Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Goodbye Pinecone Buttons!

Dear Blog-

Today I actually have a free morning to sit down and spend time writing to you. I really ought to be going early for my weekly blood draw so that I don't have to sit there so long waiting for my turn, later in the day when it is more crowded. I also should be starting my deep clean of this room, which looks like it was attacked by a yarn-vomiting monster. I'll definitely take a breakfast break here somewhere so that I can get that part of my day on the move, as it were...

But did I ever show you this bowl that I got at the Gem Show this spring? I bought it as a present for my older sister's b-day, and then realized that I already had a present for her. Now I debate daily, as I sit and eat my breakfast and gaze upon it, whether it is really meant for me. It makes me think of a night sky and the phases of the moon. I am not sure what the stone is, or what the fossils are, but it is beautiful.

Well, last week on the knitlist the Knitting Wizard people asked for volunteers to be beta testers for the new version of the Sock Wizard software. I jumped up with my hand in the air and volunteered right away, as fast as my little fingers could type. They said it would take about one hour each day, for three days - Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I knew I could manage that, and what the heck, it sounded like fun.

So on Friday morning I downloaded the software and my directions for my test group, and started the first of my three tests for the day. They had each group enter specific info for a pattern, in a particular way. Sometimes they had you go through step by step in an orderly fashion, sometimes they had you hopping from one tab to another. They would also have you go back and make a change to the pattern and see if the changes showed up properly. We would then print out the pattern, save the pattern, close down the program, and reopen the program and the pattern again and compare the two.

Well, on Friday I found a bug in the second set of tests that I did. I was so proud of myself! I was then asked to keep running that test and make sure that the bug did reproduce each time, and finally the woman who was monitoring our group found it for herself, and that was the end of my tests for the day. It ended up taking more than an hour that day, but it was interesting to do.

On Saturday we did a variation of the same type of tests, and all I found were some typos. Then Sunday our tests consisted of knitting heels and heel turns according to a pattern we downloaded. All in all it was a lot of fun to do, and the best part is that for all our efforts, we will be given a free copy of the software when the finished version comes out in about a month or so! Woo Hoo! as my niece used to say. This is just grand as I really fell in love with the software while working with it this weekend. I'm looking forward to having it in hand (or on my computer, really) and playing with it.

My boss and I have been emailing back and forth for the past week or so about classes that I want to teach for the upcoming quarter at Kiwi Knitting. On Friday she emailed me and let me know that one of the branches of the other yarn shop in town (no names mentioned) was rumored to be closing soon. That is the yarn shop that is notorious with knitters in town for being very cliquish and not very nice to anyone who isn't part of their in-crowd. I have been hearing stories about them for years now from other knitters, and have stories of my own to tell. You may remember me writing to you about them back in January or so when I was searching for the perfect needles for my Scheherazade shawl .

Anyway, while DH and I were out and about on Saturday we stopped into that shop and browsed around. I found out that they are having hell's own clearance sale coming up at the end of the month, so I might see if it is possible to pick up some bargains when they do. But what I am really getting around to saying is that they had a cardi on display that I absolutely fell in LOVE with! It is by Habu Textiles and is from one of their kits. The picture on the Habu website does NOT do it justice, trust me. The pattern is very simple and something I can figure out for myself (with the help of Sweater Wizard), but part of what makes it really cool is not only the incredible simplicity of the design, but that one of the yarns used is wool/stainless steel! The other is a gorgeous silk laceweight. I came home and googled and found lots of info on the whole thing, and found that the yarn itself is not at all expensive, it is the pattern that costs so much. And I remembered that one of my students told me earlier that Habu Textiles had been at the Gem Show this year, so I will definitely have to search for them next winter when the Gem Show comes back to town.

Algonquin Cardi

You'll remember, Blog, that I had to put aside my Algonquin cardi in order to get a few things finished for potential classes at Kiwi. Then I found out that Desi and Tia were going to do a KAL on the Lady Eleanor, and I myself needed to make a NEW Lady Eleanor because last fall at the farmer's market someone bought the one I made a year ago straight off my back. I loved my Lady E, and would never, ever have sold her. That is, if someone hadn't come along and offered me an astounding amount of money for it then and there. So off she went to her new home, and I also went home because now I had nothing to keep me warm for the day.

