Tuesday, May 27, 2008


As the perspicacious among you will notice, I rearranged and tidied up my sidebars a bit. Nothing groundshaking. Just...

A blogroll, containing the blogs I read regularly. Ooh. Aah. Note I said regularly; there are other blogs I read, all of which are quite good, but not regularly because the authors don't post regularly. (Yes, that was pointed. If your left ear has begun to burn, go post!!!)

A a few more items in the "Music to Knit To" section. This is not a euphemism for "bands I like." While I do like all these bands, they are not the sole contents of my iPod. To be included, an entire CD must have the ability to smooth a rocky shaping section, speed along a dull plain stretch, and generally make my knitting more pleasurable. What about Pandora? It's actually an online radio, I know. But it's among my favorite things to mess around with online. You can make stations with good knitting music--how's that?

And I finally got my pictures back and uploaded them to my Santa Monica post. I realized that I never blogged about the KIPping. Cuanto lo siento. It's in the poststript now.

Something I didn't do was fix the way my profile picture appears. Does anybody know how to get it to move up? It really bugs me that it's pushed down like that.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's a Bib! (boy version)

The Petal Bib pattern withstood the replicate test. Specs are identical to the girl version, with the exception of the color, Ice. I highly commend this pattern to anyone with a last-minute baby shower invitation and some fancy cotton hanging about. I consider myself a relatively slow knitter, but I did the petals while waiting for the shuttle to the airport. A few Concerts a Emporter got me through the short-row shaping, and doing the i-cord took less time than reviewing a GRE vocab list (bleugh).

Whip up a little washcloth to match,

and you're in business.

(no pattern there--just 34 sts on those size 6s)

The real excitement is not in the stockpiling of items for a hypothetical baby, but in clearing the detritus from my stash. The washcloth represents the very last of my Cascade Pima Tencel, save for a scrap destined to become a gift bow. The aforementioned washcloth party is underway, and my stash tote is beginning to feel roomier.

Not to worry. I will not be a yarn ascetic forever. This period of prolific stash knitting will soon be supplanted by a fortuitous event: my birthday, which, I have a feeling, will be characterized by prodigal yarniness.

(no, "yarniness" is not on any of the GRE vocabulary lists)

Friday, May 23, 2008

I Commit Another Crime Against Gauge

This time, the crime involves my string bag.

Pattern: Elisa's Nest Tote, long-handled version
Yarn: Just over 1 skein of Plymouth's Fantasy Naturale mercerized cotton color 9002 and one skein mercerized, cable-spun mystery cotton (worsted-ish weight) in green.
Needles: size 8, but read on before you grab yours
Additional note: See below for theoretical adaptation to worsted-weight yarn. The applied i-cord border really pulls in the top. If you want a bigger opening, begin crocheting the side seams together about an inch down from the CO/BO edges

When I got the project together, I read "one skein" and "cotton." I was busy getting ready for our trip to California, and my main concerns were not forgetting anything essential to survival like socks or my hairbrush or toothpaste.

I started the project the morning we left, and when the 41 stitches on size 9s produced a piece that was 12 inches, not the desired 8, I thought--oh, gotta go down a size.

Had I done my homework, I would've known that Rowan 4-ply Cotton was a fingering weight yarn, not a worsted. And working a worsted yarn on needles only one size above what's recommended on the label will not provide the extraordinary amount of stretch intended.

Here's what I should've done:
1. Go up to a size 10 or 11 needle
2. Cut down the number of stitches to, say, 29 (the stitch pattern is a multiple of 2 sts + 1, I do believe)

Ah, well. I'm not the only person to finish with something not-quite-intended. I found the pattern on Owl and Acorn, and the proprietress, who had knit her version in the round, wasn't so hip on the stretch factor and the size of the opening.

I know failure to research and read instructions properly are part of the issues I had with my version, but I'm chalking up a portion of the blame to the weirdness of the pattern. I mean, knitters usually do everything in their power to avoid stretching out their knits, and to achieve the yarn's intended gauge.

