21 December, 2010

Oh. My. Word.

Scarves.  They require a special kind of insanity, I'm convinced.  If I ever do this again, I'm choosing a bulky yarn.  Wow. 

Here's the scarf when I ran out of the first skein of yarn:

Sorry it's sideways.  That was last Wednesday; it was three inches wide.  And I thought "Oh, no."  Six inches is sort of a bare minimum for a scarf, it seems to me.  So I spliced on the second skein, and started knitting again. 

I knitted.  And knitted.  And knitted.  Until I thought I was going to go crazy, because I had so many other things to do, and all I was doing was knitting this scarf, all the time!   GAH!  And it was only four inches wide by Saturday night, and I posted on Ravelry hoping SOMEONE would tell me that was ok, and I could just stop. 

And while lots of nice people said that I should just stop, no one told me that four inches was a normal width for a man's scarf.  And honestly, if I was going to pour hours of my life into this thing, it had darn well better be something my brother will LOVE and wear FOREVER when it's done!  Too skinny wasn't an option.

So, I took it to church and worked on it there.  And I went to a friend's house Monday morning and knitted on it for FOUR hours.  Finally, I said "This has to be enough, because I have to stop or I will go crazy."  So I started binding it off.  I worked on that for an hour at my friend's, and in the car for an hour that night, and while I was talking to my midwife at my appointment, and dudes, it still wasn't done.

Monday was the day it was supposed to go in the mail, and Monday night at nine I still had about two feet left to bind off.  But, I persevered, and let me tell you - I'm swearing off scarves for a while.

But look!  It's pretty!

And the model is pretty sexy, too...  :-)

So, I sent it off today with a tag reading:  "This scarf contains 49,290 stitches, and required approximately 35 hours of my life to complete.  Wear it with pride and the knowledge that you are loved!"

Want to know how I figured that out?  I cast on 530 stitches, and knit 93 rows (counted the ribs and multiplied times 3).  Each rib required roughly an hour, and the bind-off took closer to three.  That, my friends, is insanity, in an alpaca/nylon blend.

It's really soft though.

13 December, 2010

Knit Night

I had a ball at the Yankee Yarn Swap, and actually got some knitting done, too.  I took my camera along, but most of the humor was of the aural variety, so I don't have any pictures to share.  The only really photo-worthy moment was when one of the older members of the knitting group chose a package which included a...rather raunchy t-shirt, which the woman who put the package together said her husband brought home from a bar.  She had been trying to get it out of the house so her son wouldn't wear it to school, and had specifically been thinking that she really hoped this particular woman didn't choose her package - because she was afraid she'd be offended.  Oh my, her face got so red!  I thought I was the only person who blushed like that.  But I couldn't take a picture, it would have been cruel.

In other news, you never know what you're going to learn at Knit Night.  In the midst of conversations about yarn and notions received from relatives who have passed on, mingled interestingly with a conversation about dyeing on the other side of the room, I thought of a good reason to talk to my internet service provider, the next time they try to sell me a cable package despite my not owning a t.v.

And on we go...

Well, the scarf is coming along, I suppose, 'though frankly, it's hard to tell.  That Knitter's Black Hole?  Found it.  I wanted to knit it width-wise because I hate having the length pile up, and get all twisted when you keep switching the needles to go back and forth.  I need to learn to knit backwards.  But really, this may be my last scarf.  They seem to come with Black Hole included - they just go on forever, and apparently I have a lot of "Product Knitter" in me, because, well, this is driving me crazy!  I have other things to do with my life than knit this scarf for the rest of it!  (But I do really love the way it's turning out, so I may have to make another one for me...and possibly my dad, because I know he'd love it...I'm sort of a masochist, apparently.)

But that's not all I've been up to!  Tonight is the Yankee Yarn Swap at my favourite (actually, only, but that's a trivial detail) LYS, so I've been getting together goodies.  Today I spent the whole morning at the sewing machine (well, and some quality time with the seam ripper, of course) and produced this:

A small needle and accessory case.  It's a little rough, but I love the fabric, and overall I'm pleased with the way it turned out.  Especially since I basically just made it up as I went along.  I'm especially pleased with the little notions pocket on the inside:

I just think it's cute.  I wish I'd made the top flap a bit longer.  It's nine inches tall, and I think for the next one I'll make it only eight, which will mean the flap comes down all the way to the top of the needle pocket.  (I cut two out at once, so I can't mess around with the dimensions too much, but that's an easy change.)  I hope whoever winds up with it tonight is pleased!

