Thursday, March 29, 2007

And miles to go before I sleep...

Even though this was a long run week (11 miles, the longest run of the year so far… what’s scary is that in 2-3 months the longest run of the easy/short weeks will be 10-12 miles. It’s funny how impossible that seems to think about in advance, but having done in before I know that if we do all the training and run all the scheduled runs until then, it will become possible. I’m going to come back to this in a second, but I’ve got to close these parentheses first!), I had a meeting that was meant to be over at 3 but lasted till 3:45, AND I ran so slowly I was nearly going backwards, I still made it to SnB last night—and I’d even showered! Most impressively of all, Kevin made tasty pasta with faux-meatballs over grilled zucchini for dinner, all in the few minutes we were at home.

I brought my shawl to SnB, since it no longer requires my whole brain now that the pattern includes plain purl rows. Being forced to work on it seemed like a good idea (especially since I’m now trying to finish it by mid-April), but I’ve been weighing the remaining yarn to figure out when it’s time to change patterns, and of course I didn’t bring my scale to the cafĂ©. So I tried to estimate but was way of and ended up having to unravel a bit when I got home. Complicating matters, once I had the needle out already I decided to weigh the whole thing and it turns out the actual weight differs from what’s on the label (at least using my scale, which may be very wrong). So my calculations about when to change patterns were a little off. Fortunately, I hadn’t gone too far past where I’d gone wrong, so I’m back to where I was before.

But back to the building up slowly to running a marathon—people often find it funny that I knit and run marathons (someone should point them to Runagoggo), since they seem like opposite activities. But I actually think they’re pretty similar, at least mentally, in that you keep doing this relatively simple (and seemingly boring) thing over and over again, and eventually it all adds up to a sweater or a marathon. It’s not the most original thought ever, and it definitely won’t help non-knitters who think they can’t run that far, or non-knitters who think they can’t make a sweater, understand that they can in they tackle it in stages and follow all the steps completely, but it amuses me while I run.

The other way running and knitting relate is yarn mileage, since running has given me a very good idea exactly how far a mile is… so it amuses me to be able to run further than my yarn would reach if it was tied together and stretched out (my current stash mileage is about 5.7 miles, although I haven’t necessarily added in my handspun, since some of it may be folk art rather than stash). At the same time, thinking about a possible yarn purchase in terms of distance to run can act as a deterrent (do I really need a mile of yarn? Think how far a mile is!). But it’s also a neat way to think of the work that goes into finished garments… since an adult sweater could take a mile of worsted or sport-weight yarn (or more), and a pair of socks between 1/8 and 1/4 mile. Think how tiny the amount of yarn used per stitch is relative to the length of a step…

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Schaefer Lace

So, here's the lace pattern for one portion of the shawl. I don't know how well the colors show up on your monitor, but it's meant to be deep gold, purple, dark red, and an olive-y green. Most of the other lace I've knit has had plain wrong (purl) side rows, so it's been a surprise how much more slowly this apttern has gone with patterning in both the knit and prul rows. Since I took the picture, I've moved on to the next lace pattern, which alternates purl rows with patterned rows, and is going much faster.

I have some of the same yarn in blues and greens, and I'd been thinking that I might like to make myself a wrap from it as well. But it's suddenly warm out, and I'm much less interested in a toasty cashmere blend wrap. The other issue is that I actually have 2 skeins (a total of 1500 yards!) of the blue and green yarn, and it seems almost a waste to divide it between 2 projects. Think how cuddly that sweater would be!

Did I mention at the end of February that a friend of mine has convinced me to track not just of mytotal yarn mileage, but also of the miles of yarn I knit each month? I started in the beginning of January, and it's had an unexpected effect on my knitting. When I was tracking just my stash miles, knitting samples was disappointing because it didn't decrease my mileage (since I decicded nto to count that in my total mileage--it doesn't belong to me permanently , after all). But now that I'm including this yarn in my miles knit, I still get to count it as progress... I'm just not sure what it's progress towards, since I'm basically happy with my stash as is.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Cherry Chocolate Yarn

First off, here's the yarn I finished over the weekend--it's the Cherry Chocolate (or Chocolate Cherry?) roving from Happy Fuzzy Yarns, a single of which I showed on a bobbin a couple of weeks ago. The roving was very stripy, as was the single, and I was a little worried that the yarn would turn out striped as well. Since I split the roving lengthwise, I thought I might have to make an effort to keep the colors from lining up when I plied it.

