Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I haven't forgotten that I promised you lace photos. I even took them last night, but we didn't upload them until tonight. Without further ado, I give you lace.

Here's the progress on the center panel:

5 more repeats in the fountain lace, and this side will be done. I can't believe how quickly it's going, especially considering how little time I've had for knitting in the past couple of weeks.

Then, a close up of the fountain lace. I love the lines on this one; I can't wait to see how it works next to the swag lace, now that they'll both be pointing in the same direction.

The horseshoe pattern:

I love the way the colors vary ever so slightly in the lace pattern. It shows up really nicely in the horseshoe pattern, because it's so solid.

And then, the one part I don't like so far. The join:

Do you see the jog in the center pattern? I charted, counted, recounted, and worked this join 4 or 5 times. I thought I was happy with it, and then about 3 repeats later I looked back and realized that I had decreased one too many stitches in the transition row and the center repeat of the pattern was off center by a stitch. Branden spent some time earnestly trying to find the problem and couldn't, so I think I'm just going to leave it. It's glaringly obvious to me, but I think it will look better after blocking. Maybe. Or maybe the obsessive-compulsive part of me will just have to realize that it's not that big a deal. If someone who knows there's an error can't find it, it's probably ok. Of course, the anal part of me is really good at insisting that it's not ok unless it's perfect...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Putting on a little weight

Yarn weight, that is...I'm actually losing the other kind (it's about time, too!).

The Fiber Gallery is my favorite LYS. They had a sale. Things were 40% off. Need I say more? I think not. On to pictures:

My 10 year old sister needs a birthday sweater. Manos cotton was one of the 40% off items. Have you ever held one of those big sets of 5 hanks? Very soft. I did not buy any for me...I was at least a little bit good.

Aren't the colors pretty? I'm thinking a simple stockinette raglan with a deep border in green and pink colorwork flowers. It will be really nice to have a quick sweater after Branden's, even if her arms are almost as long as mine already!

Then there was this. Originally, this was fated to be Hannah's sweater. Then we realized that they had enough for matching sweaters; one for me, one for her. I'm not sure I want to do two sweaters in a row in the same yarn, though. After we'd decided that I'd make just one, I realized that this was just Cascade 220, and not the superwash kind. My mom is not big on hand washing knitted things, and so that eliminated this as a Hannah sweater. Which meant it became a me sweater.

It's funny. All of my life I have been a blues and greens person that wouldn't be caught dead in pink or purple. And now all of a sudden the reds and purples are just impossible to pass up. Wonder why? Maybe there are just a lot of gorgeous colors out there right now?

I did have a few moments of weakness over some very blue Manos sockweight. There were only 3 skeins; not quite enough for much other than socks. But it was a really incredible electric blue. And almost half price! And then I looked at the yarn in the basket, thought about knitting time, and how hard it would be to match it, and the Manos went back. (It also helped that I have a whole list of sockweights that I really want to buy from The Woolen Rabbit that I'm not allowing myself to buy until all sock yarn in my stash is gone.)

And then, finally, I returned to my more natural colors. I love this set. All Cascade 220, and destined to be colorwork. I can't wait! I was thinking of doing this sweater in a slightly finer yarn, but these colors spoke to me, and fingering weight colorwork might be a bit much for a quick project that I want to have done by fall.

You can see the colors a bit better in this one, but Branden arranged the first picture so artfully that I had to include it.

So, those are the newest additions to my list of things to knit. Really, all of them were more or less planned; I knew I needed to make some more "me" sweaters. I'm going to be teaching for real in the fall, and as the actual instructor something more than jeans and a fleece is probably required. Also, the second of my favorite sweaters has begun to fray at the cuffs. I am so horribly sad about that; I have had these two wool sweaters for almost 8 years now (and they came to me second hand), and I absolutely love them. They have definitely done their job well, and held up longer than I could reasonably have expected, but that doesn't stop me from wishing they'd last forever. The first began to fall apart last year and has continued apace. It's still ok for around the house (or at least I tell myself it is, and Branden and the cats are too polite to say anything), but it's getting beyond the point where I'd wear it to lab/work. And now the second one is giving out, too. I will be very sad to see these two go; they're the only elements of my wardrobe that have stayed constant for so long. But, it does give me a reason to spend some good quality time with the needles before the fall, so I guess there's some good in there, too. And look at that yarn! I can't wait for the colorwork!

