Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Fastest Shawl in the East

I was sitting around about two weekends ago, mere hours off the high of ordering two sweater's worth of yarn in one slightly expensive sitting, when I decided that I needed a teeny weeny project - something to knock off quickly and keep me on my knitting high between ordering the yarn and actually having it show up on my doorstep.

So I focused on my paternal grandmother - Elaine - who had her 90th birthday just this past fall - and went looking in my stash. I dug out the remaining hand-dyed silk/rayon blend that I had ordered from Interlacements last year for K's clapotis and did some mental reviewing of patterns that I had wanted to try out, and so settled easily on the Shetland Triangle from Wrap Style. Knitted so amazingly by Brooklyntweed in some Sundara hand-dyed worsted-weight yarn. (No wonder, huh, that these two talented people could combine to make such a stunning end product!)

I was - of course - impatient as anything to start it, but I waited until Sunday morning rolled around and then checked to see when the local public library opened to check out their copy (which I knew that they had!) - but when I saw that their Sunday AM opening was in fact 1 PM I balked and so grabbed the Munchkin (Peggers was sleeping in late that morning thanks to extreme kindness on my part!) and we hightailed it to Barnes & Noble. Luckily for my bottom bank line they did not have a copy in stock, so I cooled my heels until 1 PM at which point I flew to the library, snagged their copy, flew back home and started knitting! (And N.B. - I'm glad I did wait until I got the library's copy, as other than this particular shawl there is nothing - and I mean N O T H I N G in this book that I like even remotely!!!)

I cast on for the shawl on size 7 needles around 1:30 Sunday afternoon - and finished the shawl Tuesday evening after I got home from work - taking a break only to suffer from a 36 hour stomach flu that rendered me incapable of anything more than one single line of knitting Monday afternoon on the couch! I knitted until I thought it was large enough, realized I had gone one pattern repeat too far (leaving myself far too little yarn to finish the 14-row edging chart and cast-off!) and so ripped back easily, picked up my stitches, and happily did the 14-row edging chart and then cast off with just a wee bit of yarn left to spare.

Of course it looked like a bunched up piece of colourful netting when I finished...but I did my normal thing. Soaked it in Eucalan & cold water (I know it isn't wool, but the lavendar Eucalan like I've got is the loveliest thing out there so I use it regardless!), then pinned it out on a towel on the bed like I normally do (blocking wires and loooootttsss of T-pins!)

and left it overnight to dry and once again the Lace Gods smiled down on me.....and voila! From a tangled netting-like mess to a lovely shiny gleaming shawl that was popped right in the mail and sent off to lovely Grandma Elaine who happily received it just a few days later and called me right away to thank me.Nothing like a happily-received gift knit that was made in 2-3 days out of stash yarn!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Another catch-up Post

I had finished a post & hit the 'Publish' button only to see it show up several posts back on my queue list - - I'm guessing that's because I had started and saved it as a draft back at the beginning of the month. But no worries - at least it's THERE and can finally be read!

Still nothing but dire medical news from home these days - so I'm knitting and fretting and trying to find something useful to do that doesn't involve buckets of wine, slabs of chocolate, or else walking across the entire damn state in an attempt to give my worrying/fretting nogging a break. Luckily knitting at least distracts me a bit. I'm still working on R's hat and waiting for our Artyarns Royal Silk order to come in. Hopefully tomorrow - Saturday at the latest!

In the meantime, here is a very brief FO - a knitted purse that I made for my mother-in-law as a thank-you for coming to spend almost an entire week with the Munchkin while he was (happily) ill with rotovirus. Not only did that require her to change extremely disgusting diapers, but she also did some of her son's laundry - really more than anyone could have asked for - and all for free, to boot! So who am I to not make her some sort of thank-you present?

(and I should note that my sewing skills aren't fantastic, so while the 4-hour knitting of this was a breeze, I might have mumbled a few curses over the inexpertly-sewn in lining....so please be kind when you review that particular aspect of it!)

