Archive for the 'Casting on' Category

Please sir, I want some too

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Congratulations to Ellen and Alex on their great good fortune in getting such a swell little house to live in and to Alex for his acquisition of that fellowship!  I tell you, it couldn’t have happened to two nicer people.

Having said that, though, I confess to just a wee bit of jealousy.  I can’t help feeling that it’s about time a little bit of good luck fell to me, as well.  I kid you not, folks, it’s been a tough, tough winter.

Harvey and I looked at the other little house yesterday.  It’s a perfectly nice place, but somewhat bland.  I have a hard time picturing myself living there–carpeting everywhere but the kitchen and bath, square little rooms, square little house.  I didn’t find it very inspiring. 

Then we went back to the first little house this afternoon with the realtor and a contractor to get a rough idea of what it would cost to gut and remodel the kitchen and bath.  Um…quite a bit.  I left with a good deal of sticker shock.

Can you tell I’m having a pity party this evening?  Complete with domestic beer and ice cream.

It’s a good thing that I started yet another new knitting project.  That can always make one feel better–or at least as though, as bad as it may get, something may yet be accomplished.

baby blanket 

I decided, although I don’t know anyone who is currently pregnant with a baby girl nor anyone who has just had a baby girl, to start a very girly baby blanket. 

With mitered squares!

baby blanket 

Now, I’m not one of those people who thinks that mitered squares are attractive just anywhere.  Like, say, on a skirt.  But I do hold with a mitered square baby blanket.  It seems to go more quickly than your average baby blanket.  Each little square gives one such a sense of satisfaction!   (Particularly helpful at the pity party!)  Plus, it’s so easy to figure up just how much time making this baby blanket will take.  If every square takes about 45 minutes, and I’m going to need 48 squares, I will invest….

Thirty-six hours of my life in mitered squares. 

Plus whatever kind of cute little edging I devise at the end.

So, let’s say a nice round 40 hours.  If you paid yourself $10 an hour for your work, that would be a $400 baby blanket.  Even if you paid yourself only $5 an hour, it would be a $200 baby blanket.

Sheesh.  Give me another beer and some more ice cream, somebody.

Party on!

Moving on

Monday, May 7th, 2007

Here’s what I decided:

To knit this shawl,

shawl from Victorian Lace Today

out of my silver and gold laceweight mohair.

Here is my progress thus far:

Rumpelstiltskin 5-7-07 

Two and half repeats finished.  Out of thirty-two.  Plus the rather complex edging.  I think that’s a pretty good start, don’t you?  I can already tell that this shawl is going to be a gossamer, cobwebby froth, as feminine in its own way as the Handsome Triangle.

The book calls this shawl a rather uninspired “Diamonds and Triangles,” but I believe that I will dub my version “Rumpelstiltskin,” in honor of transformation, spinning, beautiful maidens, little men dancing around fires in the forest, and most of all, this line:  “The Devil told you that!”

Rumpelstiltskin 5-7-07 

I myself have been waiting patiently for an opportunity to use that line in everyday life.

In other news, Harvey and I took a look at some of the real estate around town last week.  We’re in the market for a smallish, affordable, 2-bedroom house that we can both feel comfortable in.  Such houses are hard to find.  We looked at a couple of places that were absolute dumps, one of which was astoundingly overpriced, even for this inflated (well, for this area) real estate market.  Then we looked at a couple that were OK, but just way too much house for me.  I don’t fancy spending all my time doing upkeep and yardwork.  The one little house that we both liked and seemed like a good possibility would need to have the bathroom completely gutted, and possibly the kitchen as well.  But the size and price is right, and the location is really nice–within walking distance of school, church, library, downtown, and Grandma & Grandpa.  And a fenced backyard for Mr. Puppy.  I have an appointment tomorrow to see another little place that’s for sale by owner, so we’ll see what that looks like.

Moving on takes patience, courage, intestinal fortitude, and deep breathing techniques.

But you know what I always say?

“The Devil told you that!  The Devil told you that!”

At loose ends

Friday, May 4th, 2007

I am experiencing that knitting mini-slump that so often comes after finished a large, complicated, and time-consuming project.

Oh, I cast on and finished a quick dishcloth out of hemp yarn, but that hardly counts.  That is so small and utilitarian a project as to be almost embarrassing. 

And I made a little swatch out of the Elann Pakucho organic cotton

Pakucho organic cotton 

to calculate gauge for the baby sweater I will soon be making, but I need to throw it in the washer and dryer in order to really get started, and I haven’t done that yet.

