Sunday, July 30, 2006

Finished Orangina

I promised an Orangina update, and here it is, finished! I knitted this exclusively last week and finished it up. Note to self: monogamous knitting means faster finished objects. Sorry for the crappy photo. Mr. S has a lot of strengths, and being the official XRK photographer isn't one of them.

Project Specs:

Pattern: the ubiquitous Orangina, by the Glampyre, Stefanie Japel
Yarn: Rowan 4-ply cotton. I used 4 balls of Cheeky. This yarn is absolutely lovely, but then again, I do love knitting with cotton. Very smooth and comfortable to knit. No knots or anything.
Needles: US2 Addis. I swatched on US3s, and preferred the lace on US2s.
Pattern Notes & Modifications: This is actually a simple lace pattern to memorize, and once I submitted to using stitch markers liberally, I experienced success. I am an absolute beginning lace knitter, but I think I began to learn to read my lace, so even when I did make errors, I learned how to fix them. Or frogged liberally and carefully. The only modification I made was to add a stitch on each side for a selvedge to make seaming easier. I did made a small, and it fits comfortably. In a previous post, I wrote about being concerned about fit, but even with three inches of negative ease, this sweater fits nicely. Orangina knitters, knit small fearlessly!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Project Spectrum July

When Lolly came up with her brilliant Project Spectrum, I was immediately inspired. It was for me a great launching pad for so many things I wanted to accomplish with my knitting. I am pleased to say that with only one month to go, I have made a project for each month's color. And in the spirit of using what you have and the SoSKAL, only once did I have to purchase yarn to complete my projects. I have charity knitted, tried some new techniques, and definitely reduced the stash and oddballs.

This month's color, purple, presented with a variety of choices, because it appears that I have a lot of purple yarn. This is weird since I don't seem to wear purple at all. And most of my purple yarn represent potential projects that are perfect for my Project Spectrum requirements.

So, with all of 4 days to go in July, here are the candidates:

Yarn: Knit Picks Sock Garden
PS Idea: darning hole in sock

These were the first pair of socks I knitted for myself, and second pair ever. I wore them a lot, and quickly wore a hole in the heel, and the insides felted very quickly. I think Knit Picks has discontinued this yarn, and I think that is a good idea, because despite the wonderful colors, it is just not durable enough for socks.

Some people do not darn hand-knitted socks, The Yarn Harlot being one vocal sock-knitter-not-a-darner. I, on the other hand, had a hard time not being convinced by Theresa and her excellent tutorial. And since I've never tried it, this seemed like a good opportunity to try it and see where I stand on the to-darn or not-to-darn deabte.

Yarn: Crystal Palace Labrador
PS Ideas: Make pillow cover for soon-to-be painted purple guest room, or make felted boxes

Here we have an entirely finished sweater, the Serendipity Sweater from Hollywood Knits. The sleeves were too tight in the upper arms, so I abandoned the project. In the winter of 2004. I have to face the truth. I will never fix the sleeves because I don't think I'll ever wear this sweater, even though Julianne Moore looks great modeling it in Suss Cousins's Hollywood Knits. I just think this yarn will not wear well, with it's 100% wool content and uneven spin. I think it will pill and look like crap. Never mind that whole bulky-sweaters-make-bulky-garments-bulky-garments-make-you-look-bulky problem.

Yarn: LB Wool-Ease Sport
PS Idea: Sweater for Rosebud

I bought this yarn on sale (of course) at Tuesday Morning, and couldn't resist a sweater's worth of yarn for like $6.99. Which is why, of course, it has languished in stash for over a year.

So what did I choose?

My choice was the Labrador Pillow. I briefly considered making this a combined fabric/knit project, but I quickly rejected that idea, mostly because I have no time right now to pull out the ole sewing machine. Well, that and I am scared of sewing. Not seaming knitted garments, mind you, but actually sewing fabric to handknits. Mr S is the designated sewer in this household, because, unlike me, he took home ec.

But I have enough yarn here to cover the whole pillow, and I plan on knitting a tight enough gauge the the inside of the pillow will not show through the thick and thin fabric.

