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Archive for June, 2007

After my early sucesses with KnitPicks and Kate Gilbert’s Shining Star hat, I made a few impulse online yarn purchases.  Friends and family started giving me gifts of yarn in one and two ball increments.  Hopefully soon I will be one of the cool kids with a Ravelry account so I can share my whole stash in detail . . . but generally I think I’ve been fairly conservative with my yarn accumulation, with a few splurges here and there.

It’s been months since I purchased yarn — I think the last round of yarn I ordered was used to make Sheldon and Norberta.  Partly it’s because I’ve been busy, and partly it’s because I’ve been trying to be more conservative in the acquisition of “clutter.”  I have plenty of yarn on hand if I want to experiment with something, or if I need to crank out a small, quick gift.  I also don’t spend very much time visiting yarn stores, partly because I rarely feel comfortable when I visit them, and partly because I don’t have too many friends that are willing to schlep to yarn stores with me.

Last December, a few friends got me a gift certificate to Yarn Market, and in lieu of actual yarn shopping I’ve been visiting the site and pondering my choices for months now.  I’ve been really wanting to make a second Clapotis, and I’ve been eyeballing the various colorways of Lorna’s Laces Lion & Lamb Multi available on the site.  Inspired partly by my trip to Tahoe, partly by January One’s photo of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock yarn in the Tahoe colorway after her Tahoe trip, and partly by the fact that my toe-up socks are almost done and I want another TV knitting project at the ready, I took the plunge.  Yesterday I purchased two skeins of Lion & Lamb Multi in Tahoe.  An added bonus: one of my pet peeves is orphan gift certificates . . . when you know you’re never going to use that $1.49 left over and basically just give it to the store . . . so I was thrilled that the total cost was just slightly more than the gift certificate covered.  Now I will be eagerly awaiting a yarn delivery — a surefire way to make the workday just a little bit less painful.

Speaking of my toe-up socks, I wanted to say a special thank-you to Anneliese
from the Westwood Stitch and Bitch, who demonstrated for me the two-at-once technique on one circular needle, using Magic Loop (explained beautifully here by Purlwise) instead of the way I’d been doing it, on two circular needles in the Cat Bordhi style.  Sadly for me, I’ve been using needles that are far too long, which has often resulted in a tangle of cables.  Now instead of a tangled mess (trust me, it took a long time to get this picture staged):

I have this neat and tidy arrangement of yarn, and no straggly cables (plus, yay, the socks are almost done!):

Here is a close-up of the socks on a single needle using the Magic Loop technique:

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In the past few weeks I’ve been agonizing over the seemingly endless Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl that I’m working for my sister glamorous. In fact, I think the ladies of Stitch ‘n Bitch are starting to know me by the shawl. Last night I checked out the Westwood SnB meeting at Borders books — what the gathering lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in company. My giant jellyfish of lace and its accompanying 1lb cone of Zephyr make quite an impression I guess. I have to admit, I do get some pleasure out of knitting something more challenging in front of other knitters. I am just competitive that way. But I guess it’s the same as another SnBer Bridget’s competitive sock-knitting bug . . . I am more competitive with myself than with anyone else, and I’d be knitting the lace whether or not anyone was watching. There are lots of reasons I knit, but the most important is that I love it.

What I really want to celebrate though is that I think I’ve finally broken the back of the beast. I agonized about modifications to the shawl in order to make a finished size that would meet glamorous’ exacting specifications, and after much debate, I finally settled on five repeats of chart two instead of the suggested seven repeats. Once I got this big decision under my belt, I suddenly picked up speed and momentum on the actual knitting. I finished the third repeat of chart two last weekend, and this week I’ve managed to do at least a round each night. Just ten more rows to go on repeat four!

Of course, browsing through photos from the Yahoo! Frost Flowers & Leaves group, I came across several wonderful photos of finished shawls and noticed that the length of chart three might be out of proportion if I don’t do as many rounds of chart two. Now I’m thinking perhaps I should do six repeats of chart two and one less repeat of chart three.