Naturally, I have other items I could work on, not to mention spinning projects, but somehow I’m just not hearing the siren’s call from any of them.

And what is calling my name right now?

Well, in a word, lace.  More lace.

The Handsome Triangle turned out so well–really just the way I had envisioned, which is truly a rare and wonderful thing, that I just feel this inexplicable urge to start another large lace project.

This yarn,

Douceur Swirls

which the observant will note has appeared on the blog before, has been burning a hole in my stash, so to speak, since it arrived on my doorstep several weeks ago.  (As an aside, isn’t it funny how some yarns can live in the stash for weeks, months, years and never present themselves inexorably to our minds?  Yet others, like this yarn, insist on being used right away.  I feel almost a compulsion to cast on with this gorgeous stuff.)

Anyway, I’m thinking (as noted a few weeks ago), of making another shawl from Victorian Lace Today.  I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of choices.


shawl from Victorian Lace Today

Or this:

shawl from Victorian Lace Today 

And, with the weekend coming up, what’s to stop me, really?

So many possibilities

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Those of you who are keeping track may wish to note that Ellen and I are posting on the SAME DAY.  This is a very, very rare occurrence, right up there with sightings of the rare and dangerous “cell-phone free American,” in fact.  Actually (funnily enough), there’s a little story about that.  Last night, I took my photos, sat down at the computer, downloaded said photos to my hard drive, and got all set to get online and write my post. 

My internet connection was down.  “Well,” thought I, “I’ll call Ellen and let her know about my predicament.”  Unfortunately, what I had momentarily forgotten was that, in addition to high-speed internet through my cable company, I also have digital phone service through my cable company.  No internet=no phone.  I myself am one of the aforementioned rare and dangerous “cell-phone free Americans,” so I was a bit stuck.  (When you think about it, this whole situation is pretty convenient for the cable company:  when I find myself without an internet connection, I can’t call them to complain.  Coincidence?  I think not….)

By the time the internet was back up and running, and I had written a start to my post, I was so dead-tired that I had to give up and go to bed. 

BUT!  Tonight I have picked up the dropped ball and am persevering. 

On to the actual post!  

Now that I’m almost (well, in this case “almost” is a relative, a very relative, term–see Monday’s post) done with the Handsome Triangle shawl, I’ve begun to think about my next project.  I have a friend (hi, Shani!) who recently had a baby, and I have yet to make a baby gift for him (the baby, that is, not the friend).

So, I did a little internet search the other day and came up with this cute little number.  I thought this would be both quick to knit and quite fetching on a little feller.  Also, the pattern is written so that you can plug in your own gauge numbers, always a plus for a knitter like myself who likes to visit the stash instead of the LYS for these smallish projects.

So, the question is, what yarn should I use?

This one?

Reynolds Tiara                                                   Reynolds Tiara in a luscious green-blue/teal color.  Loyal blog readers please note:  this is the same yarn I used for Sarah’s Simple Summer Sweater, only of course in a different color.  Pretty, but perhaps not very baby-ish.

Or this?

Emu superwash                                                         Emu Superwash DK in a groovy mossy green color.  Only drawback to this one–I’m not sure there’s quite enough yardage here.

How about–

Pakucho organic cotton                                                  Elann’s Pakucho organic naturally-colored cotton.  I think I have enough to make the sweater all in the sage green, although it might also be nifty with some stripes of the ecru.  (Yes, this is the same yarn I used in this sweater, from a pattern in Melissa Leapman’s Hot Knits.  Scroll down to the picture of Shelda and me.)


Baruffa Aerobic                                     Baruffa Aerobic, in a lovely kelly green, which I purchased here, oddly enough.  This is a sportweight, I believe, so would make a nice baby sweater.  One drawback:  it’s wool and not superwash.

Or lastly–

Schoeller Stahl Limbo                                  Schoeller Stahl Limbo superwash, in a primary and dark charcoal colorway.  I made a baby blanket for another friend out of this, and it turned out very nicely.  The problem with this yarn it that it has an unfortunate tendency to grow when washed, which makes figuring gauge and length somewhat tricky.

Well?  What do y’all think?  I believe that I have some time left to me before I start this new project, considering the 2400+ stitches I still have to achieve on the shawl.  Let me know your thoughts!

I got another thing done!