Knitted from a basic pattern I found in a knitting magazine whose name I currently can't remember. Not an Interweave - one I found in Barnes & Noble and fell upon in a knitting-magazine dry spell frenzy. It even has this purse on the cover - in bright blueberry blue. If anyone is really that curious I'll look it up for you - just ask.

She likes pink - luckily! I used one strand of something fairly chunky found at Michael's along with a strand of pinky shiny stuff (a Patons brand, if memory serves) along with at the same time. Happily enough she loved it - so all ended well in what will probably be my one and only purse-knitting attempt!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Woefully Behind

I am terribly terribly behind in my posts - I have been a virtual knitting MACHINE lately - - I'm on my third Shedir, and have started the Green Tea Raglan out of my plum-coloured bamboo (a yarn that is everything - and more! - that it was promised to be!!!!) Before I finished the 2nd Shedir I knocked out a knitted & lined purse for my mother-in-law and between finishing the 2nd Shedir and starting the third I also churned out a Shetland Triangle shawl for my grandmother in a mere two days.

I am on FIRE.

(whose knitting skills I am drawing on to do all this, I have no earthly c-l-u-e!)

Luckily, though, while I'm behind on posting I at least have pictures of everything and will try my absolute best to post as many descriptive and picture-laden posts as humanly possible this coming week. Happily enough I'm not planning on having a second bout of the stomach flu (what happened to me LAST Monday morning from 2-6:30 AM!!!) and so should not miss work and correspondingly be behind at work for an entire work as a consequence....and so should have loads of time to post & wrote & edit pictures.

But in the meantime I'll leave you all with a picture of the new yarn that lays immediately on my horizon - and the best part? I didn't even have to pay for it! (Of course, neither do I get to keep the finished product, but that's okay - I'm totally willing to sacrifice long-term gains for short-term greedy-animal gratification!)

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...................I can hardly wait to get my hands on it!!!!!!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I Don't Believe I Just Did That

I'm totally jumping the gun here, as I have a post edited & 90% written, just waiting to be posted, and I finished a Knitted Object yesterday (started & finished!) and have pictures of that to show you too, but first I apparently must post about what I just did.

I got the new Interweave Knits mag (Spring) in the mail yesterday and looked through it last night between the hours of 12:30 and 4 AM during which I was up with my son as he played in our living room. (UGH!)
And today, while at work, I went online and bought yarn for two sweaters I saw in there yesterday. TWO.

I just hopped online, did some comparison shopping, and then hit "Add To Cart" and bought a grand total of 18 skeins of yarn.

Man. O Man. I never EVER do stuff like that!

(should I blame it on the lack of sleep and cold that is slowly but surely overtaking my body?)

I bought 5 skeins of SouthWest Trading Company's Bamboo in Plum - the most amazing colour that will just be so much fun to wear. Plus the yarn should be incredible - all of the raving reviews really sold me on this stuff - plus 5 skeins of it (and 5 is buying one too many, but better to have one extra than be one short, right?) at only $12/skein is MUCH better than buying the pattern-required Classic Elite Bam Boo - at $7.50/skein but having to buy a whopping THIRTEEN skeins! (Classic Elite comes at only 77 yds/skein, but SWT Bamboo comes at an amazing 250yds/skein!!!) A grand total savings of over $30.

The Bamboo in Plum is for the Green Tea Raglan by Cathy Payson that is on page 56 of IK.

Which I will present to you here & now:

I've been dying to knit (myself) a raglan for AGES now - and I adore adore adore the way that the designer contrasted the smooth knit of the sleeves with the seed stitch of the body - and the way that there is a teeny slight break between the body & the shaping stitch before you hit the sleeves.......well I could go on & on. Simple as anything yet stunning, I think - and while I know that someone of my hourglass-type shape needs to wear v-necks to help keep me even more shape-focused and defined I think this boat-ish neckline will still look nice on me - and the knitted belt (if indeed I decide to go ahead with it) will help to add definition to my waist even more.

