Thursday, May 31, 2007

The magic day finally arrived! Picture five happy knitters in a car, headed west, free of the usual obligations of showing up for work, driving the children here and there, making dinner, etc. After a mere two hours of travel time, ably navigated by Letitia (the GPS system) the intrepid group arrives at yarn heaven, otherwise known as WEBS, for some serious yarn treasury improvement.

As if this wasn't enough fun for one day, the adventuring group wandered down the street to the Calvin Theatre to hear possibly the funniest, most perceptive knitter and blogger extraordinaire in the world expound on the wondrous land of Knit. In case you are still guessing, this would be the Yarn Harlot I am speaking of, seen here being fortified for her efforts by a lovely glass of local craft-brewed beer:

Here she is, keeping us all spellbound and laughing most heartily. while the entire audience knit on, mostly on squares of Cashmerino Aran to be donated to Warm Up America. The sound of clicking needles was audible in that hall, let me tell you!

And what a hall it was, a fine old restored theatre, with screen panels in the walls like this one pictured below. Does this look to you like a bit of knitted lace or what? Quite a worthy location for this intrepid gathering!

After Stephanie's talk and some questions, all wrapped around more laughing than I have done in a long time, it was back to WEBS to wait patiently with a large whack of knitters to have a chance to meet Stephanie in person, have a book or two autographed, and have our group photographed with the Harlot herself and the famous sock. A grand time was had by all, I would say. Hope we can do it again soon!

Our trip was marred only by the loss of a nearly finished sock project. So if any of you out there in blogland happen to have seen an almost completed pair of purple socks in a zip lock bag somewhere around WEBS, the Calvin Theatre or the streets of Northampton, please report in as to its wearabouts. Its knitter is mourning its loss at the moment and would be much cheered by its return.

And in case anyone is checking, it is now 3:35 am on May 31; for some reason the date and time applied to this post are wildly inaccurate and I really have no idea why or how to make it right (same goes for the wasteful and unattractive white spaces around the photos in my post!). Always something new to learn, right?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Contest #1 for the Super Sox Box Swap: the challenge is to write about favorite drinks and snacks while knitting. is so hard to choose! On the one hand, whenever there are cups of something around I live in fear of either spilling something or having someone spill it! Years ago I was knitting a sweater outdoors at my job (lifeguarding at a municipal pool) and a bunch of kids conspired to dump a whole bucket of something wet and disgusting all over me. That is when I learned you can wash a pull skein of yarn in the skein if you are really careful!

I go to a knitting group once a week that meets in a local coffeehouse (yes, it is that place that has millions of shops all over the US, or so it seems) and I admit to carefully enjoying a mocha-type drink (espresso, milk, and a wee bit of chocolate syrup - not too sweet!) with my knitting most evenings. Sometimes by the time I get there I am all "coffee-ed out" for the day and I will have iced tea or iced tea with lemonade. Sometimes if there is something really yummy looking in the bakery case I will have a little sweet, but eating takes away from valuable knitting time - not to mention the possibility of crumbs and sticky fingers!

OTN just now is a version of Knitspot's "Obstacles" shawl (scroll down a bit until you see it):

in an easy care yarn called Marble. Yes, it is synthetic but it is very soft, not at all "squeaky" and has lovely long color repeats in one strand, with the other being solid. This is a prayer shawl for an ongoing project at my church - several of us knit them and then they are given away as needed (hence most of them are done in easy care yarns). I thought it would be "poetic justice" to use a pattern called "Obstacles" - maybe the person who eventually uses this shawl will be encouraged and strengthened to overcome some obstacles of their own. Besides, the pattern is fun to knit and IMHO looks great in this yarn. Perhaps I will have a photo soon - it is so gray and rainy here that I don't think a photo would look like much today!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Here are the facts, folks!

Following instructions, here are my replies to the Super Sox Box Swap Questionnaire. I hope I have given my swap buddy enough information here. If not, send more questions?