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

I finished the sherbet socks and have since worn them twice (and washed them once).  Here’s a shot of them adorning my feet–I call this “Socks with Dog Butt.”

sherbet socks 

And a closeup:

sherbet socks closeup 

As it turns out, I did have enough yarn to finish both socks, thus saving me a painful stash dive for some sort of mismatched odds and ends to finish the second toe.  Whew.  This also bodes well for the remaining 400 several balls of this yarn that I have in the stash.  Now I know I can actually get two full socks out of each ball.  I’ll tell you, I slept more soundly this weekend knowing that.

Unfortunately for my other Christmas break projects, I too have succumbed to the siren song of a new project.  I started the “Handsome Triangle” shawl out of Victorian Lace Today last night.  I’m using the fuchsia merino/cashmere that Ellen sent me in her luxury fiber care package last month.  So far, it’s shaping up nicely.

Handsome Triangle shawl 1-2-07

I also (somehow, I just don’t know how it could have happened) started spinning the brown double-coated fleece the other night.  This is the undercoat, and my goal is a laceweight yarn.  Some of the shawls in the Victorian Lace book are made out of the author’s own handspun yarn, and they are truly beautiful.  That inspired me to spin one of my naturally-colored fleeces into a laceweight yarn, and I think a shawl made out of this fleece would be gorgeous.

double-coated fleece on bobbin 

Oh, yeah, and I also started a new pair of socks for Rob.  I’m almost to the heel on the first one, but I didn’t take a picture, since they’re a bit–um, how shall I say?–boring.  You know, manly colors and all that.  But they’re going fast, because Rob likes his socks quite plain.  It’s actually sort of nice to have something mindless, small, and portable to take with me when I leave the house.

Tomorrow, it’s back to work for me.  All good things must come to an end.

My best wishes for a very happy new year to you all!

The Code

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

We’re gonna be a little short on the visuals Chez Mad Dog today because certain things must be kept secret, this being the holiday season and all. But my secret project has taught me a lesson. I think. Perhaps a little more on that later in the week…

Bracketing that for a moment, here’s what you can see:

This is the start of a new hat for Alex in Malabrigo’s “Vaa” colorway, shown here with his holiday socks because he had originally requested that the hat harmonize with these socks. An attempt was made and the illusion of its success, as you may have already surmised, rides heavily on the fact that one’s head is very far from one’s feet.

Because indeed, the “Vaa” hat is just a tad more—how shall we say?—reminiscent of military drills and jungle combat than are the Trekking XXL socks. Sir, yes, sir. But most importantly, there is nothing “unmanly” about this colorway, and that is a critical consideration, as it turns out. Particularly for a hat, which everyone can plainly see, sitting right there on your head! Fascinatingly, Alex, like many men, has a finely honed sensibility about what is and is not a “manly” color, despite the fact that one of the many delightful things about Alex is that he has almost no hang-ups whatsoever about his masculinity.

There is clearly an “American Male System of Manly Color Recognition” (AMSMCR) involved, but I must admit that as a woman, I find the criteria completely opaque. Come to think of it, if you squint at that acronym just the right way for long enough, it suggests “Am screwed.” Which is about right. I often mistake an unacceptable color for an acceptable one, and vice versa.

I’ll pick a ball of yarn in a color that I think fairly screams “testosterone” and say, “How would this yarn in the ‘Mack Truck’ colorway do for a hat?”

He’ll give me a stricken look, as though I had just quite soberly suggested that he should go about town in a bonnet trimmed in white bunny fur with a matching muff, and say, “Oh. Oh no. I would never wear that.”

Then again, the Trekking XXL socks under discussion are in a set of colors that I thought would never fly because they would be deemed “too bright.” To my immense surprise, the ruling was favorable, but Alex later explained that because the yarn was for socks, which are not often fully visible, and because he foresaw wearing said socks mostly at home for warmth in the evenings, certain otherwise inviolable color rules could be relaxed. Due to various specific contingencies, you see, that if you fully understood AMSMCR, you could have easily predicted.

One thing about AMSMCR, it keeps you on your toes!

It seems worth observing that since no woman I know really understands AMSMCR, these color rules are actually a “code of the road” men have for dealing with and signalling certain things to other men. I understand from Alex that men have a vast, unwritten code for dealing with one another in public toilets as well, the intricacies of which are astoundingly complex. Though I cannot be sure, I have a feeling that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the byzantine implicit rules men live by in order to keep the homosocial sector of their worlds running smoothly.

