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.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Well, I just spent close to half an hour wrestling with images for this post. Not orientation this time, surprisingly - just uploading them. Photobucket, my usual standby, was doing some strange thing where it almost loaded my pictures, then wimped out at the last second claiming something to do with resizing errors. I attempted to upload the pictures to my Rav stash, thinking maybe I could snag them from there, but they just flat-out refused to upload there. Then I found out that I could upload them directly through Blogspot. This seems to have worked. We'll see.

The infinitely praiseworthy Bandit got home after a long day of work today and suffered himself to be immediately converted into a chauffeur bound for Amy's house then the LYS - Blazing Needles this time. This store, though perhaps a bit smaller than some of the others I've been to, is stuffed with a higher concentration of fantastic luxury yarn than I've ever seen elsewhere. They didn't have any Cascade lace to match my one lone skein, so I bought two skeins of Malabrigo lace in the Pearl colorway instead. Mmm... Malabrigo. I've bought some before, but I haven't ever knitted with it.

Amy also bought some pastel blue and purple lace yarn to make the Lacy Zig Zag Shawl, and when we got back to my place, we wound up our purchases and cast on.

This is the beginning of the Radiance shawl. It's a very easy cast on, and quite suitable for a beginner - five stitches CO, no garter tab, just increases. The Malabrigo is knitting up in a very, very lovely way. I'm probably going to use it all up on the Radiance, and attempt to see if I can knit a Passion Flowers with just the one skein of Cascade.

Wait - what's that you say? I was supposed to save the shawl casting-on for the Olympic opening ceremonies? Uh... look over there! Socks!

Monday, July 16, 2012


- The time-warping properties of this sock.

It took me one day to knit the body of this sock. It will probably take me another full day to knit the toe.

- My camera.

Right now I'm taking pictures of everything with my cell phone camera, and touching them up in Paint Shop Pro. There's something... odd that happens to pictures in this process.
1) I take the above picture with my toes pointing up.
2) Then I email it to myself. In the preview, the toes are pointing up.
3) But in the large view, the toes are pointing left.
4) I download and open up the file, and the toes point left.
5) I work some photomagic on it, including turning the picture 90 degrees so the toes point up.
6) Then I save and upload it, and the toes are pointing... right.
7) I proceed to use Photobucket's software to turn the picture 90 degrees back again so the toes are pointing up.
8) I save it. Then I look at it again. The toes are still pointing right.
9) I repeat step 7. Only then does the picture behave and stay the way it's supposed to.

Every single time. Every. Single. Time. I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of the camera charge cable that Bandit ordered so that I can just steal his camera and bypass all this fuss.

- Not having my yarn-weighing scale with me. I still have a good portion of one cake of Smooshy left. If I knew exactly what percent of the original skein it was, I could calculate whether it's enough to knit Pickle's socks out of, and that would free up the entire second cake for a Traveling Companion.

- My great and terrible yarn hunger.

I want more yarn. I want all the yarn. I want shimmery handpainted laceweight, I want crazy-colored self-striping sock yarn, I want snuggly alpaca sportweight, I want sturdy heathered DK, I want squishy rovinglike bulky yarn. I don't know why I want all the yarn. I shouldn't have all the yarn. I won't do anything with all the yarn. I just... want it.

Damn, I thought that was a phase that I could experience once, when I learned about stashes, and never have to go through again.

At least tomorrow there's another trip to the LYSes planned with Bandit and Amy, and I'll be able to squish all the yarn. Hopefully that'll take the edge off long enough for me to be sensible at the register.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Socks Saturday

Because around here, the socks just don't stop. (And judging by how little progress I've made on them, they might never stop.)

It's funny, though - I can take almost a full week just to knit a few paltry inches of cables, and then in one day I can knit the heel flap and turn the heel. Then when I'm on the stockinette foot portion, it's just a straight shot to the end. I suppose cables just really do require that much more mental energy, and once I'm on stockinette I can start knitting while doing other things.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ravellenic training, part 3.

(Note: this post is full of hotlinked images. I know this makes me a bad person. But I don't have enough readers to be stealing a non-negligible amount of bandwidth, or enough time to rehost everything myself.)

A couple of months ago, Tili knitted a Traveling Companion Shawl, and was pleased about the way that it actually wrapped around her and stayed on her shoulders. Being a rather short knitter myself, I can understand her appreciation of a shawl that does this - the common triangular shawl is either far too narrow to wrap around me and stay put, or trails far too long down my back and makes me appear even shorter than I already am. Maybe I'll knit a Traveling Companion for myself sometime (when I have a heavier weight yarn than my beloved laceweight... maybe I can knit Pickle's socks really short and use the leftover Smooshy?) but for now I'm just looking for shawls that, like it, will stay on my shoulders without falling too far down my back.

