Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmastime Is Here

All right--I have gotten over my Calmer tizzy (that statement is loaded with irony) and I am quite pleased. Seeing the Fiery Bolero finished, tiny as it is, somehow made all the stress, the entire days and late nights spent finishing it, the feeling that my triceps was going to peel itself off the bone in protest of its abuse worthwhile. Debbie Bliss is an amazing designer, and thanks to Theresa Vinson Sternson , I got the ribbed bands picked up so tidily, they look like they grew there. (Her Knitty tutorials are truly incredible.)

No pictures yet, though: it my Christmas fervor, I wrapped it up with the rest of my gifts. Maybe we can do a Christmas morning photo shoot.

Over the years, I have lived out many a gift-knitting saga. At one part, one begins to doubt one's sanity. But I am not alone: Stephanie Pearl McPhee's army of gift socks makes my paltry three gifts look like nothing, and Blue Garter has captured--with photos!--the pride of a gift well-finished. Seeing what they, and many others, go through for the thrill of giving a homemade gift has reassured me. Knitters are givers. What better time to give, to push our skills (or at least our patience), and even to show off, than Christmas?

The tree is up, all my gift knitting is done. I am chock full of holiday cheer. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Brain Break

I can't take it anymore. I have been home sick all day (thank you, Hermanita), and in an effort to feel useful, I have been working on the Fiery Bolero. As of right now, I could die, be reincarnated, and live out that life without ever seeing a single milligram of Rowan Calmer, and that wouldn't be long enough.

Exegesis: I have substituted the Debbie Bliss Cathay (Big surprise~Debbie Bliss designed the pattern) with Rowan Calmer in Coral.

It's horrible. Torture. High-quality, yes, but ugh--sticky, and stretchy, not at all like worsted *ought* to be. This summer, mi familia y yo happened to be going past Chix with Stix, which is an awesome little store, so of course I had to stop. (Incidentally, I was sick then, too.) I only bought the stuff because I knew I needed a cotton blend that knitted at 22 sts over 4 inches and the ultra-cool, ultra-helpful woman behind the counter suggested it, and I was being rushed.

I did not do any of my homework on this one. I did not check to see what size needle was recommended on the label. That would've set bells ringing. Cathay gets 22 sts over 4 inches on U.S. size 5 needles. Calmer? 21 sts over 4 inches on U.S. size 8 needles. Their site hints at its bizarre texture--in an oblique, all-our-yarn-is-wonderful sort of way--but once I had the yarn in hand, I didn't think to check what the manufacturer had to say about their product. Finally, I didn't even wind the yarn into handmade balls. For big projects, I usually don't. Unless the yarn comes in a skein and must be wound to avoid distressing snarls, I figure that it's not worth the effort. Usually, it's not. In this instance, that first acquaintance with the yarn might have saved me some undue distress and frogging.

Thank goodness I did a gauge swatch. That, at least, told me I had to go up to a size 7 and use metal, not wood. I invested in an Addi Turbo. I'm not really into metal needles--that incessant clicking annoys me and all the rest of mi familia, and this particular circular was ridiculously expensive. But I must say--it is oh so shiny, and the vile Calmer doesn't drag along it like it did on my bamboo needles.

Even still, trying to get gauge is murder. I detest gauge--it has lied to me on many a project. Whenever I can, I say to heck with swatches, jump into the project, and figure it out from there. Because I rarely knit things that have to be just so, this approach works quite well. But this is a sweater, a gift sweater, and a gift sweater that must fit snugly.

All day, I have been closeted in my room, sinuses pulsing (again, thank you Hermanita), knitting. I knitted through 100-odd pages of a new book. I knitted through Fables, Definitely Maybe, a Concretes single, and one of my own mixes.

And I've gained about 4 inches in length.

