Knitting


Howdy, doody – the Girlfriend Tank is finished.

 

Maizy likes it, which is good enough for me.

Super simple to make.  I like the way the striping came out, even though I flew by the seat of my pants with it, alternating colors along the way, gradually working toward a higher white-to-blue ratio closer to the top (excluding the straps).

PatternShort Snort Girlfriend Tank, by Wendy Bernard at Knit and Tonic (available free here)

Yarn:  Louisa Harding Coquette (blue, 2 skeins) and white acrylic baby-weight of unknown manufacturer from the stash

Time to complete:  about a week

Suggested alterations:  add a couple of decreases in each of the four rows coming up to the underarm area (prior to the 6-stitch bind-offs) to create a bit of a tighter fit and prevent accidental boob exposure

 

It's a high-fashion item

It's a high-fashion item

Upon being presented with this garment, Maizy asked, “What’s this thing?” in reference to the silver ring on the front bodice. 

I explained that this was a high-fashion item that would make her shirt more special. 

Later that day, she followed up with several other questions about high fashion, which I answered confidently, if not in a laughably unqualified manner. 

 

 

A nice air-conditioned stripe, if you will.

Once the tank was blocked, the two different yarn types flowed together much more smoothly, as one might expect.  The few rows of solid blue that I’d done at the bottom came out just as I’d hoped; a bit breezy and airy looking, owing to the use of the lighterweight Coquette on its own. 

 

 

Initially I made the straps plenty long, so that I could just shorten them to fit once Maizy could try it on.  The problem, as I had figured might arise, was a bit of unwanted boobage on display with the straps anything less than as short as they could be and still fit over her head. 

Hot off the needles, unblocked, plenty of strap length

Hot off the needles, unblocked, plenty of strap length

Fully blocked

Fully blocked, shorter straps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I shortened the straps to this short-as-can-be length and it looks much better, but any sudden movements and she’ll be flashing the general public.  Not that public toddler-boobage is the world’s biggest crime, but since she usually does wear a shirt when she’s out on the town…Sissy B may add a small dart tack  (½-inch or so) under each armpit to keep things contained.

All in all, it’s a cute little project that I hope will be a bit of bling for the wardrobe, even over a turtleneck on snow days.

I think she looks fabulous in it, but I’ve got major auntie bias.

 

I did embark on one other wee project recently, inspired by my sister’s a) craftiness and b) environmentally-friendly choices.  Months ago we made a trip to Jo-Ann’s during which we picked up some fabric for making cloth napkins.  She of course forged ahead with the project, churning out a number of cutie designs that have since replaced her paper napkin supply (she’s also gotten rid of paper towel – even with two little ones – using washcloths and towels to clean up all spills).  I on the other hand made no such progress.

Spurred on by the chance to use my mom’s feisty Bernina (Sissy B now keeps the legendary sewing machine at her place), I got down to it in making a few cloth napkins of my own.  That said, sis did end up doing most of the sewing while I was blocking my knitting.  But I did some of it.  And cut out the pieces and pressed the seams.  Not that there’s much of a pattern to these puppies, but we did follow Amy Karol’s Bend the Rules Sewing pattern, because we could, and because we like Amy and her phenomenal blog.

I dig these.  Not only are they pretty, but I can do my part by decreasing the unneeded consumption of paper products in our household.  The Napkins That Saved The World.

 

OK, one parting funny before I sign off.

As part of Maizy’s b-day, her parents got her a Barbie Rock Star Guitar

Absolutely hilarious. 

It comes with a headet mike (think Britney) that really works, real strings to strum, and a number of really-not-that-annoying music tracks, which you can speed up or slow down to meet the mood. 

The frontrunner of the available songs it plays is “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (Sissy B said that once she heard that, the guitar was immediately added to the shopping cart).  Maizy was very serious about her newly unveiled instrument, and she serenaded us with a full concert of her best material, complete with professional-looking shimmying, hopping, and facial expressions.  I think my favorite was the swaying – “Guys, I’m going to do a slow one now.”

Anyway, had to share.  Her leader-of-the-band rocker chick impersonation will forever be linked in my mind with the sparkly Girlfriend Tank that she sported around for us the weekend she turned three.  Happy Birthday, Maiz.

I’ve cast on something new. My poor second sock and Fisherman’s Sweater sigh collectively in their relegation to the bench. Sorry guys – I got distracted by a couple of balls of yarn in my stash, and I gave in to the ADD.

Speaking of. I can’t focus on telling you about my new project until I post a few pics that have recently grabbed my (fleeting, fickle) attention in the way of inspiring future knitting or sewing ventures.

The other day I was driving along and saw a billboard with a super-cute cowlneck sweater – didn’t get a great look, but long enough of one that I saw it was a Gap ad. Here’s what I saw, revealed again to me in more detail later online:

Cowlneck pullover, at Gap

Cowlneck pullover, at Gap

Completely cute.  I’m such a sucker for cowls, I really really am.  I want everything to be available in a cowlneck.  So cozy, and so cool-looking.  This one is cotton knit, available in the color shown (“terrain”), charcoal, and heather gray.

