Monday, May 29, 2006

Liz's Big Trip Back Home; Notes on the XRK Summit

It's hard to know what's home anymore. I live in Philadelphia, where I lived from the age of 4 until college, and now back again for (almost) one year. My family is here, my memories of childhood are here, and I think I have always thought of myself as a Philadelphian.

But then there is Richmond. I lived there my entire adult life (until this last year). I have a family there too -- a family by choice, my family of friends. I have memories there -- falling in love, my entire teaching/library career, being a twenty-and-thirty something, my babies were born there...

And so for the first time since moving last summer, we all went back to Richmond to see our dear, dear friends, and have our XRK Summit! Ann, Mo and I enjoyed a fine pastry and coffee at CanCan, and then headed to the Yarn Lounge for a little fibery encounter.

I'll let Mo and Ann report on their take, but here's mine. This was my final stash enhancement until September, so this was an important shoppping trip. Yardage was crucial. Forethought, a requirement. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn't be without yarn for gifts, anticipated small projects, and also wanted to purchase some yarn that my own PA LYS does not carry. Thus, my take was:

- 3 balls Blue Sky Organic Cotton. I think my LYS might carry this, but this is for a baby girl to be born in August to two very dear friends, and my gracious hostesses for the weekend. What baby girl doesn't need a purple sweater?

- 2 hanks Louet Gems Opal in charcoal grey. Sport weight washable and dryable sock yarn. Man socks for Mr. S. Even if I don't knit these this summer (and it is unlikely that I will), this is a worthy addition to the stash, as this yarn is not available at my LYS, and I will not knit for Mr. Size 13 with anything lighter than sport.

- 1 hank Euroflax Linen. For the Mason-Dixon hand towels. Re-doing the powder room this summer.

- 1 hank AllHemp's Hemp for Knitting. It's hemp. 'Nuff said.

- Leigh Radford's One Skein -- stashbusting projects galore.

I did manage to select the perfect road-trip knit: Knee Socks for Rosebud in Cascade Fixation. Will give particulars when I finish them, but look how much I got done!

Richmond was truly a sight for homesick eyes, and being embraced and welcomed home by my family of friends was the perfect pick-me-up for both Mr. S and me, who have been awfully lonely for them since moving to PA to pursue his dream career and be with my family. We ate in our favorite restaurants, dipped our toes in our beloved James River, checked on the tree we planted with Rosebud was born. We looked out the windows and saw all those familiar sites, drove past the intersection where Mr. S. proposed. It was wonderful, every minute, knowing that Richmond is, and will be, the same, with or without us, and yes, we can go home there.

But being here, in our home, here in the suburbs of Philly about which I relentlessly complain, each of us falling into our very own beds last night in our charmless suburban colonial? It too was home.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My First Socks

So I finished the socks yesterday! I quite enjoyed knitting them (after bailing on the Simply Lovelies) but I don't like the way they fit (a bit big) and the yarn is not very comfy. I used Wildfoote sock yarn -- how does this compare with other sock yarns? I'm planning on buying more sock yarn tomorrow with Liz and Mo to guide me. I am not thrilled with these socks, but I really enjoyed knitting them (very portable project, not too technically challenging for bringing along to the park or a knitting group, good TV knitting, great travel project ...).

I used the 2x2 rib pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch.

And here are some felted booties for a baby that has joined us on this wild ride ...


Post-felting (having a communion with the clematis)

I loved doing these so much I'm about to felt some green ones with purple trim for another little one who joined our human race this past week. The pattern is from Felted Knits by Beverly Galeskas. I am enjoying using the felting projects as a fix for the quick project jones ...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Liz's Summer Knitting, Part 2: the Summer of Stash

Warshrags, anyone?

Dear co-bloggers Ann and Mo,

You two are my dearest friends, and my greatest knitting compatriots. So it is before you that I lay my soul bare and admit that I have problem. My stash.

When I first started knitting, I would go to the LYS, select a pattern, and buy the appropriate amount of yarn to complete the project. When the project was done, I would go back to the yarn shop, pick a different pattern, and buy more yarn. In the life of a very monogamous knitter, stash then was the leftover balls of yarn, since I always bought an extra, just-in-case ball.

