Tuesday, May 29, 2007

In which I nupp

For the most part, I don't mind acronyms. They can be overwhelming, as when my sister joined the Air Force and suddenly, in her zeal, spoke a language only she could comprehend, peppered with three- and four-letter it-stands-for-something-but-you-won't-care-what phrases. Sometimes acronyms are unnecessary; saying VW for Volkswagen actually has more syllables than the full name. But, most acronyms are helpful to simplify the bureaucracy of everyday life.

So as I've navigated this new knitters' world over the past year, I've learned about the KAL, my LYS, EZ, and the like.

But some knitters' lingo doesn't seem to be an acronym for anything except confusion and pain. Take "nupp," for instance, which I think might possibly mean "Repetitive Stress Injury" in Gaelic.

I've been learning about nupps this week as I've progressed on my Swallowtail Shawl. Make five stitches out of one on the front, then purl five together on the back side. These little bastards will make the bobbly little lily of the valley blossoms in the borders. Pretty! And pretty tough. (That's them in the blurry photo, the globby parts in the middle above the YOs; I need to work on my macro skills.)

The shawl is coming along--still difficult to photograph well, so I'll wait until it's blocking--and I am proud to say that, after all the swearing and the poking and the feeling desperate, I discovered a method for nupping that is less painful and more efficient, for me at least. Each time I come to the p5tog, I carefully slip the five stitches onto a metal tapestry needle and hold it to the front, sort of like using a cable needle. I then purl the stitches together from the tapestry needle rather than the left knitting needle. The smaller diameter of the tapestry needle gives me the wiggle room I need to clear all five stitches, wrap the working yarn, and purl it through. It's still really fiddly, but the nupps look great. There are a couple I could have done better, but even my perfectionism balks at ripping back to my lifeline--six loooong rows back--unless I really have to.

Nupp said.

Monday, May 28, 2007

In which I leap in, Lara Croft style, brandishing Addi Turbos

Once upon a time in North Dakota, a woman was born, just this side of the turn of the (last) century. Her name was Iva.

Among many things, she was:
a college graduate in the 1920s...
a home economist who worked for a time convincing rural Idahoans to "electrify" their homes...
surrogate mother to her orphaned younger siblings...
an Army officer during WWII...
a strict martinet in the kitchen...
a seamstress extraordinaire...
an opera aficionado...
the keeper of the cleanest, smallest, most organized lake cottage in the universe...
surrogate co-mother to her half-orphaned nieces and nephews...
a weaver...
scariest, most imposing little Norwegian lady ever to stand 5'1" in her tan hush puppies...
and my great-aunt.

She died when I was in college. I came home to help my mother and grandmother clean out her house. My grandmother, her sister, said, "Take what you can use." I gleaned kitchen utensils, pots and pans, an antique rocker, a needlepoint pillow, and an aqua cardigan.

Knit from the top down Barbara-Walker style (I now know), I wore this cardigan through college and beyond. Whenever I'd wear it, people would say, Wow, your eyes! Its aqua wool nearly matched my greeny-blue eyes exactly. I replaced its buttons, cheap and plastic, with Norwegian-patterned pewter circlets.

Wearing it kept me close to my aunt Iva, a woman I was never close to in real life. Her legacy is one of teaching--she taught my mom to sew, who taught me to sew (though she hates it, mostly because Aunt Iva was such a taskmaster), and I of all my cousins am the only one who does handwork with passion. (My sister is the keeper of the baking legacy.)

The sweater met with a tragic laundry accident when I was first married, the victim of a well-meaning but wool-illiterate young husband. I cried when I saw it shrunken and felted, and put it aside, unable to throw it out or give it away.

Now that I'm knitting, I appreciate the sweater more, and--amazingly--I now have the skills to craft a replacement. I'm starting with a pullover in almost exactly the same shade of aqua, the cozy v-neck pullover with deep ribbing from Stefanie Japel's book Fitted Knits.
I hope Aunt Iva would be proud.

And here's a teaser for another project from the same book...more to come!

Friday, May 25, 2007

In which I lament RED. LACE.

You know how lace looks like ass when you photograph it pre-blocking? And how red is the hardest color to photograph accurately?

Well, guess what I've been working on?


