Monday, January 29, 2007

Sing it, Peggy!

This weekend I finished the second of Eunny Jang's Endpaper Mitts. This project was quite engrossing and required a certain amount of paying attention. I finally mastered the dastardly increasing in pattern routine and significantly improved my stranding skills. By the end of the second mitt I could predict the pattern and knit on with confidence without feeling like I needed to run to my LYS like the insecure crafter I truly am.

So after knitting all day Saturday and for several hours yesterday, I finished. I expected a wave of satisfaction to wash over me. I was halfway expecting a surge of adrenaline and the knitting equivalent of a 'runner's high'. But I just felt...nothing. Perhaps the frigid temps outside are not making fingerless gloves seem all that practical right about now, especially since I'm about to go the coldest place in the world i.e. Minnesota on Wednesday. But still, I worked in a sustained and dedicated manner on these, with yarn from my stash like a good little stash buster, shouldn't I feel

So tell me. Delurk yourselves and answer me this: does completing a knitting project ever leave you with an empty, dissatisfied feeling? Are you ever left wondering, à la Peggy Lee, "Is That All There Is?"

Monday, January 22, 2007

Insert Appropriate Pirate Exclamation (here)

Something about the excitement of seeing the naughty skull and crossbones pattern gradually emerge made the We Call Them Pirates hat a very captivating weekend project. You can get the pattern at Hello Yarn and join the KAL here. The pattern calls for Dale of Norway Hauk, but since I'm knitting from my stash I used a store credit (I'm really stretching this whole knit from your stash concept, aren't I?) to buy a suitable substitute. Sadly I was given a bum steer and used Trekking (Hello, sock yarn?! Would it kill me to pay attention once in a while?) and the hat came out just the right size for the most junior member of this household.

Now, I love this kid and she's loving the hat, but I WANTED IT FOR MYSELF! So, I will dig out some Peer Gynt from my stash and have another go at it. What is perplexing to me is that I swatched this hat and actually got gauge, so why the smallness? What am I not understanding? In any case, I am glad to have a girl who wants to wear pirate insignia when all indications point to the fact that Hannah Montana and other Disney channel tween trollops have colonized the minds of our nation's young girls

If you are looking for a weekend fling, might I suggest mittens? I was on a major mitten kick last year and the urge to knit them has waned considerably. But as I was digging through my stash and contemplating the general horror, I noticed a lone mitten that was only halfway completed. I fished it out with glee realizing the potential that it represented--a pair of finished objects in very little time.

While watching a looooong Antonioni film on Saturday night and then Da Bears yesterday (whoo-hoo, I'm a Vikes fan but I'm rooting for them because a. the Vikings suck and b. it's Babs' team), I now have a pair of mittens for the frigid temps that are predicted to be coming our way in the next several days. I did them out of
Big Print, a yarn I truly love. There's nothing like taking care of unfinished business!

The Knitting group met yesterday at church and we've decided to knit along with the Lone Knitter and the Crafty Granny and contribute to their blanket/squares drive. I highly recommend it as a. it's a great cause, b. the Lone Knitter is a major doll and
c. there is some serious contest swag involved! Go for it, knit some 8 x 8 squares, you know you want to!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A charmed life...

It seems as if every time I've turned around this week, I've had a lovely gift bestowed upon me. Some were for my birthday (which was Sunday) and from the usual suspects. Others were from people far afield and totally unexpected. All made me intensely happy and reminded me that I am living a charmed life indeed...

The swag:

My best pal Babs, daughter of Big Babs, gave me a Kpixie gift certificate. Hey, she was honest about her intentions as the gift cert message stated "Happy Birthday, I'm an enabler!". Yes you are Babs, and it's one of your many charms. Of course the gift cert burned a hole in my pocket, so I ordered some Brooklyn Handspun in Jungle Canopy. Yeah, it's sock yarn, I know I have a problem. But it's gorgeous, a lovely palette of green that will brighten up these dreary winter days, for sure. I am a Brooklyn Handspun virgin, so any input you all might have would be welcome.

One of the lovely exchange Graduate Students from France brought me three French Phildar knitting magazines! In a bag from the actual Phildar store! She is an absolute love for indulging me this way. Perusing these gems has induced in me a state of protracted euro-bliss.

Has anyone noticed yet that one of my new blogging strategies is to post a lot of pictures of things that I've received/bought/acquired in order to mask the lack of any real knitting progress? Just wondering...

The next present was very unexpected and truly appreciated. It comes from the Crafty Granny (Mom J of Lone Knitter fame). I commented on her blog that I really liked her Wallaby and was eager to try it myself...

So guess what? She bought me the pattern and mailed it to me, can you believe that? I always knew that knitters were a generous bunch, but this was truly a first for me. I am fascinated by this pattern and will be making one for a pal that's having a bébé this Spring. Thank you Crafty Granny!!

