Saturday, June 30, 2007

Knit gifting--the suspense!

Here we are, arm warmer #1.

Once I got the hang of the twisted stitches, this really became a quick project. I'll cast on the second one today and hopefully have it done by the end of the weekend. This one is so soft and comfy, I keep trying it on and then feeling guilty about stretching it out. I'll definitely be knitting a pair of these for myself--I have perpetually cold hands.
But now I've run into a new problem. I said earlier that these will be a Christmas gift for my sister. But now that I've got one done and it looks so pretty, I desperately want to give it to her now! Nevermind that it's been 90+ degrees every day this week and she would have no use for them for months. . . . But, we've got many months to go until Christmas, so I guess they'll just be sitting here, staring at me. Which leads me to another dilemma--what to do with all of these FOs until the appropriate gift-giving event arrives? I've got to figure out some place and some way to store them--hopefully away from hungry moths. Hmm...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Round and round and round she goes . . .

Somehow, I find myself knitting in the round again. I still haven't picked up cotton yarn for Mom's sleeveless top because I want to try out the new KnitPicks Cotlin, and it's not available until July 11. I also did some more careful reading on the Tank Girl pattern; the pattern calls for 8 balls of Goa heavy worsted/bulky cotton/microfiber yarn (that's a lot of slashes), and at $7/ball, that's just a bit too pricey for me. Obviously, I could work on finding an alternate yarn, but I'm not so good with the substitutes yet, and for summer, I'd like to try something a little lighter anyway. So, I think I'll be trying this All Season Shell I found on the Lion Brand site. It's done in Lion Brand Microspun but I think, expert that I am, it will work nicely with the CotLin (they're both a "3," for what that's worth!), which, incidentally, is a much more reasonable $2.50/ball.
Anyway, the point of all that blathering is that, while I wait for CotLin to become available, I've started a pair of arm warmers that, should they turn out nicely, will be a Christmas gift for my sister. And they are knit in the round. Again. I think I'm getting pretty good at it. I'm using the KnitPicks Wool of the Andes in "Hush." This is my first project using pure wool instead of a cheapy blend like Wool-Ease! I like it so far, the wool feels much softer and seems a lot more durable.
My sister, who I think will appreciate the arm warmers' ability to stylishly (and by "stylishly," I mean, "more nicely than Band-Aids") cover up her arm tattoos at work, recently moved to Ellicott City, which is one of the places I would like to live if I weren't about to start a job in Washington, DC (I live in Columbia, which is slightly further south than EC, but still means I spend about 3 hours a day commuting). There is apparently this very cute yarn shop called The Celtic Knot right near her apartment that I'm eager to check out. I can't decide if I'll be using visiting her as an excuse to visit the yarn shop, or vice versa . . .

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday, Monday

Ta-da! I've already finished sock #2; here's a photo of the happy couple. The second sock was much easier and knit up much faster than the first. I tried to knit a little looser, so you can see the heel looks nicer and roomier on sock #2. It's not without its problems, however; on either side of the ankle, there are small gaps where somewhere along the way, I didn't pull the yarn tight enough. I'm not sure exactly where this problem arose, perhaps when picking up stitches for the gusset. But regardless, I'm happy to have a completed pair of socks!
I also took a bit of scrap yarn this weekend and knit up a cat toy. I thought it might look like a mouse, but it really doesn't; it looks more like . . . an ice cream cone. But I stuffed it with cotton and catnip, and the cats haven't expressed any reservations about its failure to resemble a mouse. Here's Nelly enjoying her new toy.

