Saturday, October 27, 2007

Three Things

1. My brother-in-law and his family's home survived the San Diego fires in tact. Their neighborhood is messy, but still standing, making them some of the lucky ones. They wisely left town for a planned trip to Chicago to get out of the smoky air and let things settle down, but should hopefully be getting back to normal soon. Thanks so much for your messages of concern and caring.

2. I made some kind of ugly socks. I love the yarn, I love the pattern, but the pooling! Ach! The pooling! I am pretty tolerant about pooling, but these socks pooled in a pretty ugly way.

I won't be frogging them, as they are innocuous enough when worn with jeans and shoes:
Hidden under jeans, tucked into the clogs.
Maybe an occasional flash of sock when the legs are crossed...

But, and prepare yourself here, when viewed on their own, you see what I mean. The slash of green across the foot. Ewww.


Pattern: Undulating Ribs by Ann Budd from Favorite Socks
Yarn: Claudia's Handpainted Yarns, Donna's Favorite
Needles: Addi Lace US 1.5/2.5mm

Notes: These socks were uneventful and simple, and the yarn is just wonderful to knit, but this is the perfect example of a really pretty, autumnally neutral colorway gone bad. Luckily, the ugly part is pretty much confined to the foot, so they are totally wearable with shoes. Thanks, Claudia's, for pooling where it won't be noticed!

This is my first time using Claudia's yarn, and I am really pleased so far. Of course, I'll have to see how they hold up to wear and washing, but I am really looking forward to using the other skeins I have in the stash.

3. Nova, I don't know whether to kiss you or curse you, but my family sincerely thanks you! That's some damn good pie.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Seasonal Forecast

This week has me thinking about seasons. The weirdly warm weather. The pitiful Eagles season. Wildfire season in Southern California has seen my dear brother-in-law and his family evacuated from their home, and the fires are frighteningly close. At this point, they believe their house is still there (the answering machine picked up!) but they have no idea when they will be able to return, and what conditions they and their neighbors in Rancho Bernardo will face.

For reasons beyond my understanding, my son calls any patterned sock I make him "Season Socks." When I knit him socks, I always use these printed Regias or Jawolls, which take only one ball for a little boy's feet. I finished these a few days ago, and he was so delighted to have another pair of Season Socks.

I know the calendar only ackowledges four seasons, but in our family, we have many seasons beyond the official four. Like Vermonters with their Mud Season in the Spring, we observe Nut Season in the Fall.

Every year, my husband haunts the produce departments of the grocery store, eagerly anticipating the return of the mixed, whole, in-the-shell nuts. From the end of October through January, The World's Ugliest Nut Bowl takes up permanent residence on our coffee table, and the couch is sprinkled with the leavings of his nightly nut-cracking sessions. With every nut he jauntily tosses into his maw, he is just in pure, hog heaven.

For a long time, I fought the nut bowl. It offended my sense of style, even though it was reproduced at Restoration Hardware. The nut dust everywhere drove me nuts (sorry), and my husband, for all his wonderful qualities, is not so good about the sweeping up. I purchased lovely nut bowl alternatives, rattan trays and little hand held vacuums to address the crumbles. But Mr S was attached to his vintage, bought-at-a-yard sale nut bowl. He really loved it! So, like lots of things as our marriage endures, I let it go. I embraced The Nut Bowl in all its messy glory into the family decor. I granted him total freedom from nagging and irritation as he enjoyed this simple pleasure, and we are both happier for it.

Last night, in celebration of the first night of Nut Season, we presented my husband with gift wrapped bag of mixed nuts inside, and after dinner, we conducted a taste test of all the different nuts (everyone seems to like filberts the best) and tried using all his different crackers. It made an ordinary Monday night feel like a celebration.

I couldn't help but think of my California family, leaving their home in the early morning, having been ordered to leave and immediately drive to safety. They took their family photos, their hard drive, their passports and insurance papers, blankies, teddy bears, all those irreplaceable things. They took my two nephews and drove to safety, leaving everything else behind. We're OK, they said. We have all that really matters. The rest of it is just stuff.