1.What are your favorite colors? What colors make you cringe?
My favorites are "jewel tones" - greens, blues, teals, purples, sunset colors. I cringe at most "dusty" colors, especially greens and browns that look dead.
2.Are you a new sock knitter? How long have you been knitting socks?
I have been knitting socks for about a year this time. Years ago I did a whole bunch of Christmas stockings, which are still socks, even if they are huge.
3.Do you prefer solid or multicolored yarn?
I prefer multicolor yarn or even a solid that has some mild shading - they just seem more lively to me.
4.What fibers do you prefer in sock yarn?
I have knit happily with wool blends and cotton blends. I haven't tried any of the newer fiber blends, although I look forward to it.
5.Where do you usually knit socks?
I work on socks at knitting group and during breaks at work. I look forward to getting more familiar and taking them everywhere.
6.How do you usually carry/store small projects?
I have a vast collection of bags of many sorts - some good for a sock project, and some that hold several projects, a book to read, things belonging to my children, etc. The right container is important to a project's success!
7.What are your favorite sock knitting patterns? Any favorite designers?
I don't have any favorites just now. I have a lot of patterns that I want to try - mostly things with a little lace or an interesting texture.
8.What are your favorite sock knitting techniques?
I like to knit two socks at once using Magic Loop just so I make sure to actually finish the second sock! I had fun with toe up socks as well, although those were a little hard to get started.
9.What new techniques would you like to try?
I am sure there are lots of heels and toes I haven't tried yet, but mostly I would like to reach the point that I don't have to consult a pattern all the time.
10.Do you prefer circulars or dpns for sock knitting?
Lately I have been using circulars - either two at once or magic loop, but I think I should try DPN's again to see if it makes life simpler for me.
11.What are some of your favorite yarns?
I like the variation and interest of hand dyed yarns, but really as long as the yarn feels nice and has colors I like, anything goes. About the only thing I am not wild about is the yarn with faux fair isle bits (grey and white or black and white specks).
12.What yarn do you adore and yearn for? What yarn makes you happiest?
Yarn that is soft and interesting and is in colors I like. It is fun to receive local yarn from somewhere near the home of my swap buddy!
13.Any pattern you would love to make if money and time were no object?
Can't think of one - sock knitting is such a reasonable hobby in terms of cost. I guess if time were no object I could find lots of complex cables or lace to fill my hours.
14.Favorite kind of needles (brand, materials, straights or circs, etc)?
Currently I am using Addi Turbos for magic loop (since they come in 40 inch length). I also like to knit with bamboo, especially if the yarn is at all slippery.
If you were a specific kind of yarn, which brand and kind of yarn would you be?
Purple and teal hand-dyed merino/silk/alpaca blend lace weight. Can't think of a brand that makes such a thing, but there probably is one out there.
Do you have a favorite candy or mail-able snack? Sweet or salty?
I am a big fan of dark chocolate anything. It is fun to receive local favorites! Salty is okay, too.
Do you collect anything?
I think I mostly collect yarn and patterns and knitting books! We also have quite a few musical instruments around the house. I also collect cookbooks - I love to read them and then try some of the new recipes.
What is your favorite scent?
I try to stay away from scented things since they are often too strong. I use lavender shower soap sometimes, and I like spices and citrus also, but very low key.
Will you be celebrating a birthday, anniversary, etc. between now and the close of the swap?
Sadly no - my birthday is in December and my anniversary is in October.
What’s your favorite animal?
Do humans count? I like watching the loons on the lake in New Hampshire and also chipmunks racing around the woods.
Do you have pets? What are their species/names/ages?
We have one dog - a five year old Shiba Inu named Pippin. Other than that, just the children (ages 16,14,11, and 8) and a number of mice who think this house is theirs.
Tell me the best quote you’ve ever heard or read.
My favorite quote is from a book called "The Once and Future King" by T.H. White; it is a version of the King Arthur legends. It starts like this: “The best thing for being sad,” ... “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails....I can send you the whole thing sometime if you like.
What is your motto in life?
To try new things whenever I can, and to read lots of books, especially those written about things I am unlikely to do.
Do you have a wishlist? (ie: Amazon, B&N, a LYS, online store, etc.) Please list link here.
Not one that is up to date enough to share.
Anything else you’d like to share with your Sox Box pal?
I am looking forward to getting to know you. This should be a lot of fun!
Any allergies to be aware of for this swap?
None here!
Coffee, Tea?
I am a coffee fan but sometimes drink tea as well - especially iced tea when it is hot.
Anything Else?
Can you give me an idea how long it takes things to arrive there from the US? I don't want to be too late sending my package!