Pattern criteria

- Semicircular. The shape of the Traveling Companion shawl is not something that's easily searchable (square with a triangle cut out of it?) but I've knitted a Citron before and I know the semicircle works for not-falling-off purposes.

- Laceweight. Because I really, really love laceweight. In case you haven't noticed.

- A pattern that isn't one single lace motif repeated forever and ever. Because those are just kind of boring to knit, and boring to wear.

- (Optionally) Uses needle sizes I already have. This is going to be kind of hard, because I don't actually have very many long circulars in small needle sizes. But if a pattern pops up that happens to use the needles I already have, so much the better!

- (Optionally) Free. None of the patterns I found were, though. And this makes sense, because they're all gorgeous, and the designers deserve to be paid.

Contenders so far

Spiral Octagonal Shawl

Okay, this isn't an actual contender. I can't get the pattern for this, or the pattern for the modified lace edging. I can't even tell whether I could knit this. But I want to. And it's hypnotic.

Radiance Shawl - 900 yards, size 5

This, though. This is gorgeous. Simple, but still enough pattern changes to keep it interesting. A bit small for my Skaska lace, but if I buy another skein of Cascade, that should be enough. (And size 5 needles. I don't have any sort of size 5 needles.)

Call Me Cordelia - 800-900 yards, size 4

I love the name. (I know it comes from Anne of Green Gables, but I keep thinking about the Vorkosigan saga and it makes me happy.) I also like the center portion, though the edges are a little... overwrought for my taste. And I have a very long size 4 circ! Though it will probably have to return to use on Bandit's sweater fairly soon.

Vermont Shawl - 625 yards, size 6

The leaves. The leaves. They look like leaves! I don't have size 6 needles, 625 yards is not even close to an integer number of skeins for either of the lace yarns I have, and I won't ever wear a shawl with so much patterning on it, but look at the leaves!

Passion Flowers - 400-575 yards, size 4/5/6

This is a fair general template of what I was looking for in a shawl pattern - a relatively plain center, with more decorative edging. Though, perhaps not this decorative. I like that I can conceivably knit this with just the one skein of Cascade, though there might have to be some needle shenanigans going on, and it would turn out pretty small.

Vostok - 750-800 yards, size 5

I love the intricacy of this, the different patterns, but it looks... well, like a bridal shawl. Not like something I could wear out casually. Maybe it would look different in something not quite so starch-white, but still...

And finally, just for fun...

Nouveau Beaded Capelet - 1200 yards, size 3

I don't want to knit this so much as I want to have knitted this. It's enormous. It's impressive. It's absolutely stunning. It would make for a wonderful costume accessory. It's even the only thing that would take up anything nearly close to the entirety of the Skaska! But trying to knit it, graft it, and bead it during the Ravellenics... requires a woman much braver than I. (I'm pushing my boundaries with the socks. Those are my realistic boundaries. This is just a dream.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ravellenic training, part 2.

All right, let's talk about lace.

Actually, first let's talk about my stash.

I used to be the sort of hapless knitter who finds a pattern, drools over it for a few days, then finally goes to the LYS and buys yarn for it. And nothing else. No "oh this is just so pretty" yarn, no "I'm sure I'll find something to knit with it" yarn. In my defense, I was a poor college student. I'm now a poor graduate student and damned if I haven't learned that yarn is yummier than food. (Note: I am not actually starving myself for yarn money. My parents are kind enough to make sure I can both feed myself and indulge in a hobby or two.)

Anyway, I was able to do this in college because I was in the Greater Boston area, and there were excellent yarn stores (including "my" LYS, Mind's Eye Yarns) accessible by public transit. This is no longer the case. I now live out in the Rockies, where everything is big, and you need a car to go anywhere. And I have no car. So when I get to go to a yarn store, I make... pre-emptive purchases. I build up my emergency stash. I save up against winter.

I do this even if I've been on four yarn shopping trips in the past month.

Estes Park Wool Market

While my mother was visiting me early last month, I took advantage of her rental car and persuaded her that a day trip over the mountains to visit a yarn festival would be an excellent idea. And surprisingly, it was. My mother was enchanted by all the sheep and alpacas and angora rabbits, and I stared in awe at all the vendors and their lovely fiber products. I resisted the call of the laceweight, buying only a skein of gray Road to China Light (by The Fibre Company) for a hat for my mother. My mother retaliated by buying me on ounce of roving to play around with. So clearly I had to buy a drop spindle.