Oh, the agony!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself

Like the Burt Bacharach song (but the White Stripes' cover). Back in the throes of the semester, I was sure that when I reached this point, I would feel like walking through the streets of Paris singing We're Here like Fyfe Dangerfield. But that's not the case at all. I've spent the last three days on quotidian tasks: cleaning, organizing, et cetera. It's quite perplexing.

Why don't I cut to something interesting: last weekend. The trip was just what I needed to take my mind off my Spanish final. Somehow, not knowing how to talk about paying import and export taxes in Spanish just doesn't seem that important when you've just discovered you're on the road to Ventura and you're about to be run down by an H3. We got lost to varying degrees every single day we were there, and at one point, I just had to toss Mapquest's directions out the window (figuratively), backtrack to the last Barnes and Noble we'd passed, and get a LA area map.

We learned about one of Mapquest's least enchanting features the night of the Nutcracker: end at. Reading that, it sounds as if, after traveling x miles, one will be beamed up out of his or her car and beamed back down right in front of his or her destination. Ha. In the pitch black, in speedy evening traffic, it took us three tries to get into the theater we were supposed to magically "end at" to see the Nutcracker.

But the show was so worth it. The scenery was awesome, the dancers were incredible, the choreography was stellar. The whole thing was just fun to watch, and I'm not just saying that because Hermanita was in it. Among the most impressive dances were Snowflakes, which is all corps dancing in perfect synchrony with not a spangle out of place, and Arabian. I took just enough ballet to know how hard a slow dance (adagio) is, and this adagio blew my mind. The whole thing was a masterpiece of balance and control.

And what about the sweater? I wore it. In a moment of panic, I envisioned myself freezing to death in a crowd of high-powered stage mothers in nothing but my plaid miniskirt and my beloved but decidedly low-key Tokyo Police Club shirt, and so I dragged the sweater out and finished it the night before we left. It was marvelously warm without being suffocating, and quite adorable if I do say so myself. Here's a picture, taken on my bed because the light in my bedroom is atrocious and all my attempts at photographing myself sans flash with the sweater on blurred.

The specs are as follows:

Pattern: The Fitted Ribbed Turtleneck from Hollywood Knits. Suss has terrific design sense, but a) she is OBSESSED with knitting flat, which is anathema to every knitty principle I hold dear, and b) her instructions are spare, to put it mildly. Check out the bottom of the sleeve on the front cover of the book. That's a tubular cast on, but nowhere in the pattern does it tell you to use a tubular cast on. I would not take exception to this except for the fact that the entire book is marketed as a treasure trove of patterns for *beginning* knitters. I have been at this 9 years now, and if it hadn't been for my last fiasco--I mean sweater--I never would've thought to use tubular cast on. At Monita's urging, I used tubular bind off for the neck, which meant going back four rows to do the setup, but as she pointed out, it makes the whole thing look very finished. My final tweak was to move the raglan shapings in one stitch from each edge so they made a nice line down from the neck.

Yarn: Just under 16 skeins Meunch Goa, as called for in the pattern. It was muy caro and I had to special order it from my LYS, but after the above-mentioned fiasco, I didn't feel quite up to a yarn substitution. The yarn does have an unusual texture, as Suss noted, but I really enjoyed working with it: it wasn't inordinately stretchy, and the pieces worked up incredibly fast.

Needles: I cast on with a straight size 10, then worked the pieces on a size 10 circular. I admit to a Zimmermanian fondness for circulars, but think--between the bulk of the yarn and the width of the pieces, doing this on straights would be quite unwieldy. That, and you would run the risk of disemboweling anyone seated nearby with the ends of your needles.

Seaming: I used mattress stitch, which was a bit bulky. However, it is essentially like doing one of those laceup toys, especially at this gauge, which is about the extent of my sewing capacity, and I didn't have the vim to search for another seam that was both invisible and doable.

Weaving in: DO NOT weave the ends in before you seam. This is another thing that goes against everything I hold dear, but I tried weaving in some ends before seaming, and it was a mess. Grit your teeth, do the seams, and then hide the ends by running them through the seams.

