Sunday, December 17, 2006

Screaming Red Mitts and Ice Cream Sundae Socks

Christmas Knitting. Check.
Christmas Beading. Check.
Christmas Shopping. Check.
Christmas Laundry (we travel). Check.
We fly Thursday! Must leave home by 5:30 a.m. to make flight! Ack!

M cut out a few of my Christmas beading gifts as too much (they were for his relatives). M's mom did not need handknit socks and beaded jewelry. He also suggested one piece for his sister for Christmas and the other I had designed for her March birthday. So, we did a little shopping at amazon for her. But now I am back to knitting and beading just for pleasure. No longer worrying about foot sizes vs sock sizes. No longer fretting that an elderly grandmother will find a necklace too heavy or not be able to manage a clasp. Now it's just deciding which sock yarn I want to knit first and how long I want to make a scarf.

In anticipation of flying and wanting small things to knit, as M is 6'4" tall and broad shouldered and I am invariably a little squished in my seat, I started a few small projects. First, my hands have been freezing, and the mitts I made earlier from chunky alpaca are too thick for other than reading (and sleeping!). I love Eunny's Endpaper Mitts, and I nearly swooned when I saw the lovely green/cream color combo that Diana of Streets and Yos knit up. However, I have never done stranded work before, and my hands are cold now. So, I went over to Knitspot and ordered Anne's pattern for Fine Cabled Mitts. I'll save the Endpaper Mitts for 2007 (my neighbor knits and has offered to teach me how to do stranded knitting, yay!). Unlike Anne, I did not have any cashmere sock yarn lying around, but I did have enough left over Wildfoote sock yarn in Jazz Time, or screaming red, as I like to think of it. I am almost done with the first mitt.
The pattern is pretty easy to follow and I really like how Anne designed the thumb gusset. I did make my usual cabling error of doing the second cable one row too early (cabling one row of a 6 row repeat means cabling every 7th row, not every 6th), but here it turns out to be fortuitous, as I have short fingers. There is no way I can do all 10 repeats of the cable pattern and not turn the mitt into a mitten (I had to do less repeats in the chunky alpaca mitts too), so cabling every 6th row instead of 7th lets me get more cables in. The nice thing about the Wildfoote is that it is machine washable. My gauge is looser than the pattern calls for (also contributing to needing a shorter mitt) by a little bit, but my hand width was just over the size max for the smaller mitt size, and the mitt seems to fit as great as it can with dpns sticking out all over.

I also started a new pair of socks, which I now think of as my ice cream sundae socks. The yarn is Fleece Artist Merino in the colorway dyed specifically for Simply Sock Yarn Company's first anniversary last June. The colors look to me like rich vanilla ice cream with hot fudge and raspberry sauce.
Looks tasty but a little dry.

The pattern is garter rib. I tried a few others that were more complicated, but they were too much with the huge color contrasts in the yarn. BTW, the sock is leaning up against my favorite mineral from my collection of minerals, which has long, cylindrical, hexagonal aquamarine crystals in it. That's a long non-gem quality aquamarine crystal to the left of the sock. This sock is so proud; I usually don't lean them up against something so pretty and valuable.

Last week while using an old scarf, I realized that I don't like to wrap a scarf all around my neck so both ends hang in the front. So I tried on the Grapevine scarf to see if I had knit enough if I didn't plan to do so much scarf wrapping, and I have. Tomorrow I hope to block! Photos will follow.

Now I have to go debate which sock yarns from my stash to take over our trip. We fly 2300 miles each way, and then we also have two 450 mile car trips between our parents' homes. I used to drive that and let M be passenger (let's just say he refers to me when he is driving as his "onboard navigation system" I'm a horrible backseat driver), but last year I had learned to knit socks, so M got to drive while I knit (which nicely cut down on the "navigation"). I think it's a wonderful tradition. I want to make a pair of Jaywalkers, as I am the only knitter on the planet who hasn't and I have some striping Trekking XXL, and Cookie's Monkey socks, which look fantastic. Now, which yarn for those...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas FOs!

