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Monday, June 29, 2009

The Fixer

So Saturday night, the husband and I were out to dinner when all of a sudden I see these little dots of light across the room. Turns out that one of the patrons had on a pair of glasses not unlike these to read the menu. I don't know about you, but I have been knitting in bed quite a bit lately, and the lighting in our bedroom is not good at all. The bedside lamps are both to dim and too short to help much. I do have an LED book light, but there is nowhere to clip it when I knit. One of the SWAG items for Sock Summit is a different kind of clip-on light which, for $6.00 is cheap enough to give a try. My friend Liz has an over-the-ear version not unlike this one. When camping at fiber festivals, I sometimes knit in my tent wearing my headlamp, but then I end up with a big strap-mark on my forehead. (Since I camp alone, no one will see it, so I'm not sure why I care.) I suppose instead of gadget hunting, I should just buy taller, bright bedside lamps and dispense with the problem once and for all, right?

It seems like the knitting I've been doing for the past two days is all about fixing, so I'm not really getting ahead of the game.

I decided I could not live with the funky stitches on the Chickami, so I ran lifelines. After picking and ripping, I determined that grafting was not necessarily going to make me happy, either, since the single row of grafted stitches was likely to be at a slightly different gauge, and when you are working in a solid color mostly cotton yarn, it's pretty visible. So, I've decided to put it back on the needles and knit down from the upper lifeline using the yarn from the bottom section. Let's hope that works.

Yesterday, when picking up my nearly finished Green Gable, I noticed one wonky little stitch just under the lace panel. Since I'd already bound off the bottom, I had to undo the edge and ladder back to fix the splitty stitch. (I'd missed two plies of the Cotton Fleece, and the stitch was all scrawny as a result. It bugged me to no end.) That bit of surgery was actually a pretty quick fix, and all I have left is the second sleeve cap.

Yesterday I also cast on for Orion's Sock. This was a case of "I should have listened to myself." The pattern is toe-up, and calls for a cast-on of 28 stitches, 14 on each needle. I thought to myself, "Hmmm...when working cuff-down, I usually decrease to 16 or 20 stitches, 8 or 10 on each needle. This seems like a shallow, wide toe." Guess was. Since I'd only knit one pair toe up before, I didn't question the pattern, at least not enough to change things from the outset. I was in denial for a few inches of toe and foot, then took an inevitable trip to the frog pond. I think I'm going to cast on again tonight and follow my own plan until I get to the correct number of stitches around.

The question of whether one is a process or product knitter comes up a lot. I've come to realize that for me, I can't have a product I'm happy with unless I complete the process to my own satisfaction. Which reminds me, there was something about the bind off on the Green Gable that was a little off...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Crime Scene Cleanup

So, I'm on a roll with these Chickamis. I just finished number three, and she's a-blockin'. (There may be some emergency surgery later, however. I'm not happy with a few stitches on the front. Depending on how it looks, I may run two lifelines, surgically remove the offending rows and graft the sucker back together. Otherwise, my obsessive mind will never let me forget that those stitches don't look quite right to me.) Pics of all stages will follow if that happens. I finished last night and decided that a thorough soaking might help to even things out, so I put the tank in for a good soak with some Kookaburra Wool Wash (love that smell!), and went to bed. This morning, it looked like my top had been used for major crime scene cleanup. I saved a glassful of the soaking water to show you. There is so much dye that you cannot see through the glass--it is practically opaque. You can't tell here, but it is exactly the deep red color of blood:

The label on a skein of Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece warns of color migration, but this is color exodus. I won't know until it dries, but the color of the garment seems not to be significantly different. I've noticed runoff with my other Cotton Fleece projects, but this was beyond the pale. It's a warning to not use Cotton Fleece for multi-colored projects, to be sure. (I'd thought about a striped tank using leftover bits and skeins, but that is officially off the table after this!) It also means that if I do perform surgery, I will pre-wash the yarn I use for it so that it exhausts some of its color, too. (FYI, the colorway is Sedona Red, which is a rusty red.)

