24 December 2009

Hey! It's a Christmas Stocking!

I started this stocking at least one Christmas ago, maybe two? Finished yesterday while waiting for my car to be inspected. The impetus? My sister told me we had to bring our own stockings for Christmas this year. Thankfully, this one's big enough for the two of us to share, 'cause we've only got the one! Santa's far less picky about receptacles when he comes to our house.

Random big-worsted/small-bulky yarns, size 9 DPNs.

CO 56 sts. knit in the round. Let it sit around for a year if you don't make enough progress for it to be done by Christmas.
At some point, throw a short-row heel in there. It doesn't have to be very good.
At some other point, start decreasing for the toe. Close up the hole when it looks small enough.

Merry Christmas!

17 December 2009

Snail Hat!

Elizabeth Zimmermann's Snail Hat (Rav link) is one I've been wanting to knit for a while (ever since I saw the photo in Vogue Knitting last year, although I have Knitting Without Tears -- it looks so much more appealing on an actual person than it does not on a person)(sorry, I can't find the modeled photo online to link to!). I've also been aware that it's really not flattering for my face shape. And it's kind of a tough item to knit for someone else, because it's so silly-looking and therefore a very personal choice. But it's such an interesting pattern idea...

But then Nido opened. New LYS (actually, a fabric store with yarn, but the owner quickly discovered that there's a huge hungry market for a yarn shop in downtown Burlington), four blocks from my house. I've been popping in, checking up on her progress, giving suggestions now and then on what books to carry, etc. And the owner asked if I'd like to teach a class in the spring. Specifically, she wanted me to teach something that would use the Twinkle Soft Chunky she sells. My mind immediately went to the snail hat. It all clicked -- she loved the idea, and here we are!

So, I knit up a shop sample (pictured)(see? not flattering for my face shape). And my class is on the calendar. And it was super-quick -- although my instincts led me astray for a while, and I was stumped by Elizabeth's genius at first. But I got it all figured out (my usual advice to folks is to trust the pattern and go with it, and I didn't follow my own advice the first three times I started the hat! I was certain there was an error in Vogue's pattern. There wasn't.). And I'm about to bring it over to Nido so she can display it! Woo!

Now, let's hope people actually sign up for my classes. Time will tell -- one is late February, the other mid-March, so I won't know for a while.

09 December 2009

NHM #9

So my friend Aubrey and I went down to Mango's farm on Saturday to pick up our CSA share, and Mango saw us out the window and came running out: "Knitters! Knitters! Come inside and have some tea!" So we did. Then we spent a couple of hours sitting by the wood stove and knitting away. Then she showed us the baby chicks they'd just gotten the day before. (Having a friend with a farm is awesome! It's like having a friend with a swimming pool, only there are cute small animals!)

Well, while I was there, I did a bunch of work on this mitten, got about an inch or two past the thumb opening, and realized that the thumb was in the wrong place -- the gusset started way too soon, and the thumb opening was too low. Need extra rows! So I ripped back to the cuff, and then pouted, as I wasn't quite sure what to do.

Mango to the rescue! She ran upstairs, grabbed a book about Scandinavian knitting, and suddenly I had all kinds of options! I chose this leaf motif because the heart/flower-thingy pattern has leaves also, and this one happened to be a multiple-of-six pattern, which is handy when you've got 60 stitches.

Now the thumb is in the right place (but you can't see it, because I can't get that picture to post), and the mitten is still long enough in the hand. In fact, I did the decrease-y part of the fingers with size 2 needles rather than size 3s, just to cut down on a smidge of length. Cuff is also on size 2s, but most of the hand part is on 3s. All in all, it only took me about a day, maybe two, to knock this one out. Amazing how quickly a mitten knits up when you actually enjoy knitting it!

28 November 2009

Mitts for Jamie

I made mittens for my neighbor DSB, and quickly realized I needed to make something for his girlfriend Jamie, as well. They are sweethearts, and it's a little weird to give Ben "thank-you mittens" but not give Jamie something -- as they BOTH care for our cat when we're away. But I did need to come up with something fairly quickly, as I don't want to run into Christmas and have them feel obligated to give us a gift in return.

Fortunately, I found two balls of gorgeous-aubergine Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed in the sale bin at a LYS, and although I really like this yarn and wanted to make something for myself with it, I also knew that this was the perfect color and tweedy-delicious texture for fingerless mitts for Jamie. She's a hardcore gardener and actual florist (I would say her nascent floral business is "budding," but that's just too much), and fingerless mitts will be just the thing for keeping her hands and wrists a bit warmer while still being able to dig in the dirt.

Also, she has a pretty rockin' floaty-girly-layers personal style, and some sweet cabled mitts will fit in perfectly. So I found the free pattern Natalya on Ravelry, and cast-on Monday night... and finished on Wednesday. Perfect.

I plan to deliver both pairs of thank-you mittens today. The wind has picked up quite miserably, so I have no desire to leave the house, but fortunately, they just live around the corner. After I deliver them, I'll re-cozy-fy myself with a nice cup of hot chocolate, and figure out what I'm going to knit next.

Mittens for Ben, take two

These are the mittens I made for my neighbor DSB. I used exactly one skein of Cascade 220, with no leftovers!

I improvised the pattern:

CO 60 sts on size 5 dpns, and double-knit in the round (look up double-knitting -- I'm not enough of an expert to explain it here, but it means you have two layers of knitted fabric) for a couple of inches.
Start increasing for thumb gusset -- first on the inside layer, and then on the outside -- and increase every other round (so, once inside, once outside, and then do a plain round once inside and once outside) until you have added 16 stitches to each layer.
Set thumb sts. aside and reconnect hand stitches to continue in the round.
Keep going until the hand is big enough to fit.
Um, decrease a few rows in there somewhere, and on your last round, do a full-on knit-purl-knit-purl to connect the two layers (so the inside layer won't come out when you pull your hand out of the mitten). I think I ended up with about 12 stitches at the end. It makes a pretty star at the top. Then run the end of the yarn through those last 12 stitches and pull tight. Weave in end.
Return thumb stitches to needles, knit the thumb until it's long enough, do a round of p2tog decreases on the inside layer, then a round of k2tog decreases on the outside layer. Do one row of kpkp like for the top of the mitten, then close off the top of the thumb. Weave in ends, and use the beginning-thumb tail to close up the hole between the thumb and the hand.

