Friday, May 27, 2011

A place for everything . . .

I love how some people's blogs are so organized, particularly when they have regular features: WIP Wednesday, FO Friday, Temper Tantrum* Tuesday . . . I'd love to do this kind of thing with my blog, but I feel like all the "good" categories are taken, and I hate to be a copy cat. I'd have to come up with something really original: Mundane Mondays? Tangible Tuesdays? Waffling Wednesdays? What kind of feature would you like to see?

Hmm, maybe I should've made that the question to answer for my blogiversary contest. Hind sight is 20/20.

I finished up my Saroyan scarf last night, and pinned it out this morning, so photos of that one soon. Then I'm shipping it off to a lucky recipient in the latest swap I joined that I didn't really have the time or money for.

A commenter on my last post asked about what needles I use, so I think I'll wax poetic for a few minutes about knitting needles.

For the most part, I use KnitPicks, either fixed circulars or interchangeables. What I find particularly practical about the KnitPicks interchangeables is that you can use any of their three kinds of needle tips--nickel plated, acrylic or bamboo--with the cables. So you can buy one set of the interchangeables with the tips you prefer, and then collect additional tips as you go along with no compatibility issues. I primarily use the metal tips, but have also started collecting the bamboo ones, which I find useful for colorwork projects (you know, all TWO that I've completed).

I think the price tag on the KnitPicks needles is fair. They aren't perfect, but on the few occasions where I've had a cable break loose from the join, they've sent me a replacement at no cost, no questions asked, and shipped it quickly too.

That said, I have not tried the Addi Clicks interchangeables, or the new-ish Signature Needle Arts circulars, primarily because I bought my KnitPicks interchangeables about 4 years ago, before those were available. And also because the price tag makes me clutch at my pearls. My guess is there's probably a legitimate reason they're more expensive, and if you don't already have a large needle collection, you might want to invest in them, if you can stomach the price. For me, there's no reason to change at this point (although anyone who wants to send them to me for FREE is welcome to).

Erin over at the Anatomy of Knitting podcast recently did a review of the SNA needles, and it was quite glowing, so check out her latest episode to hear that.

For socks, though, I do use Addi Turbos. I don't think you can beat the tips, the cable is flexible, and they keep the stitches moving. If you knit your socks on 2 circular needles, Addis are the way to go.

(I recently bought a pair of size 2 KnitPicks bamboo fixed circulars to try out on a pair of fair isle socks I plan to do next month, so I'll let you guys know what I think.)

Now, I don't want to write an entire post without a picture, so here's my rotten cat Dory, sleeping on a hat I knit:


I bought her a bed. A lovely bed, with high sides, and a soft squishy pillow in the middle. She just turns her nose up at it. Knitwear is THE place to doze.

Don't forget to pop over to my recent post,  And I Feel Fine, and enter my blogiversary contest. You have until Wednesday.

Hope everyone has a great long weekend!

*Did you know there is a rather tasty red wine called TempraTantrum? Each variety blends tempranillo with another grape, delicious. And I really enjoy puns and wordplay, so that's another fantastic reason to buy it. Speaking of, if you're ever in Ocean City, MD, there's a fantastic TexMex restaurant called Tequila Mockingbird. He he he.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

WIPs at Work

Here I am, getting in a little stealth knitting at the office.

(I gotta say, the iPhone takes pretty good photos)

This is a Saroyan shawlette/scarf, knit in Valley Yarns something or other . . . well, I'll be sure to have the exact name of the yarn when I do an FO post.

This is easy, mindless knitting, particularly the middle section, which is all one length. (Or width. However you prefer to refer to it.) The finished scarf is similar to Alana Dakos' Cedar Leaf Shawlette, but the construction is totally different--and I want to say easier, for beginning knitters. In fact, I think this would be a great "first chart" project--the majority is knit in stockinette or garter, you refer to the chart only for the leaves; each leaf is just one repeat per row and 14 rows.