I also received (do you hate me yet?) a present from my best friend from high school, Nance. She went to a LYS in Minneapolis and purchased Hand Knit Holidays, a book I'd been coveting for a while. It arrived yesterday and I am looking forward to paging through it this weekend.

My next acquisition is one that I have been salivating over for months and months. Of course the time comes in every knitter's life when a knitting bag becomes no longer a luxury, but rather an essential accessory. You know what I'm talking about--suddenly that natty left-over satchel from the most recent Girl Scout event starts to bring your whole look way down, and something more stylish is a must.

(Yes, I know, I'm wretchedly shallow, this is not new information to anyone who knows me, incidentally.) So I caved (twist my arm!) and got a Jordana Paige Knitter's Satchel in Graphite and I LOVE IT WITH MY WHOLE HEART. It looks like a gigantic 1950's retro purse, has many little pockets and places for special knitting accoutrements and holds a massive amount of yarn, needles and other notions. The interior is surprisingly cavernous. The bottom has those metal feet that allow it to stand and not slump over. It has secret little pockets as well as snaps for holding in place errant balls of yarn. I could go on and on about this bag. If you're on the fence about it and can spare the ca$h, I highly recommend that you go for it! See, I can enable with the best of 'em.

Lastly, socks from Socks that Rock (colorway: 24 karat). Sure I bought it with my own money, (Happy Birthday to me!) but the money was a present, so I have technically not violated my 'knit from your stash' precept, right? Right? By the way, thanks to all you enablers out there who flooded my blog with comments stating that 'sock yarn doesn't count as stash'. A real supportive bunch. Glad I'm not trying to kick a pot habit, you all would be first in line with a bong and some twinkies...Ahem, personal reminiscences of my twenties aside, this is my first experience with Socks that Rock. I wanted to see what all the hot fuss was about, so I ordered some. I know, I am so late to the party. Since I joined a sock knitalong at my LYS that begins on Saturday, I have an excuse (like I needed one) to give this yarn a try. Is it bad etiquette to bring yarn from another store to your LYS for a knitting event? Please let me know. Come on, delurkify, you know you want to!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Back to life, back to reality

Winter break is drawing to a close, and I am thrilled. Don't get me wrong, I love to slough off as much as the next person, but enough is enough. Back to work, people!

Perhaps one of the reasons that I'm not too upset about returning to work is that I feel that I have go
tten in a sufficient amount of knitting. I was able to finish irritating wips, do some yarn store browsing (and purcha$ing) , learn new techniques and begin new projects. I did it all, and now I'm ready for a break from my break!

One project I was able to begin was the very challenging, white knuckle knitting experience that is known as the
Endpaper Mitts.
Eunny Jang is an expert knitter, and her pattern shows it! I was fine until the 'increase in pattern' part sent me into major meltdown mode and straight to my LYS.

Luckily someone was there who has a lot of expertise in this area, and she was a huge help. I finished the first one earlier today and am getting ready to cast on for the second one. I did mine out of
Wool in the
Woods 'Cherub' (More than Mint and Red Red Wine) from my stash. One thing that greatly facilitated this project was the purchase of the Knit picks Chart Keeper, a magnetic chart holder that allows you to focus on one row at a time. Think of it as Ritalin in office supply form--just there to keep you focused and on task. It arrived while I was in the midst of the project and things sped up significantly when I began using it. For less than $10, this was totally worth it.

Pesky wip department: The little baby hat you see was originally meant to be a Swedish folk mitten....yeah, then I got real and decided that it would make a lovely baby doll hat! I mean, I'd like to think of myself as the type of person that has the patience to knit a Swedish folk mitten, but I'm just not there yet. This was one of my first small scale stranding projects, and you can see that the tension is a little wonky.

I managed to finish a hat for the elder kiddie winkie. I did this out of some Dale of Norway Falk Neon--love the insane saturated brilliance of the yarn in this line. No, your monitor is not playing tricks on you, that's the actual color of the yarn. This was a fun hat to make, but again, you see that the tension is still an issue...

I also finished the sweater for the youngest one. You might recall that she had requested a blue sweater with white snow flakes--well, here it is. I made it out of Kraemer Summit Hill, a perfectly versatile super wash wool that is economical, but, well, boring. There's nothing wring with this yarn, it's just, well, totally average. Give me the thrilling softness of Lorna's Laces any day over this humdrum stuff. But she loves her sweater, so I am happy. The body was a cinch to complete, but the sleeves, that's another story. I've decided that sleeves are the second sock of the sweater knitting world. They inspire dread and take f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

