Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Man, I know I'm not the first to think this, but that Elizabeth Zimmermann is a frickin' genius.

I'm scooting along at a fair pace on Mr. D's sweater, ready to unite the body and sleeves.

Stats: Cascade 220 in Blue and Ruby; size 7 KA bamboo circs. I used a 16-incher for the body and both a 24" and 16" to do both sleeves at once. (Next time I'll use two 24" or possibly a 24" and a 32". The 16" got a bit tight.) The stripe pattern is my own design, based on those cool ombre-stripe blankets you can buy on the beach in Mexico. After 7-8" of body, I started the stripe pattern:

1 row red
5 rows blue
2 rows red
4 rows blue
3 rows red (stop here)

The plan:
unite body with blue
3 rows blue (counting first uniting row)
4 rows red
2 rows blue
5 rows red
1 row blue
continue in red for the remainder of the body.

Basically you graduate the stripes until the colors have switched places. Depending on how much blue I have left, I may finish the neck ribbing with a few rows of blue.

I'm a bit nervous about these holes:

These are where I added the new colors. EZ says just to start knitting and close up the holes when you sew in the ends...OK, I have faith in the EZ.

I'm also a bit nervous about the length of the body and/or the arms. I went with long-ish arms, since Mr. D is quite the beanpole these days. But will he look like a monkey??

Friday, February 23, 2007

My First Sweater

I'm done with the body & have started on the sleeves of an Elizabeth-Zimmermann-style raglan for Mr. D. It's been a nutso week on many levels--all good, but nuts--so no photos yet, but the stockinette has been soothing. Will post more soon!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Kimono Reflections

236 yards Lion Cotton, on sale at Tuesday Morning: $1.99

One stripe Sugar & Creme Swimming Pool: pennies

One butterfly button: $1.50

Onesie and overalls from the Target clearance rack: $4.00

The cutest damn baby gift of all time? Priceless.

When you're expecting a baby, everyone tells you that having a child will change your life. When Mr. D was born, I experienced the rollercoaster-speed identity shift of becoming a mother. I wondered, then, what baby #2 would bring. Would I become Mother 2.0?

Not exactly...I became a knitter.

Last spring, I ordered--on a complete whim, since I had vowed Never To Knit Again after some Hat Catastrophes in college--Mason-Dixon Knitting, the book. The idea of small loops and yarn seemed attractive to my hugely pregnant self. This book ignited a renaissance of interest in knitting and I have hardly gone a day without knitting since.

As Baby E nears her seven-month birthday (wow!), we have two sets of friends who are expecting babies. This used to mean I would make a baby quilt. Now that I'm a Knitter, this means knitted gifts. So I dusted off the Mason-Dixon Knitting book and cast on for a baby Kimono.

This was, not so incidentally, the very first objet d'knit I attempted when picking up the needles last spring, attempting to put my insomnia to good use. And what amazing things I learned by revisiting the pattern!
First, I learned that needles and technique matter. Notice the larger size of the pink kimono underneath Baby E's. I was knitting so tightly that my hands would hurt; I also was throwing the yarn clockwise rather than counter-clockwise, which I think makes a smaller loop. Kimono 2.0 is soft, pliable, stretchy where Baby E's was thicker and less flexible.

I started 2.0 with the same (cheap, plastic) size 6 Lion Brand straights. They flexed so much with the cotton yarn that I was knitting at a snail's pace. I switched to knitting flat using my 24" size 6 Addi Turbo circular and suddenly I was off to the races. The moral: Don't buy cheap needles.

I've also learned to pay attention to small details, like when to join a ball of yarn (i.e. NOT in the middle of a row!).

No matter what I think of the technique now, I love this sweater, because it was the first garment (of many, I hope) I made for my sweet Baby E. And now her friend Cecilia Jane, born Saturday, February 17, can share in the kimono love.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Valentine

When I met M, I was 19 years old. We lived on the same floor of our college residence hall. We were both dating other people. We became friends.

As the relationships with the other people fell apart, our friendship grew. Aw, who am I kidding? In part, our other relationships disintegrated because we were--inch by inch, cribbage game by cribbage game, hilarious food service dinner by food service dinner--falling in love almost without realizing it. Knowing there were guys like M in the world opened my eyes to how futile and oppressive my relationship was, and gave me the strength to give my boyfriend the boot. Turned out that M had the same idea.

We started dating two months before I turned 20. We got engaged nine months later, and got married three months after I turned 21. This summer we will celebrate our tenth anniversary. Today is our eleventh Valentine's day as a couple.

I won't be getting flowers today. M is going to a UW basketball game in Seattle with his dad; he left this morning for work at 7:15 and I won't see him until around midnight.

Am I upset? No. Really. No.


Why won't I be getting flowers? Because this generous, loving, hilarious man is working extra hours after school to help make ends meet so I can stay home with Mr. D and Baby E this year. Because his weekends are taken up with home projects and quality, loving playtime with our children. Because he knows I'd love coffee, a book, a movie, a margarita--or YARN--more. Because he rushed home--through the rain, on his bike, covered in road debris--last night so his perfectionist wife could be early to SAT Prep class and get the whiteboard all ready. (Good thing, too, because I burned out the bulbs on TWO overhead projectors in a five-minute span, but I digress.)