But don't worry, I'm not going to sit and moan about this project.

The blue-against green adds to its quirkiness,

and it passed the stretchability test (materials: one 16-inch PowerBook and an armoire)

I can't say that I'm thrilled about having added almost a full skein of Fantasy Naturale in my stash, but seeing as the project wasn't a complete, resounding failure, I'm going to call it a success and hold a washcloth-knitting party in my room. How does that sound?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It's a Bib!

Now all I need is a baby to put it on.

A few years ago I was knitting a baby blanket in a café and the girl behind the counter--a slight acquaintance--asked if there was anything she should know. This rawther irked me, because a) I am not overly enamored with children (nor they me) and b) I see no reason why you need to wait until there's a baby handy to knit baby stuff.

Pattern: Petal Bib from One Skein.
Yarn: Cascade Pima Tencel in White Peach
Needles: my size 6 Clovers which are beginning to wear out at the tips.
This page has good instructions for wrapping stitches to hide the short-row shaping.

Texture note: make sure you keep the garter stitch going up the sides. Also, when you go to knit 3 together, don't. It's a purl 3 together. Not that I knitted three together for the first 3 decreases or anything, although if I had, I could tell you that Pima Tencel is really perfect for unzipping and reworking single stitches.

Note the gauge issue that causes the bib to go a bit wonky in the middle. I started it while we were watching The Maltese Falcon and falling asleep one afternoon, worked the middle on the bus, and finished it while we were watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and trying not to fall asleep. Ah well. The baby it ends up on will drool on it just as happily as if the gauge was perfect.

Monday, May 19, 2008

One Week in Santa Monica

That's where I've been the past week, con las hermanitas. West LA being the delightfully surreal place that it was, I came back feeling ebullient but slightly shell-shocked--hence the dearth of posts.

I'll try to sum up the trip here, and add pictures (taken on real live film) when I get them back.

Day One
Adjust to the fact that you have just gone from the mid nineties to the mid-sixties in roughly an hour. I brought my Baby Ull cardigan as a just-in-case and ended up wearing it.

Take lots of pictures of the absolutely outrageous plants.

Day Two
Take the bus to see Son of Rambow (terrific, terrific movie) at the Landmark. The theatre specializes in art films, and has all sorts of little perks, like specialty chocolate at the concessions stand and leather seats. My favorite part is that you actually reserve where you will sit when you order tickets.

Note on the bus: it is the only inexpensive thing you will find in Santa Monica, and it takes you everywhere.

For instance, we decided to go to Century City after the movie, and all we did was walk down the street a ways and hop another bus. Century city is outdoors, not a problem when it's still only in the mid-sixties, and all very exclusive. Needless to say, we didn't buy very much. We did, however, indulge in the Pinkberry phenomenon. It's frozen yogurt with toppings (fruit, chocolate chips, cereal, etc), that is all the rage in LA. I can see why--it's really good, and after a lunch of Clif bars, apples, and movie popcorn, the perfect snack (if you find yourself inside a store, I recommend raspberries, chocolate chips, and rice candy).

Day Three
The Promenade. Read it with a film noir orchestra in the background: this is one of the most formidable shopping locations to attempt. Do not, I repeat, do not go at night if you value your safety or the contents of your purse. And don't be put off by all the chain stores there. The Starbucks has a music bar inside. The Forever 21 has three floors. These locations blow all the dinky little chain installations at our malls out of the water--if we even have them. Century City had the first Container Store I'd seen in eons, and on the west side of the Promenade is a Panera, the pinnacle of all bakery-cafés and also absent from all shopping centers at home.

If you manage to escape the clutches of the Promenade, check out the "recycled clothing" (secondhand) stores nearby. Crossroads arranged its racks by color, Wasteland by approximate size (designers cannot be bothered to calibrate their masterpieces to what the masses wear, dahling). Both have great selections, we made purchases at both, but Wasteland wins hands down because Luke of Colour fame works there (he's still way cool).