But as I fished the nut bowl out of the closet, I thought of all those other things, special things that you just couldn't save, for lack of time, space, and practicality. That nut bowl is a thing, yes, but it tells a small part of our love story for our children. It tells about compromise and accepting someone's quirks. Its about enjoying your spouse enjoying themselves. The nut bowl says something about who my husband is, someone who really likes his tacky stuff and doesn't care who thinks its tasteful.

My daughter and I regularly go up to my mom's attic and just root around up there. She loves to pick out books from my old collection of paperbacks, and she loves my old dolls. Even though I could just give her the whole lot, I let her pick just one each time. I love watching her look carefully at each one, carefully weighing which one she wants this time. It lets me relive each doll and its story, and she gets to learn something new about my life story each time.

I showed her my father's collection of goofy pants this weekend. She was so young when he died. She could see his holiday cords (you know, the pants with the turkeys embroidered on them? Penguins playing golf? Red lobsters on white chinos? My dad rocked them ALL!) and now, when she imagines her grandfather, she knows what kind of pants he wore. I got to tell her a little story about my dad, and I got to relive a cherished, happy memory.

I even found a poster that CurlyPurly made for me (check out the date) and she and I had a good laugh this week.
In my house, I have the clothes my kids wore home from the hospital. I have my husband's grandfather's kippah and tallit. I have my preserved wedding bouquet. I have a beautiful note my father wrote to my husband and a letter my daughter wrote to the tooth fairy. I have a painting my husband and I bought on our honeymoon from a street artist in Montmartre.

We all joke about saving our stash, but what about all these these things we lovingly knit? Our lace shawls? Our cashmere sweaters? Our handmade quilts or our heirloom linens? Is that just stuff?

So far, the news reports from California suggest that loss of human life has been gratefully minimal. And yes, it is just stuff. But as stashers, creators and collectors, we must not trivialize the monumental loss this represents. There are countless families that have lost their irreplaceable stuff, but they are holding onto each other, knowing that despite having lost everything, what really matters is each other.

I'm just deeply sad for all of them, and still fearful for my family out there. Please keep all the firefighters and families in Southern California in your hearts and prayers until these fires have been put out.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Prayer Quilt, Part One

In two weeks, we have gone from an idea to an almost finished Prayer Quilt. I am just amazed at the RWS community! Within hours of putting yarn out in a basket in the front hall of the school, the Handwork Group received calls for more yarn -- we just couldn't keep enough balls (of the wonderful O-Wool Classic) in circulation. I thought that we could manage to get 33 squares and then last night as we sat around and counted up the squares, my jaw dropped ... 54 squares.

Students, parents, teachers, and the administrative staff all pitched in to make 6" x 6" garter stitch squares. The first graders each took turns knitting one precious square.

The sizes ranged from 5.5 inch squares to 6.5 inch squares. There is one stockinette square. Some squares have dropped stitches and yarn overs, twisted stitches and wild swings of tension. All were knit with love and reverence.

Last night we arranged and rearranged the squares trying to get the squares just right. Blocks of color or randomness? Geometrical patterns? Balanced color values? Thank goodness for the cookies, popcorn, and coffee!

Holly was our guide for the assembly and as I, the ever-uptight planner, was punching numbers into a calculator and pouring over graph paper with colored pencils, she intuitively massaged the squares into their proper places. She was brilliant!

I received my seaming assignment (V for vertical garter ridges, H for horizontal) and seamed them up this morning.

Melanie at The Yarn Lounge showed me how to execute a simple single crochet join for the assembly. It is just the right join to adjust for all the variations in sizes.

I hope to join with the other two sections tomorrow and hand the quilt off to a more accomplished crocheter for the border. I will post more pictures soon ...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Trying To Keep Afloat

There is just so much to do lately. Blogging and, quite sadly, Ravelry have not been even close to the top of my "To Do" list. But I have been knitting! Here is a WIP, FO update ...

