Thursday, March 29, 2012

On scraps

I recently made yet another attempt to wrangle my knitting area into submission, and came across a few swatches. Given the number of projects I've completed over the years (150, according to Ravelry), we should be drowning in swatches, but I suppose they scatter over time--some ripped out to scavenge the yarn, others fallen behind furniture or intentionally tossed in the trash, and some just gone--vanished like second socks in the dryer and lip balms that I'm certain climb out of my purse and run away.

These few have survived, and I find myself wondering what to do with them. I feel they should be put to some use, or perhaps displayed.

I can't believe I'm getting sentimental about swatches.

Even more so when I look at this photo, which I've edited with Snapseed. A little focal readjustment, a vintage scrub and even swatches can have an antique-y charm.

Photo editing apps probably aren't making professional photographers or graphic designers jump for joy, but I personally appreciate simple, inexpensive programs that allow the common man to get a little creative with photographs. The price of that simplicity is the loss of precise control over editing (which you would retain using Photoshop or GIMP), but for the purposes of blogging about squares of knit fabric, I think it's a fair trade.

Snapseed is my preferred app; of those I've tried, it gives you greatest number of editing and effects options and is the most user friendly. Not bad for $4.99.
Instagram is useful for quick "washes," but gives you far less control, and is marketing itself more as a photo networking site. On the plus side, it's free.
Photoshop Express is free and also provides a number of editing options, but wants you to buy "expansion packs" for various features, and in my experience just isn't as user friendly as Snapseed.
Color Effects is another free app that turns your photos black-and-white and allows you to recolor small sections--fancy! That's pretty much its only feature, though, so you've got to save your photos and take them to another app for any additional editing.

That's just a quick review of some photo editing apps knitters might find useful--do you have an app to recommend?

(Apps are available on the iPad, and possibly some other devices, I didn't check.)

(This post is not an advertisement for the iPad.)

(Though it is pretty cool.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesdays with Dory

I think I'm emo today
Dear Dory:

Easter is coming, and though I've yet to put the Easter baskets together, I am somehow already finding my cats running around with plastic Easter grass trailing out of their mouths. I fear this decorative floof, much like tinsel, is bad for their digestive systems. What should I do?

Cat-cerned in Cleveland

Dear Cat-cerned,

Your cats are playing with Easter grass because Easter grass is a cat toy. Obviously. Why else would it exist?
But you're right--it's no good for the bowels and can cause serious discomfort. One option is to purchase paper Easter grass--while I'm no veterinarian, my guess is that it's probably not as dangerous as plastic grass, and might break down in kitties' tummies more readily. It also isn't shiny and doesn't make that fun crinkly sound, so your kitties probably won't even be interested in it--though I am, and spent a good 10 minutes chasing a piece around under the dining room table last night. I didn't eat it, though, which is a step in the right direction.
But if you really want to nip this problem in the bud, your best bet is to line your Easter baskets with yarn--knitters will like bright shiny new skeins, but non-knitters will probably be happy with scraps, as long as they're covered in chocolate. Or fish.

And if you want a chance to win some bright shiny new yarn or other knitterly prizes, don't forget to check out Kristen's CCFA fundraiser!

Have a purrrrrrfect day!

Monday, March 26, 2012

On embellishment


I picked up a set of 6 of these buttons on Etsy a few months ago, and am excited to use them for my Wildflower Cardigan this week! (Shop4craft has adorable buttons that I'm sure are manufactured in a sweatshop somewhere, which makes me feel more than a little guilty, but I can't find buttons nearly as darling anywhere more . . . legitimate. If you have a recommendation, please share!)

My sweater is currently blocking, so I'll sew the buttons on as soon as its dry. I have to rejoice just a bit--you may recall I did some mathematical gymnastics to work out the gauge and fit of the sweater, and I'm happy to report that the bust came out exactly 35", as predicted / hoped.

