Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Single Skein September

I'm a big fan of Stash & Burn, the podcast hosted by Jenny and Nicole. While the original premise of the podcast was all things stash-related, they have branched out into interviews and really useful content about knitting, while stash remains a unifying motif. I listen to quite a few knitting podcasts, and I think theirs is among the most substantive, while still not taking themselves too seriously. Their episode about modifying patterns, for example, is a must-listen for all sweater knitters. Jenny and Nicole have a wonderful rapport, and listening to them is like having two passionate, knowledgeable knitters joining your knitting group. And really, any podcast that uses Sleater-Kinney for their theme song is for me.

Recently, they have announced a stash burning contest, encouraging listeners to knit up those single skeins in their stash. While I am not much for entering contests, I have been inspired to make dub next month Single Skein September. There are a bunch of single-skein projects ready in the stash, and because my sock-knitting keeps bumping them from the top of the to-knit list, I'll be taking a month-long hiatus from knitting socks and making my small, portable projects things like hats, mittens, scarves, etc. As I have said before, I am not overly stressed about my stash and its size or content, but sometimes, I like giving myself a framework with which to choose projects. I've wanted to knit a beret and a pair of Fetchings for quite some time, and that time is now!

Luckily, I finished this pair of socks just in time!

Pattern: Roza's Socks by Grumperina, IK Spring 2007
Yarn & Needles: Fleece Artist Sea Wool (Thanks, Ann!), US2
Mods: None
Notes: While I don't think this was the perfect pairing of yarn and pattern, I am pleased with these socks. The brioche rib is super-stretchy, and combined with the thicker yarn and larger needle, I ended up with socks that are a little too loose. I do, however, love this yarn and love this pattern. The pattern is super-speedy and simple, and the yarn is just smashingly squishy and soft. The colors are intense and luscious, all deep roses and light browns. You'll see me using both this yarn and pattern again, just likely not in this combination.

That's the last pair of socks you're likely to see around here for a little while, except maybe a one-skein leftover pair for the Rosebud. Care to join me for Single Skein September? Care to share your favorite single skein projects? Leave a comment!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Ant and the Grasshopper

At some point in my childhood, I was traumatized by Aesop's fable of The Ant and The Grasshopper. The grasshopper, after singing beautifully all summer while the ant worked, dies in front of the closed door of the ant in the midst of a winter freeze. The ant and his friends party inside -- warm, dry, and full of food from the summer and fall harvest.

I was not a fan of the ending. Why was the grasshopper so bad? Couldn't that ant find the compassion to slip some grains of wheat to the desperate musician? Why not invite him in? Who wouldn't want some fiddling throughout the long, dark winter?

In any event, I come to find out ...

I am such an ant. I have started my holiday knitting. I volunteered to produce many knitted things for this year's Holiday Bazaar at RWS and I have plans for many knitted presents -- I don't want to be stuck knitting late into the dark December nights. These stocking ornaments are addicting. I'm using up tons of yarn leftovers and having so much fun trying out different patterns that I may use for full-sized stockings.

Pattern: From Christmas Stockings: Holiday Treasures to Knit, edited by Elaine Lipson
Yarn: Leftover Jamieson Spindrift from these
Needles: US 3s dpn
Notes: Simple, easy, fast, ... addicting

I am also storing, freezing, and otherwise saving lots of the fresh, local, organic produce that we get weekly from our CSA: Amy's Garden. I've got a freezer full of oven-roasted tomatoes and sauce because a winter tomato from the grocery store is just a nasty thing. I've been using this simple, light sauce recipe here (I'm putting the tomatoes through the food mill at least twice).

I'm trying to encourage my inner grasshopper by spending days at the pool, eating fresh peaches, and being lazy in the 95 degree temps. But I might just be knitting Christmas stockings at the same time ...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I learned to knit as a kid, but I picked up the needles for good in the late summer 6 years ago. The longer I knit, the more I like to discard knitting rules I used to make for myself.

  • I used to buy yarn for one project at a time. Now, I stash gleefully and without guilt.
  • I used to knit one project at a time. Now I have several WIPs going at once.
  • I used to knit one pair of socks at a time, dutifully casting on and finishing the second sock before starting a new pair. Now, I might have two or three pairs going at any time.
Roza's Sock in Fleece Artist Sea Wool, New England Sock in Koigu KPM

I've enjoyed my summer dalliances with both Nancy Bush and the Single Sock Liberation Movement, but its getting in the way of my overall production. The recent cool weather has me hankering for sweaters, shawls, mittens, and hats. And finished pairs of socks. So while I won't be making any more rules, I think I am going to have to renew my focus and get some projects finished.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Kids Can Knit

At various times in my life, usually after I have been feeling grounded and centered for a while, I have a hard time saying "no" to people. I then tend to take on too many responsibilities/obligations and thus lose the aforementioned centeredness and balance. This is usually followed by a period of stress and then much use of the "no" word.

