Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Stress knits: scrap mitts.

I am a stress knitter. Actually, I'm a chronic stress procrastinator, and knitting is one of the best ways I know to procrastinate. (Others include reading Ravelry forums, pursuing achievements in Warcraft, and the newst addition, watching old episodes of my favorite web series.)

The past few days have been particularly stressful for me, and I've indulged liberally in all my favorite procrastination methods, sometimes at the same time. The colorwork cuffs have been fun to work on, especially because each row is interesting enough to capture my attention but also short enough that I can believably tell myself that just one more row really won't hurt. However, the other day I noticed that at the bottom of the second cuff I had skipped an entire subsection of cabling. Disheartened, I frogged back to before the mistake and slowly started knitting it up again. But it wasn't the same. I needed a new distraction.

Enter... the scrap mitts. I've needed nice warm winter gloves for a while. I have so much yarn left over from knitting my mother's hat. And I've had two miniskeins of pure angora sitting around for a while. Why not whip up some nice simple ribbed gloves for myself, to soak up the anxious minutes? I envisioned elegant angora cuffs giving way to a plainer dark gray mitt, all done in a snug k4p2 rib. Such a simple, quick knit. Could this go wrong?

Well... yes.

It looks awful.

Really awful.

I think I can state definitively that this angora is not to be used for gloves. At all. It's not elegant; it's so furry that my arm actually looks like a bear's paw. And it sheds like mad. I know I had complaints about the Road to China Light shedding, but this angora is really in another league. There is black fuzz all over my laptop keyboard and behind my glasses and up my nose. I wouldn't be surprised if this yarn is a legitimate respiratory hazard.

I would be tempted to rip back and start all over again, maybe with a much smaller cuff, switching to the Road to China Light at the wrist... but I've kept such detailed notes on the process already, and I'd have to redo the row counts all over again.

Plus, as ugly as it is, the glove is insanely warm.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Socks Saturday: Redemption?

I've started reknitting Amy's sock, and it's going fairly well so far.

I'm up to the heel flap. I love the way that the eye of partridge heel looks with this yarn - because of the short color changes, there are all of these individual stitches that sort of visually pop out of this mottled background.

The reknitted sock is huge. Casting on another sixteen inches added something like an inch and a half to the circumference. This had better be big enough. In fact, I'm starting to wonder what I'll do if it's too big.

Oh well. It'll be Amy's problem then.

Friday, November 30, 2012


Remember the surprise yarn purchase that I couldn't show you before?

Well, I can show you now.

It's my very first colorwork project! I'm knitting the Alliance Lion Mitts, which are basically the perfect culmination of my knitting and Warcraft obsessions. And, quite possibly, the only project that could have impelled me to push my knitting boundaries so far and so quickly.

See, I think there are really two types of learning, when you learn how to knit. One is learning techniques - how to cast on and bind off, how to make various stitches and increases and decreases, how to cable and do colorwork and bead your knitting and so on. The other is learning structure - the general pattern that a hat or sock or sweater should take, the way that certain techniques will alter your fabric, the way that the construction of something fits together and makes sense. Learning techniques allows you to follow patterns. Learning structure allows you to understand why they're written the way they are, and how to alter them to fit the needs of your own knitting.

I was originally going to write that colorwork is the first new thing that I've learned in a long time. But this isn't really true, you see. The last major technique I learned was probably cabling, a couple of years ago. But there has been a steady stream of smaller things I've been learning too. The shape (and shaping) of a sock. The structure of a stitch, and how to diagnose and fix unruly ones.

So while learning this new technique is very exciting, and is something that I can easily show off to other people and myself as a milestone, a big step of progress, it's really my knowledge of structure that gives me the quiet confidence that really, I'm becoming quite a decent knitter. No matter how many false starts and curse words I have to expend over other projects.

In conclusion, look at my pretty floats!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

FO: Carina

I finished my mother's hat last week, on the plane ride home for Thanksgiving. (Have I mentioned how much more enjoyable travel has become since I've taken up knitting? It's really quite wonderful.) According to my Rav projects page, it took seven days to knit this project, but many of those days were spent doing other things. I'd estimate a real total of around six hours, false starts and all.

I presented the hat to my mother almost as soon as I arrived. She seemed to love it, though she was a little dubious about how a hat with "so many holes in it" could keep her head warm! She plans to sew a cloth lining for the inside.

Shown unblocked, because I am exceptionally bad at remembering to block things. I assume that after blocking it would stop looking so much like a beanie and more like a proper slouch hat.

Thoughts on the yarn and pattern: the pattern is clear and well-written (and well-charted), but I do wonder whether it was worth paying a whole $5 for - both Radiance and the Traveling Man sweater, which don't cost very much more, give you pages upon pages of instructions and progress charts, while Carina basically hands you a page and a half, most of which consists of the two charts. Maybe the price is why such an otherwise lovely and straightforward pattern has so few projects listed? I did deviate from the pattern, following the lead of one of the other knitters who had made this, by substituting ssks for k2togs directly following a YO. I think this change helps open up the lace pattern a little better.