I was down in the Craft Dungeon on Friday playing with more yarn and dye. I almost always listen to NPR, and they had some of the more interesting commentary about Michael Jackson. Since we are so close to Gary, IN, the local news has been out of control. Actually, all the news has been. I watched CBS Friday night, and Katie Couric paused for--no joking--maybe 4 minutes to report on something other than the death of Michael Jackson. As someone who came of age in the 70s and 80s, he was ever-present. I loved the Jackson 5 cartoon when I was a kid. I remember watching the Motown 25th Anniversary special and being amazed. My senior year, I was in something called AV Homeroom; it meant that we "produced" our morning TV show, but more importantly, we got to go to the AV room during study hall and watch MTV. Seriously. 1983-84-era MTV in instead of actual study hall? Clearly, a first-rate education was had. I knew every video in MTV's rotation by heart, including his. I must say, however, that the bizarre behavior, the disfiguring plastic surgery, and the legal issues turned me off to him. I do still love some of the old Jackson 5 hits (especially The Love You Save and ABC), although it's sad to think that whatever was happening to him then caused much of the strangeness in his later life.

I'm getting very excited about Sock Summit. I just picked my colors for the Orion Sock. I'm going to use Oregon Red Clover Honey and Crabby McHappyPants. I think the ORCH--which I love, love, love for its subtle shading and sophistication--will be a good foil for the brightymcbrightington-ness off CMcHP. Don't know if I'll get them done for SS, what with the four bazillion Chickamis and other warm-weather tops I still plan to make this summer. (I know some folks are taking things quite seriously and concocting sock-y costumes of sorts for the Sock Hop. I'm not likely to be one of them.) I need to get cracking on my homework for Meg Swansen's class, too. Plus, I'm looking forward to some quality time in Portland with the husband, who has been working way too much lately.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Because I know that the second-best way to show off your knits is to take blurry, not well-lit, pictures of yourself in a mirror, here is a Chococami action shot:

We are in the midst of another thunder and lightning storm--best time to be on a computer, right? Clearly my plans to go to Home Depot to shop for perennials are going to be scrapped in favor of building an ark, it is raining that hard. (Tough to build that ark without going to Home Depot, first, though, not coming from survivalist background.) It's also hailing big, bouncy pieces of ice which I always find a bit freaky. There are police and fire sirens all around (not uncommon when you live in the city, even if it is a generally calm neighborhood), which adds to the apocalyptic vibe. Oddly, the Weather Pixie down there on the left of the screen is wearing a sundress that shows a lot of leg and is calmly holding her umbrella, seemingly enjoying the deluge. Any Weather Pixie in her right mind would have taken cover, as her little black cat companion has already done. (I worry about the Weather Pixie; I think she has been behaving a little strangely of late.)

There is a good chance I may finish my Green Gable today. Yesterday I had an all-out panic because I had reached the end of a skein and couldn't find the rest of the yarn. I knew I had bought enough, but it was nowhere to be found. I literally had one inch to go on the body, then a short stretch on each arm to finish. After looking everywhere, I got myself worked into a state that necessitated that I either have to find more yarn or rip the whole thing out. I went online to check the eBay seller I got it from, and it turns out she had a 50% off sale on Cotton Fleece--and Cascade 220, too. She didn't have the color I needed, but, um, well, she had a few others. Whoops. (Her shipping is reasonable, too, just USPS Priority Mail with no extra fees.) Finally, last night around midnight, I went down to the Craft Dungeon to look again. After rifling through bins I had--ahem--carefully organized last week, I found it sitting on my work table, in plain sight. (Well, it was in a grocery bag, so it wasn't that obvious.)