If desired, use remaining yarn to crochet a chain, and connect the chain to the wrist of each mitten. String through coat sleeves and pretend you are a four-year-old!

Watch out, because these took me a freakin' month to make. Double-knitting is soooooo sloooooowww.

Mittens for Ben

(editor's note: I wrote this post a month ago, but was having technical difficulties... photos added to next post.)

Dear Sweet Ben (DSB) lives around the corner from me. He is NOT the same Ben who lives down the street, for whom I made a pair of Dashings last year (and no, I have never seen him wear them). DSB is an alumnus of my undergrad college in Iowa, and just happened to move here a year-and-some ago to go to grad school -- and we would have never known each other, except that another neighbor, a person in his grad department, connected us. He’s good-natured and kind, and just a very nice person. We try to be good neighbors to each other – sharing garden produce, the occasional houseplant/cat-sitting, I’ll give him a ride to school (or partway) if I see him out walking in the dead of winter, etc.

DSB got mild frostbite on his fingertips last winter, carrying his groceries home from the co-op without his gloves on. I promised him I’d make gloves, and even went so far as to ask him what color his coat is and buy the appropriate yarn (basic light gray Cascade 220), but then the weather warmed up and the need was not urgent. Now that the air is getting colder in that inevitable decline toward Real Winter, I need to make good on my promise. Also, when my grandmother died last month, DSB was totally willing to care for Doc at a moment’s notice. I’m also going to bake cookies. He deserves a big thank-you from the Holyknitter household. As does his girlfriend Jamie, who also rocks equally (even though she was out of town when Grandma died, so she wasn’t around to help with the cat this time – she has in the past)(I will probably make her mittens at some point, too, but haven't done any planning for that yet).

Anyway, DSB is getting a pair of double-knitted mittens (I'm using size 5s, so they'll be nice and dense as well as double-layered! No frostbite here!), complete with feeding-through-coat-sleeves string. It’s been a loooong time since I’ve done any double-knitting, so it’s taken me a while to get the hang of it. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with the thumb, as double-knitting one seems like it will be a pain. Then again, I do have to increase for a gusset anyway. We’ll see what I decide.

Don't you love how I leave you in such suspense at the end of my blog posts?

22 October 2009

Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival 2009

A few weeks ago, StrungUp, Meowkat, Mango, and I piled into Sweetea's environmentally-friendly hybrid car and drove down to Tunbridge, VT, for the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival.

The day was gray, chilly, and sometimes rainy (boy am I glad I wore my raincoat!), but I enjoyed the trip regardless of the weather. For one thing, it was the first weekend in October, and the trees were amazing. I felt like my mother: "Children! Look out the window! The trees are orange, children! Look at the trees, they look like they're on fire! LOOK AT THE ORANGE TREES, CHILDREN!!!" Mom, I totally get it now, and although I still reserve the right to make fun of you, it comes from a place of love and truth and self-mocking, and not just from a place of rolling-my-eyes-at-my-mother.

Also, when you fill a car with knitters, we're all very quiet -- until the sun goes down and we can't see to knit anymore. Then we get talkative!

The festival itself was very different from last year. It felt a bit lackluster, although I think I do like the Tunbridge fairgrounds (facility/layout/setup) better than the Essex fairgrounds. There were quite a few shops that were missing, and the selection of wares just wasn't as good as I remember last year's being. There was a LOT of sock yarn. Most of it was more than $25 a skein. And since I (a) don't knit many socks, and (b) don't have much money these days, I really didn't find a lot of options that excited me.

I still made out like a bandit compared with my road companions, though. I found a kit for the Tulip Cardigan, which I'd been wanting for about two years. It was reasonably-priced and everything. (I wouldn't have bought it if it had cost way too much, but the price was exactly what I would have expected to pay, which meant I didn't have to spend five minutes agonizing over whether or not to spend $5 more than I thought it was really worth.) I also found some beautiful handspun-and-died llama yarn -- a bunch of mini-skeins, 30-40 yards apiece, in about a DK weight. Perfect for the Fiddlehead Mittens, which I've also been wanting to make for a while but have agonized about buying all that yarn just to use a tiny bit of each color (and the designer's kits, while gorgeous, are expensive; plus, I'm just not that much of an internet buyer).

Also, there was one lonely farmer there, selling delicious sheepsmilk cheese! Soooooo yummy.

I didn't buy anything that didn't have a designated purpose, which is unusual for me. I tend to be a buy-now-because-it's-pretty-and-figure-out-a-project-later kind of gal. Last year, I came home with all kinds of random items. This year, I was much more focused.

All in all, I did enjoy the Festival. I was bummed for my friends, a couple of whom didn't find anything they really loved enough to purchase, but we had a great time together. I also enjoyed running into the blogless VTHuskies and reconnecting with her. I even enjoyed standing in the rain, waiting for the very slow catering people to make me a lambburger. Mmmm...delicious lambburger. And I got to look at the beautiful Vermont countryside, all aflame with the reds, yellows, and oranges of Autumn in New England. LOOK AT THE TREES, CHILDREN! THEY ARE BRIGHT RED! CHILDREN, LOOK AT THEM! LOOK!!!

19 October 2009

Photoless Update

It has been toooooo long since I've updated! I have done a ton of knitting, it feels like, but have very little to show for it. Although I've done a ton of knitting, none of that knitting is actually done. Y'know?