The background knitting

In all of the excitement of a new lace project, I keep forgetting to post about the sweater progress. I discovered with Irtfa'a that I like to have one complicated pattern that requires thought and one mindless pattern for in-between knitting on the needles. My aunt's stole (which really needs a name...I'll have to get on that) is the current challenge project, and the hybrid sweater is the soothing project. Despite lack of blog appearances, it is making quite good progress:

I have about 14 inches of 25 done on the body, so it's coming along nicely. I'm liking the front cable section a lot, and stockinette in the round is great for blog reading.

There has been lace progress also, but I haven't pinned it out for photos yet. Hopefully I'll find time and light to get that done in the next few days. Hope you all had a good weekend!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

False alarm

Turns out it wasn't the YH at the airport on Sunday (Branden had to check for me...wouldn't want to be inaccurate on the blog). She was, however, at the bookstore in Bothell last night, and we got to meet her. It was a lot of fun, though I kinda wish I had been closer to the end of the line so that there wasn't so much pressure to move on when we finally got to the signing table. When you're at the middle, you really do need to keep your 30 seconds to 30 seconds, in the name of peace and amiability. I don't know how she managed to talk to that many people and find something to say...I guess that's where the introvert in me just shudders and is glad I don't write funny knitting books.

There were a lot of people at the signing. It was funny...the talk was in a food court sort of area in the mall, and there were non-knitters around just kinda looking at the people with needles and wondering. Every once in a while someone would walk in unaware, and it was pretty amusing to watch them take stock, shake their head in disbelief, and keep walking. The people in the bookstore looked even more stunned when the whole place was suddenly full of people with pointy sticks. They must have been warned, but apparently were not aware of the power of yarn. They are now aware. We forgot to bring the camera (I know, I know), so I'm afraid that I have no evidence for the size of the crowd, but it was large.

I'm not sure what would have been funnier; actually seeing the YH at the airport and going over to talk, or mistaking someone for her and going over to talk. It would have been funny either way. But then, it might offend a random stranger if you asked if they were The Harlot...

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I had to pick Branden up at the airport today. He's back now, which hopefully means that work will now stay at work and I will get my knitting time back. (I'm lucky that having my husband home means that I get to knit more.)

But anyway. I was circling around the airport because I missed the cell phone waiting lot, and I do believe that I sighted the Yarn Harlot waiting to be picked up. There was no convenient way to stop, and I really wouldn't want her to feel like she can't go anywhere without being seen (even though it's probably true...knitters are everywhere). I didn't confirm that it was actually her. There is a book signing in Bothell tomorrow night, though, so the timing is right. I think it's funny that I should have been able to pick someone I've never met out of a crowd I wasn't intentionally scanning while driving around the airport waiting for my husband whose plane hadn't landed yet. Goes to show just how good I am at keeping my eyes on the road, I guess...

Be that as it may, I do believe that the YH has been sighted in Seattle!


It's amazing what a little knitting time can do for a project.

I've finished one of the swag lace sections, and am halfway through the second, so I should be able to start the center section tonight. I'm really surprised at how fast this is going; I did a lot of errands and things around the house yesterday, and I'm still further along than I'd expected. I love it when that happens!