The decks are now sufficiently cleared for my next insane undertaking. Some of you guessed's the Knit Picks Palette Fair Isle Cardigan. Yes, apparently I am crazy, but I just can't resist giving this enticing project a whirl. I already know that I must be nuts because my first task is to cast on over 280 stitches of black yarn on size 2 needles. Yikes. Here's hoping that I have the stamina to finish this before Easter!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Project Destashification

Being an academic means that I am forever on a student's timetable. This has pluses and minuses. A minus: the average age of the person that I see most often is about 20, yet I keep getting older, meaning that I remain a permanent adolescent as I enter middle age. A plus: Winter Break. I have been using this time in my customary way--knitting, traveling, reading back issues of the New Yorker, the Nation and Allure, staying up late and drinking, knitting, and thinking about knitting. All of this free time has permitted me to confront the grim realities of my stash. In two words: it's hideous. It has grown to gargantuan proportions and is making me feel mentally ill. If anyone had this much, say, vodka in their house, they'd be the object of an AA intervention right quick. Most people in my life don't know about the stash. To my kids it's just my yarn, and they think nothing of it. The Darling Resident Marxist Curmudgeon has commented on it, although not as much as I would have expected given that it embodies so many things that he despises (gluttony, greed, excess, expenditure of ca$h money). But because it's up on the third floor of our house, no one ever really sees it, so I can go on pretending that I'm actually a normal person. I can hold my head up high during the day...yet like Arthur Dimsdale in the Scarlet Letter, at night I lock myself in a closet and whip myself (ok, not really, but you get the whole self-flagellation image) for being such an evil, evil knitter. It's so much yarn, and it feels so wrong!
So I have decided to join the ranks of the Lone Knitter ( and her chastening yarn diet), Très Chic Véronique, and Wendy and knit only from my stash in 2007. Believe me, this will not be even slightly difficult! If you click here you can read about the project. I am making several modifications, however. Wendy and co. are allowing themselves to buy sock yarn. I def. will not be doing this, as sock yarn is one of my biggest problems. Buying sock yarn for me is like eating one of those fun size Snickers bars. It's so small you tell yourself that it doesn't really count, and then you wind up eating about 8 more. (Did I mention that I'm also doing Weight Watchers right now?) To illustrate how much a little can add up to a lot, I have included pictures or only my sock yarn stash. Believe me, I'm not proud of this (see below).

So, you won't catch me buying any yarn in 2007...although technically I already broke this as several days ago I ordered a gigantic project from Knitpicks that should keep me occupied for months--knowing that I now love fair isle knitting, can you guess which one it is? I'll post more info when the dust settles...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Plus ça change...

Yes, the more things change, the more things stay the same. Last night, we had a special dinner straight from the pages of Barefoot in Paris. Somewhere during the Endive, Pear and Roquefort salad, the Darling Resident Marxist Curmudgeon declared that he was "my slave for life". And this even before the dessert, a sinful chocolate cake with a chocolate-orange ganache! After our meal sans enfants (thank you Lord for slumber parties!), we settled down in front of the fire to a lovely bottle of Bordeaux, watched the second halves of several movies that we hadn't been able to finish during the past year and I happily knitted. Sheer delight, esp. since I now have my very own slave for life à la the Brady Bunch!

I finished a sock I started in NJ and must quickly cast on for #2. I used the Filatura di Crosa Zara which is fast becoming my new best friend. I did this sock of #4 dpns and am very happy with it. The #4s certainly made the job go quickly, yet the socks don't seem as bulky as the ones that I have done on #5s and #6s.
As I did the heel and the toe in a contrasting color, I made a little snafu and had a line of the green going across the top of the foot. This gave me the perfect opportunity to break out a book I've been wanting to use ever since I got my grubby little hands on it. I learned how to do duplicate stitching and completely fixed my own problem. Imagine that! Anything that prevents me from going to my LYS and spending tons of ca$h (see below) is a good thing. Knit Fix is totally worth the $$ if you've been thinking about getting it!

Hole in the head department: Today my LYS had their annual New Year's Day sale. Now, why on earth did I go to this?!! Such is the life of an addict. I am so annoyed with myself, not only did I purchase some yarn (see Lorna's Laces, Trekking and Lang JaWoll, totally not needed and pictured below),

but I somehow managed to LOSE an entire bag of patterns and Norwegian Knitting magazines that I purchased. When I went to the car to bring it in, of course I waited for the cover of night, if you know what I my horror I discovered that it's nowhere to be seen. I am praying that I mistakenly left it at the register. Argh! Hoping that my trusted LYS owner (who is much more together than me) will have it in the safety of her store. This is actually kind of funny, since every time I go there I always leave the pattern that I'm working on behind, so how fitting that I should leave a whole year's worth there on New Year's Day!

In other news:

Our church knitting group is shipping our Caps to the Capital off tomorrow. We made 50! I was very pleased and am glad that our group is now going strong. We have a fantastic mixture of new and experienced knitters and are looking for our next service project.