Friday, March 28, 2008

Home Improved

As part of Operation Clean Up, not only have I been making my house cleaner, as in you can eat on the floor, I've been making it more functional - as in, you don't have to eat on the floor. Yes, I finally broke down and bought an expandable table for my living room. No more dining on the ottoman, I have a real table. And, voila - a place for the table runner I knit for Lisa Shobhana Mason's book, YarnPlay Home

When Lisa asked me to help her out with the book, I had the choice of knitting a table runner or a bathmat. Hmmmm . . . and the girl without the table picked the table runner. But, that was ok - it was an easy knit, although not a quick knit - it's very long, although narrow, and it was a bit hard on my hands, it's knit in hemp. But, as you can see, the finished project was worth the effort.
So, if you haven't checked out the book, and your house needs a bit of sprucing up, you should. Written in the same vein as YarnPlay, all of the projects have room for your own touch, and more than a dash of creativity. Not only can you throw some splashes of color and texture in your own home, the book has great gift ideas, like a wine cozy, a tea cozy, and an cd case cover, among other things.
So, while I generously got a gift, signed copy of the book from Lisa, I probably would have bought it anyway - a great companion to the original.

So, there's one old project that finally found its place - on to what's new - or going to be new - because, keeping to my No New Projects until the Manos Madness blanket is complete (14 blocks to go!!), I have not cast on anything new since the Mukluks. Right now, I'm working on Martha from Rowan Studio in the Manos Silk blend - yum. Can't even tell you how much I love knitting with this yarn. But, you shall see - the back, and one front are done -- it should be done sometime next week.

And then the Kaffe - really, the Kaffe.

And then, I have on word for you - STARMORE!

Just call me crazy, that's really all I can say about this project at this point!
I found this pattern on ebay - in Vogue Knitting Fall 1989. Individual copies of the magazines sell for up to $30 on ebay, but I found this one in a lot of four 80's Vogue's - I almost felt like I was stealing when I clicked the Buy Now for $12.50 button, but that's the world of ebay commerce! The pattern is knit in Jamieson and Smith's shetland, and Courtney and I did our best to substitute all TWENTY colors with Jamieson's Spindrift. I have no idea when I'm going to get started on this - I'm sure in a moment of madness - hmmm, just like when I stared the Manos blanket!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Yoke Untangled

Give a girl a Duncan Hines cake mix, and all kinds of craziness can happen - even a nice Jewish girl can make an Easter bunny cake. I'm having a heart attack just looking at it, but there it is -

And, that's not the only thing I finished over the Easter break - tangled yoke is a tangle no more!
I don't even remember when I started this - whenever the magazine came out, I think, because I know I grabbed this color, Avocado, out of our first fall shipment of Rowan yarns, and I think I cast on before I cast on Cobblestone (which, by the way, is such a tragedy - because Mr. Tall insisted on washing it, and hanging it on the back of a chair to dry - all of that ripping out I did because I had overestimated how tall he really is is now completely for naught - as it has stretched back out to its oversized, ridiculous original state. Ah well, back to the blocking board!). I knit the body, and the sleeves pretty quickly, and then - the yoke -
You can hardly see the cable, or the decoration as my niece called it, on the yoke in this picture, but it's there - and it scared me. I saw that one to five increase - the stitches increasing at the speed of light. I imagined the stitches on my needle, falling off my needle, becoming unwieldy and unmanageable. And, I tossed it aside, and tried to put it out of my mind.

Then, Marian was at knitting circle one night, and picked out her yarn, Whiskey, to get started. By the next week, she had finished the body, joined the yoke, and had her markers in to start the cable. I admired hers, and began to covet. I coveted my neighbor's sweater. So, Laura and I were working at the shop on Saturday, and I mentioned my fear of the cable, and my potential inadequacies as a knitter, and Laura was like, "huh, I should knit the yoke for you - it looks like the only fun part of the sweater." I let that sink in a bit, and it sank -

Until it was like a Call to Duty (not that Call to Duty is imbedded in my brain or anything from Mr. Tall and his son playing it for four hours yesterday while I read the Times) - I must knit this because I CAN. I CAN DO IT.
So, I joined the yoke, color coded my cable chart, and three days later - the yoke was done. And, I was mighty proud of myself.
Then, my second fear rose to the surface.