“Cool-looking” is a bit vague (as well as juvenile, but there you go) – let me be more specific.  It looks sophisticated, to my eye; the way the fabric gracefully swirls into an artful arrangment, tossing light around, managing to look classy without trying too hard.  This Gap version is especially casual-looking with the i-cords and the short sleeves, paired with a striped long-sleeved tee.

 
If I were to knit this, I may want longer sleeves.  It’s a fine-gauge knit, which makes it even nicer-looking, but alas, more daunting to knit, which makes it less likely to happen.
 
I’m not saying I’m going to run out to the Gap to buy one ($34 isn’t hugely expensive, but…I’d rather get it on sale).  However.  They do have these available in Tall sizes, which is just so awesome, regardless of the fact that the sleeves aren’t actually long, such as to require a Tall size to make them longer for monkey arms.  The long torso would be fully covered, though – no inadvertent belly shots.  I feel like I should patronize Gap and Banana Republic more than my once-a-year average so that they keep the Talls in their portfolio.
 
Hmmm.  Maybe I need to buy one just for research purposes.  In case I get around to making a knock-off of my own, like in 30 years’ time.  Hmmmm.
 
All that joyful day-dreaming, just from one glance at a billboard.
 
In the not-quite-the-same-but-close category, the two designs below ended up under my gaze a few weeks ago via a banner on MSN.com.  Normally I don’t click on these things (I’m not usually that ga-ga about being fashion-forward), but what can I say?  I did.  These are definitely just eye candy for me as well:  the pretty little pictures clicked me through to Neiman Marcus, where my pocketbook doesn’t normally allow me to tread.  Anyhoodie:
 
 
Hooded cardigan, at Neiman-Marcus

Hooded cardigan, at Neiman Marcus

Sweater coat, at Neiman-Marcus.

Sweater coat, at Neiman Marcus.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Did someone say hoodie?  The first one, on the left, looks soooo cozy.  You can barely tell it has a hoodie from the front; not that there’s anything wrong with looking like you have a hoodie.  What I mean is that it has a very clean, simple look with straight yet soft lines on the front.  I like the hoodie-in-the-back part because it keeps the sweater from taking itself too seriously.  This kind of feels like a “business in the front, party in the back” cardigan – you know, like a mullet.  Except much, much, much less scary.
 
The price tag to obtain this look, however, at least from Neiman Marcus, is a wee bit steeper than a mullet.  This was priced at a few hundred bucks…cashmere blend, you see. 
 
The price of the sweater coat on the right was approaching two thousand dollars (not in Monopoly money, either).  I didn’t bother to take specific note for a wish list of any kind because I’m a normal person and I wouldn’t go spending 2 Gs on a sweater coat, no matter how pretty it is.
 
But since very few of us are actually going to go out and buy it, let’s just skip ahead to talking about how pretty it is indeed, because that part is free.  I know what you’re saying:  another cowlneck?  Well, that’s what I thought at first, hence the initial draw.  But the item description said it’s an “attached scarf”, which I can see, upon closer inspection.  This too, is knit in cashmere.  I don’t care if it’s cashmere or not (although if I had the money to burn – I’ll take the cashmere) – I just really really like the design.  In a more durable fiber, this would be a great go-to, wear-it-all-the-time staple.  I love the look, and it would be fairly easy to construct something similar on the fly, I think. 
  
The last design that caught my eye recently is one would be in the sewing vein.
 Tweed dress, at Neiman-Marcus

Tweed dress, at Neiman Marcus

 
Tell me, is this not the cutest little dress you ever did see? 
 
Not so much in a garden-party summer dress kind of way, but more in a polished, I’m-feeling-quite-pulled-together-today kind of way.  Now I’m not a size 0, which I’m sure is the size the model is sporting (my booty can only occasionally squeeze into a single-digit size…well, maybe less than occasionally; in theory, I guess it could, like if I quit eating for a couple of weeks), but I think this could be a flattering size on anyone.  Almost anyone.  The shoulders would have to be a bit broader than average to accomodate my frame, especially with the cap sleeves (which very often on me look like a mistake, perhaps the result of a good shrinking in the dryer).  But.  If I were to embark on, say, a sewing project (bringing my machine out of the hibernation it’s been in for the last year or so), I could make it to fit.
 
So.  The snaps above have been inspiring me as I think about projects on the horizon.
 
Back to the project I’ve cast on. 
 
I discovered Wendy Bernard’s website, Knit and Tonic, via MLE’s blog (MLE Knits – love Emily – get it?  M-L-E …emmm-elllll-eeeeee).  Wendy is the author of recently-released and already very popular Custom Knits, which MLE reviewed here, and I think looks like a great book.  It’s now on my Amazon Wish List, where all my dreamy pattern books hang out until I can afford to tell the boys over at Amazon to pick it off the shelf and send it – rescuing it for my exclusive perusal.
 
