November 30, 2006

Hell hath frozen over

I finally decided to do the virtuous thing. I decided it would be way less wasteful to swatch than it would be to pick a random number of stitches, cross my fingers that the sock would fit, spend a lot of time pretending everything was fine until the first try-on revealed the (obvious) fact that it was entirely too small. So I swatched AND I measured my leg.

The Knit Picks pre-dyed gave me 8.25 stitches/inch on size 2s after blocking, and my none-too-large leg is 11 inches around at mid-calf.

But I don't know how many stitches I should cast on as a result. It turns out knowing my gauge in advance is not helpful to me in the slightest because I don’t know how much “give” to expect from sock yarn.

I see a lot of sock patterns that start with 64 stitches. It can’t possibly be that I need to cast on 80+ stitches, can it? My legs are on the skinny side and unless every other sock knitter in the world is a willowy-legged midget, I imagine I need to factor in some stretch.

Other sock knitters, please advise?

I didn't get the memo

Today is officially green argyle sweater day in my office. I’ve spotted three already, including a particularly festive kelly green, navy blue and orange sweater where each diamond was practically the size of a toaster.

Is argyle cool again? Why don’t people tell me these things? And how do you knit argyle?

I did snap out of this intarsia daze when I realized that "checking out the knitwear" can look suspiciously like "staring at your coworker’s chest."

Knitters would understand. Hell, they’d take off the damn sweater mid-meeting and insist that you touch it and see how the intarsia looked from the wrong side. Non-knitting dude wearing mass-produced sweater? Much less likely to buy ‘Really, I wasn’t checking you out, I was just wondering how I’d knit the little Xs in your argyle.’

This knitwear entrancement is a sure sign that I haven’t been knitting enough the past few days. I’m doing some secret gift knitting that came up three stitches short at the end of the last row and has been sent to the corner - where the bad knitting goes - for a time-out.

I’ve also got a sinking feeling that I'm going to run out of yarn midway through the second Sunshine Yarns Jaywalker, given my microscopic yardage-sucking gauge and largish feet. I've thought of revising the foot length downward by a few inches and giving them to a tiny-footed friend, but then I remember that I love the sock more than she would and would give it a much better home. Plus, I’m a selfish, selfish knitter.

I even squeezed in a visit to the Koolaid section of Shaw’s earlier in the week, where I was disappointed to see they are now marketing a clear Koolaid that has ALL THE CRAPPY FLAVOR but NONE OF THE SOCK-DYEING COLOR. Bastards.

My final paper and presentation for the literacy class are both due next Tuesday, so it's probably just as well that there are no obsession-worthy projects afoot. I just hope my coworkers don't mind me looking at their knitwear a little dreamily until then.

November 28, 2006

This one goes to 'e'

Previous posts notwithstanding, I do realize that dyeing and dying are not at all the same thing. That missing 'e' makes all the difference. Sneaky 'e'.

Realizing I had no idea how to spell dyeing was just the excuse I needed to spend some quality time with the Oxford English Dictionary. Or, as those of us in the know call it, the OED.

Besides providing more information than you could ever want about a word, including it's definitive etymology and amusing quotations, the OED is in the midst of a massive revision, and they post new words periodically to edify and entertain dorks like me. I enjoy this so much that having access to the OED Online might be my very favorite part of library school. Now that I think about it, buying the complete 20 volume set would be a significantly cheaper thrill than library school...

In any case, the latest round of updates included ghetto fabulous and kidney stone. Not to mention a new definition for the word woody (yes, that kind of woody), my new favorite word, scrote .

Plus man bag, which I assumed was, uh, lexically similar to scrote . Sadly, I believe man bag is actually a slightly manlier version of man purse. Because, while they may have nine different definitions of the word 'poop', the people working at the OED probably aren't ten-year-old boys at heart.

Unlike some librarians-in-training I could name.

November 26, 2006


Deborah commented earlier that the Knit Picks dye-your-own sock yarn was soft and delicious, and damn was she right. And how do I know?

