Sunday, October 30, 2005

Dad Hat Done

It's less fun without the needle

Pattern: Age of Aquarius Cap from Knitter's Stash
Yarn: Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran (85% merino, 10% silk, 5% cashmere)
Needles: US sizes 7 and 9
Recipient: Dad
Cat: Scout (who else?)
1. The photo above shows the color of the cap fairly accurately but the cables are more clearly seen in this washed out photo. The yarn is not the type of yarn that I would normally choose for a cabled project. The tweedy-ness and lumpy-ness sort of mask the nice cabling. However, I thought the rustic nature of the yarn make the hat more manly and therefore more appropriate for a Dad hat.
2. The feature that I like most about this hat is how the cable pattern appears both on the fold-up brim of the hat and on the crown of the hat. To do this, the hat was turned inside out after working the brim and a slightly different cable pattern was worked on the crown.
3. The hat seems rather large to me. The finished circumference is 22 inches (exactly what the pattern says), but it is huge on me. However, Dad has an unusually large head--literally, not figuratively--so maybe the hat will be fine on him. Just to be safe, I'm not cutting the tail inside the hat. If it's too big for Dad, I'll ask him to send it back and I will frog and reknit it. If it fits fine, I'll ask Mom to cut the tail.

RIP Richard Smalley
Sadly, Richard Smalley died last week. Dr. Smalley is of course best known for being one of the co-discoverers of Buckminsterfullerene, aka BuckyBalls, aka C60. Dr. Smalley was one of my chemistry heroes and actually played an important part in my life. If it hadn't been for him and his BuckyBalls, I may have never meet Peter.

When I was applying to chemistry graduate schools, I became so enthralled by BuckyBalls, that I applied to Rice University with dreams of working with Dr. Smalley himself. After I was accepted at Rice, I visited the campus during their chem grad student recruitment weekend. During that weekend, accepted graduate students from around the country spent three days meeting with the Rice faculty and grad students. Peter was also visiting Rice that weekend. We had lunch together. We met with Dr. Smalley together. But neither of us decided to go to Rice.

Instead, both Peter and I enrolled at the University of Chicago. We recognized each other from the Rice weekend and started talking. Neither of us knew any of the other grad students, so it was nice to see someone familiar. Even if it was someone only vaguely familiar. And that's how Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley brought Peter and I together.

Friday, October 28, 2005

So much knitting, so little blogging

Work has hit the oh-no-we're-not-going-to-finish-on-time phase of our production schedule. We always get to this point when there is about a month left in the schedule. I almost think that we should make a column on the schedule for when the production manager freaks out.

So, I've been knitting as much as I can, but blogging less. I just noticed that I haven't updated my sidebar to reflect what I'm really doing now and I don't remember the last time that I added blogs to my blogroll. Someday I'll take care of that. But today is all about photos.

Finished Fancy Scarves

Patterns: out of my own little head
Yarn: Kollage Yarns, the red one is Passion and the purple one is Romance
Recipient: A customer
Notes: I wish I had used a bigger needle with the purple one. It's a bit on the small side as a shawl/scarf. I thought it would be a nightmare to frog, so I just continued what I was doing. I added the ribbon to it to dress it up a bit and to help it stay on a person's shoulders. As it turned out, the "shawlette" is the perfect size for the customer's daughter.

Started the Dad Hat

smells interesting "What's this?" asks Scout

how convenient! "Oh, it has a handle"

gotta go! "Thanks for the toy Mom!"

I'm making a cabled hat out of Katmandu Aran. Though the yarn is very soft it contains an amazing amount of plant fibers (i.e dead grass) that I'm constantly having to pick out. I usually don't mind plant fibers in wool, but this seems to have a ton. This is the first chance I had to use the pretty stitch markers that Helen made and sent to me. Thanks again Helen!

