Monday, March 31, 2008

An Apology

Yesterday I posted about my opinion of some yarn that was donated to the seniors' charity group with which I work. It was donated to Operation Gratitude, and it was then passed along to us for the making of hats and scarves for the troops.

I have inadvertently caused trouble to the OG contact in my group, and upset and dismay to the Operation Gratitude people themselves. I have been reminded that a group such as OG is given many items by generous companies, and it is their job to find a use for the bounty.

I cannot at this point do more than apologize for my post. I have deleted that portion of my post, and I have posted a response to the OG person who commented and to Operation Gratitude at their website. I have a net readership amounting to about a dozen, and I did not think that my opinion would cause these problems.

I am sorry for my thoughtlessness.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mission Possible - Not Much Progress

Hmm. Not much progress for Mission Possible 2008 . I've only done #8, my beautiful green Wool Peddler's Shawl; started #7, DH's entrelac vest; and almost kept up with #12 (February item was knit on March 1). I do have a total of 6 charity hats and 3 charity scarves done so far. I cast on and tried knitting the Urchin hat with the Woolspun (#10), and frogged the first attempt; note to others - short rows with a thick/thin/floofy yarn is no picnic. I'll give it another try later.

  1. Seam and finish Ribby Cardi (from early 2007)
  2. Finish and seam Something Red cardi
  3. Finish and gift Ribwarmer vests to Rita and Anna (this is an Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern, found in her Knitting Workshop book) (spring 2007)
  4. Finish Keri Mac socks (test-knitting pattern)
  5. Finish Jaywalker socks (UFO from 2006 Knitting Olympics)
  6. Finish Dayflower Lace shawl (2007)
  7. Knit DH entrelac vest with SWS, Natural Slate - first entrelac project STARTED
  8. Knit shawl with Lonesome Stone alpaca DONE
  9. Knit Odessa hat
  10. Knit Urchin hat - pink LB Woolspun - use this old stash up, and give to charity
  11. Knit Wisp or Branching out, or other smallish scarf in laceweight - first laceweight project
  12. Knit or crochet (finish) at least one project, minimum a hat, for charity each month KEEPING UP

As I posted earlier, I frogged several long-term UFOs, mostly charity items: a baby blanket, a lapghan (lap-sized afghan), a scarf, a shawl, and a kids' toy. And I frogged one new WIP, another charity scarf. All of this is gone from stash. I've knitted 2344 yards from stash and 1576 yards from yarn purpose-bought for the project, a total of 3920 yards.

I have 5 new WIPs in progress, four from stash and one from a gift yarn. So - I'm feeling pretty good about the Stash Knit-Down, in spite of the MP2008 goals yet to be met.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Had Fun, Too!

My Fridays are full of fun and knitting. Besides my seniors' group which meets in the early afternoon, there's a small group of friends who meet Friday evenings at our LYS, Unwind. Last week was a birthday for Debbie S, and there's only one picture, since we all forgot to bring cameras. I slid into the background on this one.

So I thought I'd include some views of another birthday we had earlier in the year, that of Mary Ellen. We somehow started this odd tradition of having to have our birthday pictures taken wearing these incredibly dorky glasses.

In no particular order, then, here's Debbie A, enjoying some of our snacks,

Patti carefully focussed on her big baby blanket,

another view of Patti, this time with Kris in the background at the ball winder,

and Debbie S again, concentrating on a tricky pattern bit.

As you can see, the shop is open and airy, and full of yarny temptations.

Ah, yes. Snacks do include wine, and usually champagne on birthdays. Plus chocolate, chips and cheese. All the necessary ingredients for a fun evening with knittery friends.

Busy Week for New Projects

I signed up for the Mystic Light Shawl, a mystery KAL that is now closed, and I've actually started on it in the first week of the KAL. Since I'm doing this one with the recommended fingering weight, it's moving right along, though I frogged the start twice last night. Once was a beginning screw-up, the other was to add a border stitch on each side, so I can do a slip-stitch edging. The top edge of this shawl is a 4-st cable, and I didn't like the large loops I was getting with that first stitch. I can tweak the slipped stitch to get it tighter, and it seems to be folding under the cable nicely. This is through Row 13 of the charts. The yarn is Elann's Baby Cashmere, in Starlight Blue, which name seemed appropriate to the shawl name.

