WIP


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.

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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.

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.

I had brunch with my best friend over the weekend.  It had been a while since I’d seen her, and it made me sooooo happy to catch up. 

There are a boatload of reasons I couldn’t live without Lish.  She’s an amazing person.  Although we both live in California these days, we met far, far away in a land called New Jersey.  We both come from tiny towns in the same Midwestern state, although our paths didn’t cross until we were knee-deep in all things Jersey – back when we were wild-and-crazy twentysomethings. 

Familiar, anyone?

Familiar, anyone?

Both thoroughly white-bread and corn-fed at the time, with pale skin that could blind you in winter and (arguably more importantly) not much experience yet in the way of street smarts, we stuck out *just* a tad amongst the been-around-the-block-a-few-times Italian-American brew that is Northeastern NJ.  Our specialty was dancing in bars that weren’t actually set up for dancing, as well as harassing DJs until they would play “Sweet Caroline” for us (so good! so good!) and hurling ourselves toward the stage when local cover bands struck our fancy.

Since then we’ve taken our show on the road to any state, country, or continent that will let us in.  Our passports have taken a nice beating together, and it’s fair to say we’ve gained a fair bit of worldly wisdom (some days this is debatable).  One jet-set long-weekend trip took us to Portugal – my recollection includes a very sweaty hike up to the top of a Moorish castle and some guy named Paolo? Marco? Marco Paolo? – but that’s a story for another post. 

However (here comes the segue) – Portugal is the place that harbors the location that inspired my new knitting project.

I’ve had this project in my unofficial queue for a while now, but haven’t Ravelried* it yet because I’m kind of making it up as I go along.  I wouldn’t say I’m designing this sweater, really; I’m loosely basing it on a sweater I picked up a few years ago when I was at The End of the World

Ah, yes – good question.  Basically, this is a very, very windy place on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic at the the southwesternmost point in Europe.  Back in the day, before their little boats made it over to the Americas, the Europeans considered this the edge of the world: a horizon of churning water stretched as far as the eye could see, beyond which lurked the abyss.  Whodathunk there were a bunch of people across the pond, eh, guys?  Silly landlubbers.

 Fisherman's Sweaters

Fisherman's Sweaters

Right.  So when you’re at The End of the World, it’s not only a minor tourist attraction with a nice view and a story to go with it, but also an opportunity to freeze your patootie off.  Even on a bright, sunshiny mid-summer day like the one of my visit, it was nippy, with wind gusting in every direction.  I need to find the photo from that trip to properly illustrate this; the one in which I’m still shooting for glamorous with my pose, but all bets are off with my swirling hair captured with all split-ends pointing north – straight up, Paula.

It’s-Not-Really The End of the World was a draw for me as a side trip from the warmer climes of the beach far below mostly because of the “seaworthy sweaters” that my guidebook told me were on offer there.  I envisioned a weather-beaten crinkly-looking Captain Ahab, perched next to his ramshackle lean-to of a vendor stall, balancing on the leg that wasn’t his peg-leg, eyeing me suspiciously, ready for me to barter with him for one of his authentic salty-sea-smelling jumpers.  Of course, these would be hot off the needles; pleasantly-irregular creations that the missus was whipping up for him back down on the boat in his quarters.  Maybe after we shook on the deal for one of his wife’s crafts, he’d mutter “Arrrrrrr” gruffly under his breath as I walked away.  In my last glance back at him before forging ahead to the mighty sea, I might even catch him picking at his teeth (what remained of them) with his steel hook of a hand.

Hmmmm.

authentic

One word: authentic

Ahab turned out to be a Portuguese kid wearing a Yankees T-shirt and outlandishly shiny bling.  The missus was nowhere in sight, but I suspect she may have been kicking her feet up after hitting the “go” button on the industrial-grade knitting machine a few hundred times. 

Even though it was a teensy bit different than I’d imagined, there was still a nice display of sweaters that did indeed look seaworthy.  Machine-made with acrylic or not, these little fellas had led me here – I’d come a long way and was going to have a look.  Plus I was starting to get pretty cold, and they were looking mighty warm.

The Fisherman’s Sweaters weren’t incredibly ornate – just very simple Aran-inspired designs, most with a few cables and big cozy collars or turtlenecks; some with cheesy design patterns, some more plain and to the point, which were the ones I liked best.  Bulky knits, as you’d imagine, and in an array of earthy tones.  True, the cardboard boxes they came out of didn’t foster that handmade feeling, but I still decided I needed to take a sweater home with me (and/or immediately pull it over my wind-whipped mane and shivering blue lips).  I chose one in a heathery sandy color with a short zip at the top to keep out the wind, and proceeded to speedwalk out to the edge of the cliff for a gander before scampering back to the safe haven of the car.