But that wasn't a problem at all--I should have realized that my spinning is still way too uneven to keep sections of colors that started out the same length (and therefore had about the same amount of fiber, assuming I divided the roving evenly) the same length through the spinning process. So the colors don't really line up, although it's possible that the yarn will still have tweedy stripes--some sections where both singles were red, some where both were brown, and some where there was one of each--but it won't be as dramatic as if the colors had lined up exactly. Plus, there's only enough (about 240 yards, I think) for a scarf or socks, so subtle striping would be fine.

And I guess there's no second off at the moment--I was going to show you the lace pattern of the shawl, but I haven't quite figured out how to take a good picture of it.

Friday, March 23, 2007


I'm working on a new design for Schaefer Yarns--a lacy wrap/rectangular shawl in the colorway called Indira Gandhi--my skein is predominantly purples and browns, with some deep gold and green. The yarn is Martha, a blend of lambswool, cashmere, and angora which comes in absurdly large skeins (I've just noticed that it's 9 ounces, not 8 ounces--good heavens!). This is the one that I wrote about a while ago, which didn't work in the garter stitch lace the way I'd hoped it would. I started again in a much more open stitch pattern form the second Barbara Walker treasury, which I'd originally avoided because I though the colors would overpower the lace. But it turns out that the yarn is dark enough to create consistent contrast between the open areas and the fabric, so it's working out. It's going pretty slowly though because both the wrong side and right side rows have a pattern--no plain purl rows on the WS.

It doesn't help with knitting progress that this is supposed to be a big week for working out, and Kevin is trying to get in the scheduled number of hours even though we didn't have time to exercise on Monday or Tuesday. I ran home from work yesterday afternoon--the weather was just about perfect, but I miscalculated my route pretty dramatically, and ended up having to run up a large hill (I hate hills!) to make up the distance I was missing. There's a rails-to-trail trail near campus, and I had the idea that the end of this section of trail was about 2 miles away (the original rail line went all the way to Northampton, MA, but there are still many sections which haven't been turned into a trail). But it was only a little more than a mile away, so I had to add the hill. I may try again this afternoon, although I'm tempted to take the day off... days off are important too!

The trail runs past these abandoned (or else operational but very run down) factories that I think are really beautiful. One of them has the steel frame of some kind of small room on the roof, with exterior stairs going up the side of the building to it. I'm not sure what the outside walls of the little room were made of, but only the frame is left, so I like to imagine it was roof-top greenhouse (don't ask why the factory needed a greenhouse--it was probably something much more boring and practical). If the factory were converted to studios or apartments, I'd definitely want that room to be mine.

One of the best things about our house is that the developers who converted it left a lot of the wacky quirks it accrued while it was a factory as they were. In addition to the elevator track in the bedroom, there are still those old-fashioned spike nails in the mortar of the brick walls (must have hammered them in while the mortar was wet!), and one funny pencil scribble on the wall that I swear says KrocsKnit. (I see that Google suggests Korockinit instead, which turns out to be a Hip Hop concert or other event in the UK... that seems just as unlikely as graffiti artist-knitters, don't you think?). Anyway--the factories are the same way, but on a larger scale.

OK, this was maybe the most random collection of topics ever!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sock Pix

You know how some bloggers always take picture of their FOs in their bathroom mirrors, or posing in a particular way? I've decided my trademark picture will be at a funny angle as I try to get whatever it is in front of the camera built into my computer (it's a MacBook) while at the same time reaching for the mouse or trackpad to take the picture. And the lighting will be strange, because the elevator shaft bedroom is not very well lit. But I think the cables I switched to show up a little in the second picture,despite the funny angle and the wacky lighting. And you can definitely see there are two socks, which is all I need for the Sock-a-Month KAL (I think).

