Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

 I can't really say I have any New Year's resolutions this year.  Instead, I am simply looking forward to what 2010 might bring.  Of course, the New Year is always a time for reflecting on the work I can do to be healthier, happier, and hopefully a little wiser.  And there is always room for improvement in those areas.  I just know that I'm already working on it, and that those changes tend to evolve as opposed to happening overnight.  In that vein, I hope to do more of what my family and I already started in 2009:  organize and simplify our daily lives, exercise more, eat out of the garden as much as possible, take care of each other, and give a little back to our extended community where and when we can do so.
   On the knitting front, the same is true.  I started this blog with the goal of finishing up items I'd already started.  It feels like slow going sometimes but I'm making progress.  On that note, I am happy to say that the with a few hours to go in 2009, I finished up the collar on my lace pullover so that I can check one more item off the list.  Here is a sneak preview:

Don't you just love that Malabrigo yarn?  More about that tomorrow......
For now, I just want to pass on my wishes for peace, health, and joy for you and yours in 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Relatives Came...

I'm borrowing the title from the wonderful children's book by Cynthia Rylant because it captures our Christmas so well.  Over the last week my mom, my siblings, and most of their families, gathered here from far and wide (almost the four corners of the country -  California, Oregon, Florida, and New Jersey).  My mom pointed out that it was the first time since 1982 that she had all her kids under one roof for Christmas.  Our enjoyment could have only been improved if even more family members could have been here.

Only a small amount of knitting took place:

My niece received a knit-it elephant kit which we worked on together.  At 7 years old, she's a quick study, and is already knitting, purling, and binding off. 
One of my nephews decided to get in on the act, and started on his own elephant in Lorna's Laces "flames" colorway:

He was a quick learner too.  I will probably finish his elephant for him, to save his parents from having to sew up the knit pieces.  The kit won a Top Toy Award from Creative Child Magazine.  When I'm done I'll let you know if I think the people who voted for the award ever tried to sew up all the itty bitty knit pieces into an elephant!

The rest of the week was a crazy fun-filled time.  My son is the oldest of the kids and had his hands full wrangling cousins and reading Christmas stories:

Meanwhile, the adults had time to act like kids.  The competition was stiff at the chess board, the card table, the bowling alley, and in the garage-newly-turned-rec-room, at the First Annual Family Pool Tournament.  The fun and games were squeezed in between all of the eating and drinking, of course!  We had what we like to refer to as "clustered treats".  For Christmas day, I made pomegranate martinis, and cooked my favorite holiday food, Seafood Gumbo.  On Christmas Eve, the line for cooked crab was 2 hours long!  It was an easy decision to buy the live crab, and cooking it ourselves turned into a family activity:

The pets were not to be left out of the celebration.  We had dogs in hats:
(They'll do anything for a bit of peanut butter.)

As well as a visiting cat:
(This guy found our cat door and made himself quite at home.  We practically had him named, and the adoption papers signed, until we found out that he belonged to new neighbors who were out of town.)

I said good-bye to the last of the guests, including the visiting cat, this afternoon.  I plan on getting back to knitting after an attempt to restore order around the house.  Prior to all of the excitement, I did seam my lace pullover, and made some progress on the Sunday Swing socks.  I didn't get to wear my new sweater on Christmas, but it is now washed and blocked and only waiting for the lace edging around the collar.  I hope I can share pics here soon.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Knitting Addiction...and update

My relatives begin arriving for the holidays on Tuesday.  I can't wait for everyone to arrive, and I'm so excited that we'll have little ones around this year who still believe in Santa Claus.  But I've been delaying the organizing and decorating until after the carpets were professionally cleaned.  (We thought it might be nice to get the dog and cat hair down to a light layer before our young nephews and niece arrive.)   So with only 3 days to go, the carpets are dry and I can put the furniture back and decorate the tree, etc.  So why is it that all I can think about is knitting?  (Hint:  The answer is one word which is spelled  a-d-d-i-c-t-i-o-n.)
My dictionary gives the following definition of "addict":
v. 1. To devote or give (oneself) habitually or compulsively.  2. To cause to become compulsively and physiologically dependent on a habit-forming substance.

Yep, that about sums up my relationship to yarn and knitting.  I went about 10 days without knitting while we were doing all of our Christmas shopping and baking.  I think that is the longest I've gone without needles in my hands in years.  And let me tell you, I was getting cranky!  Which is why I laughed out loud when I saw Yarn Harlot's blog post about gifts for knitter's including a t-shirt that says "I knit so I don't kill people".