A few days ago, I cast on again for Evelyn Clark's Swallowtail Shawl from Winter '06 IK. I started this shawl at the end of April, then got sidetracked by other projects, then screwed up and bound off, and now I'm a healthy distance into it again. I think I've done about 10 of the 14 repeats of the body. I've been surfing the Knit-along for tips, and am reasonably sure that if I keep counting carefully and keep threading a lifeline every so many rows (right now I'm doing it at the end of each 6-row repeat) I should be able to finish just fine.

I've decided that lace and socks appeal to me for reasons of economy. For about the same price as one sweater sleeve (give or take) I can work for weeks on tiny-ish needles. More knitting for my money, more bang for my buck, plus the pleasure of creating something intricate and useful.

That said, my knitting budget is experiencing a surplus right now! I have some more birthday money to spend on knitting stuff--a KnitPicks gift certificate (thanks, mom!), a gift certificate to one of my awesome local yarn stores (thanks, Robbie!), and a $10 credit at another one of my lovely locals (thanks, self, for spending so much there already!)--and am pondering the possibilities. Stephanie Japel's book Fitted Knits, my bedtime reading of choice, is calling to me.

So since I don't have a photo of my RED. LACE. (yet) I will post another lacy, red photo, from a recent outing through the neighborhood:

Japanese maple, from below.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

In which I list random things

Random is certainly a word that I love. I love random. I probably overuse random. How random is that?

It's also a word that easily, when overused, ceases to sound or look like a word. Random!

Anyway, Katie tagged her commenters for Seven Random Things. This is much less pressure than Six Weird Things, for which I mentally catalogued everything about myself, concluded that even my weirdnesses are pretty pedestrian, felt embarrassed that I had no fascinating weirdnesses, and ended up writing about how much I love my dishwasher. (It's a Kenmore. LOVE it.)

But RANDOM facts? That I can do, that I can embrace...

1. I got married when I was 21. No, I am not Mormon.

2. I have slept in the back of a pickup truck in a parking lot in the rain in Lincoln Beach, Oregon. (It sucked.)

3. I am a terminal clutz. I regularly fell UP the stairs when I was in sixth grade. I also grew six inches that year, so maybe that contributed?

4. Until three months before I left for college, I was going to go pre-med and even had early acceptance to USC with this proposed major. I took a u-turn and pursued English education; I have been an English teacher on and off since 1999. I think, occasionally, about going back to school to become a nurse-midwife or physician's assistant but I guess I don't think too hard about it, because I just finished my master's in English/journalism ed.

5. I was taught how to knit by a guy--my neighbor, Joe. The first thing I ever knit was a roll-brim hat. It was supposed to be for M; it came out sized for a preemie. We call it the Christmas Yarmulke (no offense to any Jewish readers) and our stuffed Santa wears it every year. The second thing I knit was also a roll-brim hat. It came out large enough for a sweater. I gave up knitting until last spring. I now understand gauge.

6. I was runner-up for Lilac Princess at my high school. I tripped and fell during the "pageant". (See # 3.) I'm really glad I didn't win, though at the time I was crushed. I skipped school for the first time that day--us candidates took our escorts out to lunch. None of us girls got in trouble; all the guys got detention. (When Sexism Works For You, by Dana Smith.) I made them cookies.

7. My daughter's name was inspired by The Lord of the Rings. (No, it's not Arwen, Eowyn, or Galadriel. I want her to survive middle school.) My husband and I both adore these books; I have read them upwards of ten times. I bet no one can figure out what her name is...

Friday, May 18, 2007

In which Harry and Harvey resurface

Yes, Harvey and Harry are still in progress. Still.

My husband does not have big feet, but he does have long legs. He requested socks that went all the way up to the belly of his calf muscle. No problem, said I.

Next time, I'll know better.

I got this far (my legs for photo purposes):

and had this much yarn left:
Yep. (Toe-up next time.) Luckily my LYS still had the same dye lot in stock, so it was another $15 and I'm still working. Just started the toes today.

The things we do for love...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In which I list the possibilities

Process vs. Product. Which are you? Is it the thrill of the chase that keeps you going, or the medal at the finish line? Is it the journey or the destination?

I keep thinking about this with myself as a knitter. I'm just not sure yet--maybe time will tell. I've definitely taken on a lot of challenges in the past year, and I try to learn something new from each project, so that points toward being a process knitter...that said, I am on too limited a budget with too much sweater lust to be all about the process--i want to wear some of this stuff, people!