Here's an unflattering photo of me setting in the sleeves (the only knitting work I ever do at a table):


Friday, March 23, 2012

FO Friday: Norie

In between utterly failing to make any progress on the Rock Island Shawl and actually finishing all the pieces for the Wildflower Cardigan, I managed to squeak out a new hat, which will be living in a closet until at least October, because it's 80 degrees here today.


Pattern: Norie, from Gudrun Johnston, in Shetland Trader: Book 1
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh DK in Baltic
Needles: Sz 6
Mods: zip, zero, zilch
Rav link

The pattern calls for 260 yards of DK weight yarn, so I'm not sure why I thought I could make do with 225 yards. Somehow, it worked. I had just a few yards of yarn left over, so if you're faint of heart, I recommend starting out with more yarn. If you're brave, though, I think the Tosh DK is a great choice for this hat (or anything, really, I'm such a Madelinetosh fan girl).

I didn't bother with a gauge swatch, I just went up a needle size as I always do--it's a smidge big, so I probably should've stuck with the size 5 needles. Live and learn. (Or, live and repeatedly make the same mistakes and then whine about it.)

This isn't my usual hat style--I tend to go for berets--so when I was done, I had no clue how to block it. I didn't want to stretch out the body of the hat, just relax the top a bit, so I popped it over a small plate, spritzed just the top with some water, and smoothed it out. Seems to have done the trick:


It's quite slouchy, just like the pattern photos indicate it should be. Should keep my ears nice and warm . . . if and when it gets cold again. I hope it doesn't stretch out too much with wear, or I'll have to pull it all the way down over my face and cut out eye holes.


Don't forget, you can enter to win your very own copy of Shetland Trader: Book 1, or several other awesome yarn-y prizes, by donating to my CCFA fundraiser!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesdays with Dory

This is Dory:


It may not be entirely apparent to her that her name is Dory, because she's so often hearing other names that sound nothing like Dory. Wootie Booty, for example. Possibly Booty Face.

But the fact remains that her name is Dory.

(Unless she's in trouble. In which case, she will be referred to by her full name: Luchadora Ethel.)

(Oddly enough, this doesn't seem to inspire the same fear in cats that it does in children.)

Dory will be swinging by on Tuesdays--unless she's distracted by a shiny object or red dot--to answer your most pressing cat- and knitting-related questions.

Unless she's busy, in which case, Nelly will fill in:

But Dory's in today, so let's get started!

Dear Dory,

My 2 cats are constantly leaving fur everywhere. It coats the furniture. It find its way into my breakfast cereal. It even winds up in my knitting. Whatever shall I do?

--Fur-ustrated in Phoenix

Dear Fur-ustrated,

Fur is a thoughtful gift from your cats and should be appreciated as such. Under no circumstances should you use the Big Scary Machine to make the fur disappear. 1) Cats have identified the Big Scary Machine as a minion of the devil and we don't want it in our homes. 2) After the Big Scary Machine does its job, we have to work twice as hard to re-fur everything. I'm sure you know our feelings about work. So just leave the fur be, and eventually, it will be so thick and evenly dispersed, it will look intentional.
Fur in your food is unfortunate--we know all about fur balls, and we don't want you to have to suffer through them. Simply extract the fur from your food and drop it on the floor. Your cats will take care of it (ie, they'll lick it up off the floor and then hork it back up later in a neat blob so you can easily dispose of it). Unless, of course, you've found fur in your tuna fish. In that case, you should just hand your entire meal over to your cats.
And as far as your knitting, do you honestly prefer sheep's wool to cat fur? Cat fur is softer and cats are obviously cuter. So embrace it. It will probably be easier for you if you just buy yarn the same color as your cats. Everything you knit is for your cat to lay on anyway, right??

Have a purrrrrfect day!

Dory also wants you to remember to donate to my CCFA fundraiser, and be entered to win fun YARNY prizes! All the details are here.

