Wednesday, January 30, 2008

to forgive divine . . .

Well, well, well, look who's come crawling back, begging for forgiveness. Why, its WEBS! Apparently someone over there must have gotten the memo on poor customer communication and failure to meet reasonable shipping expectations, so I got a belated email yesterday offering up a free shipping code if I'm willing to give them a second chance. So I'm pondering it. If I can get a good deal on some yarn for Wheat-Ear Cable Yoke, I might take the plunge.
Re: Wheat-Ear--I desperately want to knit it in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, mauve, but at $8+/skein, that's really not an option. I'm a bit of a cheapskate when it comes to clothes (I do so adore fashion, I just can't afford it), and I can't fathom buying myself an $80 sweater, so I can't justify knitting myself an $80 sweater either. You know, until we win the lottery. So we'd better start playing.
Still knitting away on Mrs. Darcy's sleeves, and have also almost finished the Ridged Helmet Hat, which I've yet to post a single picture of. Oops.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

La Sra. Darcy

Some people take the most beautiful, arty pictures of their knitting, and then, there's me. I don't know what I'm doing wrong. Maybe it's the lighting, maybe it's the camera, or maybe I'm just a halfwit with no aesthetic vision, but my knitting photos never come out well. Sadly, I don't really have any ideas for remedying this in the near future, so I'll have to continue posting mediocre-at-best photos. Sigh.
So, without further ado, here we have the front of Mrs. Darcy:

No problems with either side, just had to remain focused to make sure the row counts matched the back, more or less. As you can see, I have button holes on one side, but not the other--I consider this a major accomplishment. I also managed to remember ahead of time to use the appropriate left and right slanting decreases around the neckline--the pattern just says "decrease 1 stitch," and as a decidedly fearful knitter, I usually interpret that to mean k2tog, only remembering rows and rows later the existence of paired decreases.
So, just the sleeves left--with luck, this sweater could be blocking this time next week!
In non-knitting news, Dad had a heart "procedure" on Thursday--nothing so involved as a real surgery--and all went well, but please keep him in your happy thoughts, prayers, ritual sacrifices, etc. He goes back to work tomorrow, and I don't know that working in an all-boys high school is the kind of relaxing environment best suited for individuals with heart concerns. I spent 6 weeks substitute teaching there, and I think my blood pressure has been permanently elevated ever since. ;)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

back and forth with Mrs. Darcy

It seems that Mrs. Darcy and I are destined to have a love/hate relationship. But clearly I should be commended on my tolerance for her weaknesses; I submit the following as proof of said tolerance:

Yes, I've completed the entire back already! It's knitting up super fast, despite the problems I'm having with the pattern (more on that later). There are clearly some issues here--the end is curling up (which is supposed to be fixed by crocheting along the edge, but I won't be attempting that again, so I'm not sure what I can do to address this problem) and the ribbing is a little airier than I would like--but no major complaints.

The pattern itself though, well, we're trying to work on our relationship. My major issue with it is that it's not as clear as I like my patterns to be--and that's obviously my own personal preference. As a still-learning knitter, I really need clear instructions, not "work the left side just like the right, only without the buttonholes and with the edging on the opposite side." Ugh.

Knitting the back, though, I did come across one problem that is not a matter of taste, it really is to do with the exact science that knitting is sometimes. The decreases read as follows:

BO 4 sts at beg of each of the next 2 rows.

K2tog at the beg of next 2 rows.

K2tog at the beg of every other row for the next 4 rows.

So, first I'm going to decrease 4 stitches on each side, then 1 on each side, but then I'm going to decrease twice on one side and 0 times on the other (if you're decreasing every other row twice, that's the same row twice, yes?)? That doesn't make any sense. It also doesn't seem to be a very loose armhole. So, after browsing through some Mrs. Darcy-related chatter on the forums for the Craftster KAL, I decided to k2tog at both ends of every other row for the next 6 rows, both to open up the armhole and make the decreases even. I never, ever would've come up with that mod myself (I realize I should be a fearless knitter, but I just can't make the leap to mods yet!), so I'm so thankful, as usual, for the extensive knitting community on the 'Net, always providing support to clueless knitters like myself.