This positively dizzying prospect makes me realize once again that the social construction of gender is no laughing matter. I mean, I think we all know that in many ways it is not that easy to be a woman in this society, but when you really think about it, masculinity ain’t exactly a cake walk either. These guys have a lot on their minds! They are preoccupied with the need for strict adherence to the complexities of The Code.

Perhaps this explains why so many of them can’t see dirt.


Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

I cast on for the felted tote bag Monday night, after posting and while watching Studio 60.  (A good show, by the way.)  Here’s my progress thus far:

working on felted bag 

The nice thing about knitting things that are to be felted is that they grow quickly, since they’re knit at a loose gauge on large needles.  It doesn’t bear thinking about, though, that after the expanse of stockinette, this bag ends with a double row of applied I-cord.  And then you knit separate I-cord handles.  We all know how I feel about I-cord.  We won’t go there again. 

Step away from the knitting needles and no one needs to get hurt. 

I’ve also been combing a new fleece.  It’s a gorgeous brown color, and it’s from a double-coated breed, although I don’t know which breed it is.  It’s also really dirty and has lots of vegetable matter (vm) in it.

double-coated fleece 

Here’s a closeup:

double-coated fleece closeup 

The great thing about the 5-pitch combs is that they take out all that dirt and vm and all you’re left with is beautiful fiber to spin.

combed double-coated fleece 

I’m pulling out the guard hair (the longer, coarser coat of the two) as a separate roving, or at least as much of it as humanly possible.  Then I pull the shorter undercoat into another roving.  The guard hair roving is on the left in the picture above, with the undercoat on the right.  You can get a little bit of an idea of how different these two fibers are from the photo, but to get a true idea you have to feel them.  The guard hair is so much coarser than the undercoat, it’s amazing that they come from the same fleece.

I don’t have any notion at this point of how I’m going to spin this fiber.  Right now I’m just enjoying the process.

Heated debate

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Beautiful as all these trees are,
what this means is that it is getting cold in New England.

Alex and I, as graduate students on a limited budget and also reasonably intelligent people with a distaste for getting robbed blind by the natural gas company, have not yet turned on the heat in this house.

Every time we think about it, like when we notice the frost on the walls in the morning or see a bottle of vodka left out on the counter overnight that has frozen solid, we remember what the bills were like last winter.

You know it’s pretty bad when even the dog is wearing a scarf indoors:
I found this lying around and figured I’d put it on. Pretty nice scarf, if only Ma would take these sticks out of it.

I mentioned to Alex that it was 54 degrees in the house this morning and that maybe, just maybe, we should think about turning on the furnace for the season.

He thought for a moment, then said, “How are my wool socks coming along?”

Another pause. “You could think about making me some fingerless gloves, too.”

I am interpreting these apparent non sequiturs as a “no.”

Remember the dude who asked me if I was now living in a Jane Austen novel? Because of the Middlesex Fells? Right. I thought I was living in a Jane Austen novel, but apparently my lot in life can be more accurately described as Dickensian.

I will be spending most of the winter wearing fingerless gloves and a hat indoors. I will hereafter answer to “Cratchit.”

Due to the frigid conditions in my home, I have been knitting away on the Wildflowers scarf Shelley appropriated earlier today:

And just because I can’t resist, another close-up:
Wildflowers Scarf, if casting you on was wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Last night, Alex and I were brainstorming cheaper ways to keep warm this winter and, short of setting ourselves on fire (which, when you think about it, really takes care of the problem in both the short and long term!), most of those solutions had to do with wool.

Alex’s initial suggestion was a “house cozy” that could be completed and then precision-dropped from the air to cover the entire house and serve as external insulation.

(Good thing I have the LYS job! My employee discount will sure come in handy when I go to purchase the yarn for the house cozy! I’ve estimated it will take approximately 705,000 yards of aran-weight wool.)

We quickly came to see the house cozy idea as rather impractical and—inspired by my Wildflowers scarf—shifted our creative energies to the idea of His ‘n Hers Full-Body Wool Union Suits with convenient rear access flaps and hoods! Mine in the Wildflowers colorway, of course, and his in either the manly Granite or suggestively feral Jungle colorway. I haven’t decided which would be more exciting. Opinions?

I think that that cable fabric stitch I’m using for the scarf would make a delightful overall pattern, don’t you?

We’ll kiss high gas bills goodbye, not to mention our dignity and self-respect! Never say I’m not always, always thinkin’.