The library where I work is overrun with knitters. In the six or seven weeks since I started working there, I've had three separate orientations. At the third one, I sat down and was greeted with "Oh, you must be the crazy knitter!" and it turned out that one of the librarians who organized the sessions had seen my Knitty patterns (which of course was inevitable once the Twins pictures included my bare stomach!). Even at the first orientation, the most animated conversations I had were with other knitters who were sorry they hadn't thought to bring their knitting (I would have waited a little longer than my third day of a new job to break out the knitting too, except that I get sleepy when I sit and listen for long periods, and knitting helps). So next week three of us are going to knit at lunch in the staff room, and see how many other knitters come out of the woodwork. One of the other knitters is from my department, but we found the third knitter by accident--we were looking for a delivery and she was working at the reference desk, where we thought the delivery might have gone.

I've started some socks (I plan to stop when I have two!) from the purple handspun that I've already made into mittens and a hat. I'd planned to make leg warmers out of the rest (to wear under my pants when it's really freezing next winter--mostly hidden, but with a little bit peeking out at the cuff). I'd gotten most of the way through the first one when I began the last cake of yarn--and discovered that it was much, much thinner than the first two--enough that the fabric became noticeably lighter weight. Not good--so I decided to turn the last yarn cake (actually, it's more of a yarn muffin) into slipper-ish socks. I started them at break today, and had my second conversation of the week about how you actually only knit with two needles at a time when you use double points, and how it looks much trickier than it is--you just need to find a way to keep the needles you aren't knitting with getting in the way of the ones you are.

And of course have one empty needle when you start... the first few times I used DPNs (as usual, refusing to get any kind of instruction or help), I filled all my needles with stitches and just started knitting the stitches from one needle to the next (which was already full). When I got to the end of the first needle, I had one empty needle and one needle with twice as many stitches as the others, so I just shifted half of them to the empty needle and did the same thing again. It worked, but it wasn't terribly efficient. And it was fiddly--in addition to all the shifting, the whole operation felt squished, like when you're knitting the heel of a sock but you only have 4 DPNs so you put the instep stitches all on one needle and use the others for the heel. I don't remember when I figured out what I was doing wrong--surely I can't have listened to suggestions or asked for help?--but somehow, I got it right eventually.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Back Home with New Socks

Kevin and I got back home yesterday afternoon, and immediately took a nap (and I'd already slept on the way to the airport, on both planes, and on the way back from the airport)—the weekend was strangely exhausting. I've probably mentioned that my extended family is much smaller and quieter than Kevin's, so visiting with his family, even under subdued circumstances, overwhelms me. Add to that small talk with second cousins I'd never met before, and by the end of the trip I really needed those naps!

I finished the first Socks That Rock sock (for the first time…) pretty soon after my last post, but then I tried it on the ankle was indeed too tight to fit over my foot without a lot of wiggling and stretching (it would have really helped if my foot could have sucked in its stomach, or something). The cables were too inelastic, as others have found. I thought about going up a needle size, but I think the fabric would have been looser than I like for socks—and in any case, I didn't have any larger needles with me. So instead I revised the cable pattern slightly, so I had twice as many cables that were half as wide (a 5-stitch cable of 2 ribs instead of an 11-stitch cable with 4 ribs, if you've seen the pattern), which kept them from pulling in as much, and kept the ankle elastic. My pattern isn't reversible, but based on the very fuzzy inside of my previous pair of STR socks, I’d have had to pick one side as the outside anyway.

I ripped back the first sock to right after the heel on Sunday morning, then finished it for the second time that night (or maybe first thing Monday morning?). The new cuff fit just fine, so I made the second sock the same way and finished it after we got home last night. Pictures in my next entry, maybe—I need to post about it in the Sock-A-Month knitalong too, so maybe that will make me actually take pictures? I was going to make all the club socks according to the written patterns, but since I've deviated from that plan already, I may do something else for the rest as well.

Even though it didn't work as written in the pattern for me, I really like the original rib and cable stitch pattern, and I think I might try it either as a scarf (where elasticity isn't an issue at all), or on the foot of a sock (where my gigantic heel wouldn't be a problem—although in that case I think the whole thing might be too thick to fit comfortably under shoes). And in knitting the new pattern I thought of another variation on the cables and ribs theme which might be fun to try.