I cast on for the right front last night, ripped it out at least twice trying to get the garter stitch border on the correct side because my brain simply couldn't wrap itself around the upside down, right side up, left, right, right side, wrong side dimensions (pattern quote: "We will be keeping a 3-stitch border of garter stitch at the right edge, and remember to do this because I didn’t really include it in my instructions. Just use your common sense and you’ll be fine." Um, right.), and noticed another small discrepancy--the amount of stockinette stitch before the twisted rib as written in the pattern does not match the back--but fortunately that one was easy enough to handle myself. Hurrah!

So, onward and upward. Someday I might actually have a sweater!

Friday, January 18, 2008

wiggle wiggle

So, WEBS finally decided to deliver my yarn. So nice of them. I was hoping perhaps they’d try to redeem themselves for the lengthy shipping delay and lack of communication with, say, a coupon, perhaps, but nay. So I remain anti-WEBS, until further notice.
That said, the yarn itself is lovely. No photos yet, since I’m at work. For unknown reasons, I ordered 12 balls of the Elsebeth Lavold Classic AL—I only need 900 yds for Mrs. Darcy, so my reasoning here is a mystery. It’s quite soft (I know there are other yarn-y words people throw around like “drape” and “sheen,” but frankly, I don’t really know how one would assess these qualities, so until I become more learned, you get words like “soft” and “squishy.”). I also got 3 balls of each of Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk, and Laines du Nord Cashsilk, which I’ll use for some smaller projects.
So that means I can spend a good chunk of this long weekend working on Mrs. Darcy! I knit the gauge swatch last night. Or, I should say, swatches. I don’t know why I do this to myself—the pattern calls for size 9 needles, I know I’m a tight knitter, yet I knit my gauge swatch with size 9 needles, only to discover that, yet again,16 stitches/20 rows = 3.5 inches, not 4. What’s the definition of insanity again? So I knit again with 10s and didn’t quite get 4 inches, but decided to block the swatch and see. I don’t want to go up any higher, I think it will be too airy, and I need a warm sweater for the subzero temps in my office year round.
And now, I have a delightful story for you direct from Our Nation’s Capital. It snowed here yesterday. Not a lot, but a single flake is enough to send the entire Metro area into a panic, so the amount is basically irrelevant. By the time I left work, it had switched to rain and sleet, and the sidewalks were covered with an inch of icy slush, and I knew that I would have a long, long trip home. I marched determinedly toward the Metro station, clutching my flimsy umbrella. Some biotch in an SUV had the nerve to honk at me while I crossed one street—I was NOT crossing against the signal, but I guess she decided that I, rain drenched and cold, was in her way, as she flew around town in a warm car. Grrr.
Finally, I get to the Metro and manage to get a seat. It stinks. More than usual. The whole train, that is. People are wet, and wet wool stinks. The train is overcrowded. People are cranky. The train is moving sloooooow because the rails are icy. And at about the 3rd stop, the fun begins.
A dad gets on the train with a stroller roughly the size of my car. A stroller weighed down with various childcare accessories, snacks, clothes—I can only assume dad and son were on their way to scale Mt. Everest and took a brief detour to DC to brighten my day.
Dad’s first mistake is that he didn’t get on at the end of the car where there’s more room for his SUV-sized child conveyence, he got on in the middle of the car, where there’s almost no extra space, and parked himself and the stroller directly in front of both doors on one side. Apparently the idea that someone at some point may want to get on or off the train didn’t occur to him. Nor, I assume, the fact that rolling this yacht onto the train in the middle of rush hour on a snowy day may not have been the wisest decision he ever made.
Kid immediately asks for a treat. From the depths of this stroller, dad hauls out the world’s largest lollipop and hands it to the kid, advising, “Lick it, don’t bite it.” Well, duh, kid immediately starts chomping on the lollipop. Dad and kid then proceed to get into an argument that goes something like this:
Dad, leaning over stroller: “I’m telling you to lick it, not bite it.”
Kid, shrieking: “And I’m telling you to go back!!!”
I would’ve gotten popped for that one!
Finally, dad has clearly lost this fight, so he shuts up. Then kid wants to know if dad brought the DVD player. Um, what? Oh, why yes, dad did bring it! Dad hauls a portable DVD player out of the stroller and pops it in front of the kid. Said DVD player is now the object of my wrath. On the DVD player? Wiggles. Wiggles, apparently, sing obnoxiously, and when they’re not singing, they’re making weird sound effects: alarms clocks ringing, something “boing”-ing around, and various other irritating buzzes and rings of indeterminate origin. Apparently the rule about no audio devices without headphones on Metro doesn’t apply to small children with obnoxious DVDs that NO ONE ELSE WANTS TO LISTEN TO AFTER WORKING ALL DAY AND TREKKING THROUGH THE ICE AND SLUSH TO GET ON THIS STUPID OVERCROWDED STINKY TRAIN AND GO HOME.
Finally, we reach blessed Ft. Totten, where I switch lines. But no, there must be one more ridiculous irritation. As people get off, someone wants to let dad sit down, which, frankly, is a stupid idea because it would be physically impossible for the stroller to fit in the space in front of this seat. But dad and other Metro patron stand around chatting pleasantly about this, blocking up the entire aisle and trapping a line of grumpy passengers pushing and shoving behind them.
Dear Lord, if I ever pop out a kid, please, please don’t let my common sense pop out with it!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Boo! Hiss!!! Boo!!

