Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Home Stretch!

A blocking ponchette ...

Hemp takes a long time to dry, so I'm in a waiting game. Hopefully, I'll be able to seam it up tonight. It turned out bigger than anticipated, despite my getting gauge early on. Oh well, tis the season to be gifting ... if in fact it turns out too big.

The widdershin is in the cuff stage, so I expect that to be done soon too.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Knitter Down!

I feel cheated. These past few days were supposed to be filled with endless evening knitting, as my children enjoyed the joys of farm life for four days (they come back tomorrow). But my mouth had to take this opportunity to go all foul on me.

Late last week a filling that I had replaced in June (lost half of it while on my work trip to Atlanta) decided it should start to abscess at the beach. That's right, on Thursday cool beach air sent me to depths of insanity I had never felt before. When we got home that night (thankfully this happened at the end of the trip), it started to throb.

Anyone familiar with the movie version of Frank Herbert's Dune? Picture Paul Atreides with his hand in the box. I had my tooth in that box for four days. I couldn't head to the dentist on Friday because it was Oldest Son's birthday and we took him out for the day. Saturday things felt only slightly better, but Advil really helped. On Sunday, nothing helped. But I had to trudge on, and take my children to my family reunion on the Eastern Shore and then fight three and a half hours of beach traffic for a trip that only takes 90 minutes on a good day. Pain abated long enough to fall asleep, only to wake up in absolute AGONY at 4 a.m. Saw the dentist right when she opened and then I had the pleasure of experiencing a first in my life.

A root canal.

Now it's my understanding that root canals have a bad rap. So I was naturally apprehensive. Tons of little files scraping my tooth's innards for the sole purpose of making way for a dental death ray in there? Ick. But again, I was a trooper and had it done. Went to work afterward, even.

The good news is that my tooth feels better. I'm taking a gnarly antibiotic (the tooth, apparently, was really gross) so I'm not worried about infection. My problem? Where I had to get the needles -- right where my gum meets my cheek. I look like I had a wisdom tooth extracted, all swollen and puffy. This is why I do not like having dental work done. Those damn post-operative injection sites in my little mouth really hurt. The tooth? Well, it feels a little weird, packed and all, but no real pain. Where I got a slew of needles? Raw and sore and begging for relief ... which nothing seems to be giving. But I go on to work today.

And so my knitting has suffered for the past three days. Fortunately, the ponchette is easy, steady and without charts. I can nearly do it with my eyeballs closed. Being so easy and not having to think, I'm done all but the last two or three points, which I hope to finish today in time for blocking tomorrow. As long as my mouth doesn't get any worse I can probably do it. Then all I have to do is seam it up.

I just have to get my mouth to agree with the plan.

Since there are no knitting pictures, here's one from the beach:

TYS had a great fascination with the sea this year. I caught a glimpse of him doing this from far up the beach and rushed to photograph. He was showing this seaweed to his father, but methinks he looks a bit like Perseus holding up the head of Medusa to turn the Krackin to stone.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Those of you monitoring me in this race are aware that I did abandon a single sock very early on. It was my feather and fan sock in Claudia's Olive Navy. I really wasn't happy with the way it turned out and wasn't willing to waste a skein on the match just for the sake of finishing a pair of socks that I hated.

Instead, I opted to finish one other sock in Claudia. To make things interesting, I decided to try the Widdershins pattern from Knitty. It's a toe-up sock that has nearly all the makings of a traditional sock (except the Kitchener stitch). You start with a magic cast-on, increase to full foot diameter and then knit until three inches before the heel. Then you do increases for the gussets, the heel is done, and you wind up with a beautiful heel flap that's way more sturdy than the short row heel I was previously in love with. See?

Yes, I now it's hard to see, but for the schooled sock eye, you can see the heel stitches running almost perpendicular to the stripes on the foot. This is Claudia's "Black Walnut" colorway and I love the patterns as much as I love this pattern. Now I just have to knit until I have just enough yarn to cast off and I'll be done.

