Monday, February 27, 2006

For Knitting Nerds

Just as a warning, this is probably going to get pretty nerdy. In a knitting way, of course!

This weekend I finished the back of Storm (sorry no new pictures, I was kind of held in the sway of weaving and only managed to sneak away from the loom long enough to finish the back and do a little cleaning). The loom has let me out of its clutches and now I am ready to cast on a front*. I have already resolved to do all neck shaping using short rows (not called for in the pattern, but they will make a much nicer looking neck), but I'm struggling with a buttonband issue: in most cardigan patterns you cast on the stitches for one front minus the buttonband stitches, and for better or worse pick them up later and knit the band perpendicular to the body, in smaller needles. In this pattern, you cast on all of the stitches including the buttonband and knit the ribbing (in this case, it's seed stitch), put the band stitches on a holder, finish the front on the larger needles (remembering to include shortrows for the neck, because, you know I will forget). Then you slip the band stitches to the smaller needle and knit it up parallel to the body. The pattern may or may not tell you to sew it on as you go, but you should because you will be much happier if you do.

The advantages to doing it this way is that you don't really have to figure out the rate of pick up (which is about 3 stitches to 4 rows) and I think it looks a lot nicer. The disadvantage? It's kind of a pain in the ass to sew a buttonband on, even if you are doing it as you go.

As an aside, if I haven't lost the one or two non-knitters that read this, you do the buttonband separately from the sweater (rather than just knitting a border along with the front) because you use a couple of sizes smaller needle than you do with the body. My theory on this is that the bands take a beating and knitting them to a tighter gauge makes them more bullet proof, also they are less likey to poof out.

Picking up the bands at the end is somewhat easier, and I don't have to think about them until the end. They aren't as pretty, though.

I'm pretty much committed to doing the bands as written. I wrote most of this post before going home last night and starting work on the front. It turns out. I can't tell my left from my right. Actually that isn't news, but it does mean that I have to cast on tonight for the third time (and if I weren't committed to doing the bands as written, I could get away with going on with what I have).

Something that ticks me off about knitting patterns (this one included): most knitters I know use the long tail cast on, which starts you out on the wrong side. Every pattern I have seen (with one possible exception, and I can't remember what it is so don't ask) starts you on the right side. What's up with that? Oh well. Reason # 1,383 to think about what you're doing, even if you are just following the pattern.

Tomorrow: weaving tales. Maybe more books.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sad Days and Comments

Sad Days

One of our former co-workers, Mary Claire, died on Friday. She had and beat cancer a few times in the last 15 years, but this time the disease won. Mary Claire loved life and she was one of the funniest people I have ever known. We have all missed her terribly since she retired a few years ago and it's unbelievable that we will never see her again.


Carrot -- WWDTM did mention that Red Scorpion was anti-pinko-commie propoganda. Occasionally I will wistfully say to Len that I miss the Cold was so much better then, what with the crapola movies (remember Red Dawn? We teenage girls practically had it programmed into us to heave our bosums at that one!), and the good and crappy music ("The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades"). It seemed so much more innocent then. Of course the Cold War is pretty much the reason we are where we are now.

Celtic Knitter -- A lab experiment is a good way to describe the copper dyeing, the recipe says that the color depends on the water (the minerals and such). When I told my boyfriend that, he started planning all kinds of experiments using minerals he has left from beer brewing (I don't know why he has minerals from brewing, but he does). Given his (short and long ago) history of illicit drug making, this might be the perfect activity for him. The color I'm seeing on my screen (kind of a gray-blue) is closer to what it looked like while it was in the dye, this picture was after some rinsing and it was greener than I see. The final color (after the vinegar rinse) is a light sea green.

Maxine -- Thanks for your compliments on my River Grass Gansey! The pattern is in Jamieson's Shetland Knitting Book 2. Of the three Jamieson's books, this one is my favorite.

Monday, February 20, 2006


I need a new camera! I took several pictures this weekend (including an insanely adorable picture of Gwen and Judy cuddled up together), I made sure there was plently of sunlight, since usually they come out way too dark, and the flash is way too strong. Instead I ended up with too much light (as though I'd used the flash), and so have only a couple of pictures which are only sort of presentable. I'll keep them small so they don't hurt your eyes.

This is a warp I finally got all the way onto the loom. White, yellow and green striped dishtowels in plain weave. I should have enough warp for four towels and am planning to make one towel in each color, with the fourth as anyone's guess.