I took that to heart, and decided to spare my family any more crankiness.  I paused in the preparations, and took some time to knit.  The result was that I finished the second sleeve of my lace pullover:

All I have left to do is sew the underarm seams, block it, and knit an edging around the collar.  Whoo-hoo!  Maybe I'll even be able to post about an FO before Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Scarves (and cookies) Are In The Mail!

Among all the Christmas preparations and packages, I managed to send off a box that had these inside:

These 3 scarves are on their way to warm the necks of college-bound foster youth through the Red Scarf Project.  I told you about the first two in a previous post.  After I wrote that post, Angie commented that she would cast on for a scarf too, and she followed through beautifully!  The dark blue one in front is her finished project.  It is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's One-Row Handspun Scarf, which Angie knit in Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran.  There are more photos and info. on her Ravelry project page.  It made me happy to have another scarf to send off.  Thanks Angie!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Who says you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear?

Or dye yarn with a Pig's Ear mushroom, as the case may be.....

The rest of the yarn I dyed this weekend is completely dry now.  Before I tell you more about it though, check out this contest over at Drop Stitch Knitter's blog.  She is offering some great prizes you can win by suggesting a pattern for her lace yarn.

Back to the dyed yarn...
I made a color wheel out of the skeins because I can't get over the range of colors that come just from working with mushrooms.  Starting with the yellow one at the bottom and working clockwise I'll list the yarn, mushroom and mordant used:
1) Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran,  Porcini (Boletus edulis), alum mordant
2) Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran,  Dyer's Polypore (Phaelus schweinitzii), iron mordant
3) Cascade 220,   Pig's Ear (Gomphus Clavatus), iron mordant
4) Angie's yarn which I think is alpaca, previously dyed with porcini, then overdyed with a Jack-O Lantern mushroom (Omphalotus Olivascens) and alum mordant
5) Cascade 220, Jack-O-Lantern mushroom (Omphalotus Olivascens) and alum mordant
6-8)  Rowan Pure Wool 4ply, Lobster Mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum), and iron mordant, but each skein was dyed successively in the same dye bath to achieve a range of color.

The most exciting thing to me here is that my favorite colors out this bunch (#4 & #5) were achieved with mushrooms my son and his friends found here in town.  Which (hopefully) means we can find some more and I can repeat the dyeing process.  I would love to knit a scarf or even a pair of socks in that lovely gray-lavender color.

A few hours after taking my yarn-color-wheel photo, I collected eggs from our newest batch of laying hens and couldn't resist taking a matching photo:

I am keeping my sanity (and entertaining myself) with these simple pleasures, in between rounds of holiday baking, rearranging the house to fit in 13 more people over the holidays, cleaning, writing lists, gift shopping, driving to school events, music lessons, etc.  I'm not sure if this means I am just really easily entertained, or if I've completely lost my sanity and I just don't know it yet! 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Mighty Hunter Strikes Again

See the set of teeth marks?  This was left near our bedroom doorway this morning.  It's yet another gift from Harpo, the wonder cat.  He often brings us a leaf, a piece of straw, or a twig.  Once, he brought in a rose branch, with a rose still on it.  Another time he brought in a twig from the cherry tree, with a cherry on it.  Sometimes I find branches, too big to fit through the cat door, laying just outside the door.  I can't know for certain that he intends to leave them as gifts, but that sure seems to be the case.

This last week has brought on the holiday preparations, but I'm managing to squeeze in some more yarn dyeing with wild mushrooms.  Here are a couple of preview pics of lobster mushrooms and some of the resulting yarn:


Now if only I could teach Harpo to bring us mushrooms instead of leaves!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Handknit Spotted In The Wild!

The boy on the left is my son's oldest friend.  They've been in school together since they were 2 yrs. old, even through a couple of moves.  Through sheer coincidence they were in the same Montessori preschool in Alburquerque.  Then, it just so happened that both our family and his moved to N. California where they ended up in the same preschool again! They've been close friends ever since.  A couple of years ago, his mom asked me to knit a toque for him. 

Of course, I said I'd be thrilled to knit him a toque!  And then I got on-line to find out what a "toque" was.  I quickly learned that "toque" is Canadian-speak for what I would call a beanie.  So I dug in my stash for some Rowan RYC Cashsoft DK, and my size 6 needles, and knit up this hat.  It is loosely based on the London Beanie pattern. 