Finished the Super Secret Project
But no photos until after the winter holidays!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Knitting meme

Knitting Scientist Grumperina tagged me with my first knitting meme. (Or at least I think it's my first knitting meme. I think my memory is starting to fail.)

What is your all time favorite yarn to knit with?
I don't have a single yarn that's my favorite because I always like to try different yarns. There are so many yarns out there and I want to try them all! (Except for the novelty yarns. And the acrylic yarns. And scratchy yarns. Ok, so maybe "all" is a gross exaggeration.) However, I definitely prefer to knit with animal fibers and I'm having a love affair with yarns that contain angora (bunny yarn!). I like the softness of angora and the slight fuzz that it gives to yarn. I have yet to knit with 100% angora, but I would love to some day.

Your favorite needles?
My trusty Boye Needlemaster set. Yes, I bought one of these despite all the bad-mouthing of Denise fanatics. (Many Denise devotees have never tried the Needlemaster set, they just "heard" this and that about Needlemaster and happily spread those rumors to anyone who will listen.) I also love my small but hopefully growing set of Addi Turbos. I'm trying to collect a set of 40" Addis. (Hint, hint gift-giving family members!)

The worst thing you've ever knit?
A shrug that never before made an appearance on this blog because it was made during my preblog days. The construction of the shrug is fine, I just made a critical error in selecting a yarn substitute. I wasn't very well versed in types of fibers and yarns at the time. The pattern called for 100% angora. It seemed ridiculously priced to me and I thought "mohair is fuzzy." So, I used Lamb's Pride worsted. The thing has no drape so it bubbles up very unattractively in the back. But what's worse is that it's so ITCHY! Not something I want to wear next to my skin.
I am not a hunchback

Your most favorite knit pattern? (maybe you don't like wearing it...but it was the most fun to knit)
Probably Peter's cabled sweater. The cable pattern was interesting and the construction was very challenging for me at the time. It was the first time that I had encountered saddle sleeves and the collar was a bit tricky.

Most valuable knitting technique?
I'm tempted to steal Ms. Grumpy's answer and say that my most valuable knitting "technique" is fearlessness and the desire to try new things. Is that cheating? Ok, then--cabling without a cable needle is very valuable to me because I love knitting cables.

Best knit book or magazine?
The Knitters book of Finishing Techniques by Nancie Wiseman. I like the fact that it's spiral bound, that it's small and portable, and that it gives the pros and cons of different techniques. The directions and images are very clear.

Your favorite knit-a-long?
I haven't joined many knit-a-longs (isn't "knit-along" more correct?) because I'm usually doing my own thing and I don't always follow the herd. However, the Fall Cable KAL is made for me. All cables, all the time! Plus, it's the knitters aren't all knitting the same project which makes the KAL much more interesting.

Your favorite knitblogs?
Grumperina because of her witty writing and her take-no-prisoners attitude toward knitting. Fruitcake Knits because Monkee is strange and because I actually know her and see her regularly. (And because I want to know what she does with all the yarn that I give her.) MJ's Yummy Yarn because she's a fantastic knitter and photographer. I believe that, with her camera, MJ could make a lumpy, stockinette, acrylic sweater look like high-end fashion.

Your favorite knitwear designer?
I don't think that I've knit more than one pattern from a single designer. However, I truly admire the work of Sarah Dallas. I made one Sarah Dallas sweater and I drool over her other patterns. I admire the simplicity and elegance of her designs.

The knit item you wear the most? (how about a picture of it!)
Right now, top honors go to Grace. It's barely cold enough to wear her, but wear her as often as possible. I even wear her with shorts. A wool sweater with shorts--now that's a fashion statement. The combination also highlights how desperate I am to wear Grace. Before Grace, I wore Elspeth most often.