Here's the basic role call of what's on the needles:
1. Annemor #16 (mittens): the hands are done, I just have to do the thumbs. Since I'm still not convinced I love the color combination, I'm giving myself a break for a while. I'm not ripping them out, though. There are enough people who *do* like that color combination that I think someone will want them. And since I am making them with the express purpose of giving them away eventually, that someone does not have to be me!

2. Minimalist Cardigan: I have knit and frogged the same darn sleeve three times! I am very worried about running out of yarn for this project, so keep re-doing the sleeve with a little less blousing -- and a little less, and a little less -- so as to have enough yarn to do the second sleeve. I've started on the second sleeve, but haven't finished the first yet, as I would like to make them even, at least, and if it turns out that I do have enough yarn to lengthen them past the as-written 3/4 length, I would like to do that, too.

3. Mittens for my neighbor Ben. This item gets its own blog post.

Also! Two weeks ago was the Vermont Sheep and Wool festival, now moved to Tunbridge, VT, rather than the oh-so-convenient-for-me (and it's all about me, right?) Essex Junction. I'll write another post on that.

And yesterday, Mango hosted yet another stash swap. Since I haven't purchased any new yarn since the last swap (hard to believe, but completely true!), I didn't have much to offer that was any good. But I did bring an apple pie pie, and it was yummy!

I've done a bit of a technology upgrade (i.e., I got a BlackBerry), but haven't yet figured out how to get my pictures from my BB to my computer. Or, rather, I haven't taken the time to figure out how to make them talk to one another. Funny how fall is a ridiculously busy time for a clergy person. Particulary one who doesn't have a secretary. Sigh -- one of these days. Meanwhile, I can write a post, but I can't put up photos yet. Soon. Things will get less crazy soon.

I hope.

07 September 2009

Annemor #16

I had another trip at the end of August, a couple of days at my denomination's headquarters for a meeting. I boarded Plane #1 with Selbuvotter mitten makings in my bag: needles, pattern, unknown-brand variegated CC yarn (from the stash swap: I think it was Sweetea's?), and a skein of Blue Sky Alpaca's Alpaca & Silk, still in hank form. Fortunately, I had an empty seat next to me...

The flight attendant was completely fascinated by my yarn-balling activity mid-flight. She stopped and asked me what in the world I was doing. "Making a mitten," I responded. Of course! What else could I possibly be doing?

Anyway, by the end of Flight #1, I was almost satisfied with the length of the cuff. On Flight #2, I ended up sitting next to a colleague going to the same meeting, and he was thoroughly impressed with what I was doing ("You're using two different colors at once? Wow, you've got mad skillz. I don't think I know anyone who can do that." Um, you'd be surprised, friend.) and even brought it up two days later during the business meeting.

Once I got into the actual knitting of the pattern, I couldn't decide if I like the two yarns together or not. I'll keep going, I've only done about 8 rows of the pattern anyway, haven't even gotten to the thumb. But... the main color is kind of a weird wheat-yellow/celery-green, depending on the light (it looked really weird in the airplane light, above the clouds), and I'm not sure it's a pretty combination. We'll see. Since I've got so many projects in progress right now, it will probably be a while before I do any more significant work on this one.

04 September 2009

Three BSJs in One Week...

...AAAA-hahahahahaha! Yeah, that didn't work so much.

Husband and I took a long road trip the first two weeks of August. And when I say "long road trip," I don't mean New-England-long, wherein driving for three hours is "SOOO FAAAARRRRR!" No, when we take road trips, we take road trips. 2,800+ miles in thirteen days. VT-NYC-DC-ATL-DC-VT. A real road trip.

We stopped in DC twice, on the way down for several days to visit Knitting Queen and several college friends who live in the DC area, and then again on the way up because some of those same friends were having a housewarming party and it was a good chance to see even more people I haven't seen since college. And, of course, since we're all at that almost-thirty time in life, everybody's having babies. Three different couples in DC are currently pregnant or have just given birth. In fact, one of those three couples had their baby during the week of our trip.

Three babies = three Baby Surprise Jackets.

I thought it was an ambitious-but-possibly-reasonable goal to work towards making all three BSJs during the first week of our trip. And, y'know, if I didn't get one of them done in the first week, I could definitely work on it while we were in Atlanta, and then do the gifting on our way back home. Right? Right.


First BSJ (the red one) took three separate cast-on attempts, which was most of our drive through the Adirondacks. That's almost six hours right there. Of just casting on. I didn't knit in NYC nearly as much as I thought I would, and the ball of 220 Superwash got really tangled in my purse and took nearly a day to untangle and re-roll.

(I did have an enjoyable subway moment, when the two young women sitting across from me in the subway car eyed me with envy as I was knitting, and then turned their conversation to dreams of what they'd like to knit someday -- if they ever actually bothered to pick up the needles. It was quite a hilarious situation, but contributed significantly to a need-t0-unknit-a-few-rows moment, which then started the oh-crap-what-a-tangled-mess phenomenon. That's what I get for gloating.)

I finally made some good progress on the red BSJ as we drove down the Garden State Parkway to DC/Baltimore. Finished it in DC, except for the sewing-the-shoulder-seams, and promptly lost it under stuff in the back seat of the car.

The second (blue) BSJ, I cast on somewhere between DC and Durham, NC, where we spent the night with some other college friends. I did much of the casting-on and knitting-up so much better the second time around... except that I accidentally cast on 155 stitches rather than 160, and didn't realize it until I was halfway through. I was NOT frogging several days worth of my work at this point (there was still one more BSJ to go, remember!), so I just reworked the math and kept going. But the extra math meant extra thinking for every row (wait, do I increase here, or do I increase there? How many stitches am I supposed to have on each side of the marker? How big should I make that middle section whose stitches I pick up later? ARGH).

I did not finish the blue BSJ by the time we got back up to DC on the homeward stretch of our journey. I didn't even finish it by the time we got back to Vermont, because I insisted on driving the whole way from Philadelphia to Burlington (at some point, my need to be in control of the car trumped my desire to finish the darn sweater). I finished the blue BSJ about ten days after we got home, because I wanted the needles so I could get started on the sleeve of the Minimalist Cardigan -- the night before I was taking off on my next trip. I finished the knitting, but not the shoulder seams, about 1 a.m. With a 6 a.m. flight the next day. Sigh.