In sum, a fast, functional retro piece that anyone *ought* to be able to whip up in a few weeks, 2 months max. I will be the first to admit that I have a terribly short attention span when it comes to sweaters. I usually get in over my head, and it's so unbearably hot here 8 out of 12 months, I don't have anything to push me along.

Here's to a holiday full of successfully completed projects.

Friday, December 7, 2007

So Close!

And this weekend I'll be far away. Santa Monica, to be exact. I *love* traveling to California. Firstly, it's usually a roadtrip, which gives me hours of scenery watching, knitting--whatever. Secondly, our California trips are usually undertaken at transistional points in the year. At semester's end, they're a celebration of freedom. At semester's start, they're one last hurrah in the Land of Excess before reality hits like a full cement mixer. No matter that this is not officially semester's end--I still have one final after we get back on Monday. But I'll have a nice long ride in which to study verbos y cultura y vocabulario, and...


Previously known as the Fitted Ribbed Turtleneck. But it was knitted for Velma in the live-action Scooby Doo movie, so it really is the Velma sweater. I'm quite excited: that thing has been collecting dust behind my bed for ages, and now I will actually have it off my FO list. There is no doubt about it being finished. We are going to see the Nutcracker one night, and I have nothing else to wear there. If I do not finish it, I do not go, but because I must go, I must finish the sweater. That may not pass for standard logic, but it makes perfect sense to me.

The finish-or-freeze tactic is how I finished my last sweater, too. That was a gray argyle cardigan, my own pattern, that I called the Black Arrow Cardigan. I was very proud of myself: I did all the finishing on a bus, and was didn't have to redo any of it after I got home.

*Sigh* Days like today make me wish I could knit at work. It's gray and wet outside, warm and quiet inside. No people, no fiddly work. The desks are perfect, too: super-high, more counters, really, so I could sit with my knitting hidden discreetly in my lap as I worked and drop it to the side if someone came up with a question. But no. But what would people think if they saw you knitting? That was how I was told "get your needles in your locker." I really, really wanted to ask what people would think if they saw me with my head on the countertop, drooling slightly as I dozed. But I refrained. And so W is for Wendolene who died of ennui

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Rome is Burning

If one is trying to highlight the Roman emporer Nero's insanity, the anecdote about him playing his fiddle while Rome burned is a good one. There are lots of others, but this is the one I remember. It came to mind today in particular. If ancient historians had not left ample evidence that Nero was a bubble off, I would say that he fiddled as Rome burned as a means of not freaking out.

Let me set the stage: I have a take-home Linguistics exam due Tuesday. I have part one of my Spanish final in class on Tuesday. Osteology's final is Thursday, Death and Dying in a Cross-Cultural Perspective on Friday, and next Monday is part two of my Spanish final.

And what have I done today? I cleaned out my knitting bag, unraveled a stash blanket that's been sitting on the needles for over a year, cleaned out my armoire, gathered some items to put in the charity drop bin at the library, dusted my room, and even cleared out some old magazines I haven't touched in ages.

All while the proverbial Rome is up in flames around me. Thank goodness I don't have a fiddle, because I'd probably find an entire symphony that I needed to practice right now.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Isn't this the most amazing thing ever?

Not my knitting--obliterated by blocking are nearly a dozen fudges. I mean the fact that this shawl is off the needles and blocked.

I am thrilled to death. Right now, I expected to be glancing balefully at my corner piled high with UFOS and shuffling along on the Fiery Bolero. But the yarn gods are benevolent. The Malabrigo came in early, and in my elation, I whipped out the last few rows, the edgy bit, and bound off in three days. Staying up until midnight watching Arcade Fire on Austin City Limits helped. Arcade Fire is one of those bands that you can't really appreciate fully until you have seen them perform, and they really kicked it out that night. I was hugely impressed.