Two FOs:

Pattern: Trellis, 6 month size
Yarn: Cotton Fleece by Brown Sheep, Wisteria; about 1.5 skeins
Needles: US6s
Notes: I liked this pattern, but wish that I had taken the time to search other knitter's mods before picking it up. I was feeling rushed and just dove in. If I had it to knit again, I would use Brooklyn Tweed's mods which I read about on Ravelry, he's knitting it as a seamless raglan (much easier) and adding seed stitch panels to the sides under the arms (the cabled twist right at the seam is not great). I would also have knit the sleeves in the round, I didn't like how they seamed up at all. I did slip the first stitch so that the button band and the buttonhole band have a nicer edge.

I was able to remember how to seed stitch graft while babysitting without my reference book. I'm so proud!

This sat waiting for small pewter buttons that I had ordered until I just couldn't take it any longer, the recipient was growing! I bought these instead and am very pleased even though they are a bit rounder than I had wanted.

Pinks and purples in the fall garden.

Pattern: Pea Pod Hat by Kate Gilbert

Really crappy picture. The color is truly the same as the Trellis ...

Yarn: Cotton Fleece, Wisteria
Needles: US5s
Mods: None. Knit up in a night. I found out last Thursday that N's teacher was going to visit her brother who is deploying to Iraq. They were also christening his baby last weekend, so I wanted to send her off with a baby hat. These pictures stink, it was really much cuter! I would love to knit the whole set at some point.

Angel Lace Shawl - WIP
Ah. Another Evelyn Clark shawl. Heaven. I've been affectionately calling this the Angel of Darkness since I am knitting with Jo Sharp Alpaca Silk Georgette in Charcoal (and I am watching Buffy Season One on DVD). This yarn, oh this yarn. This is a yarn I could knit forever. For absolutely ever. It is soft. It is the perfect weight. It is silky but not slippery. It smells good. I am happy whenever I pick this project up. I am just about done with my 13 pattern repeats but I am going to do more. It's just wonderful!

But there is a time constraint, this shawl will be donated to Art Karma, an art auction to benefit Art 180. A very worthwhile cause. My buddy Jess (you have got to check out her incredible bags now! Wouldn't they make awesome knitting bags?) asked me to donate something and as I was feeling the shawl love after Leaf Lace, I said sure. No regrets. This shawl has been a joy to knit. I hope to block it in about a week. Stay tuned for pictures!

Prayer Quilt Project - WIP
Unfortunately, we have a very sick parent at our school. A single mother of a 1st grader, she is gracefully and bravely battling very insipid cancer. The RWS community has pulled together and in the past 2 weeks knit a bajillion 6" x 6" garter stitch squares in O-Wool Classic. It was a 7th Grade homework assignment, isn't that incredible? The RWS handworkers will be coming over Saturday night to stitch it together and then we may have the 1st graders fingerknit the fringe next week.

I will share more with you next week. I feel powerless to protect this incredible woman and her son from this cancer, but I can help create a symbol of our love, compassion, and prayers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


What joy today to see some of my released stash in use at preschool. Yarn doesn't have to be knitted to be loved, and black chenille makes the best fuzzy cat tails!

The one and only cat picture you will ever see from this blogger.
I am here to keep this blog from being only about bosoms.


Thanks for being so nice about it, but the issue with Tree Jacket's fit across the bust wasn't just the sweater. It really was my breasts, which were, in the very kinds words of StuntMother, a little too far south. So in the spirit of my all-time favorite "stand up straight!" comment from Minty, I have since properly adjusted my bra. Note the instant improvement!

Way better, eh? I am still ripping the sweater.

But really, thanks for all your advice. Like, Tiennie, who said that I should cut and graft. Intriguing idea.

And Wendy, who suggested that I pin it up and see how I like it with the eyelets up higher. Great idea, Wendy, especially because I'm not sure its an improvement. See?