Why I love this pattern:

1. The toe is nice and mitered. Ordinarily I cut myself short doing short-row toes with the crochet cast on because they are time consuming. The result is a stocky toe that doesn't taper as much as I'd like. On a similar note, the fact that there are no stitch pick-ups necessary to avoid holes makes it even better.

2. No holes at the gusset area. Just as there are no holes at the end of the shrt-row toe, there aren't any at the gussets, either. The invisible increase gusset absolutely rocks, and it flows beautifully into the heel flap. No pick-ups necessary along the slipped stitches.

3. Sturdy heel. Traditional heel flap. Enough said.

4. Well-written pattern. Brooke Chenoweth did a great job with this. I found no problems or struggles at all.

5. I still don't have to worry about running out of yarn. This is my No. 1 problem with the traditional sock. I detest not knowing how long I can make the leg without risking a severe yarn shortage. Yes, I know that if I know just how far I can take a skein of yarn from experience that's different, but what about when I've started a new sock with a brand-new yarn? Then I need to make an anklet only to find I have enough left for a partial foot. This way, I'm good.

I know that everyone has their own particular preferred means of knitting socks, but anyone who has tried a short-row toe/heel pattern and hated it ought to try this pattern.

Eleven days left this month and I'm chugging along. Today, I take the boys to my aunt's farm for four days and my knitting time should increase at least a little bit for the next few evenings. I'll be chugging along on the leg for the lone Widdershin (the mate will be cast on Sept. 1) and the Hemp Ponchette. I'll do as much as I can on the Sheep Shawl as well (I did a few more rows last night, but like the ponchette, progress is hard to see).

Friday, August 18, 2006

Beach Bums

It's funny how hotels at the Jersey shore don't have internet access. I suppose folks take the word "vacation" too seriously for bloggers. I could have trucked to the internet cafe on the boards, but knew everyone would understand. After all, I was on a beach vacation with my husband, two boys, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, quasi-sister-in-law, her daughter and her daughter's friend. Tons of people, tons of confusion, tons of contention. Enough said.

But progress was made, believe it or not. While everyone slept each morning, I hauled The Yarn Sniffer to the pool every day and knit. Then we either hit the beach or the boards.

Here's Sock enjoying the pool at the beginning of the vacation:

And here it is at the end.

Not much progress, but that's because work commenced on the Sheep Shawl.

It's very hard to see progress here, but I'm completely through the Sunshine Lace chart and I'm on to the Orchard Lace chart. After this, I need to make it through the Village, Sunflower, Sheep and Grass charts, with a four-stitch increase on each pattern. I'm really starting to worry that this isn't going to be done by the end of the month. However, if necessary, I will designate my finish line to be the end of the chart I'm working on closest to the end of the month. Had I not been preoccupied with Charlotte, this might have been done. Oh well. It's a Christmas gift, so as long as progress is smooth and steady ...

Consider what I found in our hotel bathroom one morning to be a tremendous stumbling block.

That's a washcloth for scale. ICK!!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pi, Here's Your Close Up

Jennie has asked for a closeup of Pi's stitches. I'm flattered. Really flattered.

Basically Pi is from EZ's almanace and it's done as the shawl with concentric holes. I threw a homemade pattern in when the knitting got REALLY boring, then went back to a straight-knit two sections before starting the acursed edging. Here's a better shot (a bit blurry, but it was either that or wash it out with the flash):

And that's all the blogging for a few days. I hope to make lots of progress and bring photos of knitting relaxing on the beach. To acquire internet while at the beach would bring (believe it or not) a compulsion to do work, so I'm opting to avoid if possible. The weather should be great, and both boys (three, if you could Husband) are all very excited. Me? I've been up since before 7 a.m.

Have a great week!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pi R Blocked

Yesterday, I had myself a blocking extravaganza. And you can count off one more of my marathon targets.

Pi is done. All blocked and beautiful.

(Photo courtesy of The Yarn Sniffer, who is also treating us to a self portrait complete with a very dirty face from the last day of summer camp.)