In addition to this sock, my other knitting activity for the weekend was mailing out a design submission. I like my idea (also a sock), and had fun putting it together, but I’m worried that my little packet will look really amateurish compared to many submissions—not the knitting itself but the presentation overall, because I draw like a kid.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


I haven't actually fallen off the edge of the earth or been abducted by aliens, although it does seem that way from to time. Keivn's paternal grandfather passed away earlier in the week, and we--along with every relative he's every seen, and some he hasn't--converged on his grandmother's house in Toledo to comfort and distract her. In between visits to the house, Kevin and I have been putting together three collages of family photos for visiting hours at the funeral home tomorrow. And I've been working on my Socks that Rock sock club sock (which does indeed have an oddly phallic look, because of the shape of the toe and the ribbed's not the ideal sock for holding up to a roomful of relatives who barely know me!) Speaking of which-does the ankle seem tight to you too, or is it just me? it's fine once it's on, but it's hard to get over the heal.

In between, we've been eating way too much. Most of it is fried or dessert, so I'm starting to fantasize about fruits and vegetables... apples.... nice, crisp baby carrots. Or cabbage. I love raw cabbage. Which is weird, but at least it's healthy weird. The hotel has some kind of a deal with a gym to let guests workout for free, so we've run twice and taken a spinning class, and are probably going to go again tomorrow. I can't believe I've turned into someone who needs to exercise to feel normal (in gym class, I always walked part of the mile run for the president's fitness test), but there you are. We just missed the storm that apparently shut down all air travel on the east coast on Friday, and with any luck, we'll make it home on Tuesday without anything out of the ordinary happening. To make sure we don't get delayed, I have enough knitting to keep me amused for days: the socks, which I cast on on the way to the airport, and a skein of lace weight for a shawl from Victorian Lace Today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Closet Yarn

I'm not sure if I've conveyed how small our house (condo) is, but it's tiny. The building used to be a factory or mill of some kind (we figured out what they made once, but I've forgotten--Kevin's previous apartment was in a former corset factory, which was much more memorable). Most of our bedroom actually used to be the freight elevator shaft, although the closet and a strip of space from the door to the closet extend outside of the former elevator. And the wooden track which the elevator used to run on is still there, running up one side of the room between two bookcases (one of which houses most of my yarn).

Before I moved in, Kevin liked to hang his non-machine dry-able clothes in the closet (which is actually a walk-in closet--they did a great job of fitting in storage space) to dry. Now that my clothes are there too, there's no room for that--but somehow, there's still room for drying new yarn!

This is the last of my almost solid sampler roving from Spunky Eclectic--two purple-y colors spun together. Even though I started out with an ounce of each, I'm not consistent enough yet to spin the same length single from each color, so I've been Navajo plying the extra of the one that's longer--just as practice, since I don't do it very well yet at all. (Plus, I don't think I'm spinning my singles tightly enough to really stand up to that kind of manipulation. They tend to break, which doesn't happen when I ply the standard way.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Good Little Designer

Like a good little designer, I've been working on the lace shawl for Schaefer Yarns--but what I really want to do it make myself a sweater! A nice meaty sweater that I can work on for weeks and feel like I'm really committed to something. I've clearly made too many hats, mittens and scarves lately.

It's partly because of my walk to work--and to lunch, if Kevin and I eat out--because I walk past shop windows. There are several great spring jackets, in the windows now, with 3/4 sleeves and slight ruffles at the elbows. I really like the idea of the elbow ruffles--not full enough to actually be ruffly, but just enough extra fabric to notice that it's fuller, and allow the wearer to bend her elbow without creasing or stretching the fabric. I seem to be incapable of wearing a long sleeved shirt, sweater or jacket without pushing up my sleeves, and I keep thinking 3/4 sleeves might help solve that problem.

The other things that haven't been helping me stick to my design project are the lace books I've purchased in the last few weeks--Victorian Lace Today and Lace Style, just like everyone else. You'd think that looking at lace would make me want to work on the lace shawl for Cheryl, but of course it doesn't. I like to imagine it's because the yarn isn't laceweight, but it may just been that I'm fickle.

I made Madli's Shawl out of some deep red Jaeger Zephyr about this time last year ( think it was last year?). It was originally my project for the knitting Olympics, but then a design project (Convertible for Knitty. actually) got in the way, and became my Olympic knitting instead. I finished it as soon as I could after the Olympics though, and I love to wear it, so I'd really like to make another shawl the same shape (I wear it more as an indoor scarf). I have some leftover white Zephyr from the shawl I made for my wedding, or some KnitPicks Shimmer in Stream (I think that's the name) from a wrap I made for my mom, as well as Schaefer Andrea (brown, gold and maroon) and Trenna (purples) that I'd love to use... So many great choices! But I really should work harder on the shawl for Cheryl--it'll lead to more great yarn!