I've seen him wearing it every day this week so I brought my camera to school today.  It warms my knitter's heart to see him wearing it even as he's growing out of it a bit.  I think I know what his next gift is going to be...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Sweater is Stalled but the Socks are Okay

Well, you've seen from my last few posts how easily I get distracted from sweater finishing.  It's no wonder I have all these UFO's.  The Lace Pullover is not forgotten but I've been working on it in fits ands starts.   I knit the first sleeve 2 weeks ago, but did not have the correct needles to get the lace cuff done.  I finally picked up some sz 4 DPN's and yesterday I finished the cuff and picked up stitches for the second sleeve.

I stayed up late to make some progress.  I was just thinking to myself how soon I would be wearing this sweater, when I noticed the color pooling in the second sleeve.  I just know that striped area will bug me later if I leave it but I couldn't face ripping it out just then.  Luckily, I have one more skein of the Malabrigo.  I am crossing my fingers that it matches the first sleeve better.
Meanwhile I am much happier with the sock I am working on for our mini-Sunday-Swing-knit-along:

I am really enjoying knitting with the Handmaiden Casbah.  I love the color and the yarn feels soft and squishy while I'm knitting, so I know I will like wearing the socks as well.  The plan was to knit the Sunday Swing sock pattern but with Grumperina's modifications.  Well, I am modifying the modifications by adding in some extra decreases which is why it looks puckered right now.  However, I like how the pattern looks when it is stretched out on my leg so I'm going to continue with the extra decreases.  I know Angie is much further along.  I'm going to have to ask her if I can post a photo of her socks too.  What do you say, Angie?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Few More Words About Red Scarf Project 2009

Yesterday, I was able to finish this for The Red Scarf Project:

This is Malabrigo worsted in Bergamota, but I think the color could have been called Pomegranate, don't you?  As I mentioned in my last post, this is Imagiknit's Shop Sample Pattern #32.  I used about 1 1/2 skeins of the Malabrigo on US10 needles to get a 68 in. long scarf (after blocking).  I am just squeaking by with the scarf guidelines on this one.  The scarves are supposed to be 5-8 inches wide, and 60-70 inches long.  The guidelines are pretty specific because the idea is to give away a good quality (and unisex) scarf that is big enough to wrap warmly and comfortably around someone's neck, but not too big and bulky to fit in the limited space available in the care package.
I wanted to send in a 2nd scarf, but not being sure I would finish another one by the December 15th deadline, I delved into my box of scarves which are already knit, but still new, as in never-been-worn, to come up with this one:

This is My So Called Scarf (Ravelry link) in Manos del Uruguay's Mulled Wine colorway.  It just so happens that this pattern is also from Imagiknit's great selection of shop patterns which are free with the appropriate yarn purchase.  Again, I feel like I am just squeaking by with the guidelines on this one, this time because of color.
So, I checked in with Norma via email.  I immediately got a very nice response from her with an a-okay for this specific scarf, and a more general description of the color guidelines.  Basically, you want to stay away from pinks and other pastels that might be considered babyish.  So, if you are checking your stash for the Red Scarf Project, it doesn't have to be red.  Any unisex color you think a college student would want to wear is just fine.
Maybe you would like to participate, but you don't have time to knit a scarf to be mailed before December 15th.  Well, at Norma's regular blog you can also enter to win great knitting-related prizes with a $5.00 donation.  If you do want to knit a scarf though, you can check both OFA's website, and Norma's Red Scarf Project Blog for a list of free patterns.  Happy knitting!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for so much! I truly feel like one of the luckiest people on the planet to have my friends and family, our pets, our health, the roof over our heads, and the food on our table.
As this is a knitting blog, I also want to say how especially grateful I am for the craft of knitting, for yarn, and last, but not least!!!, for my circle of knitting friends. They fill me with admiration, and keep me laughing...a damn fine combination to have in friends!
When I am filled with gratitude, I like to give back a little something. So, during this Thanksgiving week, I am devoting all my knitting time to work on a scarf for the Red Scarf Project 2009.
I started writing a note about the Red Scarf Project days ago, but never finished, so it didn't get posted.  Then I saw this blog entry by Norma, who has taken on the role of official cheerleader for the Project.  She writes that the scarf donations seem to be falling short of their goal this year, so I feel it is even more important to get the word out about this program.  It was created by the Orphan Foundation of America to include hand-knit scarves in Valentine's Day care packages for college bound foster youth. 
I am now halfway done with this:

It is one of the patterns that Imagiknit gives away with a yarn purchase at Stitches, hence it's elegant name: "Shop Sample Pattern #32".  I thought it would take a long time to knit, but on size 10 circular needles in Malabrigo, I am about half-way done after just a few days.  I just might have to knit more than one.
I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mushrooms to Dye For

I thought I would share what I've learned so far while using our recent mushroom haul in some yarn dyeing experiments. 
First, I was asked for more information about this hat:

I knit this in Cascade 220, which I dyed with 2 different kinds of mushrooms.  Both the pale yellow main color and the chartreuse stripes were created from Boletus edulis, or Porcini.  One can achieve lighter or darker colors from the same dyebath, depending on the ratio of mushrooms to fiber.  Or, as I did in this case, by dyeing a second batch of yarn in an "afterbath" or previously used dyebath.  The taupe-like shade was created with a Hydnum imbricatum, commonly known as a Hawkwing mushroom.  I've been searching unsuccessfully for more Hawkwings ever since. 

When I made this hat, all I knew was that you prepared a dyebath by cooking all or part of the mushrooms, and that you could add alum as a mordant.  I was operating under the assumption that any mordant was better than none, in terms of achieving a more saturated color. 
My husband is waiting for me to knit this Klaus pattern from Cocoknits.  I already have a number of skeins of yarn dyed from Porcini, so now I need a contrast color.  So, after our last mushroom hunting trip, I decided to be more methodical.  I read more about the mordanting and dyeing process in The Rainbow Beneath My Feet:  A Mushroom Dyer's Field Guide.  This book gives recipes for various mordants including alum, chrome, tin, copper, and iron.  However, I've used only alum and iron.  I have gathered from reading other sources that many people have stopped using chrome, tin and copper because of their toxicity. 
I made two different dyebaths by cooking one pot of Boletus edulis, and one pot of the single woody mushroom I found.  I had high hopes for this second mushroom as it is commonly know as the "Dye Polypore".  I used three different yarns, prepared three ways:  no mordant, alum mordant, and iron mordant. 
Here are my results: 
(This blog post is starting to feel like science homework.)

Porcini Dyebath:

Dye Polypore Dyebath:
These photos did not capture the colors accurately but you get the idea.  While none of these colors fall into my favorites category, I am so happy that I went to all this trouble.  Now I know that alum brings out yellows, and iron enhances greens.  And sometimes no mordant at all is even better.  I still have one more shot at getting my hands on some Hawkwings this Fall.  If it works out I will use that to dye more yarn for Klaus.  If not I will use more Porcini with iron mordant to aim for that olive green pictured above.

Soon, back to sweater finishing...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sunday Knits (FO - Jaywalker Socks)

I know it's Monday already.  But, I'm showing off the socks I finished on Sunday, so that I can cast on for my next pair of socks, "Sunday Swing".    And  I wanted to show you my new favorite pattern by Carol Sunday.

First, an FO!  I am the only morning person in my family.  I love being the first one up.  Especially on Sunday mornings when we don't have plans, I enjoy knitting while the house is still quiet.  I take my cup of coffee into the living room where the morning sun is coming in the window and pick up my current WIP.  Yesterday, I did just that and finally finished these:

Pattern:  Jaywalker Socks by Grumperina
Yarn: 2 skeins of Lorna's Lace Shepherd Sock in the Motherlode colorway

Now I have my US 1 needles free for the next pair of socks which will be Sunday Swing, by Krystel Nyberg, from the Summer 2009 Knitty.  I like how Grumperina's version of this pattern came out, and plan on using her modifications.  Angie and I are going to have our own mini-knit-along.  Does anyone else want to join in?

The new Twist Collective is up.  I've just had a chance to skim over the new patterns and so far my favorite is this sweater.  The pattern, by Carol Sunday of Sunday Knits, is written for yarn from her own line of yarns.  Each of her 4 yarns comes in the same 2 weights, so they are interchangeable in her patterns, and they come in a beautiful range of colors.  Last year I knit her Sunday Scarf.  She provided great customer service when I bought the kit from her, and her pattern was well written.  I have a feeling Kelmscott will be jumping ahead of some other items in my Ravelry queue.

