Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More of the Same

The problem with knitting large, slow projects is that it's hard to show progress in pictures. I keep knitting and you'll have to trust me that the project gets bigger, but you just can't really see it.

I have two big projects going right now: the Inishmore sweater and the Jeanie shawl. Unfortunately I found in the last week that it is difficult to go back and forth between the two because they have such different "hands," if that makes sense. Inishmore has me working twisted and cable stitches in aran weight wool on small (size 5) needles. It requires a very heavy knitting hand. Jeanie, however, is all ribbing, with dropped stitches, using a fingering weight silk/wool blend on big needles (6's). Because of this, I find that Jeanie requires a delicate touch (for me, at least) and concentration. Both projects are slow going. And it is very difficult to get my hands used to the different projects when I move from one to the other.

I don't have a new picture of Jeanie because it does not look much different from the last time I photographed it. Although I spent a lot of time on it last week, I only have a measly 2 or 3 more inches to show for all my work. Currently, the shawl is about 12 inches long, with about 58 inches to go (plus edging). This weekend, I decided to put Jeanie away for a while and to concentrate on Inishmore, which seemed more appropriate for the cold February weather.

I neared the top of the first sleeve and did some measurements. To my surprise, I found that I was meeting the gauge set in the pattern, even though my swatch had indicated that I was getting less stitches to the inch. I don't know why I was surprised--swatches lie all the time, right? So. I had cast on for the small size sleeve because I thought my gauge was big; since my gauge is correct I adjusted to do the medium size. Luckily, this was pretty easy to do with a sleeve. Actually, that is why I did a sleeve as my first piece. I love it when I do something right. :o)

I finished the main part of the sleeve, and left the middle stitches on a holder to do the saddle later. I want to do the body pieces first so I know how long the saddle will need to be.
Then I started the second sleeve. Why a sleeve and not the back or the front? I have no idea. I was on knitting autopilot and, for unknown reasons, I did a sleeve instead.

I also did some work on a smaller project: the bellamoden fingerless mitts. I finished one, and even figured out how to make a thumb, although I did not enjoy it very much. Tiny rounds of 14 stitches. It was very strange.
It is super pretty though. The yarn is gorgeous and very soft. Although the name of this colorway is "Iliad," it reminds me more of a wild garden in full bloom. I am creeping along on the second one. But Inishmore is addictive and I am spending most of my knitting time working on that.

In other news, Rudolph is enjoying his new window perch.

The kids and I also got a little carried away last week on one of those weird days when it felt like April or May outside and did this:
We planted our seeds. And they came up already! Holy smokes! They were supposed to take 2 or 3 weeks to come up, not 3 days! Looks like our first lettuce and broccoli crops this year may end up in pots by the kitchen windows instead of in the garden.

Friday, February 22, 2008

They're not ready. In case there was any question.

Kids these days want everything. I know I sound like the biggest curmudgeon when I say that, but it's true. Ipods, laptops, cellphones ... they want it all. Frighteningly, the kids is this area seem to be getting it all. Cat Crazy Girl talks about girls in her (3rd Grade!!) class with their own cell phones. Mathboy's best friend casually advised us that he was getting the new video ipod for Christmas. Now, I do have the new video ipod myself. But I'm not 10 years old.

If anyone needs evidence that the elementary school generation is not ready to Have It All, I offering the following evidence:

Cat Girl and Math Boy have been enjoying trekking through the woods in our neighborhood this month. They found an area where some young boys were clearing the woods for their own golf course, and check on their progress frequently. They also found a horse farm that adjoins the back of the woods, and they can watch the horses from the fence.

It's all very sweet and innocent; they cross no major streets and they are not that far away as the crow flies, so Rich and I have been OK with it. But they do tend to lose track of time, and it is a pain for us to go looking for them. So last Sunday, when they asked if they could go, I said that I wanted them to bring my cell phone with them. Cat Crazy Girl was very excited that she was allowed custody of the phone--maybe she was deluded into thinking it was the first step in getting her own?

Admittedly, the phone had seen some better days, but it worked. After their walk in the woods?
Not so much.

It was about one hour into their excursion when the house phone rang for the first time. "Hi Mom! It's great out here today. We played with the boys at their golf course and we're going to see the horses."

"OK. I want you guys to turn back for home in about ten minutes. Got it?"

