Sunday, January 29, 2006

One exciting tennis match later

We have a mitten, finished except for, as Himself pointed out, sewing in the ends and making a thumb. (small details)

These I did following the new instructions in Robin Hansen's Favorite Mittens, which include a new top of the hand shaping (which I like better) and thumb instructions that either I didn't follow closely enough or have a mistake in them. I came up with 19 at the top, where, according to the book, I should have had 17.

As you can see from the two photos, the new top decreases produce a mitten that can be worn either handed while still maintaining the color striping.

I've done plenty of iterations out of the now out-of-print Fox, Geese and Fences and find the these mittens to be the ones I choose over all the other patterns in there. They are warm and they look cool, particularly if you can keep the tension on each hand consistent. As you can see, there are times when the black just becomes more prevalent, so there was probably something happening in the tennis match then. At some point I'll probably do a reverse colorway, just for kicks.

The second mitten is started, largely because I find doing thumbs a chore, so I'd rather do two of them at the same time.

Yarn as therapuetic device

The phenomena that may or may not be trigger fingers, i.e., waking with stiff, painful fisted hands, reluctant to open without discomfort and with jerkiness in motion, has been helped by sleeping with 50 gram Regia sock yarn skeins in each hand. Helped, I think, because the fingers don't fist up all the way, they stay open with something to lightly grip.

It's been two nights so far, and I notice when I wake up (several times a night) if I haven't been gripping them.

I also took yesterday off to read through Neil Gaiman's American Gods. It's been a while since a book, particularly fiction, interested me enough to stick with it. I'm now ready to pick up Ananzi Boys.

Himself wants to watch the men's finals of whatever tennis open is happening, so there will be mitten progress today.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Mitten underway

Just a quick post to show progress on the Striped Mitten. I'm surprized when put with the black how much the darker purply yarn is turning pinker.

This is the Maine version of corregated ribbing -- K2K2 alternating colors. In this case, the Pink/Purple is carried "ahead" in the left hand, and the black in the right.

Good practice for two handed knitting (see Olympic Challenge), though for these mittens the point is to deliberately have the two colors draw up differently. Once I get into the hand there will be pictures of how the single stripes pull up and recede for a really nifty visual effect.

The other thing to do would then do a pair of mittens with the colors reversed.... but let's get this pair done first.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Yesterday was 11 months until Christmas

Just sayin...... For me, I need the upcoming baby calendar. There's one from work due April, next from work due May, and now my cousin in Florida is expecting triplets in July. What does one make for July Florida babies, times three?

In any case, the Anti-Blather Nalgar was finished last night and is now blocking. Cascade 220, color 9439, lot #2737, done on size 4s with zeros for the ribbing. For further details, see prior posts. I think it took 4 skeins, maybe five. Whichever it was, it went down to the last few yards of that skein.

And in the Knitting Olympics Challenge I have joined Team Boston and the ringers from out of town have shown up, shown here with Stanley, still in party gear from last weekend. I've so far managed to take apart each 4 and 8 ounce groupings of color, separate out a one ounce skein of each, wind it and start a swatch on zeros of just working a bit of each color to see how it comes out.

Finally, I was all set to start on Stanley's new friend using Wonderful Wool, and I can't find my copy of the pattern. Deb at the Woolery has put a new one in the mail to me, along with FiberTrends' brand new pattern for a hedgehog. What's the Cambridge residential zoning rules for (stuffed) livestock? In the meantime, I've started the Striped Mittens I've wanted to go with my hat, using Wonderful Wool Athena and Lamb's Pride Worsted Black as the the undercolor. I'm trying the pattern in Robin Hansen's new book, but I may go back to the original if I get into trouble.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sleeves take time, don't they?

Well, it helps that I started this one over last Wednesday. I finished one sleeve of the Anti-Blather Nalgar last night and got started on the second. For the record, decreases are at the rate of decrease round, 2 blank rounds, which I think makes it every third, but I always get confused with counting like that beyond "every other round." Cuffs are 15 rounds on zeros, then bind off.

The John and Abigail Adams American Experience piece was good and kept me company during the process.

I tried the sweater on after the first sleeve was done. It looks like it will fit okay, but needs a blocking to get the stitches to relax. That would mean clearing floor space currently taken up by the shetland yarn from 1991.....