I borrowed this meme from Alianne as a way of exploring my knitterly brain right now, and setting some goals:

Bold for stuff you've done, italics for stuff you plan to do one day, and normal for stuff you're not planning on doing.

Garter stitch
Knitting with metal wire
Stockinette stitch
Socks: top-down
Socks: toe-up
Knitting with camel yarn
Mittens: Cuff-up
Mittens: Tip-down
Knitting with silk
Moebius band knitting
Participating in a KAL
Drop stitch patterns
Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn
Slip stitch patterns

Knitting with bananafiber yarn
Domino knitting (=modular knitting)
Twisted stitch patterns
Knitting with bamboo yarn
Two end knitting
Charity knitting
Knitting with soy yarn
Toy/doll clothing
Knitting with circular needles
Baby items
Knitting with your own handspun yarn
Graffitti knitting (knitting items on, or to be left on the street)
Continental knitting
Designing knitted garments
Cable stitch patterns (incl. Aran)
Lace patterns

Publishing a knitting book
Teaching a child to knit

American/English knitting (as opposed to continental)
Knitting to make money
Button holes
Knitting with alpaca
Fair Isle knitting

Norwegian knitting
Dying with plant colours
Knitting items for a wedding
Household items (dishcloths, washcloths, tea cosies...)
Knitting socks (or other small tubular items)on two circulars
Olympic knitting
Knitting with someone elses handspun yarn
Knitting with dpns
Holiday related knitting
Teaching a male how to knit
Knitting for a living
Knitting with cotton
Knitting smocking
Dying yarn
Knitting art (because Beth said so)
Knitting two socks (or other small tubular items) on two circulars simultaneously
Knitting with wool
Textured knitting
Kitchener BO
Knitting with beads
Long Tail CO
Entrelac Knitting and purling backwards
Machine knitting
Knitting with selfpatterning/selfstriping/variegating yarn
Stuffed toys
Baby items
Knitting with cashmere
Knitting with synthetic yarn
Writing a pattern
Knitting with linen
Knitting for preemies
Tubular CO
Freeform knitting
Short rows
Cuffs/fingerless mits/armwarmers
Knitting a pattern from an online knitting magazine
Knitting on a loom
Thrummed knitting
Knitting a gift
Knitting for pets
Knitting with dog/cat hair
Hair accessories
Knitting in public

Friday, May 11, 2007

In which reach a milestone

My birthdays kind of freak me out. Not in an oh-mi-gosh-i'm-getting-old kind of way, because I'm such a nerd that I'm only now catching up to the age I've been acting since I was born...but because I tend to set goals around them and get all introspective and want them to be, you know, SPECIAL.

So I usually can't sleep the night before.

Thursday night was no different. I'd like to say I stayed up rewriting my personal mission statement, or maybe scrapbooking this past year, but the truth is I just read blogs--yarnharlot archives, anyone?--and drank a glass of wine and thought...hmmm...When I was 18, is this where I thought I'd be when I was 31? Am I happy?

The answers, in order: no, and yes.

Some things are what I thought. I'm married; I have children; I have a career I love; I own a house. In other ways, I'm not where I expected. I am a teacher--the one career I swore (in all my high school wisdom) I'd never pursue, and the career that continues to challenge me every day. I thought I would have traveled more.

But there are unexpectednesses to this introspection. Some things are surprising simply because, at 18, I had no idea who I could become or what would end up being the things that would change and mature.

Surprising things at 31:

1. I am still best friends with my high school best friend. Like, we e-mail every day, talk on the phone a couple times a month (we're busy, hey), see each other not enough but several times a year. We have been best friends for almost half my life.

2. I care less about what other people think of me regarding things like my body and my interests. I used to really hide the fact that I love science fiction, for instance. And I have given up on having cool hair and am settling for "not crazy." And though I want, for myself, to shed this baby weight and be strong and healthy (OK, and a size 8/10, which is, really, where my body wants to be! I swear!)

3. I still care what other people think of me, but about different things: my professional reputation, for instance; my follow-through on commitments; my parenting.

4. I am more likely to want to use swear words (something I did rarely in my teens and twenties) but less likely to actually USE swear words (because I have little kids). Though sometimes I do spell them out. Holy S-H-I-T that's nerdy.