Friday, April 18, 2008

a little project

It snowed today. I'm from Boston, and snow is common in the winter. Snow in April is pretty unusual, though. It might be on the ground, but it's not falling out of the sky. Snow in April in Seattle is just wrong. We don't get snow here in January; I don't see why spring decided to beat a fast retreat today, especially as it was over 70 last Saturday. Fortunately, the abrupt change of weather doesn't appear to have killed the garden I planted 2 weeks ago and that is starting to push up tender little leaves into the suddenly frozen air (and I thought I was starting late in the season!). It's now tucked in under trash bags, and I'm hoping that it survives the night. It's too bad wool is so heavy; it would be so nice to be able to wrap my little plants up in sweaters to keep them cozy warm!

I realized a few days ago that the only knitting I'd get done this week would be on the bus. I normally don't knit on the bus because my ride isn't very long, and I am usually just getting going when it's time to stop. So, I needed something small. I mentioned a while ago that I'd bought yarn to make socks for Branden's co-workers' two little girls. Four year olds have small feet, so ankle socks definitely qualify as a small project:

I was originally going to use these as the project to try the sock-inside-sock method from knitty. I even cast on both pair of socks and started double knitting them. I'm not sure if it's the yarn or just the method, but I wasn't really interested in a challenge project for the bus ride. Really, the method is very simple as long as you're only knitting straight, with no increases, decreases, or patterns. I don't know if it's this yarn or just me not being used to the double knitting, but I didn't like the way the fabric was turning out, and my yarn seemed a little too prone to tangle for travel. All of this, of course, means that I gave up on the double knitting method for now, and just made the darned socks (well, they're not darned yet, but you know what I mean...).

I did stick with the original plan as far as the heel goes. Or rather, the lack of heel. I have always done short row heels. They're just the most intuitive to me, and I've always stuck with them. Since I like each project to have something a little new (and because I was planning to double-knit these), I decided to do an afterthought heel. So, when the sister pair is knit I will be attempting an afterthought heel, which will be my first foray into cutting my knitting open. Hopefully I didn't choose an awful yarn for that; this is Tofutsies Chitin yarn, which is a little more slippery than wool. I guess I'll find out when I try it. (The other advantage of socks you can knit in 15 minute chunks in a don't mind so much if you destroy them...).

I'm hoping to make some lace/sweater progress over the weekend, so maybe I'll have something a bit more substantial to share soon.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

In which I fall back into bad habits

Branden is out of town this week. The robotics team made nationals, so I dropped him off at the airport at 2:30 am yesterday (blech!) for his flight to Atlanta. This leaves me home alone with the cats. And a stack of books that need to be read for work. And a faculty webpage bio for my teaching fellowship that needs to be written. (It is very odd to me that I will have a faculty webpage next year. I guess it had to happen sometime...) And an exam to proofread before proctoring tomorrow.

Usually, I am very good about putting work on hold in the evenings. I work long days, but my nights are home time, and I very seldom intrude on time-with-husband-and-knitting, unless it's just absolutely necessary. When Branden is gone, however, my work-a-holic self pops right back into action, and things get brought home. This isn't very good for knitting, I'm afraid. I did knit 4 rows of lace last night, but that was about it, and 4 rows of lace doesn't get you very far. I have a tiny little side project to show you, but Branden took the camera with him and I don't know where the other one lives in the new apartment yet. I could go digging around in his office, but I think I'm going to take the next half hour and knit before bed. So, sorry, but not much to show tonight. I did have a really good rant going in my head earlier about a talk I went to today, but I've had a couple of hours to cool off now, and I don't feel quite as rant-y. More tired and want to knit-y. I will have to see if I can find that silly camera so that I have something to talk about tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Last post: decide to design my own pattern for my aunt's stole
Tonight: find what could have been the perfect pattern.

Humph. I think it's too late now. The stole is cast on, and the lace has spoken. BadCat's pattern is very much like what I was looking for, but I think I'm already committed. It's not like me to use a pattern, and it's even less like me to stop designing in favor of someone else's pattern once I've started. That didn't stop me from heading straight over to Ravelry and buying it. Some patterns are ones that you think about and plan for and hunt for the perfect yarn to match (Susan's Arabian nights is an example...have you seen her Iris pattern, by the way? It's looking lovely already...). Some you just go and buy without a clear end in mind (the honeybee was one of those). I wonder what makes the difference?