One more BSJ to go. I kind of can't handle it right now, though, and want to finish my Minimalist Cardigan first. Looks like I'll need to knit the third (green) one on size 8s rather than on7s, and send that one to the biggest baby of the three.

BTW, on size 7s, one BSJ takes about a ball and a half of Cascade 220 Superwash. At some point, I'll likely make a stripey fourth BSJ out of the remainders. In spite of all the pressure I put on myself to do a bunch of the same sweater again and again (which could easily lead to me hating the pattern), I still adore the BSJ and will probably make a zillion more over the course of my lifetime.

31 August 2009

End-of-Summer Update

I have been knitting a ton this summer. I have not been blogging equally as much. The real obstacle to blogging has been putting down the needles long enough to take pictures! Um, that and all the actual working I have done. My job really cuts into my blogging time. Funny how that works.

It has seriously been a "Startitis Summer." And I'm okay with that. Now that I have a moment to breathe (and to blog), here's a bit of an update:

Minimalist Cardigan is 70% done. The back and both fronts are done. First sleeve is started, just barely. I only have one skein left of the Lamb's Pride. Will I have enough to finish two sleeves? Stay tuned.

I have not worked on the Kiki Mariko Rug at all. It's huge and heavy, and I needed something lighter that I could carry with me in my gadding-about.

I really did quite a bit of traveling this summer, more than I have in the past, and it looks like the trend is likely to continue and I will become a prolific airplane knitter when I'm not using that time to do some undisturbed church-calendar planning.

Started on another pair of stranded mittens -- that's another post for another day. We also went on a two-week road trip, wherein I attempted to make three BSJs in one week, and failed miserably. That's also for another post. The point of this post, really, is to let you know that I am alive and well and knitting away... I'm just not writing much about it, but will pick that piece up again soon.

10 July 2009

Taking Stock

Two years ago, I went to my denomination's big national meeting. And I got a job and a sweater out of the deal.

This year, I went back (it only happens every two years) as a delegate from Vermont, which sounds very important. (And it is very important, but it mostly means that I have a 6:30 a.m. meeting every day, and a voting card.) And I was extremely busy. So busy, I didn't have time to go check out City Knitting, the yarn shop in Grand Rapids that I wanted to visit. But JerseyKnitter went!

Thankfully, I'd brought yarn. Stash yarn, in fact. A very deep navy "Bulldog Blue" from Brown Sheep (Lamb's Pride Worsted). I'm working on the Minimalist Cardigan (Rav link). I got the whole back done while I was sitting in meetings, but then discovered on the airplane home that I'd missed some decreases for the underarms -- so I had to frog 7 inches and pick up the stitches to do the decreases. Argh.

Anyway, here's me blissfully knitting away in a business meeting. More pics of the sweater later. I've now got one half of the right front panel finished, as well.

02 July 2009

NHM #1

I did it again! Another pair of mittens. These are NHM #1 [Rav link] from Selbuvotter. Took me a little over a week -- got a massive sunburn in the middle of the process, when I brought my sunscreen with me to World Wide Knit in Public Day at the park, but then didn't actually put on any. Awesome.

Main Color is Blue Sky Alpaca&Silk in Blush (veeeeery subtle pink), Contrast Color is
Jojoland Melody (veeeery slight color-changing red -- there's green in one mitten and purple in the other).

I knit this up on 4s, thinking they were 3s. I discovered this mistake when
I was at a friend's house for a quiet evening of knitting and realized that I'd been trying to make the thumb on short 5s, and it wasn't going so well. I reached in my bag and grabbed the long "3s" I'd used on the main part of the hand, and that's when I realized I'd done everything in 4s. (The Jojoland doesn't like 4s very well. Or 5s, for that matter. I wouldn't recommend trying it.)

At least I got to borrow her Knitpicks Harmony DPNs, which I'd been wanting to try.
(Lovely, but I'm not going out of my way to invest -- my Brittany's work just fine.) They did the job, and I could definitely see the difference between 3s and 4s.

29 June 2009

Kiki Mariko

I don't quite know how it happened. I think I must have been putting myself to sleep -- I often fall asleep thinking about future knitting projects; it's much more conducive to relaxing than thinking about work -- and I decided that what our house really needs is the Kiki Mariko rug [Rav link], in the same wacky colors as we've painted the walls. Bright yellow, bright orange, bright red. Like I said, I'm not quite sure how the idea crawled its way into my head... but it made itself at home there. It may have had something to do with the fact that the house is coooooold in the winter, and a cozy wool rug may be something of a solution.

I already had two skeins of Lamb's Pride Bulky in creme from the swap, and a partial of an orange that I eventually decided was the wrong orange (ain't that always the way?), so I hied myself to Kaleidoscope to figure out what to do with this hankering to knit a ridiculously-colored fair-isle rug for my living room.

What I got did end up matching the walls perfectly, which makes me wonder: why the heck did I pick those crazy colors for my house? I like them a lot! I love my crazy-colored house! My yellow room makes me so happy! My red room is so cozy and comforting! My orange room... well, the orange looks really awesome with the red and the yellow, and I normally detest orange, but not in this case. And I do spend most of my time there, I'd say. But together? In the living room? (that's the orange one) This rug may end up being too much.

Actually, if it's horrible, or a bad size, Kiki will live in the yellow room, which is my office. There, the rug will be slightly less in the full-on pattern of traffic (and public eye), but still serve the warmth function quite nicely. I will be very appreciative on freezing February nights when I'm up writing my sermon.

I do kind of wish I'd forgone the black, or chosen brown instead -- I really had myself convinced that I needed another neutral, but now I'm not so sure it was necessary. The truth will reveal itself in the final product, after it's felted. I don't dislike it so much that I want to take the trouble of undoing all my work.

