on a circular needle, overlapped the fronts to make a nice V, and lengthened the sweater to below my waist. The new part is basically a tube, but with some waist shaping. The top is a little bigger than it would have been if I'd made it on purpose, because I sized it to wear over a shirt or dress and now I wear it on its own. But it's essentially ok and now I wear it all the time. I was a little worried that I'd missed a stitch (probably near the edge of one of the pieces) when I picked up my new stitches, and that it would unravel, but so far that hasn't happened.

Remont, by the way, comes from "na remont" which literally means something like in remodel or repair. It's what the signs would say in Russia (I studied there for a semester in college) when something was closed for repairs, so we saw it a lot. And it's still what I hear in my head when I see something that's closed for remodeling, or one of those signs that asks customers to "pardon the dust as we remodel to serve you better." Russian signs did not talk about serving you better; you were lucky they explained why the place was closed at all.

"Na obyed," also by the way, means out to lunch (as in, closed because the workers are na obyed... it's a wonder anything was open). My favorite was the signs we saw on Lenin's tomb in Red Square, explaining that Lenin was na obyed. Obviously, the sign meant the security guards, but the image of Lenin himself going out to lunch (decades after his death) was endlessly amusing at the time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Still Life with Shawl

So here are the baby pants. I set out to knit the baby pants from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, but I didn't have the pattern with me when it was ready to join the legs. I'd read ahead in the pattern, but I must not have done it quite right, so it looked a little wacky. I looked at the pictures of the pants Alison made for her daughter, and the pattern for Blu from Knitty, and kind of fudged the join from there. I think they look okay, but I have no idea if they'll actually fit a real live diapered baby.

Which is actually an ongoing problem for me, since till I moved here I didn't know any local babies well enough to measure. I knit a sweater for a shower gift once and at pivotal moments I'd sneak into Baby Gap and try to subtly measure the clothes (using my handy key chain tape measure) without anyone noticing. Who knows why I trusted the Baby Gap people more than the knitting pattern people, but I did.

And the shawl, with yesterday's progress on the Hourglass-ish Sweater. My new temporary blocking system (folding the shawl in half, spreading it on a towel, putting a second towel on top, then rolling the whole thing up--kind of a shawl sandwich) worked out for this shawl, since it didn't need to be blocked severely. The interlocking foam squares some people use to block have been spotted at Toys R Us, but I haven't been able to get any yet. In any case, the shawl turned out be to about 16 x 64, I managed to use all but a tiny bit of the skein, and the whole thing is ready to mail in plenty of time for the photo shoot next week.

The mittens, on the other hand, are a little more complex. They asked me to make 2 pairs of mittens from one skein (worsted weight, 280 yards). I made the adult mittens first, felted them, and then knit an unfelted ruffle for the cuff. Then I weighed the remaining yarn, and found that I'd used nearly 3/4 of the original skein--not a good sign. Especially not a good sign since this was last night (Monday), and I wanted to mail the package tomorrow (Wednesday) morning... leaving about 36 hours for knitting, felting, drying, then knitting the ruffles. Plus, you know, working and sleeping and working out.

At least they're kid-sized mittens, right? So I cast on Mitten #1 on the way to work this morning. I knit through break, I knit through lunch, and I knit through a presentation right after lunch (attending the presentation MAY have become more attractive when I realized it would give me more time to knit...). I used up all my yarn, but my mittens were still minus one thumb and 2 ruffles. I cut the ends as short as I could and spit-spliced the scraps together (not the most subtle thing to do in a crowded lecture hall, by the way)... still not enough to quite finish the thumb. I knew I had some leftovers of the same color from another skein (in a totally different incarnation of the colorway) at home... but that wouldn't help someone using the pattern make 2 pairs of mittens from a single skein.

I tried to involve Kevin in the important yarn decision on our walk home, but for some reason he wasn't as interested as he should have been. So I decided to use the scrap yarn to finish the mittens in time to mail, then let the folks at Schaefer decide whether they wanted to photograph the second pair. Such excitement! (The kiddy mittens are felted and drying as we speak, by the way.)

And here's the long-promised sock yarn. I've already divested myself of the green skein, and I'm thinking of using the red and orange one to design some socks for Schaefer, but the purple-y skein is all mine. Or maybe some gift socks?

Sunday, April 8, 2007

New Yarn

It's been quite the week for yarn acquisition. I was just feeling pleased with myself on Tuesday for having used up some stray, leftover skeins from other projects, and thinking that my total yarn mileage was inching downwards... but another part of my brain was secretly worried about running out, because in addition to the Anne which wasn't my fault, I went to the Farmhouse Yarns sale on Friday. And then again yesterday.