How is your Christmas knitting coming along?

09 December, 2010


I am knitting a scarf for my brother.  This will be a Christmas gift, and it is probably the only...oh wait, never mind.  I forgot, I have another Christmas project on the needles already.  See how that happens?  They're sneaky.  Anyway, last year my brother told me he would love a scarf for Christmas, and despite feeling like he could have been (ahem) a bit more subtle, I was happy to comply.  Since he wasn't more subtle, I told him to buy me some yarn, and I'd make him one.  That's what happens when you decide not to be subtle.  If it's too much like an order, you have to supply the materials.  Method of request notwithstanding, he's very knitworthy...he and I are pretty close.
He wanted something masculine, and I figured lace was right out.  (Also, see previous post, lace doesn't happen at my house.  See, I'm learning!)  I picked Henry, from Knitty.  He picked Berroco Ultra Alpaca - Fine.  I actually did swatch, after reading several reviews on Ravelry, and was so glad...because it turns out that knitting this pattern in this yarn would probably have left my eyesight permanently impaired.  For one thing, the yarn is very dark - a foresty, heathered evergreen color.  Also, it has a bit of a halo.  Just a touch, but the combination of color and halo meant that not only could I barely see the stitches to work the pattern, it didn't really show at all once I was done.  Scrap that, because if I'm going to blind myself knitting a stitch pattern that requires some focus, it had darn well better show up when I'm done.

So I decided to knit this width-wise (rather than end to end), and just do a nice, simple rib.  I cast on 530 stitches, before my long tail ran out.  Then I started out with a knit row, purled a row, knit 1, repeat...

I love the way it's turning out:

I think this sort of nubbly texture looks really fantastic with this yarn.  I also think the puckers created by the ribbing will help make it even warmer than it would be anyway, so, despite the fact that the ribbing means I have to knit about two inches of fabric for every inch of actual width, I'm very happy.  Or I was, until I hit a conundrum:
Can you see that?  Right there is where I looked down and realized that, on the previous row, I switched from knit to purl half-way through the row.  See purl bumps below the needle on the right?  And none on the left?  So maddening! That, right there, is why you should never stop in the middle of a row.  I put it down at bedtime last night, and didn't look carefully at it when I picked it back up today. 

Now I have to decide what to do.  On the one hand, it may not show up.  Like I said, the yarn is pretty dark, and a bit fuzzy, and really, who looks that closely at a scarf anyway?  But here's the thing:  I'll KNOW.  And the ribbing will be off, which I think is going to maybe be more obvious than a few stitches alone would have been.  I'm debating, and losing knitting time while the scarf sits in time out:
How much do you want to bet the cat is ON the scarf, when I go back for it?  (Meet the Resident Feline, by the way.  This is Thorvald, the most opinionated cat I've ever known.  He never hesitates to let you know exactly what he thinks.)

I'm thinking I should just bite the bullet and rip it back two rows, because the longer I stew about it, the less time I have to actually knit the thing.  And at 20 minutes a row, there's a lot left to do!

01 December, 2010

Done, done, done

Once upon a time, there was a Knitter who was very poor, and rather desperate for some Really Nice Yarn.  So this Knitter, being young and innocent in the ways of Knitting, came up with a Brilliant Idea.  When her mother-in-law (whom the Knitter loves dearly) wondered if this Knitter would be willing to knit her a sweater, the Knitter replied "Of course, if you get me the yarn, I'd be happy to!", little realizing the trouble she had just gotten herself into...

It probably wouldn't have been so bad, if I had suggested we get yarn that was the right weight for the pattern she wanted.  But, supremely self-confident, I said "Oh don't worry about it!  I can figure it out!"  And I still think that is true.  I certainly could have...if I hadn't kept having babies that sucked all the brains out of my head and obliterated my free-time.