Anyway, after just a month of knitting (and the labyrinth rug has been a couple of years and I'm only halfway!) I'm pretty close to where I want to be. I think I want to knit the tube about 7' long, and I've probably got about 5' now. (My hope is that the length will be around 5 1/2 feet when its felted.) It's been a satisfyingly quick TV-knitting project, good for the end of a long day. And great for getting used to stranded knitting. I've really gotten the hang of the tension in my left hand, and my speed with two colors is almost what it is with just one. All in all, I'm feeling pretty proud of myself with this one.

11 June 2009

Not an Accident This Time

I made mittens! On purpose!

These are from Selbuvotter again -- I am loving this book, and may very well make everything in it! I really prefer the corrugated rib cuff though, so I'm sticking with that rather than the silly regular-rib cuffs in the book.

Both yarns are Frog Tree Alpaca sport weight. I love this yarn in skein form and in fabric form, but I'm not such a huge fan of it for mittens, I've decided. Too much halo, the fibers get knit together and the pattern gets kind of muddied (on the inside of the hand, especially). Still, I am happy with the final result.

And they're a gift anyway (as are many of the mittens I'll be making in the upcoming months), a surprise for a friend, so that's all I'm gonna say about that now. Next winter I can do the big reveal.

Also, I'm definitely getting the hang of stranded knitting now, and loving it. Just enough challenge that it's interesting, but not hard enough that it's discouraging.

18 May 2009


While I was in Texas this past March, my sister was in...India. With husband and baby. That's right, she took a four-month-old baby to India. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. I didn't set foot on an airplane until I was fifteen years old. Can I be jealous of my nephew for being more well-traveled than I am? Is that okay?

They went to an elephant sanctuary and had a great time. I assume that Nephew slept through it all; he certainly won't remember any of it later. So I knitted him an elephant (Rav link), another one of the patterns in Zoe Mellor's Knitted Toys.

I love the projects in this book so much, but the patterns are so badly written. So much unnecessary seaming! It's infuriating! Not that I plan to knit another elephant, but I've been trying to figure out how to improve the process of this pattern -- what can be done in the round, etc. So dumb. But I digress...

I used Colinette Cadenza again, the same yarn I used for both toy bears I made last year. A great yarn for baby toys, soft and washable, and also good quality. I used the "Jewel" colorway for the elephant, because the colors made me think of the flash and color and beauty of India (not that I've seen them myself). And although I looked at this colorway on the shelf a zillion times and thought, "goodness, that's some ugly yarn! Who in the world would want those colors together?" when I decided to make this pattern, I knew that was the exact right colorway for this particular elephant.

I did manage to do a three-needle bind-off for the two gusset pieces (can I just say, how unhelpful is it to call the belly of the elephant a "gusset?" Legs, body, trunk...gusset? That is not a body part! Dumb!!! It's the underside of the elephant, the belly!!! GRRR!!!), so didn't have to get out the tapestry needle for that one. Then I blocked all the pieces -- and I must admit, I didn't know the Hot-Iron-On-Wet-Washcloth Blocking Trick before doing this pattern, and I love it and will forever be grateful to Zoe Mellor and her terrible pattern-writing for teaching me this technique -- and set about the stupidly time-consuming task of sewing them all together.

Seriously, it took me as much time to do the sewing as it took to do the knitting. Eye roll. The entire car ride to their house, then two nights on the couch... I had to give Nephew the not-quite-finished elephant before bed in order to get pictures of him playing with it (he liked it, I'm glad to say!), and then had to stay up until the wee hours of the morning before our departure to get all the seaming and stuffing done. Hence the terribly-lit late-night photo above.Still, I'm happy with the finished product, even if the process left something to be desired. Also, my nephew is so beautiful! He's slightly over six months in this picture (and today is his 7-month birthday).

15 May 2009

Intrepid Reporter

Last month (Palm Sunday, in fact), about ten of us gathered at my friend Mango's house for a yarn swap. It was a fun swap -- all good folks, all with good quality yarn to swap. We ate a light appetizer-y dinner and drank just enough wine that our eyesight and judgment were questionable, which makes the swap that much more interesting. And then we got down to the serious business that is The Yarn Swap.

There was so much yarn there that it wouldn't all fit in one picture (or two, for that matter, but I'm self-editing for the moment):

I was Baa Baa Black Sheep: I brought three bags full! And I came home with three bags full, as well (including a bag of sock yarn to give to a semi-homebound church member who knits socks for charity) -- half new-to-me, half the stuff I'd brought in the first place. Pretty successful, I'd say.

So much fun. And swapping definitely curbed the impulse to purchase more yarn for a while! I even got some yarn for which I have definite plans... something I rarely do when I go to a real live yarn store. Thanks for a great evening, Mango and friends!

11 May 2009

Mother's Day -- on my schedule, not the world's

I've inherited many things from my mother: her laugh (which my brother and I used to make fun of when I was little, so there's a little poetic justice for you!), her eyebrows (tho' I groom mine more heavily than she does hers), her ability to spend an entire day sitting in front of the computer without actually accomplishing anything but thoroughly enjoying herself in the process, her tendency towards optimism -- which leads to a tendency to bite off more than we can chew (witness: our choice of houses, with accompanying "projects" and "yardwork" that will never be completed) -- which leads to a wonderfully cheerful attitude toward accepting one's own limits and imperfections. I think she's great, and I am so honored every time someone says I am like her.

One of the other things I inherited from my mother was her inability to get anything in the mail in a timely manner. For example, her birthday was two months ago, and although I have knitted several items to send her AND I fully intended to give back that book she lent me in October so we could discuss it when I read it (which I did: I'm not a complete reprobate!) AND I wrote her a card that I know is really sweet but it's been so long that I've forgotten what I said in it... all the items I've been meaning to mail her are sitting in a box in my living room totally ready to walk with me the two blocks to the post office. It's a walk I make nearly every day, because the post office is on the way to everywhere else I could possibly want to go in this town. And yet, there's the box, still at my house. And postage rates went up today. I'm so organized (another thing I inherited from her.)