I also got a big box full of beautiful yarn from KnitPicks this weekend. I'm so excited to start a new project, because I actually have nothing on needles! But I'm not sure what to start on. I need to start up some gift projects for Christmas (which, of course, will be here in the blink of an eye), but first I'd like to take a crack at the "Tank Girl" tank from Stitch N' Bitch, for my Mom for her birthday in August (this would be my first "real" article of clothing!). Which means I need some cotton yarn, and all I've got is wool. I hesitate to visit my LYS, however, because I will invariably buy a bunch of yarn I don't need and spend more money than I ever intended doing so. Hmmm....
Another project to ponder: soon I will, I think, be participating in my first knitting exchange! The KnitKnack group on MySpace is doing a one skein wonder exchange, and I'm planning to sign up. I've been very jealous of all the knitting bloggers doing KALs, because I've yet to find one simple enough for a knitting newbie like me, but this exchange is broad enough to include knitters of all skill levels (it's an anonymous exchange, so you can't exactly be knitting sweaters for people when you have no clue what size they are). Hopefully I will turn out a finished project I won't be embarrassed to ship off to a stranger.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Ta-da! Here she is, my first sock! I've taken her picture from a variety of angles, because I think she's just so beautiful. Well, really, she's not a conventional beauty, knit in cheap, gray yarn, but she's beautiful to me.
It was pretty painless to finish her up, minus a near-disaster. I grabbed what I thought was the empty needle to move it into position--but in fact I grabbed a needle full of stitches and ripped it out. I think I stopped breathing. I just stared at the whole mess in horror. "Maybe if I don't move, and I close my eyes and pray, and then open them again, it will be like it never happened." No such luck. I could feel my heart pounding in my ears. "Is this what a stroke feels like?," I wondered. Fortunately, I came to my senses, and very carefully pushed the needle back through the homeless stitches. Usually when I try this, I end up dropping half of them, and being a new knitter without the knowledge to fix but a few of the simplest mistakes, I end up frogging the entire project. This time, however, the needle and stitches cooperated. I got all the stitches back on the needle without dropping a single one, and continued on my merry knitting way.
I started working on her mate last night. I found that the top edge on this sock is a little tight, so I tried to cast on particularly loosely for the next sock. I then promptly messed up the ribbing--I think this is because I was distracted by the Orioles actually winning a game; they're playing on the west coast, so it was late, too--so I had to start over. I really need to get a book like this one to teach me how to correct my mistakes so I can stop frogging entire projects when I drop a stitch.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The sock saga continues . . .

Well, the scarf is basically done, just needs to be blocked, so that leaves me with ample time to work on the socks. I haven't fully formed an opinion about socks yet. So far, they seem like a real pain in the arse, but doable. Somehow it failed to occur to me, when I began this project, that since socks come in pairs, once I finish this one, I have to do the exact same thing all over again. I'm a knitter who likes to get things done and move on the next exciting project; I do not love repetition. Of course, I need to keep in mind that practice makes perfect; or slightly less messy, at least.
Turning the heel (oops, I accidentally typed "hell" first--Freudian slip?) and then picking up stitches for the gusset weren't as miserable as I thought; both were tricky, but I made it through with surprisingly few mistakes. Silver's Sock Class really is fantastically detailed, I've yet to run into any step that doesn't have perfectly clear instructions, with photos to match. (She must be so fantastic because her name is also Kristin, albeit spelled differently than me.)
At left is, believe it or not, a picture of the heel, unfortunately quite blurry. I just finished all the decreases for the gusset, so I get to go back to just knitting the in the round for a few inches--of course, a week ago knitting in the round seemed quite daunting, and now I think it's a breeze compared to the crazy knitting maneuvers I could be tackling.
Perhaps if these socks turn out well, they can become a birthday or Christmas gift for my grandfather, who was telling me the other day how my grandmother used to knit him socks all the time. Whether or not that's actually true, I don't know, as Pop Pop's closing in on 90 and not necessarily all there; his long-term memory still seems pretty sharp though. For example, he can distinctly remember when the Orioles were good. I am not so lucky.
I'm still waiting anxiously for my Knit Picks order. It has been marked shipped, but has to get here all the way from Washington state, so I don't expect it to arrive for at least a week. Boo.
And I can't forget to introduce you to one of my knitting helpers. Here's Dory (Luchadora), carefully observing and making sure I don't make any mistakes. She's quite a slave driver. Still, I prefer her assistance to that of my cat Nelly, who thinks a knitted object just isn't complete if she hasn't kneaded it carefully with her claws and taken a nap on it to ensure it has an adequate coating of orange fur.