This knitting stuff is great because it gives me something to obsess about. Worried about my life? Where is my relationship going? Is my career heading in a positive direction? Am I part of the problem or part of the solution? Ha. Ha. Forget all that crap, HOW MANY REPEATS OF CHART TWO SHOULD I DO?!?

The SnB at Borders last night also gave me a chance to browse the knitting-books section, and since I had a Borders gift card burning a hole in my pocket and several upcoming babies to knit for, I picked up the Louisa Harding Interweave Press book Natural Knits for Babies and Moms. I love the cute little hats and sweaters in this book! Time to break into my stash of Swish . . .

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And now, back to the early days of my knitting . . . when I left off, I’d finished a scarf and hat for mom and half of a garter stitch mystery scarf, all out of homespun, and I’d worked a fun-fur scarf for adorable.  Baby, if you’re reading this, don’t worry, I’m not offended if you think it’s heinous — I do too.  As my Dad would say, “What’s a girl to do?”  I wanted to knit, I was itching to knit, but I didn’t know where to go to find yarn or patterns that didn’t make me feel all hive-y.

A major part of the appeal of knitting over counted cross-stitch was the idea that when finished, a crafty project from my own two fingers would be something that I’d want to give to a person I cared about, something they would even be glad to receive.  I wasn’t digging the Michael’s yarn, but I loved their prices.  I didn’t recognize any of the yarn brand names out there, I didn’t know anything about fiber, and I didn’t have the cash to lay down a hundred (or even ten!) dollars for a tiny ball of quiv-angor-ashmere-ino that looked oh, so appealing on the first yarn-store website I encountered.

Well, Dad raised a resourceful girl, so I set out determined to Google my way to knitting knowledge.  As it turned out, this was a fairly decent strategy.  I quickly found The Knitter’s Review forums, which held a wealth of helpful how-to advice.  Most important for me, there is a forum on favorite yarn.  Lots of pricey “dream yarns” were mentioned, but knitters kept coming back to KnitPicks as a good quality, reasonably priced yarn in great colors.  I checked out the website and after a few visits I purchased yarn and color cards.  That first yarn delivery was incredibly exciting.  I got two balls of Andean Silk in Bluebell, and several shades of Wool of the Andes for felting. 

Around the same time I discovered Kate Gilbert’s patterns and purchased her Shining Star hat instructions.  I ran out to Michaels, got myself a set of size 6 double-pointed needles.  The only aluminum DPNs they had at Michaels were size 3 and size 6, so I just guessed . . . and hilarity ensued.  Knowing nothing about gauge or swatching and having a near-terminal fear of measurements, geometry and numbers, I blithely cast on the required number of stitches and started working the hat from the top down, with glamorous in mind.  Here’s where the story takes a point-and-laugh-at-the-new-knitter turn.

I worked my little fingers to the bone — it was winter and I wanted to give the hat to glamorous for her birthday in January.  I worked and worked at that hat, for what seemed like an eternity but in reality was a few days and nights parked on the couch while The Baron watched movies and fiddled with his playstation.  Finally, it was done, I cast off (yes, far too tightly, but no matter) and triumphantly held the hat heavenward.  Wanting to better inspect my handiwork, I asked The Baron to model it for me.  Now, I love this man, but he is a big guy, with a size eleventy shoe and a sizeable inseam and what he himself had described as a big O’ melonhead.  He put that hat on, and it hung hood-like on him, a very beautiful burlap sack.  He looked like a little kid dressing up in grown-up clothes.  It was not pretty.  I was crushed.

The entire thing was ripped out and re-wound into a neat center-pull ball.  Luckily it wasn’t too kinky since it had only been a finished object for about an hour before it became a ball of yarn again.  But did I learn my lesson?  Did I?  No.  I went right back to Michael’s, bought that set of size 3 needles, and knit that hat all over again.  This time it fit The Baron pretty decently, but glamorous says it’s still too large for her.  A few months ago, when she was getting ready to go to Sundance for the film festival, I modified the hat for her, ripping out some of the length of the hat and adding some simple ribbing in an attempt to make it fit better.  It’s not my favorite finished piece, but I loved working the Andean Silk yarn so much I soon made a second hat for Mom out of the Hollyberry color.  Between the discovery of KnitPicks, finding Kate Gilbert’s designs (which I continue to love when they turn up in magazines) and learning the hard way about gauge, that winter marked the real beginning of my knitting adventure.