Now I am actually thinking that I might extend the garter down all the way to the end of the bust, and stop at the top of the waist. This yarn looks especially beautiful in garter stitch, and when I stretched the sweater a bit to get an idea of how it would look, it did really define the waist nicely. That, and it would require less ripping.

But I'm wondering if this is a sweater destined for loser-dom. This yarn is too beautiful to make into something I don't love and won't wear. So maybe it needs to be something else. An Hourglass Sweater? An Adult Tomten?

And really, since y'all are so generous with your opinions, please, tell me what you think.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Opinions, Please

Many recent designs in both knitwear and in RTW clothing features empire styling, but it is a tricky look to pull off if that seam is not in just the right place. Especially in knitwear, you'll see a seam right across the middle of the bustline, or worse, at the underboob area (Lotus Blossom Tank and Mirepoix Bodice, I'm looking at you).

The Tree Jacket
is not an empire style, but it does have a tricky transitional part around the bust area where you switch from the garter yoke to the eyelet body. From looking at various FOs in Ravelry, I have come to understand that the key to flattering fit for this sweater is all about where that line between the garter and the stockinette lands. I think it looks best when the line is right at the top of the bustline, but I've also noticed that look is a bit more difficult to achieve on a more full-busted gal like me.

So, my honest and talented readers, forgive me the crappy bathroom mirror shot, and cast a critical eye at my bosoms. Did I get it right?

Your honest opinion, please, before I proceed. I'm just not sure if I needed to switch to the eyelet section a bit sooner. It seems like a lot of ripping for maybe two or three garter ridges, but I am prepared to do so.

Because you know, what is the point of wearing a sweater if it doesn't flatter your boobs.

PS -- I was going to call this post "Let's Talk about My Boobs" but I couldn't imagine the hits we'd get from the RVA aggregator...

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I very deliberated made reasonable goals for Socktober: a pair of socks for each of the kids, a second New England sock, and perhaps starting an new pair of Whitbys or Firecracker socks in a nice autumnal yarn. Progress has been decidedly mixed, though, and I am am blaming my monthlong sock hiatus.

I've made a very promising start with this pair for Rosebud, cranking them out in a matter or days. However, I made these socks from the cuff down, since I could not manage to properly execute a magic-cast on to make them from the toe up. They are a perfectly serviceable pair of socks, but I have a maddening amount of leftover yarn. I struggled with gauge for this yarn, Filatura di Crosa Maxime Print, which claims to be a DK, recommending a 5spi on a US4 needle on the ball band. No freakin' way. I may be a loose knitter, but at 5spi, the fabric was way too loose. I went down to a 3.0mm and got went with 7spi to achieve a firm fabric for socks for a little girl. They could have even been knit a little firmer.

With one success under my belt, I immediately cast on for The Deal of the Century $3 Regia socks for Pepe, in a seemingly nice autumnal colorway. How did I forget that deeply discounted sock yarn generally means super fugly sock yarn? This yarn has a very weird color combination, but Pepe loves them, he is four, so who cares, right? They are the perfect simple stockinette sock for sitting at soccer practice or in the carpool lane.

From the photo above, it seems like I have made a lot of progress on completing my second New England sock, but that sock-in-progress has been completely frogged due to a wild gauge fluctuation from the first to the second sock. It seemed I forgot to use the same needle for the second sock. A 1.5mm Addi Lace is not a 1.5 mm Knit Picks Options, and it showed by a whole stitch per inch. I think these socks are going into the penalty box for a bit or two until I work up the energy to focus again on such a complex sock.

Instead, I'll focus on Pepe's sock, my growing Tree Jacket, and maybe even take Nova's advice and just recklessly wind some sock yarn.

Monday, October 08, 2007

You Must Believe in ... Fall?

One of my favorite songs is "You Must Believe in Spring" -- there is something so powerful about clinging to the promise of warmth and light when things are cold and dark. But I swear, I am ready for the cold and dark. And could we have a little rain too? Maybe I should queue up "Cold Rain and Snow." It is hot, humid, and dry. Um, excuse me Mother Nature, it's October! I know we created the whole global warming situation, but I've been drying my clothes on the line, walking more, and using those curly light bulbs -- could you cut me a break here?