So here you go, Mom: a picture of me wearing the scarf I made you (and didn't tell you about! I was trying to surprise you!) when I was in Texas in March. I post silly-looking pictures of myself on the internet, just for you. Happy Mother's Day, a day late.

The progress shots and specs:
Tilli Tomas "Milan" silk/wool yarn, one full skein, Napoleon Lace Scarf by Kaleidoscope Yarns (a freebie yarn and pattern from a giveaway/sale thingy last year).

Also, many thanks to Sweetea, whose blocking wires I have been holding hostage for a shamefully long time. Again with the organization.

25 April 2009

Even Mother Nature Needs to Frog Sometimes

When we bought our current house, this was our front yard. The first pictures we ever saw of the house had huge vines growing up the front porch and into its roof (yeah, a problem, we know), but by the time we actually looked at the house, some smart person with a vested interest in selling had cut down the vines… leaving this pathetic and gnarly stump.

Last summer, the stump sprouted anew. I did not really have the energy to deal with it, except to cut the new baby vines and the branches that were small enough for my handheld garden clippers, and spray the darn thing with Roundup on a semi-regular basis until it stopped creating new shoots and tendrils.

Why is the poisoned stump in my front yard a subject for a knitting-and-sometimes-spirituality blog? Because today was the day I tackled the stump. And somewhere in the six hours it took me to remove the damn thing entirely, I had a knitting-and-spirituality-related revelation. So here goes.

It was a really beautiful day today. Amazingly so. After a sometimes-record-cold winter and a very unusually chilly and therefore protracted spring, today was a day when you could actually have hope that summer might come. I never saw a thermometer or a weather report, but there were rumors of temps in the 80s. A gorgeous, sunny day -- objectively "nice" weather, but also particularly nourishing for the spirit. I had planned to spend the day faithfully writing a sermon and doing other dutiful work things, but… that stump was calling to me, mocking me, daring me to ignore it for one more week (and watch, it’ll rain every Saturday for the next month and the darn thing will come back to life). And I just couldn’t let that stump tease me like that. After a quick trip to the hardware store, I was ready. Shovel: check. Hacksaw: check. Axe: okay, I didn’t buy an axe, and I probably should have, but the claw-side of a hammer ended up working almost as well in the end. Pretty green flower pot: check. I needed $5 more in my purchase total in order to use my $5 off coupon. That flower pot was free, dammit.

Back to the stump. I began shortly after 2:00 p.m. I dug and dug and dug, trying to get under the left-hand side of the stump, pulling up and sawing off as much of the root system as I could access. By 4:30 or so, I’d gotten this far:

Pretty respectable, I'd say. That pile of cut-off stump pieces is almost as big as the remaining stump, so that's some decent work there. I was feeling motivated, like I'd actually made some progress and I was going to use that momentum to do Great Things!

It was the next part, though, that brought my great revelation.

This second photo is from 6:30ish. I'd hacked away considerably at the stump and gotten to a corm-like structure -- not a solid piece of wood, but a giant snarl of branches that had wound around one another and grown together. And that's when I realized... I was untangling Mother Nature's mistake. I was picking apart a giant wooden knot.
I was frogging.

I think that a part of me had been feeling guilty for pulling up and killing this living thing that is, in all probability, older than I am. That's part of why I avoided dealing with it last summer, and part of why I felt the need to dedicate a huge chunk of time all at once -- rather than kill it in pieces, I needed to kill it swiftly and justly. In spite of all the Roundupping I'd done last year, this venerable bush was still trying to send up little shoots again today. It was really hanging on. And I couldn't just cut up part of it and leave the base still struggling to live in my front yard. Once I saw that I wasn't really
destroying so much as frogging, my task became so much easier to accept. Just like with frogging a knitted item that doesn't work, I was frogging this tangle of limbs so that something could grow in this space again.

Turns out, that final chunk took me nearly an hour to break open, but only about 10 minutes to disassemble once I figured out how to take it apart. It was almost a double-helix structure at its heart, spiraled around and around itself. I think Norah Gaughan would have appreciated its simplicity. There were some stubborn roots that just wouldn't give up (and a couple big'uns running under the porch, so I couldn't access them), but I managed to extract a lot of the root system before deciding it was time to let go and fill in the hole.

Right when the sun was headed down behind the trees at the end of the street (8ish), I managed to set the edging of my new flower bed, spread the dirt evenly, and plant some seeds. There will be sunflowers, marigolds, and "an assortment of wildflowers" poking their little noses up before long.Ain't creation grand?

11 April 2009

Henry II

I'm 75% done with Henry.

I know that because I have four skeins of this cashmere, and I've used three of them. I keep hoping to find a fifth skein hiding somewhere, but I've been through my entire stash in the last week doing some It's-the-End-of-Lent-and-I-Will-Do-Anything-but-Prepare-for-Holy-Week procrastination (ahem! like this post), and I didn't find any more, so that must be it.

Still, I'm quite happy with what I've got so far. I think the scarf is a good width -- I have no idea about the length, since it's scrunched up on the needles and won't be un-scrunched until it's bound off -- and I'll be happy with the final product.

I have really enjoyed working on this pattern. It's a bit tricky to get the hang of it, and for the first 5 or so rows I was really trusting that the instructions were well-written, because I didn't get it at all.

But then it clicked. And I've been speeding along. This was another case where the comments on Ravelry had me a little bit psyched out -- everyone talked about how it was so hard, and I couldn't find anything positive at all! -- but they also all agreed that it was worth it in the end. And really, this yarn was screaming out to be the Henry scarf, so I couldn't ignore that.

The texture shows up nicely on both sides of the fabric, which I really like. In the picture at right, you can see both sides -- the underside is on the left half of the picture, and the "right side" is in the right half. I like that the herringbone "weave" is so subtle, you really have to step back and let your eyes kind of blur to see it. Nice.