These are photos of the finished hat:

Want to see my gallery of amazing finished projects?

Take me back to the Early Knitting Adventures page!

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I’ve just discovered that my spelling is not, as the WordPress spellchecker seems to indicate, perfect.  Instead, the stupid spellcheck button isn’t working!

Now the world will know the truth . . . I can’t spell for shit . . .

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Is it wrong?

Summer means stretching weekends from Thursday to Monday — following this principle, last night The Baron and I finished off the weekend by going with some friends to a laser light show called Laserium: The Dark Side of Zeppelin — a part of the LA Film Festival.  It was two laser shows back-to-back . . . a bunch of Zeppelin songs and then the whole Dark Side of the Moon album, all staged with incredible colorful bursts of laser light both projected on a sheer screen and shot out in beams over the heads of the audience. 

I loved it.  Especially the shifting light-glazes, the almost liquid fields of light overlapping each other with lighter and darker densities of color — those were my favorite, and The Baron’s too.  On the cheesier side: a red gallows for “Gallows Pole” and a yellow galloping horse.  Very 70’s.  Another big highlight of the evening was when The Baron got antsy, went to get a soda, and brought me back a Häagen-Dazs bar.  Is it any wonder I adore this man?  And what does it say about me that ice cream and dark chocolate coating get me so excited?

The audience was cool too, reminding me how much fun a live event in front of an energetic crowd can be.  Highlights included the guy in his 50’s with what looked like the new wife and his daughter, a girl about 10 years old.  Dad and his plus-one were rocking out, singing and head-banging and doing some fantastic air-drums.  The poor kid was freaked out by the loud music, the lights, and (most likely) the trauma of seeing her dad act like a skater punk.  There was also a group of guys, I’d say mid-30’s, who spent most of the night drinking several bottles of wine (“dude, I got extra bottles ’cause the line was long and no way I’m waiting in line again!”) and asking the people around them for a lighter.  Apparently the fact that no one smokes in LA anymore is a reason to be bummed.  Once the dudes achieved sufficient lubrication, they were all about the cheering and broke into a near-riot every time the music swelled and the lasers blared.  It was exactly the right tone for the evening.

But here’s my question: early on, the “laserist” running the light-show worked with undulating bands, like hourglasses stacked on top of each other and shot through with horizontal ribs of repeating color patterns.  Really beautiful, rich color combinations, many of them totally unexpected: yellows, purples, blues, deeply saturated color and light pastels.  So is it wrong that all I could think about was knitted socks?  Self-striping sock yarn?  If I ever do take up dyeing, I’ll think back on last night as inspiration and cook up some “laserium” socks.

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Last Friday was an exceptionally painful slow workday, so I spent some time poking around the knitting district of webville and trying to come out of my shy-shell.  I found a few goodies I wanted to share, including these two beautiful lace pieces to add to my want-to-knit list:

Pink Lemon Twist’s Hanami Stole (scroll down to the bottom of the page), which I think might be absolutely perfect for Mom.  I’ve got lots of Zephyr at my finger-tips, and I’m eager to find another lace project once Frost Flowers and Leaves is done.

Jane Elliot’s Starry Night Shawl is one of the more creative pieces I’ve seen in a long while — reminiscent of Norah Gaughan’s patterns from Knitting Nature — and I’m eager to get it on my needles!

I was also reminded of the incredible collision of art and science that is the eco-friendly artistry of Helle at Gooseflesh, who is working an entire undersea-reef with yarn made from old plastic bags.  I especially love this one.  Her creations inspire me to think beyond the simple scarf-shawl-sweater confines of traditional knitting.