I usually love the process of waiting for a pattern and a yarn. The planning is actually one of my favorite parts of a project. I'd rather think about it for a month or so before buying anything than to go out and find something right away. The steeping is part of the joy. I think that's why I like big projects; they give me time to enjoy the process, and as I begin to get bored I can start to think about the next. Something that only takes a week to knit is a bit jarring. It's done before I have time to decide what's next, and then I have nothing to knit while I ponder. I prefer things that unfold slowly, gracefully, blooming in the fullness of time (isn't that a beautiful phrase?). It's like a strain of music that fades slowly away, or a taste that lingers on your tongue. Slow pleasures, drawn out pleasures. Things that require your full presence and attention to appreciate. What's your favorite kind of knitting?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Why doesn't somebody...

Those three words get me into no end of trouble. Why doesn't somebody do something about _____ (fill in blank with your favorite thing that needs solving)?

There are two main ways to respond to this question.

1) Wonder why no one (else) does anything about it and move on
2) Do something about it yourself

I happen to be one of the people that (almost) always goes with the second option. As I said, this gets me into all kinds of trouble. You wouldn't believe how many problems present themselves to someone who is likely to solve them. Usually, they are things that no one really wants to do (order new printer cartridges for the office, take out the trash, pick up litter on the street...). Still, it always seems better to me to actually do something about the problem rather than stand back and complain while waiting for someone else to do it.

Sometimes, the thing that needs doing is more pleasant. For instance: Why hasn't someone made the perfect pattern for this yarn???

I have hunted high and low, in blogland and online, in pattern books and stitch dictionaries. Nothing is speaking to me. I could spend the rest of forever looking for a pattern that I like, that's just perfect. Or, I could just get over it, pick up some needles, and start playing around while I'm waiting.

On Saturday, I made a swatch.

I quite like it. It's assembled from three patterns in the Walker books, all of which are based on the same basic Shetland lace. Kind of a "variation on a theme" for knitting. No reason that classical musicians should have the corner market on those. I wanted something open and airy, with nice curvy shapes. The horseshoe lace caught my eye.

And then the fountain lace.

If I hadn't already been planning to buy it, I probably would have bought the last book in Walker's series for just the swag lace pattern.

The one thing I wasn't sure about in my swatch was the fact that the swag lace has the horseshoes pointing in a direction opposite to the other two patterns. The lines work ok, but I think I'd like it better with all of the horseshoe elements going the same way. I could probably reverse the pattern, but that seemed like a lot of work for something that could be solved with a little grafting. Knitting the swag lace separately and then grafting it on will also expose its scalloped edge, making a border unnecessary. I'd usually be a little hesitant about leaving a cast-on as the edge of a lace piece (preferring a knit-on border), but a little testing shows that my standard cast on has plenty of stretch to accomodate and stabilize the scallops.

On Saturday evening, I blocked the swatch.

So, that's what I was up to this weekend, besides going out and basking in the springtime sun that graced us on Saturday afternoon. I wasn't really sure that I wanted to design a lace piece, but nothing else was stepping forward as a good alternative, and I'm rather liking the way it's taking shape.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Warning: this might take a while...

Got all night? Lookee what I found:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm dyeing!

(And yes, the puns have been flying...)

I don't remember if I mentioned that I've been thinking about dyeing. I've been a little reluctant to start, because I have a lot of yarn in backstock already, and I don't want to give myself one more way to add to the stash faster than I can knit out of it. And yet, it's been kicking around in the back of my mind for quite some time. I work with dyes all the time at work (my lab grows dyed crystals, so I get to work and play with dyes at the same time), though crystals aren't nearly as fun as yarn.