I'm also 75% done with a scarf for my seniors' group; I started this on Saturday. This is from 2 skeins (190yds) of lovely alpaca that was donated to us. The pattern is Smariek's easy Georgiana pattern.

And I finished the scarf I made to go with the Binary Hat for A4A. This took about 1.5 skeins of the darker yarn and a bit of leftover in the lighter shade. This is Nashua's Creative Focus Worsted, and I really like knitting with it - soft, a bit fuzzy but not at all splitty. The spin of the yarn gives this mistake rib pattern some nice variation in the knit stitches - subtle but not boring.

I finally scored a skein of Posh Yarn!! I 'met' Dee via Ravelry, when I was looking at yarns used for the Wool Peddler's Shawl. She's quite nice, and is a wonderful knitter; see her lovely projects at Ravelry, where she's known as PoshDee. The new yarn is offered on Sundays and the sales fly, so you've got to be quick on the 'buy' button, at 10am sharp Pacific Time - which is 6pm Greenwich Time. This is Lucia, 70% merino/30% cashmere, with 430yds in the 100g skein. The colorway is Royalty, but Posh doesn't repeat colors exactly, so you can't get quite this same yummy color. The deep reddish-purple is wonderfully saturated. I expect this will become a shawl of some sort.

I had a bad case of start-itis this week, so I did some playing around with ideas. I've settled on some Crystal Palace Waikiki in bright tropical colors for the Montego Bay scarf; I picked up 3 skeins of this at Marie's garage sale last fall. And I fiddled around with variations on the Chevron Scarf, finally choosing a Peacock Plume pattern that's part of a bolero pattern at Elann, since the simple feather and fan pattern as written in the Last-Minute Knitted Gifts book is boring. But neither of these are further than a row or two, and I found my start-itis was satisfied with the setup work.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Liberating Yarn from the UFO Archives

A few weeks ago I started a charity scarf with Lion Brand's Jiffy yarn, just about the only acrylic yarn I hadn't already sworn off using, making a narrower version of the Palindrome reversible cable pattern. I got nearly to the end of the first skein and stalled, fretting about how short it was going to be with just the 2 skeins I had in stash. So it sat for a while, and I checked out the local Michael's for another skein, with no luck; then more time passed and I finally stopped in at JoAnn's and found another skein. This is no-dyelot stuff, so I wasn't too worried about matching colors. So that Friday I picked up the scarf while at my seniors' group, and discovered that I had come to hate working with the yarn. It squeaks on the needles! Yechhh! I've since hauled it out twice at my group's afternoon meeting, knitted a few rows, and promptly switched to my always-one-there baby hat.

Saturday morning I decided I have had it with even Jiffy yarn. I hauled out the charity yarn bins and dug out the UFO piles. I frogged and wound into balls, and then frogged and wound some more. I got rid of quite a few projects that have been faintly nagging at my conscience to be finished 'one of these days':
  • A pale yellow Red Heart Baby blanket, stalled out at a few rows past the 400+ stitch circumference where the border begins (3 years old)
  • A Homespun pillow meant to look like a lamb. I REALLY hate Homespun! (3-4 years old)
  • A partially-finished pair of crocheted leggings for a friend who long ago gave up on getting them. (2 years ago)
  • A diagonal crocheted box-stitch multi-colored striped afghan, with about 8 different colors of RH and no-name acrylics. These skeins went into a separate bag; it's now an afghan 'kit'. (BTW, for the crocheters in my tiny readership, this is a fun and fast pattern.) (2 years old)
  • The beginnings of a scarf and a shawl, both for charity and from the same chunky blue-grey acrylic, of which we got 20 skeins. (last fall)
  • The said Palindrome scarf and all the other skeins of Jiffy in my house.
So I have 4 big bags of yarn to take to my group on Friday. And my 'charity yarn' bin (just one bin!) has alpaca, wool and wool blends in it, plus a bit of Simply Soft and acrylic/nylon baby yarns. Our group does get donations of nicer-fiber yarn from time to time, and two or three of us always snag it to make shawls or scarves from. We started doing this after one of our older ladies was going to double-strand some sportweight wool with a Red Heart-type baby yarn to get the worsted/chunky gauge she was used to. We intervened to save the lovely wool!