Wendy is great.  She’s got a daughter that’s only a bit older than my niece Maizy.  She calls her daughter Girlfriend, which I love.  Her writing is so much fun to read; you feel like you know her.  She’s fabulous yet not imtimidating.  Her photos of projects are well-considered and creative; often the photo seems more like a potrait being created, it so happens, whilst the model is engaged in some kind of activity fitting with the knit design (à la Rowan – you know what I mean).  Her snapshots make me feel like I’ve been pulled into her movie set.  [Director’s notes in the margin: Gorgeous yet down-to-earth woman enters stage left; she walks gracefully through her lovely, bright, inviting home, adorable daughter in tow.  She moves through to the garden, peering over her shoulder into the camera’s lens as the stunning knitwear she wears catches the glowing light of dusk, the scene thus enhanced by the play of light and shadows.]
 
In other words, she’s hot stuff.  Oh, and did I mention that these knits as featured are of her own design?  Yeah, that’s right.  She also has a few patterns that are free, which I’ll get to in a minute.
 
Needless to say, her blog is quite popular.  There’s a lot to look at.  I started with the links under her Photo Album section in the left sidebar, which drew me in with links called The Winners and The Losers: her buckets for categorizing FOs.
 
The Zephyr Gals, at ZephyrStyle.com

The Zephyr Gals, at ZephyrStyle.com, promoting the 2008 Race for the Cure

I discovered the Zephyr gals while stalking visiting Wendy’s site.  One look and I knew these two were my kind of chicas.  They are the starter-uppers of Zephyr Style, a site through which they offer great original knitting designs (I liked Green Gable, which I’d initially seen on Wendy’s blog). 

The Zephyr Style blog is located here, just in case, like me, you’d like to lurk for a long, long time get to know them.

 
My heavens, I keep getting distracted.
 
Here’s the start of my new project – hopefully off the needles very soon because it was only meant to be a quickie:
 
Beginning of Short Snort Girlfriend Tank, by Wendy Tan (KnitandTonic.com)

Beginning of Short Snort Girlfriend Tank, by Wendy Tan (KnitandTonic.com)

 
It’s Wendy’s Short Snort Girlfriend Tank, available for free on her Knit and Tonic site.
 
Simple pattern, but fun.  Upon seeing it I became inspired to find a loving knit-home for two balls of Louisa Harding Coquette that I’d picked up on clearance a few weeks back.  At 73 yards each, this amount wasn’t going to make much, but the wee sparkles were calling my name at the time.  Or rather, Maizy’s name, since she is the person I thought would enjoy them the most.  
 
I didn’t have quite enough to make the tank completely in Coquette, so I thought perhaps I’d stripe it by mixing in some run-of-the-mill white.  I swatched it and liked what I saw.  Even if it’d be a bit more work, I decided it would be worth it.
 
See how it sparkles?

See how it sparkles?

The gauge was spot-on with the two fibers held together, and pretty darn close with just the white (standard baby-weight acrylic left over from a previous project – the label is long gone).  I decided it would be funky to alternate fairly randomly between white, blue, and both colors combined.   The gauge with the skinny blue-sparkles fiber alone (a.k.a. Coquette) was a little peek-a-boo on my size US 6 needles, but a couple rows here and there seemed to give it a fun texture.  Why not?

So far so good.  I really like it.  The project’s not a major commitment at under 250 yds total, but little things can be fun.  Plus, they look bigger on a pre-schooler.  It may be getting a little cool in Colorado (where Maizy lives) to go around wearing only a tank, but she likes to layer, so she can work this look even through the snowy season.
 

I’d better blog off – time flies.  Especially when you spend a good chunk of your evening drooling all over the Anthropologie website (releasing pent-up desire after a brief and fortunately inexpensive trip there with Sissy B while we were together recently).

During that trip to Anthropologie, we got two of these mugs (on clearance, of course; my aforementioned pocketbook can’t handle that store on a regular basis, either).  The idea was that we could each have a cup, one half of the twin set, from which to sip our tea and think happy thoughts about our visit – later, when we’re miles apart.

(long, happy sigh)
 

Then Maizy, who upon fervent request and subsquent cautioning took on the task of carrying the bag with my cup in it, took a bit of a spill as we were walking to the car, bless her heart. She’d been multi-tasking: bag in one hand, my wallet in the other, and my phone – in the locked and off position – anchored in the crook of her neck as she carried on a very serious one-sided conversation with an imaginary version of a family friend.

Poor thing.  We had boo-boo scrapes on each hand.  Cup…was kind enough to break her fall. Not so much in one piece anymore, darn it.

Awwwww.  No biggie, I said.  Sissy B was sad.  Really, it’s OK, I said.  Small potatoes!  Sissy B later went back to the store, unbeknownst to me.  She returned with another bag containing another cup, all wrapped up in one piece.

“Some things just have to be remedied, sis.”

(warm smile, then muffled sniffle)

Love you, sis.

When I was a kid we had a humongo garden in the backyard. Nice to have enough of a backyard to do that – easier in the Midwest than in the more populous areas toward which I gravitate now. These days I feel lucky to have a few blades of grass to wiggle my toes in.

Early summer garden, circa 1984

On the left, our early summer garden, circa 1984. In the middle, my sisters and I, definitely not weeding.