So this is a perfect PS/SoSKAL project for me, since I will be reclaiming yarn from a long-abandoned project to make something lovely and useable. I will also, hopefully, use up a lot, if not most of this yarn.

And in honor of SoSKAL, I will also be releasing some purple yarn to my friend, Gina, who, to say she loves purple, would be a true understatement of enormous proportion. She is also immensely creative, a fearless crocheter and art teacher. If anyone can make something lovely with this yarn, it is Gina.

And, in the spirit of the SoSKAL, I will be releasing Suss's Hollywood Knits book to another knitter. Leave a comment if you want your name entered into a drawing to win this pattern book. Winner drawn at random at some point next week.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

One Skein Wonderful

Just a quick post before I am off to visit my parents in Northern Virginia ...

I have quite enjoyed the book One Skein. It's great for using up the stash. I have, so far, knit the bowls, the double cable scarf, the baby hat, and the baby bolero. Simple and easy. I knit up the hat and the bolero in two days (in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran) so that I would be ready for a sweet baby girl who is due in August.

My only issue was with the bolero. Now I am not great at reading directions, especially if I'm in a must knit now kind of mood, so I may have just read things improperly (ie, messed up). When you've put 13 stitches on a holder for the back of the neck, why are you then asked to pick up 21? Maybe those extra 8 st are 4 on either side of the held stitches, but before the shoulder seam? I couldn't get there. In fact, I had 152 st instead of 164 for the ribbed border. I just made sure it was divisible by 4, and it was fine. I fudge like that all the time ... don't you? or is this kind of fudging keeping me from reaching a higher level of knitting prowess?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Gifts for the Knitter

I recently received these lovely stitch markers from the lovely and talented knitter, SpiderWoman. Go check out her blog at its new home. Thanks so much, Abi; they are wonderful!

And I also recently received this from my Rosebud:

Because, as she said, "You love yarn, Mom!"

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Patuxent River Trekking

Power Outage Update: Thanks for all your supportive comments regarding our power outage. We were ultimately without power for 75 hours, from Tuesday night until Friday night. Luckily, my mother had power by Thursday morning, and we took refuge with her. We also planned a visit to the homeland of Mr. S this weekend, and while we were away, we got the good news from our generous neighbors that the power had been restored.

Mr. S, the sophisticated and urbane, grew up in the very rural, fishing, crabbing and farming community of Saint Mary's County, MD, where his father and father's wife still live. This weekend, the family and I traveled along with the Trekking Blah Sock to St. Mary's and had many watery adventures. The camera was not totally cooperative, but I got some shots to commemorate this lovely trek to a lovely part of the world.

I mentioned in the last post that I had been knitting dishcloths in the darkness this week. One of them was for Mr. S's father's wife. Here is the hostess gift, take one:

Here is the dishcloth I brought. It originally held a jar of my homemade strawberry freezer jam, but with the power outage, I was not confident that it was fresh enough to give someone for a gift. And she can't eat anyting with seeds. Thus, I wrapped it up with a bar of lavender soap. I think she liked it.

Here is the pretty raspberry one I kept for myself. There just may be a drawer full of these before I am done. Just as Ann has joined the sock cult, the warshrag cult has got me in its evil clutches.

The second Trekking Blah Sock (TBS) enjoyed lots of rivery excitement.
We spent Saturday morning fishing off the pier, and we caught 17 fish!

Here is TBS with the bait, a precarious place for handknits, indeed.

TBS also enjoyed some time sitting on the bench overlooking Cuckold's Creek. It also enjoyed a lovely boat ride to Solomon's Island along the Patuxent River, but that's when the camera died.

Thus, TBS added another form of transportation (boat) to it's list of adventures, and I made it all the way through the foot on this trip, and now just have the heel and cuff to finish before TBS is at last finished. I have a few more road trips planned for the summer, and am feeling confident about their future finished status. Check the sidebar for this well-traveled sock's updated mileage!