Side note, what with the party and all, there were a few days there where I knit minimally or not at all and I notice my hands hurt worse and were much stiffer than usual when I work up. Knitting happened Sunday and last night, and hands weren't bad in the morning. I see Par tonight, and that will be good.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

That was a lot of people over last night

We had the Chocolate Party at Himself's house last night. 40 people had RSVP'd and when we thought about it this morning there were 7 people who had said they would but didn't make it for various reasons, so we're thinking 33 folks were in the house at one time. Good thing it's a decent size house.

His friends and mine blended nicely and I think pretty much everyone talked to each other, rather than clumping with just folks they already knew. What I had forgotten was in the Eastern Massachusetts higher ed/high tech environment, how many people have either heard of each other through connections or realized they knew friends of friends of each other, or had met briefly years before at some other gathering. It's a small world in 617 and 781.

The chocolate fountain went really well, we used about 5 pounds over the course of three or so hours (in the last hour, everyone was sitting down talking and no one was using it, so we turned it off). With the fountain table with dippables set up at one end of the house and the table for everything else chocolate at the other, with soda/seltzer/coffee stations mid-way, things flowed fairly well. Cleanup wasn't horrendous either, because I think with the dripping chocolate folks were being careful to not get it all over the place.

I figured out an easy way to keep yourself from pigging on the chocolate, at least early on, was to host -- much being here and there and called to do something else for the first hour or so. I also discovered that, at least to my taste, raw celery dipped in chocolate is a good thing. Cool, crisp and refreshing with a sweet outer coat.

I didn't get any knitting done, though I had stashed a sock in a drawer in the kitchen, just in case. Unfortunately, I also a camera stashed in the kitchen and didn't get that out either come to think of it.

Tonight I start winding 1 ounce skeins out of the clumps of J&S colors I have and teaching Himself about how a traditional Fair Isle motif varies color combinations between the rows, thereby giving myself a thorough review of what I may or may not know about the subject.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Himself was wondering why this is counts as a challenge

Okay, I won't swear that in 26 years of knitting I've never made a tam that wasn't entrelac from EZ's Spun-out #31, but if I have I can't remember it. I can't recall the last time I worked more than one color in a row on a project, other than Maine mittens and they don't count.

And I've never been comfortable putting colors together. To this day, I have trouble taking crayons out of the box, let alone touching them to paper.

But I'm going to learn things trying to explain to Himself what I'm doing in the design process. He didn't have time before heading to the concert tonight to hear details of Fair Isle color and patterning theory, but he will soon enough. After I have the quarterly visit with the endochrinologist tomorrow (the confession of sin with issues I want to cover has already been sent with the spreadsheet) and we have the chocolate party on Saturday (38 people have had the kindness to respond yes so far, leaving only 18 who have not yet responded).

Ann Feitelson's The Art of Fair Isle Knitting, Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting, and Deb Menz's Colorworks will be coming off the shelves for study soon. Though at some point I have to pick up the yarn and start putting it together to see what happens. I have no idea what gauge or needle I'll be using yet. I need to practice, gently.

It's cruel expecting a Libra to make so many choices. Cruel.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What's a Challenge?

Stephanie has put up the Challenge of a Knitting Olympics. The question is, what is a challenge for me? The state of my hands and wrists is not suited for duration knitting having, since Thanksgiving, knit the Peacock Shawl in 25 days and then, 11 days after that, done the bulk of the knitting on the Anti-Blather Nalgar in a 3.5 day roadtrip with Potential In-Law visiting included.

I'm not going to set myself a quantitative challenge, I'm going to do something I haven't done before: bring myself to use some of the J&S Shetland I bought at Meg Swansen's 1991 First-Timers camp, $400+ worth (in 1991) that hasn't been touched since, to make a tam out of Mary Rowe's Knitted Tams. The challenge will be the choices to be made without paralzying myself: putting together pattern combinations and color sequences, making the blessed thing and blocking it on the tammy-stretcher.

17 colors, mostly 8 ounces of each if I remember correctly, though some are only 4. I'm going to put colors together and see what happens. Me, with the color sense of New England boiled dinner (see what I bought in 1991?)? I reserve the right to fill in with more current color options, if needed. And to bring in a coach or two for critique.

What's been holding me back from using this for all these years? Fear that I would "wreck it" by using up yarn "wrong." However, I have since come to realize that Schoolhouse Press has *lots* of this yarn. They will let me buy more when and if I need it. Really. I can use what I have without recrimination. See prior posts about using the good stuff.

What's even more surprizing is that I've been thinking of doing this project since last Fall, and hadn't had the nerve to open the boxes storing this yarn, worrying that it had suffered light (or insect) damage over close to 15 years. I'm amazed it's in as good a shape as it is. There's no fading, no "unusual ends," no sign of anything getting into it.

