Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Kilter is Askew (Cockeyed Even)

You get extra points if you mentally followed up reading the title of this post with "askew means cockeyed."

(As a side note, when I went to look up the quote to reference it, I realized I've been misquoting it for years.  I always say "cockeyed means askew."  ::the more you know gif::

Wow, I haven't even started this post yet and I'm already seriously off-track.

That's what it's been like all week long.  I finally caught the cold that my husband has been fighting for over a week, and I have the attention span of a not terribly bright gnat.  Running is temporarily off the menu, but I am keeping my step count up, because I'm determined not to loose focus.  As soon as I can breathe again, I'll be back in the game.

On Sunday I was sitting in a sunbeam, trying to breathe and single-handedly keeping Kleenex in business, surrounded by four different projects.  I'd pick one up and work on it for a few minutes, and then I'd set it down.  Then I'd forget what I was doing and pick up another one.  I couldn't settle on any one thing, didn't like any of it, and was too stupid to cast on something new (and thank G-d I realized that before something truly disastrous happened).  

Early Onset DaVinci Disorder
I manged to actually make some good progress, despite all the jumping around.  My Cosy Stripes Afghan is sitting pretty at about 48% complete.

This Thing is Gonna Be Huge
I really love how cheerful it is.  I foresee more crocheted afghans in my future.  I'm already debating between a solid Hex modular design, the Groovy Ghan, or to possibly take a departure and knit a log cabin blanket.  Or I could finish the bull's eye blanket that I started two years ago.... NAH....

I also managed to salvage my Fork in the Road socks.  And I learned an interesting thing about sock fit in the process.  I really thought that the socks were too small.  They felt too small going on, etc.  But after I put them in time-out for a few days, I took them out and really examined the fit.  The 64 stitch cast on was actually fine.  The problem was I didn't knit the "gusset" part of the heel long enough before starting the decreases.   Having the heel be too shallow translated into the whole thing feeling too tight.  ::second use of the more you know gif::

So I pulled the heel back out to just past the decreases, added more rounds, and Bob's
Yer Uncle.  Or rather, Bob will be your uncle, just as soon as I finish the heel back up for the second time.

This Sock is in the "Wrestling With an Octopus" Phase
I confess to being relieved to not have to frog three quarters of a sock.  That's the sort of nonsense that takes the wind right out of your sails.

I've also added some more length to my Monkey socks (see, I told you I was working on everything this week).

I've switched these over to a pair of 9" circulars.  I was getting a noticeable line between each of the DPNs (I hate starting a needle with a purl stitch, I can't ever get it to look right).  The 9" circular is a trifle fiddly, but totally took care of the weird line.   I don't think I'm going to become a full convert to this needle type, but I can definitely see where it would come in handy.

I've also got an FO (or two!) to report, but they warrant their own posts.

So that about sums up my (very disjointed) week.  How are things out there with you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Three Socks Enter, One Sock Leaves

I'm fully recovered from Seder.  So recovered in fact, that I let Sunday blow right past me (the day I've been trying to post my "weekly update" posts) because I was busy-busy.

I've started Couch to 5K again, with Jess, and I'm doing Barre with Koren (mind you by "with" I mean, contemporaneously, not colocationally).  I've also been sewing more, and knitting and crocheting, oh! and going out to meet friends after work, and...

It's Spring, baby.  The weather (or maybe just the weather in my brain) has changed.

The First of Many
On the sewing front, I've made a project bag for an on-line friend.   She won it for the "Mod's Choice" project in our February is For Finishing Frowdown (Ravelry forum link).   While early April is considerably after the end of February, I'd like to point out that with my track record on these things, she's lucky I'm not listing it as a UFO next February.  I'm just sayin'.

It's about 13" wide, and probably about the same deep.  Lined with white muslin, and I used grosgrain ribbon to create drawstrings and a casing.  If you'd ever used an Erin Lane bag, this is essentially a cheap knockoff.   I hope she enjoys it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Next up is a project bag for me, made out of one of my favorite old shirts.  The shirt is both way to big for me, and a little worse for wear.  I would be too sad to hand it over to Carl to use as a shop rag, so it will find new life as a project bag for me.  Or maybe two.  It really is a big shirt.