First off, no one who I know reads this blog can accidentally see one of her gifts, so reading on cannot spoil any surprises.

Second, today we had 9 hours, 29 minutes of daylight; I spent 10 hours at work. The photos are on my work table, and therefore, functional, not scenic. I did use the tripod and my Ott light, so the colors aren't too bad. Therefore, on to the FOs! In order of completion:

Diagonal Rib Scarf in Misti Alpaca Chunky

M's dad gets the scarf. It was a weird one to block. The pattern, such as it is, was a free download from the Misti Alpaca site, and it said to pin the scarf out dry and then mist it with water (hence the name Misti Alpaca?). The ball band did specify that hand-washing in warm water was OK, so I was a bit perplexed by the whole dry pinning idea. However, I decided to try that first. Blocking wires proved essential to maintaining my sanity, but all worked out well. The pattern said from one skein of yarn to expect a 6" x 40" scarf. I got 6" x 45" without stretching lengthwise. M's dad is a tall man, so the extra 5" I managed to get is good.

Next up, we have beaded snowflakes, each is going to a different person.


These were very fun to design and a total bitch to make. The snowflake wire forms, were made of spring tempered steel. For those not overly conversant with metal tempers, the temper indicates how soft or hard the metal wire is. For example, you can't go to the hardware store and buy a spool of copper wire, wind it around a dowel and then use it as a spring, as soon as you push or pull on the ends of your "spring" it will collapse; it can't bounce back. Spring temper is tough to bend. I broke several forms trying to bend the loop at the end to keep the beads from falling off. It wouldn't have been so frustrating if the packaging hadn't shown children making snowflakes, and the instructions hadn't ended with "Have fun!" But these are done, I like them, and I think I have figured out how to transport them from California to the Midwest branches intact.

Finally, last night I finished the socks for M's grandmother.


The leg pattern is the 5-stitch repeat yarn-over cable from Sensational Knitted Socks, but I didn't want to make a toe up sock, which is what all the 5-st repeat socks are, I made up my own heel flap, heel turn and toe. I like the heel flap. It's a hybrid of carrying down the YO-cable into a 3x2 rib, except I slipped the middle stitch of the 3 knits on the right side, similar to the 3x3 slipped stitched rib in the 6-st repeat section of SKS.

Fleece Artist Merino in Renaissance

The color didn't pool too badly, and I somewhat liked the idea of a busy pattern in a yarn colorway named Renaissance. Simple lines do not appear to have been a Renaissance aesthetic. I hope they fit M's grandmother, who, I am told, has long narrow feet. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

As soon as I finished the socks, I cast on a new pair for myself. My grey marled gingerbread cable socks are going to have to wait until after the holidays for me to knit the second sock. I used metal needles on the first, and M compared my metal to bamboo size 1 needles, and they are not the same size. Since I am flying next week, I think it would be best to have all bamboo needles. I know I am supposed to be able to take metal needles, but last time I flew they took away my craft scissors with 1" blades, and up to a 4" blade is supposed to be acceptable. I need to get into the pattern I've picked for the new socks tonight, and then I hope to show them to you tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Why Will Power is Bad

I have been complimented on my perseverance and dedication, which I have always associated with will power. Will power is great when one has to do enough replicates of a tedious, demanding experiment to get statistically significant results. But when it comes to sock yarn, will power can be carried too far. Late last week, Elsie, knitting guru with no blog, told me that our favorite online sock yarn retailer now had Koigu KPPPM, and she had to have some. None of our LYS's carry Koigu (yes, it's very sad), and so we had never experienced the essence of Koigu. She told me this after handing me a sock and a skein of Claudia Handpaints in Walk in the Woods to fondle. I had to have some. So, we placed a "little" order. Today it arrived!