Who to tag?
I think I'll tag Rachel because she loves being tagged, Agnes because she making a crazy intarsia project right now, Karma because she has a purple house, and Shetha just because.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Dread Pirate Roberts

You saw a foot. Now here's a head:

The Man in Black aka The Dread Pirate Roberts aka Westley

My little (dog) toy is finished. Annie's instructions said to be creative with the hair, so I decided to give my yarn man "dreadlocks." Because yarn doesn't lock, I just braided three strands of yarn together. I wonder if I could have felted the strands together? I won't show you the whole toy, but you will hopefully see it in Annie Modesitt and Drew Embrosky's book. All three cats found the dreads interesting, but only Scout would pose nicely with the little man. She was a bit sleepy when I took the above photo so she didn't try to attack. However, when I took the next photo, she was much more alert.

Ooh! Shiny!

What do you think happened right after I took this photo? Yup, she pounced on the end of the purple yarn. I know what you're thinking (unless you are just focusing on Scout and not the yarn in front of her). You're wondering what the heck I'm doing with shiny novelty yarn. Well, my customer--the recipient of the twisty-neck tank--now wants stuff made with fancy yarn. The customer handed me a two hanks of shiny yarn and asked me to make two things that looked different with them.

The red stuff is Passion from Kollage Yarns. The hank only had 100 yards, so made a drop-stitch scarf with it. I thought (correctly) that the drop stitches would help add length. I had a minor major disaster when I tried to wind this stuff. It has four plys (plies?) and the plys became tangled up and the pretty hank turned into a fuzzy, shiny blob. I considered taking photos for this blog, but I was very irritated and I realized that I didn't not want any photo documenting my misery. I spent an entire evening untangling the mess.

The purple stuff is Romance also from Kollage Yarns. I just cast on for a triangular, stockinette shawl. Boring yes, but the customer did say that she wanted the two objects to look different. I hope the shawl will be big enough in the end. If it's not, I suppose I could ask her for a second hank. I'm also using the shawl to teach myself to knit backward:
Me: Look! I'm knitting backward!
Peter: Why are you doing that?
Me: Because I want to learn and if my gauge is funny, no one will be able to tell in this crazy yarn.
Peter: You're really just doing it to entertain yourself.
Me: Well--that IS an added bonus.

Friday, October 21, 2005

More Black Yarn

Regular readers of my blog know that I'm not much of a sock knitter. I have only made one pair of sock-like objects and since then I have declared that sock knitting is not for me. As it turns out, I could not avoid knitting sock-like objects forever. LOOK!

Will it fit?

It's a teeny tiny little sock/shoe thing! It's only twelve stitches around but still has a little turned heel. I haven't sewn up the toe yet and the "cuff" stitches are on a piece of dental floss that I'm using as a stitch holder. What the heck is this for? It's the beginning of a "dog" toy for Annie Modesitt's new book Men Who Knit (and The Dogs Who Love Them . . .). I'm doing this project for Annie while waiting for the yarn for a larger project to arrive. I'm looking forward to the larger project, but this one is pretty entertaining. (I'm actually much farther along now, but I'm too lazy to take more photos)

As you can see, Scout thinks that the sock is already a good cat toy.

Please fill it with catnip, says Scout

In a funk
I'm pretty depressed these days, probably because of work. I'm in such a crappy mood that I don't even want to knit. In fact, knitting and knitting related stuff has been contributing to my grumpy, irritable mood. Playing with the twisty neck collar was annoying, winding crazy novelty yarn was a disaster (more on that later), my needles always seem to be too grabby or not grabby enough for the things I am working on now, and my super secret project is boring me to death. However, knitting continues because I'm being paid and the holidays are approaching. I think this is foreshadowing the feelings I will have once I quit my icky job and become a freelancer trolling for anything that pays.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Twisty Neck

Blah Blah Black Yarn

Pattern: With-a-Twist Turtleneck from The Purl Stitch, size small
Yarn: ggh Goa in black
Needles: US sizes 9 and 10.5
Recipient: A real paying customer!
Modifications: I lengthened the torso by an inch because the customer said that she "didn't want her belly showing." I wouldn't want my belly showing either. And of course, I did a 3-needle bind off on the shoulder seams.
Comments: A straight-forward knit, except for the collar. The collar is a mobius that is knit flat and sewn together in a loop. Then, the collar is sewn onto the neckline. Sewing a curvy, twisty collar on a flat neckline is not easy or intuitive. I futzed with it quite a bit and redid it a couple of times before I decided to call it done. Sorry for the bad photos, black is not easy to photograph--even with a flash!