I do a little knitting at my desk occasionally as the lunch hour winds down. I think I'm in the minority, but I really don't like the lunch hour. I'd much rather gulp down a sandwich at my desk and leave the office an hour earlier. (Strangely, my boss doesn't agree) Perhaps it's because I'm in D.C., and there's not really any place to go and eat a relaxing lunch--it's crowded outside, particularly during tourist season, and the traffic noise drowns out all but the loudest yappers. In the winter, you're pretty much stuck inside, unless you want to brave the cold to go buy an overpriced sandwich ($9 for hummus and avocado on white?? I don't care that you baked sunflower seeds into the crust, that's highway robbery. Darn kids! Get off my lawn!!)

Speaking of lunch, last week I was in a meeting around lunchtime when we all started smelling something burning. Sure enough, the fire alarm went off a few minutes later, and we all traipsed outside like good little soldiers so we wouldn't burn to death. Turns out someone put something wrapped in FOIL in the microwave. Didn't we all learn that microwave + metal = horrific disaster when we were about 8 years old? And then for good measure, this person also threw a paper towel in there, which promptly caught fire. And to add insult to injury, Lunchtime Lughead abandoned the scene of the crime, so we have no idea who should be ponying up the cash for a new microwave (Lunchtime Lughead apparently has no conscience, so s/he hasn't snuck in at night to deliver a shiny new microwave either).

I wasn't really going anywhere with that story, you know, just sharing.

Don't forget about my blog contest--leave a comment on this post if you haven't already, and maybe win a prize!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

. . . And I Feel Fine

Welcome, welcome to those who have not been raptured, and are stuck on earth with the rest of us sinners!

And if you know anyone who was raptured, don't forget to loot their stash. Let's be practical--we don't want that yarn to go to waste!

The good news about being damned to earth to struggle through the apocalypse is that you'll have the chance to enter my blogiversary contest! See, always a silver lining.

(Also, it's sunny and 70 degrees here right now--it's not looking too  . . . apocalypty? apocalyptical? apocalyptious?)

This year I'm giving away three prizes to three lucky winners, as a thank you for reading my blog and sticking with me through the last year's knitting triumphs and disasters.

(I'd rather think about which one there were more of.)

Ready? Here we go.

The first is a copy of Norah Gaughan, Vol. 4, "Flower Child."

Twelve beautiful patterns in here, summery tops perfect for knitting this time of year.

Prize #2 is a skein of Dream in Color Smooshy, in the colorway Wisterious:

This may not be the best photo of this lovely pink and purple yarn, but plenty of yarn stores have this in stock, so check online for a good pic.

And prize #3 is two skeins of Knitting Notions Classic Merino Lace, one in Pumpkin Spice, and one in Dark Rose (388yds ea).

I'm giving these away together because, um, I don't know, it seemed like a good idea.

So, how can you win one of these lovely prizes? Leave a comment on this post, and tell me why you read knitting blogs. That's it! You have until Wednesday, June 1st, and I'll announce winners on my blogiversary.

Good luck!

Friday, May 20, 2011

One more super-spectacular, extra-magical, extra-fantastical year!

If you know where I shameless stole my title from, extra points to you! And, um, you're kind of a dork.

So, guess what's coming up in just about 2 weeks? That's right, my blogiversary! Another year full of knitwear and yarn-y disasters has passed. Incredible. I'll wax poetic about that more later, but for now, I want to let you guys know that, of course, I'm going to have a blogiversary contest! So keep your web browsers pointed here, I'll do the official post in the next few days.

You know the deal: post a comment, you're entered to win, and I'll announce winners on my blogiversary, which is June 2. I'm sure I'll be giving away yarn and possibly a pattern or two, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


When it comes to knitting, I love to set personal goals for myself. Remember earlier this year when I said I was going to knit 10 pair of socks, 2 sweaters, 2 tops and finishing the Deep V Argyle Vest? Clearly my personal goals are not always realistic, but I do like to set them. This is also called Being Naive, and sometimes, Setting Myself Up for Failure.

(I'm not even going to provide an update on the aforementioned objectives. Just . . . sigh.)