Monday, March 12, 2007


According to Kevin’s training schedule, this week (that’s just ended) was a recovery week, so we spent a little bit less time working out, and we were finally able to do some non-exercise things! I got to go to an extra meeting of the local SnB on Wednesday night (because we “only” had to run 6 miles, instead of the 10 miles we ran the week before and have to run this week as well).

Brief training digression: A marathon is always 26.2 miles, so to train you need to do several runs of 18-22 miles in the last months before the race. I’m a pretty slow runner, and the long runs are meant to be slower than your race pace, so this takes about 4 hours. When you add in preparation and recuperation, it pretty much consumes the whole day—usually a Sunday. Last summer, when Kevin was training for the half Ironman, we realized that you can’t effectively do a long bike and long run on consecutive days—you’re just too tired on the second day. So triathlon training programs have you do the long run on a Wednesday, to save the weekend for the long bike…

Which means (back to knitting at last!) that once the runs get long, or if we can’t leave early from work on Wednesday (like this week), that I won’t be able to go to Wednesday SnB. Which is too bad, because it was fun—and strangely, very different than Sunday afternoon SnB, even though the Sunday people were mostly there as well. I’m trying to design a rectangular lace shawl for Schaefer Yarn, and I worked on that starting at SnB, then on and off for the rest of the week.

I love leaf lace patterns, but I feel like I use them too much so I was trying to find something else for this shawl. And I feel like a pattern ought to be more than “cast on X sts and work in Y pattern with a 4 st garter border on each side till you’re nearly out of yarn,” so I wanted something else to happen, construction-wise. And I swear I read someplace that lace patterns with parge solid areas tend to work better than more open lace in variegated yarn. So I thought maybe a Russian-ish shawl, in garter stitch, with a simple geometric pattern? No leaves, solid areas between the geometric thingies, and you’d knit the bottom border and pick up stitches for the body, then attach the top border to the live stitches at the end, so the construction would be slightly more interesting. It seemed like a good plan, but unfortunately, the yarn (Martha) is kind of chunky for lace, and without going up to a truly giant needle it didn’t seem very lacey, because of those big solid areas.

So I fooled around some more with lace patterns from the second Walker treasury (and stared and the treasury project a great deal), till I found three patterns worked on the same multiple of stitches that kind of flow from one to the next. My current plan (which I can only photograph as a blog because it’s lace AND a design for publication) is to start with the most open pattern at one end, switch to the medium solid one partway through, then to the most solid, then back to the medium solid, then the most open one again. I haven’t decided whether it makes more sense to knit it all in one direction, or knit in from both ends then graft them together in the center—the pattern would clearly shift where the two sides join, but it might be a design element.

Or I may frog it again—stay tuned.

But back to my week: since it was an easier week, workout-wise, Kevin and I signed up for a St. Patrick’s Day race on Sunday morning. We’d already planned to go to the gym before the race (hush! The race wasn’t till 11… and there’s a yoga class I love at 8). But then I discovered last weekend that one of the women from SnB belongs to a spinning group that meets one Sunday a month—and of course it was this Sunday, and in the opposite direction from the race. I was prepared not to spin, but instead I yoga-ed, then we ran as fast as we could in the race, grabbed some post-race food, sped back home, showered, and leapt back into the car. Fortunately, the spinning group was really casual, so it was ok that I was late. I spun up about half of my roving from Happy Fuzzy Yarns, then worked on the second of the blue socks from two weeks ago (and finally finished it in the car on the way home). I’d never spun in front of spinners before, and I was a little worried that I’d turn out to be doing something hilariously wrong, but everyone was really nice, and no one was visibly amused.

The roving was striped (with bands of color going across the fiber), so the single has long-ish color repeats. I’m going to make a 2-ply yarn, and I don’t want to colors to line up between the two plies—I want a mix of pairs of colors, not striped yarn. So I’m hoping that if I start then in different places in the repeat, they’ll stay different. I'm trying to spin thinner, and more consistently, and I think I'm making progress in that regard--I'd like to be able to knit socks out of handspun, but thus far my yarn is a bit too artistic for the socks I'm most likely to wear.