When I bought this sweater, I wasn’t yet a knitter, and frankly, would have been shocked at the time to learn that I’d ever become one (such was my aversion to anything approaching a domestic art).  However, since I’ve picked up the needles, it’s crossed my mind that it would be fun to re-make this sweater with a nicer natural fiber and a few modifications to make it just right.  I’ve seen a host of patterns out there for something similar, but I’m going to give this a go with making my own measurements and building a pattern based on the gauge of the yarn I choose.

Driftwood

Color: Driftwood, 161

And that yarn is:  Rowan Plaid.  Poor Rowan Plaid.  Why discontinued, why?  Not that I’ve made anything from this yarn yet so as to form a strong attachment, but it just seems so well-loved by the knitting community at large.  I’ve had a few Ravelrers message me to ask if I’m willing to sell part or all of my Driftwood colorway, but I’ve had this stashed specifically for my Fisherman’s Sweater since the Rowan Plaid pattern book caught my eye with its chilly-seaside photo spread.  I grabbed the last of this colorway on sale at Jimmy Beans (after a flirtation with and eventual purchase of Sea Kelp for another project) when they were liquidating the last of their Plaid inventory last year.  So sad.  The fact that they were getting rid of it, that is – not the fact that I was lucky enough to snag it before it was gone!

Chilly.  Seaside.

Chilly. Seaside.

Bottom line – my baby’s now on the needles, and I’m lovin’ it.  No good light for a photo of my work yet, but will do this soon.

If it turns out as fabulously as I’m planning for it turn out, I’ll post the pattern for anyone who wants to give it a shot.  Easier to decide if you’re in this category, of course, after you’ve seen the final product.  When I’m finished we’ll decide how the original acrylic prototype – the photo of which I will hold in suspense for now (meaning I haven’t gotten around to taking it yet) – stacks up to my creation.  Here’s hoping this moves along without any tears, other fits of drama, or industrial-grade knitting machines.  Stay tuned, just in case.

 

 
*Oh, ravelried – don’t you just love the verb form?   I’m sure it’s been done before, but I’m now declaring “ravelry” as not only a noun but also a verb, in all its glory:

1rav·el·ry  \ˈra-vəl-rē\ noun —  website community where all the cool knit-kids hang out
2rav·el·ry  \ˈra-vəl-rē\ verb —  to enter the details of a knitting project, pattern, fiber, or accessory on one’s profile on the aforementioned website, so that everyone can see what you’re up to, or plan to possibly be up to in the future

 

Inflected Form(s):

rav·el·ring; rav·el·ried \ˈra-vəl-riŋ, ˈra-vəl-rēd\

 

Related:

rav·el·rer \ˈra-vəl-rər\ noun — one who ravelries

 


Nearly done! Still to finish:
tie-wrap ends, arm seams

I’m super close to being done with my Airy Wrap-Around Sweater.  It’s getting very big and fluffy as the second wrap-around flap is rounding the bend.  I stopped shy of the 55″ recommended length for the right flap, pulling back the reins at about 42″ and running scrap yarn through to hold that length while I bring the left one up to speed.  My homies on the Fitted Knits KAL (Knit-ALong) on Ravelry as well as those on this one running independently had noted that the ties ended up being way too long for most of them as written, so I’ll be prepared for the modification.  Lordy, I hope they’re headed toward being way too long for me as written, too, or else me and my thick waist will have to go into hiding with Ben & Jerry for a while to wallow in our excessive girth.

The dimensions are a little off as I model it here – without the sleeves seamed and both sides of the wrap done it’s hard to get it to sit just right – but you get the idea.   Blocking this puppy is going to be very interesting – the combo of sticky wet mohair and lace stitching will be a new one for me.  If anything it’s a bit roomy for my taste at the moment, so we’ll see how we go in getting it to hug me just right (and avoid any accentuation of the aforementioned possbily thick-looking waist in the process). 

So here I am with a weekend day, left unexpectedly to my own devices.  Oh joy!  Oh blessed event!  What shall I do with this time?  So many things on my little list of Amy-time projects, but knitting seems to always win.  I want to finish Airy, but I may save that as a treat if I can manage to get a few other things accomplished (insert reality here):

  1. Finish this blog entry
  2. Go to the bank
  3. Go to the post office
  4. Clean up my messy house

Looks like I’ve got a few craftless hours ahead of me, but I guess it isn’t all fun and games.  However – I’ve still got some time left with you here on my blog, so I’m going to roll around in it and enjoy while I can.