I wasn't sure it was going to fit.

My weight fluctuates - up five, down five, up seven, down 10 - we all know how it is. My bust is like an inflatable balloon - 36C, 36D, 36C and once, after a totally obsessive round of weight watchers - a 34C!) - When I picked which size to knit, the 38, I was coming off the summer, was in pretty good shape, and had not yet gone back on the pill. A good six months later, and 2 mos. of birth control in my system, preceded by Thanksgiving, Christmas, and now, a very chocolately Easter - well, a C is a stretch, and the D is pretty much where I'm at now. I became very nervous that the buttons wouldn't close, or if they did, it would be a tight squeeze. I consoled myself with the thought that the cardigan would still look pretty open, with a crisp white shirt underneath.

When I went to Rosie's to buy my last stash of the Felted Tweed that I had on hold, I chatted with Jen, who also has a Tangled Yoke in the mix. I mentioned that I hadn't seen many Tangled Yokes parading through the store. She had, and I don't remember her exact wording, but she had seen a few sloppy button bands - loose, and pulling away from the sweater. My anxiety level increased. But, I was really determined to finish it. Laura's offer to do my knitting for me had definitely sparked a competitive chord in me -- it was a matter of pride, and if worst came to worst, it would be a great gift for a skinny person.

In an effort to avoid the gaping button band, and the dreaded stretchy button across the boob, I did two things. First, I ignored the number of stitches that Eunny instructed us to pick up, and just picked up my button band like I would pick up a sock gusset - leaving no stitch unknit - and I ended up picking up a good 20 more stitches than the pattern called for. On the next row, I decreased to the correct number of stitches, and I think my button band is pretty darn spiffy.

The next thing I did was I added buttons. The pattern calls for 9 buttons, I went with 11 spaced 2 inches apart. I figured the more hardware, the more restraint, and the more likely my boobies would stay put, in the sweater as opposed to popping through the buttons.

So, I crossed my fingers, and hoped my prophylactic measures worked - because I knew that aggressive blocking would foil the cable.

And, voila - it fits. And, not only does it fit, I think it's one of the best fitting sweaters I've ever made.

And what happened to the mukluks - is March Mukluk Madness over? Have no fear. One mukluk is in the can, and the second is at the cuff (which since you start at the toe makes it about 3/4's done!). And, the Muchos Manos Blanket of Madness is moving along - only 15 more blocks to go! I definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel. And, since the mukluks, I have not cast on anything new. While we were at the Kaffe class a few weeks ago, someone asked me how many projects I had going at one time. I couldn't give her a number, I mentioned a few, and while the group was quietly knitting, I did some real soul searching about how many WIP's I actually have - and it's scary. Just as Laura's offer to do my knitting for me struck a nerve (not that it wasn't a generous offer, just that I knew I had it in my to knit the cable), I found myself growing hot under the collar, I'm sure my face turned a greenish shade of red - I don't even know if I can confess how many projects are actually hanging around. My fingers are hovering over the keyboard about to type the list, and I can't do it - hello, my name is Wendy, and I'm an addict . . .

So, I do feel better having finished Tangled Yoke. After the Mukluks, and of course, the ongoing blanket, I'm going to finish Martha, and then assess what's next. I do know that Autumn Rose is in my near future, but I'm going to try try try to hold off casting on until I do some more colonics of the stash. And,

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Krazy Little Circles

From this perspective, it doesn't look so bad . . . with it sitting in my lap, or peering down at it, my eyes all squinty, and my lips pursed in concentration, it looks like poo.
And I feel like poo when I knit it - it's exhausting! Adding that extra color to the row just throws things into a tizzy - a big, twisted muckety muck. I sort of have a sytem of throwing my yarn, and I say sort of, because I have to really think about it - it doesn't come naturally at all, and I can't seen to find a production machine-like rhythm that I usually have when I knit.
But, I will perservere! Our next class is April 24th, and I hope to get to the armholes so that Lisa can show me how to put the steek in.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Whiskey on the High Seas

So you knew the mukluk couldn't be far behind the tam, right? Or, ahem, the Caspian Sea Socks, my substitute mukluks. I shouldn't really call them mukluks, because they're not - they just kind of look like the mukluks I have in my memory. But since this is all about the ethnic sock experience a la Priscilla Gibson-Roberts I feel like I shouldn't slap a generic (wrong) label on them - it's kind of like when my clients say "I wasn't out there selling drugs, I was just going to the Chinese store (meaning the convenience store on the corner run by someone of either Asian, Indian or Middle Eastern origin).