That backyard garden was so awesome, but at the time I took it for granted, because, of course, that’s what kids do. Memories of our garden conjure up the smell of fresh cut grass, since Dad would usually whip out the tiller to work in the garden after he’d mowed the lawn. This usually ended up being later in the day (since the lawn got cut first), so I have visions of the sky shifting to dusky hues as Dad made the rounds with the tiller, shirtless skin completely sun-burned. Always he was donning the tried-and-true cut-off jean shorts he wore for pretty much the entire summer (except to work, duh). No protective gear, though.  Nah!  Unearthed rocks flying into eyes, detaching retinas – no biggie. 

 A newer version of our trusty Toro

A kinder, gentler version of our trusty Toro

Tiller. Tiller. It’s a funny word when you think about it too much. Tiller. As I was typing above I got all nostalgic about the old tiller. It was red. I think it was a Toro (not that I know anything about tiller brands, I swear; this name just popped into my head). I went so far as to Google “old garden tiller” to find something that looked similar to what I remember. What I found is a bunch of new-fangled ones that are a lot shinier and less dangerous-looking than what I remembered. But I was small at the time, so everything looked big.

Apparently as a tot I used to run around in the garden behind Dad in the parts he’d already tilled, singing my little no-one-will-hear-me-because-the-motor-is-so-loud song of, “Runnin’ in der dirt, runnin’ in der dirt”. I don’t remember this, but I do remember my imaginary friends, Peach and Rake, who I had with me all the time at that age. Hey, my sisters hadn’t been born yet – I needed some company.

Now I can appreciate how wonderful it was to enjoy those fresh-picked, still sun-warmed fruits of my parents’ labor (heaven forbid I should help out in the garden – ever – no, the credit goes entirely to them). Corn, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, beets, melons, cucumbers, squash, cabbage, beans, radishes, onions. A couple of years we did pumpkins. Early on my mom had sunflowers growing along the back edge, too. But as I grew up, schedules got busier and the crops got scaled down, understandably. Tomatoes and beans were pretty much it by the time I was in high school.

Nonetheless – how cool is that? Now I’m gagging for a garden and I’ve got no space. Serves me right for grumbling about weeding in my adolescence. But I dream about becoming a proper green thumb – I know it’s a lot of work, but I feel like I’d be up for it. If I only had the land. Sigh.

In the mean time, I stick to the farmer’s market. There’s a great one nearby on weekends, and this morning, upon realizing we were fresh out of fruit, Bidie and I headed over there and loaded up. This is the perfect time in the season to get good deals on things that are still growing in abundance: veggies – yes, tomatoes (I looove the heirlooms) – and, oh la la, fruits. Peaches and nectarines of every variety imaginable, with samples that knock you out with flavor. We’re exploring the pluot recently, since more versions of them keep popping up to try (pluots, I discovered, are a hybrid of three-quarters plum, one-quarter apricot). Apples for two bucks a pound, mix and match – so many kinds to pick from with names I’d never heard of – all of which I wanted very much to crunch. And strawberries. Oh, the strawberries! I found myself drooling for at least a minute after I tasted the first one. We bought a whole bagful.

All of this was organic. It all tastes so much more alive than what I’ve been eating for, well, years. Each taste makes you feel like a kid, probably because that was how long ago it was before the mealy, chalky taste of produce predominantly grown from GMO seeds drowned the market. Long live real food – I’m rooting for the comeback of the underdog.

Anyhoo. We came home and had a picnic of fruit. Got out the chilled tea, rolled up the sleeves, and got down to business. As you can see, my knitting is in the foreground, waiting to be pounced upon after I get the fruit down my gob.

1/2 black cherry berry, 1/2 cran-apple zinger

Today's iced brew courtesy of Celestial Seasonings: 1/ 2 black cherry berry + 1/2 cran-apple zinger

By the by, isn’t this a great little tea pot? Put the tea in the steel strainer in the middle (for me, this is two bags), pour in the boiling water, and voila – it steeps for a few minutes while becoming an elegant centerpiece with which to top up your cup (the lower part of the strainer ends before the bottom of the pot so that the last inch or two of tea doesn’t get over-steeped if it sits there for a while). It comes with a little brushed chrome stand with a tealight holder to keep the tea candle-warmed.

I think the reason it looks so cool is because it’s European – they do make everything cooler-looking over there. This was a housewarming gift from my sibling-ishly close friends Kymber and J. Incidentally, these are the parents of Little J, plus the bun-in-the-oven/to-be recipient of my not-yet-knit baby blanket (the design for which you are helping me choose).

Right. So on the knitting front, I’m rounding the heel flap on the second Braided Cable & Broken Seed sock. That’s a fancy way of saying I’m still about halfway done with this sock, which is where I was at the time of my last post – busted.

Want to do my knitting for fall, including continuing with the Fisherman’s Sweater, but it’s still too stinkin’ hot here to do it. I know I shouldn’t complain about the weather in California, but the fall air should be smelling a bit more like college football by now, according to my Midwestern roots. I’ve been out here for five years, but I miss my seasons no less than that first fall. Boo-hoo, I live in California, where the sun shines too much. OK, I’ll stop.