Muffle, muffle. I hear "We shouldn't have called," murmered away from the phone, and then a resigned "OK, Mom."

Ten minutes later the house phone rings again. "We're coming back now."

Five minutes later the phone rings again. "We're at the golf course."

Five minutes later. "We're crossing the big stream."

Five minutes later: "We can see the house." At this point, Rich and I are kind of tired of answering the phone. We remind them that the phone was supposed to be for emergencies.

Five minutes later, Mathboy comes running in the house. His first words are, "I'm sorry about the phone, Mom." I assume that he means he is sorry that they called so often. If only that were it. But no. I see Cat Crazy Girl dragging her feet homeward across our big backyard and I know the phone is NO MORE.

Apparently, Cat Girl was so worried that something might happen to the phone while they were crossing the various little streams in the neighborhood woods that she actually thought it would be safer to THROW THE PHONE over the streams rather than carry it in her own pocket. Eventually, at the last crossing of the day, in the woods close to our house, she made a bad throw. Plop. Mathboy never stopped her. Smart they may be, but the judgment is lacking--you know?

The phone eventually dried out well enough to turn on again, but it was still messed up. So it turns out to be a happy ending for me, because I wanted a new phone anyway.
Now that I have a "cooler" phone ("Oh, Mom, lots of girls in my school have that phone"), Cat Girl covets it even more than before. It's nice to have actual evidence to use to support our refusal to get her one.

And I'm not letting either one of them touch my ipod.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Close Encounters

It's still close enough to the beginning of the year to make some resolutions, so I thought I would take stock of my stash and my UFOs with the aim of DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THEM in 2008. Actually, I made clear progress in 2007 and January 2008 in both of these departments. As long as you don't count my Inishmore supply of Tivoli wool, I definitely had a net reduction in the stash over the past year, knitting up and selling more yarn than I acquired. I knitted up several pairs of socks, and loads of scarves and hats were gifted at Christmas.

As for the unfinished objects (the UFOs), I made progress there as well. I started and finished the Lopi within a 12-month period. After careful consideration, I frogged 2 would-be sweaters that had been in limbo for well over a year: a denim cardigan intended for Rich, which had been cast on in the Summer of 2004 (I think), and a pullover intended for Mathboy, begun in 2005. (I actually took a good look at Mathboy's sweater, and realized that he had already outgrown it, even though it wasn't even half-finished. And there, in a nutshell, we see the danger of knitting for children.)

So this is the state of my knitting. According to Ravelry, my total stash is about 150 skeins of yarn. Wow, that sounds like a lot. It also does not include any of my dishcloth cotton. So, wow. Out of the total, 42 skeins are the Tivoli wool I am using for my Inishmore (the 23 Leslie and Frank bought me for Christmas, and another 19 I got off eBay in case I need more).

Here are the UFOs, in order of age rather than beauty:
1. The ecru Denim Cardigan for me. My slog. Every time I have myself nearly convinced to give up on this, I remember how much time I have put into it so far and I think about how nice it would look if I could just force myself to work on it some more. I washed one piece of it a few months ago and was entranced with the way the piece shrunk, the yarn softened, and the stitches all tightened up. After that, I could not bring myself to throw it away, but I couldn't bring myself to work on it, either. It has a special Rubbermaid tub all to itself in the closet. This year, I pledge to make a decision about this sweater once and for all. Either I finish it, or I build a ceremonial funeral pyre for it in the backyard. It will not be on this list in 2009. I have no new picture, I don't care to take one, anyone who really wants to see one should go here.

2. the Knittery cashmere socks. Cast on in July 2007, on the floor of Barnes & Noble, next to the Manga section (which is surprisingly large--what's up with that?), where I found a corner to rest in while waiting for Harry Potter #7. Currently halfway up the foot of the second sock. What's holding me back? I hate this yarn. But I do think I would like the finished socks, so I don't want to pitch the whole project.

3. the Solstice Slip socks. Cast on in September, I am currently halfway up the foot of the second sock. What's holding me back? The stitch is annoying, and the yarn (STR lightweight) is not my favorite. It keeps kinking up on me.

4. Rich's socks. Cast on December 2007. Currently 2/3 of the way up the foot of the first sock. What's holding me back? It is hard to see where increases need to be made for the gusset because of the striping of the yarn, so I keep messing up and having to rip back. I need to knit these in better light that I usually have available in the evenings. I also need to figure out how the heel will work out, and am planning to adapt Cat Bordhi's heel from the Salish Sea socks. This requires thought, concentration, and probably a pencil and paper. So ... it's laziness that is really holding me back on these.