The yarn I used, Road to China Light by The Fibre Company, is an absolute dream to work with. It's amazingly soft ("buttery soft", even) and held up to repeated froggings quite well, though it started getting pretty limp after around the fifth reknitting. However, it did have a tendency to shed long hairs while being handled - whether from the alpaca, the camel or the cashmere I can't tell.

(Photos by my father with his fancy DSLR camera. I may have to get him to photograph more of my knitting, since he actually has practice with this sort of thing.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sad Sock Saturday

This is what ten hours of progress on a sock looks like:

I'm knitting a (somewhat modified) pair of Spring Forward socks for Amy, to match the Hand Springs I gave her earlier this summer. Saying that it's been difficult is putting it a bit lightly.

My first attempt was with the recommended CO of 66 stitches, though I was somewhat skeptical. I quickly verified that this was way too small. For my second attempt, I decided to knit a patterned front and a plain stockinette back to accommodate a CO of 72 stitches. I knit several rows into the heel flap before I realized I was knitting the flap pattern wrong. My heel turn was off center. My gusset decreases were mysteriously uneven. And finally, when I presented the half-finished sock to Amy, to let her try it on... it was still too small. It wouldn't fit over her heel.

I horrified her by frogging the whole thing right then and there.

This time I have a full 88 stitches cast on, and I intend the third time to be the charm. It's past time to reclaim my knitting mojo.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The state of things.

I think that I might be having one of those periods where nothing is coming out right. Whether it's mistakes in counting, or yarn that's refusing to cooperate, or mismatches between the yarn and pattern, or missing supplies... nothing is really working.

Today I frogged what little I had worked so far of my mother's hat, and started in on a new pattern, Carina. It's beautiful and elegant, and written specifically for this yarn.

I love the pattern of the lace inset, though it doesn't look like much just yet.

The knitting is the most even and neat that I've managed for weeks, and the yarn is a dream to work with. Which means, of course, that I would knit nearly twenty-five rows before I noticed that the hat is too small to actually wear.

Sigh. Time to frog it all back again...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Winter is coming

The temperature here dropped within a week from the mid-60s to around 30 degrees F. We got our first sticking-snow yesterday. I've been wearing Radiance wrapped twice around my neck as a kind of shawl-scarf, and it's kept me surprisingly warm, considering its laciness. (I am entirely happy to attribute this to the magical powers of Malabrigo lace. Mmm... Malabrigo.) Once again, I highly recommend this pattern to anyone who enjoys or wants to learn to knit lace.

I have surprisingly little in the way of other winter accessories knit up for myself, though. My bamboo fingerless gloves are hardly warm enough for real winter wear, and my only hat is a store-bought one. I've been meaning to knit myself a nice winter hat for around two years, now, and just haven't gotten around to it yet.

First, though, I should do something about my mother's hat. I think it's been made pretty clear that I am not cut out to be a hat designer. Soon I'll be frogging what little I have so far, and looking for a suitable (existing!) pattern for this yarn. Then I'll try to see if I can finish the hat before I go home for Thanksgiving.

Oh! I forgot to mention before, I seem to have acquired a new knitting group! A few girls from my department meet every other weekend to knit, chat, have delicious tea and home-baked scones and cookies, and listen to awesome nerdy things. (The first time it was the first episode of Firefly; yesterday it was a few episodes of a BBC radio comedy called Cabin Pressure.) It's such a nice feeling to be among people I know I have more than one thing in common with, and I'm very much looking forward to our next session after Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


It's been an exciting month and a half.

Maybe "hectic" is a better word here. There have been three main things keeping me from posting:

1. Real-life stuff. In the past month and a half I've had my laptop crap out on me twice, my bank account hijacked, various online accounts hacked into, my showerhead blow up, and more - not to mention regular academic busy-ness.

2. Mists of Pandaria. The latest World of Warcraft expansion came out on September 25th, and I've been playing... quite a lot. (Let's not go into exactly how much.)

3. I haven't finished anything. The previous two items have combined to ensure that my WIPs crawled along at a snail's pace.

Until now.

You see that ruffle all along the edge? From my scheme to use up all of the yarn? Yeah, that ruffle is a big reason why this has taken as long as it did. Don't do what I did and add a ruffle by inserting an extra row of kfbs. The picot bind-off took literally two weeks to complete.

Updates should come more frequently now, as I've moved on to slightly saner projects.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


It's a cold, gray, rainy day.

Perfect time to take a long, hot shower, then curl up with an audiobook and some knitting.

Today's the day for Radiance. Even the name is apt. I've been "just finishing up" Radiance for a while now. I've actually knit past where the pattern would have me bind off, because I'd like to use up all the laceweight. I'm terrible at thinking up little things to knit that would use up half-skein remainders, and besides, I like largish shawls. So I'm putting on some extra rows at the end, and carefully weighing my remaining yarn after each row to watch for when I should start casting off.

I love my yarn scale. It was a fairly inexpensive postage/kitchen scale, and it's been invaluable for determining how much yardage I have left in partially used skeins. You take a look at the original yardage and weight listed for one skein, weigh how much you have left, do a little division and there you go. No more guessing.