But anyways. As part of the FO ritual, here are the specs:
Pattern: Icarus Shawl from the Interweave Knits Summer 2006 issue
Yarn: THREE skeins Malabrigo Laceweight in Bergamota. I do not recommend using anything dark. This yarn is a little slippery, and most of my fudges were the result of losing a yarnover and not discovering the fact until 2 rows after it happened.
Needles: There's always lots of discussion on what sort of needles to use, metal vs. bamboo, ultra-pointy tips or not. I did ok with plain bamboo Addis. The tips were not inordinately pointy, but they worked for me. I do not recommend using metal needles with this particular yarn, as per my above note on fudges, but a longer wire would be good. After the first few repeats of Chart 1, the whole thing started bunching up on the needle and it was impossible to see how my gauge was holding up.
Blocking: threading string through the eyelets while wet, tugging the ends tight, and setting it aside to dry works just fine.

My favorite part of this pattern is that it impresses the heck out of people. My Linguistics classmates had been monitoring my in-class progress, and asked me to bring "the red thing" in when I was done with it. I did (shamelessly), and they oohed and aahed in amazement. I take no credit in such success. The pattern is elegant and elegantly written. If you 1. can read a chart, 2. buy good yarn, and 3. have boatloads of patience/are a glutton for punishment, you can make this.
Of course, there's no need to tell everyone else that.

After I got it off the needles, I agonized over the pronounced bimp at the base:

But blocking evened that out.

Here's a detail before blocking:

And one from after:

And a closeup:

(This last picture best approximates the actual color of the yarn.)

Yes, I am totally enamored. But I was so totally in a rut, and after that bit of instant gratification from the Acorn hat, this was just the boost I needed to get me going on the Fiery Bolero.

AND I just got off on Thanksgiving break. The best way to see the effect this had on my mood would be to look at what I was playing on iTunes: yesterday I had Yellow, Despair in the Departure Lounge, and Sailed On in the lineup. Today? The Colour the Colour the Colour with All for You, Sofia and Seven Nation Army thrown in for good measure. This is the teaser--that little taste of freedom (and pie) to keep us going.

The end of the semester IS incredibly close. Beginning Tuesday, we hit the short, steep slide to finals. After that: winter break. Not quite the Holy Grail that is summer break, but at 65 degrees, I'll take it. Repeat: 20 days, I can make it another 20 days. Just 3 more weeks, and I get my brain back.

Happy knitting with cranberry sauce.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's a Hat!

But not just any hat: it's a hat that looks like an acorn.

And just in the nick of time, too, as our daytime lows have plummeted to the 80's! *peals of maniacal laughter*

La Monita has been my model during the design process. Unfortunately, she wasn't handy, so I crammed the hat on my own head and took a stab at the venerable art of mirror photography. I'd never had occasion to try it before. I think it very ironic that the camera focused in on itself, but overall, this is something I do believe I could do again. Note to self: put on a long sleeved t-shirt or a sweater next time to give the picture veracity.

Here are the specs:
A small amount of worsted-ish wool yarn, handspun and dyed with marigolds by someone named Candy (body color)
5 sts/inch for the body in stockinette on size 5 needles
An even smaller amount of Classic Elite's Inca Alpaca in "Cowhide Helmut" (Isn't that an awful name for a color?)
6 sts/inch for the brim in blackberry (aka bramble) stitch on the same size 5 needles
The pattern is my own, but based on the Wizard Hat from Kids Knitting . I think this particular hat has a lot of potential for experimentation, for big people as well as kids. Just be prepared to fiddle endlessly to get it to fit the way the pattern says it should, and if you are ambitious/crazy enough to combine two yarns with different gauges using different stitch patterns, be forewarned: I frogged the brim so many times, I was afraid my yarn was going to frizzle away to nothing.
But that aside, it was quite enjoyable.

At this time of year, when teachers and students alike are counting class periods, not weeks, I find that I have a strange urge to obsess on random things. Analyzing this behavior, I have decided that it is a strange sort of coping mechanism. None of these are illegal or will cause bodily harm to myself or others (unless someone makes the mistake of getting between me and a sale rack), and they keep me from going further off the deep end. As such, these obsessions are things I believe I should indulge.