Well grump! No beating around the bush, I'm just going to come right out with it--I'm super pissed at WEBS. I've been waiting patiently for my yarn since placing the order on January 3, and noticed today that my credit card hasn't been charged yet. Uh oh, that almost certainly means my order hasn't shipped. So since, inexplicably, they have no order tracking system on their site, I email customer service to find out what's what, and lo and behold, my order hasn't shipped. It hasn't even been processed yet, it's "in the queue." Blah blah blah, some sob story about having a backlog because of their year end sale. Well, that's all well and good, but I see no reason I couldn't have been notified of this delay--they've got my email address, phone number, and home address, right? They also could quite easily have placed a notice on their site (a la KnitPicks and their warehouse move) indicating a possible delay due to the volume of orders. But no. I got no warning, no notice, and so, no yarn (and before you accuse me of being an impatient biotch, I also recently placed an order with Yankee Candle; their website indicated that due to the high volume of orders because of their year end sale, processing and shipping would take a couple weeks--so I haven't gotten my candles yet, but I'm ok with that because I was forewarned.).
I find this lack of communication so frustrating--if you anticipate a delay in processing and shipping, SAY SO! I think most customers would expect their orders to ship within a week, if not less time, so if it's going to take longer than what might reasonably be expected, a notice is in order. You'll have a lot more happy customers if you keep them in the loop, rather than forcing them to email you to find out where the hell their stuff is.
So, no more WEBS for me, I'll be scurrying back to KnitPicks.
(As always, I welcome comments, but please don't leave one about how great WEBS usually is, isolated incident, give them another chance, etc.--I do realize that, obviously, they must be making some customers happy, otherwise they wouldn't be in business!)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

the waiting game

Still waiting, waiting, waiting for my yarn from WEBS so I can get started on the Mrs. Darcy Cardigan. I feel a little guilty, too, because I've secretly been fantasizing about the Wheat-Ear Cable Yoke sweater from Interweave Summer 2007. I am in love with this sweater. I love it more than Mrs. Darcy, but I desperately need a cardigan for the office, which is why Mrs. Darcy comes first. Right now I'm thinking I might do it in KnitPicks Andean Silk, but I'm open to suggestions!

In the meantime, I've cast on for this Garter Ridge Helmet:

but I haven't made much progress so far.
Thanks for everyone for the supportive comments about my 101 in 1,001 list. I think I might have to organize a War and Peace read along . . . once I actually get a copy of the book.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

no knitting was done in the making of this post . . .