Given my tendency to establish lofty, unreachable goals, I could hardly ignore a new group on Ravelry that would give me the opportunity to toss a few more unrealistic aspirations into the mix.

Cover to Cover Quest is a group for knitters and crocheters who are going to attempt to complete all the patterns in a book (or magazine, Knitty issue, etc.). That's right, all the patterns. Which means I could've chosen a book with a reasonable number of projects, but that would be very unlike me. So instead, I've opted for Brave New Knits, which has 26 patterns, including several large jackets. (You can check out all the patterns on Ravelry here.)

The good news is, I've already completed one project (the Orchid Thief Shawlette), cast on for a second (Sockstravaganza) and purchased yarn for a third (Delysia Camisole). So I'm not starting from scratch here. There's also no timeline for this challenge--the group is intended to be a place where people can find support for their own personal challenge, not a competition.

So, come craft with us!

(I also may or may not have decided that in the midst of this project, and another project where I try to knit 4 pair of socks by the end of the July, I should also participate in Wendy's mystery shawlette KAL. Apparently the knitting part of my brain, and the portion in charge of the remainder of my day-to-day life do not communicate. For example, I'm pretty sure knitting brain is unaware that I am employed.)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Mod Squad

Perhaps, and if so, alas, I don't have much vision. Rarely do I look at a pattern and think, "Gosh, I'd love this sweater . . . if the neckline were lower, the stitch pattern were different, the sleeves were shorter, the waist were shaped differently, and it had a belt!" So I guess that means I don't have much imagination, or maybe I'm just lazy. But at any rate, the result is that I usually don't modify patterns too much. I will make small changes here or there--usually to avoid doing a technique I detest--and I will often employ other people's modifications, if I like the look, but for the most part, I knit things as written.

But last week I made an exception. Am I growing up? Am I ready for my knitter's license? Perhaps. I mean, I voluntarily added short rows to something. That's the kind of crazy that ultimately turns you into a Real Knitter, I think.

The pattern in question is the Ribbed Lace Bolero, from Kelly Maher. There are over 2,000 of these on Ravlery, so it's quite a popular little number. Here's how mine turned out:


I selected a completely different lace pattern, and added short rows to the collar (partly because I wanted more coverage at the back of the neck, and partly because I knew I was going to run short of yarn, so I wanted to best utilize what I had left, and not waste it on ribbing that would wind up under the arm where no one could see it).

Of course, given that this shrug is knit flat as a rectangle, these mods aren't too impressive--no mathematical acrobatics were required. Still, I consider it a Success in Modding (Although, given a time machine, I would go back and cast on fewer stitches, as the patterning I chose is quite stretchy, and the shrug is several inches wider than absolutely necessary.)


And in case you'd like a similar shrug, here are the finer details:

Pattern: Ribbed Lace Bolero
Yarn: Valley Yarns Goshen, 3 skeins, 275 yards
Needles: Size 8 (since the lace pattern I used is not as airy as the original, I did not move up to a size 10 for the lace section as indicated in the pattern)

CO 130 stitches, based on the formulas Kelly provides in her pattern. This would be, by my estimation, more or less a size Small, my shoulder span is approximately 18 inches (rough estimate based on me trying to wrap myself up in a tape measure and read it at the same time; having an assistant for this exercise wouldn't be a bad idea).

Worked 2 x 2 rib for about 1.5 inches, increasing 2 stitches at the edges on the last row, taking me up to 132 stitches.

Lace pattern: 10 repeats, each worked over 11 stitches, separated by 2 stitches in stockinette. Because the edge stitches of the lace pattern are in reverse stockinette, I wound up with a somewhat ribbed lace, which is why it's so stretchy, and ultimately could've been smaller.

King Charles Brocade (from Harmony Guides Lace and Eyelets)

1st row (RS): p2, k2tog, [k1, yo] twice, k1, sl 1, k1, psso, p2.
2nd and all wrong side rows: k2, p7, k2
3rd row: p2, k2tog, yo, k3, yo, sl 1, k1, psso, p2
5th row: p2, k1, yo, sl 1, k1, psso, k1, k2tog, yo, k1, p2
7th row: p2, k2, yo, sl 1, k2tog, psso, yo, k2, p2
8th row: as 2nd


I started each right side row with a k2 (slipping the first stitch of each row for a nicer edge, since there is no edge finishing), and worked a k2 in between each repeat of the lace pattern, ending with a k2.