Recent obsessions include:

Jumpers of the sale variety

"We Looked Like Giants" --I think this is as angsty as Ben Gibbard gets.

The "Aleatorio Canciones" feature on my iPod. Most people know this as shuffle, but I have been listening to artistas and albumes ever since a certain little monkey got a hold of my iPod. She says it's a great way to learn a language. The sad thing is, she's right.

Here's to all our little fixations. May they keep the world functional.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


After the spectacular stall of the Firebird, I have not been sitting quietly in the corner, weeping (although that would be a perfectly reasonable reaction).


At 46 days until Christmas, I am still without finished gifts, and two out of my three main recipients always seem to be about when I want to work on their gifts. (Honestly--you'd think they lived in the same house) So here's the plan:

While Mum is not about, I'm working on squares for her patchwork blanket.

Mona Pequeña has requested a Firey Bolero, from the Summer 2005 Interweave Knits. The idea is that while Mona is out, I'll work on this.

Note the yarn is not yet on the needles. As a result of the Firebird fiasco, I am feeling a little pattern-shy. But if nothing else, I will be working with slightly chunkier yarn, on slightly larger needles, than I was with the Firebird. In theory, this translates to the project working up faster.

For those instances where both Mum and Mona Pequeña are about, I have pulled out the Acorn Hat. This will not become a gift, so I can knit away without any worries about who is watching.

That's the plan. Think it will work? Stay tuned...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Houston, We Have a Problem

True to my word, I worked away on the Icarus/Firebird like my life depended on it (my sanity certainly did). I got all the way to the middle of the last chart--things had gotten easy--it was looking great (don't you agree?)--

Then disaster struck. I swear: I read the pattern, I figured out the yardage. Yes, I did substitute yarn, but the pattern notes practically promised me that I would only need one and a half of my two skeins!

See that sad little string trailing off the end of this picture?

That is the end of skein one. Skein two is hiding off the edge of the frame, out of shame for its similarly minute size.

This has happened many times in the past, but never with a lace pattern and never with a Christmas gift of such importance. (Did I mention the Firebird is a gift? It is: hence my panic.) Drawing on my previous experiences, I ranted briefly and then rushed to my LYS. Fumbling through the delicious skeins of Malabrigo lace weight, I found blues and greens and a rawther distasteful pink/red/hmm colorway, but no Bergamota, that arresting, unmatcheable orangey red I NEEDED.

The owner of my LYS, similarly experienced in yarn shortages, ordered a skein for me straightaway (If it takes more than 1 skein to finish 4 rows and a border, I am throwing this thing out the window). I was relieved. I was reassured. I was endlessley grateful. And then she warned that their last order had taken eight weeks to come in.

Do you ever feel like Losing My Religion should be the soundtrack for your life?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

UFO Invasion!




My UFOs are closing in on me.

#1, Suss's Fitted Ribbed Turtleneck--the cover project from Hollywood Knits --has been in progress for at least a year now.

#2 is a very sad little hat waiting to be finished. This project has a long story attached. My original plan was to make a hat that looked like an acorn with some greeny-brown handspun and a brown alpaca brim. The Wizard Hat, from Melanie Falick's Kids Knitting, already was quite acorny, so I thought I could easily modify that with a brim using the bramble pattern out of Stitchionary . Au contraire. The Wizard Hat pattern was a) sized for a child with a bubble head, and b) written in rows, not inches or millimeters, for a discontinued yarn of unknown row gauge. And I found these two things out at different times. Isn't that fun? Irate rant to follow. But for now, the sad little hat is sitting on the needles, looking like a turnip.