In knitting news, I've been fighting with two pairs of socks, and hopefully winning a battle with a third.  Remember the blue socks I flashed a pic of last post?  I ended up giving the other skein of that yarn to my good friend Bella.  I'd given her two for her 42nd birthday to make a Hitchhiker.  She wasn't going to have enough to make 42 teeth (and after all, that was the point), so I handed it over without a qualm.   Jess is probably going to end up with the 50g I have left, because she has tiny feet.

Then I cast on these:

They are Fork in the Road socks by Lara Neel.  And they don't fit.  I'm either going to rip them out (I'm actually farther than this pic implies) or see if it's just that I didn't knit the heel deep enough before I decreased or ... Erf.   I suspect I just didn't cast on enough stitches.  I used a 64 stitch cast on, and I think I would have done better with 68... if not 72.  Note to self:  If you aren't going to swatch new yarn, and no one says you have to... check the size earlier.

Carl's Big Dude Socks seem to be going okay at least.  ::knock wood::

Man Socks in the "Catfish" Stage of Development
I also worked on my Cosy Stripes and my Pink Hitchhiker since the last time I updated.  I'll share pictures of those next time.

And that's about all the news that's fit to print.  What are you getting done now that the weather is so much nicer?  Is it nicer where you are?  Discuss!

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Chag sameach, and good Passover to those that observe and celebrate it.  It's a favorite time of year here at chez woolly.  The grass is green, the forsythia and red bud are in bloom, and it's time to shop for lamb and matzo.

I learned a new thing this year, as I was scouring the local food-sellers (seriously y'all, I've been to four different grocery stores in two days).  We always hold our Seder on the Saturday night that falls within Passover.   That works best for all the guests who have 9-to-5, Monday through Friday gigs (especially since dinner is always followed by more wine, music, and sometimes dancing.)

Anyway, for the last several years I have had the damnedest time finding matzo, and last year I ended up having to hit two different Publix grocery stores to get the lamb (yes, that is a lot of lamb.  I generally feed anywhere from 25-30 people.)   Anyway, this year the first Publix I hit has bales of matzo out in front and four different leg-o-lambs to choose from.   At first I thought it was a Passover miracle, but then I realized that I wasn't buying my groceries three days after everyone else has already been there and done that.    Note to self:  in years where Passover starts on a Wednesday, buy the lamb early.

Getting ready for Seder is a weeks long process at our house.   My house gets serious-deep-cleaned twice a year (don't judge): right before Seder and right before Thanksgiving.  Both major feasts, go figure.    We've been cleaning the carpets, going through cabinets, vacuuming those weird corners where you have to get out the wand attachment and most of the time you don't bother -- that kind of thing.   We've also gotten a new dryer and a new mattress and box springs in the last week or two.

Earlier this week I woke up and found Maurice taking in a sunbeam.  Dude knows how to relax when the time is right.   I decided to take a leaf out of his proverbial book and joined him in that sunbeam on Wednesday.  A bit of calm before the final storm.  (It went like this:  Last weekend: mad cleaning.  Monday and Tuesday: back at the office.  Wednesday:  curled up in a sunbeam with a stuffed hippopotamus.  Thursday: Every. Grocery. Store. In. The. World.  Today:  re-clean all the things that came unclean since last weekend.)

Passover is a time for rebirth and renewal.  It's a New Year's celebration where we celebrate what it means to be free.

When Carl and I got rid of our broken dryer (there are two things I need a dryer to do for me:  start, and dry clothes.  Ours quit reliably doing either one) and our funky old mattress, we weren't deliberately or intentionally engaging in some kind of life-as-ritual activity.  The stuff was broken or crap, or broken AND crap, and it was just time to replace it.

But there's a nice synergy to the timing anyway.   I am very grateful for the freedom to be able to rid myself of things that are no longer functional or beautiful in my life and to replace them with new (or "new to us") things that do work.   Our household has enjoyed some renewal and rebirth this week, and I'm loving it.

Last week my buddy Koren started trying to talk me into doing a Barre DVD that she recently acquired.  I think her long game is to get me to come to class with her, but she knows that I am allergic to leaving my house, and doubly allergic to leaving it in yoga pants.  Anyway, she suggested that she could bring the DVD over when she comes to help get ready for Seder.  