If you have a question for Dory, I would be happy to pass it on to her, just send me an email!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Take Steps, Be Heard for Crohn's and Colitis

Today's the day, so let's jump right in--

The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) is a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to finding the cure for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Four decades ago, CCFA created the field of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis research. Today, the Foundation funds cutting-edge studies at major medical institutions, nurtures investigators at the early stages of their careers, and finances underdeveloped areas of research. The National Institutes of Health has commended the Foundation for "uniting the research community and strengthening IBD research."

My mother was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in the 1970s, when little was known about the disease, and even less about how to treat it. Today, she continues her daily battle with Crohn's. In her honor, my family and I are participating in the Baltimore "Take Steps, Be Heard" walk on June 9, 2012 to support the CCFA.

My personal goal is to raise $500, and that's where you generous knitters, crocheters, spinners, and dyers come in. To make it just a little easier to part with your hard earned cash, I'll be running a fundraiser for the CCFA here on Learner's Per-knit through April 30. Make a donation, and you could win a prize!

To participate, please visit my personal fundraising page here. It's also here. And here. For every $5 you donate, you'll be entered to win a prize. $5 = 1 entry, $25 = 5 entries, $50 = 10 entries. Bigger donations = more chances to win!

You can also earn an extra entry by sharing your donation with the world (or at least the Internet). After you donate, spread the word about it on Facebook, Twitter, your personal blog, or another knitting-related social networking site (being careful not to violate any group rules about advertising, of course)--make sure you share the link to my donation page!--and then send me ( the evidence (a link to your post, a screenshot of your Facebook page, etc). I'll toss your name in the hat an extra time.

And what exactly is it you could win? Any one of these amazing goodies:

(Many, many thanks to the generous crafters--Betty, Cathy, Ann, and some anonymous donors--who provided some of these prizes!!)

Sanguine Gryphon Bugga! in Oleander Nymph:


100g handspun laceweight baby alpaca from the Awana Kancha cooperative in Peru:


Sweet Georgia Merino + Silk fiber in Autumn Flame


Knitting Lingerie Style, by Joan McGowan-Michael

Custom Crocheted Sweaters, by Dora Ohrenstein

Digital downloads of my Warblers and 17th Street patterns

Digital download of any single pattern available on Ravelry


A yarn grab bag (10 balls/skeins of various mystery yarn!)


The Shetland Trader - Book 1, by Gudrun Johnston, digital copy:

And, if we reach my $500 goal, I'll add an extra special secret prize!

A few reminders:

DON'T donate anonymously--I can't give you a prize if I don't know who you are!
DON'T forget to come back on May 1 to see if you've won a prize! You've gotta claim it to win it.
DON'T hesitate to share information about this fundraiser with all your fiber-loving friends
DO or DO NOT, there is no try.

Monday, March 12, 2012

On free stuff

Many thanks to everyone for their support and kind comments. The job situation is definitely unpleasant and stressful, but on the positive side, boss is out of the office for another 2 weeks, apparently (most of us were under the impression she was returning on Wednesday, but it seems that's not the case; a coworker filled us in, as keeping her team informed seems to have slipped off her to-do list), so at least I don't have to bother with fake smiles and faux chummy-ness until then.
I am on the lookout for new opportunities--unfortunately I seem to be either over- or under-qualified for the jobs I'm finding, but I'll certainly keep looking.

So let's talk about something happier: knitting!

Hmmm. Apparently I haven't knit anything worth talking about.

Actually, that's not true. It's more than I haven't taken photos of anything I've knit, and, you know, "pics or it didn't happen."

(One advantage of the time change: still plenty of daylight for knitting-related photos when I get home from the office.)

So instead, I'll do a little sneak preview of the upcoming fundraiser to benefit the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.

My mama, circa 1973(?). Ain't she cute?