Rate of Decrease change

I was working on the Anti-Blather Nalgar tonight at Mind's Eye and realized the current rate of decrease down the sleeve (2 sts. EOR from 72 to 44) was going way too fast. I need 11 inches of length for the balance of the sleeve, including ribbing, and here I was just about done with the decreases at less than 4 inches. Which would leave, looking from the wrist, a long straight tube that would suddenly ballon out just below my elbow up to the shoulder. Not the look I'm going for.

Now trying a rate of decrease of 2 sts E3rdR, i.e., decrease round, knit 2 rounds plain. We'll see how far that gets me towards the wrist.

What do I want to do?

Last night was tied up with preparing the spreadsheet for the endo visit on Friday, so no knitting progress. My life, in numbers (and now) charts.

On the other hand, I made it through the Christmas season without raising the balance on my credit card. The project to be debt-free looks like it will be completed in the first quarter of 2006.

What comes after the Anti-Blather Nalgar? I have the Wonderful Wool Athena colorway to make into two projects -- Striped Mittens, per Robin Hansen and a friend for Stanley.

I'm thinking about the Knitting Olympics that Stephanie is running, but after the job (training injury?) I did on my hands with the Peacock, I'm not sure I want to do a heavy-duty 3-weekend deadline project. However, it may be time to break into the stash of J&S Shetland I bought from Schoolhouse Press in 2001 and finally work with it rather than "saving it for good." There's plenty of fair isle tams in there that will give me practice working two colors together, that I havn't done in a while. I've been meaning to do it.

More to think on while my hands are recovering.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Refocusing on the Anti-Blather Nalgar

Minding the shop on Saturday was an excellent venue to make more progress on the Anti-Blather Naglar -- that sweater I started during Christmas week to have something to work on during the road trip and the visit with Himself's parents. Coming back, I was at the point where I still had a number of increases to go before I could start the sleeves. So, in between helping folks with yarn purchases, I had just enough time to finish the last rows of increases, without having so much time at once that I put further stress on my hurting hands.

I like the Nalgar (Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitting Workshop) for such projects, because it's made in one piece up to the shoulder, with sleeves increased outwards from the underarm point until you get to the maximum side sleeve/top of the body. Lots of lovely knitting, knitting, knitting, with no tricky bits to keep track of while folks blather on share their thoughts.

First, we have the amorphous mass of maximum sweater = 72 sleeve stitches, 138 front stitches, 72 sleeve stitches and 138 back stitches, all on one size 4.

Next, we have the "sleeves" put on threads, and the front and back on two different circulars to be ready to kitchener the shoulders together.

Third, we have one side's front and back shoulders kitchenered together. What we're missing is the shot from this morning when both shoulders had been kitchenered, the neck K1P1 ribbed on size zeros (body was knit on 4s), and the sleeve ready to be knit down from about the elbow. Unfortunately, the camera had a battery problem. Ever found yourself at your boyfriend's house with about 6 AAA batteries, but no AAs?

Lastly, we have the shot back at my place with the first sleeve mid-way done.

One thing that has made my life much easier over the past year is having Documents to Go on my Palm. I can start a notes document for a project in Word at home (easier typing), make notes and edits as I go in the Palm, and then resynch when I get home. Here are the notes for this sweater so far (italics are notes on the road):

Nalgar from Cascade 220 blue/green/purple quatro. Swatching over Xmas weekend 2005. Size 4 CP 16" yields 4.75 sts/inch. Half width 10.25, 97 sts.

Sweater to be 41 inches around. Total 4.75 x 41 = 194.75 sts., round 194.

Revised thinking – 196 stitches around, start on size 0s with 168.

Total depth to UA – previous sweaters 9.5”, try 9.75 or 10.

K2P2 rib for 2 inches or more. 20 rows actual. Increase 1 st in 12 (total 14) to 182,
then 4 sts in a around twice, for total 196. Didn't quite work but got there eventuallly.

8% of 196 = 15.68, round to 16. Mark 16 each side (8 out from each marker), increase there until 78 sts (78.4) if 40%. 37% would be 72.52 sts, 35% would be 68.6.

Boatneck – original says 40% stitches left open for neck. Fiddle.

138 sts. across front neck. Tried kitchenering 50sts. each side, leaving middle for neck. Took out 4 sts. each side for 46, 46, 46. K1P1 rib on zeros for 7 rounds and then cast off loose using a 4.

