Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I hate it when I see a big spider on the bathroom floor, and then I don’t. This one was big enough to hang a cowbell on – not that I would get that close. It was hard to keep one eye on the mirror while I applied my makeup and one eye on the floor to protect my feet. (I was wearing my brown wicker(ish) flip flops with kitten heels. I love those things.)

Teresa was right, I’ve been bitten. Not by the spider – by the sock bug. I haven’t even finished my first sock yet, but I’ve already bought yarn for another pair. Tuesday night was Knit Night at the Ball and Skein. Susan, the owner, called to say the Kaffe Fassett and Dream In Color sock yarn had just been delivered, so I jumped in the car and went over there. Wow. Talk about a hard decision. I finally settled on this skein of Dream In Color in the Deep Seaflower colorway.

I know I’m going to regret not buying a skein in the November Muse colorway, as well.

What with all of the boys’ comings and goings, I’m so glad I decided to try sock knitting. I did manage to knit one 8 row pattern repeat on the Alpine Shawl the other night, but I haven’t touched it since. Last night, at 10:00 p.m., when I was struggling to stay awake long enough to tink back the decreases of the instep on my first sock (the pattern said to decrease every 3rd row – NOT every row) the boys decided to make a run for milkshakes. I don’t even try to keep up with them anymore.

All too soon they’ll be gone – one back to college, the other to study abroad in Spain.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Now I Get It

I'm going to look back on 2007 as the summer I fell in love with sock knitting. At least I think it will be a love affair. It depends on how my first pair turns out.

I've been disdainful of sock knitting for years. It seemed silly to me to use expensive yarn and tiny needles to knit something so utilitarian that almost no one would ever see. But my frustration with the Alpine Shawl made me reconsider this stance. I desperately need something mindless to knit when I'm too tired to concentrate on lace charts. It wouldn't hurt to have a portable project either.

So on Saturday I took the plunge and purchased some Cherry Tree Hill super wash sock yarn and US sizes 0 and 1 DPNs. I already had size 2 DPNs. I swatched with size 2 and size 0 and quickly realized I'd need the size 0 to get a nice tight knit. Then, using the pattern in The Purl Stitch by Sally Melville, I cast on.

Very soon I discovered that socks knit up quickly enough to satisfy Ms. Instant Gratification. I love it.

However, I learned something new about pooling. I already knew colors can pool. With the CTH varigated yarn I discovered that the more vibrant colors and the duller colors can pool noticeably. The result was not pleasing.

Here, the dull colors are pooling in the center, and the brighter colors are pooling on the sides.

Here, I've turned the sock so that the vibrant colors are pooling in the center and the duller colors are pooling on the sides. Not the look I was going for.

I tried on the sock and discovered it was too big. So I cast on two sizes smaller.

The dull and bright colors are no longer pooling, and the sock fits - so far. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy Birthday Brian!

Twenty-one years ago today, Brian looked like this.

This is Brian today. I can hardly believe he’s 21 years old!
Raising him has been a challenge.

He has always been inquisitive. It was such a relief when he started nursery school because his father and I could share the responsibility of answering his questions and feeding his intellect with his teachers.

From early on Brian felt empowered to speak his mind and have his share of whatever was happening. The first week of nursery school the children learned about traffic lights. When Brian noticed that I occasionally sped up when the light turned yellow, he would say with a mix of alarm and exasperation: “Mom! Red means stop, green means go, and yellow means SLOW. DOWN.”

Brian’s always had a fair amount of self confidence, and this has gotten him into trouble from time to time. His father and stepmother once took him and their other children to a resort in Cancun. When he had a moment alone, Brian called me long distance to tell me how much fun he was having. I cautioned him that the call was going to be expensive, but he confidently assured me that “Dad and Debbie said ‘everything’s included,’ and nothing would cost extra.” Nothing I said convinced him otherwise. His father was most unhappy when the charges for that call and calls Brian made to his friends appeared on the bill at check out time.

Brian’s well read and has a wide array of interests. When he left for college I really missed our conversations – especially our talks about politics and foreign affairs. After the last presidential election he asked me “If Canadian citizens could have voted in the election which provinces do you think would have been red and which ones would have been blue?” No one else asks me questions like that.

After spending the summer living on his own in Boston, Brian’s home for a couple weeks while he prepares to spend the fall semester studying in Spain. Believe me when I say letting him go is bittersweet. He’s matured so much over the past couple of years. I know he’s ready for this adventure, but I’m going to miss him intensely.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

There's a New LYS in Town!