My happy place

My happy place

This is my happy spot for the afternoon, a seat with a few blades of grass around it, a laptop with an internet connection (sad, but I get nervous without it in reach), my knitting, some yarn to daydream about, and my reading.

Shocker, the reading is also knitting-related: Zen And The Art of Knitting, by Bernadette Murphy. I’ve only read the first bit, but already I feel a pleasant kinship with the author. Will report back when I’ve finished it, if I can manage, at some point, to put my knitting down long enough to give the book a chance to be read.

Speaking of pleasant kinship and books, Allison and her mates at On My Bookshelf are having a book giveaway – check it out! Allison’s knit/superwoman blog, The Whole Ball of Yarn(s), is a good friend, and was the source of my learning about the book blog. Allison reviewed a few Jane Austen-related books this week (including Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, which I own but haven’t read yet) – I was beyond delighted. Hooray for Jane!

OK. Back to my happy spot, my knitting, and my chilled tea. I like it a lot.

Oh, joy – a Monday without work.  At least work work, the kind that involves a commute.  Mostly I’ve had a down-low kind of weekend, and I’ve managed to milk it by keeping the lethargy theme steady throughout today.

This weekend I’ve alternated time between knitting (halfway done with that second sock), looking at knitting patterns, and being cozy with family.  The knitting patterns I focused on yesterday were of the baby blanket variety.  One of my closest friends is due with her second baby late this year, and although I don’t know if the baby is a little he or a little she, I figure it’s time to get poised with at least a pattern, if not the yarn and/or a decision to go with a happy unisex color or colors.

I’ve made a couple of baby blankets, the second and more successful of which I posted about here.  The first one, while very nice to the touch and just lovely when folded, was a little challenged in the way of symmetry. 

Aha!  I've come back to haunt you from 10th grade geometry.

Aha! I've come back to haunt you from 10th grade geometry.

It came out trapezoidal.  That is, in the shape of a trapezoid.

I had decided to knit the Favorite Blue/White Blanket, a Bernat pattern available for free.  This was the third or fourth knitting project I’d ever attempted – the first blanket, and the first thing not to be made on fairly big needles with a fairly bulky fiber.  It was certainly my first baby item, and I was very nervous about the delicateness of it all.  

Favorite Blue/White Blanket

Favorite Blue/White Blanket

The US 7 and US 8 needles to be used seemed teensy weensy to me, and as much as I was determined to make a go of this pattern, I found that the notion of casting on more than 60 stitches made me sweat a little.  I decided not to tempt fate in altering the recommended yarn (it didn’t occur to me then that gauge isn’t quite as important for a blanket as it is for a sweater).  I used Baby Softee as instructed, in, you guessed it, blue and white.   It seemed to me if the pattern is called Favorite Blue/White Blanket, better not to mess with Texas.  Blue and white it was.  Good thing the baby in question was a boy.

The trapezoid FO was the obvious result of nerve-induced too-tight tension on the starting end of the blanket.  The stitch was actually very pretty – nice texture, yielding a lightweight fabric that wasn’t too lacy or fussy – but it took me days to get through the first couple of rows.  This wasn’t because the stitch was difficult, but because I was inadvertently pulling each stitch so tightly that none of them would slide down the needle without a lot of elbow grease.  An obvious fix, you say (duh, stop pulling them so tight), but I just thought that these were the inevitable and wily ways of working with smaller needles. 

With progress, my stitches gradually yet increasingly relaxed.  By the end of the blanket, my stitches were loosey-goosey, happily flying off the needles.  Didn’t really dawn on me until it was done that it was a leetle off from a rectangle.  Even blocking couldn’t bring it back into shape – but oh well, it was done, and the myriad of stitches I’d made were ready to embrace that little newborn, no matter how asthetically imperfect the collective whole of the stitches might have been.

I packed the blanket up and sent it off with love to the adorable Q and his mom, who is one and the same Kimlee I visited in Richmond recently.  She was very gracious about the trapezoidal nature of the blanket, and made me feel good about the uniqueness of my humble handicraft.  It made my heart sing when, during my recent visit, I noticed the Blue/White Trapezoid draped across the rocking chair in the nursery.  I took a few surreptitious snaps while everyone was downstairs, and brushed away a little tear of joy at the sweetness of finding it there.

I know, I’m a sap.

So.  Now I’m looking at patterns for the next blanket up to face the vice-like grip of my needles.  Below are my finalists.  Colors may depend on baby gender…or maybe not.  Suggestions welcome on color or fiber, but it’s the pattern that I need to settle on first.  Help me choose! 

Please drop me a comment below with your favorite pattern, or at least your favorite category: 

  1. Something with cables
  2. Something lacy
  3. Something blocky

 Just click on each pic for a closer look.

 

Something with cables:


Shower of Love
Leisure Arts #3219

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something lacy:


Summer Blanket
24-25-48, Gosyo Co., Ltd


Blanket with pattern in Alpaca
b13-22


Curlicue Blanket
Skruddevutts stickade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something blocky:


Moderne Baby Blanket
Mason-Dixon Knitting

Color Block Baby Blanket
Knit It! Magazine, Spring 2007

I’ve been all in a kerfuffle since the end of Ravelympics:  life, unfortunately, has come back to remind me that there are other things to do than knit. Like eat, which I do like. And sleep – also like. And get out of bed and go to work. Hmmmmmm. Small things like that.