I'm still working on yarn dyeing with the mushrooms.  More about that tomorrow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

So I Married a Mushroom Hunter

As I was typing yesterday's blog post, our neighborhood had a power outage.  I lost my internet connection, and by the time I got it back I forgot to add one more detail about our mushroom imbued week.
In case the photos didn't make it clear enough, we have been inundated.  I've cooked mushrooms for eating, and for preserving, every day since we returned from our 2 day foraging trip.  We've had mushroom burgers, mushroom sauce on pasta, mushrooms with eggs, and mushrooms in soup.  We have mushrooms on the counter, mushrooms in the refrigerator and freezer, and mushrooms drying in the dehydrator.
So, Thursday, my husband came with me to the grocery store to pick up other ingredients for a Wild Mushroom Soup recipe.  Halfway through the store visit, I look down in the cart, and what has my husband put in there?  A bag of mushrooms!
I was about to ask if anyone could possibly explain this to me.  But then, I figured it out.  I remembered how that one last skein of sock yarn just seemed to jump, all by itself, into my shopping bag at the Stitches convention.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mushroom Madness...

Bear with me, it does come back around to knitting...
Last weekend we visited our favorite Fall mushroom hunting area.  We made it in time for one of the lushest mushroom picking seasons we've ever experienced.  Usually we are happy to find a few here and there.  It is not uncommon for mushroom hunters to discuss in depth the formula for success for that particular season in hopes of predicting where to find more mushrooms.  For instance, what altitude they are growing at, whether they are in the grass, or under pine needles, or next to particular shrubs.  This year, when a new arrival asked for a hunting tip, our professional mushroom hunting friend simply replied, "Look down."  Everyone had some success:

I meant to write about our adventures sooner, only I've been too busy cooking mushrooms:

My husband has been hunting for Boletus Edulis, or Porcini, as they are called in Italian cooking, ever since his grandfather introduced him to the activity when he was 5 years old.  I have learned to recognize a few different edible mushroom species over the years, but the porcini is by far my favorite to cook and to eat.  On the other hand, our son has yet to acquire a taste for them, but still loves the hunt for these edible treasures, which means more for us!    And now I have an another, ulterior motive for encouraging this family activity...yarn dyeing!
First, synchronicity on the road trip:
Our usual route to our mushroom spot takes us through the Bay Area.  Not wanting to face that kind of Friday night traffic, my husband decided at the last minute to drive a different way.  This alternate route took us through the town of Ukiah, where we stopped for a meal.  To my surprise, this advertisement was on our dinner table:
It just so happened that a last-minute decision had put us there on Nov. 6th, and it just so happened that the nearest art gallery was the one with the "informative displays of mushroom dyes by local artist".  I spent as much time as I could soaking up the available information, and got to chat with a teacher, and board member, of the International Mushroom Dye Institute.  It was amazing to see the earthy tones of yellow, green, pink, orange, brown, and even purple, produced on wool and silk with mushrooms!  I hope to return sometime for a workshop. Meanwhile, I can't help but appreciate how life's little coincidences work out sometimes.
The next two days we were out with our baskets during most of the available daylight.  With the porcini being so plentiful, I felt free to take time to try to find and identify other mushrooms.  We use guide books and we are sure to never pick and eat any we can't positively identify.  Our favorite books include All the Rain Promises, and More..., and Mushrooms Demystified, both by David Arora; as well as The Rainbow Beneath My Feet, by Arlene Rainis Bessette. 
Parts of the porcini themselves are good for dyeing.  Here is a hat I knit out of last year's mushroom dyebaths: 

I like how the hat came out, and my husband is waiting for me to knit him a whole sweater out of porcini dyed yarn, but I've been hoping for some variety.  Last weekend I did find other mushrooms, but only one I thought was worth keeping for dye experiments. We are just about done handling the porcini that are still good to cook. Then I plan on making some dye baths with the leftovers, as well as one with a woody mushroom I found.  I hope to post photos of that process this weekend.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Little Stitch & Pitch = Lace Pullover Progress

  Aside from news, a nature program now and then, and my son's addiction to The Simpsons, we've never been big television viewers.  So we've never opted to pay for cable reception.  We're happy to wait for shows we want to watch to come out on Netflix (or Hulu, as I discovered when I had the flu).  Ever since the switch to digital we have reception to one channel.  When we have visitors, it seems like what they miss most in our virtually TV-free zone is sports.  Now, no offense to sports fans, but most sports on TV make my eyes glaze over.  But the one sport I do like to watch is baseball.   Maybe it's just because my son plays baseball, and I've learned enough about the game to enjoy it.  But also, watching baseball does seem to lend itself to knitting.  I hope to make it to an official Stitch N' Pitch game someday.  Anyway, a happy coincidence is that the one channel we can watch broadcasted the one sport I like to watch this week.  I wasn't really rooting for either the Phillies or the Yankees.  But, what a wonderful distraction it was, after saying good-bye to Geisel, to hang out on the couch with the family, watching all those talented players, while finishing up the lace portion of my silky merino pullover.  It also helped that these two cuddled with us while we watched:

Harpo, who actually likes watching television.