So, I haven't been doing any actual knitting lately, except for a few rows here and there on a leftover scarf. But I've been doing a lot of thinking about knitting, and planning to knit, and finding new patterns to knit, and buying materials to knit. I hope that counts for something.
I ordered 2 knitting items from Barnes and Noble. It was supposed to be 3, but the Stitch 'N Bitch calendar was on backorder--hoping to find it somewhere else at a clearance price later this month. So for now, I'm now the proud owner of the Knitting Pattern a Day calendar, and Fitted Knits.
First, the calendar: so far, no outstanding patterns and one particularly bizarre one--the string bikini gloves. I can't fathom what the designer was thinking--what possible use could there be for a pair of "gloves" that encircle your wrist, crawl up your hand in the form of three strands, and then keep the base of three of your five fingers toasty?? I could see this as a sort of 80s-throwback bracelet, except, um, it's knitted. Totally bizarre. Sadly, no photo, as I promptly threw that page in the recycling bin.
But Fitted Knits I love. I want to knit at least half of the patterns, and I think that's a more than reasonable showing.
I also checked 3 knitting books out of the library, all of which were pretty disappointing, so I'm glad I shelled out $0 for them. Both Party Knits and Glamour Knits had a lot of beaded, sequined, fun fur items that, while they look nice (well, except for the fun fur), don't seem like they would be fun to knit. As a reviewer on Amazon pointed out, they're just impractical. Hip Knits, well, I think the publisher (which--and this should've been a clue--is Better Homes and Gardens) might consider a different name--I wouldn't use the word "hip" to describe any of the items in this book. I might use the word "lumpy."
And, I know everyone will be thrilled to hear, I've picked out my cardigan! I'm going to go with the adorable Mrs. Darcy Cardigan. I'm terrified of setting in the sleeves, but it's just one more thing to learn. I ordered a bunch of yarn from WEBS year-end closeout, including some Elsebeth Lavold Classic AL, a worsted baby alpaca/merino blend, for this sweater. I'm trying to branch out from Knit Picks, so I ordered a few balls of 2 other closeout yarns as well, although at the moment I don't remember what they were.
In other news, I worked out today, took a multivitamin, and applied for a new job. That's about all the progress on that lengthy to-do list I rambled about in my last post. ;o)
**Edited to add: I forgot the single most important detail about Party Knits! The model featured most often throughout the book is clearly not wearing a bra. Some of the garments she is modeling are quite close fitting, and so it is difficult to envision how a normal person--i.e. a person who would wear a bra to a party or other social occasion--would look in these garments, given that her breasts would likely not be at her waist. **

Thursday, January 3, 2008

101 in 1001

OK, I'm a few days late on this, as certainly the ideal time to begin this kind of challenge would be January 1. But I actually just discovered it yesterday, and then I needed the better part of today to draw up my list. But here it is, 101 things to do in 1001 days:

1. knit a sweater for ME
2. paint Meghan’s Georgia O’Keefe knock off
3. design and knit an Orioles scarf to wear to freezing April games
4. knit something with bamboo and/or soysilk
5. knit a baby gift for everyone I know who has a baby (it starts . . . )
6. buy some fancy, super expensive yarn (cashmere!) and not feel guilty using it to knit something for myself
7. learn fair isle--the right way.
8. knit one item per month for Christmas ‘08 and ‘09, so Christmas knitting is done by the end of November each year
9. teach someone to knit!
10. knit at least 25 things from my Ravelry queue (0/25)

11. have LASIK; burn all leftover contact lens paraphernalia in celebratory fire
12. take a daily multivitamin (0/1001? I’m not counting this one!)
13. take a yoga class, possibly with Meghan or, haha!, Mom
14. go to the dermatologist
15. stop drinking so much damn diet soda (cut to 1 a day) and drink more water
16. buy a bike, and ride it
17. start running 1 day a week after work and both Sat and Sun; increase to 2 days after work if not dead yet (that should do it . . .)
18. cut TB down to 1/month (er, that’s Taco Bell, not tuberculosis)
19. go to the dentist

20. get a new, exciting haircut (maybe this one)
21. tattoo #4
22. buy a matt & nat handbag (or perhaps receive one as a gift!)
23. buy wellies, and actually wear them when it rains
24. buy a black suit jacket
25. if hair refuses to remain attractive shade of blonde year round, start getting it colored or highlighted
26. find and purchase the perfect pair of jeans
27. get a facial

28. read War and Peace and 9 other classics I’ve missed out on (0/10)
29. start piano lessons
30. take a Portuguese course
31. learn to Salsa
32. join a Stitch ‘N Bitch and/or a book club
33. take a French refresher course
34. learn to ski
35. learn to water ski
36. get a Spanish-speaking “e-pen pal” and write at least once a week
37. read Love in the Time of Cholera in Spanish (woo, I’ve started!)
38. re-join LASA; read the journals when they arrive
39. visit the National Gallery or another museum once a month
40. give Harry Potter a try
41. read 101 books (0/101) – including those 10 classics
42. write and publish (somewhere!) an article/paper that has nothing to do with sugar and FTAAs