A few things I’m been thankful for over the the last week or two:

  • Dancing with Sissy B – The abundant joy already inherent with a nearly 2-week visit from Sissy B and her wee girls was ceremoniously trumped with a mid-week 80s night at a bar up the street.  We arrived glammed up and ready to go, ordered up our little drinkies and proceeded to wait – the DJ was late, and wherever he was, he had our tunes with him.  We were getting a bit nervous that our soujourn’s wings had been clipped.  Alas, he eventually showed up – but we were none too pleased with the weak effort of his debut, starting with mixes of lesser-known not-so-crowd-pleasing minor 80s hits that just weren’t cutting the mustard.  Just as the mutinous crowd (read: my sister and me) was on the brink of highjacking Master Mix’s booth, he came through with “PYT” – and continued with a steady stream of sister-approved, shout-out-the-lyrics, jump-up-and-down old standbys.  Much hilarity ensued, with squeals of utter delight and DJ-directed declarations of, “I love it! I LOVE it!” and “Yes! YES!”.  Even though we initially cocked our eyebrows at his unorthodox mixes toward the end – Fergie and Metallica? – we had to admit he had a pretty cool sound going.  Bon Jovi took us over the edge with “Livin’ On A Prayer”, and we left with our voices hoarse and perma-smiles plastered on our faces.  We still got it, baby. 
  • Organic produce – OK, I’m still a relative newbie to all this business of “social awareness” and “healthy lifestyles” (think Chris Farley as the finger-quote guy on SNL’s Weekend Update), but I am getting a big-time eye opener lately.  It only took 34 years.  California has definitely gotten her hooks into me, as impervious as I was initially to her Mother Earth wiles.  I had no interest in even recycling when I moved here 5 years ago, and now I’m practically an evangelist of environmentalism and healthy living.  The story of how all this happened to the most reluctant of Midwestern girls I will save for another time.  Suffice it to say – on the food front, I’m a new woman (now that I’ve put down the Cool Whip – oh, sweet, gorgeous Cool Whip – and taken a look around).  I’m in love with farmer’s markets and everything in them.  Love the vendors, love the customers, love the samples, love the smiles.  Love the prices, too – I’ve come round to seeing why it’s worth all the crunchy hype.  I was never willing to spend a dime more on something organic – not only because I’m tight with my money at the grocery store in general, but also because I persisted in using the old adage, “Listen, there’s nothing wrong with chemicals – look at all the non-organic food I ate growing up, my mother too, and look how I turned out!”  To make matters worse, I studied chemical engineering, so I’ve gone around trumpeting the praises of using whatever modern means we have available to get things to be cheaper or lower in fat, sugar-free.  But – without anyone shoving this down my throat, which would have been a sure-fire way for me to be even more impermeable – I’ve seen the light.  First, I began to scrutinize (in following my sister’s lead) what kind of food was allowed to pass my nieces’ lips, not only in terms of nutritional value, but in terms of what was actually safest for them.  Even if I wasn’t sold on the “benefits” of organic food at all, latent doubt did give me pause enough to agree that organic baby foods would be better for the girls – “just in case”.  It took another year or two for this logic to seep further into my brain to its natural conclusion that I – yes, me myself – might want to think a little more about the origin of what I put in my body, chew up, and swallow.  No matter what I’ve eaten over the course of my first 30 years, why oh why would I put anything into my body that has even trace amounts of something I wouldn’t spoon in there on purpose?  Nagging suspicions began to accumulate, and finally I let myself actually read and absorb different viewpoints so that I could form my own objective opinion.  Nowadays I don’t need something to be proven a carcinogen to be wary of it.  If it needs help to grow out of the ground when 50 or 100 years ago it did so without any help, doesn’t it make you wonder?   Why douse it with something toxic?  It’s cheaper, you say, to grow food this way – ah, but we’re still paying for it, more so every day – just not at the grocery.  A lot of other people are making money off of moving truckloads of little veggies and fruits around (ask yourself why the U.S. exports 1.1 million pounds of potatoes annually and also imports 1.4 million pounds every year…hmmmmmm).  Although I’m determined to NOT to beat anyone over the head with this, I can’t help but list the discovery of all things organic on my list here, because it just is something I’ve very grateful for.  More later on what I’m learning, because I won’t be able to help myself – but in the mean time, if you’re curious – check out Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  She’s not shoving anything down anyone’s throat either, which is why I became enamored with her friendly, engaging, fact-based writing style.  Her husband and teenage daughter (now studying nutrition at Duke) also contribute and the collective effort makes this a surprising page-turner.
  • Oh, my knitting, of course – in a world full of stressors (does anyone else feel like their days can turn into a “Space Invaders”-esque challenge where nothing can be allowed to pass by you unaddressed, or else the whole world will blow up?), my humble stitch-laden needles are such a solace.  Cute little furry things they are right now, with lavender mohair all over them, surrounded by Airy’s billowy-ness.  Just a few minutes is all it takes and to start bringing my focus on all things calm and rational back into line.  More than a few minutes is always better, you understand – that’s why I surreptitiously slide as much time with my needle-friends each day as I can.  That and I’m a junkie – I’ve got an addictive habit to support here.

Speaking of a few minutes, I’ve dilly-dallied more than a few with the indulgent rants of my blogging, and now I must…I must…I must increase my bust…(Oh Margaret, where are you now?).  I mean, ahem – I must, I must, I must go do my housework.

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