I mentioned to Branden that I was thinking about dyeing a few months ago. He'd bought me a book on dyeing for Christmas, and I mentioned it again in early March. Next thing I knew, he'd gone out and gotten me a sock dyeing kit from Louet. It's very dangerous (and very nice) having my own live-in enabler.

I had a couple of things I wanted to finish up before I let myself play with my dye kit, so I resisted the urge to do it right away. And then we moved. I may have mentioned that we have a basement. I may also have mentioned that I'm thinking that our basement would make a great dye studio. I really don't need a dye studio. But if I did, our basement would be rather ideal.

Of course, one can't talk about dye studios when one has never actually dyed anything besides crystals in beakers. So last Saturday we broke out the Saran wrap and dyed.

Bare yarn got stripes of one color

Then another

After adding a background color, it was microwaved to within an inch of its life. The directions said to do this. It feels wrong to me to microwave my yarn. I think I will boil/steam in future. I don't know why that's any better, but somehow it is. Anyway, this yarn was microwaved until the plastic bags fused together.

I was interested to see how well the wool absorbed all of the dye from the water (I almost said solution...I am such a chemist). I was expecting there to be dye left in the water that squeezed out, but there wasn't any. There also wasn't any dye leakage when the skeins were washed. So, at least the microwave did its job well.

The skeins were dried overnight, washed, and dried again. Aren't the blues pretty?

Branden suggested on Sunday that he could do a guest post and say that "Erica dyed yesterday," but I was afraid that might be worrisome as it would have been the first post since the long absence of blogging. But yes, I am indeed dyeing. Now I just need to get knitting...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Waiting for inspiration

Just after the holidays, I sat down and thought about all the projects that I'd like to make this year. Not a "to do" list, but rather a "things to think about" list. One of these things is a stole. Well, two of them are stoles, actually. One for an aunt, and one for a friend. I have the yarn and pattern for the friend. She's a beekeeper, and therefore it clearly must be Anne's honeybee stole. It took a while to find the perfect yarn, but I did. I've been really looking forward to starting the pattern, but I wanted to get Branden's sweater underway before getting waylaid by lace.

Branden's sweater is now progressing quite nicely (post soon, I promise). Which means that it's time to get waylaid. But it's April already. What, you ask, does this have to do with anything? Well, I am supposed to be going to a conference in June in TN, and the aunt destined to receive a stole lives in TN quite close to the conference location. This means that I should probably knit her stole first so that I can have the satisfaction of presenting it in person rather than mailing it. (I won't be seeing Biz until next Christmas, so I have lots of time to finish hers.)

The problem? I've been looking since January, and I just haven't found the perfect thing yet. I will know it when I see it, but it has not yet appeared. I have looked at many, many stole patterns. I have made several trips to yarn shops, and websites. Nothing spoke to me.

About a month ago, Kris updated her shop. Included in the update were some really beautiful colors of Dream in Color Baby. I've never used the yarn before, but I've heard good things. I really liked a couple of the colors, but I wasn't sure if they were the right colors. Choosing a color is always tricky when knitting for someone else; it should be their color, and not yours that you choose. For some people, this is easy. For others, not so much. My aunt is apparently one of the not so much variety.

The DIC baby stuck in my mind. In particular, the gothic rose color. I absolutely love it. I think it is my aunt's color. So, last week I ordered some.

It arrived yesterday. It's just as gorgeous in person as it was online. Maybe better. It came with a little hand-written note, some tea, and a yarn sample, all tied up in curling ribbon. I would have put the ribbon in the picture, except that it instantly became the cat's new favorite toy and is now in less than perfect shape. A+ for repurposing, anyway.

I'm sorry the photos are dark. It appears to be the best that I can do on a drizzly weekday evening, and I didn't want to wait until the weekend.

You can tell how much I like the color based on how well it matches the brand new carpet we bought when we moved. Actually, that's the part it matches the least. The other colors of the carpet were too similar to make a good background.