Then the next day, since I just couldn't get the thought of all the beautiful laceweights out of my mind, we stopped by again on our way back from the Rocky Mountain National Park, and I bought a skein of Skaska Designs merino/silk laceweight. 1350 yards of it. No reason, just to have it. It's glorious.

Okay, I just spent fifteen minutes squishing that skein. Moving on.

The Yarn Crawl

Then the ever-supportive Bandit took Amy and myself out on a yarn crawl, as part of my ongoing efforts to introduce Amy to a wider variety of yarn. We hit up three LYSes.

First, Kamille's - a small, rustic-looking cabin in the middle of Gardner Village, which (as far as I could tell) was a bustling crafts village. I was surprised not to see many familiar brands - none of the usual staples of an LYS like Cascade or Berroco. It's possible that the owner tries to stock as many local brands as possible. I didn't purchase anything here, but Amy bought a beautiful satin project bag for herself, then snuck in one for me as well.

Then off to Knittin' Pretty, which just opened in April. The store looked very... new. It had lovely decorations (including a pair of size 75 needles propped up under the register) and a few tastefully arranged shelves of yarn, and I couldn't help thinking to myself when I was inside that within a year, if the shop made it, the pretty pictures and metal wall ornaments would have to go and there would have to be something like twice the number of bookshelves crammed inside to hold enough yarn. I bought the Panda Silk that I used in the Fern Lace armwarmers here, as well as a skein of red yarn that I promptly handed over to Amy as revenge for the project bag. I want this adorable little store to make it, but I can't help being a bit cynical when I look at the state of its website, or its Ravelry directory entry and how little information it has, or the fact that I'm the only one listed as having stashed anything purchased there.

Finally, Unraveled Sheep, which is pretty much my image of the "stereotypical" LYS. Shelves upon shelves of all different kinds and colors and weights of yarn, walls of accessories, racks of needles... and a destashing sale going on in the back, in a little room behind the circle of regulars who were happily knitting and crocheting away. I picked up two skeins of Karabella Empire Silk - that's 180 yards of pure silk - for just $5. Then I wandered back into the front of the shop, and proceeded to collect a skein of navy blue Cascade Alpaca Lace, a 12" Addi circ in size 4 (to knit the sleeves on Bandit's sweater without having to switch DPNs every twenty stitches), and my very first needle sizer/stitch gauge. Amy didn't buy anything. I think she was too intimidated. Or overwhelmed by all the yarn fumes.

Down Cellar

Despite the fact that Mind's Eye Yarns got to my heart first, Down Cellar is still one of my favorite LYSes ever. It's cozy, chock-full of wonderful yarns of all different types, and staffed by the nicest and most helpful employees. It's also located not too far away from where my friend Pickle lives, and since he's (thankfully) open-minded about my hobbies, each of my recent visits to him have included a stop here.

In this case, that meant a nail-biting 45-minute drive trying to get there before the store closed at 3 PM. We made it with half an hour to browse, and plunged right into the sock yarns, from which I intended to knit him socks. Like I said before, I chose Dream in Color Smooshy for myself. He proceeded to vacillate over the yarn for approximately 29 minutes, during which I flagged down an employee and had her shove yarn at him instead. Finally he also decided on the Smooshy, and we paid for our purchases and then got kindly shooed out the door.

The House Party Yarn Trip

The yarn trip to Nancy O Boutique that I referred to in the last post. Quirk got three skeins of a colorful self-striping yarn, Tili bought 1500 yards of lavender laceweight (for under $11!), Kate bought yarn for socks, and Kay may or may not have bought a skein of lovely eggplant-purple Malabrigo. (I don't remember whether she did or not because I was concentrating too hard on keeping myself from scooping it up if she didn't buy it.)

I was good. I overcame my acquisitory tendencies, and managed to walk out with nothing new except a complimentary tape measure with the store name and website printed on it.

In conclusion

Of the yarn I've acquired in the past month, I'm itching to work with the gray Skaska lace and the navy Cascade Alpaca Lace the most. The Panda Silk has already been put to good use, and I'm fairly sure I can find something to do with the second skein. And of course the Dream In Color Smooshy is already slated for socks. The Karabella Empire Silk will be a bit of a challenge to find a project for - I bought it because it was too good a deal to pass up. But the laceweight, ah, the laceweight found its way into my hands because I knew I would love it, and I knew I would find a purpose for it.

I've been spending some time looking at lace shawls. I don't actually have any completed lace shawls for myself, only gifts and failed attempts. This might seem odd because shawls were the first non-rectangular projects that I knit, and when I joined Rav I immediately filled my faves and my queue with beautiful lace shawls. But I've realized I'm rather... particular about what I like in a shawl for myself, and so I've spent a morning and then some, "deep-searching" (as opposed to browsing) for the perfect shawl.