Over the weekend I got lots of quality outdoor knitting-and-relaxing time in. While I was relaxing in a lounge chair on Saturday afternoon, still soggy from the pool, Mrs. J called. We had (as always!) a great conversation, and she wanted me to check my e-mail for this photo of the shawl I made for her as a wedding gift. I worked the shawl in Rowan Kidsilk Haze and it was my first experience with Mohair — I loved the yarn except for the one time I had to rip back, at which point I almost had to toss the whole ball because I got so frustrated by the heinous tangle that ensued. I made peace with the mohair eventually, but I’m not sure I’d rush to work with it again. It was fun to reconnect with a project I hadn’t seen in a while, but I have to admit I was a little disappointed — I remembered the piece being more intricate and delicate than it looks in this photo. Perhaps it’s because I’m so focused on the Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl these days, but the simple YO flowers look a little bit plain.

Speaking of the FF&L, I managed to get myself through the third repeat of chart two and even get a few rows into the fourth repeat.  Thank goodness I put in a lifeline, since I accidentally worked an extra YO in the final round of the third repeat.  As I was working the first round of the fourth repeat, I had to spend over an hour ripping back to the lifeline and checking each stitch.  Starting a new repeat of chart two is really challenging, since there’s no way to read the rows below the one you’re knitting, but with the lifeline I was able to check my work with confidence and I eventually found the wayward YO.  Yet another reason I love the KnitPicks Options — the little hole in the cable that allows for easy lifeline-installation!

Speaking of KnitPicks, stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of my Early Knitting Adventures: In the third installment I explore my burgeoning yarn snobbery and the discovery of my favorite internet yarn shop.

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Life is good — there is lots to celebrate.

Let’s start with the most pressing thing: I am celebrating that today is Friday.  This was one of those evil, interminable weeks, not because it was so busy but because it was sooooooooo slow.  Every day, from my half of a shared cubicle, I look out at a teeny tiny corner of sky and a lot of office buildings shimmering under the sun.  People pass by and say “Wow, what a beautiful day!” and it actually makes me grateful that the commute is 45 minutes, since I can roll the window down to look out at the world and let my wet hair air-dry.  This weekend I plan to take myself outside, even if it’s just to the lush jungle of The Baron’s yard, and really enjoy the summer.

Which brings me to celebrating yesterday’s summer solstice.  It’s official folks, summer is here.  A recent New York transplant to our office was describing how back East, some kids get sent to camp for the whole summer, and people empty out of the city because the weather is so icky and humid.  Well, we may have smog and traffic congestion and all kinds of other troubles, but as my Dad would say, “Hey, it could be colder.”  Yes, the weather here is extraordinary, and there’s no need to flee anything but the office.  Which I will do.  Shortly.

Something else that’s been on my mind: I got a library card this week, and if that’s not something to celebrate, then I don’t know what is.  Libraries are one of my most favorite types of places.  I love the old-book smell, and the nooks and crannies, and the stacks.  Ah, the stacks!  Shakespeare had his own aisle, and it was hidden in the basement, in the back, where no matter the weather outside it was cool and dark.  I loved just being down there, the smell, the light, the safety and the rightness of it all.  Everything in its place, ordered, so that even the air felt heavier and rich with the ancientness with every word on each page.  In college, even when I wasn’t reading or studying, I loved being in the library.  Just writing this I am smiling thinking of some of my most favorite napping spots — a cozy leather couch in the reading room, a well-loved overstuffed chair at the end of a set of study desks, next to a window that threw a warm sunlight across my sleepy self, a secret couch under a flight of stairs.  I can only wish that the local public libraries were as wonderful.  But even so, they are an invaluable resource and I feel lucky to have ready access to a decent library system.  If nothing else, the library is a great source for knitting books!

I am celebratory and excited about being healthy, wealthy and wise.  Healthy, because at the moment there is nothing wrong with me.  The Frankenfinger is healing nicely, and all of my extremities and internal organs seem to be working to code.  It’s no small thing to celebrate good health.  Plus, working eyes and fingers means a weekend full of knitting (watch out Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl — I’m coming for you!)  Wealthy, well, I have a nice place to sleep, plenty to eat, and a good supply of yarn.  Wise I am working on.  Luckily, I’m surrounded by insightful people who push me and give me great advice.  You know who you are, you rascals!

And then, there’s this:

Happy Friday — don’t forget to celebrate!

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