43. plan something for Josh’s 30th (eek!)
44. cut the mats out of Nelly’s fur (without inadvertently stabbing Nelly or emotionally scarring her for life)
45. stop calling Josh a doofus, even when he is one
46. visit Amy in NC
47. assume Meghan and Vince will get married, and help plan Meghan’s wedding without strangling her
48. visit Dave and Laura in NY
49. find a vegetarian meal Dad likes and do NOT give Mom the recipe
50. find out what ever happened to Jolly Joel
51. host a big holiday (Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas)
52. spend more time with Alicia before she hits 16 and becomes too cool for everything (go to the BES Invitational every year)
53. do NOT have a baby; unless we revisit that discussion and change our minds, in which case, start planning for a baby (but there will certainly be no planned babies birthed before these 1,001 days are up, regardless)
54. attend 10 year high school reunion and be fabulous; convince Clare to go as well
55. make a new friend (IRL, not on the ‘net, where it’s so much easier)
56. teach Josh some basic Spanish so he stops saying “¿Donde está el baño?” every time someone asks if he speaks Spanish

57. open and fully fund a Roth
58. buy a new house that isn’t 2 hours from place of employment; alternately, find place of employment closer to house
59. redo the bar
60. put hardwood floors in LR and DR and replace carpet in the rest of the house
61. pay off all remaining school loans
62. de-clutter house and get rid of crap we will never, ever use (I’m looking at you, weird cheese tray from Mom!)
63. buy new dining room and bedroom furniture, and a sofa bed for the basement
64. plant veggie garden every spring and actually use the veggies, not let them rot on the vine and/or in the fridge
65. plant lilac bush
66. fix the revolting condition of the bathtub (re-caulk)
67. get rid of basement fridge and replace with mini fridge behind the bar

68. visit Europe—or at least book the trip for my 30th (just after these 1,001 days--eek! eek!)
69. elect President who will permit me to travel to Cuba; visit Cuba
70. go to an Os game out of state (and don’t get killed by the opposing team’s fans)
71. visit CA, TX and FL (0/3)
72. go to a Ravens game and don’t annoy Josh with a bunch of “stupid” questions while we’re there; pretend to enjoy football
73. see Amy Winehouse in concert, if she’s not dead yet; also see The Killers again
74. eat at Pazo and 19 other new restaurants (0/20)
75. go to a wine tasting and/or take a wine class
76. take a cruise
77. visit another alpaca farm, preferably in Peru
78. visit Bolivia
79. rent a hotel room downtown for 4th of July or New Year’s Eve to watch the fireworks over the harbor
80. find the best Chinese restaurant
81. see Wicked
82. take a ghost tour of Old Ellicott City, Fells Point, or other for Halloween
83. get an actual martini at Cosmos instead of frou frou girlie Chocolate Raspberry Martini

84. go back to Nicaragua to work with Fabretto or JHC; stay for 2 weeks if I can!
85. give blood twice a year (0/6)
86. set up an automatic monthly donation to Fabretto, JHC, ASPCA and/or other charities; increase it every year
87. Donate $5 to charity for each thing on this list I don’t complete by the deadline.

88. buy a car with manual transmission
89. smile graciously at a Yankees/Red Sox fan at Camden Yards and don’t give them the finger behind their back (and there’s the first $5 . . . )
90. make a Nicaragua photo book
91. do something with my wedding dress, i.e., don’t leave it hanging in the guest room closet for all eternity
92. collect and frame all the Beatles LPs (regular full-length studio releases)
93. get Aunt Rose’s chrusciki recipe; make chrusciki without killing anyone or setting the house ablaze
94. make an LOLcat
95. send a postcard to PostSecret
96. write and send scathing letter to DC Metro system documenting atrocious failures and supreme dissatisfaction with service; then suck it up and deal with poor service
97. master Super Mario Galaxy and Super Paper Mario
98. play Civ IV on a level above “Warlord” and win (time victory OK but, let’s face it, pretty weak)
99. buy an orchid. Don’t kill it.
100. start using reusable grocery bags
101. learn to read tarot and entertain people at parties with astonishing insights ;)

So, there's my list. Wish me luck. I'll try to post it in the sidebar and keep track of my successes and failures. Because I know that most of, well, humanity is supremely interested in whether or not I've won Super Paper Mario . . .