Sleeves – 20% sleeves would be 39.2 sts. Getting to small at wrists. 25% is 49 sts. Even. 22% is 43.12 sts. After weaving shoulders and doing neck, have 11 inches length to cast off cuff.72-44=28/2=14.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Not much going on

Par is suggesting I might have trigger fingers in my left hand, the ones that won't flex smoothly first thing in the morning when I try to open my hand. Not painful, but uncomfortable. So I've been cutting back on the amount of knitting.

Which doesn't help the drive that wants to finish things before picking up a new project. There are stripped mittens to match my new hat that I want to do, but the Blather Nalgar is in the way along with the Fischu. The Fischu will be beautiful when it's done, but it's at the long-row stage now. The Blather Nalgar, well, I spent a lot of time with it on the trip to Philly and I was ready to not see quite so much of it for awhile. But I'll need to pick it up again.

I'm minding the shop for Lucy this Saturday, so I'll probably bring it with me then. She says last weekend was busy so we can hope that continues.

In the meantime, I'm doing a slow sort of my socks. Some of them have clear bra wounds (long strands pulled out from bra hooks getting caught in the wash), others have holes in the toes that show up when you put them on. I think I'm going to see what I actually put on my feet over the next week or so, and then make the remainders candidates to head to the fellow with the sock creatures. I'm surprized at how fond I'm feeling towards certain sock pairs, for no apparent reason.

And then there was the diabetic nightmare last night. When I dream, I may not necessarily have diabetic issues show up (though the pump's alarm has become an element sometimes), but this time the entire plot line of the dream was about being trapped in a social situation, with someone else's social connection, not my associates, and the dream people just didn't get how their lack of organization and not doing what they said they were going to was causing me real harm. There was a meal that would not be served, and the let's do something else we hadn't discussed before elements.

It's depressing (as in, initiate a depressive episode, not just sad-making) when it happens in real life, and frightening, too. I don't like having to acknowledge just how fragile my well-being is.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

26 pairs of socks and 2 singletaries

So for a long time I wanted to round up all my socks and figure out just how many I have made for myself over the years. The 26th pair missed the photo shoot because it was in my purse having just been finished, not in the done laundry or the sock drawer with everyone else.

But some of these are getting old, some have had bra hook wounds in the laundry. It's time to weed. It's not like I don't have sock yarn in the stash.

Back in August I found the book Stupid Sock Creatures by John Murphy. I need to read the part where he talks about what he's looking for in submitted materials. Some of these guys may be headed there.

I've also started reading again. Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy was ready for me at the BPL (BPL catalog doesn't allow links). Interesting exploration of why women are feeling that to be one of the guys they (the women) must act like a guy's sexual fantasy. I'm only part-way through but I'm wondering when did we get away from acting like ladies and gentlemen who have basic respect for ourselves and other people. What she's describing are folks who have forgotten that they can be sexual yet still civilized.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Realizing that Peacock was a monster

Now that the holidays are over, it has struck me this week how much doing the Peacock Shawl between Thanksgiving and December 19th sucked the life out of me. Yes, I'm glad it's done and yes, I'm proud of myself for setting an ambitious goal and finishing it, but the cost was higher than I would have thought.

Admittedly, following it almost immediately with the Anti-Blather Nalgar for days on end didn't help.
There are other, more subtle things that I can't quite put my finger on, but it's time to recover. Cutting back on the compulsive knitting is one of the first just to give my hands and wrists a rest. I'm how many digests behind in reading the Knitlist and Knitu, even with them loaded onto my Palm for reading while out and about (not that there's anything that exciting going on, but why bother subscribing if you're not going to read).

Stretching is going to be a priority. Par had given me stretches to be doing daily during the last summer and those have completely gone by the wayside over the last few months.

We went cross-country skiing today at Windblown. I made out mostly okay, though got some interesting numbers on glucose uptake during and after exercise. A couple different falls into the snow showed that wool mittens are indeed the best thing for the hands. They were caked with packed snow and still warm to wear. Some knitting on the fischu happened in the lodge waiting for Himself to do one last trail (I was worn out) and sock knitting happened on the way up, but I realized that I had planned the projects to get the socks done to the point where the foot would be ready to knit straight in case we came back in the dark and then work on the fischu just to make progress, and it got less fun after that.

I wonder what's going to hurt tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What's so strange about wearing wool mittens?

Buying the ski equipment at a 3-letter outdoors store that was not started in Wellesley, MA was a tad strange at times.