Friday, June 15, 2007

random blathering for Friday

Today I feel like rambling about a few things that have nothing to do with each other at all. Bear with me.
First, the knitting stuff. My sock is progressing, I'm almost at the point where I start working on the intimidating heel. I've been very easily distracted lately, so I keep knitting a few rounds and then putting my sock down and wandering off. Is it possible to develop attention deficit disorder later in life? I swear, I used to have focus.
This morning I placed my very first order at Knit Picks. Normally I buy yarn for specific projects, but today I decided to throw caution to the wind and just picked up a few different weights and colors with no thought to what they might become. They're having a sale (for a few more hours, anyway), so I even got some alpaca blend. Alpaca became my favorite fiber (I think it's weird to have a favorite fiber; normal people do not have a favorite fiber.) after my trip to the Peruvian highlands--alpaca is everywhere and quite cheap. We visited a llama/alpaca farm and let me tell you, alpacas are damn cute, too. See? I have some animal-rights-related guilt about using alpaca (and all wool, actually, but that's another story), but I choose to assume the alpacas that provided the yarn I just ordered are treated humanely. Honestly, I could drive myself nuts worrying about the animal rights implications of every decision I make; I need to learn to pat myself on the back for being a vegetarian and remind myself that I simply can't fret over every animal on the planet.
Now, some non-knitting stuff. First, the Orioles. Oh. My. God. I don't know what is going on with this team. We were just swept by the Nationals--they're barely a baseball team. Honestly, they could start pulling people out of the stands and handing them uniforms, and this team would be better. It's painful. And I don't know what's worse--the players or the staff. It's going to be such a long summer if things don't turn around. It's not that I need them to win all the time--clearly, if that were the case, I would've stopped being an Orioles fan a long time ago. But lately it seems like they're not even trying. In fact, sometimes it seems like they're going out of their way to lose. And that is frustrating.
Moving on--and let me preface this by saying, I know there are far, far worse atrocities in the world than what I am about to complain about--I am so sick of wearing contacts! Jamming my finger into my eyeball every morning is really starting to wear on me. The first five minutes of my morning go something like this:
  1. Wake up, dismayed to find that a miracle hasn't occurred overnight, and I'm still practically blind.
  2. Fumble around for contact lens case; accidentally knock it to the floor (if the cats haven't already); reach for white blob that I hope is said case.
  3. Open case slowly, praying that lens has not become caught on edge, where it will be ripped apart
  4. Squint at lens' watery home, searching for the hint of blue that is my contact
  5. Splash around in case for a few minutes until lens becomes adhered to my finger
  6. Rinse lens repeatedly; jam into eye
  7. Scream in pain; lens somehow still has dirt on it
  8. Return lens to palm of hand and wash some more
  9. Jam lens into eye again; feels like a grain of sand is trapped in my eye; ah, lens is inside out
  10. Remove lens, wash for the 3rd time, jam back into eye; blink repeatedly. Finally, lens feels bearable.
  11. Repeat steps 3-10 with other eye
Someday soon, my eyes will stop changing, and I will be able to get lasik. I can't wait.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there . . .

With the Windowpane Seaman's Scarf done, I've moved on to a new project: socks. I've never knit socks before. In fact, I haven't knit in the round before (I'll admit, I'm terrified of circular needles!), so I think this is going to be quite an adventure. I'm using these handy-dandy instructions, which are perfect for someone like me--full of photos and very explicit instructions that will help ensure I only mess up 15 times instead of 50.
I started the socks this morning. I'm using some cheap Wool-Ease in a lovely shade of gray--I'm not so much concerned with them being attractive as I am with them looking like, you know, socks. So, I went for the cheap, easy-to-use stuff. I did not, unfortunately, opt for bamboo needles; I think it would've been smart, as these aluminum gems are a bit slippery.
The great sock adventure started off fairly easily: cast on stitches then divide them onto 3 needles. Even I couldn't mess that up. I twisted all the stitches inward, and here I have a very pretty triangle that reminds me a bit of an Ojo de Dios, which are very pretty, but a lot less functional than socks.
Of course, after this I had to start actually knitting, and that's where the trouble began. I'm not sure who invented this particular method of knitting, but I assume this person was born with extra arms; I, on the other hand, have just the two arms, and accordingly, just two hands, so wielding 4 needles posed quite a dilemma. I nearly took out my own eye a few times, and also came quite close to a self-inflicted nose piercing. Who knew knitting could be so dangerous?
I also discovered that it's essential for the yarn to really have a death grip on the needles to prevent them from slipping out--this is where that bamboo would come in quite handy. Several times I wound up with a pile of needles in my lap and a clump of tangled yarn in my hands where the needles used to be.
My first "real" mistake materialized quickly: I noticed a strand of yarn hanging limply between two needles. Not having seen random lengths of yarn trailing off any socks I've ever worn, that didn't seem quite right to me. In fact, I had picked up the wrong needle and knit the stitches out of order, messing up the round. Frog number 1.
Since that debacle, however, I've been moving along at a fair pace. Here's what I've got so far. Not particular impressive, but it does boast one key quality--it is, in fact, round. Hurrah! I know this project will get a lot more difficult when I get to the heel and then deal with something called the "gusset" (you know it's bad when they start using words like that), which involves--eek!--picking up stitches. But until then, I'm going to bask in the glory of my loop of yarn.