Friday, March 9, 2007


So, a funny thing happened earlier in the week. I wrote about it, and then felt like maybe I shouldn't post it, but I've changed my mind, so here it is after all:

Our condo is in a converted factory building, between a street of restaurants, bakeries, and cafes, a highway, and--on the other side of the highway--a grittier area warehouses, business, and clubs. I really like the area--and it's a relief after the disturbing preppiness of the town I moved from (I much prefer grit to prep... maybe I shouldn't be an archivist?), and I always feel safe, but it's definitely not the fancy suburb I lived in before.

We've been going to bed really early because we have to get up so early to work out. So Kevin was asleep last night [Monday night] at 9:30 or 10, and I was getting ready for bed, when I heard a commotion outside in the neighboring parking lot, which belongs to the lodge of a local fraternal organization. There were several loud thumping sounds, then people yelling what sounded like "stay where you are and get down!" So of course I turned out the light and peeked out the window... and saw a bunch of men in FBI jackets (!) going into the lodge!

I woke up Kevin (who was not as impressed by "the FBI is storming the building next door!" as he should have been, because he looked out the window then went back to sleep), but it wasn't at all clear what was going on. I could see reflected flashing lights, as though there was a police car on the next street over, and there seemed to be flood lights of some kind shining on the doors of the building next door, and maybe the FBI agents were taking down the license plates of the cars in the lodge parking lot. We cut through that parking lot on the way into work this morning [Tuesday morning], and all we noticed was a broken plate glass door, with the glass all around on the ground and plywood over the wole in the door... weird.

I googled for all the combinations of the name of the club and FBI I could think of, but I didn't find anything. I looked at the FBI district office's website but still nothing (although there were press releases about other investigations and arrests). This was the stage when I wondered whether I should post anything--would it just make my mother panic? What if I somehow alerted the bad guys that the FBI had gotten their minions and might come for them next? Why were the bag guys reading a knitting blog? What if the FBI was actually the villain, and my post allowed the good guys to escape from the government? (But still, why were they reading a knitting blog?)
Then I finally googled just the name of the club. And it turns out that the club has a regular Monday night poker game, with a minimum bet of $200. I understand that you need to advertise, but maybe it's not the greatest idea to list your club's name and address in a directory of poker games when gambling is illegal in your state? So it looks like the FBI was just cracking down on illegal gaming (or else looking for a major criminal who happens to play poker next door to me! Maybe I have an overactive imagination?)
Since I'm still a new blogger, it didn't occur to me that I should have taken a picture of the broken glass door (or the FBI guys... if only it had been daylight!) till just now--long after the glass was gone. I'll try to do better next time!

Monday, March 5, 2007

New Fiber, and Mitten #2

In anticipation of the Socks that Rock sock club mailing, I accidentally bought some sock yarn last week: an 80% wool, 20% nylon blend in the Ask Me Tomorrow colorway from Fuzzy Happy Yarn, as well as 4 oz. of 100 % Blue Faced Leicester roving in the Cherry Chocolate colorway. In my defense, working on the gansey sock (I've finished the first one and started the second one--it's currently in the toe-warmer stage) means that I only had a pair's work of sock yarn in my stash--which suddenly seems to be mostly lace weight Schaefer yarn (at least it's compact!). And that seemed like asking for trouble--what if I ran into a sock knitting emergency?
And I almost did! Because of when I moved relative to when Blue Moon Fibers prepared their shipping labels, my STR yarn was sent to my old address--and then it took nearly a week for the postcard FedEx sent about the delivery failure to make it to my new address, so FedEx nearly sent the package back. Meanwhile, I thought it was coming to my new address, and was just waiting patiently. So I got the postcard yesterday, and supposedly, the package will be delivered to my new address today. (I can't wait--except that I bet I'll have to, because most shipping companies won't leave packages outside at my new house, so I suspect I'll have to pick it up from them later in the week). Phew!
In any case, I'll need to wait a bit before making any more socks, because I have 2 design projects for Schaefer Yarns that I should be working on: a shawl and two pairs of mittens. I’m feeling very accomplished for having felted the bag, but surprisingly, finishing the bag doesn’t mean the mittens and shawl are any closer to done! Or even really started—although I have been swatching for the shawl, at least.