And speaking of goodbye to all that, my other attempt to stay warm in the house involves a new pair of boots. I love them almost as much as the Wildflowers Scarf. They were, however, classified as combat boots by their manufacturer, which they are…

if the last time you saw action was the Battle of the Somme.

But listen. I gotta run. I need to spend the rest of the afternoon chopping up some of the furniture for kindling.

Woolcott and other danger zones, redux

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

I just want to put this out there: for those of you who wrote or commented yesterday in defense of domestic felines, I completely respect your feelings and your taste in pets. In fact, I have a small and rather handsome cat I can offer you for a low, low price! Free shipping is included! (Sorry, no returns.)

And now, back to knitting…

Yesterday was a prime example of why working at your LYS endangers both your pocketbook and your immortal soul.

I was in the mood to work with some yarn with body yesterday, yarn I could really feel. Meaty yarn. For all its very real charms and delights, Alchemy Haiku is not that yarn. Icarus is not that project.

If I weren’t a LYS employee, I would have been forced to do one of the following:

a) suck it up and knit a few rows of Icarus anyway;
I’m lounging here seductively for all I’m worth, people, and she still won’t give me the time of day.

b) go back to working on that afghan in Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride worsted that I started two years ago and then abandoned after one pattern repeat (yes, I know…you’ve never even seen that project on this blog…we’ll discuss this later…);

c) work on a sock and yield to its not inconsiderable but different charms and thereby learn a life lesson about how it is important to “love the one you are with” and “quell your desire for that which you do not have, becoming day by day more like the Buddha”;

d) finish Rogue’s sleeves;

e) go to a matinee showing of Marie Antoinette;

f) mix up a batch of margaritas and break out the guacamole!

Instead, since I work at Woolcott, this happened:
Three skeins, Manos del Uraguay, Wildflowers colorway, “cable fabric” stitch from 450 Knitting Stitches, Vol. 2, The Harmony Guide, U.S. size 7 bamboo needles (appropriated temporarily from store)

Here’s a little close-up of that lovely, textured, meaty cable fabric:

I love this scarf. I really do. I love these colors, I love this yarn.

And I’m becoming day by day less and less like the Buddha.

Oh, I’m crafty

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

I got all fired up about making my own ribbon yarn this past weekend, went up to the studio, and dove right in.  I found some brocade fabric living on a shelf and the instructions for making one’s own bias tape (aka yarn) and started sewing.

I used a French seam, in the hopes that it would discourage ravelling on the on-grain cut edges.

making ribbon yarn 

So basically, you cut a largish square of fabric, cut it in half along the diagonal, and then sew the straight grain edges to one another.  You end up with a tube of fabric which you cut around and around on the bias to create bias tape, or, for the purposes of our discussion, ribbon yarn.

making ribbon yarn

Obviously, the bigger the square, the more yards of yarn you would end up with.  Of course, this is partially governed by the width of your fabric, or in my case the length of fabric yardage that was on the shelf to begin with.  It’s a little bit time consuming, but fairly simple really.

making ribbon yarn 

I wound up my yarn, taking care to keep it flat.

ribbon yarn 

After rummaging around in the stash to find a likely candidate for a coordinating, much lighter weight yarn, I came up with some purple angora blend.  I had unravelled this yarn from a thrift store sweater some time ago, and then, because it was so extraordinarily thin, plied it on the wheel into a 3-ply yarn.  (OK, I realize I am starting to sound somewhat nuts–I suppose this would be the “pathological” part of the post.)

I started out using size 13 needles, and after 8 inches or so realized that the lace wasn’t looking as scribbly as I wanted it to.  So I ripped.  Maybe not such a good idea.  The ribbon that I ripped out pretty much fell to pieces:  it got very frayed and the seams just fell apart.

I began again with size 19 needles.

scribble scarf 

Much better.  It’s not particularly easy to deal with, though.  If I were to do it again (which I might), I’d change a few things.

1. Use a less slinky, less ravelly fabric.  This brocade is prone to just ravelling away under your hands.  There must be a happy medium somewhere between a fabric that has a nice drapey hand but isn’t going to create fringe when you breathe on it.

2. Cut the strip a little wider.  I aimed for 3/4 inch; maybe 1 inch would be better.

3. I’m not sure the French seam was really necessary.  Perhaps a straight stitch next to a zigzag would be sufficient.

I still see lots of possibilities here.  Oh, I’m crafty, all right.