This is a really bad picture of a really pretty Inkle Loom that my dad made me for Christmas. It looks a lot like the Schacht loom, is made out of various hardwoods.

There is a bit of a story behind this loom: My dad's parents took up weaving when they retired. I remember them having one of these looms and that my brother Ken and I got to use it when we went to visit them; I don't remember what either of us wove on it, and am very sure that nothing survived. My dad made this loom out of wood from his property, wood left over from a project he did for my grandparents (many many years ago) and wood from Oregon (my grandparents met and married in Portland, Oregon, and my aunt Penny, who is a weaver and knitter, lives in Corvallis, Oregon). This loom, though new, has history.

One of my greatest regrets is that my grandmother never knew that I could knit or weave, since I didn't learn either until after she was gone. It's a great gift that she gave me. I'd like to think that wherever she is, she does know, but she didn't believe in an afterlife (at least I don't think she did). I do know that that part of her (along with her crankiness) lives on in me. So that is something.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Couple of Updates

I was hoping to have pictures of a new warp, but I didn't get that far last night. I finished threading and wound it onto the loom, but that was pretty much it for me. I'll get more done this weekend and try to have pictures on Monday. Judy finds weaving very exciting: the loom is a big toy to her. I think she leaves it along when I'm not working on it, but when I'm there she's up and down, crawling around the warp and chasing the yarn. She's still too small to do much damage, but it's pretty nerve wracking. Simon and Gwen think of weaving as Love Me time, that can sometimes involve a trip across the warp and they are much bigger than Judy. I'm waiting for the day one of them falls through the warp.

So instead of warp pictures, I give you a couple of knitting progress pictures. I took these a few days ago, but am not much further along (due to the weaving):
This is "Storm" (what do a bunch of knit and purl diagonals have to do with a storm?). The color on this picture sucks.
Here's a closeup of the stitch pattern. I have to say that I am really enjoying knitting this, this pattern is just interesting enough to pay attention to (so I don't fall asleep), but not nearly complicated enough to want to rip out my hair (that's what Daffodil is for).
And here is Mom's scarf. There is a little teeny tiny square right under the needle -- I've ripped it out three times now. I'm still not happy with it, but I'm going to live with it (and so is she). I was trying to strand the unused color across the square's three stitches. Apparently, I can't do that. I mean, I know it is doable, but I can't seem to do it without some nasty puckering and distortion. Oh, and see that booklet to the right of the scarf?
That is a shawl that someday I will knit. Not for my wedding, because if it were for my wedding we would never get married. The pattern is like 16 pages long! Actually, the more I look at it, the less I am afraid of it (the construction looks pretty basic). I think I am missing something. Gwen is looking at it and thinking, "I know what you're missing. Your sanity! You'll be crying over this when you could be loving me." I think she's jealous.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Un-Gorey Dyeing Adventure

I've never deliberately dyed anything. Ok, that's not strictly true: I tried to dye a really ugly, faded black dress darker black. It didn't work. I've also dyed my hair. Black. That worked. Trying to put purple on top of dyed-black hair, however, did not work (I'm sorry to say that I have never had purple hair and now I'm too old. I'm keeping my figures crossed for my nieces and nephews to dye their hair crazy colors. I promise to encourage this behavior).

Last night, I finally engaged in some deliberate dyeing behavior. Several years ago, I came across a recipe for Penny Dye, in which you combine 1 part ammonia, 3 parts water and a bunch of pre-1982 (higher copper content) pennies in a jar, let it sit for a couple of weeks, shove in some wool, let it sit and then pretty colors happen. This summer I bought 3 or 4 skeins of a merino/silk lace weight yarn with this dye in mind. I wasn't entirely convinced that it would work, since the recipe calls for wool and I had a 50% silk combination, so I used a small cone of Jaggerspun Zephyr (which is either the same stuff or pretty damn close).

A couple of weeks ago, I combined my ammonia, water and pennies and came up with this:
Pretty, stinky, blue water.

Here is the yarn before dyeing. The recipe says to shove it into the dye and leave it there for 30 minutes, or until the yarn reaches the desired shade, or until the water becomes pale....

....which happened pretty much immediately. I left it in there for a while and swished it around.