You'll recall I did this same fundraiser 2 years ago, and it's going to be more or less the same this time. I've got a collection of crafty prizes to give away. To be entered, you donate $5 to the cause, via the link I'll be posting later this week. Every $5 donated earns you an entry (ie, donate $25, your name goes in the hat 5 times).

But wait, there's more!

This year I'll be offering bonus entries! After you make a donation, Tweet about it, Facebook it, blog it, Ravel it, whatever. Share it with the world. Then send me the evidence (link to your blog post, screenshot of your Facebook page, etc.), and you'll earn an additional entry in the drawing!

The fundraiser will start on March 15, and run through April 30. And I have prizes for fiber enthusiasts of all kinds: books, patterns, fiber, and, of course, YARN. Here's a little sneak peak of just one of the prizes:

Sanguine Gryphon Bugga! in Oleander Nymph

So check back here on Thursday to get all the details, and start saving your pennies. Remember, just a measly $5 earns you an entry!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

On today sucking

I know this is a knitting blog, but sometimes, we all need to vent, right?

Today is Not A Good Day.

On the minor-annoyance end of the spectrum, we have the fact that CP left the house this morning with the keyring that holds the one key that opens the side door to the building, so after my run (ok, walk/jog; mostly jog), instead of re-entering the building through the close side door, I had to trek around to the main entrance; and then my breakfast waffle tasted like toasted, sugar-coated styrofoam.  Also, I just had to try to spell styrofoam 3 times--that's going on the list too.

Then we get to the moderately-irritating middle of the spectrum, where we find that my office computer had some sort of brain aneurysm overnight, leading it to proceed through a ridiculous series of checks and crosschecks and internal repairs this morning that took 1.5 hours. The blue screen of not-quite-death-but-you-never-know looked something like this:

Phase 1 of 487.2, .0000005% complete, fixing error in completely non-essential file XPRQgobbledegook
Deleting file XPQblah-that-you'd-better-hope-isn't-important
Deleting file XIDblah-that-you'd-better-hope-isn't-important

Deleting file X17blah-that-you'd-better-hope-isn't-important

Deleting file P7$blah-that-you'd-better-hope-isn't-important

Deleting file R@1blah-that-you'd-better-hope-isn't-important
Phase 2 of 487.2, .00000008% complete . . .

And once that finally cleared up and the computer decided to more-or-less function, it became apparent that Outlook somehow got screwed up in the repair process, and had to be re-repaired, which took another hour. Did I mention that our tech guy was nowhere to be found during this entire mess?

Finally, we get to the righteous anger end of the spectrum, the truly rage-inducing event that everything else is just piled on top of, like lima bean frosting on a cake made of . . . poo.

Back story: Fresh out of my graduate program with a Master's degree in Latin American and Hemispheric Studies, I started this job 4.5 years ago at the P1 level, which is understandably meaningless to readers, but it's basically the bottom rung of the Professional salary scale (as opposed to the Administrative scale).

And 4.5 years later, I'm still here. At the P1 level. Despite the fact that after a coworker (at the P2 level) left, I took on most of her responsibilities.

I finally worked up the courage to talk to my boss about moving up to the P2 level early last year and the short version of her response was, "You do 90% of your job well, but you don't spew out half-baked ideas just because you like to hear yourself talk, and you don't kiss political a$$, so no. But I'll keep it in mind." And then she shipped me off to freaking GUYANA, presumably to see if I could handle doing missions on my own (How she would evaluate this without being present or READING THE REPORT I WROTE, I have no idea).

In July, another coworker left, and his post has remained vacant. Until about a month ago, when boss announced that she'd interviewed candidates and hired someone to fill it without ever mentioning it to the rest of the team--or opening it up to competition, which as far as I know, isn't "legal" in our organization.

Today, I was asked to reformat the job description for New Person--lo and behold, guess who's being brought onto our team at the P2 level?
Has she worked elsewhere in the organization? No.
Does she have a Master's degree? No.
Has she worked on drug control policy before? No.