Claudia Handpaints in Walk in the Woods and Eat Veggies

And I couldn't resist another skein of Schaefer Anne, this time in Blue Violets.


Here's Elsie's Koigu KPPPM (P426); it's actually a little more purple than I could get it to photograph.

Do you think she would notice if I gave her this instead (which I thought was supposed to be blue with just a little brown)? This yarn is from a shall remain nameless vendor, who I have had hit-and-miss luck with.

Yeah, I think she'd notice. I better give her the Koigu.

Tomorrow, two FOs!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Let's do Lunch!

The problem with knitting projects that are large triangles or rectangles is that progress shots aren't exactly a thrill. So, although I will talk about one of my projects, lets get to it through a small tour of the knitting blogosphere.

First, I am still playing with templates for this blog. I will probably try to design my own from scratch. With M's help that should be very doable. Right now this new green template doesn't make me as mad as the other template I was using. So, faithful readers may find a different looking blog from time to time. I also want to get a better picture of me, but that may prove more difficult than learning CSS code. I also found out from reading someone's blog today, that she finds blogger doesn't always leave the email address of commenters even when they leave an address. I didn't know this could happen. If you have left me comments and I haven't emailed you or commented on your blog, it's because I don't know how to contact you. Does anyone else have this problem? Is there something I can do to fix this?

When I was a kid, my mom would sometimes comment about a person that they would be "a good person to have lunch with." What she said she meant by that was she thought the person would be interesting to talk to, would make my mom think in new directions, would be a good and fun person to know. Lunch is a conversational meal, usually without alcohol or romantic overtones, so conversation, especially on topics of mutual interest but not necessarily getting to know all the facts of a person's life, is the key. I think many of the people whose blogs I read are people I would like to have lunch with. I've decided from time to time to write a little about my interaction with these people through their blog content and possible mutual commenting. I have been highly influenced in many creative and positive ways by knitting bloggers, and I feel the need to codify my appreciation.

Last post, I mentioned my quandry with the Grapevine Scarf. It's so pretty; it's annoying to knit. What to do? What to do? I wondered what Cara, who only knits what she loves, would do. And Cara told me. I don't know how she knows when I reference her blog (there is still a lot I'm learning about blogging); but she knows. She was my first commenter back in August! You never forget your first commenter. But anyway, she suggested that I try to get through the Grapevine Scarf for a bit by knitting 4 rows a day. I thought I could do that; it's only a scarf after all. I decided 4 pattern rows a day; purl rows hardly count (it's a scarf). So, last night, that's what I set out to do. But I did 6 pattern rows, which made a whole repeat. M was sitting next to me and he commented that the scarf was almost 30 inches long, and I said no, it wasn't even two feet yet. "Measure it," he said. 28.5 inches unblocked. Apparently, my almost supernatural ability to judge volumes does not extend to judging inches knit. This was a revelation! Each repeat is about 1.5 inches. If I could do two repeats a day for 10 days, the scarf would be long enough, and I could use it over the Christmas holidays in the Midwest where it is actually cold. I am motivated! Thanks to Cara's advice, I realized I was much nearer to finishing a beautiful scarf than I gave myself credit for. Now, if I only had her ability to take photos! If you have never followed her links to her nature photos, you are missing out. She has a very creative eye and really sees like a camera.

Although, I am not an official member of Eye Candy Friday, I don't have a digital SLR camera (yet), or Cara's super talented eye (notice how my horizon cuts right through the middle of my photo), I leave you with this picture of the California coast north of San Francisco (I've got two repeats to knit!). It's so beautiful it's hard to take a bad picture. This is at The Sea Ranch in late October right before sunset.

sea ranch coast sunset.JPG

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The best of times; the worst of times...

It hasn't been the best of autumns here at Molecular Knitting, but then again, it hasn't been the worst of autumns either.