Twist and Shout!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A Day at the Races

Thank you all for your kind words about Grace! I appreciated every comment. For those of you who commented on how fast I knit, I'll tell you my secret. I'm one of those weird knitters who has the ability and the desire to concentrate on one project at a time. Sure I knit Grace in a little over two weeks, but I didn't knit anything else during that time. (Oh wait, I knit that Cupcake hat, but that only took a few hours.)

This morning, Peter dragged me out of bed at 4:30 to go to a race with him. The 20K race is managed by Peter's running team, so he was volunteering before and after the race. He bribed me with a purple t-shirt to get me to volunteer with him. So, we had to get to the race course by 5:30 (that's 5:30 AM, folks) to help distribute ChampionChips to the runners. Once that was done, Peter went off to run the race and I went to hunt for coffee and then staked out a spectating and knitting spot.

The course is three loops around the downtown-ish area in Houston. Peter finished the first lap in good time (he's the shirtless one):
Go Peter!

Then, my Secret Project and I waited for Peter to come by on the second lap (note other runners in the background):
Peter should be by any minute

By the second lap, Peter was running by himself. (I'm going to have to learn how to take better "action" and "distance" photos.)

Then, my knitting and I went to the finish line to do the second half of the volunteer work. For this work, I had to help collect the ChampionChips from the runners after they finished. ChampionChips are little computer chips placed inside plastic holders. Runners attach these chips to their shoes with zip ties. Mats with chip detectors are placed at the start and finish lines of a race. When a runner steps on the mat, a computer records his or her time. The computer then calculates the runners exact race time and spits out race results. (Pretty nifty, if you ask me--but I'm a geek.) I had some time to knit and enjoy my purple shirt before the runners started arriving:
Much more fun than running

Anyway, I soon learned that ChampionChip collection is nasty business. To get the chips from the runners, you have to cut the zip ties from the runners' shoes. Some runners also use their shoelaces to attach the chips, so you have to untie their shoes to get the chip. Either way, you have to touch another person's shoe. The race is a 20K. That's 12.4 miles for you nonmetric types. People who finish running 12.4 miles in the Houston heat are way past perspiring. "Sweating buckets" is a much more accurate description. I won't go into more details.
Here comes my first ChampionChip customer:
Good Job Peter!

Peter finished in 1 hour and 15 minutes (and some seconds), was the 18th finisher overall, and 6th in his age group. He improved his time and place from last year, so he was pretty pleased.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Amazing Grace!

Happy Happy!

(unusually large photo, I know)
Pattern: Grace from Debbie Bliss Cotton Angora book, size small
Yarn: Karabella Aurora 8 in color 25, 100% merino wool, 16 balls (and only one knot!)
Needles: US sizes 7 and 8
Modifications: Did a three-needle bind off for the shoulder seams. Didn't bind off the back neck stitches so that I could knit the collar on directly without picking up stitches or otherwise creating a seam. (However, I did have to pick up one stitch at each shoulder seam to close up holes and to make the ribbing work out properly.)
Comments: I love this sweater. Love it! Why?
1. The fit is exactly what I wanted. It's relatively close-fitting, enough room for a short-sleeved shirt underneath.
2. The sleeves come down just past my wrists so I don't have to fold up the cuffs.
3. The yarn is perfect for this sweater. It holds the cables and the ribbing perfectly and the sweater is relatively light for the amount of yarn that's in it. I think the cotton angora would not have shown the cables well and would have been heavier and would have stretched over time. The yarn is also soft enough to wear next to the skin.
4. It's the sweater I've always dreamed about: cardigan, cables, not over-sized
5. It's pink!

cable goodness

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Witty Title TK

Did you know that in the editorial world the letters TK mean "to come?" So whenever you need to write something but don't want to be bothered with it at the moment you just write "blah blah blah TK." Don't ask me why the abbreviation isn't TC. The only possible explanation that I've come up with is that TC used to stand for something else.