Currently I'm using an average of one gram of yarn per row, and anticipating using three grams for the picot bind-off. Considering how much yarn I have left... these extra few rows may turn out to be quite a lot. I may have to do an increase row, to make a ruffle with more stitches per row. Good thing my audiobook is 43 hours long.

Monday, September 10, 2012


I have a budget now.

Not just a yarn budget, though there's that. I have a spreadsheet with my estimated monthly total expenses all totted up - rent, utilities, food, various subscriptions - and I try to hold myself to my spending limits. Especially in terms of food. I haven't really settled back down into my academic-year routine in my own apartment yet, so instead of getting groceries and cooking for myself I'm still eating out much of the time.

Today my spreadsheet looks pretty sad, despite the fact that technically I'm still on track for the month. Today was the day I paid the internet and electric bills, ordered flowers to be delivered for my mother's birthday, went out to my favorite brunch place... and figured out the bus route to the nearest LYS, Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins.

Now, I have $50 of wiggle room each month. At first I called it my yarn budget. Then it became my "yarn and books" budget. After that, when I started eyeing video games, it expanded to become "entertainment". Earlier this morning, when I realized there was no convenient place to register the cost of my mother's birthday flowers, it became "miscellaneous".

$50 worth of yarn a month is quite a lot, I would have thought. Downright self-indulgent, actually. But when the yarn has to make room within that $50 to share budget space with books, games, and flower deliveries where the shipping and handling fees cost nearly as much as the blooms themselves?

Knowing this, I wasn't going to buy anything today. No. Not a thing. I was just going to look around and touch yarn. But everything was so lovely inside, and there was so much to choose from, and the longer I stayed the more I thought it would be rude to leave - especially after taking a bus specifically to get here - without buying anything, and besides, I had a new project idea...

Well. I am now very, very slightly over my yarn miscellaneous budget for the month. And what did I buy, you ask?

I can't show you. It's a surprise.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sock Toes Saturday

Well, for the second time in about a week, my computer has revolted. The first time it was a pretty clear case of malware; this time I fear something might have gone wrong with the hard drive itself. After a system restore, the computer is mostly functional. Mostly.

You know, I'd call myself a computer-addicted person without hesitation, but it really isn't until my computer goes wrong that I feel the full force of it. Having your computer betray me feels almost like having my left arm suddenly refuse to cooperate. The one good thing about all the diagnostics and diskchecking is that it's the perfect time to knit. You can't do anything else that would take you away from the computer, and you can't simply sit and stare at the computer until you scream at it. Knitting is my enforced meditation. As long as I don't need to take a look at the next line in the pattern that I can't access.

This is why Radiance is still lingering with a few rows left until completion (although I may try to extend the last ruffle until I use up all my remaining yarn). I've cast on for my mother's hat instead. I'm trying out Judy's Magic Cast-On for the first time, as practice for future toe-up socks, and I'd just like to say that I have a few quibbles about the description.

"It's an easy to learn, fast method that starts at the very end of the toe and works the first time, every time."

Yes, it's easy to learn. Yes, it's pretty fast. Yes, of course, it starts at the end of the toe. But does it work the first time and every time?

That was my second attempt. While I was trying to knit the first row with the top two DPNs, the bottom two merrily unraveled the stitches they were holding. Yes, that's very much within the realm of user error, as was my first attempt, in which I wrapped the yarn so tightly I simply could not knit into the stitches. My third attempt also ended in failure due to circular cables tangling together. But when I finally got it together on my fourth try?

Beautiful and seamless.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

One at a time.

After this weekend's frogfest, I'm actually finding it quite relaxing to have only one WIP to worry about. Radiance is the only thing on the needles right now, and and it's almost done - just ten (very long) rows to go! It looks like I'll have quite a bit of the second cake of Malabrigo lace left over, which makes me wonder whether I should tack on an extra row or two to the shawl before casting off.

Next up? Well, my mother's birthday is later this month, so I've started swatching for the hat I plan to knit for her.

The yarn is Road To China Light by The Fiber Company, and it's a gorgeously soft blend of alpaca, silk, camel and cashmere. In the background is the black 100% angora yarn that I want to work in to the headband. For this hat I'm not following a pattern, just going to cut my teeth on Judy's Magic Cast-On at the top and increase on my way down. I'm trying out a couple different cable widths in the swatch, and all of them come out very nicely - soft, but still defined.

And after that? Probably socks.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Unsocks Saturday.

Well, I was going to be all devious, and show you the swatch I knitted for Amy's socks so as to present some sock-related material without having to work on Pickle's socks. I started the swatch on size 1s, and immediately fell in love with it - it was just such a smooth knit. The almost silklike texture of the yarn, the bright and beautiful color changes, the velvety smoothness of my HiyaHiyas... I'm not a big believer in brand loyalty when it comes to needles, but everything I've knit on these particular needles has just flown by.