On Saturday I checked out the Ball and Skein, a new yarn shop in Germantown OH, just outside of Dayton. The name is a play on words because the building was originally the town jail. (Ball and chain, get it?) It's a small shop but Susan, the owner, has stuffed it full of FABULOUS merchandise. (You can read about new yarn deliveries on her blog.)

This is the view of the porch from the front door. Note the small paper shopping bags with blue tissue paper on the floor in front of the chest. These bags were tucked in nooks and crannies everywhere.

This is the view from the porch. The bins on the counter hold Lantern Moon knitting needles in an array of sizes.

On the left (bottom 3 rows) is a colorful sellection of Cascade 220. Tucked in the corner behind the cabinet door on the right is a nice selection of Rowan Kid Silk Haze, some Calmer, and other Rowan yarn. That's roving hanging from the tops of the cabinets.

On the other side of the shop is a sitting area where knitters can relax and do their thing. Tuesday is Knit Night. Susan said they haven't been open long, but they've gotten as many as 12 knitters on a Knit Night. Her spinning wheel sits next to the chair.
Incredibly NICE. That's how I would describe Susan. Within minutes of meeting me, she let me kick off my shoes and stand on a chair to take photos of her shop. I was looking for some handpainted fingering weight sock yarn. She's expecting deliveries from several different vendors this coming week, and she was extremely gracious when I decided to wait until the Dream In Color sock yarn comes in instead of buying something else that day. (She knows I'll be back.)

This is a basket of Dream In Color worsted weight. It's washable merino, and it feels wonderful to the touch.

This is what's left of a shipment of Fleece Artist sport weight sock yarn. Trust me when I say this photo does not do those colorways justice. Susan expects to receive more Fleece Artist sock yarn this week, too.

Remember those little brown paper shopping bags with the blue tissue paper tucked all over the shop? Each one contains a Tulip sweater kit. Susan's knitting one up in the girl colorway. (The red waste yarn is temporarily threaded through live stitches where sleeves will be added soon.) You should see it/touch it in person. It will make you say: I. Must. Have. One.
Saturday was a really grey day, and the forcast called for rain. Dave was off and feeling restless, so after my visit to the Ball and Skein, we drove out to the marina.

When we got there, the sky looked really threatening.

It rained briefly. This was the view from the porthole.

We didn't mind the rain. I knitted, and we had refreshments to pass the time.

Afterwards the sky was clear and the humidity was down. Dave took a pic of me in the companionway. I was wearing the Callista Copper tank. I still love my tank tops made with Callista. The fabric is so airy and comfortable.
Dave discovered the fuel line needs to be replaced, so we never did leave the dock.
Note how sunny it was when it was time to go home.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Something Different

Last night I gave a guest lecture for a nursing class and didn't get home until 8:45p. Tonight I have a meeting and won't get home until even later. On nights like these. by the time I get to do any knitting I'm too tired to knit lace.

After the latest fiasco (or as Teresa would call it the latest "episode of As the Alpine Turns") I realized it's time to: "Walk Away From the Shawl" - for a few days at least.

I've been considering possibilities for mindless knitting projects. Yesterday I stumbled on the Mason Dixon Knit Along and was inspired. I love color.

This is the first block of what may become a log cabin afghan. I say "may" because it remains to be seen whether I can stay focused on a project as big as an afghan long enough to finish it.

Depending on your monitor, you may not be able to tell that the color on the far right is navy not black, and the center square is periwinkle not blue.

This project certainly fulfills the "mindless" requirement. It's straight garter stitch. The hardest part is deciding what color to add next. I'm using various worsted weight yarns from my stash (including Peruvian Highland Wool, Cascade 220, and Reynolds Lopi Lite). It's fun, but we'll have to see how long it takes for the newness to wear off.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Yesterday morning I happened to glance at the Victorian Lace Today errata sheet and noticed it included a correction to Chart B. I could SWEAR I checked the errata sheet before I started knitting the Alpine. I’m positive I did. Well, if I did, I somehow missed the following note:

Page 37 Chart B Row 7
Second square from the left needs to be shaded.

You know me. By now I’ve knit 22.5 pattern repeats of Chart B. The stitch in question is part of a 5 stitch transition between the 4 pattern repeats that make up the center of the shawl (Chart B) and the left border (Chart A). In 7 of the 8 rows of the transition pattern repeat, the pattern is a mirror image of the 5 stitches that make up the transition between the right border (Chart A) and the 4 pattern repeats that make up the center (Chart B). Every time I came to Row 7, I thought: “I wonder if that should be a purl stitch instead of a knit stitch? It’s the only stitch that doesn’t match the transition on the right side of the shawl.” Since I am me, I also told myself: “You’ve already checked the errata sheet, so you can knit on. No worries.” And, of course, that’s what I did.