Monday, June 11, 2007

My first post-blog FO

Et voila, here it is, my first FO since I started blogging a whole, uh, week ago. It's the Windowpane Seaman's Scarf, a likely Christmas gift for my Dad, who I assume won't want a scarf for his birthday in August when it's 97 degrees with 99.9% humidity.
The blocking went fairly well for a change, minus the cat trying to "help" pin it in place with her claws, but couldn't fix the one major problem--I spent several months working on this scarf intermittently, and unfortunately one end is knit much more tightly than the other. You can see the scarf is divided into 3 sections, 2 cabled sections with a ribbed section in the middle. One cable panel is significantly longer than the other--had it been just a smidge longer, I might have been able to even it out during blocking, but it's a good few inches. Ah well, I'm sure he won't mind. Maybe he won't even notice. Otherwise, I'm pretty happy with it; it's soft and cozy, and unlike every other scarf I've made to date, it doesn't curl!

As some visitors might know, I've basically been a hobo since I finished graduate school last May--I've been diligently looking for a job (and being oh so benevolent, doing volunteer work in the meantime), and now, finally, after dozens of interviews, a few positions falling through, and a brief substitute stint teaching Spanish to extremely disinterested high school boys, I think I actually have a job. I'm trying not to get overly excited, as I'm waiting on a formal offer, but having received a "We want you for this job; bear with us while we slog through the paperwork!" email, I think this is it. Hurrah! On the downside, I will have a very lengthy commute; I will, I suppose, have some time to knit on the Metro, at least.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Two of life's great mysteries: binding off and blocking

The Windowpane Seaman's Scarf is, for all intents and purposes, complete--with the exception of the tricky blocking process. I really like blocking in theory--it's so full of promise. I always imagine that my finished objects will look like they were cranked out by machine, perfectly uniform, all their quirks and lumps smoothed over with a wave of the magic blocking wand.
The reality of blocking is not quite so rosy. Perhaps it's because I really don't know what I'm doing. There's only so much you can learn from the pages of a book; the rest, I'm hoping, comes with experience.
My first attempt at blocking, I decided to try the steam approach. I carefully laid out my newly finished scarf on my ironing board and got to work. Unfortunately, the scarf did not react as I hoped. No amount of steam forced through its fibers seemed to make any difference; my scarf still curled up into something resembling a tube--I'm no fashion expert, but last I checked, scarves were flat. I became so frustrated I decided that hovering the iron over the scarf was silly--I was just going to mash the thing into shape. Which worked, kinda. The scarf is now flat--too flat, as you can see at right. The yarn is mushed and stitches flat and ugly. It later occurred to me that the reason none of my efforts really panned out was that I'd knit my scarf with something synthetic--blocking doesn't so much work on acrylic. Hmph. It also eventually started curling up again anyway. So much for brute force.
My second blocking attempt, I tried the soaking method, drowning my scarf in the bathtub, squooshing out some excess water, and then carefully pinning it out to dry. I still failed, however, to learn the lesson about using cheap yarn. So again, my scarf is a curling disappointment (it's actually worse now than in the photo at left, as each fiber fights to revert to its original form). This is especially frustrating because this was my first cable project, and the edges keep curling in over the pretty cable, completely obscuring my great knitting accomplishment.
So, what will become of my latest scarf? I have high hopes, and will post pictures of the end result, whatever it may be.