I began knitting during Mr. S's and my lean years. When I first quit my job, and Mr. S was going to school and working, and we had our first Rosebud baby. I was very focused on efficient use of limited resources. These oddballs of yarn really bugged me. What in the world was I going to do with these oddballs of yarn?

Mo then mentioned that she actually returned these balls of yarn. So smart! I began doing this too, returning any unused balls to the store. This felt so virtuous, and so efficient. No waste yarn laying about, and the limited resources were being used towards projects being knitted.
Now I realize how dumb I was! How many hats, booties, striped sweaters, or log cabin strips did I return?

I think the stash began exploding as the knitter in me began to develop. Less focus on product, more on process, and love of materials. I became willing to rip out or abandon loser projects, and began to buy yarn at yarn sales without particular projects in mind. I came home with bags of un-designated yarn, bought for cheap, and since I learned general yardage requirements and bought those Ann Budd books, I knew sweaters lurked in those bags of yarn.

Well, since Mr. S made the transition from humble research scientist to full blown Corporate Guy, the yarn stash has exploded. The resources are a bit less limited, and I have had to visit a lot of new yarn shops. That meant a lot of occasions to buy yarn. Especially sock yarn.

Sock yarn is an addiction. There are 14 pairs of socks here.

The stash is now officially BIG ENOUGH. In fact, it may even be too big.

I find it has begun to distract me. The constant new infusion of yarns has detracted from my ability to finish projects. Or even start projects I really want to knit. I am being hampered by too many options, too many ideas.

Thus, I declare this summer my SUMMER OF STASH. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, I will not purchase any more yarn. I will dutifully use what I have, knit the beautiful yarn I have, creating sweaters and other items that I want. I will find ways to creatively reduce my stash.

You will be an Orangina, my precious Rowan

There are two exceptions to this rule:

1. Exception #1 -- there is a sheep farm near where I go down the shore. I have never been there, but plan to visit this summer. Handspun from the sheep farm must be purchased. It is the 11th commandment.

2. Exception #2 -- last week, I signed up for Sundara's Petals Collection Sock Club. Thus, I will be receiving yarn once a month throughout my SoS, although I purchased it before the SoS officially began. Hopefully, this will be my fix through any rough patches.

So, My XRK friends, this Friday, when we have the XRK Summit in Richmond's Yarn Lounge, that will be my final yarn purchase for several months. I am glad that I will have you to share the moment with me.

And if either of you or our readers would like to participate, we can be a support group for each other, giving each other creative ways to use our stash, and to talk us away from the credit cards. Leave a comment and let me know if you are interested in joining the SoS team!

ETA: I have set up a new blog for our SoS. Please go to the Summer of Stash blog for instructions on how to sign up for our project.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Just a bit tardy ...

So here is the purse for my MIL for a belated Mother's Day present. I finally sewed the button on this morning after seamstress extraordinaire, Amy, helped me figure out how to affix the elastic. I am very sewing challanged. It's a wonder I ever do seams at all.

I am making slow progress on the stole, but am almost done with the 2nd skein. It really is a beautiful project to knit. I love the Jo Sharp cotton and the way it just seems to glide over the addi's. I'm trying to stay focused on my friend while I knit it. This morning I listened to Krishna Das (sanskrit chanting -- really accessible and deeply moving) while I knit and BB had the kiddies.

My socks are neglected no longer, I have turned the heel on the 2nd 2x2 rib sock. Not far to go now!

Here's a funny conversation with BB the other day:

Me: Liz and Mo have some serious stash, I just don't have any. I can't believe I have no stash. [This is said with a touch of panic in my voice.]

BB: What in the world do you mean?

Me: I just have that small basket in my closet.

BB: It's a big basket. And what about all those bags?

Me: Bags? Oh, you mean those. Well, ok, so technically that's stash, but still.

BB: There's a lot of yarn in that closet.