In the almost-twelve years I've been with M, I've learned about love as a verb, as an action, as the motivating force of one's life. He loves me enough to hold me accountable to my goals, to snuggle against me at night, and to understand when he's temporarily supplanted by needles and yarn. I'd give up all the flowers in the world to keep his practical attitude about our money, his imaginative, artistic creativity, and the way our sharp edges have worn each other into the smoothness of a long-term love.

I never love him more then when I see him with our children. The picture at the start of this post is Mr. D, age 6 months or so, after his bath, in absolute hysterics at something Daddy is doing. M's gentleness, his tenderness, his good humor and patience shine through in every interaction with Mr. D and Baby E--he makes me a better parent through his example.

A close family member is going through a separation and divorce right now. The relationship and subsequent marriage was never completely stable, but we all hoped it would work out. It didn't. There were lots of reasons for the relationship's demise, but I place much of the blame on both partners' reliance on the wrong kind of love. This person put an immense amount of faith in a romantic ideal, in love's supposed power to magically erase practical problems like debt, addiction, emotional instability, and inability to communicate...unfortunately, the love of hearts and flowers--L-O-V-E as noun, as state of being--has no power over these circumstances. It withers like newsprint in a campfire.

Only love as verb, as action, as motivator can overcome the hurdles we all face in our relationships, and that's what I've learned from my years with M, that's what I hope to continue learning and practicing for the rest of my life. I rejoice that my partner is truly that, in all senses of the word: emotionally, physically, financially, creatively, intellectually. I wish everyone this joy and this journey.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I'm Quivering

The quiver project is done.

I'm reasonably pleased with how the felt turned out--it's not as felt-y as I would have liked, but I was pretty sure that it would come out more floppy than solid because I used size 10s instead of size 13s as called for in the pattern--there wasn't much room for the felt to plump up because the original fabric was so dense.

There has to be a Zen lesson here: one must knit a looser, airier fabric to yield a thicker, chewier felt.
The quiver dried completely over the weekend, even in our non-ventilated laundry room, so today's project was to sew and attach the strap. We went with fabric-store felt left over from his Halloween costume. (Perfectionist alert: It bugged me me that the greens don't match. Bugged me so much that I tried to convince him to go with some brown fabric instead, but he wanted the kelly green. After coming to my senses--hello, it's his toy/costume/whatever--I finally decided that the customer is always right.)

I cut two strips 3.5" wide and machine-sewed them together. We had several try-ons--it's rather hard to pin things when your model is a squirrely four-year-old--and I finally got the right angles for the strap to support the quiver. I then hand-stitched both edges of the strap to the quiver, using a wide blanket stitch for looks and stability. I overlapped the strap ends by about four inches (so I can resize it down the road if he still wants to play Robin Hood but has grown bigger), then did the Moebius twist, then machine stitched across in two places to keep the strap flat.

Mr. D loved it, spending at least half an hour crafting a bow and arrows out of paper, yarn, bendy straws, and aluminum foil (for the arrowheads).

Friday, February 09, 2007

Knitting for Robin Hood

I've had an UDO (undocumented object) on the needles for a week or so. Though it looks like a really bizarre and poorly planned hat, it's actually going to be a quiver. For Robin Hood.

This is the only knitted object that Mr. D. (age 4) is interested in. Though we've purchased yarn for a sweater, he really really really wanted me to knit him a quiver. So after a bit of internet searching, we found Cat Bordhi's free quiver pattern (scroll down a bit). Though the pattern is intended to be for knitting needles, I figured I could make it for "real"--that is, made of construction paper and drinking straws--arrows for my little Robin Hood.

Side note: Last August, I DVRd an episode of Knitty Gritty where Cat taught her Moebius cast on (basically, as far as I can figure after six more months of knitting experience, a provisional cast-on where you end up knitting both sides in one twisted loop). I 've made the scarf from that episode twice--two more undocumented objects--and think it's a really interesting shape to work with. I also bought Cat's Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles when I wanted to learn how to make socks. And, after perusing her website, I found out that she lives on one of the San Juan islands, just across the bay (sort of) from my home, Bellingham. So I found it very strange and sort of appropriate that when I Googled "quiver knit pattern" that Cat's was the only one I could find.I used some really old yarn that was an inheritance of sorts from my great aunt Iva. I decided to modify the pattern a bit--I had a size 10 47-inch circular from the moebius scarves, and even though the pattern called for a size 13 i decided not to invest in a new expensive needle just to make a quiver. (Sorry, honey.) Boy, did I wish I had gotten the KnitPicks options set for Christmas!

I used two strands of worsted-weight wool held together. Started with the moebius rim and one strand of brown, one strand of baby-poop yellow. Finished the rim, then picked up stitches as per the pattern for the body, switching to a 24" size 10 needle. When I ran out of brown, I switched to olive green held with the yellow; when I ran out of baby poop yellow I switched to a second strand of green. As I decreased, I switched to two circulars; yay for never needing to use DPNs!