The upside is that I've really been enjoying some warm autumn activities.

Taking our new kayak out every weekend.

Having a blast at the State Fair.

And enjoying way too much yarn at The Fall Fiber Festival.

My Trellis is done but waiting for buttons and I've started an angel lace shawl.

Knitting is slow these days since I'm busy preparing for our big fall party and the RWS Holiday Bazaar. Between volunteer work and children, some days it's hard to keep fresh food in the house and clean clothes on the kids. And next weekend, we're going to be jamming to excellent free live music all weekend at the National Folk Festival.

Who am I kidding though. My real distraction is that I've finally received my invitation to Ravelry. Holy Mackerel, what a time suck! I love it! It has been tremendously fun.

I'll have more details on my knitting and stash enhancement from the Fiber Fest soon ...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mind the Gap

Ann, your finished Leaf Lace Shawl inspired me to take another crack at my Sylvan Spirit yarn. You might remember it spent a good portion of the summer on my needles, only to be frogged after being made into a most unflattering Cropped Cardigan.

As you know from working with this yarn, it isn't exactly an against-the-skin yarn. Not scratchy so much as crunchy, it needs to be layered over something. That eliminated most winter-accessories, and my yardage eliminated any full sweaters. And then I saw this amazing FO of Isel's, and thought -- a vest? I don't think I've ever worn a vest. Well, I have vague memories of wearing suede vests or wool vests with knickers and a big pin at the center of the collar in the 80s, but I have no memory of every owning a sweater vest. Was I a Vest Person?

Molly Ringwald is a vest for people who aren't sure if they wear vests, because it is more corset-styled than a classic menswear-inspired vest (I am now so sick of the word vest. How 'bout you?). The ruched bodice and the round cap sleeves make it more feminine. In a softer, cooler yarn, you could wear it as a summer top, but in the Sylvan Spirit, it is the perfect fall layer. You know, if we ever get fall weather.

Pattern: Molly Ringwald, Knitscene, Fall 2006
Yarn and Needles/Hook: Green Mountain Spinnery Sylvan Spirit, US 6 needle, B hook
Mods: I made a couple modifications as I knit this sweater. First, I knit the body in the round, and second, I eliminated the eyelet row at the bottom of the sweater.

The biggest issue I had with the sweater was once it was finished, the neckline gapped significantly, especially at the back. Despite having read on several blogs that the crochet edge would resolve it, my back still bagged, and the sleeves flopped off my shoulders, even after carefully applying a tedious crochet treatment to the edge with a teeny hook.

I knew that I could rip out to the back and decrease at the armhole edges on the back, but I was reluctant, as this would mean ripping out both sleeves and a significant amount of the the bodice. I've been learning to crochet a little lately, so I decided to try a crochet solution. I assumed that the designer called for such a small hook because the difference in gauge would draw the neckline in. So I decided to keep using the B hook, and instead started experimenting with skipping stitches along the neck. First, I tried crocheting into every other stitch. It worked, but a little too well, resulting in bunching.

I then crocheted by skipping every other stitch for one inch, skipping every fourth stitch for the next two inches, single crocheting into every stitch across the center of the back to keep things smooth and straight, then skipped the stitches at the same intervals for the last three inches. I also was sure to skip a few stitches where the sleeve caps joined the back to tighten the sleeves a bit. This was the way to go. It drew the top edge of the back in without bunching, and created a nice, smooth fit. I continued skipping stitches on the sleeves, but knit the front by crocheting into every stitch on the front.

I ended up eliminating the reverse single crochet row once I had resolved my gapping issue; the sweater looked and fit great as it was, and I did not want to mess with it. Also, I did not want to reverse single crochet.

The Sylvan Spirit is perfect for for this garment. The rustic feel sort of cuts the sweetness of the top, and it is the perfect weight for layering on a cool day. So, yes, I wear vests. I might even make another!