I finally knit something out of my own handspun! The roving is a mix of wool and mohair (and possibly angora--some parts are very bunny-ish) which I bought at Rhinebeck last fall. I spun it immediately, then hoarded it--I couldn't decide what to knit. I wanted it to be special, but the yarn is so clearly made by a new (and impatient) spinner that it's more suited to something simple and useful. However, I’ve wanted flip-top mittens for a few weeks now, and decided last night that I should just make some. Quick! Before it’s spring! (Realistically, spring is still a ways away… and I did finish mitten #1 at break this morning, so I think I’m ok.)
I bought my spinning wheel at the end of September or beginning of October last year (2006), and of course there's a long and complicated backstory: I purchased a drop spindle and some roving at Rhinebeck in 2005. I’d spun on a wheel once before at a knitting guild meeting, but I’d never used a spindle and I was too shy to get any help at Rhinebeck—I had this idea that I’d just get it when I took it home and tried to spin. I didn’t, and temporarily put the spindle away. It kind of drives me crazy that I don’t have more time to knit, and part of me didn’t want to spin anyway, because spinning would just mean more yarn, but less knitting time. Silly me.
But then Kevin and I eloped to Iceland in September, and went to this great museum, Reykjavik 871 +/- 2. The museum is all about the settlement of Reykjavik (which happened within 2 years of 871) and the exhibits included stone spindle whorls. I’d just listened to the episodes of Cast On where Brenda Dayne talks about Stone Age spinning, and something about the combination of the whorls and the Stone Age spinners made me want to spin desperately. Back home, I pulled out my spindle, conceded that I was not going to magically know how to spin without instructions of some kind, found videos online and a couple of books from the public library, and figured it out. I spin my roving from the previous Rhinebeck into the bumpiest yarn in the world, then decided that—since we’d saved all that money by eloping rather than having a gigantic wedding—I should obviously buy myself a spinning wheel as a wedding present. I went to Webs, and bought a folding Lendrum with a double treadle.
All fall, the wheel lived in Connecticut with Kevin, who I visited only on weekends, so I didn’t get to spin as much as I would have liked. But I did spin up the roving which just became a mitten. And then right before the holidays I bought one of Spunky Eclectic’s almost solid sampler packs. I haven't spun very much since I moved here, but I suddenly wanted to spin over the weekend, so I made this yarn on Saturday--it's three of the almost solid colors, in a 2-ply yarn so that each color is paired with each of the others once. I was worried that it would be too much variation to look cohesive, but I think it worked out pretty well.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Pictures at last!