In case you are wondering: ammonia is really stinky. Just sayin'

Finally I gave up and took the yarn out of the stinky, not-blue-at-all water and rinsed and rinsed. And finally had this:
The two skeins on the ends went into the stinky blue water first. The color changes were really interesting: while the yarn was in the stinky water it was a really pretty gray-blue. Once it hit the air it turned gray-green (that's the color this is, even though you can't really see it). My thinking was that the color difference between the skeins was so different that I would overdye all of them, or one or two of them. Then the color started to even out. At least it seemed like it was evening out, so I decided to live with it and throw everything into a vinegar bath (which I guess sets the color). At which it all turned sea green. (I don't have a picture of that, because, well, my camera sucks and doesn't represent color well anyway.) The dark skeins got a little lighter and the light ones got a little darker.

I wouldn't be surprised if the skeins have turned purple by now. Strange strange stuff that Penny Dye. I think I will wait until this summer before I decide whether I'm going to dye the rest of the yarn. God knows I don't need anything more to knit!

More Judy, you ask?

Of course we're obsessed with Judy...

Who wouldn't be?

Horrible Edward Gorey Death

Too bad it's not the gin death, but "fits" work too:

Fit fit fits.
You will perish of fits.
Repeat this to yourself: "Things can work out even if I don't get my way. Things can work out even...."

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?
brought to you by Quizilla

Monday, February 13, 2006

Missing Pictures & Jarhead

Drat! I was planning to have progress pictures today, plus Judy pictures (who can resist?), but my crummy camera was wiped clean. I did manage to bring my woven shawl with me to work, so I'll just post some pictures of that:

Doesn't that last picture make you a little dizzy? I can see some treadling mistakes, but...meh. Who cares?

I'll try to have other pictures tomorrow. That is, if I'm here. Len was really sick yesterday with some sort of stomach flu. Stomach flus are usually food poisoning, but I've heard of several people having been down with the same thing (nauseous, hot flashes, chills, achy joints, etc.), so I'm thinking flu. And now I'm starting to feel the same way. Might just be sympathy stomach problems, though.

Carrot wanted to know what I thought of Jarhead (which I finished quite some time ago, just so you know I am not the world's slowest reader, just the slowest reviewer).

Mostly, I thought it was very good. The parts I didn't like so much I think were editing choices I didn't really understand. Swofford tells a fairly long story of an affair he had with a Japanese girl; by this point in the book he has established his girlfriend back in the States as a cheatin' 'ho. I couldn't help but feel that the story was to say that maybe he was a bit of a 'ho too, but at least he was romantic about it, and anyway, he was overseas, so it didn't count the same way as a girlfriend cheating while he's overseas. Whatever. I found that whole story pointless.

Otherwise, something I find interesting about war novels/memoirs is how similar the experience is from war to war. Ultimately war is utter boredom, broken up by moments of sheer terror. The first Gulf War wasn't an exception. What was an exception was how bloodless on the American side the war was. Swofford makes it very clear,
gruesomely clear, that wasn't true for the Iraqis. He has some interesting speculations about the effect that difference has on him while he is there, then later when he is writing the book.

He is a smart guy and it is a smart book.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Odd trivia bits

Mostly geaned from that paragon of the odd moments in the week's news: Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me (why yes, I am an NPR nerd).

1. NASCAR and Harlequin Romance have teamed up for a licensing agreement. Why not? NASCAR (and really, most sports) always struck me as a bit of a soap opera anyway..

2. Bush is against human/animal hybrids (first paragraph). That's nice.

3. This one is from This American Life: Do you remember that "Chocolate city" broohaha from New Orleans Mayor Nagin. Apparently, he's down with the funk, 'cos that was a Parliament quote:
"Ah, blood to blood
Ah, players to ladies
The last percentage count was eighty
You don't need the bullet when you got the ballot
Are you up for the downstroke, CC?
Chocolate city
Are you with me out there?"
(see also the Wiki entry. Not that I endorse Wiki, but I'm not doing anymore research on this little piece of trivia).

4. Because this one is the best one of all: In his former career, Jack Abramoff was a Hollywood producer. He produced (and co-wrote!!) that Dufus Lundren shlock-fest (ok, I didn't see it. Maybe it was great. I don't know. I don't really care.) Red Scorpion. Yep. Rippling muscles, blonde brush cut fightin' them evil commies in Angola. What's not to love? Better yet. The studio fired him because he used South African (Apartheid) army as a source of extras and equipment.

5. It seems like there was at least one other thing, but I don't remember what it was

Monday, February 06, 2006

Fun with weaving

I'm convinced (or I am trying to convince myself) that someday weaving will be fun. Maybe with my very next warp! Because my last warp? Not. Fun. At. All. Beginning to end, there was nothing fun about it, except the colors are pretty. I have no pictures of this warp because, 1. it didn't deserve to be dignified with documentation, and 2. I keep forgetting I can take pictures.