Sister, who is just in it for the cuddling.

I tried on the pullover before binding off.  It is currently both a little too snug and a little too short for my liking.  But according to my gauge swatch, it should fit after the process of washing and blocking stretches out the fabric.  I sure hope that gauge swatch wasn't lying to me. 
One of my favorite knitting tricks is to go up a needle size or two, in order to bind off loosely, yet evenly.  I knit the stockinette portion on a US 6, and the lace portion on a US 4.  After trying a size 7 on the first few stitches, I ended up using a size 8 to bind off.  Still not perfect, but like I said, I am counting on the magic of blocking:

I'm hoping to work on the sleeves this weekend, and move on to the next project soon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Good-bye to a Friend

Yesterday we said good-bye to this guy: 

This is where Geisel could often be found at mealtimes. He would magically appear in the kitchen whenever we were having chicken or fish for dinner, even before we started cooking.  He knew he wouldn't get any by getting on the counter.  So he would sit politely on a barstool, just like a person, waiting for a tidbit.
Over 15 years ago, at the Oregon Humane Society, he climbed onto my shoulder and didn't let go.  He was great company ever since.  Luckily, he was pretty happy, healthy, and spry, up until last week when he became ill.  It was a gift, in a way, to know in the last few days that his time was limited.  We were able to put in some quality time with him, giving him a scratch on the chin while he enjoyed the warmth of the heater, and letting him have a few more hours hanging out in the sun in the yard.  We will miss him.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Life is too short. Why wait to eat the Cadbury chocolate?

Unless you want to include it in the yarn photo for your blog, of course.  If you take some pics of the goodies you got in the mail, and then eat the chocolate right before you realize that the photos didn't come out very well, then you just have wrappers left for the next photo shoot:

Anyways, here is an example of why I love Ravelry....
A couple of weeks ago, a package from Rowan arrived in the mail.  It was the annual free gift of a knitting pattern and yarn for subscribers.  This year it includes 6 balls of Rowan Pure Wool 4ply, along with a scarf and a shawl pattern.  I was happy to get anything, but mine was Avocado, a shade of green that I like but which doesn't look good on me.  I checked the "Rowan Love" group on Ravelry, and lo and behold, there was a discussion thread already started up by knitters who wanted to swap their gift yarn for other colors.  I posted my green yarn and quickly heard back from knitter/blogger Heather, who had received the color Clay.   We agreed to swap and I sent off the green yarn.  And today, a package of yarn, complete with some Cadbury chocolates and a nice note from Heather, was in my mailbox.  What a treat!  I am so excited because I like the yarn in the grey color, but it is also light enough to overdye if I decide I want another color later.  Thank you so much Heather! 

Friday, October 23, 2009

Photo Heavy Blog Entry Ahead:

I've been feeling the need for a little break from the daily routine.  Taking a couple of days in the Fall to do something out of the ordinary has become a habit in itself.  After a summer of hosting visitors, working almost non-stop in the garden, driving to baseball practices and tournaments, and family vacations that still include cooking, dishes, laundry, etc., I can start to feel worn out by the time I've gotten my family back into the school-year routine.  In the past the cure for that has usually been a weekend backpacking trip or a knitting retreat with a friend.
This year I hadn't planned anything and by October I realized how much those interludes mean to me in terms of providing an attitude adjustment.  I felt like I was just going through the motions of those same activities I usually value.  So, when my husband offered to cover for me on the home front for a couple of days, I packed and left before he could change his mind.  It felt selfish, but I went and took advantage of his offer, knowing I would come back refreshed, with my mom-battery recharged.
I spent a couple of days in Ashland, Oregon, home of the fabulous Webster's.  So, of course some stash enhancement was involved:

The pattern booklets are Modern Romance and volume 5 of the Signature Style series by Teva Durham, both from Tahki Stacy Charles.  I'm on the Tahki Stacy Charles email list and I've been lusting after a number of their patterns.  The Night & Day cardigan on the front cover is my favorite.  Here is a detail of the back of the cardigan:

Here is another pretty one called Red, Red Wine (I am always drawn to knits in this color):

The second booklet has only one pattern I might make for myself.  I usually wouldn't buy a whole booklet just for one pattern, but I've been wanting to knit something with cables and something in a natural wool color, so when I saw this pattern online it seemed perfect:

I was also excited to see that the Cascade Ecological Wool is about the right gauge for this Branching Cables sweater.  If I substituted this yarn the entire sweater could be made for less than $30.00.  I resisted buying the yarn though, as I am still trying to finish old projects and destash before Stitches West 2010.

However, there was one yarn purchase I didn't even try to resist.  The 2 skeins in the first photo are Bluefaced Leicester yarn from the Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds line.  The yarn is soft, and springy, and with just enough scent of lanolin that you couldn't forget where the yarn originates.  I actually left Webster's the first day with only one of the skeins in my shopping bag.  Making those "souvenir" yarn purchases is something I swore off of when I cleaned up my stash, but I couldn't help myself.  I solved that the next day, by buying the second skein which gave me enough yardage to make this hat:

It is the Montera Hat by Pam Allen, from the same pattern booklet as the Lace Pullover I'm currently working on.  I've admired versions of it by other kntters, but hadn't really thought to make it for myself as I find the alpaca yarn called for in the pattern quite itchy.  But, the Bluefaced Leicester yarn is the right weight and soft enough for me.
Speaking of my Lace Pullover, my getaway also gave me time to crank through the stockinette part of the sweater and get started on the lace border.  The lace is pretty simple, but I think it is pretty enough that I might reuse it in a scarf sometime:

The lace knitting, combined with all the work that was waiting for me when I got home, has put the brakes on my knitting progress since I got back.  But I still think I am on track to get through my list before the next Stitches.  My visit to Ashland felt like a preview of the knitting getaway Stitches will provide.  However, if that was just the preview, the real thing next February will be even more fun, because it will be shared with friends.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I won a contest...

....simply by trying to support another knitting blogger.  Some of you may have seen the contest to send a blogger to Antarctica.  When I heard about it I went and voted for Eva.  She had the creative idea to knit a pair of socks (hopefully during her trip to Antarctica), and give them away to one of the people who voted for her.  She did not win the trip.  (A man from Portugal received 16,154 votes!)  What I didn't know was that Eva is still going to knit the socks.  And a couple of days ago I heard from her that I won the knit socks!  She chose the yarn and let me choose the color.  So in a few months I will be the happy recipient of brand new handknit socks made out of Socks that Rock in the colorway OmaDesala.  I've heard great things about Socks that Rock yarn but I've never had the chance to try it out.  It is super generous of Eva to go ahead and knit the socks.  I'm so excited.  Thank you Eva!

Meanwhile I am cruising along on the reincarnated sweater out of my silky merino.  I will post pics when I am a little further along.  Hope you all are having a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Notes from the frog pond

Today the T-shirt Sweater went from this:

To this:

And finally back to this:

Isn't it much more beautiful now?  I have never ripped out an entire project before.  I feel like it was almost as big as an accomplishment as if I had finished knitting something.
Last week, as planned, I took out the seams and blocked the pieces.  I took the trouble to block it because I really was leaning toward reknitting the sleeve caps and putting it back together.  However, seeing it blocked clinched the decision to completely frog it.  I just wasn't happy with the gauge of the knitted fabric.
It seemed like a dreaded chore but once I got going I was excited.  It was like getting a gift of brand new yarn! 

And I think I found a better project match for the Malabrigo silky merino.  Previously, I had only been looking at Ravelry to find a new project.  But when I really decided to rip out the sweater, I delved into my own pattern bookshelf as well.  Happily, I found this:

It is the Neck Down Lace Pullover by Cecily Glowik, from the Classic Elite pattern booklet 9091 Alpaca Stories.  I've knit a gauge swatch and I think I have found a much happier second life for the silky merino.  This whole process has been vexing at times, and like anything else that fits that description, I can now look back on it and appreciate the learning process it provided.  I really mean it when I say that I appreciate the lessons learned.  Still I think I will now go light a candle and say a small prayer to the knitting gods and goddesses that I can get through one project without quite as much of a learning curve.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How to knit a last-minute vest for afghans for Afghans