On the home front, I finally cleaned up my area yesterday after it had been messy – messier than even my usual disorganization – since before vacation. The packing-my-suitcase process leaves my part of the bedroom cluttered because I toss everything on the bed that could be a candidate to pack, then put only those items that make the shortlist into my case (once I’ve had a gander at everything all splayed out), and then remove whatever doesn’t fit (even after sitting on it to get it zipped).

Of course all of the clothes that didn’t make the cut are swept off the bed onto the floor (where the pile is less noticeable from the doorway) and not put away properly – I always pack at the last minute, and therefore there’s no time to straighten – but what does it really matter? We’re leaving town! Who cares if the house is messy?

Oh, Bridge, how I love ya.

Oh, Bridge - how I love ya.

Upon return, you’ll be shocked to hear, it was all still there. In my attempt to make progress in adopting better habits, I “unpacked” within a day of returning (read: dumped case out on top of existing pile and placed empty case in closet). Then it’s back to work busybusybusy and tiredpoopedweary at night and nothing gets put away.  The ramifications:  going to work with wrinkled trousers and a shirt that marginally passes the sniff test.  Very Bridget Jones.  And I love Bridge, but what kind of life is this? Get it together!

So yesterday I did (yeah, and just a shade under a decade, all right). Clothes away or in the laundry, shoes back in the closet, balls of yarn back to the shelf or in a knitting bag, the floor once again in view. I knew there were some bills underneath all that mess, too – lying there dormant, just waiting to pounce on my checkbook once unearthed – and unfortunately I found them. Now all I need to do is pay the people who sent them.

Righty roo – after all that business of cleaning up, I deserved a sit. I had a glass of chilled tea (I prefer “chilled” to “iced” because it’s not your run of the mill Lipton Sun Tea I was enjoying – I decided to get funky with some Celestial Seasonings and stick my wee teapot in the fridge after it had steeped and cooled down a bit so that it would cool down further to reach “chilled”.  With a tea called Goji Berry Pomegranate Green Tea, it just doesn’t seem right to call it “iced tea”).  I put my feet up.  I watched the convention on the telly.

And then – I cast on my second sock of all time.

And why would I be casting this on?

Because I FINISHED MY FIRST SOCK EVER OF ALL TIME.  EVEREVEREVERERERERERER!

True, I did not accomplish the feat of finishing both Braided Cable and Broken Seed socks (plus another pair of Raindrop Lace socks that I had put down on my Olympics to-do list…um, yeah).  In the end it just doesn’t matter.  I’m so stinkin’ proud of that one sock that I’m not at all bothered by missing out on the gold medal.

This is what sockie looked like at the strike of the clock ending closing ceremonies Pacific time:

Needles down!  Progress at end of Olympics

Needles down! Progress at end of Olympics

Not bad, really.  I’d finished the heel flap and just begun my gusset decreases. 

But I could taste victory (easier when it’s on your own terms).  The day before, realizing that the complete pair of socks just wouldn’t get done in time, I’d set the goal of finishing just that one sock by the end of the weekend. 

And I did it!  Yay for me!

Now I know this is small potatoes, really, and that many many people can knit two socks in one day – some while doing cartwheels, composing limericks and at the same time speaking in tongues (with a mouth full of Hubba Bubba to boot).  Yes.  But for me, this is a milestone, so I’m blogging about it.  That’s what bloggers do.

No waiting for good lighting...I couldn't wait to capture my moment of sockful joy.

No waiting for good lighting to take this photo... couldn't wait to share my sockful joy

I do realize this isn’t an actual FO, even though I’m treating it like one.  I’ll come back and FO it up with the full pair very soon. 

In spite of these festivities, or perhaps because of them, I do admit to a bit of second-sock syndrome having set in.  After knitting up a storm over the weekend (and making excellent progress on my knitting callouses as well: middle finger left hand, first finger right hand), I only had one sock, folks.  I mean, come on – who wants to go through all of that again just to end up with the same thing?  The same gorgeous, cozy, pride-enducing, and (arguably most importantly) matching thing?

Well, after a day off the needles – even the most obssessive among us need a break sometimes – I was ready.  Plus, casting on was a great excuse not to go back to cleaning.

At least it’s going faster this time, and it looks better (not as loose at the joints of the dpns).  I think the second-sock syndrome has passed; I’m really chomping to finish this puppy now.  Then I’ll want to finish my Fisherman’s Sweater, which is bulky and as such should wrap up quickly.  Oh, but how I’ve been dreaming of other new and – gasp! – potentially simultaneous projects to cast on!  A few times in the last week I’ve just happened to find myself with some very nice patterns in front of me on a number of fabulous new sites I’ve found.

But more on that later.  I have a whole list of fabulous discoveries that I want to share with you, and I will certainly do just that at my next opportunity to gush.