At the beginning of the summer, after the craziness of the end of school died down, I said "yes" to many things. One of which was to teach a knitting class for kids at the pool. I really wanted to help raise some funds for the pool and well, to be honest, I wanted to indoctrinate more children into the world of knitting. You know, assimilate the masses ...

Soon after I committed to doing this, I began to freak out. I couldn't even teach my own children to knit! What on earth will they knit? Who on earth will want to come? What if they hate me? What will I do with my children? What was I thinking? Maybe my previous experience working with children was a fluke and I'm really terrible with children and a horrid misanthrope! I should have said "no!" Augh!

And then about 3 weeks before the class was to begin, I found this book.

Kids Learn to Knit by Lucinda Guy & Francois Hall

I really loved it. I found it here and as far as beginner knitting books for kids go, it's realistic and fun. The instructions are well-illustrated and the projects are simple enough for the children to be successful in a short amount of time. I had 3 sessions. One and a half hours each session.

The Doggie

One child found that she did not like to knit, but she loved fingerknitting and the finishing work of sewing, stuffing, and decorating. I knit most of her doggie for her after she knit two rows. She still had a wonderful time seaming and cutting felt.

The Seal

Another was a great knitter but worried about mistakes. We re-conceptualized her "dog" into a seal and she then realized how these knitting "mistakes" are truly opportunities for individual design elements. She was proud of herself.

The Butterfly

The third girl was an intuitive, talented knitter before she ever came to the class. She knew how to cast on, bind off, knit, and purl. I taught her increasing and decreasing and how to read a basic pattern. She wound yarn by hand and with my swift and winder. When I was using a three way bind off to work on a different project, she rushed to my side to see how to do it. She wanted to know all the different ways to increase and decrease not just the simplest. And when I brought lots of different stash yarn to show them the variety of fibers, she picked up some roving and without thinking, twisted it in her fingers and murmured, "I'm making yarn ..."

The force is strong in this one.

The kicker of it all is that while I was teaching these three very sweet girls, my two girls were helping. I couldn't believe it, but these children who had been bickering, whining, and generally driving me nuts for a good part of the summer were the best little assistants I could have ever wanted. N, who thanks to the wonderful Miss Martha and an excellent Waldorf handwork curriculum, learned to knit two years ago helped to correct mistakes and taught everyone how to fingerknit. R, who has had no interest in knitting previously, began knitting and helped to cut felt and pick out buttons. They were brilliant!

Maybe I should have said "no." But it was a great experience in the end despite my freak out beforehand. In fact, I am feeling quite balanced and grounded about the whole thing ... just in time for the start of school. And you know what the start of school brings: lots of opportunities to say ... "maybe?"

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Fancy Gentleman

Nothing says I love you like a pair of wool socks on a 90 degree day.

Pattern: Gentleman's Fancy Socks from Knitting Vintage Socks by my crush, Nancy Bush
Yarn & Needles: Brooks Farm Acero, Everwood colorway
3.0mm needle (US 2.5)
Pattern Mods: I skipped the calf shaping called for in the pattern, and cast on 72 stitches and knit straight from there. The pattern is sufficiently stretchy and fits over Mr S's calves just fine.

Acero is a a new offering from Brooks Farm, the site of my most intemperate purchase at MDSW. I was attracted to the muted, masculine colors of the yarn, and the fact that it was clearly a sport weight sock yarn (Mr S's size 13s only gets sport weight socks). I was also intrigued by the unique fiber content (wool/silk/viscose) and knew that Mr S would love the silky texture and the look of the rustic, manly sock.

I found knitting with the yarn to be a bit splitty on my super-sharp needles, but I got used to it, and the final object is truly worth it. I've read bloggers elsewhere who say that the yarn isn't stretchy enough for socks, but that isn't my experience here. Perhaps I stumbled upon a great combination of pattern and gauge; I'd avoid simple stockinette for sure. I am also curious about how the sock will wear over time. I imagine that the silk and viscose content strengthen the yarn, and there is no evidence of fuzzing on these socks at all.