So, for my folkie socks, I'm using Whiskey, in blue, olive, plum and orange.
The pattern uses Tiur, which from my understanding is a very mohairy, dk weight yarn. I went with Whiskey, which without the mohair is coming in at gauge on a 4, as opposed to the 2 used in the pattern. And, of course, I know that because I cast on on 2's, and had to rip it out after completing the toe because all I had was a tiny nipple cover.

And speaking of nipples, sort of - I'm not a big fan of how the toe nipples - and I knew from reading the pattern, is was going to, because there are four straight rows before you start increasing for the toe shaping. I wish I had gone free form, but since I'm not really a toe up kind of girl, I decided to follow the pattern. And now, sigh, I have a nipple toe.

So I did my Middle Eastern cast-on -- three times. For anyone who has never tried this technique there's a very good video on Youtube. I would link to it, but I'm at work, and I can't open download sites here. Anyway, first, I cast on, and I just could not figure out the chart, in combination with the written instructions. The pattern is charted, and the instructions are also written out line by line. When I tried to put the two together, I was befuddled, literally scratching my head. I was at knitting circle, and I can't remember who it was, was like, "oh my G-d, I've never seen you like this - never!" And I really was stymied - increase where? Two times? In what color? - the large size and the small size are charted together, and the small size is outlined by a heavy black line. The written instructions say something like, "knit four in pattern, increase 2 repeat." I just could not figure out which were the four, and where the increases were, looking at the line by line itemization. So I screwed it up, ripped it out. Cast on again. I tossed aside the written instructions, and just followed the chart, and everything worked out just fine.

Except that they were too small. Ah well, so I made a nipple toe swatch.

And, the fact that I couldn't actually read the perfectly good, standard English instructions, gave me hope that I will actually be able to knit something out of Ethnic Socks and Stockings, which has almost no written instructions, but rather a formula - toe up, follow the foot chart, waist yarn heel, follow the cuff chart.

Hope is a good thing - a little luck won't hurt either!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Knitting a Tam Family Style

Some projects are as easy as just thinking of them. I wanted a tam, I have a tam! The knitting was almost an afterthought it went so quickly.
Using Mary Rowe's recipe for a basic 10" tam, I plugged in the palm pattern from Eunny Jang's Anemoi Mittens, and then for the wheel, I used the first wheel pattern in her appendix in the back of the book.

The book reads much like a Chinese restaurant menu - 1 from column A, 1 from column B, and finish your meal with the Chef's Special wheel. There's a chapter on knitting a basic tam (there is also a very math heavy chapter on changing the size of your tam, but I just thumbed passed any page with a square root sign on it), with different numbers for different weight yarn. To add color fair isle patterns, she refers you to her 2 appendices - one with traditional xo patterns, and the second section, for the pattern that will border the wheel - pick one from Group A, one from Group B. In her book, both of these patterns form the "body," and her wedge shaped charts form the "wheel."

Even though there's a very detailed section on the different wheel patterns - scallops, petals, leaves, etc., I had a hard time visualizing how the wedges were going to come together - huh? That makes a flower, really? And, because the "body" in the book is also referred to as the "border," this kind of confused me. The body is 3.5 to 4 inches long, and the wheel is 26 rows. So, when looking at pictures, with the tams already blocked, I wasn't sure how far up the body traveled(was the Group "B" pattern the pattern that appeared above the blocking line/fold and what she was referring to as the border or is the whole body the border, I thought to myself), and what was the beginning of the wheel. So, while I toyed with the idea of throwing in another pattern in the body, I was gunshy because I didn't know exactly how much would be on the underbelly, and how much would border the wheel on the top. Nor, did I get exactly where the wheel started, I mean, I could see the decreases, but the few rows before, that had like "squiggly" patterns,little bits of color, sort of - was that B or the first row of the wheel? - so the planning process was also kind of like a Chinese dinner - pork, chicken and shrimp in the soup, pork, chicken and shrimp in the eggroll, and pork, chicken and shrimp in the entree - kind of hard to draw the digestion line.