I am having to review what I learned from cognitive behavioral therapy, because my brain thought it would be fun to go back to its old way of thinking. Bad brain! Promotions at work are always a sign that one's world is coming to an end. That's logical. Bad brain! What really irks me though is that the CBT takes away from knitting time. I have explained to my brain that the status quo will be changing as I have far too many sweaters, socks, scarves, shawls, and other things that begin with the letter "s" to knit; too many earrings, bracelets, brooches, and necklaces to construct; too many different batches of cookies, pies, stews, soups, and pastas to cook; and far too many mystery novels, books of poetry, travel memoirs, and cultural/social histories to read to have my brain going on a depressive fritz. Don't worry. My brain and I are really rather attached to each other. We are just having one of our many little tugs-of-war. It goes in for some sneaky guerilla tactics that catch me off guard for a bit, but I seldom let myself stay down for long. I can be very tenacious, and my brain should know that. M is very supportive and helps me to see when my brain is indulging in cognitive distortions, its hobby.

So, to keep my brain from thinking it is so amazingly important that a depressive fritz is OK, let's talk about the knitting. And the knitting front looks pretty good. The Aran Pocket Shawl is five repeats long now. The directions specify 28 repeats to make the shawl 87 inches long. That seems pretty gosh darn long to me, so I'll be wrapping it around me when I get farther along to see how far I want to go.

I am also almost done with my last Christmas knit: socks for M's grandmother. I am to the heel flap of the second sock. I hope to knit on that a little this evening and then photograph it tomorrow morning in good light, as I like the heel flap I designed.

The Landscape shawl has taken a back seat to the Aran Pocket Shawl the past week, but I am 26% done with it. It isn't the most exciting thing to knit, but it is gorgeous, and the fingering weight yarn will work well here in California.

Other projects are on the back burner. I am in a bit of a quandry concerning the Grapevine Lace scarf. I love the look of the scarf in the Black Purl colorway. But I haven't been able to memorize the lace pattern, so it is pretty tedious to knit. The lace pattern is from the first Barbara Walker stitch treasury, and so it is a text only pattern. The wrong side rows are just purl, so I have put the patterned right side rows on their own 4x6 index cards and I just keep flipping the cards as I knit. I have been trying to memorize the pattern, but the lace is pretty blobby on the needles so it takes quite a bit of work to see the pattern. Right now, I am not loving this scarf, and I wonder what Cara would do in my position.

I also joined the Victoria Lace Today KAL and I have balled my skein of berry Sea Silk. I just have to cast on...

But today I have to prepare the bead room (also yarn room, there are just a lot more beads per unit area than yarn) for students! Tomorrow Natasha and Meghan (another grad student from lab) are coming to learn how to bead a spiral rope. I gave a spiral rope necklace to Natasha and now she and Meghan want to make their own.

detail of simple spiral rope stitch

I think the hardest part will be getting Natasha to pick out colors for her rope. I have a lot of different colors and finishes of seed beads, and I am sure she will want to see them all!

I leave you today with a picture of M's and my Christmas tree this year taken in the morning sunlight. I've been collecting glass ornaments for about 20 years; I love the sparkle.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Counting to 10

Is it just me or is beta-blogger driving other people nuts? I think I am going to have to sit down with HTML, XHTML, & CSS and just figure out how to make my own template. I am not finding Beta-Blogger easier to use, and what looks like a nice page element in the edit template and layout sections, does not look nice on the actual blog. So, I apologize for the mess of the Works in Progress and Knitting Together buttons. Tomorrow I hope to have a new post with actual knitting content, for I have blocked the scarf for M's Dad (Thanks, Mom, for the blocking wires! They ROCK!), and I want to talk about what I think is a nice looking heel flap that I made up to go with a 5-stitch repeat based upon a K3P2 rib. But right now I am going to knit on my Aran Pocket Shawl and let the soothing knits and purls of a seed stitch basket weave take away my ire with Beta-Blogger.