Later this week, some knitterly goodness from one of my favorite bloggers, an Orangina update, Summer of Stash thoughts, and a July Project Spectrum project.

Friday, July 21, 2006

And now she purls!

My daughter is brilliant. She is absolutely, undeniably brilliant. Yesterday, she taught herself how to purl. She had intended to knit, but things got all muddled up and she tried to figure it out by herself ... but it wasn't what she had been doing. When she showed me her bit of work, I was thrilled to tell her that she was knitting Stockinette Stitch!

Now she purls at will (despite the constant cries for help and the many dropped stitches because some friends popped off with Jack). My 6-year-old is a knitter. I couldn't be more proud!

WIP Update
The 2nd Colori sock is coming along slowly. It is my knitting at the pool. I am 40% along with the stole (Nora's Stole) -- I'm trying to make it a "metta" stole, focusing loving kindness on my friend for whom I am knitting. However, finding peaceful, meditative moments to knit is often challenging, so it has been slow progress. I am finishing up the sleeves on a cute baby bolero from One Skein (I should have a picture of it soon) for a baby girl due in August.

Foodie Update
The BB, or BackBou as he prefers, is back up and running after forgetting his password for, well, let's see now ... three months. Geez. I love that for him our trip to the Northwest was about the gooseberry.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Neighborhood #3: Power Out!

(my favorite Arcade Fire song...)

The family and I are, as of this writing (2:30pm Thursday), now 43 hours without power to our home. We had one hell of a storm on Tuesday evening that gratefully ended the heat wave, but apparently totally wiped out the electrical infrastructure to my neighborhood. We do not anticipate power to be restored until the weekend. Rosebud and Pepe have been real troopers throughout the whole thing, and gratefully, the pool has remained open, and our neighbors generously plugged our fridge into their generator.

We have de-camped to my Mom's nearby, as her power was restored last night, and are headed out tomorrow with the Trekking Blah sock to the Mr. S's dad's place on the Chesapeake Bay for the weekend. Both places have crappy dial-up (Mom actually has a wi-fi network, but it has been knocked out along with her cable TV), so blogging and commenting will the very limited until we in Audubon, PA return to civilization.

So I have had two days of cold showers,instant coffee (blech!) and being totally media-free. I have had moments where I realized that we were (before we plugged into the generator) consuming absolutely no energy, our little family, and I felt really virtuous. And then I wanted my dishwasher back. And my broadband. But mostly my dishwasher. I hate doing dishes by hand.

So I have been knitting dishcloths. You can knit them in the dark, and they make me feel less pissed about the damn dishes.

Wah wah wah.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Orangina Dilemma

I finished the back piece of my Orangina top last weekend. Readers of the blog remember that this sweater caused me much angst, but with the help of some stitch markers, things went swimmingly. I still think I am incredibly stupid for making a sweater on US2 needles, but still, I persist. I really want this top. I have a skirt for it. I have the shoes for it. It is halfway through the summer, and this is a perfect summer lacy thing!

Before I cast on for the front, I took a quick measurement of the back. 16" across, for a total of 32" total once the front is finished. My bust is 35" so obviously I am concerned that this is going to be a little small. I do want some negative ease, but three inches is scaring me. I know the lace will stretch, and I do want it to be form-fitting through the torso. And since this is knitted from the top down, I would be ripping out a lot of knitting. People, I really want this top, but if I have to return to the frog pond one more time, I think it will spell the demise of Orangina. I did measure my Picovoli, which fits like a dream, and I was pleased to see the bust measurement is close to 32" around too. This heartened me, but still, I am concerned.

So I need your help. First, anyone out there knitted Orangina before? How much negative ease did you have, and was it OK? Please help me out by sharing your experiences. I did try searching the archives of the Sexy Knitters Club, and felt quite encouraged when lots of the knitters complained that the sweaters were a little big. And they looked a little bigger than I want it to be. I am looking for a form-fitting sweater.

