January 26, 2008

Double secret no more

I finally finished Megan’s hat! By my calculations, this is the first object I have finished since November. Note to self: finish shit more often. It feels good.

I had some trouble with this one. I have trouble with hat sizing in general, blessed as I am with a head that could be charitably described as "on the large side." So when I try to knit hats for other people, I shoot vaguely for a “too small for me” size. Turns out “too small for me” includes everything from a regular men’s or women’s size hat to a hat suitable for a child of 8 or 9 years.

Guess which size hat I knit – in its entirety – the first time? Yeah, I knit the whole wee hat, then frogged it back to the brim.

When I finally reknit it in a more grown-up circumference, the hat was about 2 inches too long. So I ripped out half of it and started the decreases earlier. Since I’ve now knit this hat 2.5 times, I really feel like it should be a whole lot fancier.

But here it is in all its tweedy simplicity.


Thankfully, I did find a perfect button at the Bazaar Bizarre to gussy it up a little bit. Mmmm, sparkly.


Pattern: Inspired by a hat in Rowan 38, but actual pattern made up to suit my yarn, budget and desire not to seam things.

Yarn: Queensland Kathmandu DK, about 1.5 balls, held doubled, though hard to tell, as I ripped and reknit so many times that I mostly have scraps and tiny balls leftover. Heh. Tiny balls. Heh.

Needles: Blue ones? Maybe red ones.

Thoughts: next time, I will knit something from a pattern when I want to give Christmas gifts in a timely fashion. If I reknit something similar, I would also slip the first stitch on every other row to make picking up stitches around the brim strip a bit tidier.

Because I’m a blogger (and not a very good friend), I made Megan try on the hat on Tuesday, but she won’t actually get it until tomorrow. So I could take pictures of it in decent lighting today.

The very spirit of generosity, I am.

January 19, 2008

It's the thinking that gets me in trouble

I've been studiously knitting the Irish Hiking Scarf. I'm almost finished with the first skein of yarn, and it's going to be too short. It's also an inch or two narrower than I would like.

Last night I found myself stretching the scarf out sideways to the desired width (this does not help the "too short" problem, I know).

And I realized something. Don't the cables look much better a bit stretched out, or at least with a little more visible purl action on either side to give them more definition?



So this morning I pinned out part of it to compare...The unstretched portion doesn't look bad, necessarily, but I like the stretched part muuuuuch better (do ignore the messed up cable on the top row. Or try to. I'll understand if you can't because I can't stop looking at it either).


What to do now? I'm pretty sure this scarf is a goner, but should I plan to reknit it on bigger needles, with maybe an extra purl stitch on either side of each cable?

Or should I assume blocking will flatten and widen the cables a bit, thereby accomplishing some of the same effect?

Or (and here's where I get into trouble)...should I view it as a really big gauge swatch for a cabled sweater? I have a sweater's worth of this yarn in another color that might make an awfully cute all-over cabled sweater.

What think we?

January 18, 2008

Cleaning house

I don’t have a home computer at the moment, so blogging will be [even more] infrequent for the foreseeable future.

Also, I haven’t really been knitting. No knitting + no computer = crap blogging. Apologies in advance. Thank goodness, then, that I do have a teeming mass of old projects to blog about.

This is what my WIP pile looked like last weekend.


I tend to tuck my WIPs away in different places, as it’s a little depressing to see them all together. Also, I fear they’ll begin comparing notes and eventually find common ground in their unloved, unknit state and unite against me.

They say “admitting you have a problem” is always the first step, so I decided to risk it. I did need to fortify myself with Koolaid-dyeing (more on that in another post), cheap beer and the excellent company of my friend Kelley, but I was able to make some hard decisions.

First, the chaff:


1. Koolaid-dyed Jaywalker: Demonstrating at least some ability to learn from previous mistakes, I planned to knit Jaywalker 2.0 with some modifications (bigger needles, heavier yarn, etc). I was almost through the heel flap and thought it was coming along nicely until I reality-checked the size. My reality checker is named Megan and yes, the damned thing fit her just fine. And yes, she already has a pair of teeny Jaywalkers. I dyed this yarn especially with Jaywalkers for me in mind, so I’ll be reknitting in a size large and maybe on yet bigger needles. And yes, frogging this one hurt.