I still don't believe him and later, when he's not around, I wander over to my closet and open the door. Bags of yarn start falling down on me. I guess my unconscious theory has been that as long as I keep piling it in that one small, ok fairly large, basket, I can rationalize any and all stash enhancement. It's classic denial. Ok, I admit it, I do have some small amount of stash. But it's not enough.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Yes, I Can! Finally!

Every morning ... before coffee ... I hear, "Did you work on Bob last night?" And I say, "Um, yeah sure." But, this morning, he forgot. And I got to surprise him with a finished Bob the Builder inspired sweater. It was made to order in Tahki Cotton Classic using Ann Budd's formula for a modified drop shoulder V-neck pullover. Lots and lots of hugs were given. Big smiles everywhere. I'll knit for you anytime, baby.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Liz's Summer Knitting, Part 1

I am a reader, and have always been. And the summer for me has always been met with great anticipation of my summer reading. After the last day of school, my mom would take us to the bookstore to get all the books on the Required Summer Reading List, and I would always fill the basket with many, many more.

Most people use the summer for beach books, light reading, you know...but not me. I am the person on the beach re-reading Animal Farm, or reading the Heart of Darkness for fun. I always begin my summer with an unread classic, removing another book from my English teacher/Librarian Unread Classic Hall of Shame.

Some of the books were classics by authors I had already read widely, but hadn't gotten to a major work (East of Eden, Slaughterhouse 5). Some were the favorites of others recommended to me (A Prayer for Owen Meany). Some, just because they were lying around (Brave New World, Siddhartha). Some I had tried once before, and decided to would try again (One Hundred Years of Solitude).

So I am trying to decide what my classic should be this summer. I am leaning towards trying Pride and Prejudice, after reading it in high school and being thoroughly uninterested. But I could use a few more ideas. What are your favorite classics? Leave a comment, and I'll compile a list for all XRK readers.

But as the Summer Reading, do goes the Summer Knitting. The summer is filled with anticipation about this summer's knitting, and have I got challenges in the queue. I have two major focus areas this summer.

#1 -- The Amazing Lace
I have decided to sign up for Theresa and Rachel's challenge. You'll find me in the sidebar with my teammate, the Diamond Fantasy Shawl. I am approaching this with great trepidation because I have a feeling that I am setting myself for a huge headache.

Here's why:

Meet the Wool Weavers Mini Shawl, in Blue Heron Rayon Metallic. This is a terrifically simple project, a beginner's warm up to the DFS. Mostly stockinette, with the occasional YO, K1, YO, to create the shape of the shawl, and create a nice line of openwork. Just about the simplest pattern that you could imagine. No TBLs or P3tog or anything scary.

Note the green wool running through every few rows. These are lifelines. After completely frogging this shawl at least 6 times this week, I finally realized that even on a project as simple as this, I need lifelines. I cannot frog lace without making a terrible mess, and I am making tons of mistakes -- not keeping the YOs aligned, skipping them entirely, dumb things...

I shudder to think how many times I am going the screw up DFS.

In the meantime, here's the progress on Green Gable. Only about a zillion more knit stitches to go.

I'll tell you more about Summer Knitting Challenge #2 in my next post. This one's a doozy.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Happy Cephalopods ...

So dear, lonely nautilus found a friend this weekend: Squid. They are very happy together and were presented to The Boy at his party on Sunday. I am sure they will be loved and made real. And one day they will cavort with all the other cephalopods in a shoal in the deep blue sea ...

I also felted this purse for my MIL for Mother's Day. It is still drying and will be a bit late! Since this photo, I've stretched it in places so that it doesn't look so uneven and the color isn't really so dark grey (my camera does funny thing with the color sometimes). The girls and I are going to pick out a nice button for it tomorrow. It was really fun to knit.

Yarn: Labrador color 7264 (I knitted with a single strand, not double as in the pattern.)
Needles: Addi Turbo size 11
Pattern: Everyday Purse with Flap from Felted Knits by Beverly Galeskas

I've made a small bit of progress on the stole, I'll have some pictures later this week. I did make a mistake that may or may not be torn out. I'm just not sure yet. It happened after we failed our plumbing inspection for the 2nd time and I was trying to knit to calm down before I called the plumbers. I should have just lost my temper.