5. Cat Crazy Girl's Jitterbug socks. Cast on January 2008, adapting the Slippery Socks pattern and using Colinette Jitterbug yarn. Currently close to finishing the first sock. These are coming along nicely, now that I made the decision to do only the front cabling pattern. But I do need to have a chart to work them, so they are not exactly mindless knitting.

6. Inishmore. Cast on January 2008, starting with a sleeve. I am almost to the saddle top of that sleeve. This is a beautiful pattern. Although the charts look very complicated, they actually make a lot of sense, so I can knit without needing to look at them. The only thing holding me back on this is that the actual knitting is hard on the hands. Working this yarn, in complicated cables, on a size 5 needle can be tough. I don't work more than a few rows in any given day. This will take a while. I don't have a picture because it pretty much looks the same as it did when I last photographed it, just, uh, longer.

7. Jeanie. So pretty! Cast on at the end of January 2008. So far I have about 8 inches done. This is slow-going because of the nature of the knitting involved: it's all ribbing, with half the stitches being twisted, cabling every 6 rows, and dropping stitches every, um, 12 (?) rows. The yarn I am using (Handmaiden Mini Maiden, a wool/silk blend) doesn't like to come undone very easily (how's that for irony? the one time I want stitches to drop they don't seem to want to drop), so the drops take time, too. This project, like Inishmore, is a long-hauler. I hope to have it finished to wear this summer during a family wedding weekend in Maine. Isn't it cool?

8. New "Quickie" project: Fingerless Mitts, compiled from a few patterns I found on Ravelry. Bad me. I really just wanted a small, simple, non-sock project, so I cast these on this week. I was completely seduced by the pretty yarn, bellamoden, unable to exercise any self-control in the face of these beautiful colors. I am doing a simple cable and ribbing pattern, and I'll figure the thumb out when I get to it.
It looks like a flower garden, doesn't it? Nice spring colors to be playing with in February.

So that's all--a full accounting. 8 works in progress is not that bad, when you think about it. Well, four are less than a month old, so maybe my issues are more about casting on than failing to finish.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Lopi No More!

It's done! I finished The Lopi, but I don't have a picture of it yet. It's fine. Not great, not horrendous. I am disappointed in it, though, because I had high hopes for it. So. At least it is done and I can move on to other projects and other yarns. I have put all the lopi yarn I have left up for trade on Ravelry, and I may put up a sale listing on ebay. I want it gone. Now.

The Salish Sea socks are finished.
As with The Lopi, I'd have to say they're fine. Not great, not horrendous. I did not enjoy doing the leg, and I don't really like the look of it either. But, other than that, I do feel that knitting them was a worthwhile educational experience. The gusset was an interesting exercise. I also really like the round toe, and the heel construction was explained so well that I truly understood what I was doing and why. I'm going to try to apply what I learned in doing the heel for Rich's socks and for the second of the Knittery cashmere socks, which have returned from the hibernation basket to my active project bag. I frogged what I had of the second sock and started over, using Judy's magic cast on this time. I still dislike the Knittery cashmere yarn, but I have to admit that the sock is looking good so far. I'm looking forward to doing the heel this time, now that I know what I am doing. I'll get a new picture of that eventually.

Because I am insane, and very possibly a knitting masochist, I cast on for this:
Isn't it pretty? It's a sleeve for Inishmore, by Alice Starmore. I have wanted to do this sweater for ages, but always put it off because it would involve buying a ton of aran yarn, and because I was concerned about gauge. But then Leslie and Frank gave me a bag full of gen-U-wine aran wool from Ireland for Christmas, and it just seemed to be the most perfect yarn for this sweater!
I am still having gauge issues: even though I went down a needle size I am still getting 5 inches instead of 4 for the designated number of stitches. But I threw caution to the wind and cast on a sleeve, just to give it a try. It's a boxy design, so I am hoping I can fudge things to make it work. I'm doing the small size in hopes that this will help to make up for the extra inches I'll be getting. I also expect I'll have to make some changes to the patterning on the body. We'll see.

I expect this will take me a very long time to do. The twisted stitches, although beautiful, do slow me down a bit. They're also a bit hard on the hands. But it is sooooo pretty.