Once I realized I’d missed the correction on the errata sheet, I spent the day considering whether I had the courage to undo that one stitch all the way to Row 7 in the first pattern repeat. (That would mean working my way down 174 rows and back up again – rows in a LACE shawl, knitted with REALLY SLIPPERY silk yarn.) Since the one column of stitches is reverse stockinet stitch it wouldn’t be impossible, but it was still scary to contemplate.

I left work a little early to spend some time with Brian before I drove him down to his father’s house in Cincinnati. It was after 9:00 p.m., when I got home and took a hard look at the Alpine Shawl.

I pinned it out and tried to photograph the right transition stitches and the left transition stitches so I could show you the problem. Unfortunately, my photography skills were not up to the task. Our camera is a little more complicated than “point and shoot,” and I could not get close up shots that weren’t blurry. I really tried. I tried to photo-shop them, but that didn’t work either.

Maybe it was the late hour, I don’t know, but the more I looked at the shawl the more I began to think that if it was so hard to see the errant knit stitches maybe I could live with them. Then I made a classic Susan error. After fooling around with the camera and trying to photo-shop the pics, it was getting pretty late. My judgment was clouded. I wanted to knit some to soothe myself before I went to bed. So I picked up the shawl and knit a couple of rows. Then I realized I’d made a mistake and attempted to tink back. That’s when I dropped a stitch that quickly unraveled several rows. It's a good thing I was home alone because I cursed a blue streak.

At that point I didn’t have the heart to pull out the needle and rip back to the life line. I just threw the thing in a heap and went to bed. This morning I discovered that even when the Alpine is discarded in a heap it still has the power to mock me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Half Way?

I think I’ve passed the halfway point on the Alpine Shawl. I say “think” because it looks a little short, and once again I’m wondering how many pattern repeats I can get out of this yarn.

The pattern calls for 850 yds, and I started with 1,000 yds. I went down a needle size because I tend to knit very loosely. The pattern says to knit 37 repeats of Chart B, and I’ve knit over 22 repeats.

This is how much yarn I have left. I wish I knew how far it will go.

I’ve been presented with this very dilemma on a number of projects lately. There’s a message in this: I really need a scale. (But I’d rather buy yarn!)

I’ve done a little Internet research. (Just for Ha Ha’s, try googling the word “scale” and see how far that gets you.) Stephanie, the Yarn Harlot, has a Vector Fuzion XTR – 500. So far the only place I’ve been able to find a price for that model is EBay, but I’ll keep looking.

Meanwhile I’ve been contemplating how to make a scale appear on my doorstep without having to dip into my yarn budget. I may be a yarn-aholic, but I’m not up for selling my body or my blood. (My first born? How much are you offering? Brian, I’m just kidding.)

My birthday’s in November. I could put a scale on my wish list. Dave probably won't give me yarn. He thinks we have a house full of yarn, and we don’t need any more (silly man!). However he’s a pilot. He loves “instrumentation” and gadgets. He might give me a scale – if he didn’t think buying one would make him look like a drug dealer. He might be convinced a scale is a good investment if I use the following logic: Since I don’t have a scale, I usually buy way more yarn than I’m going to need out of an abundance of caution. I end up spending more money on yarn than necessary, and when the project’s done I usually have the odd skein or two to add to my stash. If I had a scale I’d probably buy less yarn and use up more of what I’ve got. Think that sounds persuasive?

I’ve got time to give the matter further study.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Prodigal Sons Return

After all of the hassles he experienced on Saturday, Brian's flight home was uneventful. Thank Goodness!

It is so good to see him!

John drove back up for dinner.

The Midwest has been experiencing a draught, but just when it was time to leave for the airport the skys opened up. It poured all night. John got soaked. We all did. No one cared, though.

The house will be like Grand Central Station for the next two weeks, with people coming and going. I probably won't get as much time to knit, but I don't mind (much).

Speaking of knitting, have you seen the Cascading Leaves Shawl? Isn't it gorgeous? I. Must. Have. That. Pattern.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


This weekend was an emotional rollercoaster.

My younger son John’s been staying at his father’s house in Cincinnati, so I haven’t seen much of him this summer. He planned to come up for the night Friday night. I was really looking forward to seeing him.

My older son Brian spent the summer in Boston and was supposed to fly home on Saturday. I haven’t seen him for 4 months. I was psyched! John planned to come with me to meet Brian’s plane. Their friend Nelson was getting married today (Sunday), and they were supposed to be ushers. On Saturday afternoon John was going to drive Brian down to Cincinnati for the rehearsal.