Second, I have an idea for a fix. I thought about ways people accomodate larger busts in form fitting pieces, and the obvious answer was short rows. However, I don't think short rows are the way to go since it would interrupt the lace pattern too much. So I was thinking about knitting the bust area on US3 needles, to give me a little extra room there. This seems like an obvious solution, but I am not sure what this will do to the FO.

Any thoughts before I proceed?

Monday, July 17, 2006

It's a Scorcher

It's been hot, hot, hot. Yesterday our home thermometer read 94. So what were our activities? Swimming in a cool pool? Chilling in the AC? Sipping frozen cocktails?How silly! Why, of course I weeded in the garden and knitted wool socks while BB baked bread and pizza ... outside.

Here is our outside bread/pizza oven that BB fusses over (he's a wonderful baker and the reason why I find it so hard to lose weight).

And here is what he produces:

Pizza, so yummy!

And his incredible sourdough bread.

Here is what I have been producing.

Lucky in Rowan All Season Cotton for BB's cousin's new bambina.

And I did have to reorganize my stash b/c it was just such a mess. So here is my new closet.

There are a few clothes smushed to the side, but aside from that, it's all yarn. I live in a small, older home with very little closet space so I think it's just a hoot that I have even less due to yarn hording!

And meanwhile, out in the garden ... I told myself that this would be the year that I would not wake up in August to find that the weeds had overtaken my garden. Well, it turns out that this is the year that I wake up in July to find the weeds have colonized huge sections of our tiny urban lot. Cukes run rampant, switch grass in all the beds, morning glory pulling down the tomatoes ...

But the stars of the garden are currently the sunflowers and the goldfinches who feed on them.

I can stand the heat when I have these companions in the garden and fresh bread on the table.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Deconstructing the Calla Lillies

I have been a bad blogger this week, as I have had a house full of people for days, and have not had a lot of knitting progress to report. My current WIPs require some sustained attention (more on that later) so I have focused enough on the Calla Lilly socks to be able to finish them today.

Project Specs:
Pattern: Calla Lilly Socks by Sundara Yarns
Yarn: Sundara Petals Collection superwash merino, "calla lilly"
Needles: US1 Addi Turbo 40"
Pattern notes: I tried magic loop with these socks for the first time, and I may be a convert. I have some problems with pain in my fingertips when I use metal (or even bamboo) DPNs, and even had numbness in my fingers for a while after knitting Mom's marathon socks. This was much more comfortable on my fingers, and I do think it went quicker. The pattern called for Nancy Bush's welsh heel, also a first for me. According to the pattern, if you knit as written you won't have any holes, but I ended up with a hole on both socks. Nothing tragic, but a hole nonetheless. My lace is also a little wonky on the first sock, but the lace disappears enough to make the mistake very hard to see. I managed to misplace the pattern before finishing the second sock, and had to deconstruct the toe decreases by eyeballing the first one. Not a perfect job, but again, good enough.

The true pleasure of these socks was the yarn. The colors are glorious, the finished product is fantastic, and the pattern was simple enough to be a knit-while-terribly-busy project, yet the color changes and pattern details made it a satisfying, interesting knit. I do have a lot of yarn left over, so it may become some cute baby booties, or more likely, will join the other little balls of sock yarn leftovers in the sock drawer.

Thanks, Sundara!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Oh Canada!

What a trip we had! The San Juan Islands were magnificant, the weather was perfect, the hiking extraordinary, and Vancouver Island was superlative. If those durn Republicans win the White House next time, our little family is going to try to relocate north of the 49th parallel. Incredibly wonderful people, more sensible government, great parks, and breath-taking scenery (okay, the winters are a pain, but there is the western coast ...).

But on to the travel knitting and yarn ...

I forgot to pack my 2nd skein of Fortissima Colori Sock Yarn, so after the first sock was finished ...

I picked up some Trekking on Orcas Island. Poppies in Eastsound is a great yarn store, formerly a fabric store. I also bought some Lamb's Pride there to teach our friends how to fingerknit, the shopowner was thrilled that I was creating converts to the knitting way. We stayed at Doe Bay Resort, camping out in our rented VW camper. We loved it!