Day Four
The beach and Main street.

Begin with breakfast at the Omelette Parlor. We discovered this one a few summers ago because it was near the hotel we were staying in. On vacations we largely subsist on health bars, bagels, and late dinners, and when we first tried this, it was like dying and going to heaven. The food is crazy good, and comes in huge portions. You can either share to cut costs, or attempt the Herculean task of finishing a plate by yourself. The latter option saves you the trouble of scavenging for lunch.

Hit the beach off Ocean Park. We learned by trial and error that anything too far north or south of this just gets icky. Early weekday mornings, it's empty, just some joggers and surfers. And, as we discovered, dolphins. We didn't get any pictures--they were just too amazing to stop watching. Another amazing experience: I didn't get sunburnt.

Main street is largely window shopping as well, but we always hit the bead shop and ZJ Boarding House (the "Ladies' Lounge"), and often surface with purchases.

Forget Starbucks--a block north is Amelia's, and their lattes are far superior.

At this point, we were seriously losing steam, but managed to drag ourselves into the California Heritage Museum, which turned out to be a neat little place, perfect for decompressing.

Day Five
Montana Avenue. Oodles of posh posh posh little boutiques, cafés where the rich and famous eat, and one overpriced yarn store with unfriendly personnel. We won't name names. Do coffee at Peet's and get your snack at Grateful Bread.

Day Six

Everyone was getting tired and cranky (and the temperature had maxed at a slightly sticky 92), but we pulled it together, braved the Pico bus (that's the view from the stop above), and rode down to the holy grail: the Beverlywood Bakery. This is an old-fashioned, back-east style bakery, where the babka is to die for and the workers wear smocks. Ignore the cranky lady who is always working, and go for the cookies with the chocolate dollop on top.

One absolutely over-the-top week that I hope to repeat next summer. There was knitting, most of it KIPping, all of which will be chronicled in the next post.

P.S. That post never made it. In sum, it was fun. There was time for knitting on the bus every day (Hermanita was the navigator this time), and in the afternoons and evenings when we were all too burnt out to move. I saw my very first knitter-on-the-bus (besides me, I mean) going down to Main Street. Can you believe? I'd seen beaders and cross-stitchers, but never a knitter. She was making a very clean-looking white item with dainty pink stripes--part of a little girl's sweater, I believe. Another first--all my projects were in tune with the pace of the vacation, all small, portable, and engaging without requiring too much attention.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Icarus Indeed

From Wednesday to Friday, I toiled over the Icarus. I finished the second skein and dug into the third. Friday night, I went through an EP and a full-length mix CD on the bind off alone. But I was determined--I would finish that shawl before the weekend officially began, or bust.

Well. I finished the Icarus at 11 on Friday night. And it was a bust.

Like its mythological namesake, it fell from the sky of expectations a blazing ball of folly.

The fault did not lay in the late nights spent knitting, although I admit to a fair number of fudges in the last chart. No--the die was cast much, much earlier.

Looking at the monstrosity long enough to take a photograph is more than I can bear, but here's a mental image so you get the idea: the top edge has a silhouette similar to the leading edge of the wings of a Eurofighter. It is supposed to be exactly the opposite, with a perfectly straight top edge and deeply v-ed bottom.

You guessed it. I didn't take my gauge before starting.

Yes, I know--gasp! swoon! cry to the heavens!--what was the girl thinking? I wasn't. I pulled out a size 4 needle, started knitting, and never looked back.

I was furious and am furious. Not taking gauge is the classic beginner's mistake, which is what makes it sting so badly for someone 9 years a knitter. I haven't lost a great deal of money in the endeavor--Malabrigo is shockingly inexpensive--but I have lost a great deal of face. The only thing that is keeping me from ripping the entire thing out, making a mongo gauge swatch and starting over is a) the fact that doing the whole thing once took an entire semester and I am Icarused out, and b) I gave the beast to Mum to keep out of my sight so I wouldn't do anything rash like ripping the whole thing out, knitting a mongo gauge swatch, and starting the whole thing over again.