So, the first issue was that the yarn was the wrong weight.  I swatched it, and certainly could have made it work...except that I don't have that many brains left for my knitting these days, for the aforementioned reason.  So, I looked for another pattern, that called for the weight of yarn I actually had.  I found a beautiful one, from Harrisville Designs, with a lovely cabel/lace pattern down the front.

There were two problems with that.  The first was, the yarn (alpaca) was really soft and had a bit of a halo, so cables and lace didn't show up as well as they might in something else.  And that's a lot of work to put into something that won't show up very well.  Also, (you may be aware of this) cables and lace take a lot of focus.  And, frankly, focus isn't something I really have to give my knitting very much at this point in my life.  So that pattern got scrapped as well.

Now, I would like to state at this point in the saga, that my poor MIL is a saint.  She bought me this yarn (I think) just after my second child was born...roughly four years ago.  I gave her the swatch that first Christmas, and then bought the second pattern just after my youngest was born (he's two and a half).  And in all that time, while she has occasionally inquired as to the status of her sweater, she has never once made me feel badly that it was taking so long.

Finally, I came to a realization:  If I wanted it to get done, it needed to be Stockinette Stitch.  Something plain, that I didn't have to think about too hard, and that I could knit on in meetings.  Because that's the only place I get knitting accomplished.

I decided to knit the Eyelet Cardi from Chic Knits, because not only is it almost completely plain stockinette, it is also knit in one piece, so there's no seaming at the end.  It has one little stripe of lace around the shoulders, which adds a bit of visual interest without making the pattern complicated, and otherwise is just lovely, plain knitting.  Perfect for showing off a lovely yarn, which this is.  (I was using Prime Alpaca by Joseph Galler, Inc.  A beautiful, soft, naturally colored yarn, "grown only between the altitudes of 13,000 and 16,000 feet.")

And, lo and behold, just a few months after finally admitting that a complicated pattern was a bad idea, the sweater is FINISHED!!!  And I gave it to my MIL at Thanksgiving, because holding on to it until Christmas just really didn't seem right.  I mean, I gave her the swatch FOUR years ago, and really, when someone's been that patient, it's not nice to make them wait any longer than necessary.

So, there are two morals to this story:

1)  Never promise something (especially something big) before it's finished (or at least on the needles and well underway).

2)  Knitter, know thyself.  If stockinette is all you'll be able to work on in the life you have, don't pick a pattern with lace and cables.  Trust me, you'll be a lot less frustrated.

17 October, 2010

Saga of a knitting project, part 3

I'm sorry I haven't been back to finish this story.  I thought it would be the ideal start for my knitting blog, since it was about the first time I really experienced the cathartic power and magic of knitting.  It's been more difficult to write about than I expected.

You have to understand, we had just taken my son in for a routine two-month check-up, and been shipped straight to the emergency room.  My husband was in a major exam that would determine whether he could continue in the graduate student program or not.  And we were leaving in four days to move in with my in-laws for the summer, while he completed an internship with a company in their area.

To say that I was a bit fried by the time we left for my in-laws was an understatement.  Rather than having three leisurely days to pack up mine and my children's lives for transportation, we flung things into a rented trailer at the last possible moment.  We stopped to pick up the MRI results at Riley Children's Hospital, in Indianapolis, on our way out of the state. 

"Once you get to Pennsylvania," we were told, "call The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia immediately and make an appointment with a neurosurgeon.  We don't know what is happening with your son's brain.  It's possible that there's a gap in the skull, and that the brain has grown through that into the cyst that formed when the bruise calcified.  It's made a solid 'bubble' on his skull."  Can you imagine how terrifying that was?

So I knitted, all the way to Indy to get the MRI photos.  All the way to Pennsylvania, were my in-laws were equally frantic.  I knitted, hearing my father's voice replay in my head "If there's anything you need, if there's anything we can do, just call.  We'll be there."  I knitted to pull myself out of the pit of despair and uncertainty where I was trying not to drown.

Finally, I knitted in the waiting room, as we waited to see the head of the neurology department.  (Incidentally, we had learned that the neurology department at C.H.O.P is one of the best pediatric neurology departments in the world.) I made myself put the knitting away is we walked back to his office.  And I sat on his sofa, and held my son, as he glanced at the original CT Scan images...and said  "This is a Calcified Cephalhemotoma.  It's perfectly normal."  Then, looking at my bouncing son he told me "It's obvious there's nothing wrong with your son."