Here's the haul from Friday, when I split a "fill-a-bag" with a friend from SnB, and also bought some deep blue merino roving (because evidently the roving I bought in preparation for possibly spinning last weekend wasn't enough... have I posted pictures of that yet?). Fill-a-bag is essentially what it sounds like: you pay $189, and get to squeeze as much yarn into a big shopping bag as you can. Nearly $200 initially seems expensive, but the yarn is all hand-dyed, and made from semi-local wool (some of it is from New York, but I grew up in New York so that's local enough for me). And it's something like 50% off the cost of the same yarn in a yarn store, depending on how much you can fit into your bag. And because I wore a sweater I made from her yarn, Carol gave me an extra $10 off.

The dark red, which looks nearly black in some lights, is Andy's Merino in the color called Boysenberry. I'm planning to make simple bottom-up raglan sweater--something like the Hourglass Sweater from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I say planning, but I'm actually about halfway through the second sleeve. I've already made this sweater once, more or less (but I lengthened the sleeves and made the body more fitted, and the neck smaller), and I wear it all the time. I decided to make the insides of the hems in a contrasting yarn--some leftover Farmhouse Yarns from the sale in November.

The pink (or light red, depending on the light) yarn is also 100% merino. It's not labeled, and I'm not sure if it's one of the regular yarns that lost its label, or a sample that never went into production. In any case, I'm thinking about making a scarf for my sister, because for some reason this kind of pink reminds me of her. Or maybe I'll change my mind before I get around to it... her birthday and Christmas are both a long way off.

I'm not sure what the multicolored skein is--it's also unlabeled--but it's definitely wool. It looks like a chunky handspun, but I don't think it really is. In any case, it and its fraternal twin are destined to be a hat or scarf or mittens (apparently, I'm not quite ready for spring!).

When I went back again yesterday to meet a friend of mine from Boston, I tried to be more restrained. There was a worrisome moment when the fill-a-bag called out to me, but I resisted and instead bought a single skein of Carol's sock yarn, a wool and nylon blend in some purple-y colors. I think it's meant to be sock yarn, but it's a little heavier than I like my socks, so I'm thinking a baby sweater for one of the many imprending babies.

And speaking of impending babies, I finished the baby pants (and will try to take a picture soon!), with enough extra to make some more booties (maybe for different babies? Matching socks and pants might be a little much--or maybe they wouldn't fit at the same time anyway?). And the Martha shawl is done and blocked, so that will have to be part of the upcoming photo session as well. Maybe I'll try to take pictures somewhere other than the yarn bowl above the fireplace? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Run, Anne, run

Two months ago, when Kevin and I planned out our training schedule for the spring and summer, it all looked very neat and tidy—long run on Wednesday, long bike on Sunday, spinning class 3 days a week, shorter runs 4 days a week… But I think we’ve only actually done it that way once (minus the long bike, because it’s still not quite warm enough for us to bike outside, although the hardcore cyclists have been outside almost all winter). This week is no exception—they’re predicting rain (and possibly thunder) this afternoon, so we decided to run long yesterday afternoon instead. Sort of. We packed all our stuff as though we were going to do the long run (running clothes & shoes, of course, plus water belts with holsters for small water bottles, Clif bars, Sharkies (a gummy bear-like energy snack), GPS devices and headlights… we’re so sporty looking, with our water belts and headlights...), but even as we set out from work at 5, we weren’t sure we were going to run the whole 15 miles. Usually, that’s a sure-fire way to opt out partway through, but by some miracle we did the whole thing yesterday.

We started out on the orphan piece of rails-to-trials path near campus (it’s a whole mile long!), then ran on the roads till we could rejoin another part of the trail. Last week, we followed the route of the railroad through the rubble and gravel and overgrown bushes… and burnt out cars and abandoned shopping carts and old tires… but it was later and darker and I always worry we’re going to stumble onto something we shouldn’t when we do that (or just stumble, although that wouldn’t actually have been so bad in this case, since there were 2 of us, and even though it felt like some kind of abandoned post-apocalyptic world, we were actually only a couple of dozen yards from civilization). So this time we stuck to the road, till it rejoined the trail, ran out and back for a ways on the trail, then home on the streets.