Knitting the tam put it all in perspective.

The tam starts with a corrugated rib, and goes straight into what Mary describes as the body. On my tam, the body goes all the way to the "border" 3 rows of one row blue, one row main color, one row blue, and then the wheel pattern begins. So, if you put 2 of her traditional patterns in (an XO pattern, and a larger pattern), the XO will be on the underside post blocking, and the "border" pattern will be the top half of the body.

So, now in this 50+ degree weather, I finally have my perfect winter ensemble! Yes, Mindy, it is a little matchy matchy for me, but I think throwing Maude, and a little Koigu in the mix completes the picture just fine.

Monday, March 03, 2008

On Friday, I was hit with mukluk fever. I was surfing around, and stumbled across these mukluks. Once, I bought a pair of mukluks at a street vendor for a pollyanna at work. To me, I really thought they were kind of a joke present - I mean, really, they were silly, crazy colored things, but they turned out to be the hot gift - the gift that everyone wanted, the gift that everyone stole instead of gambling with the grab bag. I couldn't steal them back, and my mukluks went home with someone else. I passed the vendor again, and it was always, "eh, I'll pick up a pair next week," until one day, they were gone, and I forgot about them.

Until I saw them on the Kristin Knit a Long and I had to have them. More than that, I had to knit them - NOW! So, I went on Ravelry, and tried to find the pattern. Nothing. I tried to find a pattern for another mukluk, but only bootlike mukluks came up, not slipper-like mukluks. Argh! I googled. Zip. No one had ever knit them? Couldn't be. At one time, they were kitted up by Classic Elite - no one knit them? Huh.

On Saturday, at Rosie's, I flipped through every loose pattern we had - I looked on the shelves, in the back, in the office, under the seat covers - everywhere - and, success! I found them! I had visions of dancing around my living room in my mukluks, burrying my feet under my bedcovers in my mukluks, cooking dinner with my new wok in my mukluks.

And then I read the pattern.

Completely and totally incomprehensible.

Between my Friday internet search frenzy, and my Saturday discovery, I had settled on a compromise pattern - , the Caspian Sea Socks by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts. I Raveled it, and other Gibson-Roberts patterns came up. I tried to find the book, Ethnic Socks and Stockings online, and chuckled when I saw the book listed for $200 on Amazon. I didn't need vendor mukluks for $100 per sock. But wouldn't you know it - Rosie's had a copy on the shelf - not so burried treasure! So I bought a copy, and read it.

And read it.

Not incomprehensible, not at all. The history lesson didn't tickle my fancy quite like mitten courtship rituals, and the detailed explanations of the gazillion different castons, heels, arches, legs, cuffs - really hurt my brain, but I'm definitely going to tackle something in the book - some day. Right now, I think I'll stick to the Caspian Sea Socks, where the instructions are written out line by line, and I can practice many of the techniques needed for a good go at one of the many socks in Ethnic Socks and Stockings, which seem to require a good grasp of Eastern sock construction, because while the charts look doable, the written instructions are more like a recipe than an actual pattern - throw in a Iranian cast-on, use a waste yarn heel - sort of.

Anyway, so I cast on the Caspian Sea Socks right?

Nope, I cast on a tam.

Huh? In my quest for the perfect ethnic slipper/sock at Rosie's on Saturday, Bridget came into the shop, and mentioned her finished Fair Isle Tam. I asked her if she could recommend a good Tam book, and she told me this one. Rosie's had one copy, and I got completely sucked in by the pretty pictures. Huh, wouldn't it be nice to have a tam that matches my mittens? Yes it would!

So, I cast on a tam, here's a blurry picture:

I used the same corrugated rib that's on the mitten, and the body is the pattern that is on the palm. I'm not sure about the wheel yet - I think I'm just going to do something from the book - I'm not sure if the swirlies from the mitten will do well in a decreasing pie wedge, but I may chart it out, and consider it.

And mukluk fever? It's calmed down. Although I did check the vendor outside Anthropology at the corner of 18th and Walnut to see if perhaps she had imported mukluks among her ethnic knitted goodies, but no soap. I'll just have to knit them . . . maybe next.