But I digress, this is supposed to be about knitting. So, on to the good stuff. First, I received more loot:

Shiny! Pretty!

Pretty stitch markers in a surprise package from Helen! Thank you so much Helen, they are the most attractive stitch markers that I own. Now I don't have to stare enviously at Monkee's stitch markers.

Second, I finished all the knitting on Grace. I finished it all in two weeks! (Oh okay, two weeks and one day.) I'm deep into seaming mode right now.

Stop it Scout!

Thank goodness Peter and I decided to buy a mostly useless dining room table to fill up our mostly unused dining room. Who knew that it would become the best place to finish sweaters? The dining room is now used more for knitting projects than it is for eating. The whole sweater should be complete in a few days. Now it just needs to get cold here. (Wishful thinking.)

Finally, I got a knitting commission! I'm going to be knitting a ribbed tank top using ggh Goa. Goa appears to be bulky weight Bali. I'm kinda bummed that my customer picked a cotton blend because I'm getting tried of working with cotton. She also picked black--ugh. But hey! I'm getting paid! I can't argue with that.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Loot and Answering Comments

I've been so negligent at answering questions and responding to comments, so here's a bunch of answers.

About the Cupcake hat:
Joanna said: I can't believe your first dpn attempt involved ribbing and ruffles. Well, I've never been known do anything the easy way if I know of a much more interesting way. Fearless knitting is much more fun.
Stephanie said: The story of you dropping your dpn's combined with the picture of the cat reminded me of when I got my first puppy. I had only ever had cats in my life. When you are done holding a cat you can pretty much just let go. It lands gently on all fours and then strolls away. Puppies - yeah not so much. Poor puppy! Survived with no injuries thank goodness! Uhh... I did that, too. With my friend's puppy. I have a problem with dropping things.

About Grace:
Christina asked: I have yet to knit with Aurora 8. What is it you like so much about this yarn? The yarn is very soft and not a bit scratchy like some wools are. It's very light and springy so it's easy to knit with. It also has great stitch definition, holds cables and ribbing well, and it isn't very splitty despite being made up of eight plys. Plus, my yarn is pink. Really pink.

About the eggs:
Agnes said: Wow ... those eggs are HUGE! No, not really. Here's a better comparison photo that I took right before eating the last of the eggs. It shows a store-bought egg, a quarter, and one of my fresh (and now eaten) eggs.

I promised you loot. Here it is:

Sorry it's a bit washed out. I wanted to get Elly in the photo and when I want to take a photo of Elly, it is easier to bring the props to Elly than it is to bring Elly to the props. I have two Oat Couture patterns, the new issue of Knitscene (which isn't terribly exciting), three balls of Kathmandu Aran for a Dad hat, two Addis, and two hanks of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn for *gasp* socks.

Grace update:
I finished the right front of Grace and cast on for the sleeves. As usual, I'm doing both at the same time. I decided to make the cables go the same way as the cables on the body. I decided to do it this way, not because it was easier, but because I would be annoyed to have cables going two different ways. However, if I had noticed the cable issue before I was halfway finished with the back, I would have inverted all the cables because I like the look of the braid going in the other direction better.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

We've got Trouble! Right here in Bayou City!

It's not really trouble, just another pattern oddity that I noticed when I was studying the photo of Grace. Before you ask: Yes, I did look for pattern errata before I started knitting. Debbie Bliss has not posted any corrections for this pattern despite the fact that there IS an obvious error in the pattern. According to the pattern, the collar is never attached to the back of the sweater.