So, that's sweater #1 - I can HARDLY wait to get cracking on it!!!
Sweater number two lept out at me almost as quickly. I sat and stared at the sleeves a bit until I suddenly realized that I could ignore the extra cable on the sleeve that was so distracting to me and that would make an already-incredible sweater all that much more incredible (although bearing in mind Emily's advice about designers throwing in extra stitches to compensate for the amazing way that cables pull in a knitted fabric I might need to swatch a bit and cut back on my number of sleeve stitches correspondingly!) and with that realization I was a goner again for a second time.

(Now just think about this - how many times have you seen a sweater in a magazine that you just loved and how many times have you gone out and bought the yarn for it RIGHT AWAY? I've never done it - never! - and today I did it not once but twice!!!
Sweater number two calls for 8 skeins of Gems Worsted at $14.50 a skein - a grand total of $116. NO WAY. I know it's a cheap hobby when you break it down by time spent and total cost per minute/hour/etc. but still. I couldn't bring myself to do that. So instead I went looking for worsted weight substitutes and remembering a favorite blogger's passion for elann I went looking there and found myself just drooling over their Peruvian Pure Alpaca - but what colour? The price was certainly VERY right - and I needed 13 skeins due to slightly shorter yardage per ball but still - at $3.98 per ball you do the math and realize how much I was saving on this sweater by again switching yarns! I looked at all of the colours and then looked at the top of the page where they had some already-knit items and saw this picture below which is apparently the 'Lift & Separate Cardigan' from Amy Singer's Big Girl Knits. Also knit in Peruvian Pure Alpaca and the colour just LEPT out at me........

But which colour was it? Was it in a now-discontinued colour, or was it in a currently available colour and due to monitor differences I just couldn't really tell which colour it was? I thought I knew - but a look at the colour card that Elann offers made me doubt myself. So I spent about 45 minutes looking all around all over trying to find out WHAT colour this sweater was knit in and then simply decided "oh the hell with it!" and went ahead and bought myself enough yarn in their 'Celery' dyelot and figured that probably no matter what I'd be happy with any shade between what seems to be the two that I keep finding in my searches.

But which sweater is it ultimately for, you ask?

Why, the Cable-Down Raglan by Stefanie Japel, of course!

The part that I don't like on the sleeve is the simpler of the two cables - the ones that appear to be on the 'sides' of the arm - both front and back. Makes it far too busy to my eye and really detracts from that most incredible cable that runs down over the to of the shoulder straight down to the back of the wearer's wrist. So I'll take those cables out and it will - I think - make the sweater look all that much more incredible because of it. And the way that the simple cables on the back of the sweater pull it in like a corset? For a curvy girl like me that's how you spell love love love in wool!!!

So - that's what I did and that's how I spent the last four hours..............between answering reference questions and putting more paper in the printer, of course!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Twisted Stitches and Peacocks

(Editorial Note: This is a Catch-Up Post that I had started but not posted from about, oh, 3 weeks ago!)

I tried to take some pretty pictures of my past Shedir-in-progress hat - - as after all one of my New Year's resolutions was to do a better job on the photo front in '07. Now granted, I'll never be as good as Mr. Brooklyntweed (nor will I ever be able to purchase a camera as expensive as the one he apparently owns and uses!) but still, I could most certainly improve from my more-typical "stuck wherever it happens to fall" type shot of the past. So I set up my 3/4 finished Shedir and started snapping away........and you know of course what immediately happened, don't you?
(You can see his little feet at the top of this particular pic. To say that he was a wee bit annoyed because I was taking pictures of something/someone other than HIM is a serious understatement! He kept putting his head in front of/behind my knitted object and saying !!!!CHEESE!!! while squinching his eyes completely shut and baring all of his teeth. His classic 'photogenic' smile of the moment............)