Worked 7 repeats of the entire lace pattern.


Since I didn't use Kelly's lace pattern, I didn't bother with the complicated cabled row she used to take the knitting back into ribbing, I just started it immediately after finishing the lace. I worked in 2 x 2 rib as described, ending with a k2, and decreasing a stitch at each edge on the first row back down to 130 stitches.

After the first row, I started the short rows: work to the last 5 stitches, wrap and turn, back to the last 5 stitches on the other side, wrap and turn. Keeping 4 stitches between each wrapped stitches, I worked this way until I had 5 wrapped stitches on each side, then resumed knitting all stitches until I ran out of yarn. This gave me about 1 inch of ribbing at each edge, up to about 3 inches at the center of the collar.

To finish up, I seamed the sides as directed in Kelly's pattern, but only for about 1.5 inches, because my shrug is shorter than hers--again, not intentionally, I just didn't have enough yarn, which seems to be my new thing.

I blocked it flat before seaming, and I think the yarn expanded a bit. I tried not to block the ribbing, but it still ended up looser than I would like on the bottom edge:


I suppose if I'd put a bit more effort, I could've worked the lace section so that it flowed more smoothly from the ribbing, with the stockinette in the lace matching the k2s in the ribbing, but, well I didn't.


So, it's not perfect (is anything I knit ever?), but I'm happy with the finished result, and plan to wear it frequently during the summer, over sundresses in horrifically over-aid conditioned restaurants.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sheep and Wool 2011

I'm off to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this morning! The good news: it's about 20 degrees cooler than last year. I'm armed with a large bag, a knitting project, pieniÄ…dze* and sunscreen. If you spot me, say hi! (I have way too much blond hair, and I'll be wearing my Trellis and Keyhole tank).

*That's Polish for money. This is one of about four Polish words I know. Interestingly, I don't know the curse words, just a random collection of words my Dad remembers from growing up, like knife and money. Next time, ask me what czarnina is.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Autumn Tiger

As you might imagine, all my complaining about blocking a shawl is because, well, I've completed a shawl. Bet you weren't ready for that astonishing plot twist, were you??


Pattern: Orchid Thief Shawlette, Ysolda, from Brave New Knits
Yarn: Sanguine Gryphon Bugga! in Autumn Tiger Beetle, ~1.25 skeins
Needles: Size 5

This pattern seemed straight forward right up until Chart 4, where suddenly the world went topsy turvy and nothing made sense and pigs flew and the sky was green, etc. You know what that means--errata. So be on the lookout for that in the final chart.


Aside from errata, I personally found the final chart to be a bit muddled with regard to a few particular stitches in the first row, which on some repeats were to be knit plain, and in other repeats, decreased. Given the space constraints of this particular chart, I don't know what the solution would be, other than to perhaps include a very clear written explanation, which is missing as the pattern stands now.


My other drama with this piece was running out of yarn, and I can blame no one but myself for that. (Well, I guess I could blame someone else, but that would be nonsensical and wrong. Yes. Wrong. And also, yarn gnomes. Yarn gnomes ate my yarn. True story!) I assumed that one skein of Bugga! would suffice, but this was not the case. Fortunately I found a wonderful Raveler who sold me half a skein at a nice bargain, so I didn't have to shell out nearly $30 for a full second skein, when I only needed enough for 2 rows, plus bind off.


As you can see, the edge is rather pointy, which was not really the effect I was going for, as previously noted when I compared it to the knitwear equivalent of a dog collar, but otherwise, I'm quite happy with the shawl, particularly the size, which is plenty large for a "shawlette."

Now, keep it to myself, or give it to my mother for Mother's Day, so she can "oh" and "ah" over it for an hour, and then shove it in the back of a drawer where I'll never see it again.