My Algonquin again waited while I got going on Lady Eleanor, and frogged Lady Eleanor, and re-knit Lady E, etc, etc. Yesterday I realized that the Algonquin will never get finished if I don't simply make a point of sitting down and working on it. Therefore, when I got home from our abridged KAL meeting and could no longer find excuses to aviod cleaning house, I sat down and worked 6 rows of the Algonquin every time I needed to take a breathing break from cleaning. I got a lot done on the sleeve, and towards evening it was apparent that I was coming to the end of my ball of yarn. By then I was too bushed from cleaning to bother to go wind another skein, so while watching tv last night (Worst Jobs in History) I took off the pinecone buttons and sewed on the new buttons. Look how happy she is! See her big smile? She likes her new buttons! She is flinging her arm out in happiness!

One of the other projects I was working on that was stalling the progress in the Algonquin was finally making myself a Knitter's Felted Tool Bag. This is my own pattern, and maybe TODAY is the day that I can talk DH into putting the danged pattern onto my patterns page. Maybe today. I know you are going to read this, DH. :-) Anyway, isn't it pretty? I can fit many, many necessary knitterly things in it.

There I was, plugging along on my Lady E Mach II, when I realized that it looked molto narrower than Lady E the First. Sure enough, when I measured my little rectangles they were only 3 inches wide, not the 3.5 inches wide that they ought to be. That is how much tighter my gauge is this year as opposed to last! I didn't really want to frog her but I knew I had to. I cast on again and allowed enough sts for two more rectangles. Below is the first version compared to my restart. You can see the difference. I am MUCH happier with the second go at this. Before frogging I was having gloomy thoughts that LE2 would never compare in beauty to Lady E the First, but this second go at LE2 makes me feel much better. The only downside is that I fear that making it wider with more rectangles means that I will need extra yarn in order to make it long enough. One thing I especially loved about LE1 is that it was very long and enveloping and cuddly. It wouldn't take much extra yarn if I do need more, but this would stand in clear violation of the Yarn Treaty of 2007 that was reached in the Sorenson household after the flaming rat's bottom who runs the farmer's market booted us out of the market when my husband (who was in the hospital less than a month later getting new cardiac stents) went home sick one day. I do, however, see this as a special circumstance, that, without which, all previous knitting on LE2 would be rendered meaningless. Time alone will tell what we need... Ok, Time, and a lot of knitting.

Much better wider, huh?

Here are some photos from our abbreviated LE KAL yesterday morning...

A silly-looking Desi with her finished Lady E-

and a view of the back-

Action photo of Tia and her Lady E-

Tia and her Lady E staying perfectly still, trying to blend in with the wall behind them...

Now Desi is working on a Lizard Ridge afghan for her Mother for Xmas-

I think the college types who frequent the caf on Monday mornings are getting used to us and thinking us less freakish than they did at first.

Chinese Red Vest

And of course, since I wrote to you last, I have finished my Chinese Red (green) Vest from Folk Vests. Looks great from a distance, eh? Except for the wavery hem where I threaded the blocking wires through. Have to reblock that hem. From here it looks fine with the lighter color collar and armhole edges. Not to mention the bigger button at the top. Of course, about a week later I found that I HAD bought another card of these buttons, and so could have made them all the same. But I hear it is playing well to the LYS audience with the larger button, so I won't lose any sleep over it just yet.

But up close... I'm not too sure about the collar. I don't know yet - almost as soon as it was finished, it was shipped off to the LYS. I haven't had the chance to live with it and get to know it.

And for the first time in my life I have won something! A contest on KnitTalk to guess when the 1000th member would join. Ok, so I really came in 3rd, and I think the woman running the contest felt sorry for me when I admitted to never having won anything before now. Alright, I did take the prize in beauty school for the best fingerwaves (I was the Fingerwave Queen, but that was a loooong time ago), but not any sort of random contest where you actually get a prize! She sent me this lovely huge hank of bulky cotton chenille by Cherry Tree Hill in what are my favorite colors. And three balls of this neat thick/thin yarn that I am thinking will make a wonderful scarf for winter.

Blog, I know last time we talked I told you my story of trying to find romney roving in Tucson. Well, I found a great place to order from, and this is what came in the mail - flesh-colored roving, black, white, brown, a red and a blue. Uber Sis wants to learn 3-D needle felting when she is visiting in a few weeks, so I had better be ready for her. That is if Father will let her come visit me. Pfffff!

Ok, Blog, the dirty dishes are calling, I had better go. Maybe if I tell you that I will post again in two weeks I will find the time before then. Or maybe that puts the curse on it and I won't get to post again for a month. Perhaps I should say nothing...

Knit On, Sisters!

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Creeping up on Easter weekend...