OK, feel free to call me a yarn snob. All together now:
You're a Yarn Snob!!
Acrylics do have all sorts of uses in the knitting and crochet world, especially for nursing homes and hospices. My seniors' group support those and other places where a machine wash-and-dry yarn is a necessity. I've just decided not to spend my knitting time using them. The items I'm going to knit from now on will be fundraisers at our charity boutique, and the money we raise from their sale will go to charities that don't need our handmade items. Our group just gave $500 from last fall's boutique sales to a local group that serves Easter dinner to the needy.

The pictures are two projects that came from the non-acrylic yarns. There's a Comfort Shawl I knitted from the Knitting Daily pattern in a mid-blue mohair/acrylic blend and the so-talented Gaye's shawl - the Sun Ray pattern from Shui Kuen Kozinsky at Elann - in a glorious alpaca.

And BTW? If the Sun Ray shawl isn't already sold to one of our members (the Comfort Shawl went to a fundraiser a friend's group was having last fall), you can buy it - the price should be around $25US. Yeah - *that* cheap!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Eyecandy

We are so fortunate to live in SoCal. Yes, we 'pay' in terms of horrendous traffic jams, hour-plus commutes over just 11 miles one-way, smog, and all the other problems of living in a huge metropolitan area. But Burbank has much in common with a small city (pop. 100,000) and Spring is joyful for me, even if our flowers don't have to push their way through snow and cold. So today I'd like to share the bounty with you. Click on the pictures for a larger view.

The first roses are blooming: Diana, Princess of Wales with her pale peachy-pink that will add yellow tones later, and First Prize, the deep pink that makes blooms 4-5in across.

In our arbor, just outside my office window, the cyclamen are blooming again, and have produced some tiny new plants; you can see one just at the edge of the top plant. The deep purple oxalis is spreading, and the wisteria is adding its lovely grape-jelly smell. Last summer some of the dad-dratted squirrels took a fancy to the bark, and we lost several large branches to their gnawing. We've sprayed the remaining branches with cayenne pepper as advised, and I'm hoping that this year's growth will fill in the gaps (blooms on 'old' wood).

Elsewhere in the yard, our newly-pruned lime tree has the last of the old crop, thumb-sized new fruit, and cascades of tiny white flowers, all at the same time, promising another huge crop, spread over several months. Our 'peppermint' camellia is blooming, for the first time in over 10 years; it has always had lots of buds, but they have all dropped without opening. Finally we seem to have found the combination of water and food to suit it. Our other two camellias exist entirely on their own on the north side of the house in the few feet to the lot line fence, unwatered and unfed, growing higher than the eaves, and producing dozens of deep and light pink flowers. The neighbors enjoy the colors more than we do, since they have a better view.

The front yard is finally looking much better. The gazanias we planted last fall are thriving and showing off their lovely cheerful yellows and deep oranges. Gazanias are evergreen, and when they've spread make a lovely and drought-tolerant substitute for a lawn. Last Saturday we replanted the hanging baskets by the back porch, and they're popping with lavenders, white and sunny yellows.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Into the Frog Pond

AAARRRGGHHH! The Sea & Shells stole is destined for a complete remake via the Frog Pond. I'm in the middle of the 7th repeat, and thought I'd check the remaining yarn. So - 100g total in the skein, currently 60g on the ball. Huh??? What you're seeing here ('scuse the sunlight blur at the bottom) is approximately 13in, which I'm guessing would block out to 16-17in.

This obviously required a re-reading of the yarn requirements. OOPS! The pattern as written calls for 100g of laceweight yarn, which, at least in Posh Yarn, the source of the pattern, has approximately 650yds per 100g. Sea Silk is light fingering weight yarn, with 437yds per 100g. The other Ravelry knitters who have finished this shawl in Sea Silk have used TWO skeins. None of them have listed the final dimensions of their shawls; it's really annoying when Ravelers don't include this information.