So, now I have the yarn. I even have a project in mind, and a recipient. And I have no idea what pattern to use. I have searched the web. I have browsed Ravelry. I have poked around in knitting blogs. I have flipped through the Walker books. And still no perfect pattern.

One thing that all this searching has done is highlight for me just how unique Anne's patterns are. Most stoles seem to be designed along the lines of "start with a pretty lace, go until you think it's long enough, and then add a border." Sometimes, they go so far as to be "samplers" of patterns, separated by a row of plain stitching like blocks in a quilt. After Irtfa'a, I am afraid that I can't be content with that. Lace needs to have a theme, a selection of patterns that grow into one another and support one another. It needs to be a work of art, not simply a piece of lace. And yet none of Anne's patterns are telling me that this is their project. I also love Susan's designs, and really want to knit her Arabian Nights stole. I most likely will, if I ever manage to make progress on my current list of Things to Knit First. But it's not perfect for this project. For me, yes. For my aunt, no.

And so here I am, yarn in basket, waiting for inspiration to strike. I know there's a perfect pattern out there. I've thought about designing one, but I really don't know what it is that I want, and I'm a little short on time for a full design development, I think. (I know, the real designers out there could finish in much less time, but this is only my second major piece of lace, and even I have to acknowledge limits sometimes...)

Sometimes you know exactly what you want and have to hunt for the resources to make it become real. Sometimes all of the resources are in your hands begging to be made whole, and you can't quite catch the wind that will make them soar. And so I sit, waiting for the knitting muse to alight, wondering what it is that this yarn truly wants to become.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Not quite fallen off the face of the Earth

Sorry it's been forever. Well, I'm kinda sorry. I needed some quiet, introvert time after last quarter's craziness, and I'm afraid that avoiding people and all unneccessary commitments includes avoiding the blog. I didn't really mean to take a blog vacation, but I gave myself a "week off" when we moved, and was then surprised to encounter a fair bit of internal resistance to starting up again. It's not that I didn't want to talk to you...just that I wasn't really ready to. So, I didn't. This is very unlike me, but I did it anyway. And I must say it was nice to just take a break for a while. Lately, though, blog posts and titles have begun running through my head again, and I've been thinking that I should actually start posting again.

Last night, Branden tipped the guilt scale. He checks my blog stats every once in a while and reports to me on my current visitation status. Last night, I made a comment about needing to actually blog sometime soon, he said I've still been getting almost 5 hits a day! I haven't posted in weeks, and you're still coming! Well, I guess that means I had better get myself in order and post, no?

So, here I am. If you have come and were disappointed, I'm sorry, but the quality of my posts wouldn't have been that great, as my attention wasn't on blogging (or even knitting, really). We are all moved in, the cats have decided that all of the old rules (like stay off the table and no, you can't sleep in my yarn basket) no longer apply, and the house is beginning to get the piles of things in corners that means it's lived in. We've done quite well keeping it clean and open, but the edges are softening a bit, and it's no longer strictly a "new" apartment. I really like the pristine clean of a "new" apartment (I am a recovering neat freak...just ask my husband), but it's also nice to have it feel like home. It's especially nice not to feel like there's someone in the basement every time the furnace starts up in the middle of the night (it has a great sound for mimicking the opening and closing of doors, I must say). The garden is planted, which I'm sure you'll hear more about soon, and I almost know where everything is in the kitchen now! And yes, gardens and kitchens are generally the most reliable indicators of how things are in my house. The rest of the house can fall to pieces if it must, but having the garden and the kitchen in order is essential.

I have lots of knitting-related things to tell you, too, but I think I'm going to try to spread those out a bit, as I haven't had a whole lot of knitting time lately and I don't want to run out of material too soon after starting. So, for tonight, I am officially back, will try not to disappear again, and sincerely appreciate the fact that you all showed up, even while I was off being an introverted recluse. =)

See you soon!