Dear Blog-

I am beginning to suspect that if I don't post here soon, either my husband or my sister will begin beating me about the head and shoulders with sticks. Me sister keeps emailing and asking, When are you going to post, When are you going to post? Blah, blah blah! Heck, when was the last time you updated YOUR blog, you old bat? And every time I walk past the computer DH has brought up my blog and has it showing the web counter.

You, Dear Blog, know by now that when I write, 'And tomorrow I'll post pictures of the buttons...' that although I may have the best of intentions at the time of writing, I am basically the blog equivalent of, 'Of course I love you, and of course I will respect you in the morning!' And in your all-forgiving way you, well, forgive me my little white lies and my good intentions.

The truth of the matter is that I did whip out the camera the next morning, and spent a frustrating half hour trying my darnedest to take pictures of the #*(@#)& buttons, posed in situ. However, the camera refuses to focus on the buttons. I get nothing but light colored blobs. This morning I figured I would give it another go, and realizing that the camera won't focus on the buttons against the dark wool of the sweater because it is reading the sweater and not the buttons, I put some white things to either side of each button and tried again. Eccelente! But now I have blurry but detailed photos of the buttons. I give up. Just take it on trust that when I say I finally have found the right buttons and they didn't cost the earth, and that it was a long and desperate search, THIS TIME I am telling the truth. I will still mean it tomorrow.

My other issue, of course, is that if you don't hear from me in a while, it is because I am knitting on a deadline, and every spare second is spent working on whatever it is that I have to have finished, nay should have finished a week ago. Or a month ago would have been best. The White Queen's Bag in the last post was one of those things, then I had to dive into this lace moebius and get that done as a demo for the shop, and now I am within spitting distance of finishing the vest that is my current bane of existence.

The lace moebius is from The Treasury of Magical Knitting by Cat Bordhi, and is called the White Lace Moebius. Though mine is obviously not white. I am still adhering to a strict yarn diet (only one ball of yarn purchased this year!) and living off of stash. So when I went to start this thing, I looked in the magic stash cabinet and found a lovely, mossy looking ball of Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool. In I dived, all the while wondering what I had bought that yarn for originally, and why I had never made whatever that might have been. The yarn is lovely to work with, and doesn't have that nasty silk smell that so many silk fabrics do. As I worked on, I realized that, Hmmm... Lynn gave me this ball to make something else for the shop as a demo. Which I never did. Hey! Maybe Lynn will want THIS as a demo for the yarn! Thank Merino she did, because I did need a second ball and didn't want to break the yarn diet for it.

White Lace Moebius

Once that was finished, I knew that I needed to next make the Chinese Red Vest from Folk Vests by Cheryl Oberle. And look! (Or as the Italians say, Ecco! Not to be confused with the French Ecoute! which means, Hey! Listen up! I have no idea what the Chinese say.) Look! In my yarn cabinet I have some, um, mossy green yarn that has been in there for ages. I bought two bags of it at half price years ago when I worked at the Evil Yarn Shop. In my fevered shopping frenzy all I could smell was yarn and I bit. It was only when I got home and had calmed down a bit that I realized that A: The two bags were NOT the same color, one was slightly tweedy, and B: Each bag had only 880 yds in it. Which means that you can't really do a darned thing with either of them, because they are either too much yarn for a project, or not enough. And to top it off, one of the bags has only 9 balls, not ten.

So when searching in the magic yarn cabinet for something to make this vest with, I looked again at these, and decided that with some careful knitting and making the smallest size, I could make the tweedy version work. I swatched and dove in.

Now, a note about swatching in general, and particularly (for me) when working patterns from this book: Cheryl Oberle and I knit on two different time/space continuums. I can never, NEVER get that same gauge she gets when working with the same materials she uses. This was meant to be a dk-weight yarn on size 4 US needles. I ended up getting gauge on worsted weight yarn with size 6 US needles. And I am a loose knitter! Always, always do your gauge swatch.

So picture me happily knitting along on my vest. I've got gauge, I am maintaining gauge, the vest is coming along, and life is good. Time to attach my next ball of yarn. The yarn I am using is Filatura di Crosa Luna, a merino yarn. Handwash. It won't spit splice. No matter how hard you try. The ends just untwist and you are left with a mess. Ok, I'll do a Russian join. Only, the yarns just untwist and it looks like a mess. So I knit the two yarns together for about 8 sts. A little bulky, but it works. And then the yarn ends start slipping out of the end sts when they think I am not looking. How can a wool yarn possibly behave this badly? No matter, I'll do what I need to do, and then when I finish I will just have 90 million ends to weave in and secure. Oh, Joy! My favorite part!