4.5. I don't care if people think I'm nerdy. This has taken me 31 years to achieve.

5. I am getting better at having conversations about uncomfortable subjects with those I love. I am getting better about finding the middle ground between passive-aggressive and shouting-match, my previous two examples of communication between family members.

6. I don't attend church regularly, and I am not involved in music of any kind right now. These items bug me, and I want to change them by 32.

7. I have a blog, where people can read what I write and this only scares me a little bit. Even though I love writing, even though I write all the time in my mind and in my redjournalbooks, I am still not (very) comfortable putting myself out here like this. Maybe one my surprising things for 32 will be that I actually TELL someone I KNOW that I have this blog.

8. I don't feel the need to engage in intellectual one-upsmanship. (Very often.)

9. I am a knitter. Not, "I knit"--I AM A KNITTER. This has been the best surprise of the past year. (edited: the best surprise not counting the baby. Sheesh! I must really love knitting.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

In which I stop and smell the lilacs

Forget roses, give me a lilac any day.

The frilly blossoms, the tiny petals, the perfume that permeates and pleases...

Maybe it's because I'm from Spokane--The Lilac City, in case you didn't know--but there is something about these flowers that speaks peace and pleasure to my soul.

Mr. D, Baby E and I wandered the neighborhood this afternoon, searching for purple. Purple lilacs with which to compare my Lilac yarn.

You be the judge:

The KnitPicksers did a decent job...they definitely captured the gray that lurks in the lighter blossoms, but the undertone is still too blue to truly be lilac.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

In which Baby E wows me

My daughter pulled herself up to standing for the first time today.

Slick as a whistle, she crawled over to the couch, grabbed the edge of the cushion, and pulled up to her feet.

What was she reaching for?

My knitting, of course.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

In which I (re)meet a knitbot

I vowed to post daily until my birthday, May 11. I'm nearly there. "But, Dana," you exclaim, "You didn't post yesterday."

Well, technically you're correct. But I wrote this current post IN MY HEAD yesterday while shuttling children, chasing cats, running around lakes, and avoiding my daughter's bedroom whilst she was sleeping because the poor morsel has a horrible cold and sounds like Big Bird sleeping and needed me not to be clickety clacking in the background while she tosses in her snuffly mucus-filled crib.

So I'll post this one this morning, another one--with pictures, I promise--this afternoon, and I'll be caught up to my own goal.

I love how life works, that whole six-degrees-0f-separation thing. I am a pattern finder, a weaver together, a looker-for-the-meaning-in-the-chaos kind of person. Maybe that's why I like knitting and quilting--because they bring order and beauty from seeming waste? So I'm always pleasantly surprised when life brings me one of those "Small world!" kind of jewels. Like when we met a guy from my husband's home town when we were living in Texas. Like when I found out that our school's police officer had my dad as his junior high wrestling coach. Like when one of my colleagues turned out to be my college ex-boyfriend's best friend from high school. (OK, that one was a little uncomfortable.)

On Sunday we were grocery shopping, the four of us, when I heard a familiar voice say, "Dana?"

It was my friend Janet, once my best friend from about eighth through tenth grade. Although our friendship waned in the final years of high school, we ended up going to the same college and would see each other just often enough to sort of reconnect, but not really. Our lives, our choices, were different, and we could never get past the "This is who you USED to be" in order to see the "This is who you ARE." But this time there was a different vibe. As we stood in the produce section and quickly updated each other on lives and loves, there was just something different--two women, two friends, both happy with their lives and ready to reconnect. And as we exchanged e-mail addresses, I saw her username: knitbot.

"Are you knitting?" I asked. Yes, was the answer, and spinning, too. (and blogging, too, I just found out, but not sure if I'm ready to share knitsmith-wordpurl with anyone I know in real life yet.)

A knitter now. That explains it.

So I'm hoping for a get-together, a couple bottles of beer and a knitting project or two to share, and maybe, just maybe, the rekindling of an old bond?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

In which I create middle-earthy swatches

The swatching has commenced!
I absolutely adore these fiddly little cable swatches. I started the red one, on right, last week before my box from Knit Picks arrived with the lilac Andean Treasure yarn I'll actually be using for the sweater. I wanted to refresh my cabling skills (skillz?).