I'd show you a picture of the actual blocking, but it was happening on my bed and our paisley comforter really interfered with the Zephr. You just couldn't make out much of the patterning of the shawl. I can say this, though: My homemade lace pattern didn't turn out half bad.

Now, in other marathon news, I've gotten a bit more done on the sheep shawl. I also finished one of the Claudia socks. Problem is, I hate what I did with the cuff so I really need to abandon this sock. Since I reserved the right to start a new sock in August (and not start anything else), I started another to take its place. The goal is to complete one full sock and meet the August goal (though I hope to come out a sock ahead and get a pair done).

Progress is a wonderful thing.

P.S.: I'm lusting after that Swallowtail Shawl in the newest Interweave and that's gonna be first on the sticks Sept. 1!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Some Shawl!

She's terrific, she's radiant and she's humble. I cast off the edging this morning, while the men in my house were all sleeping (even the dog). It's a shame I couldn't let out a big "Whoop!" She's beautiful.

I cast off the outer edge last night and immediately started on the edging. Here it is, all done before blocking.

I really should have done this edging on the pi shawl. This edge only took me a few hours to complete. Yet another lesson learned from Charlotte.

Granted, I only used three skeins of Koigu (remember, I didn't want anything big -- and I really only cut out the last two pattern repeats), but this project went relatively quickly. The bonus? I have two skeins left and can make matching socks!

My vacation officially started today. We head out to the beach on Sunday, so I have Mommy things to do. But this afternoon, I plan on sitting down and hammering out a few more points on the ponchette ... maybe that one's almost off the needles too?

I'm saving the sock and the sheep shawl for beach knitting. In the meantime, I leave you with Charlotte, blocked and drying. Let me know your thoughts!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What I'm Learning from Charlotte's Web

As a child, I loved this E.B. White book, and believe it or not, learned quite a bit from everyone's favorite grey spider-writer. To this day, it's one of my favorites -- I'm the proud owner of the annotated Charlotte's Web, an original pressing, my own childhood copy and even a t-shirt of the "Some Pig" web, complete with Wilbur looking on. Charlotte A. Cavatica teaches about friendship, about the power of even the smallest, and just how fulfilling having a goal in life can be. It seemed only natural that I would do this project for myself, and this was my last-minute cast-on for the marathon.

That said, lessons from Charlotte -- the shawl, not the spider -- have been ongoing since the beginning. So ... what have I learned?

  • I hate to purl. Yes, I knew this going into the project, but thought that forcing myself to purl WS rows might give me an appreciation for the stitch and even perhaps speed up my purling. I was so terribly wrong that it sickens me. But, in the interest of the marathon and my insane desire to wrap myself in this koigu, I'm slogging on.
  • I really do like lace knitting. The only real lace projects I've done have been simple patterns on socks and the concentric circles pi shawl. I haven't yet experienced the miracle of blocking lace (sorry, pi, your turn is coming) but it's fascinating to knit a lace pattern.
  • I can knit from a chart. For some reason, patterns with charts have freaked me out for my entire knitting career. Charts just make things look, well, complicated. Especially when there is more than one to follow. Lucky for me, there's just one for Charlotte.
  • There is such a thing as a crappy chart. When I bought the Koigu pattern at MS&W way back when, I eyed the chart with extreme contempt. I even opened the document to see if the lace pattern had been written out inside. It was, and so I purchased it. As it turns out, I've been using the chart more than I thought, so I'm intimately familiar with its nuances and it's over-complicatedness. The folks who designed this shawl really made it much more difficult to follow than it needed to be. And if you scour the blogosphere, I'm not the only one saying it.

There you have it. Lessons from Charlotte. I'm actually only 20 rows from being at the edging stage, and my plan is to do a simple crochet edging without the fringe (I'm not a fringy kind of girl). I'm actually cutting the shawl one repeat short to keep it at a decent size (I'm not a big person), so I anticipate being done maybe by the weekend.

And the race continues!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Progress in Dallas

Well, I'm back from a whirlwind business trip to Dallas. In on Sunday (very late landing) and out on Tuesday (left very early) and I'm downright exhausted. Weary exhausted. The kind where you just can't think of sleeping so you drink more coffee until you black out later in the day exhausted. Oh well. To top it all off, I forgot to take my camera.

