Friday, March 25, 2011

No knitting today, just musings

Ryan's coworker Ryan just inherited his fourth cat.  I haven't met her yet, but her name is Freya, and she just lost a litter of kittens shortly after giving birth to them.  The other Ryan has a ringtone that sounds like a kitten mewling, and my Ryan says that when Ryan got a text message last night, Freya curled up on the armchair and started making the saddest little noises.  My Ryan teared up, and so did I when he told me the story.

Babies shouldn't die.

Yarn Spree Afterglow

As promised, but a little late, we can now recount the blessings of getting out of the house and buying yarn.

My friend Nathan was gracious enough go with me and drive.  He isn't a knitter but he chatted with the yarn store owner, scoped out the cute guy cutting fabric at Jo-Ann's, and bought supplies to make a pocket for his iPad case to hold all of his accessories.  It strikes me as a considerable oversight that the people who designed the case didn't think to include pockets - where else are you supposed to keep your cables, headphones, adapters, etc?  On the other hand, Nathan got to experience that indescribable thrill of having made something useful with his own two hands.  It almost carried him through the disappointment that the local mall's Hot Topic had closed.  Almost.

The yarn store was a cute little shop tucked up just outside of the university campus, and I got to fawn over the fibers and blanch at the prices.  All of my yarn to this point has always been under $6 per skein, the humble offerings of large chain retailers.  Red Heart, Caron, and Lion Brand are the best friends of the non-picky Midwestern knitter on a college student's budget, though the inner circle also admits the college student's girlfriends' mothers who knit, are eager for a knitting companion, and are generous with their sock yarn.  I may as well note at this digression that I'm not longer a college student, just a twenty-something newlywed with a gas-draining commute to a just-decently-over-minimum-wage job.  However, I am genuinely easy-going in my yarn preferences for most projects - I grew up wearing crocheted acrylic hats and cuddling under crocheted acrylic afghans.  My mom only just starting branching out into cotton.

One of these days I will chronicle for you the work of my mother and my dad's mother, but I'm supposed to be talking about a yarn shop today.

I tend to treat yarn shops like a combination petting-zoo/museum; I go to look and feel but I don't take anything home with me except cheap kitsch from the gift shop.  Today I was determined not to leave without sock yarn.  Did you know there are places charging $30 for a skein of sock yarn?  I'm sure they make lovely socks, but I'm looking for something for my husband, who walks and sweats right through SHOES eventually.  I settled on Berroco Sox.

25% nylon, machine washable.  I love my husband, but there is no way that I'm handwashing his socks.  Air-drying is the most I will do.

I also nabbed the new Stitch and Bitch book by Debbie Stoller.  I've acquired the previous four through Christmases and Chanukahs past, but I was too embarrassed to say the title to my in-laws last year when they did their annual wishlists.  Profanity aside, I love these books.  I love the clear directions and the quirky writing, and I love most of the patterns.  I've already earmarked three for future projects, and if my usual habits are anything to go by, that future will be soon, current WIPs be darned.

In the meantime . . .

Hobby Lobby turned out to be a bust, as they had nothing that sang out to me.  I was intrigued by the bamboo blends by Stitch Nation, which looked like it would have a nice drape and was silky soft, but for once in my life I didn't want a bright solid color.

So it was off to Jo-Ann's, where Nathan, major Wheel of Fortune fan that he is, had an amusing meeting with Vanna's Choice.  The first color he looked for?  White, naturally.  He recounted the movie "Goddess of Love" to me while I debated between the various offerings of Wool-Ease.

Final choice:

Forest Green Heather narrowly won out over Oxford Grey, thanks to Nathan's vote.  The choice was validated when Ryan complimented the color entirely unprompted this morning.  If both the gay friend and the husband agree, it's a winner.  The pattern is Miss Marple's Shawl from the same Piecework issue that I referenced in the last post.  It's taken from Weldon's Practical Needlework Shawls in Knitting and Crochet, an English pattern from 1930.  Goaded by the magazine and my love of British mysteries, I checked out Agatha Christie's Sleeping Murder.  Currently Miss Marple is working on a light blue baby jacket and nineteen-year-old case of alleged strangulation.  I picture the baby jacket as Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket, ignoring the fact that it was designed in 1968 while the book was written in the 40's.  On the other hand, Agatha Christie did meet Doctor Who, so who's to say that Miss Marple can't have picked up some future knitting patterns on the sly?  It's what Dumbledore would do.

You're going to notice that these digressions are very commonplace in my writing.  Back to the pattern - it calls for a wool/silk blend on size US 6 needles, but if I know anything about vintage patterns it's that they were designed for people who were much smaller than I am, and if I know anything about wool/silk blends, it's that they are pricey.  Ergo, a nice wool/acrylic blend on size US 10 needles.  I tend to knit tightly, so hopefully the extra-large needles will allow for more drape and softness.  I didn't bother with a gauge swatch, because it's a SHAWL - if it's too big it will be a blanket, if it's too small I will give it to my mom, but I'm guessing around 4 stitches to the inch instead of the prescribed 6.

The funky-looking things hanging off the end of my needle are row counters, believe it or not.