The Knit Picks box arrived in Friday's mail...just in time for my sister, who had lugged her Lagoon yarn all the way from Spokane, to have left two hours earlier. So it'll be swatching on separate sides of the Cascades.

I've never knit with alpaca before. What a change from the springy Cascade 220 I used for the red swatch; what a change to be cabling on size 3 needles! (I used 7s and then 8s for the 220, hence the strange parallelogram shape of the swatch.) The alpaca is silken, heathered, and hairy, like a box full of Tribbles. Because it's less--I don't know the right word; maybe defined?--I was worried about the cable's stitch definition at first, but now that I've knit a couple of repeats I like the way the alpaca halo blurs the edges while keeping the pattern intact. (It also, conveniently, hides any wonky-ish stitches.)

I am in awe of the genius of Kate Gilbert, who designed this reversible cable panel for "A Cardigan for Arwen" in the winter 2006 Interweave Knits. Wow. The color in this last photo is really horrendous (the yarn is a lovely deep red, almost garnet red, not the garish stoplight orange it appears here), but it shows the depth and intricacy of the pattern:
I think I'm about ready to cast on for the sweater! New skills commencing...

Saturday, May 05, 2007

In which I ponder the knittery significance of .25 mm

My sister and I are going to start knitting "A Cardigan for Merry" by annypurls.

She chose Lagoon for her daughter G, I chose Lilac for Baby E. These colors...I can, and probably will, go into the symbolic significance at great length (BUT not tonight; I need more wine).

The pattern calls for 3mm needles. US 2s are 2.75; US 3s are 3.25. I guess I could probably get Addis right at 3mm or any other non-American-sized needle, but I'm feeling wild. How much difference can .25 mm possibly make?

(I add the last sentence to my file of famous last words, which include: "I'll never wear bell-bottoms," "I wish Jon would ask me to the prom," and "How much trouble can an infant be, really? I'm sure I'll have lots of time to take classes.")

I've decided to go with the 3s, for kicks and giggles...also because with a child's sweater I'd rather err on the side of too large than too small.

Swatching of the LOVELY cable pattern has commenced; photos to follow!

Friday, May 04, 2007

In which I make up for lost time

Swatching sure FEELS like a waste of time--can I get an Amen?

That said, I know IN THEORY that it is an absolutely essential part of making handmade, not homemade, knits. "Use your head to save your feet," as my grandpa would say, or in this case, to save your hands. "Take time to save time," as Melissa Leapman says, IN ALL CAPS, in Cables Untangled.

So I'm choosing to act the part of the virtuous, organized, paced knitter, and am demonstrating for you here the SWATCH I INTENTIONALLY KNITTED for the Swallowtail Shawl.


I learned two things--and that's what this is all about, right, learning? Having fun?

First: I like lace. I really really like it.

Second: Threading a lifeline is a good idea.

If Baby E is allowed to play with Barbies (for one) and is interested in Barbies (for two), Barbie is sure going to have one heck of a purty shawl.

The color is very red. This is my absolute favorite color in all the world, though I don't own many true red clothing items. I'm already imagining wearing it with a 3/4-length-sleeved black ballet tee. Drool.

In which I show off my cute kids

As a rule, I object to gratuitous cute kid pictures. My children are people, dammit, not sweatshop workers toiling to provide fodder for my blog, to be digested and spit out by the voracious knitblog community!

(For the record, I disapprove of gratuitous cat pictures, too.)

That said, I just HAD to show you how cute my daughter and niece look in their Easter dresses. That's baby E on the left, niece G on the right. G just turned 10 months, E will be 10 months on the 19th.

(And, oh, that guy in the middle's pretty cute, too...just no handknits.)

Beyond the kiddo ogling, there was Scrabble. There were trail walks. There were trips to the mall. There were glasses of wine and bowls of gelato. There was sushi. A lovely visit!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

In which I write yesterday's post (again)

It's the little things.

Like...not having enough stitches at the end of a row of lace knitting.

Like...not having any idea how you lost a stitch and then realizing you're not even sure which row you're on.

Like...not having threaded a lifeline.

Like...not having a problem with frogging, since you've only done 3 or 4 repeats. (It's a swatch! am I right?)

Like...not having batteries in the camera.

The little things.