Finishing a project also requires facing my second knitting foe: binding off. The process seems easy enough, but for each project I finish, I wind up with one edge that's about as flexible as . . . uh . . . something really not flexible . . . oh, I got it! About as flexible as George W Bush's foreign policy. Ho ho ho, I crack myself up. Anyway, I've tried the trick of using larger needles for the bind off, but basically I just end up with larger, rigid stitches. Since I haven't ventured much beyond scarves, this isn't really a big problem yet--no one's trying to fit their head through one end of a scarf. But unless I come up with some magical, flexibility-inducing bind off strategy in the near future, I think it might be a problem as I start working on more complicated projects.
As a side note, this topic reminds me of the episode of Spongebob Squarepants--yes, yes, SpongeBob--where he knits Squidward a sweater made of eyelashes and uses a watermelon to measure the hole for the head. Unfortunately it doesn't look like anyone has succeeded in violating Nickelodeon's copyright and posting that episode on YouTube, so, sadly, I don't have a clip for you.

Monday, June 4, 2007


The counter has reached double digits! Thanks all, and please keep visiting. ;o)

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Before we delve into the exceptionally interesting knitting I'm working on right now (2 scarves--could it get more boring?), I want to take you back to the very beginning of my knitting journey.
My husband is not, frankly, the world's best listener. But I must have repeated myself enough times that around Christmas, he actually picked up on the hint that I would like a "learn to knit" kit to be sitting, neatly wrapped, under the tree for me come Christmas morning. And he also must have managed to pass the word on to Santa. Because on that magical day, I did indeed find a knitting kit under the tree (I feel this would be a much funnier anecdote if I had found, for example, a "learn to grow your own slugs" kit or something similar under the tree, and then had to exchange it myself for something less revolting, but I want to give credit where credit is due, and since this marks one of the few times in life that I think my husband actually heard words come out of my mouth and then remembered them at a later point in time, I want to recognize his accomplishment--positive reinforcement).
Unfortunately, he seemed to have purchased the world's most useless "learn-to-knit" kit, as I quickly found out when I attempted to glean some knowledge of knitting from it several days later.
The knitting kit and I did not get on well; we disagreed over the fundamental elements that should compose a "learn-to-knit" kit.
I, for example, believed the knitting kit should include yarn. The knitting kit, on the other hand, proudly boasted 2 balls of completely useless pink and blue fluff masquerading as usable material. Unwound, they looked like the world's skinniest feather boas.
I thought it would be helpful if my first pair of needles were visible to the naked eye, but the kit insisted that I could learn to knit using needles that looked like dry spaghetti.
I also thought the kit should contain easy-to-understand, step-by-step illustrated instructions--something written as if I'd never heard of knitting or seen wool before in my life; the kit, however, forced upon me a glossy tome that breezed through even the most complicated techniques with a few quick snippets and then moved on to page after page of patterns for items far too complicated for anyone but the most experienced knitter to tackle.
And while I never expected the knitting kit to give me the requisite materials for a specific project, I thought, if it was going to go that route, it should provide materials for something relatively simple, like a scarf. Or a dish rag. The kit, however, tried to force me to knit not one but two tiny, fluffy tote bags, one with an odd bird hewn out of wood sewed to the front. What was it thinking? And what would one put in this miniature tote bag--the other miniature tote bag? I can think of nothing else that would fit.
After mangling part of one of the balls of fluff into something resembling a bird's nest--I'm pretty sure that doesn't count as knitting; it also didn't really look especially different than its original form, which I thought was a bad sign--I gave up. The kit and I were simply never going to get along, we had to break up. But I wouldn't abandon the knitting dream--no!
I checked Knitting for Dummies and Stitch 'N Bitch out of the library and picked up a pair of normal sized needles and a usable skein of yarn from the craft store. I was on my way.
While I have no idea what ultimate fate the two balls of fluff met--I suspect a cat-napping, but who knows?--I did, in fact, keep the book. Now that I actually have a vague clue what I'm doing, it's brief instructions and diagrams are helpful as a reminder; it also has a few patterns I hope to try as I become more skilled--and braver.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Welcome, welcome, one and all

If you've stumbled across my blog, well, that's just your bad luck, isn't it? ;o) But hopefully you'll find it mildly entertaining.
I'm a new knitter, and as opposed to taking a class or paying for private lessons like a normal person, I've embarked on this tricky craft on my own--using books, online videos, and the occasional desperate plea on knitting message boards, I'm slowly learning to knit.
It's quite an adventure. So I've created this blog to chronicle my journey from knitting novice to, well, whatever I manage to become. And, since I've got an opinion on pretty much everything, you might find some other incoherent ramblings here as well, from time to time.