Yep, the Knit Picks box arrived yesterday. And the clouds parted. And a golden beam of celestial light shone down to caress the pale, silky smooth fibers of the sock yarn ever so gently. And a choir of angels descended to sing the yarn's praises as one Boston area librarian-in-training embarked on her yarn-dying journey.


Or not. Unfortunately, in real life I have a research paper to write for class, so I really can't afford to spend a whole afternoon dying yarn. So what to do?

I don't really have the strength of will to completely ignore the box full of lovely yarn just sitting there in my living room, so I've decided permissible interim activities include:

- buying a large crappy pot or microwave-safe bowl
- stocking up on saran wrap
- Koolaid shopping
- stroking super-soft super-cheap yarn every time I walk past it
- forever renouncing Lorna's Laces Shepherd sock (see previous item)
- swatching (I may also have purchased some pre-dyed yarn, just for, uh, comparison's sake)

November 25, 2006

I'm having a thought

Which can be dangerous. I'm pretty sure I've reached that stage of knitting knowledgefullness where I am well-equipped to get myself into trouble but not quite equipped enough to readily get myself out of trouble again.

Still, undaunted by common sense - or by the need for some serious Christmas gift knitting - I've been thinking about my sock problem. Namely, that I can't seem to find the perfect combination of calf decreases and heel/arch width to make the sock stay up on my skinny ankles and still fit well on the strangely chubby parts of my feet. The obvious answer is ribbing. But oh I do hate knitting ribbing.

Then I remembered how gleefully I knit the faux-spiral rib handwarmers from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, which are just 2 x 2 ribbing scooched over by one stitch every four rows. The scooch makes all the difference. It's motivating. Just four rows to the next scooch! Must knit four more rows!

So couldn't I knit a sock in the same rib pattern? It will be super-stretchy, not boring to knit, and as long as I keep everything at multiples of four, I should even be able to continue a version of the spiral rib on the instep, no?

November 23, 2006

Gratitude and thanks

This year I am grateful that my friends, family and loved ones are happy and healthy.

I am grateful for a wonderful boyfriend, good friends and for this craft that constantly challenges, surprises and amazes me.


I'm also thankful to have found such a smart, funny, vibrant knitting community this year.

And I'm ever so thankful to have just eaten an absolutely shocking amount of food, and in excellent company.

Happy Thanksgiving to all - cynical me will return tomorrow.

November 22, 2006

Plus, I'm always meeting new people

This is how easy it is to get me really excited (no, not that way) - I unloaded my knitting from my purse before going out to lunch today. When I got back, I walked into my cubicle, saw a pile of knitting on my chair and actually thought "Whee, someone left a yarn present!" Not remembering that the someone was me and the "yarn present" was MY OWN KNITTING.

I'm trying to see this as proof of a deep and abiding love for my sock - I even like it when I think it's someone else's knitting.

Or, you know, early onset dementia, whatever.

November 20, 2006

The new me

Every weekend I think next week is the week when everything will change.

Next week will be the week I'm productive and focused, write clever things in my blog, knit brilliantly, and floss every day. I will make simple, yet inventive meals that just happen to be healthy, do yoga every day, and make everyone around me laugh (but not in an obnoxious attention-hogging douchebag kind of way). My life will look like a Real Simple photo spread, only more indie and less pastel. I will, of course, have fabulous hair the entire time. Starting next week.

On some level, I do realize that change is incremental and expecting to radically change my life overnight is unrealistic. I realize there are no shortcuts or quick fixes, so I should just keep plugging away at making simple, positive changes in my life.

But sometimes I buy fashion magazines anyway, because the covers tell me such sweet little lies. Take this month's issue of Glamour, which promises to deliver

- Private sex advice no one else will tell you

- Sexy dresses for your shape

- And, most importantly "The lazy woman's guide to a better body" AND "How to look like a pro did your hair every single morning."