BB and the girls really came through for Mother's Day!

Here are the beautiful needles that were waiting for me Sunday morning. Way to go!

Sweet Little Baby Kimono

This quick knit happened this weekend. It's the baby kimono from the Mason Dixon book done in Tahki Cotton Classic from the stash.

A few pattern modifications:
  • All stockinette instead of garter.
  • Added an eyelet row on the bottom edge.
  • Instead of sewing the ribbon into the seam, I wove it through the eyelet row.
  • Increases along the front edges are done in a yarn over two stitches in from the edge.
  • Sleeve openings are vented.

All in all, very quick and easy. I can't wait to give it away!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

...And So It Goes

It seems we never grow out of that need to make things for our Moms.

Egg carton flower garden by Rosebud for Mom

Yarn Over Cable Socks by Liz for Mom

: Yarn Over Cable Rib Socks, Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks
Yarn: Koigu KPM
This yarn, while a KPM soild, actually had some lovely, very subtle variations that you find only in hand-dyed yarns. It added a beautiful depth to an already beautiful light blue color.
Notes: Friends and readers already know the ugly story behind these socks, knitted with love, but with great dispatch, for the best Mom in the world. I used US2s for the sake of speed, but definitely prefer Koigu on a smaller needle. These socks were knitted toe-up, with short-row heels and toes, and cast off using EZ's sewn cast-off, definitely my favorite stretchy cast-off. Many compromises were made in the making of these socks in order to meet the deadline, but still, I am pleased with the final product.

I know you want to know Mom's reaction. She wasn't surprised, since I had recently measured her foot, and we had a brief discussion about what colors she liked and wore. I knew a solid would be the way to go -- my Mom's a conservative kind of gal. She immediately commented on the color, and praised the fit once she tried them on. They did seem to fit the length of her foot quite well, and her calves looked comfortable as well.

The best part was after she wore the socks for all of one minute, when she had the Hand-Knitted Sock Epiphany. We've all seen it, when a first-time wearer of hand-knitted socks realizes what they have been missing all their life. That machine made, mass produced socks are OK, and feel fine, handknitted ones are 100% better. She stopped in mid-sentence and said, "WOW! These are the softest socks I've ever worn! They feel like silk! They feel so wonderful, oh my god!" This happened for the rest of the visit, where she would stop to comment about how good they felt. Welcome another one to the fold, knitters. Mom is converted.

I almost had a heart attack when, as we were loading the kids into the car, she stood in the driveway in her handknitted socks. The driveway? The asphalt and black top, pollen covered, rough surface of the driveway? Get back in the house with those socks, Mom!

And then I remembered what Stephanie said about a gift of handknitted socks:

"It's this extraordinary ordinariness that makes socks special. That something as humdrum as socks could be elevated by love and then walked speaks to a certain magnificence. The truth about socks is that they're humble and beautiful and noble, and in their lowness, they're the highest form of art."

Mom's happy feet handknitted sock dance!

P.S. A big thank you, Ann and Mo, co-bloggers and motherhood gurus and sanity savers. What a joy it is to mother with friends like you both. Happy Mothers Day to my Mom Tribe!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Knitting Marathon

12am Friday/Saturday: finish turning the heel on sock #3, do one 4-row repeat. Only 14 more left. Must rest the fingers and wrists.

8:30am: wake up, eat breakfast, drink coffee, commune with the family

10am: Mr. S. takes kids to Farmers Market to gather provisions for weekend, including Mother's Day brunch. Begin knitting, listening to the two latest episodes of Cast-On. Feel dorky for literally laughing out loud during much of the podcast.

11:30am: kids arrive home with Mr. S. 6 full repeats finished

12:30pm: 4 more repeats done, take break for lunch with kids, tuck in Pepe for nap

1pm: Mr. S. takes Rosebud on assorted errands. Continue knitting, watch The Forgotten OnDemand (forget it. don't bother.) 5 more repeats to go

4pm: Mr S, Rosebud and Pepe do best to stay out of my way while I finish last two repeats.