Mr S gave these socks his seal of approval, and declared them his best-fitting, most comfortable socks yet. The downside of knitting sport weight socks is that is can be hard to fit them into shoes, but these socks fit snugly on his feet and don't feel quite as thick as some of the other socks I have made for him. I have another skein in a more solid acorn brown that was intended for a scarf for him, but perhaps he needs another pair of socks!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bad Week for Knitting, Good Week for Dogs

I've been neglectful of my knitting. (Is that proper grammar? It sounds a bit wiggy. Anyhoo ...) I've had finished socks sitting around for days just waiting for the ends to be sewn up and my Scarf with No. 20 Border has been sitting in limbo. I've also got false starts for a number of projects just lying around. "Why is that?" you may ask. This is why ...

Our new 8 month old dog, Luna, adopted from GRREAT. Named after this (of course) but also her (she's a brilliant character). My kids named her after her because in a few months we will be adopting a cat to be named Stella. (Aren't they clever children?) I will spare you all the intimate details of how much we love her and how she has fearlessly rid out backyard of those awful pinecones. We're just so happy to have her in our family!

And here's an FO to report as well ...

Pattern: Widdershins by Brooke Chenoweth Creel
Yarn: Austermann Step
Needles: US 1s
Notes: I still love the Widdershins pattern although after reading Nova's post about her toe ups, I'm going to try out Wendy's basic pattern. I used my typical suspended bind off for one of the socks, but then read about the modified Russian bind off. So I used that for the second sock to compare. I love it. I will use this on all my future toe up socks! Why? Because I seem to bind off tightly and because I like a stretchy top to my socks.

I enjoyed knitting with this yarn. I made short socks for myself so that I can get a kid's pair out of the leftovers! They will be wonderful this fall and winter ... Will it ever be cold again? Really?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Meet My Newest Obsession

I know it is terribly trendy to be green nowadays, but this is one trend I can get behind.

Pattern: Elisa's Nest Tote
Yarn and Needles: Euroflax Linen in Ginger coloway, US 9 & US 3 needles

I've recently resolved to use re-usable grocery bags as much as possible (and religiously recycle all the plastic bags we do end up with), and always a sucker for a cute bag, when the Purl Bee posted this little number, I knew it was a great project for me.

Mesh market bags are wonderfully stretchy, with a seemingly infinite capacity, but it is possible to have a market baag that is just too freakin' stretchy. The last one I made (which I use as a beach bag) has a seemingly infinte capacity, but the handles stretch too much and the base of the bag (it's knit in the round) is too unstable. If I put my camera, sunscreen and a water bottle in it, it practically drags through the sand. This bag, knitted flat, has a much stabler bottom (you just fold over a big rectangle to make the bag), and the combination of crocheted seams and i-cord handles tempers the stretchability of the mesh fabric, making to comfortable to carry.

It could definitely use some tweaking, though. It could have been the linen, which I had never used before this project, but my seaming is a little ripply and the places where I picked up stitches for the applied i-cord looks sloppy. It is also a bit small. So I've already started another one (this time in allhemp 6), putting my ideas for small mods in action. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Too Much Potatoes

I love potatoes. I love a baked potato, dripping in butter and Old Bay. I love garlicky mashed potatoes and rosemary roasted potatoes. I love my brother's homemade french fries, and just ask the women in my knitting group how much I love chips and dip.

I love potatoes, but they don't love me.

The Potato sweater is finished, and it is not the most flattering thing I've ever knit. Let's just say it is enhancing a bit of a bulging belly.

Pattern: Tomato by Wendy Bernard. Originally published in No Sheep For You, but available free here.

Yarn & Needles: King Tut Cotton, 3 skeins, US 7 & US 6 needles

This was my first try with King Tut Cotton, and I would definitely use it again. I like it a lot more than Cotton Fleece, which has a bad odor when you wash it, and it is not colorfast. And compared with the Blue Sky cotton called for in the pattern, you can't beat the value.

Pattern Mods: I omitted the colorwork section over the bust, because I think my bust needs no more emphasis than it provides on its own, thank you very much. I made the neckline a little less deep than the pattern calls for because on me, it would have been a little too sexy for the carpool line. I do love the neckline and think it is very flattering.

I experimented with the final length of the sweater until I finally threw up my hands in defeat. I originally knitted it according to the pattern instructions and it was a little too long. It bagged really badly across the back and it just wasn't good. I then shortened it by an inch, and now it feels too short. If I find myself tugging on it as I wear it, or if it rides up a lot, then I will go back and lengthen it again, but I gave up when I realized two things:

1. the back was bagging and the length of the sweater had nothing to do with it. I should have added a few short rows at the bust, but I had no intention of frogging this sweater all the way back to the bust.