He wasn't even going to look at the MRI images, but I was so incredulous that we had been through all this for nothing, I insisted.  He re-affirmed that nothing was wrong, but did say that it would probably be best to have the lump removed.  At this age, he told us, it would be a non-event.  He wouldn't remember anything.  Later, it might not be so simple.

So, I knitted through a head surgery, and through a long night while my sweet baby lay, hooked up to wires that beeped frantically every time he shifted.  I was so groggy after sleeping on the fold-out bed that night, I didn't even get up when the Resident came in then next morning to check him one last time.  I nodded blurrily at his comments, and burrowed back under the covers for another hour.

We had a scare after checking out, when we got down to the car and realized that our son's head had swollen half again as large as normal.  I burst into tears, having thought it was finally over.  And what if the swelling caused permanent damage, when if we'd just left well enough alone...?  But they checked him out in the Emergency Room, said it was a normal reaction to the surgery, and sent us on our way again.

I finished the blanket in October, knitting half the day at a scrap-booking event to get it done.  By that time, things had settled down to a somewhat normal routine again.  We were back home, and school had started up.  (My husband did pass that exam.)

But, even now, when he's heading towards his third birthday, I still hold this son a little tighter, cradling him when he falls asleep in my lap.  I wrap his fingers around mine, and pray gratitude once again for each day we've had with him, asking for many more to come.  I've learned that.  I saw children in that hospital who had been there for their entire lives.  No one had looked at their desperate parents and said "Your child is just fine."  Some of them will probably never leave.  Every day is a gift.

I tuck his blanket around him, remember, and give thanks.

16 July, 2010

Saga of a knitting project, Part 2

Bless the man, he brought it with him.  And boy, was I glad, because we spent HOURS in the emergency room.  I didn't want to anesthetize my son unless it were really absolutely necessary, and definitely didn't want to give the go-ahead without talking to my husband first.  He was also uncomfortable with it, so we waited and waited and WAITED, while Monkey3 played happily with his siblings.  He always has been one of those children who goes non-stop.  The only way to get him to sleep is to make him be still for longer than 30 seconds.  This would be why he routinely falls asleep in his plate at dinner.

On this day, I knitted a sock while I waited for him to wear himself out.  Finally, I nursed him, and he dropped off to sleep.  They did the cat scan with no trouble, and we headed home to wait for news.

The call came a few hours later.  They had seen something that concerned them, and wanted us to take the baby down to Indy for an MRI the next day.  I knew a sock was not going to keep me going through this.  I needed something I could knit for hope, a prayer that my son would be ok worked in wool with my own two hands.  We stopped by the yarn store on the way out of town, so I could wind two skeins of yarn into balls.  I had bought the pattern and yarn for his baby blanket months earlier, and this was the project I elected to take with me to work on while the doctors tried to determine whether or not my son's brain was alright.

To be continued...

09 May, 2010

Saga of a knitting project, Part 1

Emergency rooms and hospitals are prime places for knitting.  I know this, because a tremendous amount of my only two major knitting projects was accomplished in one or the other.

When my youngest child was 1 month old, a routine trip to the pediatrician turned into an emergency room visit when the doctor expressed some concern over...well, it's sort of complicated.  My son had hit his head on my tailbone on the way out, which resulted in a bruise that manifested as a large bump on his head (the technical term is "cephalhemotoma", if you're interested).  It was soft and squishy, and was supposed to slowly dissipate, but by the 1-month checkup it had solidified.  So the pediatrician shipped us off to the Emergency Room for a cat scan. 

My husband was in the middle of his Oral Preliminary Examination, which is the point in grad school where they decide either you're smart enough to continue, or that the last few years have been a waste of everyone's time.  I called and left a message on his voicemail:  "Sweetheart, we're in the emergency room with Monkey3 because the pediatrician is worried about how solid this lump has gotten.  Please get a ride over here as soon as you're finished.  And for the love of everything, BRING MY KNITTING."

To be continued...

06 February, 2010

Surviving their choice of movie...