So there it is - probably more than seems strictly necessary, but some of the details should make for some interesting conversations with my buddy. It is a wonderful thing that this elephant known as the Internet makes this kind of fun possible. When I was a kid my mother belonged to the local Eastern Star chapter, and they always had a year long secret pal program going on. It seemed fun to me then too, even though I was on the outside looking in.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Another post! Yippee! At long last here is the saga of the Wedding Shawl (no longer from Hell, as it was finished on time and was a rousing success). Hope that isn't giving too much away.

To recap:
After the lengthy trial and selection process, buying lots of patterns and yarns that went unused, the bride decided on Fiddlesticks Lily of the Valley stole and was convinced to have it made up in an icy blue shade, since natural white yarn was never going to match a wedding dress made of white synthetic fabircs. I ordered two likely shades of Alpaca Cloud from Knitpicks (since the monitor colors were so different from the catalog photos that once again I could not tell which was the color I really wanted, and time was running out). I settled on Horizon Heather, which looks to be a strand of white plyed with a strand of very mildly varying pale blue. I was really tempted by some of the Colourmart yarns and their colors, but I just could not afford the time (and the possibility that on arrival the color would be wrong). I took their advice, however, and got myself a copy of the Online Auction Color Guide, so now I am ready for the next time (all my sisters are married now, so I probably won't need to do this again until my daughters are old enough).

The knitting itself took almost exactly one month. I loved the pattern - a fourteen row repeat, easy to memorize and to read off the knitting I'd already done. I took care of the dreaded "nupps" by keeping a size 1 DPN handy (usually tucked in my hair) for any nupp that I couldn't just purl off with the needles the shawl was on (a size 4 bamboo circular). I had hoped to use something pointier, like my Knitpicks Options or an Addi, but the alpaca seemed too slippery, and I think the time I might have saved on the nupps would have been used up chasing dropped stitches.

As is my usual sort of modus operandi, I finished the knitting itself at about 2:00 am Saturday morning of the wedding. I spent the whole car ride from Massachussetts to Ohio knitting, plus lots of other time the week before, but some of my precious knitting time was taken up by shopping (flower girl dress for my daughter, slips for everyone, etc.) and general fun (taking the adults out for an annual birthday dinner, things like that).

I finished blocking at about 5:00 am. By the time I got up at 8:00ish to start driving people places (hairdresser and the like) the shawl was dry so I could unpin it and deliver it. My sister gamely wore it to the church (fastened with the Leslie Wind shawl pin I gave her) and posed for photos, but then folded it away since the day turned out to be beautiful and not cold enough to require its use. I know that if I had not knitted it, or not gotten it finished, the wedding day would have been gray and chilly!
Here are the photos - I changed the time so perhaps they will appear after the text post after all. I have my fingers crossed!

A detail photo of the unblocked lace:

How fortunate that my mother has a carpeted attic floor! The bad news was that I had fallen and bashed my knee on one of the shopping trips earlier in the week, so crawling around on the floor was less than fun. The good news is that the blocking wires were just great for the short ends, which have points to pull out. I just wish the ends of the wires had a better finish to them.

Here it is stretched out on the sofa after blocking - it gained quite a bit of length (Whew!) and of course that magic thing happened to the lace:

The "magic thing" in detail (ignore the knitting mistakes - they are really just bad repairs to real mistakes, and could never be seen by someone racing by!).

And Herself the Bride. I don't know if she is blushing, but she looks terrific (I am only a little bit prejudiced here).

Now to start thinking about my daughter's eighth grade graduation....she wants a shrug...pattern and yarn already selected, but gauge is proving to be completely elusive...