OK! As stated earlier this month (which wasn't long ago given that it's only the 8th), I'm teaming up with Knit and the City Wendy to have a very happy August. Happy to me this month means not casting on any new projects, or buying any new yarn from my local yarn store. From the get-go, I reserved the right to cast on new socks and possibly get a fabulous yarn at an out-of-town locale ... but ONLY if it was one that my LYS didn't have.

I worked most of the day yesterday, but found time late in the day to head over to the only yarn store in Dallas that was within walking distance of my hotel. I didn't walk though, because it looked like they were going to have one hell of a storm (if I had taken the camera, I'd be able to show you -- it was breathtaking watching the storm come in over the big Texas sky). As it turns out, my cab driver only took a few extra minutes finding the little gem of Dallas known as The Shabby Sheep.

It's a charming little store, in a little house that fits rather nicely into the cityscape. (Thanks to the owner, Rhonda, who told me I could copy the picture from their website and put it on my blog ... even after finding out that I am not Wendy of WendyKnits. But alas, their site has a lot of Flash and I can't get the photo. Do go look at the pictures. It's a really cute shop -- and if you're ever in Dallas, stop by. Ronda's little dog Abby will greet you by licking your toes!)

I was determined not to buy anything that I couldn't get at Cloverhill here in Catonsville, and so I was drawn to this:

This is Knit One, Crochet Two's Gourmet line, in Truffles. Not only does it feel like I want to bury my face in it and gobble it up like truffles, this feels like chenille, and it will be a scarf. I also picked up some Regia in a colorway that Cloverhill doesn't carry (again, it's for socks, so I don't count it. And it made me happy!)

I bid Ronda farewell after a long discussion about Charlotte's Web. I have made great progress (as you really can't see from this photo -- I will try to drape her over the pillow she adorned after Night One a week ago to try to give some scale. This is from knitting on a four legs of my round-trip flight as well as in my hotel room. I'm on the third skein, and had to stop shortly after taking off from Chicago to come home because I forgot to wind another skein and didn't want to run out mid-flight.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Happiness in August

Let's face it. When you're busy in every single area of your life, it isn't always easy to be as happy as you want to be (unless of course you're busy with things that aren't work). I find it even more difficult to be happy in this horrific August heat. Triple digits today.

But I'm going to try. While other folks are out there playing Sock Wars and defeating foes by finishing projects, Wendy over at Knit and the City is putting a happier spin on things. She's going to finish six projects in August, which sounds like a good plan. The catch is that she's not going to cast on any new ones.

I think I'll join her -- though last night I had to scramble to get one last project on the needles. I have a bunch of things to finish this month.

Exhibit A: The Hemp Ponchette from LanaKnits. Here's a closeup of the lace pattern:

Exhibit B: The Fiber Trends Sheep Shawl (This one's a Christmas gift, though I do not wish to disclose the recipient's name at this time)

Exhibit C: Koigu "Charlotte's Web" Shawl (I started this one last night in a mad attempt to make sure I had enough to work on in August without having to cast on any other projects. I'm on row 57 already; this may not have been the wisest thing to cast on. It knits up so quickly and, well, let's just say I now know why everyone goes gaga over this yarn. I bought this back in May at MDS&W and haven't been able to bring myself to crack it open and use it for fear of not being Koigu-worthy. So I'm opting for a Koigu pattern and hoping I don't screw it up.

Exhibit D (not pictured): Feather and Fan Socks (I'm on the first sock's cuff; I'm doing them toe-up, so I don't have that much more to do before starting the second)

Exhibit B: The Pi Shawl (Note: The edging was completed on July 31, but I'm reserving this as an unfinished project because it still needs blocking and that's gonna take me some serious time.

And now, to start August off with a smile, I leave you with an example of what you find when you check on the Yarn Sniffer (who loves to swim) when he's in the shower:

I swear, I nearly wet my pants.