While I wait to see whether my perfectionism or my common sense wins out, I am taking refuge in a stash project out of some Jaeger pebble wool that was, if the color is any indicator, was manufactured in the 70's. The pattern is my own, and I can rip and reknit to my heart's content while I nurse my bruisèd confidence.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Speeding Along

My poor little thumb (left) has been taking a beating at work, and after the beating it took over the semester (note-taking--how sad is that?), it's very sensitive. To spare it, this will be a low text entry.

The Icarus is speeding along, so much as anything that has 400+ stitches per row can speed. It doesn't look much different than it did Monday, however, so I'll spare you a picture.

Until I finish that, I will not let myself start any new projects. A little voice at the back of my mind has been coaxing me to take a break and step back, but I know it better tha that. If I were to step away from the Icarus, I wouldn't want to go back. I would have to be forcibly dragged back to it, and that would just make a scene.

So until Icarus is finished, I'm only thinking about starting other projects. Namely stash projects, because the same little voice has been suggesting yarn purchases as well. Topping the list of destash victims is this cotton.

It has been in my stash for almost as long as I've been a knitter, and I've been trying to figure out what to do with it for that long, too. I finally found the perfect project on Owl and Acorn. A string bag--free pattern, takes only one skein, and is completely functional. And let's not forget cute. I am very much a fan of the Miss-Marple-chic.

And here's the genius: I doubt that one skein will be able to carry me beyond the body. Another skein will be needed for the handles. It will be a purchase, but a purchase fully within the guidelines of stash-busting. And--further security--any leftovers will be forwarded to washcloth knitting. *insert maniacal giggle*

Between knitting, I have extended my definition of nothing.

Bleugh. The only motivator here is that I'm signed up to take the GRE on the 28th of this month. My reasoning is that my soul has already been sold for that morning; I might as well get my money's worth out of the sale.

On a brighter note, the weather here has been gorgeous. Easter's threat was merely that. Normally, May is like a scene out of Dante's Inferno, but up to now, we've been able to have the windows open all morning, sometimes all day, with fresh little breezes puffing up the sheers with inspiring, sweet-scented air. It's positively glorious, and forecast to last through the weekend.

Monday, May 5, 2008

It's Good to Be Free




School is out, and I am free!!!! Every time I think of it, I get excited all over again. After replenishing my soul with music (note title and intro are both Oasis references), I feel fully prepared to enjoy my time off.

My first urge was to run to my LYS and browse about. I have a zillion things that I want to knit (NOW) but seeing as I only have two hands and three projects on the needles--not to mention that little destash vow--I resisted. Before I can set one foot in a yarn store, I have to make considerable progress on at least one of these projects.

Icarus is my current target. It is getting to the unwieldy stage, but as you can see in the picture, I'm into the frilly edgy bit. In more technical terms, I am halfway through the third chart (of four). Being able to quantify my progress is really helping to keep me motivated. The other motivator is the thought of a few instant gratification projects followed by the opportunity to make a yarn purchase. Within destash mission guidelines. Of course.

As a direct result of being a full-time student, my definition of "nothing" is rawther skewed. When I get back to school and everyone is asking what the others did over break, people who are still hyped up over their huge vacation to see the seven wonders of the world are really at a loss when they hear that I was equally gleeful to do nothing all summer. But for me, nothing is

Knitting nonstop (por supuesto)

Reading at a similar rate until I get into

Writing fiction which may not be very good but still thrills me to death.

Not to mention doing all the stuff that is wholly insignificant in the scheme of things but good fun for me because I don't get to do any of it during the school year.

So for the remainder of the summer, you can expect to see exuberant accounts of nothing. I hope some of them will be sufficiently entertaining to provoke a comment or two, because I love comments. They're like little miniblogs in and of themselves.