This trip did it to me. I am now a sock knitter. I love the sock. But it wasn't all sock knitting, here was how most of my time was spent ...

Then we travelled to Vancouver Island and up to Tofino ...

Where I found a great natural fiber store, Fiber Options Naturals. I bought some organic cotton pants and some hemp yarn. The yarn is not as nice as the AllHemp, however, it was cheap and will make a great sweater for Rosie ...

Tofino was just as we remembered it from eleven years ago, only better. The wildlife was incredible and just look at our sunsets ...

Then we headed down to Victoria. Here is where I would like to live. We did the touristy thing, hung out at the inner harbor, had high tea at the Empress, but then I heeded Peg's advice and visited Beehive Wool Shop. And discovered Fleece Artist and Handmaiden Yarn. This stuff is spun gold people. I bought some of their Sea Silk and Silken 100% Silk. Thanks Peg!!

The Sea Silk is made from Silk and Seaweed. Seaweed, my friends! It actually smells like the sea (or a really nice sushi dinner). I love it, love it, love it. I take it out and look at it often. I was told that you can't get Handmaiden Yarns in the US. If that is true, then I will be having this stuff shipped. It's not cheap, but it is phenomenal.

And not to let ourselves rest for even a moment, we are off to the DC area tonight to see Amadou & Mariam perform at the Birchmere -- I can't wait!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

An Urgent Clarification

I received an urgent e-mail from my sister after having read the Trekking Blah Sock post, and she wanted to make a few things clear to the readers of XRK. So, with her permission, here is the e-mail exchange, with a few edits...

Socks and sandals? Socks and sandals? Never. Just because I'm eco-girl doesn't mean I've lost my freakin' eco-mind and relegated myself to the bottom of some stale hippie fashion bin! Even on the muddy trail a lady is still a lady, and a lady knows that if it's sock weather, it's shoe/boot weather. For shizzie Lizzie :)

That's the kind of stuff we promised to keep each other straight on throughout life, and I'm here to tell you I'm still on board 100% with the socks and sandals rule. I may have fallen off the wagon once or twice in college, but that was then, what can I say.

One of the other major things was short sleeved knit sweaters, but we did refine the definition to require protrusions like pom-poms as well as holiday and seasonal graphics, like Santa and migratory birds. So we're still straight on that. And we're doing okay vis-a-vis mu-mus.

Other than that nothing comes to mind, so, we're good.

So then I asked her about the Birkenstock-with-socks look, which in my book, with hand-knit socks, is totally acceptable, and a look that I remember her sporting in her college years.

The Birks were the in-college fashion moment. At least in hindsight. It's ok for other people - I have no problem with it as a general thing, but for me specifically it's firmly in the no-no category now.

I like to think that the switch to Tevas (sans sandals) say less hippie shuffle, more action with traction. I'm a new age eco girl, the kind who is more likely to have a proper multitool and a Luna bar in my pocket than a half a doobie and some fuzzy raisins.

I would like to say that the hosts of this humble blog truly have no problem with the socks-with-sandals look, whether it is with Tevas, Birkenstocks, or more high-fashion choices. I struggle with the search for the most appropriate footwear for my handknit socks, as my socks are usually hidden inside boots or stuffed into clogs. My sister is not a knitter (I am working to change this), and has never yet worn the handknit sock, so she does not know the dilemma one has when wearing a special, beautiful, handknit sock.

But my sister wants it to be made clear: she will not wear her socks with Tevas.

Friday, July 07, 2006

NYC Trip Notes

Mr. S and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary this weekend. We decided to take advantage of our proximity to NYC and spend the day on the town. Our hotel was in Rockefeller Center, and after a quick lunch and beer, we spent the afternoon at MoMA. This trip was really all about enjoying a special dinner, and there was much discussion about which restaurant to choose, and many reservations were considered, attempted, made, confirmed, and cancelled. Ultimately, we had dinner at Aquavit, which was well worth all the sturm und drang. Very imaginative food, beautifully presented, with great service. And a dinner is always successful when you find a new form a liquor to like!