I amused myself for miles a time by calculating the relationship between the distance we’d run already and what we still had to run—so, for example, at 1 mile I thought: ok, we just need to do that 14 more times (that one’s not very comforting!); and at 5 miles: ok, we just need to do that twice more (that one’s a little better); and at 9 miles: ok, we just need to do 2/3 of that again… You get a little stupid after about an hour, so this kind of thinking gets harder, and more entertaining. I once realized I’d been singing a partial line from Yankee Doodle (possibly, “stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni”) to myself for 30 minutes as I ran and was only disappointed that I’d noticed what I was doing and would now need to get my brain stuck on something else. I try my hardest to think about knitting designs, but without the ability to write little notes and sketches (and maybe as I get more and more stupid?), it’s too hard to keep track of.

What’s funny about running (and knitting, for that matter), is that the first bit and the last bit are the hardest and longest. People talk about how they run for 20 or 30 minutes at a time and hate it and can’t imagine running for hours—and don’t believe it when I tell them that the first 20 minutes suck, no matter how far you’re going. Your muscles are tight, you’re breathing weird, your shoes feel funny, you don’t have the right needles, the stitch pattern makes no sense and you might have the gauge wrong (swatches lie) and have to rip it out anyway. Then there’s a whole section in the middle where it’s fine—you’ve relaxed a little, you’ve remembered how to breathe, you’ve found the right needles and knit enough to measure the actual piece, and you can read the stitch pattern in what you’ve knitted so far and don’t need to check the directions as often. Then the end drags—days pass and somehow you’re only a tenth of a mile further than when you checked the last time, maybe Kevin will run home and get the car while you wait here?, you knit for days and somehow the sleeve actually seems shorter, maybe Kevin would like a vest instead of a sweater? Maybe a cropped, backless vest?

So today, I’m feeling very accomplished, and also very tired. It does mean I’ll get to go to the SnB meeting tonight, where I really need to make some progress on the shawl for Schaefer Yarns. I promised to send it to them in time for a photo shoot on April 16, and while the knitting will be done in time, I’m not quite sure how I’m going to block it. Before I moved here, I blocked on my sofa and my carpeted floor, and in a pinch, in my bed. But the floor here is finished concrete, the couch is leather, and the bed is a loft (also, Kevin might not want to sleep on the couch when the shawl isn’t quite dry at bedtime). I may need to get some of those interlocking foam tiles—they’re not attractive (an important consideration since there’s no where to set them up that’s out of the way), but at least they’re collapsible when not in use.

I found 4 lovely skeins of Anne (Schaefer Yarns’ sock yarn) waiting for me when we got abck from the run yesterday. It’s mostly payment for knitting, although there’s some extra for a design for them. They’re gorgeous—Anne doesn’t come in the usual Schaefer colorways, so I can’t link, but I’ll try to take pictures tonight. What a great reward for all that running!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Breakable Knitting

I was listening to a recent episode of Sticks and String over the weekend, the one where David talks about knitting in public, and how knitting in front of people you see regularly will increase the chances that they'll be inspired to learn to knit, or to take up their knitting again. I'm sure he's right--I don't go on break or eat lunch with any of the other knitters in my department, but based on my sample of 10 non-knitting archivists, 30% of non-knitters will ponder starting to knit or starting to knit again after several weeks' worth of exposure to regular knitting--but I'm not sure the knitting I do at break is giving them a very representative picture of how knitting will take over their lives. Over the past 2 weeks or so, my coworkers have seen me make these booties (the "beginner booties" from Knitting for Baby by ... oh, maybe Debbie Bliss?... made from some unidentified scraps of sock yarn I had floating around), and start the baby pants from Last Minute Knitted Gifts (in Lola, Schaefer Yarn's superwash wool). So far, I have about 1.5 legs done (plus the original first leg, which I ripped when I was nearly done and finally had a chance to check my gauge--although the whole leg is only about 7 inches long--smaller than some people's swatches!). I did work a little bit on the pant leg over the weekend, because I had a long wait and I got bored, but that cancels the leg that I ripped out, right?

If their comments are to be believed, my coworkers think 2 booties and 1.5 legs are an impressive output for 2 weeks (that, or they're humoring me and just trying to make conversation with the wacky knitter). And it's not that 2 booties and 1.5 legs isn't plenty to knit in the time they've actually seen me knitting--it's just that they have no idea about the knitting they haven't seen: nearly 5 feet of a shawl and maybe 2 feet of baby blanket. Admittedly, the shawl (the one for Schaefer Yarns) is in a light worsted yarn on size 8 needles, and the baby blanket (for one of my many pregnant friends) is loosely knit on size 9 or 10 needles. But still--it's a lot of knitting, none of which my coworkers are even aware of when they talk about how fast I knit. What if they knew how much knitting I've actually been doing? Are they really ready to add that much knitting to their lives? What if they start knitting (again, in some cases) and it doesn't take over their lives?