Gee, golly, gosh, shucky darn!!!! (my teenage swear) How the h**l did I screw up something so basic? California dreamin', I guess.

So - I'm currently knitting 3 horizontal repeats of the Print o' the Wave pattern. I'm going to try this again, with only 2 horizontal repeats. That will reduce the yarn requirements per inch of length. This will still probably be only a scarf, not a stole, but the yarn and the pattern are a terrific combination.

The good: the pattern is much easier to follow after 7 repeats; I've only had to tink back part of rows here and there, and less often than before.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Around the House

There's limited knitting content to show off, though the Sea & Shells stole has grown - slowly - through the fifth repeat of the pattern. My best day's work was one full 12-row repeat. I stopped at that point, dubious about pushing my luck. It IS beautiful! For easy knitting, I'm working on a mistake-rib scarf in the same two shades of green as the "Binary" hat I finished a week or so ago.

Spring has definitely sprung here, and I'm feeling the joy in the new plant life. Our freesias have spread a bit, and they are among my favorite flowers, with their refreshing scent. Our New Zealand tea tree is bursting with deep pink flowers, and our first alstromeria blossoms emerged. So I have a couple of little bouquets to admire; the little one is from all the freesias with really short stems.

Our 'office' is in the old dining room, with a lovely bay window, where part of my collection of African violets thrive. I look out onto the street and the football field across the way, with the far view of the Verdugo Mountains. On the other side of the room is our arbor, of which you've seen some photos when it's fully in bloom. Right now, the wisteria is just starting to leaf out, and the very first blooms are hanging over the wall, so it's not much to look at. But we have an unexpected second blooming of our "Christmas" cactuses to add even more visual color.

I've become the blocking volunteer at my seniors' group. You saw the gorgeous alpaca shawl that one of the group knitted last year, in Shui Kuen's Sun Ray shawl pattern. Last week she knitted the Simple Yet Effective Shawl, and I blocked it for her. Another of the ladies made a lovely, soft wool cabled scarf (her first cables!) for her son's Christmas gift. I offered to block it for her, but sadly, she took it to the dry cleaners for blocking; she'd been told they did a good job. Hah! They *pressed* it! So I've promised to try to restore the spring in the cables. I just hope it hasn't been permanently squashed.

We've moved some things around in our family room, and my Knitting Bear (carries a little tote that says 'Knitting is my Bag' and came complete with reading glasses, lol!) has come to rest for a while in the wing chair, which Midnight thinks is her chair. First she sat for a while in her queenly 'Elegant Pawsitude' pose, glaring at me, then circled around to let her rear clearly express her intention to ignore the intruder.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

SLOW Progress

I'm working on the Sea & Shells Stole, but this is going very slowly. The central pattern is exactly the same as Eunny Jang's Print o' the Wave, just fewer repeats across, and it's not really a complicated pattern. But the partial motifs on the sides of the main pattern take a different # of stitches for each row, so I'm having to knit nearly stitch by stitch. And there have been lots of time in the Frog Pond. You know, knit a row, purl back, knit a row, tink the last one.

The yarn is working out even more beautifully than I had hoped. There's pooling, I suppose, but the colors change so subtly that it isn't something that bothers me. The colors are somewhere between these two photos, one without flash, the other with.

I keep being very tempted, particularly by the gorgeous edging of Eunny's pattern, to frog the whole thing and use that, just with 3 repeats across. Sea & Shell has no edging to be added afterward, just a border of the Razor Shell pattern (this is the best close-up picture I could find). But all the knitters who have finished Eunny's pattern have used 2+ skeins of Sea Silk, and some have commented that the edging can take nearly a skein. Sigh. Another time, perhaps.

I thought I'd show off our newly-washed Midnight. Saturday was a very stressful day for her, and I seemed to be nearly as wet by the time we were done, lol! But Miss Elegant Pawsitude has become a very, very 'lazy groomer', as the vet called it, and she was really dirty. After a suitable amount of Greenies and bonita flakes for treats, she consented to forgive me by the next day. She seems to be putting in a lot of extra effort to keep up her 16-18 hours/day sleeping routine.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Hats and More Hats

I mentioned in my last post that I hadn't met my Mission Possible 2008 goal of finishing a charity item each month. In reaction, this has been Hat Week; I've finished 4. Gotta love the fast gratification!! I made 2 versions of the extremely popular Binary Cables Hat (#1 at Ravelry right now), another Binary Hat from a different pattern, and the 'Toddler' version of the Republic Hat.