I got brave and started taking out the provisional cast-on a week ago or so. It takes time to remove, so I'm doing little bits at a time (that takes self-control! I really just want to spend two hours picking it out!) The cast-on really doesn't unravel, just like the designer promised! I, like everyone else who's made Henry, was nervous about that... but it's fine. And such a cool fringe on the edge.

As I've been working on this scarf, I keep thinking it might be cool to take up weaving. I know some women here who are big in the Weaver's Guild, so it'd be easy to get connected and take some lessons... but do I really need another hobby? One with, um, actual machinery? No. No, I do not. And I don't think I could love weaving like I love knitting -- not for the same reasons, anyway. I can see myself stressing far more about weaving, which is also something I do not need.

I think it's the spell of Henry. Maybe I just need to knit more things that look woven. That is, after all, what I like about this piece.

Doc just likes it as a pillow for his window seat.

And LOOK! Henry grew a tail!!!

Happy Easter, everybody.

31 March 2009

Quick Sock Update

I finished the Ugliest Socks Ever! And I'm trying to convince myself that they're really not so ugly after all. I hope the recipient of these socks (who isn't Husband) won't think they're ugly, or at least won't tell me if he/she does.

But they are too big for my foot, that's for sure. You can't really see it in this photo (and I'm not going to take another one!), but there's at least an inch more sock-toe than actual toe in there. Whoops!

Yes, this was one of my travel knitting projects. More travel knitting updates to come... but no photos, because what happens in Texas stays in Texas (or, at least, doesn't get posted on the internets.)(You put nine women in a beach house on a rainy weekend, and there's not much to take photos of anyway. We mostly just sat around.)

09 March 2009

Holyknitter on Vacation

I'm away for a week, visiting some girlfriends and playing on the beach when it's not raining, and possibly doing a bit of yarn tourism. I'm bringing several knitting projects (a whole week with no sermon to write! I can get so much knitting done!), some of which are surprises. Hooray for surprises!

I'll be back to posting sometime later next week. Peace, yo.

Henry the Scarf

This is Henry. Henry's a scarf that's knit lengthwise, and has a beautiful herringbone slip-stitch pattern that looks complicated and difficult but really isn't. Henry's 450-some stitches long, and that's a lot of stitches to cram onto my little size 3 circulars. One row takes for-ev-er to knit: I got almost two rows done in two hours of knitting group the other day. OY.

The yarn I'm using is special. It's Knit One Crochet Too's now-discontinued Richesse et Soie, a 65/35 cashmere-silk blend that is pretty much too sumptuous for words. I've had it stashed for years -- bought four balls of it one-by-one from a yarn shop near the school where I worked in Georgia. I've been holding on to them, wondering what to do with them, wondering if I'd just keep this gorgeous yarn just to have it, until Knitty posted Henry and I just knew that a herringbone scarf is what this yarn wants to be. Is it for me? Is it for Husband? I haven't decided yet. We'll probably steal it back and forth from one another.

Since it's apparently going to take me forever to make this baby anyway, I guess we'll just cross that bridge when we come to it. I've got some plane rides in my near future, and Henry is still perfectly purse-sized, so he'll be my carry-on companion.

In case you're confused by the photo: the scarf itself is gray, the provisional cast-on is with leftover sock yarn, hence the blue. It's not a part of the finished product.

27 February 2009

Labyrinth Rug Update II

This is why you get "before" pictures. I frequently forget the "before" picture, and I'm glad I remembered here. This is my Labyrinth Rug wayyyyyy back forever ago. My original blog post is from February 2008, and I claimed that I'd been working on it for months (that seems laughable to me now). I do remember driving up to Vermont from Georgia with the basket o' green yarn in the trunk of my car, so it has been at least fifteen months since I started -- eighteen or twenty, probably.

And this is the rug in early September.

I've pretty much ignored the mounting pile of green yarn next to my living room chair since then, but... well, like I said, I'm "between projects." And, of course, being "between projects" when it's Oscar time and the President's giving a not-quite-State-of-the-Union speech... well, that's what the Labyrinth Rug is for.

And I decided that, for the first time ever, really, I probably ought to measure this baby to see how far I've gotten. Up until now, I've kind of been guessing about my progress. So I got out the old sheepie measuring tape and learned that the tape itself is five feet long. (I've never bothered to pull it out all the way! I figure, if a project is big enough that you've got to measure it in feet, it's probably something you should just be estimating anyway. A blanket's a blanket, right?)

Anyway, I spread the tape on the floor and the rug beside it in lengths, and learned that it's a whopping thirty feet long! And, um, ten+ of that I've done in the past four days or so.

I marked the 30-foot point and added about two more while watching the Daily Show. Now I'll have a better visible gauge of my progress than trying to make Kitty stand next to the rug every time I want to take a photo of it. The safety pin is far less likely to get up and walk away while I'm lining up the shot.

Also, I'm getting to the point where I'm using up some of the smaller skeins of yarn. Since I'm only halfway through, I may need to reconsider some of my pacing. Then again, the point of this rug is to use the scraps, so I'm not going to sweat it. I'm only about halfway through the skein of Lamb's Pride Worsted I bought just for this project, so I'm okay with that.

I'm not entirely sure that I'm okay with going another eighteen or twenty months on this project. (A math problem: if I'm halfway through the knitting at thirty feet, and it took me twenty months to get there, what is the probability that I will poke my own eyes out before I finish this rug. And not for not liking it. I still like this rug, even after twenty months of knitting and only half a rug to show for it.) What I'm saying is, I may need to step it up a bit.

25 February 2009

Into the Frogpile with you!

This is Thorpe (Ravelry link), a pretty stranded hat. I wanted to make it for Husband. I must have cast on for this baby five different times. When I finally got my fingers to follow the pattern, the hat was wayyyyy too small to fit on my head, much less Husband's -- but I was totally getting gauge! I do not understand.