So anyway, this is the Shedir That Was. This particular hat is now long finished, washed, blocked, and gifted - and my friend said that her sister (34 years old, 3 weeks past brain surgery to remove a huge tumor plus one of her inner ears, currently residing in a nursing home where she will stay and recover for another 2-3 months) was thrilled with it. Didn't register what it was at first, but once S put it on her head for her and adjusted what little hair the surgeons left in a more normal style under/around the hat she said that she just BEAMED. And S, normally an extremely reticent sort of person, was actually so happy that she hugged me as thanks when she told me all of this. So most certainly worth ripping out several rows (several times, if truth be told!) to get the cables RIGHT.

I have moved on to my second Shedir - and am pleased to say that now that I totally 'get' the way that these cables work I no longer have to read the pattern - and as such the 5 main pattern repeats literally FLY by. I'm already to the decrease section after only 2-3 days of working on it.

Here is the one and only artsy shot of the second Shedir that came out barely decently enough to share - this one for a co-worker's mom who was diagnosed with liver cancer several months ago and is finishing up treatment and just now losing her hair...

I found out that 100% ktbl stitches is the only way to go on cables when it comes to my knitting - makes everything a zillion times more crisp & clean. Likewise I wish I had done the ktbl when I was doing the k1p1 ribbing - and I also wish (!) that I hadn't done the tubular cast on for it. While it looks LOVELY - and was a good thing to practice and learn how to do, it is a bit less stretchy than my normal Twisted German cast on and therefore isn't (I don't think) quite as good.

Happily enough my stepfather is going to benefit from all of these lessons - his hat is a Twisted German cast-on with 100% twisted stitches from the very get-go. Unhappily enough his first chemo treatment hasn't done what we had hoped & been told it would - and rather than significantly cutting the pain it has left him in even more pain with laryngitis and increased weight loss to boot - only 3 days after treatment. He goes in to see his doctors tomorrow and I'm hoping that they'll be able to admit him to the hospital to properly treat the pain - as the combined Vicodin and Morphene that he's currently on just isn't cutting it. Dark days indeed.

These socks were finished & gifted weeks ago - and the recipient (another Susan!) told me just last week that she is absolutely in love with them. Soft as soft can be (Emily's gift of Shaffer Anne didn't go to waste!) and warm warm warm - and with last week's temps of 8 and 10 degrees she needed warm feet! The pattern is one I made up myself - but please, I followed a basic sock pattern (64 sts) - did a feather & fan pattern down until they were anklet length - then did a basic eye of partridge heel flap, turned the heel, then picked up & decreased until I was back to 64 stitches. Then I did a.....oh, what is that called...............a toe where it decreases in a large spiral. I used the description from Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks and followed it to the letter and just adored the way that it turned out.

A work in progress shot still on the needles...................

And a Finished Object! I adored the way that the decreases went when I decreased down from picking up stitches along the heel flap. Such a crisp clean diagonal edge!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Of caps & rotoviruses

The Munchkin is finally better. After looking at his symptoms we finally realized that he had come down with the rotovirus - which can be potentially quite nasty and hospital-stay requiring - - so on the grand scheme of things we actually got through with very little damage done. Things started to significantly clear up last Friday, and by Sunday he was back to his old self, and Monday happily saw him running into his daycare provider's house screeching out the names of his buddies at the top of his little thrilled lungs. Being at home with Mommy & Grandma for a full week is BORING compared to hanging and playing with like-aged friends all day, let me tell you!