The Republic Hat may have been made from the 'Toddler' version, but that's written for worsted rather than chunky/bulky yarn, and although it's a bit shallow, it is 19in in circumference, plenty big enough for me (and Edith Head, lol). I used bits and pieces for this, starting out with the band using some Dale Free Style in white and a bit of teal acrylic mohair I had. Then I realized I didn't have enough Free Style and switched to Patons Classic in a nearly-white, along with some authentic mohair, for the rest of the hat. The pattern calls for a really big button, but all I had were two small ones.

I made the first version of the Binary Cables Hat with Nashua Creative Focus Worsted, following the pattern, and I found it to be a bit shallow, too. I really like the yarn, though for a rather-basic yarn it's a bit pricey (at least at my LYS; MSRP is $8) compared to say, Patons Classic. Since this was TV knitting, I found that putting a marker every 28 stitches (total is 112), really helped to make sure I had all the cables in the right place; the cable rows are generally written for 4 repeats .

Since both of these are for A4A or Dulaan, I realized I needed one for my seniors' group, which sends a lot of hats to Operation Gratitude for the troops. So I pulled out some Caron's Simply Soft in Dark Country Blue and made another Binary Cables hat. For this one, I added 4 rows before starting the pattern as written, just to add a bit of depth, and it worked very well. Simply Soft is a nice acrylic, not scratchy or squeaky on the needles, with a bit of a silky feel.

And yesterday I finished a different sort of Binary Hat, this one supposedly 'spelling out' "hat" in Binary. Regardless, it's a nice easy stockinette hat, and the stripes are narrow enough that I was able to strand the color changes, and the 'jogs' are nearly invisible. Love it! This is also done in Creative Focus, in two shades of green.

And I finally decided on a pattern for my lovely Sea Silk gift yarn. I don't have enough in the one skein for Eunny Jang's lovely Print o' the Wave stole, but I found this variation at the Posh Yarn website, Sea & Shells, via Ravelry. At the moment there are only 6 or 7 rows, so showing it to you is going to present a narrow band of pretty much nothing. But the pattern is pretty straight-forward and I have great hopes for success. The Sea Silk is, IMO, a very fine version of fingering weight yarn, so this is another step in my plan to 'work down' to laceweight. Cross your fingers for me!

Off the topic of knitting, I wanted to pass along a recommendation for a couple of books. Among the many that I've read in the last couple of weeks is 'The Other Boleyn Girl', a novel by Philippa Gregory. The movie is recently out, starring Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. I found the premise quite interesting, and apparently Ms Gregory is one of the first to explore the part that Mary Boleyn played in Henry VIII's love life. Having several biographies about Henry VIII, I found myself digging into them to get another perspective. Note that, in all of the other books I have, Mary Boleyn gets barely a sentence or two, in spite of the fact that she was Henry's mistress for 2 or 3 years. Alison Weir has written several books about this period, and I find that her writing style is very easy to read and seemingly well-balanced; she's quite meticulous about noting those conclusions that are suppositions rather than based on documentary evidence. I just finished her 'The Children of Henry VIII', which stops at Queen Mary's death.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Knit, Knit, Knit. Read, Read, Read.

In spite of having read about 2 dozen books in the last couple of weeks - fantasy from Mercedes Lackey, cozy mysteries from Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie Brown, 3 Torchwood novels, etc. - I have *lots* of fun knittery projects to share.

In terms of Finished Objects, the pretty Leaf Lace Shawl (Evelyn Clark, Fiber Trends) that was part of my Chinese New Year greetings has been finished and blocked. With 3 skeins of Hacho yarn from Mirasol (411 yds), this blocked out to a nice shoulder shawl, 58in x 28in. I love the vibrant fuchsias and purples.