Picture me knitting along, it is going pretty quickly, I can see myself getting this done in a timely manner and it looks nice. About halfway through is when I realize that THIS is the yarn that I only have 9 balls of, not 10. Oh, POOP! I don't have time to restart the thing! I pray to Merino, who is really letting me down with this one. I finish the body. I finish the front bands. I tear out my gauge swatch and work the neck band. And then run out of yarn. With the collar and the armhole openings yet to go.

I'm obviously having to resort to the second bag of yarn. The one that is NOT the same. I tried working the collar in one row of one, one row of the last curly remnants of the other. Visually it works, only it takes a LOT of annoying acrobatics with the yarn and the edges look sloppy and I am not happy. So yesterday afternoon I decided to hell with this, and just knitted the collar in the second yarn. And finished one arm opening in the same way. I am HOPING against hope that either the light will be so dim that no one can tell, or that it will look like I did it on purpose.

AND!!! To top it off, when I bought buttons for the sweater, I tried several kinds. One set were small plain rhinestone shank buttons. That will work quite well with this vest. Only I bought 6 buttons for the sweater, not 7 buttons for the vest. And on going back to the shop, I see they have no more. Really, Merino, we have to talk! My faith is weakening. So my current thinking is the six rhinestone buttons with a different button on the top buttonhole. And the odd yarn for the collar and sleeve openings. Am I going to look like the pathetic woman who can't afford at the moment to buy yarn for this project, and had to make do? Or am I going to look like the clever designer knitter who adds clever designer knitter touches? Only time will tell.

Anyway, here is the vest, with one armhole opening to go, ends to be woven in, blocking to be done, and buttons to be sewn on. (So in its current state it looks like something in a Knitpicks catalogue. Oops! Did I say that?) If you look at the collar on the right side of this picture, can you tell the color difference? I also moved the button loops over to the right side. The pattern had them on the left as that apparently is more traditional. Not being a traditional Chinese myself, I prefer them on the right side.

Red Chinese Vest

Do you begin to see a pattern here? I make the White Lace Moebius in mossy green, and the Red Chinese Vest in mossy green. Both white and red clothing make my face look like a tomato.

Needle Felting
So last week I go in to the shop to teach a class on 2 dimensional needle felting. And my student (usually this class is full!) brings in a needle felted gnome that she made in a workshop at her kids' Waldorf school. It was so danged cute, and I have always wanted to learn to do 3-D needle felting. So I showed her the techniques for 2-D, and taught her the bits that needed teaching, and while she worked on designs on some felted bags she brought along, I started making a very flat gnome. She guided me through the bits that she could remember from the class, I guided her through the bits that she was working on her bags, and we had a fun two hours playing needle felting. And then I came home and finished him off after a couple more hours of working away. DH named him Gordon, and here he is:

Then the next day I decided that if one could make needle felted gnomes, then one could also make needle felted crones, and so was born Norma Jean.

Gordon and Norma Jean

Then I searched out an online tutorial on making a needle felted bear, and I am well on my way to obsession with this new (to me) craft. I have found an online source of romney roving, and after I check out a second local source today, if I have no luck I will place an order.

Yesterday on my travels I went to a shop I had heard about from time to time over the years, to look for romney roving, or maybe corriedale, but something rough that needle felts easily. This is a spinning shop mainly, so obviously they should carry a variety of rovings. One would think. I go in, and ask the woman if she carries any romney or corriedale roving. I don't carry brands, she says. Those aren't brands, I point out, but breeds of sheep. I know that, she says, but I don't carry brands. I have some nice roving here that is American wool. But do you know what breed of sheep it is? No, she says, it is just American wool. Ooookay... I really was looking for some dyed rovings. Well, I have some dyed rovings over there in that box. But that is merino (or so the sign says in big letters) and I don't want merino, I want something rougher that is going to felt faster. Well, those are not quite merino, she says. What do you mean? Well, they are one step down from merino, but still pretty soft.

Needless to say, I left empty handed.

And as a final note, I should tell you about the surprise my sister sent me. A copy of Yarn Harlot. Just as I am probably the last person on the planet who started reading Harry Potter (except for my sister, who still refuses and has no clue what joys she is missing), and I am also the last knitter on the planet to read the Yarn Harlot books. I do have a good start into this one, tho, and am enjoying it. I am loving the funny parts, the contemplative parts I am finding an little too self-conscious, but then I find that is true with many writers. Here it is, posing with my tea mug. You have to read what the mug says...

This is our knitting guild mug, and that is a whole 'nuther story.

Well, I have to go clean house so that I can finish the danged vest. Talk to you, well, talk to you sometime later. I won't promise when...

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