I, on the other hand, simply sagged with relief at the QUIET once the door closed behindThe Munch and Peggers Monday morning - so much so that I ended up simply sitting with my borrowed laptop at the dining room table drinking coffee and catching up on library e-mail and work until roughly 2 PM, at which point I realized that no - I was not actually going in to work that day! I did get in some knitting while I caught up on e-mail and work (of course!) and was happy to report that Tuesday morning around 11 AM I slipped the very last stitch of my first Shedir off the needle. It is a beautiful beautiful pattern - and the end result is quite lovely, even if the colour wasn't necessarily one I would have chosen for myself. In my delight I - of course - cast on the second hat that same evening - but this time I took a nod from Brooklyntweed's post about starting his second Shedir and tried a tubular cast on for it. And while I love the tubular cast on's smoothness and...........unique tube-y look, I'm a bit worried that I'm not going to have enough yarn to finish (it was very very close last time around!) and that the tubular isn't a stretchy enough cast-on for a hat. However as I ripped out a good half of the first Shedir (not all at once - I'd knit about 15 rounds, rip back 3, knit 8 rounds, rip back 4, etc. ) before I really got the hang of it, I know that this particular type of Rowan is some Very Tough Yarn, and can take being cast-on, knitted, and ripped without any harm.

So while things were still a bit on edge (unhappily enough Peggers had picked up the Munch's viral unhappiness, so not everyone here at Chez Pointy Sticks is feeling well at the moment) things were at least peaceful.

Then the news came that a PET scan had just been ordered by the doctors, as they now suspect that the lymphoma is actually originating from an organ or bone - which would mean an automatic diagnosis at Stage IV and I was reeling again. So I went out and paced the streets around campus for an hour to get my brain to shut up, and then went back and was able to get some work done..........and came home hoping for a nice quiet night and a fire in the fireplace (as the forecast was for night-time temperatures of 18 degrees!) to calm me down and keep me just enough on the sane side of things to function........only to find a frigid domicile and a broken furnace.

These Are (Bad) Days. (To quote Natalie Murchant & her horde of Maniacs. )

I had chocolate and red wine for dinner after the Munch went to sleep.

So the emergency technician came after a frosty two hours of waiting (thank GOD for wood stoves!) and fixed it........and we woke up this morning to a thermostat registering 61 degrees but that was set to maintain a temperature of 67. So another call went in to the heating people & I ran to work, loaded up the laptop again with some new necessary software, grabbed my thrilling book on Copyright Law, and came back home to haul a ton of wood into the house to keep the stove stoked up on high all night if need be, cleaned out an entire half of the garage, moved an eighth of a cord of wood from outside storage to in-the-garage storage (despite being off the ground & covered by a tarp, our outside-stored wood was growing MUSHROOMS.............anyone want to guess why the wood was mostly smoking instead of burning? Hmmmmm???????????), emptied all the garbage cans in the house (7!) and did two loads of laundry. Then sat down at the dining room table again with my trusty laptop and created fairly boring web pages about Copyright Law and what that means for faculty and their classroom activities.

I let our lovely friendly technician in when he showed up, happily heard the heat kick on (by then I was FREEZING - for despite the wood stove's best efforts it was a chilly 57 degrees in the house!!!!) and somewhat-less happily heard him tell me that it was a stuck pressure valve...which they didn't have in stock, and would have to order, and which wouldn't be in until tomorrow. But 'sokay, as he showed me how to whack the faulty valve with the handle of a screwdriver if it decides to get shirty with me between now & then.

My kind of technician!!!!!

So now Peggers is home early and I have a whole 20 minutes to do another few rounds on my second Shedir before he and I toddle off together to get the Munchkin - and as it's his night to cook that means that I get to play play play with my little one while he figures out dinner (or takes us out on his dime - either one is fair play!) and then after dinner it'll be time for bath and then after bath it'll be time for bed and then after bed it'll be time for me to watch a movie (I checked out both Hedwig and the Angry Inch plus All About My Mother from work) while doing some more knitting.

So today is turning into a Much Better Day and much less of a Very Bad Day than it could have seemed this morning around 8 AM. For which I am very very grateful.

But I still have no pictures to show you - as I had my act together enough to load all of the software on the laptop, but not any knitted cap (or sock or vest) pictures!

Soon - I promise!