I'll make my decision tomorrow. Maybe.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Catching up.

So for the past week I've been at a house party in upstate New York. Between playing in a LARP, hanging out with friends, and generally getting quite a bit less sleep than I needed, I managed to find time to do a surprising amount of knitting-related things.

- I made the acquaintance of more knitters! There were some people at the party whom I already knew to be crafters, and discovered two more simply by having WIPs out. We had a few communal knitting sessions, and later on in the week five of us went out on an expedition to a local yarn store. The first place we went to had recently closed, so we ended up crossing the border into Connecticut to visit Nancy O Boutique. Keeping my already overstuffed luggage in mind, I successfully resisted the lure of all the gorgeous yarns they had in stock. My fellow knitters were not so fortunate.

- I finished the Fern Lace Armwarmers. Despite the fact that I knit each glove about two inches longer, I still ended up using less than 200 yards of yarn, which is far less than the 400 yards that the pattern calls for.

- Socks!

These are the first socks I've ever knitted, following the instructions in the book Getting Started Knitting Socks, by Ann Budd. They're for myself, since I wanted to get the learning curve out of the way on something I wasn't going to worry about gifting. And you know what? All the times that people say how "magical" turning a heel can be, or how much more warm and snuggly handknit socks are than machined socks? They're not exaggerations. I now want to knit socks for and convert absolutely everyone.

Which brings me back to the Ravellenic Games. Only seventeen days left to prepare before casting on, so I've started making my list in the sidebar.

I've had brown and white sock yarn (Classic Elite Yarns Alpaca Sox) picked out for Bandit for a long time, and just before the house party Pickle went to a yarn store with me for his own socks (Dream in Color Smooshy, same brand and colorway as mine). The socks for myself knitted up fairly quickly (well, once I got past the cables - stupid fiddly cables) but then again, my feet are small, and theirs are... not. So those will probably be the only socks on the list, in the interests of having enough time to knit anything else.

Next: what should I make to get my lace fix?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sunday, July 1, 2012


I told my mother about the silverfish and the roving. She suggested I pack the roving bag full of mothballs when I leave. I am kind of skeptical about this plan. Not because I think it won't kill potential silverfish - everything I'm seeing on the internet suggests it will - but because I still have at least two more plane trips in the next few months, and at some point security will start wondering about a girl who travels with so many "mothballs" stuffed surreptitiously into a bag of "wool".

Then we spent a nice afternoon knitting and crocheting together. My mother both knits and crochets. Or rather, she knows how to knit and crochet. She hasn't actually picked up a needle or a hook in something like fifteen or twenty years, except during my knitting infancy, when I twisted a stitch, or needed to bind off, or had to rip back. I knew from previous conversations that she prefers crocheting to knitting, so yesterday I handed her a hook and a half-skein of yarn and let her go at it.

Things I learned:

- Her claim of "crochet is so much faster!" is true. My mother, H hook flashing in and out at lightning speed through acrylic worsted, crocheted a dinner plate sized circle (and took a short nap) in the same amount of time that it took me to cast on and knit about two inches of the second Fern Lace armwarmer with splitty bamboo/silk fingering and size 2 DPNs. Any hint that this might not have been the most fair and impartial basis of comparison was dismissed out of hand.

- But she admits that my knitting looks "kind of nice". When pressed for more compliments details, she said, "Well, it looks... almost professional. All right?"

All right, Mother. I suppose I can live with that.

- My maternal grandmother doesn't know how to crochet. My mother learned to crochet from the neighborhood kids when she was young. This is shocking to me, because... well, I thought that my grandmother knew how to craft anything. I learned how to knit from her, and I've seen her sewing enough clothing that, well, I extrapolated a proficiency with crochet as well.

- My mother and both grandmothers (and possibly all Chinese knitters of that generation, though of course I just pointed out the dangers of extrapolating) knitted sweaters from the bottom up. Some of them were pieced together, some of them were in the round, but they were all bottom up. Then the sleeves were sewn in with thread. My mother swears that there are some where the armhole stitches were picked up in order to start in on the sleeves, but she could only find examples where the sleeves were sewn in. I informed her of the raglan shaping on the sweater I've started, and her reaction was, "...huh. That's an interesting way to do it."

- They knitted sweaters really freaking fast. I asked how long it took them to knit one, and she said, "Oh, not long, maybe a week."

A week.


"Well, we would sit around and talk and knit in the evenings, and at the end of an evening, you'd have finished a panel."

My Traveling Man sweater has been on the needles for close to half a year now.

I've got to kick this into gear, in a big way. Ravellenic Games 2012: Winterlime Takes the "Almost" out of "Almost Professional" or Dies Trying.