Apart from the young man who didn't seem to want to bring out boots for me to try on, there were two sales people who questioned that I would wear wool mittens to cross-country ski with, and shouldn't I have leather palms on them? They thought the wool mittens would wear out where I would be gripping the pole.

The second one I shut down with the comment that it didn't really matter because these mittens were made with the leftovers of a $7 skein. Not quite accurate, but I don't think it requires a full skein of each color to make the Maine two-color mittens that Robin Hansen promulgated in her two (now three) books. The wool/mohair blend is tough and warm. I've had pairs wear out over the course of several winters, but, since they don't cost that much in either time or materials, I don't have to treat them as precious objects.

On the other hand, I look at the store's stock of handwear and find one pair for $18.00, most way more and way more engineered than what I need. The benefit of the Maine two-color mittens is that the 2nd color forms an inner layer for additional warmth, and as they are worn they will felt slightly for better wind resistance. The wool already keeps the hand warm even if it gets wet with snow. Could I ask for anything better? Can their product match that?

Post-weekend Update

I wanted to start striped mittens from Robin Hansen's book(s) to go with my new hat, but realized I should work on what's already going on first, shouldn't I?

The etherial fischu continues and has grown enough to have it's second skein joined in. It's lace, but not so complicated it can't go to knitting group tonight. This is part of the using up the good stuff project, in this case, Mind's Eye Yarn's hand-dyed sock yarn.

Lastly, we have the current state of the Knit On Through Blather and Boredom Nalgar. Now that the trip of Pennsylvania is done, I'm saving working on this for ski trips. Yes, the family came together (under the guidance of himself) and supported the purchase of boots and poles. I am now ready to go cross-country skiing.

If it would stop raining in New England.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Mid-way through the 3rd skein

Okay, so I overpack. And I never even worked on the sock, let alone needing any of the two extra potential sock projects. And I'm having issues with my left thumb.

Himself's parents felt the need to comment, repeatedly, at least on the first day, on the fact that I was knitting. I didn't make the comment back that they are tiresome as all get-out and what was I supposed to do.

The Nalgar is a really good road-trip sweater, because it is all one piece and fairly easy to keep track of what you're doing. I'm now at the point where there are 50-odd stitches between the markers for the sleeves, so the rows are growing longer.

Wednesday night we drove down after work. I discovered that while I may be able to knit in the dark, K2P2 rib on bamboo size zeros in the dark is a slightly trickier chore. I still managed to get about 1.5 inches done, and it got easier to tell which was knit and purl as the ribs got longer. I was just flipped out by high-speed, close quarters driving that Himself managed quite well, but the uncertainty is the others on the road.

Side note, unless you like just-off-the-turnpike dives with bars attached, no clock or radio in the room, see-through towels, and lots of drunks going up and down the stairs in the dark of the morning, pounding on doors and shouting at each other, with the occaisional police officer in the parking lot interviewing someone, don't let Himself's father book your accommodations. It was clean, mostly, give it that, but the concept of a non-smoking room was foreign to this establishment. It didn't help when Himself pointed out that the reason I had trouble operating the deadbolt on the door was that it had been damaged when someone had kicked the door in. I missed being able to sleep. It's one thing for a business not to have a website these days, but when neither nor expedia nor any other travel website has a listing for it, worry.

Thursday we futzed with their wireless setup and went to the Mercer museum in Doylestown. The Mercer is a great place for tools that used to be in common use and have now been made obsolete. If you want to show your kids (or yourself) 18th and 19th century everyday artifacts, it's a good place to go. I liked it.

Friday, Himself and I went by ourselves to Center City Philadelphia after a brief visit with the folks in the morning. Had a good time walking around. We visited Rosie's Yarn Cellar and had a nice time (purchases were made and mailed home to save trucking it around all day and to the theatre that night). Later in the day we got to Sophie's Yarns, but since they're getting ready to move soon, stock was low. I still found enough to spend the courtesy $30. The two resident cats were friendly and helpful.

That night, after His folks joined us for supper, He and I went to the Philadelphia Ballet's Nutcracker. The kids in the cast danced very well, and the adults were good, too, but that's expected.

Saturday, after another brief visit with the folks, we drove home by way of New Hope and Lambertville. The Gazebo in New Hope was closed for the day, and I have recollections of Tomato Factory being in Lambertville when they were still around, but no idea and no references (didn't take my shop guide with me!) to know if there was anything else there to replace them. Traffic was much easier to take on the way back, with only alittle snow. We got back to His house at about 5, and immediately set in for a good evening's relaxing.

Happy New Year!

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