Dude! All kinds of filthy dirty sex secrets that other people know BUT ARE NOT TELLING ME, how to be thin without exercising, and how to look good in the (mercifully brief) period before my half-assed exercise program whips me into shape, with perfect hair the entire time??? It would be downright irresponsible not to shell out the $3.99 to find out.

So I spent a shameful hour or two of quality knitting time yesterday reading Glamour, and this is what I learned:

Regarding the filthy, dirty sex - my lady friends are a salty group. Glamour's got nothin' on them.

"Fabulous dresses for your shape" actually wasn't bad, but they didn't have any recommendations for the shape that is squidgy around the middle, despises pantyhose and half-asses the leg-shaving come winter time. Imagine. I really was initially encouraged by the cover line "Not a size 4? So what!" But it appears that Glamour only goes so far. Most of their recommended dresses are only available up to a size 14.

The "how to get thin while being lazy" exercise program recommends, among other things, doing squats while watching TV, doing curls with your grocery bags and running up and down stairs for five minutes at a time several times a day. Now If I were the kind of person that did anything other than eat and drink beer while watching TV, I would BY DEFINITION, not be a lazy woman. And running up and down stairs, willingly, more than once? They clearly have no concept of how profoundly, gleefully lazy I really am.

And finally (and most crushingly) the hair: as I have long suspected, the secret to salon-perfect hair is an amazing number of hair brushes and products, combined with the upper arm strength of a Russian weight-lifter and the precision of a fighter pilot, plus significantly more time than I have ever spent even on special-occasion hair. Most days I consider it a miracle that I've managed to leave the house without forgetting something crucial, like my pants.

Glamour magazine, you've lied to me for the last time. I see through your dirty tricks and your tangled web of lies. I hereby declare myself immune to your siren song.

November 19, 2006

Too late

I am a weak-willed woman.

It was the knitty Kool-Aid dying tutorial that did me in. Such cool colors. I see something in mandarina tangerina-orange variegated in my near future.

Which is good because clearly I don't have enough orange yarn (all three completely different yarns purchased separately for completely different purposes - possibly need a shock collar that zaps me in the presence of orange yarn):


Then there was Kristy's suggestion that I check out the Affiknitty tutorial, wherein Laura says she expected dying your own yarn to be like giving yourself an at-home brazilian (messy, painful) and discovered it was nothing of the kind. Seriously, I'm a sucker for comparing knitting to pubic maintenance.

So Knit Picks natural undyed merino is on its way to my house. And not just one skein. Like I said, the will is weak and I really want some variegated orange sock yarn.

I'll make sure to meticulously document the dying process. I have a very white kitchen in a very stodgy rental apartment, so even if you aren't interested in dying your own yarn, I can almost promise an entertaining disaster in the near future.

Thanks, ladies!

When that happens, just think of baseball

So I stumbled across the Knit Picks dye-your-own yarn page today, and I'm having those naughty feelings again.

The yarn seems improbably cheap - $3.50 for a 440 yard hank of undyed fingering weight. Throw in an acid dye pot or two and you have 440 yards of custom-dyed yarn in the color of your choice for less than $12, significantly less if you skip the professional dyes and just use Kool-Aid.

Has anyone tried it? How's the yarn? Does the color hold? Is there anything I need to know before I succumb to the delicious Burnt Orange and Fire Red colorways?

And their regular yarn seems awfully cheap too. I've been buying Lorna's, which is significantly (in fact hugely) more expensive. Is the Knit Picks ok?

Please note, I'm really hoping to hear "it's utter crap and you shouldn't buy any of it" because, really, I'm on a yarn diet and all and "thinking of sports" isn't making the naughty feelings go away. Work with me.

November 17, 2006


The Easy Mitten pattern is easy, as promised. I'm knitting the size large, on size 6 needles with the nicest skein of Malabrigo. It's fitting nicely, and I'm more than a little smitten with its pinky-orange goodness.

I haven't used Malabrigo in a while and I'd forgotten what a joy it is to work with. And when I say "forgotten" I mean "willfully blotted from my consciousness so as not to spend rent money on yarn".