Anyway, I was doing very well, just churning along, and then I decided to try out the lace motif I was thinking of incorporating into the socks, and see if it worked well with the colors. (The Commelina that's still sitting unfrogged is my personal proof that sometimes, a beautiful colorway and a beautiful pattern equal something very unfortunate.) So I knit a lace row, and discovered that I had miscounted my total number of stitches, making the lace pattern off-center. This vexed me, but it was only a handful of stitches to tink. I fixed it, finished my row, knit a plain row, and knit another lace row. This time I discovered, near the end of the row, that I had once again miscentered the lace motif, this time in the opposite direction.

I frogged the swatch, because honestly, what kind of person makes two knitting mistakes in a gauge swatch?

I did try to take gauge before frogging the swatch entirely. It turns out that lace patterns will manipulate and shift the positions of stitches many rows under where the actual lace starts. More unraveling, to try to fix that, resulted in a swatch far too small to measure anything on. I gave up and put it all away again. That's what comes of trying to attempt a new project even though I clearly stated I would do something else (my mother's hat) first.

So then I pulled out Pickle's sock again, and looked at it.

I thought of how much of it I had already knit, how much time and planning had gone into it already. I thought about the fact that it's a personalized birthday gift. I thought of how much I already had to apologize for - starting it so late, knitting so slowly on it, piling so much abuse on it.

Then I frogged it.

Never mind all the work already in it, and never mind the fact that I was getting perfect gauge on size 2s. I wasn't going to keep doing something I hated and then try to give it away as a gift. I was going to knit these socks on smaller needles (they were awfully thin and gappy), with more interesting patterning, and I was going to like it.

I also frogged the Commelina while I was at it.

And then I had a four-and-a-half-hour-long lesson about why you should never let frogged yarn spaghetti up like that.

Friday, August 31, 2012

This post has been mentally composed for a while now.

Not too long ago I would have been astounded that a mere two days of class a week can take so much out of someone. Today I didn't even want to go anywhere, just spend some time in my nice cool apartment and spend some quiet time with my knitting.

Of course I still haven't figured out what that means I should do.

I could: start knitting Jo's Pride.
But first: I'd have to finish up Radiance, to free up the size 5 circs.

I could: start knitting Amy's socks.
But first: I'd have to learn how to start a toe-up sock using a crochet chain. This technique I had promised to practice first by knitting a topdown hat for my mother.

I could: knit a self-designed sweater.
But first: I'd have to design it. Sigh.

I could: knit more on Pickle's socks.
But first: I'd have to... reconcile myself to knitting more on Pickle's socks.

Wait. Tomorrow is Saturday, isn't it? Dang.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


It's almost midnight here and I'm staring and exhausted. I've been awake for over sixteen hours and these are some of the things I've done:

- Attended my first three classes of the semester. This is a great victory for me, because up until yesterday I was unsure whether I'd be able to register for classes at all. Still, it turns out that being continuously on campus from around 8:45 AM to around 5 PM is... not recommended, especially not without a good water bottle.
- Dealt with patch 5.0.4. For those of you who don't play Warcraft, it means (in the most basic terms) that the rules of the world are changing in preparation for the next big chapter in the world story. Which is nice and exciting in theory, but grumpymaking to deal with after a day on campus. My character's abilities and playstyle are completely different now, and don't even get me started on the changes to the achievement system.
- Tried to design a sweater.

Okay, that might have been overly ambitious. Then again... maybe not. I've done it before, after all. About a year and a half ago, I knit my very first sweater. It was of my own design, with no guidelines other than a vague mental concept of how the construction should go, a clumsy little gauge swatch, and a cable pattern. I finished this sweater before I'd ever finished my first shawl, or learned how to knit socks, or even wound a cake of yarn on a ball winder.

It didn't turn out too badly. A little on the small side, the cables got lost in the fuzziness of the alpaca, and you can tell that it's not meant to be worn with a bulky skirt.

Now I have more experience. But I also have greater ambitions. That first sweater was knit bottom-up and entirely in the round with no seaming; the armholes are basically just slits, constructed in the same way that buttonholes are. Now I want to make something complicated, something exquisite. Something that requires shaping, and lace panels, and maybe ruffles, and probably a whole lot of seaming and finishing. Something that would be worthy of publishing and sharing with the wider knitting world, which means something that translates well into a variety of sizes. Something...

...something too complicated for me to think about right now. Maybe tomorrow. Good night, all.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Itchy fingers.

I'm starting to resent this sock. Really. It took me around 10 days to knit a pair of my own socks. It took 14 days to knit Bandit's pair. It's now my eleventh day on this project, and this sock stubbornly refuses to cooperate with me. I've taken it on four flights. Today I even took it to the DMV. Nothing.

It even refuses to be photographed nicely.

And I feel pretty terrible because this is a birthday gift for my best friend, and shouldn't that mean that I should be more diligent about putting effort into it, not to mention refraining from griping about it somewhere he's bound to read (eventually)? Instead I'm just daydreaming about more interesting projects. Amy's lace socks, for instance - I plan to knit those toe-up two at a time, with a short-row heel instead of a heel flap, and definitely making sure there's a pattern over the top of the foot so that I won't have to endure the same interminable slog of miles and miles of stockinette. Or Jo's Pride, which I still haven't cast on yet, because Radiance is still on the size 5 circs. Or a cardigan for myself, for which I've already bought yarn and a cute button and just have to find the perfect pattern. Heck, I could even spend a merry hour or two frogging and rewinding the really old, hibernating WIPs.