2. 2 x 2 rib scarf in chunky red/pink yarn: too narrow, too-small needles, too much ribbing, bleck. I believe I cast on knowing all of these things but just wanted something mindless to knit one night. I hadn’t looked at it or touched it since that night.

3. Eesti Trail Hiking Socks for TB: couldn’t figure out the main colorwork pattern, even after I found the errata. Also? Beige.

4. Lace-Resistant socks – originally Waving Lace, then Go with the Flow, both of which turned out like complete ass. I was forced to admit that this yarn just doesn’t want to be socks, so it’s been sent back to the stash basket where it can look on enviously as I make socks out of its friends. That’ll teach it.

5. Basic Sock in blue Austermann Step: handed off partially knit to a fellow sock knitter with an Austermann Step fetish who can frog it or continue knitting the sock as she sees fit.

6. Two inches of another Basic Sock in Trekking

7. Yet another Basic Sock, experimentally and loathingly knit with two circs and with magic loop. It is now clear that I am now, and likely always will be, a DPN girl.

8. Wicked: finally, finally frogged, ruthlessly and in full. Word.

And the wheat:


1. Trekking socks

2. Irish Hiking Scarf (not pictured) – barely, as I think it should really be knit on bigger needles for a less dense fabric, but it will be pretty and wearable and warm, if not the most perfectly perfect scarf of my dreams.

3. Callisto shawl: I was so excited about this pattern that it was like a rock star joined our little group when the designer showed up at SNB. So WHY AREN’T I KNITTING IT? Could it be that it is a) not socks, b) not mindless and c) not socks? It does have a huge advantage over the Irish Hiking Scarf which is that it’s also not ribbing, so I’m guessing this one will be back in the rotation soon.

4. Double Secret Gift Knitting, a Tragedy in Two Parts (also not pictured) – It would have been hugely easier if I just followed a pattern for either of these items, but I decided I would make something up instead. It has not gone well. I have stubbornly knit, frogged, reknit, part-frogged and reknit one half of this gift (I think it’s finally right, or at least I no longer care), and am reknitting the other part. Again. The recipient has yet to receive an on-time handknit from me, so at least I’m not in a huge rush.

5. Does swatching count as a WIP? I still haven't given up on my beloved Tangled Yoke Cardigan, and both my row and stitch gauge are bang-on.

6. A legwarmer. Move right along. Nothing to see here.

Whew – that was a lot of frogging! But it’s such a relief to have the WIPs down to a manageable level.

I’d like to finish all of these projects before starting something else, but there’s a whole lot of tasty stash begging for attention.

And one more WIP can’t hurt, right?

January 7, 2008

Crafty lady

I’ve been thinking about the Things that Matter to Me recently, and having a creative outlet (be it writing, crafting, cooking or knitting) is very high on the list. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but one of my intentions is to spend more time this year being creative.

I’ve had plenty of inspiration in the creativity department recently, like this amazing gift from my mom: a handmade book by Mendi Stubson, acquired on our summer trip to Ashland, Oregon and sneakily gifted for the holidays.


Knitters will note the judicious use of ribbon and eyelash yarns...


Gardeners will be charmed by the vintage seed packets, gardening notions and gold-stamped flora and fauna... Hands-on types will pluck out each envelope’s contents, sniff the lavender and thumb through the wee book-inside-the-book...


As a knitter, book lover and enthusiastic (if inconsistent) gardener, this book is a constant pleasure. I open it over and over again and each time I discover something new and beautiful. This time it’s a packet of wildflower seeds tucked into a pocket in the front cover. Another time, the quote “It's the cracked ones that let in the light.”

And each time I look at it, I am inspired. Thanks Mom for such a wonderful gift!

In other news, I, a non-baker, have made bread. Not just any bread. I made crusty, chewy, rustic bread that, to be quite honest, kicks ass.


The recipe is a variation on the famous NY Times No-Knead Bread recipe, and it takes maybe 20 minutes of active work. And now I feel like a Baking GOD.

I even finished one of my knits over the weekend – the first Trekking sock is done.


I like this yarn so much that I wove in the ends immediately after finishing the toe, so I could block it right away.

I’m trying to avoid ladders in my plain socks, so I scooched the needle joins over by a few stitches each row. This minimized laddering (yay!), but made for consistently uneven stitches over the whole sock (boo!). The unevenness mostly smoothed out in the blocking, though I did get wee ladders from the stitch markers I used to mark the instep stitches. You can see it if you look closely.