So soft, such amazing colors. I keep petting the mitten and holding it up in different lights to see all its different colors. And I DON'T WEAR MITTENS. I smoke (only outside the house, away from the yarn), which means mittens are completely useless to me. That's how much I dig this yarn.

And after so much fingering weight yarn for socks, I feel like I'm blazing through this bad boy. Only 36 stitches in a row! And five rows per inch! Progress is fast and gratification nearly instant.

The way gratification should be.

One-Skein Wonders review

Let’s just get it out of the way – I love this book. Over a hundred cute, approachable patterns were compiled from yarn shops around the country: that means 101 socks and scarves and shawls and hats and baby sweaters, all of which (theoretically) can be completed with a single skein of yarn.

“One skein” is a bit of a stretch in some cases, as a few of the projects call for some hefty skeins (500+ yards). This may surprise no one else but me, but it appears this book will not single-handedly provide the perfect project for every one of my solo skeins. Alas.

That said, it’s a very useful book, not least for its organization. I am, after all, a librarian-in-training, and I do love me some strict organization. The book is broken down by yarn weight, which is excellent if you’re looking for a project to fit a particular yarn, as I am. Less so if you’re looking to knit a particular kind of project, say a felted bag or lace scarf. That would require a bit of browsing.

The browsing, though, is remarkably pleasurable. The especially cool thing is that there are so damn many good-looking, straightforward projects, in such a variety of yarn and stitch patterns. For a fairly new knitter like myself, without a huge amount of experience with different yarns and patterns, it was a joy to see so many options all at once. The book is now positively bristling with post-its. So many ideas! So many colors! So many thrilling new yarns! [Insert stern reminder to self here regarding using up existing yarns, not buying new yarn].

Design and layout could be a bit better. Each project is accompanied by a not terribly helpful two-color photo in the margin. There is a section in the middle with glossy full color shots of most (if not all) of the projects, but they aren’t in the same order as the projects themselves. This necessitates a lot of flipping back and forth between picture and pattern to decide if you’re really interested. Plus, the pictures are shot the tiniest bit goofily.

Move beyond the goofiness. It will be worth it.

I can’t yet vouch for pattern clarity or accuracy. But I figure if I can cope with the staggering number of errors in Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, I can certainly deal with anything this book got wrong. More details as I get on with the knitting.

First up, Easy Mittens. Perfect for that lonely ball of Malabrigo in the Carrot colorway!

Lastly, in poking around on their website I noticed that Storey Publishing (squeezably cute publishers of this book, the Yarn Harlot’s books and the Knit Hats!, Knit Scarves! books among others) has an opening for a Creative Director. Not that I was looking at their jobs.

They specifically say you should have an affinity for gardening, crafts, etc. (in addition to the zillion years of book publishing experience I don't have). Just in case anyone is looking for the coolest job ever.

November 11, 2006

A reasoned financial decision

I bought it.

Single skeins are hereby put on notice.

Your days they are numbered.


I have been knitting. Capering like an imp over the election results hasn't consumed all of my spare time.

The Sunshine Yarns Jaywalker is mid-heel flap and just as lovely and colorful and chaotic as it was when I started.


But I'm just not feeling the love. In part because I'm not a very fast knitter, and at 10 stitches per inch progress is slow.

But really, the problem is that I want to start a sweater. I know this because I keep re-reading the Yarn Harlot's sweater chapter in Knitting Rules and eyeing the Hourglass Sweater in Last-Minute Knitted Gifts longingly.

Still, I don't buy the yarn. In general, I buy single skeins in pretty colors with no particular project in mind. I'm pretty sure if I added up my many lonely solo skeins, I would have more than enough for a few sweaters. So it's not as if I've made a reasoned financial decision not to invest in yarn. Yarn diet? Who said anything about a yarn diet?