My fingers are so itchy for something new that I can't decide what, if anything, is really intrinsically gripping me the most. Maybe it's just sock burnout reasserting itself in full force, or maybe I just feel better if I have several projects going at once. Or maybe it's just this sock.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Packing up.

Apparently the correct way to convince Bandit to buy an airtight yarn storage container is to show him the previous blog post.

"Okay, we'll go out today and get you a storage container. A great big one."
"No, I just need a little one."
"A great big one!"
"Noooo, little one."
"A great big one, that you'll have to fill up with more yarn."

I did end up picking up more yarn at the fiber festival. The festival was smaller than I'd expected (much, much smaller than the Estes Park Wool Market) and most of the booths, to Amy's profound disappointment, seemed to be geared more towards spinners than knitters. (It only took the sight of a batt with sparkles in it to persuade her to learn how to spin too, someday.) However, I did purchase a shawl pin, a removable stitch marker, and these lovelies:

The caked sock yarn is destined to become socks for Amy, to match the fingerless gloves she plans to knit from the skein she bought (same colorway but with sparkles). The laceweight I have no plans for yet. Bandit found it first and ambushed me with it. Alpaca/silk/cashmere laceweight - this man has picked up an uncanny amount regarding my yarn preferences. The yarn was just too soft and beautiful to pass up, but it'll go into the longer-term stash storage here.

Afterwards we purchased a container. I'm glad Bandit didn't let me get the smaller container I wanted, because it turns out my yarn takes up more space than I thought:

Once I took out the yarn I plan to bring back with me, and added the unfinished sweater:

The stash is now packed away nice and snug. I still need to pack up the rest of my things before I fly out this afternoon. I'm putting it off and trying hard not to think about it, as if it would prolong my stay here.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Socks Saturday: A copout.

The past few days have been very busy. I've been on four flights in the space of a week, and while I usually relish plane time as free knitting time, this time I've just been... exhausted. As such, Pickle's sock (yes, still the first one) has just recently had its heel turned. In lieu of taking a picture, I encourage you to envision last week's picture, only with a heel on it.

Instead, here's a picture of what has been giving me no small amount of worry:

That, my friends, is a suitcase full of yarn and paraphernalia. This is part of the yarn living at Bandit's apartment. (There's also his unfinished sweater, which lives in its own drawer and is probably staying here for a while.) I'm clearly going to have to bring at least some of this yarn back with me. But I also have clothes here that need to come back in that suitcase. And I only have the one suitcase. This means... some of the yarn will have to stay here.

How do you make a decision like this? How do you tell a perfectly innocent skein of cashmere or merino, "Sorry, you're lovely but I just can't see myself knitting you up in the next few months"? How do you tell the laceweight you once loved, "We had something special, but these days I just have to focus on putting my sock knitting first"? How can you relegate yarn to being "the other stash"?

More importantly... how do I convince Bandit to buy an airtight storage container to store the yarn I leave behind? And should I refrain from promptly buying even more yarn (to keep the rest of the stash company!) at the sheep and wool festival we're going to this afternoon?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Socks Saturday: From Michigan

I got quite a bit of cuff knit while I was traveling, as usual, but haven't gotten much knit since then. I'm visiting friends in Michigan, and there have been so many activities that the only chance I've gotten to knit was on the car ride to the grocery store. I took a picture of the sock while out having coffee with one of them. (Excuse the cell phone picture.)

The flight attendant, on seeing my knitting and asking what it was, remarked that she'd once seen a woman on a flight knitting a hat out of "yak hair". The fact that there are actually qiviut knitters out in the wild, knitting in public, and that I am but two degrees of separation from one, makes me so happy.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Quick update.

I woke up at 7:30 AM to go to the airport for the second time in two days, and I packed too much and my flight is delayed and typing this on my tiny laggy iPhone screen takes forever, but none of this matters because I have YARN. Honestly, knitting is the absolute best way to deal with all the travel I do. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to show you socks(-in-progress)!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A time for birthdays.

August, among my friends, seems to be the time for birthdays. Not exactly the optimal time to gift knitted items, but, well... given my knitting speed (and gift-giving speed - Bandit just got his birthday present, a month late) I'm rather lucky to have friends who will overlook a little tardiness. (Pickle, I promise I will start your socks soon. Right after I recover from sock burnout.)

I wasn't exactly expecting to finish Luna's birthday present early, therefore, but since I'm leaving town the day before her birthday party, I figured I should I pick it up after the Ravellenics. After so many days of tightly-knit alpaca on tiny needles, picking up a mohair lace project on size 8s felt like knitting with telephone poles. Fast telephone poles. I finished the cowl in one day, and cast off. Then the castoff was too tight, so I spent another day carefully picking it out - very, very difficult to do with mohair, but not technically impossible - and casting off again using larger needles and a different technique.