I couldn't find my little Susan Bates dial, and Ben Franklin's won't have more in until next week, so I trolled the Internet for something to use in the meantime.  They work like an abacus, with the teal beads marking the tens column and the orange bead marking the ones.  I also made a third one with green beads - this pattern has 671 rows all told, so I'm going to need a hundreds column as well.  There's a handy tutorial describing how to make them here, though it suggests 12 beads to a counter.  Perhaps the writer is Elvish?  Later I found this neat - and fashionable - design.  It's gorgeous, but I don't have the findings and I prefer something that hangs off of my needle instead of me.  On the other hand, once the shawl reaches a certain width, I'll probably have to take the counters off anyway.  An even simpler counter can be found here, reminiscent of an Irish penal rosary (fascinating backstory on those).  Here's one more design I considered, but ultimately forwent as I don't have plastic-coated wire lying around.

While at Jo-Ann's I also bought this nifty reusable bag.  It is now the new mobile home of all my current craftiness.

Please excuse the glare - I am new to this photography thing.

I started (and restarted) a hat last night, made from some random, strangely patterned yarn that my mom gave me a few years ago:

It came to me without a ball band, so I'm at a loss as to what it is, besides clearly acrylic, and clearly dyed by insane people.  The red, magenta, and pink aren't so bad, but then there are the black and white bars completely out of nowhere.  There's nothing like a hat for showing off crazy, and a hat is a good project when you only have one skein of yarn.  This one I'm basing on the companion hat to Teva Durham's Corrugated Asymmetrical Sweater from Loop-d-Loop, with some math to make it work for worsted-weight yarn instead of bulky.  Teva loves her some bulky yarn (and crazy, but brilliant patterns, worn by tiny pretentious, unsmiling models with bizarre hairstyles).  This is another book of patterns that I adore, despite the crazy, and despite none of them being sized for a plus-sized, busty gal like myself.  I have resigned myself to hats and a doll-sized version of her Lace-Leaf Pullover.

It doesn't fit the doll particularly well, she not being of human proportions, and even with modifications to the neck and back it's almost impossible to get her to into it, but it was mostly to scale - same number of stitches as the human-sized sweater width-wise, done on US 0 needles with worsted-weight yarn.  So it's technically impressive while practically useless, like knitting a sweater for a polar bear.  Sure, it would be cute, but you'll never get close enough to put it on him, and even if you did he'd just go swimming in it anyway.  It was fun to knit, though.

The glove and the bookmark are coming along slowly with all this competition, so there really isn't anything to show, so I'm going to end on a personal note.

Gabriel's pictures came yesterday.

Photos by Natural Expression Photography, as a part of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

I miss you, and I'm thinking of you all the time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Hello, people of the internet.  I know absolutely nothing about blogging.  I just knit, and I own a camera, and I need something to keep myself busy and stave off the PPD while I wait out my maternity leave.  Welcome to my recovery.

Currently on my needles:

Ballybeg Homeworker's Gloves to Knit, by Elizabeth Cobbe, from the September/October 2010 issue of Piecework.  They're based on the kind of gloves that would have been knit for sale by women in Ireland, circa 1930, inspired by the play Dancing at Lughnasa, by Brian Friel.

The yarn is Serenity Sock Weight by Premier Yarns.  The color, for some reason, is called Jasper.  I would have called it Halloween.  Both the magazine and the yarn were given to me by my friend Susan at my son's memorial service.  I don't think she intended me to use this particular yarn for this particular pattern, but I needed to knit, and the gauge was right.  It's a nice wool/bamboo/nylon blend.

This was my first time making a picot edge, and I have to say I'm charmed.  Very elegant, very simple.  It's also my first time working with a fingering weight yarn, but it's progressing faster than I thought.  If not for my attention span I might have a few fingers done already, but my mind tends to wander and then it's off to a different pattern.

Such as:

A Bookmark to Crochet, by Julia Baratta, from the same magazine.  For those unable to read the small print in the picture, it's based on an afghan in the children's book Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan.  I'm using Aunt Lydia's Crochet Cotton, color Mexicana, but the only difference seems to be the name; I'm almost positive that it's made by the same company anyway.  I am also using a size 7 hook instead of 9 - I can't speak for the rest of the crocheters in the world, but it's inevitable that to achieve gauge I have to use a hook at least two sizes larger than the pattern calls for.  I don't have the knack of crocheting loosely.

There's a joke in there about not being a loose hooker, but that would be silly.

I haven't read either of the literary works that inspired these projects, because the tiny library in this tiny town doesn't carry them.  I love my husband dearly, and I understand why we had to move here, but I'm not sure he understands the cruelty of taking a bibliophile away from her beloved WELL-STOCKED library.  Alas.

Another trial of living in this town is that the only place to buy yarn is Ben Franklin's.  I'm still new to the world of internet shopping, and the closest yarn shop is forty-five minutes away.  Tune in tomorrow, when I travel an hour to an actual CITY to discover a new yarn shop, and raid a Hobby Lobby or possibly Jo-Ann's Fabrics for Wool-Ease, because two projects are never enough.