(Though I have almost convinced myself that it would be a perfectly reasonable financial decision to buy One-Skein Wonders to deal with my solo skein problem - I can convince myself to buy almost anything book-wise)

So it must be a commitment issue. As you may have noticed, I'm not a relaxed person by nature. I don't just make a firm decision and stick with it. I worry and then I dither, and then I worry some more. Buying that much of the same yarn is a statement: it says "I am going to make something big, something beautiful and time-consuming that may not work out. But I'm a fairly good knitter and I think it will be just fine."

And I tend to make mistakes. I blithely ignore the pattern. I twist my knitting in the round. I knit with the tail end of the old yarn. And I loathe swatching. “Fairly good knitter” might be pushing it, now that I think about it.

None of these things are conducive to confidently investing in ten skeins of yarn and diving eagerly into a weeks (or months)-long project.

Then I tell myself I have knit one sweater, although it was a baby sweater.


The pattern is a modification of the Placket-Neck Pullover in LMKG. I didn’t do the placket because I thought it was busy and who wants to button things on a squirmy baby anyway. Props to the Subway Knitter for inspiring me. I used about 1.5 balls of Lamb’s Pride Superwash in Cinnamon Twist, on a size 7 circular needle. Seriously quick, easy and cute.

In fact, after I finished it, I was so pleased that I left it draped over my couch for a week, pausing to admire it every time I walked by.

The especially cool part is that this is essentially the same pattern as the lusted-after Hourglass Sweater. Bump up the stitches, add some waist shaping and fussier hems (and a whole lot more time and patience), and voila, you have a grown-up sweater. I can totally knit that shit.

And imagine how much I would love a full-size sweater if this wee thing made me squeal and jump up and down with pride?

November 8, 2006


Democrats won the House, and it looks like we might even take the Senate. We finally elected a Democratic governor in Massachusetts. Rick "man on dog" Santorum lost his seat. North Dakota overturned its abortion ban.

AND Rumsfeld resigned (all that took was losing both houses of Congress - who says Bush doesn't listen to the American people).

It's like Christmas and my birthday and Easter and Halloween and every other holiday where you get presents and candy, all rolled up in one.

I feel like I should break my yarn diet to, you know, mark the occasion.

And I should probably buy this book while I'm at it. Just to really get into the, uh, celebratory spirit.

November 4, 2006

Embracing chaos

I'm a little on the anal retentive side. My books are alphabetized by author within strict subject areas. I love making lists. I fold my underpants and stack them neatly by type (everyday cotton, special occasion, cute but horribly uncomfortable, etc). I like tidy stripes. I do not do well with variegated sock yarn.

So why am I knitting this?


The sunshine yarns sock has been reincarnated. Its original 64 stitches have been bumped up to 84 to accomodate my ridiculously tiny gauge. And I'm Jaywalking. Again. With rather more success than in prior attempts.

This might be the holy grail of sock patterns. Easy enough to knit on the train, but with enough variety to keep me interested. And I'm working very hard on embracing the randomness. I remind myself that these socks will truly be a one-of-a-kind item. And the colors really are fabulous. The colorway is called daffodil, and the name is spot-on. And color in nature is chaotic, but still beautiful, right? It's completely ok not to have tidy stripes.

And if I repeat that to myself enough times, I'm sure I'll finally believe it.

On the non-sock front, there are finished objects in the house:


The hat is made from Sheep Shop yarn, inspired by the hats in Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I'm not sure I love the garter brim, but I do love the yarn itself.

The wristwarmers are from the same book, and took most of a skein of spendy Noro Cash Iroha that I purchased in a moment of weakness. Fall weather seems to have arrived, so they had their debut this week. I don't really see the point of gloves that don't keep your fingers warm, but they do look damn fine poking out of a corduroy jacket. Damn fine.

That Noro is really gorgeous yarn - soft and warm, with a slight sheen from the silk. I've been eying the Hourglass Sweater in LMKG too, and this is the yarn the pattern calls for. But by my calculation, it would cost $156 to buy enough to make the sweater in my size.

I'm trying something new and strange called "saving money", so that's exactly $156 more than I'm allowed to spend on yarn this month. Sigh.