In the midst of all this, Bandit and I took Amy to Blazing Needles, where she attempted to sneakily purchase the surprise gift that several people had pooled money for while Bandit distracted me. I caught on to what they were doing almost immediately. In the interests of preserving my dignity, I will state that I was the very paragon of patience, and did not, in any way, shape, or form, proceed to whine, plead, and make puppydog eyes at people until they allowed me to open my present before my actual birthday. I also certainly did not purchase a skein of pure silk yarn in a lovely molten-gold colorway and attempt to bribe Amy with it. (Bandit purchased it. I tried to stop him. That man's credit-card-sneaking skills have increased greatly.)

When everyone was gathered together at Amy's house for dinner, I opened my present to find...

Two skeins of emerald-green Malabrigo worsted, a skein of Madeleine Tosh fingering yarn, a skein of Shibui mohair, a Clover row counter and a pair of Puppy Snips. I think my mission to introduce Amy to high-end yarns has succeeded, and I'm proud of her most excellent taste.

Everyone who was a part of this - again, thank you so very much. I will enjoy working with these yarns and tools for a long time to come, possibly even to turn them into lovingly handcrafted items for your own birthdays. (They may be a little late. I'll try to get better about that.)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Socks Saturday: Done!

As of 10:30 MDT last night, I am done with these socks.

Well, except for washing and blocking and weaving in ends. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Vital Stats
(I got to wondering, while I was knitting these, just how much time and stitchery went into them to make them seem this interminable.)

Sock Size: 12EEEE
Knitting Timespan: 15 days
Knitting Speed: Around 28 st/min on stockinette, around 24 st/min for ribbing. This meant that most rounds of 96 st took me 5 minutes at full speed.
Number of Stitches: ...Oh boy. Let's do a little math.
Cast-on: 96 st
Cuff Garter Rib (30 rows): 2880
Cuff Plain Rib (25 rows): 2400
Heel Flap (50 rows of 48 st): 2400
Heel Turn: 275 (I won't detail what kind of mental contortions I went through to produce this number.)
Gusset: 3458 (ditto.)
Foot (60 rows): 5760
Toe: 1464
...leaving 24 stitches (12 on each needle) to Kitchener, which I'm not sure how to count. Let's call it 24. This results in a total of 18757 stitches.

Per sock.

Since I did indeed knit two socks, that means I've knit 37514 stitches over the past fifteen days. A rough estimate of time and speed based on this would suggest that I spent (at least!) 1875 minutes, or 31 and a quarter hours on these socks. (Probably much, much more, since I don't spend very much time at my full knitting speed.)

And now that these socks are finally done and duly entered for Ravellenic consideration, I'm free to pick up the Radiance shawl again, or work on Luna's birthday present, or -

Or something even larger and more unwieldy than what I just finished, yes -

Fine. I surrender.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ravellenics, Day 14: Home stretch.

All through this weekend, I grumbled through knitting the heel flap on the second sock and turning the heel, calculating how much time it would take to finish these socks. Then all of a sudden...

I can see the finish line.

The second sock (the one on the right) is still twenty rows behind the first one, but it's getting pretty darned close. And my remaining yarn, though reduced to a flimsy gutted-out shell that has started to spit up little tangles of yarn barf, just might pull through and turn out to be enough for toes. Even if it's not, though, I don't care. I have spare contrast yarn, and the important thing is that I'll be done soon.

I'm so close to finishing that I can practically taste it. (It tastes like alpaca.)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Knitting in the mountains.

For some time now, I've been asking Bandit if we could take a day trip into the mountains, and yesterday we finally got the chance.

Now, I just want to make one thing clear. Having spent my childhood in North Dakota and then grown up on the Eastern seaboard, for most of my life I regarded mountains as just another kind of geographical feature, much like a lake or an ocean. I knew that you can drive a while out to see a lake or an ocean, and it's kind of pretty, and your parents take entirely too many pictures for what the sight actually warrants. If you, like me, have never lived anywhere with mountains, you might assume that this is what mountains are like too. It's not. I learned this when I moved out west for grad school. Mountains... impose. They're always there, grand and majestic and comforting. You don't need to drive out to see them. They're a part of your everyday life. (You can also use them to quickly and easily determine the cardinal directions, which is an unspeakable blessing if you've grown up with parents who seem to have compasses in their heads. Compasses calibrated slightly differently.)

You learn to love your mountains, love them dearly. These are my mountains, and I'm very proud of them. The mountains where Bandit used to live, in my opinion, are not quite so impressive. The mountains where he lives now, I initially wrote off as not all that impressive either, but after living here for some time (rather closer to the mountain range than where that picture was taken) I had to admit that they were quite something.

Mountains make for excellent day trips. Everything changes so quickly as you drive into passes and under sheer cliff faces and over shallow sunrippling streams. We drove through Big Cottonwood Canyon, and even though I'd brought my knitting, I barely even touched it for half an hour as I just stared out and around at the mountains. We parked at Solitude, which in the winter is a ski resort and in the summer is... apparently the site of a premiere culinary event and fundraiser to help fight hunger. Though we acknowledged it was a fine cause, the tickets were a bit pricey for us and our impromptu day trip. So we rode the chairlift up to the top of the peak instead.