Needless to say, I am livid. I'm frustrated and insulted and I'd be lacing my shoes to dash out the front door if we weren't currently working to secure financing to buy a home. Each day it becomes increasingly clear that my job is futile and meaningless, but apparently I'm not even any good at it. Random people off the street are presumed to be better at it than I am.

That hurts.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On weetle fwends

Sometimes, you just need a little piglet in your life:


And sometimes, she's purple.

Penelope here was knit up from scrapes of various projects, based on a free pattern from Spud & Chloe. Rather than knit the inserts for the ears and snout as instructed, which sounded tedious and fiddly, I felted a square of Malabrigo worsted (boy it felts well!), cut out 2 triangles and a circle, and (very sloppily) sewed them in place.


I knit toys so rarely because of the legs--so much seaming and sewing and trying to arrange them symmetrically so your pig, elephant, cat, whatever doesn't topple over headfirst. Penelope doesn't seem too wobbly, so maybe I've finally got the knack of appendages.

I forgot to take a picture of Penelope's wee tail but, trust me, it's equally adorable.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

On the great outdoors

One of the things I'm most looking forward to about having a house is actually something outside the house: the yard.

In a condo or apartment, your access to the great outdoors is generally limited. We are fortunate enough to have a lovely stream and trail running behind our building, but it's still not the same as having your own yard. No veggie garden, for starters, and no fresh flowers. No where to play in the snow (if we had any). No backyard picnics. No tree swing. No place for the cats to sniff around and eat grass that they'll promptly throw up.

And I can't, for example, just dash outside to take a few photos of my knits. Instead I have to gather up camera, knits, husband and myself, trudge down to the exit, dash across the parking lot, find a spot with appropriate lighting, and then pose for the camera while passersby look at me like I'm insane.

Which is pretty much what I did here, after failing miserably to get any decent photos indoors:


Pattern: Ginevra Pullover, Amy Polcyn, Interweave Knits Winter 2010
Yarn: Knit Picks Gloss HW (70% merino, 30% silk) in Blackberry, 4 skeins; and Knit Picks Shadow lace (100% merino) in Vineyard Heather, 3/4 skein
Needles: Szs 8 and 9
Rav link


I knit this sweater, start to finish, in February. The yarn was thick and it was mostly stockinette in the round, with some waist shaping. It's knit from the top down, sleeves are knit in the round as well, and then the lace inset is knit separately and sewn in--I think that part took the longest. Or at least it felt like it. The pattern instructs you to knit in stockinette for 32"--I stopped somewhere around 28", and it worked out just fine. I don't enjoy knitting skinny yarn on fat needles. But the yarn itself was lovely, particularly the Gloss, which is soft and cozy.

I didn't knit a gauge swatch, which is a colossal sin, but here was my reasoning: the pattern called for size 9 needles; I usually knit tightly, forcing me to go up a needle size, and there was just no way I was going to knit this sweater on size 10 needles. Size 9 is about my limit for comfortable knitting. I can use something bigger for a small project, but not for a whole sweater. So I just hoped for the best, and in an astonishing turn of events, things actually worked out. The sweater fits perfectly.

Except for the sleeves, that is. They're much too large around the upper arm, which makes no sense because, when it came time to start the sleeves, I realized I didn't have size 9 DPNs, and had to move down to size 8s. I'm stumped.


With this sweater complete, I can refocus my efforts on the Wildflower Cardigan, and pick up the Dahlia Cardigan that I started a few months ago and put aside in favor of Christmas knitting. More weather in the 60s this week, so it's looking more and more likely that neither of those sweaters will be worn until next fall, sadly.

Just a reminder, in a couple weeks I'll be starting the raffle benefiting the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. If you're an indie dyer, designer, or LYS owner and are interested in donating a raffle prize to this wonderful cause, please shoot me an email: I've already got a few good prizes lined up, but the more the merrier!