Sounds lovely, idyllic, romantic. So what does this have to do with knitting? New York has fantastic yarn shops, right? Well, back in our dating days, Mr. S and I made a pact that we will never shop together on vacation. It is a long and ugly story, but it involved being in Freeport, Maine and trust me when I say we are a very happy couple for appreciating one another's differences. And of course, the Summer of Stash is keeping me out of yarn shops in general.

But never one to let my readers down, I did have one fibery encounter, in the apartment of one Curly Purly! Regular readers of this blog know that we old high school friends were recently reunited thanks to the Green Gable Knitalong. After 17 years and much water under the bridge, we had a fantastic reunion brunch, met her wonderful husband and were completely charmed by her luminous Squid. After we ate, we had a knit-chat, where I was speechless at the feat of plane geometry, the defiance of the time-space continuum that is her yarn stash in a teeny New York apartment. I got to touch her Mosaic Moon yarns up close, and take a close look at the super-cute toys she knits out of thin air. I got to see her life up close, and know my old friend and fellow blogger as a grown-up person, mother, knitter, now-friend. Thanks, CurlyPurly, for sharing your day with us, and welcoming me back into your life.

And especially thanks to Mr. S for wordlessly, willingly indulging my knitting obsession, even on our romantic anniversary day together. That's one hell of a husband, ain't it?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Trekking Along with the Blah Sock

There are so many reasons to love knitting socks. Instant gratification, gorgeous colors and combinations, soft soft yarn, experimenting with different stitch patterns and construction techniques...unfortunately, my Trekking Blah socks are giving me no sock-love. Slow-growing on US0s, blah gray and cream colors, a standard K3,P3 rib...these socks are boring me to tears.

The only reason why I persist with these socks is that they are for my sister. These socks will be lovely for her. They are the quintessential hiking socks. They will fit her narrow feet and look great while she treks along in her graduate school program in ecology. They'll look fanstastic with Tevas and adventure pants. All her eco-pals will be green with envy (yuk, yuk). I even signed up for the Trek Along with Me KAL, and imagined my sister completing the hike before the deadline, and inviting her to guest-blog her hike for us all.

But this summer is all about enjoying the knits, and releasing any guilt, oppression, or unpleasant associations with knitting. No deadlines, no additions to the stash, releasing unloved stash, etc.

Thus, in order to release myself from the oppression of the Trekking Blah Sock, I have decided that this sock will strictly be my traveling sock this summer, and I will knit it only when actively traveling. Certainly boring knitting is better than no knitting at all. And my sister is a natural-born traveler, who will truly appreciate socks that have many miles knit into them before ever having been worn. She also has no deadlines and no requirements for me when she knows I am knitting for her. She happily accepts woolen mittens in June, and will love wool socks whenever they are finished.

So far, the Trekking Blah sock has accompanied me from my home in the Philadelphia suburbs to:
- Narragansett, RI (546 mi round trip)
- Down the shore (200 mi round trip)
- to NYC (leaving from the shore, 288 mi round trip)

Knitting on the NJT Train

Thus, the Trekking Blah sock and I have traveled a total of 1034 miles. I have (mostly) completed one sock. (When I make toe-up socks, I knit most of the cuff, then begin the second sock. I finish both socks together to keep the lengths the same and to use up all the yarn). I have many more trips back and forth to the shore and other road trips planned this summer, so I am curious to see how far Trekking Blah socks and I will travel this summer.

Readers of this humble blog can keep up with the Trekking Blah sock's mileage over in the sidebar. I will leave it to my sister to do the hiking when they are done.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

And the winner is...

Calla Lilly, hands down. I thought perhaps it seemed excessive to bring four knitting projects on vacation. Sundara's yarn is a total pleasure to knit, and the pattern is a simple, lovely pattern that compliments the yarn. Love it.

And Orangina grows too.

The Blah Trekking sock has been ignored, but will be trekking with Mr. S and me to NYC tomorrow to celebrate 8 wonderful years of marriage.