5pm: 1 1/2" of K3,P2 ribbing complete on sock #3. Celebratory bourbon and ginger ale required. Begin EZ's sewn cast-off on sock 3.

6pm: family time for make-your-own-pizzas-on-the-grill. Shout out to the BackBou for showing us the way. Eat dinner, drink glass of wine.

7pm: family dance party time, Iggy Pop and Digable Planets. Mom does K3, P2 ribbing on sock #2.

8pm: Mr. S, the ever stalwart knitting enabler, tucks kids in. Continue ribbing and begin sewn cast off, listening to Morphine and Guided by Voices.

8:55: Sock is done.

8:56pm: One more glass of wine while I steam block socks. I have never ironed socks before in my life, but sock #3 looks uneven due to kinkiness of frogged yarn. Steam blocking is successful!

Pics and reflections tomorrow. A big thank you to Mr. S for making today's knitting marathon possible.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sock Strategy

I stopped knitting on the first sock yesterday once I had a credible cuff, and cast on for sock #2. This way, I am not committing myself to a matching super-long cuff on sock #2. These socks are definitely looser than the first pair, and while I really preferred the fabric created using size 1s, there was just no time to add another repeat -- upsizing the needle was the quickiest and simplest strategy. As you can see, I am knitting sock #3 directly from too small sock #1, instead of frogging.

Hopefully, after giving the socks to the Best Mom in the World, we'll be able to discuss fit issues, and use these socks as our prototype pair. Does she prefer snug socks? Thick? Thin? Flat or Textured? These are things I just don't know about my mom. I mean, how many people know their mom's personal sock preferences?

Eyeknit asked me about Schurch's system of gauge-to-stitches calculations...I tried to really puzzle this over this time, especially because Mom's foot circumference (8 1/4") was between sizes. I decided I'd rather have negative ease, so I cast on for a sock for an 8" foot circ. This produced the too-tight sock. Obviously, this pattern really pulls in. Let's look at variations in gauge:

US1 stockinette -- 9spi
US1 yarnover cable pattern -- closer to 15 spi
US2 stockinette -- 7 1/2 spi
US2 yarnover cable -- 12 spi

I generally do not do gauge swatches for socks, since I consider the sock one big swatch, and because I think the stretchy nature of socks, and most textured patterns make it hard to get a precise gauge in advance.

So my thought is this: I think getting an accurate gauge in a plain stockinette sock is possible, but in textures and ribs, you have to experiment and fudge a bit. Schurch's book is a good jumping-off point, and after a few more socks, I should have a better idea of when to upsize/downsize patterns from this book. This is my second pair of socks from this book: Sasquatch Socks for Mr. S are a little big, these were a little small for the intended wearer, now I think they may be a little big.

Granted, this strategy suits my trial-and-error, math-challeneged style better than more precise, mathematical knitters. What do y'all think?

Did I mention that we will see Mom on Sunday MORNING?? Thanks for all the cheers and vibes.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Progress: Hope is Still Alive...

So last night, I laid out the sock plan to Mr. S:

"So, the new socks are on size 2s, so they go much faster. That, and I really have the pattern down, so it should go pretty quickly. So if I knit maniacally for the next few days, I can maybe get them finished."

"And that is different than any other day because...?"

Snarky, Mr. S. Real Snarky.

The bad news: prime knitting time on Friday afternoon will be lost since I am the parent helper that day at Rosebud's school.

The good news: this is how much I did in about 24 hours of knitting...