I’ll just have to remember to do the same things on Sock Two.

Unfortunately, my hands and wrists have been hurting quite a lot recently, so I am (gulp) not knitting this week. I’m trying to be very conscientious about ergonomics at the computer as well, and hoping that being careful and giving my hands a rest will fix things up. I may even get some reading done.

This knitting hiatus also provides an excellent opportunity to evaluate (and ruthlessly frog) stalled WIPs.

So which UFO’s will make the New Year’s cut?

Stay tuned.

January 3, 2008

The right reasons

Overheard in my office today…

Marketing Guy: How are we going to measure success?

IT Guy: I don’t care, and I don’t care for all the right reasons.

IT Guy is totally my new Office Hero. Previously this honor belonged to Marketing Guy, who memorably described a data transfer process as a “festering shithole” and suggested we respond to irate customers with "Baby, you know we love you."

Office Hero's comment got me thinking about success, in a belated New Year's navel-gazing kind of way.

By some measures, this has not been a terribly successful year for me. I took a drastic pay cut to change jobs. I dealt with this change in circumstances largely by pretending it didn’t happen, instead of by “creating a budget” and “sticking to that budget.” I have not been doing yoga or exercising regularly. And I recently had to buy bigger pants when the entire ass of my favorite jeans ripped out after sitting down on the couch. On my birthday. Not that I’m still bitter about it.

Much of my knitting has not worked out as planned. Nor has there been as much knitting or creative and crafty time as I would like. But I’m pretty sure I don’t care, because many other things have gone very well this year. These things that have gone well are my Things I Did This Year that Made Me Happy.

1. Traveled to Munich, Oregon, Martha’s Vineyard and, well, Iowa. The Iowa trip mostly stands out because while watching TV in my hotel I saw the most horrifyingly/ hilariously inappropriate advertisement I’ve ever seen: “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is brought to you by Intimate Options personal lubricant." Because nothing makes me want to get it on like watching a show about sexual assault.

2. Read some really excellent books. High points included Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

3. Continued to develop friendships with an exceptional group of knitters. You ladies inspire me, teach me and make me laugh in equal measure.

4. Finally started bringing my lunch to work almost every day. Baby steps to financial responsibility. Baby steps.

5. Knit 8 pairs of socks, up from 2 pairs the previous year.

6. Learned knew things – that glitter glue pens are awesome, that I really dig knitting lace socks, as well as how to do a yarn-over at the beginning of a needle, a provisional crocheted cast-on, a garter stitch heel and how to knit from a chart. I have also forever abandoned the idea that I will become a toe-up sock knitter.

7. (Mostly) stopped buying yarn just because it would cheer me up after a bad day.

8. I also had fewer bad days and fewer nights lying awake dreading the following day. Certainly there have not been 8-hour Saturdays in the office, 9 pm conference calls or checking email on vacation since I changed jobs. And every now and then I still get a little thrill that I work for this company, a company that taught me a fair share of what I know about cooking, and whose cookbooks and magazines I genuinely adore.

9. Walked to and from my new job nearly every day, three miles in total. Which does count as exercise, now that I think about it.

10. Finished yet another library school class, in which I rediscovered the Freireian notion of critical pedagogy, which holds that if you aren’t teaching people to stick it to the man, you’re condoning a dominant ideology that breeds passive consumers and workers. I haven’t been terribly impassioned about the librarian training in recent semesters, so it was wonderful to reconnect with the rabble-rousing activist yearnings that got me into library school in the first place.

Not a bad year, when you look at it that way. As for the bigger pants and the finances and the lack of creativity, instead of focusing on what I didn’t accomplish, I am saying firmly: I don’t care.

I made a big change in my life by changing jobs, and it takes a while to acclimate to those kinds of changes. For several months, I was working full-time at the new job, doing part-time contract work for the old job, and going to school. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of spare time for taking care of oneself or pursuing creative passions.

So for all the right reasons, I forgive myself for not accomplishing everything I wanted to accomplish last year.

I plan to spend this year refocusing on things that are important and make me feel happy: writing, reading, spending time with friends and other loved ones, getting at least some moderate exercise, cooking good food, and of course knitting.

I look forward to a happy, productive, creative and healthy New Year and wish you all the same.