(I am, incidentally, also looking forward to having mail delivered to my home--no more dealing with the incompetent front desk staff who either fail to send me notices about packages received, or do send me notices, but manage to lose the package in the 5 minutes it takes for me to read the notice and go downstairs to pick said package up.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

On seasons

I really feel like I was cheated out of winter this year. Most people wouldn't complain about that, and I truthfully don't enjoy weeks and weeks on end of temperatures below freezing either, but there's something to be said for cozying up on the couch under a blanket to watch movies, bundling up to run errands, and using the weather as an excuse for all manner of sins ("Can't come in to the office, car doors are frozen shut!"). I didn't get to enjoy any of those things this winter.

We turned our heat on for exactly two days, where the high temperature barely managed to creep out of the 20s. Two whole days. We didn't have a single decent snowstorm--just a couple days of wet slush that melted within hours. My drawer full of handknits didn't see nearly as much use as it should have. Sure, I wore my sweaters a few times, and generally put a scarf on when out and about, but my lovely collections of hats, mittens and gloves was largely ignored.

I'm a little grumpy about the whole thing.

But I realize, it's time to move on. It's March 1. Clearly we're not going to get winter (am I tempting fate? I hope so!), so it's time to start thinking about spring! Spring and summer knitting aren't nearly as much fun as knitting for fall and winter, but there should be plenty of other activities at hand to keep me busy. We're planning for a busy season--we want to sell our condo and move to a house (in Maryland! How I've missed it!), hopefully in time for me to put in a summer vegetable garden. Then there's Maryland Sheep and Wool in May, work should take us to Costa Rica in June, Outer Banks in July and, before you know it, it's time for Rhinebeck again--I've got a room booked already!

And of course, I have some new design ideas brewing, including a possible mini-collection inspired by Peru.

But I'm getting ahead of myself with all these plans. So let's take a look at a couple of projects that are already completed.


Pattern: La Parisienne Beret
Yarn: Cascade 220 fingering and Yarn Pirate Superwash in plum gorgeous--used maybe half the Cascade and hardly put a dent in the Yarn Pirate
Needle: sz 3
Rav link

This was a quick and easy knit. The stitch pattern was easy to memorize and the whole thing was finished within a week. Were I to do it again, however, I think I would go down a needle size for a denser fabric, add a pattern repeat, and knit longer before doing the decreases, for a wider hat. And I may actually knit this one again, it would make a quick gift knit.

I tried a jogless stripe technique for this hat, but it just didn't work for me. It didn't do much to eliminate the jog, and created a line of slipped stitches that were tight and inflexible (which you can see in the photo). This is perhaps due to the fact that the first stitch of the round is a kfb, or maybe it's because the color changes were so frequent. Regardless, I'll definitely try the technique on another striped project in the future, but I stopped bothering with it about halfway through this one.


Pattern: Baby Sophisticate
Yarn: Blue Sky Alpacas multi cotton
Needle: sz 8
Size: 0-3 months
Rav link

This is the darling little sweater I knit for my niece. It reconfirmed that I hate knitting with cotton yarn. There's just no flow, even with yarn this soft, it just doesn't work for me. Particularly working on DPNs for the sleeves. Fortunately it's a small sweater. And the pattern itself is great--straightforward and unfussy. And most importantly, the collar is picked up and knit, not sewn on--I sewed a collar on another baby sweater recently (soon to be featured here, I hope), and it was miserable. I don't sew things. Boo on sewing.

Also, check out these buttons:


Wee sheep! I picked them up at least a year ago somewhere or other--Etsy, perhaps?--and finally put them to good use. I even have four left for another baby sweater, and since my friends' never-ending cycle of having children is, uh, never-ending, I'm sure I'll be knitting another one in no time.

Work continues on the Wildflower Cardigan. If I don't finish it soon, I'm not going to have a chance to actually wear it until October--today's high is 66!