Chairlifts are fun. It was very quiet as we swayed our gentle way up, and Bandit told me stories about all the ski trips he'd ever been on where someone he knew dropped a pole or got hit from behind by a chair. We lamented the fact that neither of us had thought to bring a camera more advanced than a smartphone, and I wondered aloud whether I could get some sort of achievement for knitting on a chairlift. He dissuaded me by pointing out the heartbreak that would inevitably result if I dropped my yarn.

The view from the top was magnificent. It was difficult to try to capture it with a phone picture, especially as the sun was so bright that the screen was barely visible.

We discovered several hiking trails, and picked one that promised to lead us towards a lake.

It was a short but surprisingly challenging hike, especially when we got to a slope that must have been at least at a 30-degree incline. We rested often and drank plenty of water. When we finally got to the lake, it was a little disappointing - just a little green pond, with a patch of long grasses growing at the center. But we rested for a long time there and watched the groundhogs and chipmunks. We were there so long that a chipmunk actually jumped onto Bandit's leg. (He got an achievement for this, I'm sure.)

The chairlift ride down was just as relaxing, if somewhat less tranquil because of the sun, which had come out in full force (I have a sunburn on one shoulder now), and the distant megaphone din of the auction that was going on in the event tents below. We got some ice cream and ate it slowly, cooling down, then drove home talking about how this had been a good idea and how, perhaps, in the winter we'd come back and go skiing. I managed to get a little bit of knitting done at last.

Then we got home and played Warcraft 3.

(Since we're both huge Blizzard dorks fans, there were plenty of the obligatory "IN THE MOUNTAINS!" shoutouts throughout the day. It's mandatory. Trust me.)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Socks Saturday: Ravellenics Day 9

Today is the precise midpoint of the Ravellenics (and the Olympics). It'd be fair to say that I've started getting a more accurate idea of how much I can actually knit over seventeen days. Two pairs of socks, a shawl, and various WIPs to be picked up or taken apart? Turns out that's just a tad ambitious, even for me.

What I do think I can get done in seventeen days, though:

I'm starting to get worried about running out of yarn to finish these, so I placed the first sock on my spare size 1s (the bamboo needles. I haven't knitted anything with them yet because I fear they'll snap. Heck, I've already started bending my steel 1s just from regular use). Then I dug out the other end of the yarn from the center of the cake, and cast on the second sock. I figure I'll knit up to the same point, then see how much of the cake I have left and whether I'll need to find some different yarn for contrasting toes.

I've never actually knit from the center of a cake before. Only ever from the outside. I'm not sure I like this - the yarn tends to overtwist much faster when knitting from the center, and I'm constantly worried that the cake will just collapse in on itself as I keep knitting. As it is, the gutted cake is currently just a thick-squished shell of a cylinder, with a hollow in the center large enough for me to fit my wrist through.

Looking back on these socks, though, it's still hard to envision just how much time I've actually invested into them. I still have the mental estimation of "oh, they're socks, they're small, just a few hours". Maybe I should time my knitting sometime.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ravellenics, Day 6

Really? That can't be right. It's been six days already?

Well, here's what I have to show for myself so far...

...Yeah. Maybe I knit a little bit slower than I think. (Maybe I should restrain my ambitions to just finishing the two pairs of socks. Or maybe just one pair. Or maybe just this one sock.)

Granted, I haven't just been sitting and knitting for five days straight, either. There were social obligations and get-togethers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday that, while all knitting-friendly, all distracted me with the novelty of such concepts as social interaction. (I've never heard of it before, have you?) Then on Monday, I got hit by cramps like a truck and couldn't even decide whether to pick up my knitting for half a day. Yesterday was better. Today, now, today I have tea, a new audiobook, and several hours of time to myself. We'll see if I can get to the toe by the time Bandit gets home.

Meanwhile, Radiance has been languishing near the 50% mark.

It feels like miles of lace.

And I'm trying to resist the lure of all the materials readied and set aside for Jo's Pride.

I have the tiniest crochet hook for the beading. Honestly, can you even see the hook?

I don't actually have to wait to finish Radiance to cast on Jo's Pride, you know. I could cast it on on size 4s. Or 6s. I would have enough extra yarn to make up the difference in sizing. I could cast it on right now...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Socks... Sunday?

Whoa. Okay, I seem to have lost a day somewhere in there.

Here's a quick look at what's been eating the past day two days - the first of Bandit's socks.

This is my second cast-on for this particular sock, after two gauge swatches. Unable to get an exact 8 stitches per inch, I cast on at first with size 3s, which gave me approximately 8.5 spi. However, seing how loose the resulting fabric was, and reading some warnings on Rav that the yarn was prone to wearing through unless knit much tighter, I ripped out approximately two inches of cuff and started again on 1s, making a significantly denser fabric. To compensate, I increased the number of cast-on stitches from 76 to 96. This caused quite a bit of uneasiness regarding fit, and quite a bit of chasing Bandit around, brandishing needles at him. After he assured me that yes, the sock would go on over his heel, I started in on trying to figure out how much cuff he preferred, versus how much more cuff I could possibly bear to knit.