#3 is hogging all the attention from the ribbed turtleneck and the acorn hat. Behold: the Icarus Shawl. Mine is in the fabled Malabrigo, laceweight of course. I began this the first week of school and flew through the body, but now I am dragging through the fancy border. By all accounts, the lacy border is the fun part, the exciting part, the part knitters speed through the body to reach. Under normal circumstances, I'm sure I'd agree. HOWEVER, my current knitting time is also a class period, which means I knit some stitches, take notes, knit some more, then drop the knitting in my lap to work a problem. At most, I can get a row done, and it's sending me to despair.
Time to cut down on other recreational activities: some sleep is going to have to go. Keep your fingers crossed for a FO next post, and happy Knitting : )

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Hazards of Combining Knitting and School

Size 0 double pointed needles aside, knitting is considered a relatively benign hobby. Yet to be explored, however, are the hazards of Knitting In Public, KIPping for short. In my experience, KIPping is a perilous enterprise at the best of times. KIPping at a University? Doubly so.

Hazard #1

The ones who stare are easily ignore. Others, however, decide to comment. After schlepping around campus with a heavy backpack all day, one is not in the best frame of mind to recieve such comments.
"Is that for a class?"
Class? No, not for a class. Once upon a time, there was a faraway land, where people did no complete tasks because they were assigned, but for creative fulfillment. That land was swallowed up by a pernicious beast, and this knitting is the last vestige of its existence.
"Are you knitting? That's cute."
By cute, you mean dazzlingly brilliant, right?

Ok--so I don't really say that to people. But they do tempt me.

Hazard #2

Professors are notoriously unpredictable when it comes to a knitter in their classes. Some don't even notice. Others reluctantly allow it, but deep down they doubt that it is humanly possible to make socks and learn a subject at the same time. An exalted few say go ahead, whatever it takes to help you learn, but at the other end of the spectrum are the professors who veto knitting completely. To complicate matters, these types are not readily identifiable: you have to ask for knitting permission, or risk suffering the unimaginable wrath of an angered professor.

Why is it that non-knitters view knitters in the manner of bugs in jars? Being of the Anthropological bent, I am interpreting my encounters as a field study. At this point, the data point to a cultural intolerance to knitting. Gone are the days when women toted their works in progress to the theater, when idle hands were viewed as the devil's tools. Knitting is not viewed as "normal," part of the daily way of life. It is out of the ordinary, a phenomena to be viewed with suspicion and curiosity.

This state of affairs will not do. Knitting is a craft! It is an art! It is genius! And all around the world, when cool, creative people want to express themselves, they knit.

Check out all these cool knitters:

Skinny Rabbit live from France

Spelling Tuesday, the incredible technique machine out of Norway

Yarn Harlot blogging up a storm in Canada

Monday, September 3, 2007

Welcome to Shop on the High Street!

I've got a blog!

Geocities and its minute data transfer limit was bringing me down, so I said to heck with it and transfered to Blogspot. The entire process was scarily easy. Why Blogspot? It's free, and some very cool blogs (like sock prØn and b r o o k l y n t w e e d) are hosted here.

Those ARE both knitting blogs--how very astute! I am already linking to knitting blogs because this will be a blog about knitting. Knitting, yarn, and all the little things that make knitting and yarn even better.

To everyone who knitted (and crocheted) with me over the summer, thanks a million times again! I promised I'd keep you updated : ) Stop in at the Shop on the High Street, and tell me what you're up to. Better yet, show me pictures!

Here is my latest accomplishment: Nautie, from the spring '06 issue of Knitty, the world's most incredible ezine. All of the tiny fiddly shaping bits and miles of sewing inherent in little, 3-d toys usually scares me off, but this pattern was incredibly easy and had a grand total of ONE seam.

I think everyone needs a stuffed nautilus.

My pattern adjustments:
All parts are knitted with two strands of Cascade's Pima Tencel

I put a bell in the head before sewing the pieces together to make it rattle

Because this nautie is going to a baby, I didn't use felt fort the eyes. I did not embroder eyes, either. I asked my sister to do the embroidery: this nautilus is supposed to be cute, not scary.

Happy September!