There was so much about this project that wasn't coming together anyway: I didn't have any bulky yarn I liked handy, so was doubling worsted for both colors. I couldn't find all my size 9 needles, so was making do with two DPNs and a circular. I had to concentrate on the increases far more than was fun.

The icing on the cake: by the time I got enough of the hat done to see whether or not it was going to fit, etc., I decided the colors looked ugly anyway. FROG.

Yarn: Peace Fleece worsted (the oatmeal color - I forget the name of the colorway), Bartlett Yarns unlabeled worsted (the orange/creamsicle color) (this was a gift, I think, or a quick sale -- hence no label).

19 February 2009

Accidents Happen

So, Husband and I were supposed to go to Boston this past weekend, but Sister called on Sunday after church to say "I'm sick. Nephew's sick. Don't come."

So suddenly we had a free two days that we weren't anticipating. We were bummed, because we really want to see Nephew, but we didn't want to be a burden on Sister and didn't want to risk spreading the germs anyway. So we stayed home.

I'd planned to go to my Sunday afternoon knitting group, but took a nap that went a wee bit too long, and just couldn't motivate myself to get out of the house. Besides, the knitting that was tugging at me was something I've been wanting to learn for a while -- and not something I wanted to learn while sitting in a coffee shop with my 4-12 closest knitting buddies. You know what I mean. I love you gals and all, but learning something new requires a kind of focus I'm just not going to achieve in that space.

I'd looked it up on Ravelry, this thing I wanted to learn. I've seen a few mittens lately with a beautiful vertical-stripey cuff, and (a) had no idea how to do it, and (b) had no idea what it's called, so didn't really know how to ask. Turns out, it's called the Corrugated Cuff, and someone who claims to be an expert says it's a traditional Norwegian thing -- although, Selbuvotter doesn't mention the Corrugated Cuff or show any pictures of it at all. That kind of has me wondering.

Let me back up a minute here. Selbuvotter is, in the words of author Terri Shea, "a research project that [she] accidentally over-achieved." Really, it's a book about Norwegian mittens, particularly from the region/town of Selbu, and the economy that was built on the backs of the women who knit these particular mittens. And then it has a ton of patterns!

Anyway, I bought this book in the KnitPicks book sale, read the whole thing on the airplane to DC two weeks ago, and decided that a stranded mitten project was just the thing for my personal Lenten Discipline. (The book in the photo above is Mason-Dixon Knitting's second book: really good section/instructions on beginning Fair Isle technique.)

Lent is the six-week period leading up to Easter. Traditionally, it's a time when Christians give up something they like (maybe a bit too much) -- something like chocolate, or red meat -- something that is perhaps a bit of an indulgence anyway. It's a good time to think about what's really important in our lives, why we make the choices we make, etc. It's a time where we focus on self-discipline.

And, in the self-discipline mode, there has been a newer movement in the last, ohhhh, maybe 10-20 years? that suggests we take on a discipline for Lent rather than give up something. In years past, I've carried around a bottle of water and been very intentional about drinking a certain amount every day -- normally, I forget to drink water, and generally tend to ignore my body and its legitimate basic needs (sleep, food, water). For several years, Lent was a time when I'd focus on my physical well-being through simply making sure I wasn't dehydrated.

Well, I'm totally still dehydrated. But I needed something new for Lent this year, and I figured that a knitting goal to learn something new would be just about right. I've known theoretically how to do stranded knitting for several years -- but knowing theoretically how to do something and actually doing it are two different things. This year is the year I actually do a stranded project, dammit!

I like the Corrugated Cuff, I wanted to learn how to do it, and yeah, Lent is still ten days away or so (it begins on Ash Wednesday, which is February 25 this year), but I'm between projects and kind of chomping at the bit on this thing, so I figured I'd just learn how to do the cuff. That would take a while, right? And meanwhile I could think about what other project(s) I'd like to do.

Weeeeell, it turns out that figuring out the cuff was easier than I thought. Looking it up on Ravelry helped, of course, but I thought I might have a harder time than I did. I cast on 54 stitches, knit one solid round, and began a k2, p1 rib (on a corrugated cuff, you knit with the main color and purl with the contrasting color -- a very cool effect). The next thing I knew, I'd made a good 2.5 inches or so, had gotten the hang of it, and was ready to move on. Out comes Selbuvotter!

I figured that, since this is my first stranded project, I'd try one of the simpler, symmetrical patterns -- one I liked enough to wear, but not so much that I'd be heartbroken if my tension was all off and it looked funny. I settled on Annemor #2, figured out how to fudge some of the math (the pattern calls for a ribbed cuff of 40 stitches -- I started with 54!), and found an America's Next Top Model marathon on TV. In other words, I settled in.

Um, the mitten didn't quite take as long as I thought it might. I did modify the thumb-hole a tiny bit, in that I did a tubular cast-on rather than a backwards loop cast-on for the top stitches. (That way I could alternate the colors and carry both strands more evenly.) Husband made dinner, I knit. I got to the decrease-for-fingertip part and went to bed -- at a reasonable hour, even!

Monday, we got up and I finished the fingertip. Then I talked Husband into accompanying me to a local coffee shop, where I proceeded to cast on for the second mitten. Five hours later, I'd finished that fingertip, too. We went home, we ate dinner, I knit a thumb, we went to bed.

Tuesday after work, I finished the second thumb and wove in the ends. I... accidentally made a pair of mittens. And accidentally did my Lenten knitting project before Lent started. Whoops!

So I guess now I have to figure out what my Lenten Discipline is going to be. Hmmm.

(Yarn is Blue Sky's Alpaca Silk; size 4 needles. I used almost a whole skein each of the gray and the white -- I only had one skein of white, but two of the gray, which is why I made gray the main color. Just in case I ran out of that first, you know. I'm kind of amazed at how little yarn these mittens used, really. Or how much yardage comes in a single skein of Alpaca Silk.)

Not perfect, but pretty anyway!