I forgot to take "official" measurements pre-felting, but I think it was around 12" in diameter and 15-16" tall. It was big enough for me to fit OVER my head, down to my shoulders, with room to spare on top of my head. Entertaining for a four-year-old...and, let's face it, me, too. Mr. D is modeling it above, but he wouldn't pull it over his head, "Because then I can't smile, Mama!"

Finally came the day of reckoning: time to felt it. I have never felted anything before. I was worried it wouldn't come out well because I knit it at a pretty tight gauge: two strands of worsted on 6mm needles...But I followed general felting directions from the KnitPicks catalog and Ms. SpeedQueen (our washer) did great!

I don't have felted dimensions, because I can't find my measuring tape (geez, what a mess!) but I'm guessing it shrank by about 3-4 inches vertically and maybe 1-2 horizontally. It's nice and thick and fuzzy and filled with newsprint to dry.

When it's dry we're going to fashion a strap out of fabric; I figured that way I could make the strap adjustable rather than the one-size Moebius strap that is called for in the pattern. More fun ahead!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Here they are, on their maiden voyage--my baby cable socks. Wore them all day yesterday and am in love with hand-knit wool socks. In a changeable climate like the pacific northwest...I can see these quickly becoming an essential. Note the great denim color and the lovely contrast with my favorite shoes...Yum yum.

And I take back all of the snarky things I said about Interweave Knits...This morning I received a very polite e-mail saying that they've extended my subscription by one issue. I'm going to mail the duplicate off to my sister.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Double Your Pleasure?

With some Christmas money, I subscribed to Interweave Knits. (Sorry, just got back from teaching SAT prep class, which apparently screws with my ability to construct effective sentences.)

I bought my first issue in November (Winter 2006) and fell in love with about half the projects. Some quibbles--it's heavy on words and I'm finding myself to be a chart person--but overall just pure infatuation. Had to have it. But since the KnitSmith household has cashmere tastes on a Red Heart budget this year...staying home with the kids and all...I waited to send off the little card until I had my "convertible" from Dad.

I thought for sure the new issue would be arriving soon.

It's February, after all, and that little rodent is predicting spring...so my heart leaped into my throat when I saw yarn on the back cover of a magazine in my mailbox today. Time for spring knits...cottony goodness...and then I saw that it was--heart sinking to shoes--the Winter issue. Again. With the shawl-collar cardigan on the cover. There had to be some mistake.

Are you kidding me? A quarterly publication sending out a three-month old issue and calling it good? When the next issue appears on newsstands on February 20th? (Yep, I checked the website.) I'm not wasting 25% of my subscription money on an issue I already paid $7.00 for. That's two lattes, people, and I haven't been to Starbucks in a month.

(OK, that last part's a lie. I live in Washington therefore I also practically live at Starbucks. But I haven't had a latte since Christmas, just drip. The sacrifices I make so my children can eat!)

So I sent off a pretty-please e-mail to them and I'm hoping to hear back soon. Or the next e-mail won't be so nice. I may demand a latte for my pains.

Siamese Twins

Reunited and it feels so good...

These baby cable socks from Sensational Knitted Socks (have I mentioned how much I LOVE THIS BOOK???) are my latest foray into Try-something-new-and-a-new-technique-too Land. Well, I suppose technically they are my third pair of socks...since November...but they are officially the first pair to fit me. The Thujas, of course, were for M. so they weren't meant to fit me. The alligator feet, though a great learning experience in terms of technique, were mismeasured and fit a woman with size 10 W feet, not me with my 8.5 narrow.

(Anyone out there need a pair of green wool socks, slightly used?)

The stats: KnitPicks Essential Solid in Dusk, US size 2 KnitPicks Classic Circulars (one 24", one 32"), 6.5 st/inch.

I was so excited about the new technique--two socks at once!--that I did not document well in photographs--I'll do better next time. In words:

I cast on for two at once (this was truly the hardest part, followed by keeping your yarn untangled since you're working with two balls), then knit the legs down. At this point, Thing One and Thing Two were separated, one onto each needle, as I knit the heel flaps and turned the heel on each, trying to keep the "two at once" vibe going. (The heel stitches stayed on the needle, the instep stitches went onto waste yarn.)

After finishing both flaps/turns, I stole Thing Two's needle, leaving it completely on waste yarn, and did Thing One's gusset, finishing at the end of a pattern repeat (so actually about 3 rows into the foot). Removed the needles and did Thing Two's gusset, ending in the same place. Slipped Thing One back onto the needles and motored down the feet, finishing the toes last night at about 8:00.

Total time: 2 1/2 weeks of semi-sporadic work. Loved it!

I used KnitPicks' free downloadable pattern for "Boot Socks" to learn the cast on. After that, it was SKS all the way...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

July 21

This is the date to wait for...Book 7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, comes out on the 21st, just in time for M's birthday on the 22nd. yay!