Looks like I’m having my own Knitapalooza this weekend.

Here’s where I am with my first socks ever:

Now I know it might not look like I’ve gotten very far, but I’ve learned a lot in these couple of inches. And I like the way it’s looking.  And feeling.  Love the texture!

I was inspired by Allison’s comment on my last post about her sock-making experience. I want these to be divine on my feet! And it’s good to know that the 2-circular-needle method is out there, if the double-pointed needles (dpn) don’t end up doing it for me. Although, ironically, once I stopped pouting about the scary pointing-in-every-direction dpns, I went back to using all 5 (instead of just 3), and I’m doing fine, with much less whining.

I’ll also want to try the 2-at-a-time Socks dealio, as outlined by Melissa Morgan-Oakes in the book I bought during vacation (when I was feeling justified in being quite good to myself). Haven’t cracked it open yet, but maybe I’ll try my Raindrop Lace socks using this method.

Yes, I’m resigned to the fact that I’m not going to get all of my Ravelympics projects done by the end of the closing ceremonies, which will end by 9AM my time tomorrow morning (if I’ve done my math correctly). But that’s OK – I’m totally OK with this. I’m into some good momentum now with my socks, and I’m glad for the new skills. If I can finish the first sock in the pair of Braided Cable and Broken Seed socks by the end of the weekend, I’ll be happy. The two FOs of the Olympics for me will remain the Little Girl’s Shrugs I made for the niecies, which I was soooo happy with.

Speaking of, Sissy B texted me this phone snap yesterday:

I just want to scoop them up.

I just want to scoop them up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Honestly, is this not the cutest thing you ever did see?  I can’t imagine a happier place for those two little shrugs to be.

Back at ya after the last curtain of the Olympics.

Oh my heavens, I’ve been itching to get this blog out for the last two weeks. 

I’ve just returned from vacation with my extended family, which was truly wonderful – I spent a lot of time with actual people (instead of my laptop).  This is, I suppose, the point of taking a vacation with one’s family.   No matter how much one’s laptop is clearly jealous – sitting right there on the coffee table, whimpering in neglect and beckoning with the sweet, glowing ember of its power indicator – family (at least a fun one) beats computer.

Frankly, however, now that I’m again surgically attached to the internet, I’m giddy with delight.  I’ve been busting to share my Ravelympics progress. 

I’d heard about the Knitting Olympics before, and had seen shiny little medals adorning a few knitting blogs, but I was a bit in the dark as to what it all meant.  Obviously it wouldn’t take a brain surgeon to find out; but alas, laziness had won out over curiosity.  And, to be honest, I was a little frightened of the unknown:

  • What kind of project was required for this?
  • How would achievement be measured?  Would someone show up at my door to inspect my stitching?
  • Would there be actual physical activity required? 

(pause to catch breath)

  • Would there be a uniform involved?  Something without adequate coverage in the upper thigh area?
  • Would I be flogged if I let the team down?
  • Would sleep deprivation be involved?

On that last one, I did kind of hope I’d be pressured into knitting into the wee hours for days on end.  I’ll take all the help I can get when it comes to justifying knit-time.  If I took part in the Olympics, it wouldn’t be just me obsessing over my knitting, but, in fact, me and my country in our quest for the gold.

So I checked it out.  I found that the Knitting Olympics, as initiated years ago by The Yarn Harlot, is held only every 4 years in alignment with the Winter Olympics, and that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee wouldn’t be leading a Knitting Olympics for this summer.  Ah, stink.

But – shocker! – I didn’t have to look much further to find that Ravelry was all over it.  The first ever Ravelympics was kicking off very soon, apparently.  Maybe because the actual Olympics were going to kick off?  Still a bit suspicious, I landed on gloriana’s post and read about her taking the plunge, and I was jolted into action.  I marched over to Ravelry, figured out the rules (clicking on big obvious links called “Ravelympics” does tend to clear things up), and decided quickly on the following projects:

  1. Niece gifts – I was inspired by gloriana’s niecie motivation, and conveniently, I’d recently found a pattern that would work well for both of my girls in their almost-3- and almost-1-year-old sizes.  The challenging part of these two projects would be not so much in technique, but in knocking them out quickly.  No dilly-dallying.  This is war, Peacock.
  2. Socks! – This was the project coming to mind that most closely fit on the “challenge” element of the Ravelympics call to action.  I’ve lurked around blog posts with people cooing over socks for a while, but I’d never dipped my toe in that water.  I decided I’d try it.  Secretly I hoped that I’d get hooked and start cranking out socks with the same glee I’ve so enviously observed.

The patterns:

  1. Little Girl’s Shrug
  2. Braided Cable & Broken Seed sock
  3. Raindrop Lace Socks

Little Girl’s Shrug

Casco Bay Worsted, 100% cotton

I picked up the Little Girl’s Shrug pattern at The Yarn Lounge in Richmond, Virginia, where I found myself a few weeks ago after passing through on business and visiting my dear friend Kimlee.  I loved The Yarn Lounge – I lingered for a loooong while and chatted with the lovely Melanie, not only about knitting but also about the indisputable merits of wine and cheese (oh, yummy).  I also picked up the perfect light summer cotton yarn for my two niece projects – on deep discount!  Purple for Maizy, pink for E-dot.