2. it wasn't the sweater -- it was my belly.

Now before you send me all matters of e-mails telling me that I am not fat or that I should embrace my curves or whatever, please know that I do not feel bad about myself, and do not value myself based on what my scale says. And my pattern tends to be to put on some weight in the summer, and in the Fall, I get back under control. So let me just say: I do not feel so bad about my belly or my sweater.

See, I've never blogged about it before, but a few years ago, I successfully lost about 30 pounds (which is a lot when you are under 5' tall). I have kept it off, but only with vigilance and a daily commitment to making smart choices about what to eat, and what to avoid. In the meantime, I also managed to work out the typical body issues that so many women seem to be afflicted with, and learned to separate how I feel about myself from how much I weigh.

My main strategy to keep the weight off is to keep my weight within a 5 pound window. And If I am on the low side of the window, great. If I start to creep upwards, I have to pull it together and eat smarter. I would rather fight 5 pounds for the rest of my life than try to lose 30 pounds (or 20 or 40 or whatever) at a time. So right now, I am at the upper end of that 5 pound window, so I know it is time to tighten things up for me. Drink more water. Eat more salads. Eat less ice cream. Pass on the booze a few days a week.

And no more potatoes.

Friday, August 03, 2007

BackBou Exposed and some FOs

So the BackBou was outed this week as the obsessed baker that he is. Those of us in blogland (and those of us who happen to live with him) have known about his alternative lifestyle for a while now, but let me tell you, it's generating some interest in his attorney world of work. Read the Home Style article here. The print edition has some great pictures of the kids helping to make the pizzas.

In addition to working on the lace scarf and some socks (I'm unfortunately not the uber-sock knitter that Tiennie is!), I was able to finish these hats (for my neighbor's new twins) over my vacation.

Pattern: Cabled Greenspun Beanie from Nature Babies by Tara Jon Manning.
Yarn: Rowan Cashsoft DK in Mirage and Sweet (I think, I'm not sure about the names of the colors)
Needles: US 6s

Notes: I really liked Nature Babies. I checked it out from the library and really enjoyed looking through it. I think I'm going to try to make the soft play bloxes to sell at a RWS festival. Or maybe the stitched moon and star toys. Or maybe the flannel star babies. Or maybe some elfin bonnets. Or ...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Setting it Aside

It's not that I didn't knit when we were in Maine, because I did. At night, when the kids were tucked into their beds in the sleeping loft, I would knit on the New England sock as Mr S read. On the plane and on the interstate, I cranked through Potato. I made some significant progress on each; I got through the heel and into the foot on the sock, and I got far enough on Potato that I finished it up this week (and will have the FO to debut this weekend).

But Maine, for me, was about putting aside everything to engage. It is hard to admit this openly, but we all know that knitting can distance you. Like TV or a good book, it can mediate the way you interact with the present, a shield against intimacy with your loved ones. It can be like a giant, flashing neon sign saying, "Leave me alone." Sometimes, I need that flashing neon sign. Sometimes, I need to be left alone, and knitting provides me with some solitude. Sometimes, you really do need to shut up because I really am counting.

But on this trip, I wanted to be alive and awake to my surroundings. I didn't want to miss one call of one loon on our pond. I wanted to hear the leaves rustling, and the sound of the kids playing in the woods. I wanted to watch the fog lift over Cadillac Mountain and hear the sound of our canoe gliding through the waterlillies. There was no TV, no radio, no newspapers or internet or cell phone. It was remote enough that there was no hum of air conditioners, no road noise in the background. (It was also close enough to civilization that is was just down the road from a yarn shop, but that is a post for another day.)

There were moments when I wished I brought my sock. I regretted a few missed photo ops for the blog: the sock on top of the mountain, the sock and a lobster, the sock at the Clam Box and the Great Maine Lumberjack Show.

But then I wonder if I brought the sock to the lobster pound, would I have been too distracted to catch this:

My husband is at his happiest eating lobsters.

Would I have been taking pictures of my sock on top of Cadillac Mountain and missed this:

Rosebud was truly moved by the experience of being on top of a mountain for the first time.

Would I have built this Fairy Bed in the woods with her if I was busy with my sock?

Would I have avoided sticky fingers and gooey kisses to protect the yarn?

So I don't have a lot of knitting to show you, but what I do have is (shhhhh) better.