Tonight was family movie night.  My children (5, 3, and nearly 2) are frightened by any movie containing anything resembling a "plot" (things like bad guys, scary music, or tense moments), so The Oldest decided we should watch Bob the Builder.  I decided the only way I would survive, was to knit.

The Oldest was positively convinced that it is not possible to both knit and pay attention to the movie.  (Trust me, I was giving as much attention as I could handle).  He kept saying "Look, Mama!  This part is funny!  Stop knitting and WATCH!" 

The Youngest wanted to sit in my lap.  He kept grabbing my arms to hoist himself up.  He kept stepping on my ball of yarn, and sitting on my WIP. 

It wasn't a great night for knitting, but, on the other hand, I got more knitting done tonight than I have in the last few days combined...since I actually got it out and worked on it.  So maybe family movie nights aren't quite so antithetical to my knitting as it may at first appear.

05 February, 2010

Take time to check gauge.....

Right.  Does anyone actually do that...for a HAT?  Oh dear, well, I guess I should have.  I just finished knitting two Thorpe hats (for my brothers, whose birthdays are Dec. 28 and Jan. 3, respectively), and the first one came out absolutely HUGE.  Now, my brother has a really big head, but this is pushing it a bit I'm afraid.  We'll see.


I guess you can't really see it in that picture, but the thing is positively baggy on my poor dh (who is so obliging about my blogging - and knitting - weirdnesses).
Here's the second one:


Fits better around, but too long.    I followed the pattern on length.  Really.  Dh insists it is fine, but I think he just wanted me to stop griping about the hat.  
I am, however, very pleased with the herringbone braids I used to finish them:

29 January, 2010

What I love about knitters

Well, one thing I love about us anyway:  I have been spending a bit more time on Ravelry recently.  Not necessarily a good thing; the children don't like it when I'm on the computer (because everything is "In a minute dear."  Sort of like "When I finish this row.")  But I joined a few new groups, and was telling DH about them the other night.  And he said "That is so weird!" 

Why, in particular?  Well, because, other hobbyists don't use their common interest to get together, and then talk about other things.  A model train website, for example (he pointed out), wouldn't have various groups for model train enthusiasts who liked mystery novels, or coffee, or...whatever.  Which is probably true.  And then he said "It must just be because knitters are such a diverse group of people!"  And I smiled, because he gets it!

20 January, 2010

The Best Kind of Present

I believe that the best kind of present is something the person will love, but would not buy for him or herself.  Things like a label maker (which a friend of mine was delighted to receive for her birthday this year...everyone's different) or a pressure canner (which I really want, but can't afford right now) are not things I would like to get as a gift.  They're too practical, and I will eventually buy one myself, probably long before I can justify spending money on something frivolous that I would really love to have anyway.

Every Christmas, people who love me ask my husband what they can get me that I will love, and I tell him "I have a wish list on Amazon.  Also at the knitting store."  It's become my predictable response.   My mother noticed last year that the list contains books I added in 2000.  That's because no one has bought them for me yet.  And whenever I get a bit of money, I have a hard time spending it on a book I mainly want for reference, which is what most of those are.  Reference books are a bit too much of a luxury at this stage of my life. 

Yarn is like that too.  (Although I have somehow managed to acquire a rather sizeable stash, given that I feel I almost never purchase yarn.)  It's a luxury item, mostly for the joys of ownership and contemplating the pleasure I will have knitting it up at some point in the future.  I have a hard time spending money on that...but oh, how I love it when I can add some new treasure to my stash.

I was leaving Knit Night last Monday, when a woman pulled me aside and said "I have something for you."  I followed her out to her car, and was totally and completely gobsmacked (isn't that a wonderful word?) to be handed a TRASH bag full of yarn.  That's a lot of yarn!  And it was accompanied with the words "Please don't feel at all guilty about this!  I was cleaning out my stash anyway, and wanted it to go to someone who would appreciate it."

You have no idea how much I appreciated it!  It's no secret that my budget, especially for non-essentials and luxuries, has been pretty scant the last few years.  I was so touched that this woman thought of me, and was willing to pass along the yarn she no longer wanted.  What a wonderful gift!  It absolutely made my day...and still brings a smile to my face every time I think of it.