I started to hem, haw, and otherwise make noncommittal noises at her when she said, "Set your intentions for the New Year."

I got goosebumps and my eyes teared up.  I had this immediate, physical reaction.  My whole body said, "Yes.  This."

Dammit.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm as liable to ignore signs and symbols as the next guy, but that was pretty frickin' obvious.  "Alright, alright.  Bring it."

(I did the DVD yesterday.  It was fun.  Who am I?)

As a society, and culture we have a lot of energy and tradition wrapped up in the New Year's Resolution in January (and let's face it, there is nearly as much tradition in the idea of the failed resolution in February.)   It seems to me that January is a crappy time to try to motivate yourself to be healthier, exercise more, etc. etc.  It's dark, it's cold, and everything in your hind-brain is telling you to add a little extra padding here and there so you can live through the winter.   It's not until Spring that I, at least, really start to feel the energy of "a naye yor, a naye leben."

I'm going to play with this idea this year.  I haven't decided what my resolutions for rebirth and renewal are going to be yet (I think they are going to have something to do with decluttering...both my butt and my house.  I have a lot of excess weighing me down these days).   I'll let you know.

What are you doing to bring rebirth and renewal into your life this Spring?

Oh!  And I haven't forgotten that this is a knitting blog.  This is what I spent my sunbeam-day doing:

Trying out knitting a sock on a 9" circular needle.  My hands are confused, and a little annoyed, but I think that once they're used to how to hold the needles, it'll work just fine.  I am really digging the "go around in a circle forever" aspect of it.

Monday, March 30, 2015

That's How We Essay

My post on Project Polygamy last week sparked some interesting conversations.  Several people mentioned that they get anxious, stressed, or just don't like having a lot of projects on the needles at once.  We all agreed at the end of the day though that the number of projects one is comfortable with is, as one of the grand dames of quilting would have said, a Personal, Private Measurement.

Which is to say, your mileage may vary, and that's okay too.

I did realize later that calling it a “treatise” was stretching the matter a bit.  I certainly laid out the problem, but my actual argument amounted to a screencap of Marvel’s Loki saying, “You’re not my real dad!” to Thor.

And that is how we essay here at chez woolly.

In other news, after all that protestation, the sweater that started it all is little more than a wee bit of shoulder shaping and some back-neck action.

I know it doesn't look like much, but there's a sweater in there.

The temperatures dropped again, like they do -- just in case the fruit trees were starting to get their hopes up.  It was cold enough that I decided to work on my Cosy Stripes Afghan...while buried underneath my Neat Ripple Afghan.  It was like that.

Of course today, now that it's Monday, it's back to lovely out.

My handy-dandy spreadsheet tells me that I'm 35% into the stripes.  I'm waffling back and forth on whether to do the edging.  I think I will -- or at least that's the direction I'm leaning, because the Cosy Stripe pattern doesn't make for a tidy edge.

I'm also now more than half done with my third Hitchhiker.  I joined the second ball on Saturday.  If it had been a little warmer, I might be closer to done, but Sunday required serious blanket time.

I've worked a bit on Carl's socks too (I don't have a good, current picture though.  It's still pretty brown, and looks like a sock.  Use your imagination).   I need to get him to try it on, as I'm not convinced about how I've handled the decreases and heel flap.  I may be taking the whole thing back and trying something new.  I've decided to be mellow about it.  I want them to fit him, so I may have to do some tinkering.  All part of the process.

In acquisition news, I got a 9" 1.5 US (that's 2.5 mm) circular needle to play with.  I think that may be the only common way of knitting socks that I haven't tried.  Out of DPNs, two circs, and magic loop, I tend to prefer the two circs.  I decided to give the one 9" circular a try to see what that's about.

Seems like that might also be a good way to do fair isle mittens too.  Although I'd need to get some US 3s... well anyway, socks first.

I might have also gotten some yarn.  There might have been a bit of a Knit Picks... incident.


One of the colorways is "Faun" and the other is "Turkish Delight."  I couldn't not.  And no, that isn't all I bought.  I had to qualify for free shipping didn't I?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Treatise in Defense of Project Polyamory

So last Sunday I said something about trying to be "good" and not cast on anything new.