Speaking of which I need to go check the Craft Dungeon. We have not had water issues in this house (at least not any that weren't directly linked to a failing pipe or faucet or toilet), but we did have a backup in the basement of our former condo, which is just a block away. I hope I never have to go through that again. Knock wood, cross fingers, turn around three times and spit, etc.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Feet Have Wings

I am an admitted enthusiast. I get on a kick with something and I just can't stop. (Some might call it compulsivity.) Lately (for a few years, actually), I've been quite enthusiastic about Fluevog shoes. I suppose I'm a collector, of sorts. Some other knitbloggers are, too (hello Marisol!), which is confirmed by the presence of a Fluevog group on Ravelry. (Okay, there are groups for almost everything on Ravelry, so it's really no wonder.) On Sunday I was swinging through the listings on eBay and happened upon a pair that called to me. (I know, used shoes--eeeew---but this pair could not have been worn more than once or twice given the condition they are in, and they were a sweet deal.) I think they look pretty fun with a pair of Monkeys:

I must note that these got to me from Kissimmee, FL in one day, USPS Priority Mail. And, my mailman--who has been hailed here as the nicest mailman ever--thanked me for getting a package! The guy really seems to like his job, even if things are not so great at the Postal Service these days. Mail volume is down (which, from an environmental standpoint is a good thing), and they reported a huge loss last quarter. They're talking about cutting Saturday delivery, and I think a lot of people are concerned about their jobs. (Some of the people who work at my local post office don't seemed to be concerned about their jobs--or much of anything for that matter, but that's another story. I try to avoid the actual post office as much as I can.) All-in-all, when the mail works, it's a pretty great deal.

Anyway, I digress...they are from the same Angel "family" of shoes as these boots that I wore last night when I was slogging around in the rain downtown:

My other 'Vogs are mostly of the 3" heel variety, but I'm kinda feeling the London-y, Punk-era vibe of these right now. Plus, it's still cold here in Chicago, so closed shoes with socks feel pretty good.

Because I know that bathtub drying racks are the BEST, most flattering places to photograph knits, here are some pics of the Chococami:

It was not getting dry on the blocking mat (what with all the moisture in the air and no airflow through the mat), so onto the rack it went. The patterned stitches are starting to "pooch" more as the water evaporates, so maybe it will be okay after all.

Yesterday's Craft Dungeon experiment was pretty cool. I have a veritable smorgasbord of yarn samples, and I wanted to see how they each took color. I took my mini skeins, "labeled" them with a semi-elaborate system of cotton ties, each with a different number of knots corresponding to my list of samples, weighed them, and calculated the depth of shade I was going for. Then they all went into the hot tub together. It was so interesting to see how the characteristics of each yarn changed (undyed yarn looks very different than dyed yarn which "blooms"), and how each fiber took up the color differently. Here are just a few of the mini-skeins strewn across my desk:

If only high school chemistry had been this much fun!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Hurrier I Go The Behinder I Get

The title is one of those Pennsylvania Dutch phrases that you see on kitschy trivets in tourist traps in PA Dutch/Amish Country (Lancaster, PA, and surrounding areas.) It's not something I've ever heard any of my Dutch relatives say, but it seemed to apply because projects are being completed, but photos are lagging seriously behind. For example, here is a (kind of blurry) pic of the cowl described in the last post:

Today I wove in ends and soaked my Chococami. It is a mash up of a Chickami and the Chocolate pattern on the cover of the latest Verena that I worked up in Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece in Truffle. All seemed to go well until I dunked it, and then the lovely puckery part (the element that attracted me to the design in the first place) kind of...deflated. It flattened right out. I'll have to see what happens when it's dry. It might still be fine, just different than originally intended.
While Chococami was soaking, I cast on for the Classic Elite Sprout Center Detail Tank. (Is that not the longest name for a tank top ever?!) I'm using some Araucania Nature Cotton picked up on the cheap from Webs. (I found out that an old friend that I recently reconnected with is moving to Northampton. Sounds like a Webs pilgrimage--I mean a visit with my friend--may be in my future!) It's going quickly which is good because bulky cotton is not the most fun to knit with, though it is producing a nice fabric. I'm also planning to make the Sprout Tee in the same yarn before this summer top mania I seem to be in passes.
I've got two other projects on needles right now, both in Cotton Fleece. I'm making my second Green Gable, this time in a bright blue. I made my first one during the time of the original Green Gable zeitgeist, and it was always too big. I tried to shrink it a bit in the wash, and from that point on it fuzzed like a milkweed pod. Eventually, it got thrifted. I'm experimenting with sizing on this one, and I hope I get it right. I'm also making the Leaf Tie Cardigan by Stephanie Japel.
WWKIP Day was damp, but there was a good turnout anyway. It was originally slated for Millennium Park, but it moved to the Cultural Center because of the rain. (If you are ever in Chicago and haven't already done so, you must visit Preston Bradley Hall in the Cultural Center to see the Tiffany Dome, and then pop over to Macy's (formerly Marshall Field's) to see the Tiffany Dome there, too. Gorgeous.) Hop over to Lynnette's post for the touching story about the pianist bound for Iraq who gave an impromptu mini-concert for a room full of knitters.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cowl Weather

It is cold here. I'm actually contemplating firing up the boiler again, it's that cold. And damp. And gray. Bleh. It's so cold that I put down my (clearly anticipatory) warm weather knitting and made a cowl yesterday. Chicago weather, however, is a cruel, cruel mistress, and she will be cranking up the heat at some point, and you can bet that I'll complain about that, too!

Speaking of the cowl, the Chickadee is one I've wanted to make for some time. I used some of the Malabrigo that I dyed recently, and it is so delish. The pattern is a keeper and has started wheels turning for new ways to use linen stitch. It is a bit time consuming, and because the fabric doesn't have a ton of stretch, it has limitations. However, I love how it can make a yarn, especially one that might have a tendency to pool, do something really fabulous.

On Friday, I posted that I'd decided (somewhat reluctantly) to go to my 25th high school reunion. One of the people I looked forward to seeing was my friend, Bill. We were close all through high school. We hung out, talked on the phone, confided in one another about our respective relationships, took a memorable trip to the Jersey Shore, and kept in touch for a while after graduation. I saw him at our 10-year reunion where we caught up and agreed we should stay in contact, although we didn't because he was in PA and I was in IL, and that's how things often go. This week, I found out that on Friday, the same day I decided to go to the reunion, Bill passed away. I'm going to miss seeing him, giving him a hug, and saying, "We really should stay in touch," even if we weren't actually going to do it.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Knot Again

With time quickly running out, I set aside last night to knit my Barn Raising Square for the blankets that will be raffled/sold at Sock Summit to benefit Knitters Without Borders. I've got a big bag full of fingering weight odds and ends, so I found a small ball that I liked and started knitting. Not long into the process, I hit a knot. Taking it as an opportunity, I changed colors. Then I hit a knot in that yarn, so I went back to the original color. Then, I hit another knot, so for the heck of it, I changed color again. This little square had more ends to weave in than a fair isle sweater! FYI, the blue/gray color is Piece of Beauty BFL in "Glacier" (love, love, love her colorways and base yarn), the pink/light green/baby blue is My Small Wonders in "Olivia's Favorite" (bought to make my niece, Olivia, a pair of socks), and the dark gray with neon flecks is some yarn I dyed in a class at Michigan Fiber Festival a few years back. (The knots, by the way, may have been my doing, not the yarn makers'. I think I combined multiple bits and bobs at one point. Why I did that, I'll never know.)

Here's another goody from the Craft Dungeon. It reminds me of Day Lilies and Oriental Lilies, so I'm calling it Lily Smashup. (Sorry the pic is fuzzy. After owning my camera for years, I finally found the macro settings and then took a cruddy pic anyway.)The color combo is kinda weird, but I like it. It's a pretty thin fingering weight, and there is a lot of it--more than 1300 yds.--so I may make some kind of shawl-y, wrap-y thing with it.