1.  Catch the flu.
2.  Receive an email from afghans for Afghans that a last-minute youth clothing drive is on.
3.  Discover that you can knit, and watch old episodes of Lost on the Hulu website when your flu symptoms are keeping you up at night.
4.  Dig into your stash for some bulky wool that knits up quickly, and peruse The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns for an easy and seamless sweater pattern.
5.  Start knitting from the bottom up on the Seamless Yoke Sweater.
6. Reach the armholes and discover, even though you knit a gauge swatch and you're following the pattern for your yarn amount, you will not have enough yarn for the sleeves.
7.  Alter the plan.  Knit a vest!

Finally, write about it on your blog so that your friends will know that if they also want to whip up something quickly, you will send it for them along with the vest.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

T-shirt Sweater - Fix it or Frog it?

Happily, I now have a couple of finishing successes under my knitting/blogging belt, because here is where I tell you about one that not only went wrong, but one which I just kept knitting, even though it wasn't working.  I said I would clear this list of items from my queue one way or another before Stitches West.  Did I say I reserve the right to frog them as a way of clearing them from the list?

It started the previous summer, when I came home from a visit to Portland, Oregon with some beautiful Malabrigo Silky Merino.  Like the rest of the Malabrigo yarns it is soft and lovely, and I wanted to knit something simple with it so the rich color, and not a stitch pattern, would be the focus.  I thought I had the perfect pattern, as I had been wanting to make this T-Shirt Sweater(scroll down).  I loved this when I saw it, not so much the color and variegation of the yarn, but the style of the sweater.  It is just like a lot of my clothes that I throw on to do errands, etc.  I thought how nice it would be for an everyday kind of item to be made out of beautiful yarn so I would get more use and appreciation out of it.

I didn't have time to work on it right away, but along came a week during the winter, when for one reason or another I had some free time.  I must have been desperate to knit some plain ole' stockinette and watch some movies or something.  And there I was with a pattern I wanted to knit, and some yarn I wanted to knit.  I don't know what else I was thinking, probably not much thinking at all was going on in fact.  Unless it was just wishful thinking, because I cast on, and kept knitting, the entire sweater, without ever realizing that I was using DK weight yarn for a pattern that called for worsted weight yarn. 

The error of my ways did not stop there.  I followed the directions to knit the body of the sweater, and then I followed the directions to knit the sleeves.  Then, when I was knitting the sleeve caps, I decided, on the fly, to veer from the directions, and make the shoulders of the sweater a little roomier by lengthening the sleeve caps.  I didn't give a second thought to the fact that the sleeve caps have to match the armholes of the body of the sweater.  I didn't realize what I had done until I was almost done sewing the sweater together and figured out that the pieces weren't fitting together!  So, literally, with about 2% of the work on the sweater left to go, I realized that it probably wasn't a good idea from the start.

I am going easy on myself.  Even though it was a pretty big screw-up, at the time it was the first sweater pattern with set-in sleeves I had followed.  I am happy to be working through this list of items that need to be finished, and, even if it's a little late, learning the lessons they offer. 

What now?  The T-shirt Sweater is still sitting exactly in the state I left it, almost done but not working out.
I hadn't even blocked it before I started the seams.  So I think the first step, whether it is to be fixed or ripped out, is to undo the seams.  Then I will block part of it to make a final decision about whether or not the fabric, which was created with DK yarn, makes the sweater worth the trouble of fixing the sleeves.  If I like the fabric once it is washed and blocked, I will rip out the sleeve caps and reknit them.  If not, I will frog the whole thing and find something else to make with the yarn.

I kind of hope I can just fix it, but if not, I'll need motivation via other potential patterns for the silky merino.  Here are some items I found on Ravelry, for which knitters substituted silky merino in the pattern, also which either are free or which I already own:
   Shetland Triangle by Evelyn A. Clark (I liked knitting this before, but would I wear it?)
   Slinky Ribs by Wendy Bernard (I'm not sure I have enough for the long-sleeves, which I prefer, but I have been wanting to practice and learn on one of her top-down, set-in sleeves patterns.)
   Woodland Shawl by Nikol Lohr
   February Lady Sweater by Panela Wynne (Here's one that is even in the same color as my yarn.)
   Diminishing Rib Cardigan by Andrea Pomerantz

Any opinions out there?  Fix it or frog it?  If frogged, what should I knit next?