Plus I also finally blocked my pretty Misty Garden stole (from the Scarf Style book) that I finished late in January. This is a monster! I just wanted to open up the feather-and-fan pattern a bit, not really to stretch it any, but I found myself patting the strands back together just to keep it on my big blocking sheet - it's now a foot wide by 8 feet long!! This was knitted from one skein (480 yds) of Cherry Tree Hill's Sockittome! sock yarn, in a lovely mix of abalone shades.

And then a KAL reached out and yanked me in. My friend Joan started a KAL for the hugely popular Clapotis (klah poh tee) shawl from Knitty in 2004. I knitted one back then, in Schaefer's Laurel mercerized cotton, a nice springtime colorway of pinks, corals and greens. But it is *such* an easy knit, and so much fun to drop those stitches and run them down the rows. So I thought about it, browsed the CBM Yarn Shop as listed at Ravelry, but didn't find anything that just screamed to be this versatile stole. Then my special order of more yarn from Lonesome Stone Alpaca arrived, another huge skein, this time their 50/50 alpaca/merino blend, in their Hot Rod Red colorway, and it said, "Oh, yeah, I'm gonna be perfect!" Having only 500 yards of DK yarn, I had to hum and haw about how many repeats to include, but I guessed absolutely right - the leftover bit is the size of a walnut! I managed 5 repeats of the increase section and 12 of the straight section, on a US7 needle. Unblocked, just sort of straightened out, it's approximately 60in x 13in. I think I may steam it, just to uncurl the corners, but I don't want to flatten out the pretty ripples.

This flew off my needles, though I admit to a rather late night last night - it was so much fun to work through the decreases! And it was great knitting while watching Captain Jack's debut on Doctor Who, from Season One. (I'm a huge Torchwood fan, and regardless of Jack's orientation, he *is* great eye candy!! Snicker!)

The UFO's are moving along. I've nearly finished the left front of DH's entrelac vest, though it seems a bit short. If I can get his attention long enough, I'll be able to check it out on him. I do like the way the greys are working out, though I did decide to interchange 2 different skeins, just to avoid really large pools of light or darks.

Having finished the Misty Garden scarf, my chat-and-knit project, I started another easy but relatively interesting scarf. This is a fun, zig zag scarf pattern from Cindy Guggemos, aka Baxterknits, an online friend from the Knitting Forum. It doesn't seem to be available on her blog any longer, though she has lots of other lovely projects both free and for purchase. Last year, she authored a sock-knitting book for Leisure Arts, and there's a new kids' knits book out now. I'm using KnitPicks' Gloss yarn in Burgundy, though I have to say that I find the color is muddy, not as clear or vibrant as I thought from the skein.

My charity project for February did not, sadly, get done; the '8 rows and cable' pattern (Palindrome scarf) is just incredibly boring, and compared to Paton's SWS soysilk-wool or the merino and alpacas I've been working on for DH and me, the Lion Brand Jiffy is just squeaky-icky, even if it is better than Red Heart acrylic. So I'm pondering if my Mission Possible promise to knit a charity project a month is met by the 3 projects I made in January. Moving on. There'll be 12 for the year, at least.

A kind and generous friend sent me a fabulous gift last week: a skein of Sea Silk from Handmaiden yarns. Oh, yum! I'm wondering what project will be right for the lovely fiber and the perfect colors - greens, blues and lavenders. It makes me think of those pictures on TV of tropic waters, just a foot or so under the surface, with the sunlight shining through. Thanks, Joan!

Speaking of gifts, I wanted to show off the best gift my mother ever made me. Back in the 80s when I was living in Denver, she asked what I'd like for Christmas, and I asked for an afghan. This was the result. It was made from a Herrschners kit, so it's an acrylic yarn in a sport weight, and it is in Mom's favorite pineapples motif, with a pretty little ruffled edge. It's a full-sized throw, probably 40in x 60in, and considering the wear it's had over the years, it's in great shape. Oddly, nearly every cat we've had has been very partial to this throw. I just wish more of Mom's lovely crochet work had survived, but she didn't keep many things. Thanks, Mom.

And, just to round off a long and photo-filled post, here's a shot of dear Midnight, having a nice stretch before heading off to check her food bowl.