Now I'm off to hold up a measuring tape to the back of his heel. Again.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tomorrow it begins.

Tomorrow at 2 PM MDT, I can cast on for my Ravellenic projects.

I am... woefully underprepared.

I've been eagerly awaiting the beads and the tiny crochet hook that I ordered for the Jo's Pride knit-along. (I've also been eagerly awaiting the ear dragon that Bandit ordered me, but that's slightly less relevant.) In the meantime, to free up my size 5 circs, I've been knitting as fast as I can on Radiance without abjectly neglecting my social life and relationship. According to the handy pattern percentages, I'm barely half done.

So... I don't think I'll be able to start in on the knit-along anytime soon. Maybe not even after the Ravellenics are over.

Instead, tomorrow I begin socks - easy, portable, materials all prepared. Although even those are not exactly all ready to go yet. I've been meaning to get a gauge swatch of the Alpaca Sox. Yup, still haven't done that either.

I have discovered, though, a tiny miracle that will help keep me knitting longer. You see, when I knit, I use my eyes and hands, while my mind starts to wander. I can concentrate solely on knitting for a while - even a long while, if it's lace - but eventually, after an hour or three, I get bored. To really do marathon knitting, I need something that engages my mind, but not my eyes or hands. Sadly, this rules out many of my other favorite activities. I can't knit and play video games. I can't knit and chat online. And for a long time, I've lamented my inability to knit and read, simply because I need my hands to keep a book open and turn the pages.

However, I can knit and listen to an audiobook.

This changes everything.

My local library allows 4 audiobooks checked out at once, for 7-day or 14-day terms. They only have a few titles from my favorite authors. My friends Tony and Rebecca have graciously allowed me use of their library account, from a library with a much, much more substantial selection and a checkout limit of 20. I'm three days in to one of my favorite books, The Name of the Wind, and my daily knitting rate has increased considerably as I can concentrate for longer and longer stretches before I get bored.

I haven't watched TV regularly since I was fourteen. I'm ashamed to say I have only the most tenuous grasp of how to operate one now. So I won't be watching the Olympics during most of my Ravellenic work; it would just tear my eyes away from my knitting anyway. Instead, you'll find me by my laptop, or with my mp3 player. I'll be revisiting all my favorite books.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oh dear.

I've gotten sucked into a KAL that starts on Friday.

Jo's Pride Hooded Shawl was simply too beautiful to pass by. Maybe under normal circumstances I would have faved it and left it for a few months while I thought it over. But somehow, knowing that other people were going to be knitting it together... well, it made me buy the pattern, just to take a look at it. And then I started thinking about color combinations. And now I have four skeins of Cascade fingering sitting in the living room, 600 seed beads in the mail, a designated recipient for the FO, and an urgent need to finish up Radiance as fast as I can in order to free up my size 5 circs.

Radiance, by the way, is barely 35% finished. I'm starting to worry that I've seriously underestimated the amount of time and work that each FO requires.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Socks Saturday: Preparation

Setting everything up to cast on socks at 2 PM MDT on Friday. Pictured: All my DPNs in the awesome needle holder I bought from Lena Brown Designs. The piece of scratch paper on which I noted down relevant sizes and dimensions. The cake and a half of Smooshy, and the cake of Alpaca Sox.

Not pictured: The eye-opening sock knitting book; the realization that at 8:30 PM pictures are hard to take with natural light only.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


The camera charge cable finally got here, and yesterday I might have gone just a little bit crazy taking pictures to update my Rav stash and projects.

That's how much progress I had made on Radiance at the beginning of yesterday. (I cast on late enough on Tuesday night that I couldn't really get going and zip through all those short beginning rows.) Also pictured: the tin of tea I picked up at Blazing Needles (Bandit has no hot water kettle at his apartment. This will be rectified.) and the row counter that Kay graciously gave me when she learned I didn't have one. Up until now I've been using scratch paper and tally marks to keep track of rows and note down pattern alterations, especially for things like socks, gloves and sleeves where I want to make sure that the second item matches the first. For a shawl, though, the row counter is strictly superior. Easier to read, easier to update, and easier to keep with my project without worrying about missing or exploding pens.

Then this morning I read up a little on photography, especially photographing yarn.

This was what I thought was the best out of five shots. I'm still having a little trouble determining what a "good picture" looks like, but at least I can endeavor to avoid taking awful ones.

The Radiance pattern, by the way? Still loving it. The designer has really gone out of her way to make it clear, easy to read, and accessible to beginnners. There are no charts, but there are three different versions of the written pattern - one version interspersed with pictures of the FO, one printer-friendly version with no pictures, and one line-by line checklist with stitch counts on the increase rows and helpful percentage tallies. I would highly recommend this for anyone's first lace shawl project. (Hi Amy!)

Also... the Malabrigo. Mmm, Malabrigo.