And while I realize I am very far from the first to raise this important question (The Yarn Harlot herself has been blogging about it for over a decade), I'd still like to ask... When the heck did the number of projects one has cast on become an issue of character?

Is this, like, a Puritan thing?  Because I am definitely not the right tree to bark up with that one.  My nose will have no truck with your grindstone, and you can see your nineteenth century Protestant Work Ethic right back out the same way it came in.

I've been wrestling with this issue for several months.   Friends of the show are no doubt sick of my annual self-flagellation over the state of the work-basket, followed by a month-long parade of Finally Finished Objects.   Remember the year I had 25 projects at the beginning of the month?  I was so horrified by my excess.  My... weakness.

Well, I've started listening to knitting podcasts, and friends, I am a RANK AMATEUR in the work-in-progress department.   One podcaster's WIP count is hanging out around 30, another probably has that many socks in progress.  I want to say at one point I heard the number "75" bandied about.

Folks, my current WIP count  of 11 does not even rate.

And here is the thing -- the one with seventy-something projects?  She is not even the least bit sorry.  No apologies, hashtag: noregrets, etc.   Because what if one project is the wrong season?  Or it got to a tricky bit, and she needed social knitting?  Or maybe she is feeling lace right now, and not cables, or maybe it's the other way.  Point is, she's got options, baby.

So what if I already have two pairs of socks cast on?  What's it hurting if I cast on another pair?  Lord knows I've got plenty of sock yarn.  And I'm not likely to run out of needles any time soon either, I mean let's be real here.

But what about finishing things?  I can hear you cry.  Will you ever finish anything if you just cast on something new every time the wind changes or it's time to pick up a button band?

Repeat after me: This. Is. A. Hobby.  I do this for fun.

I'm not knitting to clothe my family because they would be naked if I didn't.  I knit because I like it.  Don't get me wrong-- I don't actually think that declaring a moratorium on project guilt is going to magically stop me from finishing things (there will always be February, after all).  Heck, I like to finish things.  I even occasionally go on a jag where I finish serially.  And that's okay too.  Basically, I just don't really think it's going to be an issue, but even if it were, who the hell cares? 

What harm am I doing?  Assuming the bills are paid, the children are warm and fed, and I'm not keeping projects in the china cabinet, I would say, simply: "none."

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go cast on a sweater.

Swish Worsted in the Winter Wonderland colorway.
Swatched on 8s and 9s, below and above the purl ridge, respectively.

From now on, I do what I want.

My New Knitting Motto

Sunday, March 22, 2015

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

Jess' particular brand of March Madness seems to be catching.  I've really tried to be "good"* and work on projects that I already have on the needles, but I'm booooooored with all of that nonsense.  That stuff is SO LAST FEBRUARY.

Last night I was casting about for something new (ha ha) to cast on.  I thought about the Color Affection shawl that Koren, Jess, and I have been planning, but we're not quite ready to launch that one yet.  So first I started trolling patterns (like you do) and then I started looking at Knit Picks (like you do), when I decided to get aholta (technical term) myself.

So I went to my Ravelry queue to check out what I already decided to knit, largely out of yarns and patterns that I've already decided to own.  Crazy, non?

So I've cast on Nurmilintu by Heidi Alander.   I'm far enough into it that Morgan looked it over and declared that it's "Just like Hitchhiker, but without the poky bits."  As far as it goes, she's right.  There's lace later, though, kid.  Hold on for it.  I'm using a skein of Rowan Fine Art in the Chiff Chaff colorway, acquired last summer from Little Knits in Seattle.  (I didn't go to Seattle, mind you, just the website).  Do not click the link if you are susceptible to yarn fumes.

One of these things is not like the others...
So this week I've been working on my Pink!Monkey socks, my Pink!Hitchhiker, and then last night I haul off and cast on grey and brown?  I don't even know about myself sometimes.  

I definitely can't blame it on the weather.  It's Spring for real here at chez Woolly. 

Evidence of Spring
To celebrate the vernal equinox, Carl and I burnt off a metric ass-ton of brush (including three Christmas trees.  Who has three Christmas trees in their back yard?  I ask you.)  We also did some weeding back there, rescued some daffodils, iris, and lilies, and started pressure washing our back deck.   We managed to get most of it from black to green...so that's like progress.  (I'm exaggerating.  Slightly.)   The inside of the house needs spring cleaning too, but it was so nice to just spend some time outside.