There are two cable patterns on this sweater: a braid pattern and a horseshoe pattern. Now, look at the braids in the close-up photo of the shoulder. The braid on the sleeves is going in the opposite direction than the braid on the body!

I read the pattern carefully and saw that the instructions have the braided cable going in the same direction on both the body panels and the sleeves. A quick check of MJ's and Jenifer's completed Graces confirmed this.

So here's the million dollar question: do I knit the sleeves according to the pattern or according to the photo? What do you think?

Photobucket news: Apparently, the issue is NOT with Photobucket, but with some big computer companies. Photobucket is just an unfortunate victim. Don't blame Photobucket, they are doing their best to work around the petty bickering of some computer megacorporations. If you can't see my photos, please be patient. I hope a solution will come soon.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Everything Free in America!

Ok, everything is NOT free, but some of the best stuff is free. Some great free stuff: sunshine, Knitty Patterns, advice and encouragement from fellow knitters, and fresh eggs!

cheep cheep cheep!

These are eggs are from Monkee's chickens. Monkee's mom gave them to me last night at the SnB. I poached three of them this morning and they were very, very tasty. The eggs are smaller than the eggs that I buy from the grocery store. I put the Matchbox Mini Cooper in the photo for scale. The Matchbox Mini (a gift from Monkee) is longer than a couple of the eggs. But we all know that smaller is better. (Says the short person who drives a Mini.) Thanks Monkee, Monkee's chickens, and Monkee's mother!

I love cables. Yet, I've never made a cabled sweater for myself until now. (Unless you count the Rebecca sweater, which I don't count because it doesn't have cables all over.) Knitting with Aurora 8 is so enjoyable and fast that I never want to put the project down. So, here's a week's worth of knitting. If I hadn't knit that baby hat or taken a road trip this weekend, I'd probably be done with the right front, too.

Scout is looking at Cleo instead of at me

However . . . I discovered something about the pattern. More later.

BTW: My images are hosted on Photobucket and today Photobucket is acting weird. Sometimes I can't see any photos or even reach the Photobucket site. So, if you can't see my images, I'm sorry but there is nothing I can do. :(

Monday, October 03, 2005

Babies: Valuable Knitting Tools

If you ever want to see something funny, watch someone who has never knitted with straight needles try to learn how to use double-pointed needles. Prior to this weekend, all my small diameter projects were knit on two circulars or with the magic loop method. I avoided DPNs like the plague. But when I received several sets of DPN from Mrs. Stranger and I decided to face the scary porcupine and actually make something with DPNs.

I'm sure all you DPN-experts would have busted a gut laughing at me this weekend. I couldn't figure out how to hold the work with all those needles sticking out. I had to constantly check to make sure no stitches were inadvertently liberated from a needle. And I had a hard time keeping the needles in my hand. You see, when I get to the end of the row using circular needles, I usually drop the needle in my right hand and pass the needle in my left hand over. Well, as I soon discovered, when you drop a DPN--it actually drops! It falls down! It doesn't stay attached to your work like a circular needle does. Imagine that.

Anyway, to tie this comedy of errors in with the title of this entry, look what I made!

I want a REAL cupcake, says Scout

Pattern: Cupcake hat
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool Ease in pale yellow, sparkly white, and red
Needles: US size 8 DPN
Cat: Scout
Recipient: My niece Eva
Lessons learned: DPNs drop when you let go of them. Babies are great guinea pigs for trying new knitting techniques. Babies are small and they don't care if their clothes are a little odd or funny looking.

Speaking of gifts
I gave Rosa to my MIL this weekend. She LOVED it. It fit perfectly. Even the arms were long enough, which is apparently something that is often problematic for her. She thought the colors went well together. She got a kick out of the stripes on the sleeves. So, the sweater was a success even though I didn't like making it.