So, after a year of saying I wasn't going to my *significant number* high school reunion, today I found out that an old friend is coming all the way from Estonia to attend. Until a few weeks ago, it had been more than a decade since we'd been in touch. (Ah, the magic of Faceb00k.) We had managed to stay in contact for about 10 years after high school, which is kind of amazing since he was back at home in Sweden (he was a foreign exchange student), and we'd had one of those nasty high school breakups near the end of the year. (I broke up with him (with good reason), returned my prom dress, bought a different dress and then went to the prom with a different guy.) Despite bad feelings on both sides, we managed to patch together a pretty decent friendship before he left the country. (Even thinking about high school feels so, um, high school.) So anyway, I think I'd better suck it up (and suck it in) and go to the reunion. I told my husband that I would eat only iceberg lettuce from now until August 21. I've seen recent pics of some girls from my class, and they look good, some even better than they did back then. The guys...not so much. The whole thing gives me anxiety. High School Reunion, brought to you by the letter X, because without it, you couldn't have Xanax or Spanx, and you're going to need both.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Another Day in the Dungeon

Day two of stash reorganization. I'm almost done, though there a few odds and ends on the first floor that need to migrate back toward their friends downstairs. While I was arranging things, a few more skeins cooked up in the dyepot and are now dripping away, awaiting their turn to be re skeined.
So, here are a few pics of yarns dyed earlier in the week. I'm calling this one Greens n Roses:

Here are the three that were together in the dyepot hot tub:

I find it fascinating how different they all are. The worsted weight (middle pic) took up the most color and displayed more blended colors, especially greens. The fingering weight (top) came out pretty much as I'd hoped it would. And the Malabrigo (bottom) is the least intense. It's almost Martha Stewart-y in its shading.

Yesterday I was concentrating on blues and greens and blues, fuchsias, and purples. They're still drying. Today, I experimented with green, purple, blue, and orange. I'm pretty pleased with the results, though they are not colors I'd normally put together. Pics to come.

I'm about to run out to the farmers' market that is supposed to be set up in my neighborhood. Last week it wasn't, so we'll have to see. When I get back home I may do some handpainting now that my work table is cleared off.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Notes from The Craft Dungeon

I started out the day with a plan to reorganize the sock yarn stash. (Well, the part of the sock yarn stash that isn't BMFA, because that's all set, kept in its own special bins.) It got overwhelming very quickly, which is an indication that perhaps I have...wait for it...too much sock yarn. Eventually the feeling passed, and I actually decided to tackle the whole stash. It's a good idea to go through it now and again, not only to check on its health and well-being, but to decide if perhaps I have grown apart from some of it. Because I catalog on Ravelry, I rarely have those "I had no idea I had that" moments. I did, however, have some "I'm not sure I love you anymore" moments, so look for some bargains coming soon to my stash page.

While stash tossing, I also simultaneously continued to experiment with kettle dyeing. Kettle dyeing is much less predictable than handpainting, I've discovered, especially when you use more than three dye solutions or solutions with unpredictable blending results. But mama, that's where the fun is. (Sorry, I may have just planted an earworm.) One experiment was to put three different yarn bases in the same batch. It was amazing to see how the dye take-up was different for each base. Pictures coming soon!

The other night I decided to finally do some sewing, and I started playing around with a bunch of(intentionally) felted sweaters. I got this crazy idea to make a sock shaped bag using the felted material. (Yeah, I own that I had Sock Summit Fever.) So, it's late, and the husband comes down to the craft dungeon to find out what I'm doing. I show him the sock bag and he tells me that I "officially have too much time on my hands."

Sadly, I must report that it is not going to be a good year for the tomatoes. Many of my starts did not do well when they were transplanted to the garden. The weather has been weird here, with big, booming thunderstorms and cold fronts assaulting them. They were all heirloom seedlings, and I just think that some of them aren't as hale and hearty as the more common varieties. Some may hang on, but I'm going to have to buy some replacement plants (horrors!)