This picture doesn't have much to do with what I was talking about.
It just makes me happy.
So that's my week.  Pink!Pink!Grey!  It's like a chromatic version of Duck!Duck!Goose.  Don't ask me, I just work here.

*And okay, that is a rant for a different post.  Why is having a lot of projects on the go at the same time a bad thing anyway?  There's not a blessed thing wrong with me having half a hippopotamus in the closet for two years.  My lack of project monogamy isn't hurting anyone.  So there.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Heeding the Call

I don't talk about my religious life on the blog very often.  I've mentioned it off and on throughout the years, but generally I keep the talk to knitting.

Sometimes, though, (and this has happened before), my religious life and my fiber-arts smack straight into each other.   

I suppose that's to be expected when the feminine form of the divine that I find myself most drawn to is, Herself, a fiber artist.

Handy that we have our very own Parthenon, no?

So last year, right before Seder (I know, I know, but it's like that here), I made a trip to our Parthenon to see Athena.   I spent some time in Her temple, knitting.  Like you do.

And while I was there I got the very strong sense that I need to learn to spin.  It's not because She wants or needs me to spin yarn to make a robe, or anything like that. It isn't about the product particularly at all.  It's about the act, the activity of learning a new craft -- this craft in particular.  

Well, okay then.  I'll learn to spin.

I spent a few hours with a drop spindle and came up with the tiniest bit of what could only be very generously called yarn.   It was a little awful, but I made it while trying to learn something new, so there's value in that (even if the yarn itself was fairly ugly).   When we did our picnic at the park for Panathenaia (say that three times fast), I took it and left it in Her temple.

"Alright.  Now learn to spin."

I didn't really think it was going to be that easy.

Last fall Koren and I made pilgrimage to SAFF, so I signed up for a beginning spinning class. On a wheel and everything.   This is far enough outside of my comfort zone that it gave me the heebies just thinking about it.

The class was lovely, the teacher more so, and I fell in love.  I left SAFF with a burning desire to own a wheel of my own and this skein of seriously funky yarn.

Real spinners only wish they could make "art yarn" like this.
I talked it over with Carl, and what with one thing, another, Christmas, and that other thing, a wheel for me just wasn't in the cards.

I did, however, ask him to start trolling Craigslist, just in case.   You would be amazed by the number of planters pretending to be "antique spinning wheels" there are in the greater Nashville area.  I mean seriously.

I had this idea though.  Every step closer I took to learning to spin, the more I felt like I was on the right track.  So I decided that if it was meant to be, if Athena wanted me to be a spinner, she'd help the right tools come to me.

I decided that my budget was about $400 (no matter how badly I wanted a wheel like the Lendrum I learned on).   Craigslist was a vast sea of nothing, and while  I knew I could get a new wheel from The Woolery for about $400, it would be a wheel I'd never tried before, and well, it would be the Yugo of wheels, basically.  Not even the Honda of wheels; the Yugo.  So I set the matter aside until annual bonus time.

Fast forward several months, and bonus time rolls around.   I'm researching my options, asking a lot of questions, looking for local places where I can go and try some wheels out.  That sort of thing. Carl and I decided to check Craigslist one last time, y'know, just in case.  In the back of my head was still this idea that Athena would help make this work.

So all of the sudden, in the middle of the fifteen or so ads for "antique" wheels that looked like they needed ferns planted in them, was this dude selling his mom's old Schacht Matchless.

It's about twenty years old, and didn't have any extra bobbins, no kate, nothing but the one bobbin, a spot or two of rust, and a rotting drive band.

Dude took $400 for it.  His mom inherited it years ago, but she "doesn't do that stuff," so she'd asked him to try to sell it. At the end of the day, everyone was happy.  Thank you, Athena.   

We got it home, cleaned it up, oiled the parts that wanted oiled, and I started playing.

Seriously, I have no idea what I'm doing here.

Look!  2 oz (and about 40 yards) of yarn!  It's mystery fiber that I picked up at Fiber in the 'Boro to play with last fall.

I am quite pleased by how much it looks like yarn.  Yarn that is simultaneously both over- and under-spun, mind you, but yarn nonetheless.

I hope -- I think -- Athena is pleased.