I finished this bag about a week ago (except that I still need to felt it--I don't actually mean to use it as a car cozy). It's going to be a tote bag for Schaefer Yarns--which means I actually need to remember to ask if I can show it once it's felted or not.
Right out of graduate school (I have an MA in history and a masters of library science) I lived in Corning, New York, and went to knitting group there. Several of the women in the group knit samples and designed patterns for Schaefer Yarns, which isn't that far from Corning, and many of them knew Cheryl Schaefer, one of the owners.
I started knitting samples for Cheryl as well, and then designing. And I kept on doing it ever after I moved away--really, would you give up knitting with Schaefer yarn you didn't buy, then getting paid in more yarn? The one downside is that before I started knitting for Cheryl, I worked on one project at a time and I felt like I had this gigantic yarn management problem because I had a bunch of partial skeins left over from finished projects. Sometimes, if I was feeling especially rash, I'd buy the yarn from my next project, before I finished my current project. But knitting samples and being paid in yarn means that a great deal of my knitting isn't for me or my family (and doesn't use up my stash), and that when I finish something, more yarn appears in the mail to take the place of the yarn I've used (it's a hard life, huh?). And, because Cheryl and Laura (the woman who coordinates the pattern support and sample knitting) are wildly generous, often I get more yarn in payment than the project took (I know--poor me). So now I try to keep my WIPs down to three--one for Cheryl, one for me, and a sock--and I have a 6.2 mile stash that's about half Schaefer yarn. I'm the only person in the world who longs to knit with a nice tweedy grey.
Anyway, the bag: it's made out of Elaine, a thick and thin yarn, in the colorway Elena Piscopia (I'm especially fond of Elena, since I love browns and reds and she was a mathematician). Although I think this won't be clear when it's felted, the cast on is actually in the center of the front, and the bag grows out from there, so the handles are actually knit in the round, right before you turn to make the sides and base. Then you turn again, make the second handles, and decrease the back down to the original stitch count. I kind of hate to felt this bag, since the texture gets lost--but on the other hand, the felted fabric is really dense and squishy. I made myself a smaller bag out of it, and I'd kind of like to curl up inside it sometimes.
I'm also working away on the cuff of the sock from two days ago. The foot is a smidge too long, as feared, but not such a big smidge that I want to redo it. I mostly wear my handknit socks as slippers and with clogs, so a little extra room is fine (and if I write up the directions, I'll start the heel shaping a little sooner). After many sketches and several failed attempts which only made it through five or six rows, I've settled on a mini gansey pattern, with the lattice panels you can see, two side panels with triangles which are kind of hidden, and 2-stitch cables in between. The cables were what finally made it work--none of the other patterns I tried separated the lattice and the triangle sections enough. I'm going to be selling patterns through the Garter Belt, and maybe I'll put these socks there. My readers (hi Annie!) have suggested I could have a series of gansey socks--which isn't a bad idea at all, since it turns out the knit and purl combos are really fun to knit.
I worked on the sock at the gym this morning, because Kevin had to workout longer than I did. I sat near the hall leading to the childcare room, and this tiny girl in a pink tutu outfit was very concerned about the whereabouts of the second sock. If only she knew how precarious second socks are!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Sock Thoughts

With all the exercising (we went to an hour-long spinning class yesterday morning… not the good kind of spinning either…. And then left work a little early to run 10 miles in the evening), I've started knitting on my commute. Which is actually a walk. I've knit and read at the same time for years, as long as the knitting is simple enough, and I believe I knit while riding a stationary bike a couple of times, but Ididn't think I was coordinated enough to knit while actually moving. It turns out I am, but unfortunately it’s been just a smidge too cold to make much progress. The walk takes about a half hour, but the past 2 days my fingers got chilly after about 10 minutes, and I gave up.

Before frostbite set in, however, I worked on a sock in a purple-y blue Artyarns Ultramerino I bought at Webs 2 summers ago (or maybe last summer? Maybe I’ll start writing the date of acquisition on my yarn labels?). It’s nearly solid, so I think it’s probably color 124. I originally intended to make Elfine's Socks, but instead I’m designing a gansey sock. It’s funny—when I think of gansey sweaters, the main element I see is the vertical panels on the upper chest and shoulders, with a plain lower body and forearms so they’re easier to reknit as they wear out. In my head, gansey socks should clearly have plain stockinette feet, with vertical panels on the cuffs. Ideally, they’d be cuff-down, so you really could unravel a worn foot and knit a new one.

But when I googled gansey sock, all of the examples I found focused on the other main element of ganseys—horizontal bands of small motifs—which doesn’t stand out for me at all. Andy they cover the top of the foot as well as the cuff (which definitely makes the socks more fun to knit!). Fascinating, how differently different people can see the same sweater!

Since I see the vertical panels above plain areas, my socks have a mostly stockinette stitch foot, with vertical patterns on the cuffs. I decided to knit from the toe up because I always worry about running out of yarn, and because I could see myself stalling at about mid-foot if I didn't have the patterned cuff to look forward to. I usually do a figure 8 cast-on toe and then a short row heel (I’d do a short row toe too, but then I’d have to swatch and plan), but I've been thinking that my socks are in a rut lately, so I’m trying a reversed round heel.

Since the weekend, I knit through through the gusset increases while walking, in presentations, at break, and in the evenings. I was pretty pleased with myself for figuring things out on my own to that point. But when I tried to imagine actually turning the heel, I realized I’d need to increase somewhere, or I’d have too few stitches when I was finished—I just couldn't quite figure out where the extra stitches needed to be. So I peeked at the Widdershins pattern from Knitty last night, did some math to make it work on my stitch count, and I think I’m all set, except for a sinking feeling that I should have started the whole heel earlier. With any luck I’ll be able to get a little bit further tonight and find out for sure.