Here is a list of what went wrong:
1. Mismeasured one pair of warp ends. I was following this very nice zig zag pattern on the measuring board and discovered when I pulled off one set of the warp that I hadn't bothered to follow the pattern for one pair, just went to the end of the first set of pegs and back. Even I knew it was easily fixed, but I should have been forwarned.

2. Missed a dent. Luckily it wasn't that far from the edge, so I didn't have to move half the warp.

3. I decided to throw in a couple of repeats of the weft color into the warp (ivory warp, pale teal weft). I had planned on using a 22 end (or whatever that's called in weaving) repeat, had calculated out the number of ends, plus 2 floating ends. When it came time to measure the warp, I did 13 ends ivory, 12 of teal, a whole bunch of ivory, 12 teal, 13 ivory (in two parts since there were lots of ends). Only when I pulled out the draft did I realize that the stupid repeat was 22! Not! 12! @%!#$!!! Fine. I'll choose a 12 repeat.

4. A couple other things went wrong with the threading, resulting in discovering I had miscounted my ends. All easily fixable (because of going from the 22 repeat to 12 I had come extra ends hanging off the front end of the loom).

5. Had a terrible time getting the tie on to the front apron to come out evenly.

6. About 6 inches in, it turns out, I may not have miscounted the warp ends. I just had !$%#$ing threading errors. At least three. Whatever. Too late now.

7. About halfway through weaving, one of my floating ends began fraying and pulling apart. I finally had to abandon it and throw it off the end.

8. Finally! Here comes the back apron rod! Almost! Done! Nothing more can go wrong now! Ha! The warp started untying itself from the back rod. First one bundle. Got that tied back on. Then another. Got that back on. Weave fast so it doesn't have time to happen again!

Whew! Done. Now I'm braiding the ends. Will wash it tonight. Maybe I'll set Len loose on it with his bb gun. He'll probably refuse.

And Stef? I measured another warp last night. Be proud.

Cotton dishtowels. Plain weave. What could go wrong?


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Knitting Agenda

See, I'm making up for not posting in a few days (and then only whining).

Now that I've finished the sweater and scarf, my knitting line-up has changed. Here are the major projects I'm working on right now (any and all of these are subject to abandonment at any time). I'm just posting little pictures because they are really crummy.

This is a scarf I'm making for my Mom. This is proof of how much I love her: I don't like knitting scarves, and I despise intarsia (the squares). The yarn is some kind of baby alpaca (if I were a better person, I would have remember to bring the label and tell you what kind exactly). I thought random squares would be more interesting to knit (and to look at) than stripes, so there you are. Squares. A note on the needles: they were my grandmother's. I don't think she ever used them (unless she put them back in the package (possible with Brittanys). Actually, they are the best Brittanys I have, the tips are sharper than any others I've had.

This is the very beginning of a cardigan called Storm. Why is it called Storm? I don't know, it's from Rowan, the names for their patterns are generated randomly, I think. I can't find the book the pattern is in (again, bad blogger), but the yarn is Jo Sharp DK wool, Maple. I don't know how I feel about the color (which you can barely see), sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate, but the yarn was half off, so it had to be bought.

Socks for Len. The color on this picture is really bad: they are not this bright, and are much more green.

And finally, we have a very crumpled up, sad looking Daffodil. This gets knitted on when I need something to keep my mind occupied; also, because it is cotton, when Len gets the temperature in the house over 75 degrees (due to the vageries of our wood burning stove). I'm pretty sure I'll be knitting on this until I am 80.

Two Finished Things

Ok, you've seen them before, but I'm really happy with them:

Here is the Arabesque, being all graceful. The edges still have a slight tendency to fold over, but the scarf isn't curly anymore, and it doesn't bias they way it did before blocking. Blocking is insanely boring, but so very crucial to lace.

Proof that the River Grass Gansey has two sleeves and a collar.

Here's a close up of the collar. This is the best collar I have ever done. Had I been thinking clearly when I started the shaping for it, I would have done it differently. I usually don't do well at picking up the stitches for collars -- I end up with gaps and stretched out stitches -- but this time, it's beautiful.

That sound you hear is my creaking bones as I pat myself on my back.

The Tragedy... that I am allergic to the two cutest creatures ever. They aren't wrestling, they are passed out. On each other.