On my way back through D.C. a couple days after that, I stopped in at Knit Happens in Alexandria.  This LYS (Local Yarn Store) popped up on my radar after I found out about the Stefanie Japel design workshop they are sponsoring there the first weekend in November, just prior to her launch of Glam Knits.  I was gung-ho to splurge on a trip out to attend this workshop, but over the last couple weeks I’ve chickened out.  What if I can’t keep up?  Here comes that junior-high dodge-ball team-picking feeling again.

Neighborhood Fiber Co., Studio Worsted;

Neighborhood Fiber Co., Studio Worsted

Anyway, I drooled all over their yarn at Knit Happens and ended up walking away with a locally made yarn in a pretty deep purple variegated hue.  It may have helped that the sample knit for this yarn on display was designed by already-on-the-brain Knitting Pure and Simple, the maker of my Little Girl’s Shrug pattern.  This was a baby cardigan (pattern, incidentally, available free for download here), which in the store was modified to have buttons instead of ties as pictured on the website as linked above.  It was so darn cute I shelled over 13 smackers for 98 yards of the yarn they made it with.

Socks.  Well.  I happened to come across another couple of patterns at So Much Yarn the following week in Seattle (yes, I do get around), which was a shop recommended to me by knitsurg (the creator of a va-va-voom version of Stefanie Japel’s Orangina) on Ravelry.  Words can’t say how much fun I had in So Much Yarn, but of course I’ll give it a shot.  Beautiful, beautiful yarns, in a huge space, with lovely displays and a nice big table and workspace in back to peruse possible purchases and crunch the numbers on yarn yardage.  After meandering around in my comfort zone for a while (my comfort zone being just about everything except the sock yarn category), I broke down and asked for assistance in picking a good starter pattern and fiber for my Ravelympics sock project.  Theresa was very sweet and pointed me in the right direction in picking up the Braided Cable & Broken Seed Sock pattern, which has a lot of nice detail on techniques like the Kitchener stitch, and was designed by Lauren Lindeman, the owner of the shop.  I also picked up the pattern for Raindrop Lace Socks, which I liked a lot and decided to go for as an additional Ravelympics goal, in spite of Theresa’s concerned looks and comment that these socks might be “a little too advanced”.  Hmmmm.  I still think I can do it.

So – the update!  Boy, it took me a while to get to this part.


Cozy cardi

Before the button

Pattern #1, the Little Girl’s Shrug, I’m happy to report has yielded 2 FOs!  As I was with Maizy over my vacation, I hand-delivered her light purple cropped cardi, and my heart melted at her delight.  She strutted around saying how much she liked it, telling me once more for the road before she headed out at the end of our vacation, “Actually, Amy, I still really like this.”

Didn’t quite plan ahead with the button, so the purple sparkly number I picked out is going in the mail to her mom, along with the second FO, the pink one, for E-dot.  My flying fingers couldn’t quite finish off the arms on hers in time to give it to her before we parted ways.

Anyhoo, I really do like the way they turned out. 


front

The yarn, Casco Bay Worsted, was light and springy like the sample that sold me in the store.  Melanie at The Yarn Lounge told me there was no reason these couldn’t go in the washing machine.  Probably OK to machine dry as well, although there may be some shrinkage. 


back

I knit both shrugs on US 5 circular needles, with the tiny bit of arm ribbing completed on US 2 double-pointed needles.  The final fabric was soft and slightly textured to the touch.  I blocked each of these, but the purple one wasn’t quite finished at the time I declared it dry enough to let Maizy wear, so it could use a little more blocking to help the lace border, which I opted to use instead of plain ribbing on the body, lay nice and flat.

First ever cast-on for a sock

First ever cast-on for a sock

Pattern #2, the Braided Cable & Broken Seed sock, is in progress.  I admit to initial palpitations, as I had anticipated, working with all five US 2 double-pointed needles in my newly-purchased set per the pattern’s instructions.  It took me a while to get started, but I forged ahead, Helen

The picture on the right shows how far I got after over 2 hours of earnest work…yeah, not too far.  But immediately after I took that photo I made the decision to lose two of the needles.  Three was enough to comfortably get around the circumference of the sock, and it was much less of a headache.

I knit a bit more on the flight back from the Midwest where we were visiting family, but not a lot more because I had a happy and unexpected distraction – Lish, my aforementioned BFF, was on the same flight as me back to California, as she too had been back home for the weekend.  I didn’t know this until I saw her at the airport, at which time I was very pleased (and also feeling quite fancy and cosmopolitan with the bumping-into-of fabulous people in airports).  Hooray for happy coincidences and for cross-country airplane chats.

Right – for Ravelympics, it’s clear I’ll need to get my booty in gear to get through both socks (and at least start on my Raindrop socks, for pete’s sake) before the closing ceremonies.  I’m up for it.  I’m juiced at my progress so far.  There may be a lot left to do, but there’s nothing like pushing yourself in the name of knitting.  Stay tuned.

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