Ann: the yarn over cable is a pattern from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks, p.43, and no cable needles necessary. Believe me when I tell you, I would sooner drive a cable needle through my ear drum that knit cables on US1s before Sunday.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Call Me Concerned

True story: When I was still a classroom teacher, now probably 10 years ago (and probably 20 pounds heavier ago), I was up at the overhead projector, teaching English class. Donte was to my right, in the front row. He was always an incredibly bouncy boy (hence sitting in the front row to keep his attention), a "young" seventh grader, but very sweet and genuinely funny and charming. As I stepped away from the overhead to write something on the board, he interrupted me to declare, in the middle of class, "Dang, Miss Atkins, you got yourself some big legs!" Dumbfounded, but laughing I told him that that generally wasn't a compliment, and the rest of the class proceeded to evaluate the size of my legs, calves, ankles. Donte did mean it as a compliment, I know, but the truth is, I did have some big legs, and still do, especially for being petite.

So this is why I am concerned. I got my legs from my mom, and everything else too (including brains, sense of humor, quick wit and taste in men). These socks (Koigu, US1s, yarnover cable pattern) are supposed to be for my Mom for Mother's Day. I have been knitting furiously, monogamously, on them, and finished sock #1 up the to the ribbing last night at Rosebud's swim lesson. Then I tried them on. I wear a size 7, my mom wears 8 1/2. They're a little, um, snug around my ankle. The calves are fine, as I switched to US2s when I got to the calf area.

My mom has never asked me to knit anything for her; she doesn't wear scarves or hats, and has never expressed interest in a sweater. I did make her an aran afghan one year for Christmas, and she does love it and gushes appropriately over it still. But once she did say that she might like some knitted socks. So, now, I am knitting Mom some socks. For Sunday. Which probably won't fit.

So I have begun sock #2 on US2s. Please say a prayer to the knitting gods that I can finish this pair of socks for the most deserving Mom in the world!

I've really been enjoying everyone's posts on MDSW. This is why I will not be going in the foreseeable future:

My baby, the happiest boy in the world, turned 3 on Monday. Dinosaur hunts and chocolate cake in the backyard beat even the best fiber fest any day.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sea Creature in Acrylicland

So I needed a fun project for the weekend. I made some progress on the stole, but the sock sat idle while I knit up this fun nautiloid for a fellow I know who is about to turn two. It's a great pattern and I bought Red Heart Classic for it. I really didn't like knitting with this yarn at all, but I wanted to do something inexpensive and very washable. I just kept on thinking about this in some cool organic hemp ...

Knit on 4s
Red Heart Classic Blue Jewel and Eggshell
Nautie Pattern in Spring Issue of

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Summer is almost here

It's a long honored tradition at our pre-school to have the rising kindergarteners create a life sized self portraits that grace the walls the last month of school. I can remember all too well thinking, "Man those kids look big!" Now, it's her turn. It makes me smile and teary-eyed all at the same time.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

It is finished in beauty ...

Suddenly, tragically, with no explanation, my friend's month-old baby died last Friday. The funeral was yesterday, and I cannot even begin to imagine the horror and pain my friends are going through right now with their family. So life is puzzling right now to me, but here is the prayer that I am meditating on as I knit my friend a stole to protect and hug her ...

The world before me is restored in beauty.
The world behind me is restored in beauty.
The world below me is restored in beauty.
The world above me is restored in beauty.
All things around me are restored in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.

Sometimes we knit for entertainment, sometimes we knit for challenge, sometimes we knit for joy, and sometimes we knit our grief. But I hope as I knit through this wrap that the pain and sorrow is restored in beauty.

The wrap is Nora's Stole and I'm knitting with Jo Sharp Soho Summer in Currant... on my new addi turbo needles. My first ones. I love, love, love them.

I finished one sock (replacing the frogged SLS) and have cast on for the 2nd (thus avoiding SSS). This is a simple, simple sock from Sensational Knitted Socks -- 2x2 ribbing -- very comfy ...

We also tore out our kitchen this weekend, so extreme measures have been taken to keep the plaster dust from contaminating the yarn supply. Here is our current state of affairs ...

But in a few months, it will all be worth it, right?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Off the Needles, On the Needles


Simply Lovely Lace Socks, IK Spring 2006
Lang Jawoll (one skein and a teeny bit of second), US1 needles


Green Gable in Robin Egg Blue Cotton Fleece

Thanks for all the comments and kind support yesterday. My blog friends made a tough day better.