There was a chance Dave would be off Saturday. I was hoping the 4 of us could have lunch before the boys headed south for the wedding rehearsal.

Nothing went as I’d hoped.

When I got home Friday night I learned Dave had to work the dreaded 11a - 11p shift all weekend – so I barely got to see him. He did open his birthday gift though. That was a high point.

One of the items on his wish list is an advanced sailing course. Participants are required to wear a harness and tether so they don't get washed overboard. (The course is not for the faint of heart.)

Dave demonstrated how the harness and tether work.

If he does get washed overboad there's a rip cord he can pull that will inflate the harness. I could have knit him a harness, but probably not an inflatable harness with a rip cord.

On Friday John had to work until 6p, so he didn't get to my house until 7:30p. I took him out for Chipotle (our favorite). Then my ex called to remind John he had a dental appointment at 11a on Saturday. So the plan changed. John was going to get up early and drive to Cincinnati to see the dentist. I would meet Brian's plane at 12:30p and take him south to the wedding rehearsal (a 2 hour round trip).

On Friday night at 11:30p John got a call from a college friend who was passing through Cincinnati. John decided to drive down there right then to see his friend, because the friend will be co-oping, and John won't get another chance to see him for awhile. I didn't argue with John because I knew I was too tired to come up with a sound argument for why this was a bad idea - other than "It's late, you should go to bed." (That is not a persuasive argument to a 19 year old.) In the morning, there was a text message on my cell from John saying he'd arrived in Cincinnati safely. (That was thoughtful. Thanks, John.)

On Saturday Brian called at 7:40a to say it was bedlam at Logan, and it was unlikely he was going to make his 8:30a flight.

At 8:30a to say he had a shot at a 10:30a flight and a 12:30p flight.

At noon I called John to tell him to tell Nelson that Brian wasn't going to be able to make it to the rehearsal.

At 12:15p Brian called to say it was unlikely he was going to make the 12:30p flight but he had a shot at a flight to Baltimore at 5:30p that could get him to Dayton by 10p.

At 5p, Brian called in despair. He’d been at Logan International since 6:30a, and he was exhausted. Apparently, some plane had gotten diverted to Logan at 4:30a. All of the flights were oversold, and no one was able to get out of there. He finally got a boarding pass for Monday and managed to retrieve his luggage. Brian called Nelson and said he wasn’t going to make it back in time for the wedding. Nelson took the news better than Brian did. Brian was really bummed. He didn’t leave the airport until 7:30p. At 8:30p he finally called to say he’d had something to eat and was back at his apartment. The poor kid.

So I spent today (Sunday) home alone. To console myself I curled up with my knitting and a cup of mocha and watched Pride and Prejudice straight through for 5 hours. (Some people have comfort food. I have my own copy of Pride and Prejudice. I have a thing for Mr. Darcy.)

So far, I've completed 20 pattern repeats of Chart B on the Alpine Shawl. The pattern calls for a total of 37, but I’m going to make at least 38. We’ll see how far the yarn goes. Pictures soon.

Brian’s flight is supposed to get in at 5:30p tomorrow. I really hope tomorrow's his lucky day.

Friday, August 17, 2007

(Almost) Anything for You, My Love

Dave’s birthday was Sunday, but he’s been working long hours so we celebrated last night. I did him a favor and did NOT cook. Instead I took him out for seafood - his choice.

His gift was a bit harder. He’s been yearning for a new PDA or laptop (he can’t decide which), and a new main sail for the Odyssey, and a new bike, and to take an advanced week-long sailing course off the Florida coast. (Dave never yearns for anything that costs less than $600. These items start in the $1,000 range.) Of all of the items on his wish list, the only one I could possibly knit is a sail.

Okay, so I don’t have the fortitude to knit Dave a sail, but that’s because I’d have to use acrylic yarn.

I would so knit a sail for the Odyssey if sails were made of natural fibers. But alas, natural fibers BREATHE, and the purpose of a sail is to catch the wind.

Just so you know, I offered to felt him a sail. I did. Luckily, he laughed at that. (Occasionally, sails get wet. Imagine the stink.)

To be honest, the thought of knitting and felting a sail for our 23 foot sailboat was a bit daunting. One drawback to a felted sail is that I would have to knit the sail REALLY BIG so I could shrink it down to size. Another drawback is finding a washing machine big enough for the job. Main sails are BIG, people.

Then there’s the attention span factor. I’m having trouble picturing myself staying with the project long enough to get it off the needles – UNLESS of course I kept it interesting. I could probably knit a sail if it had cables or bobbles. Imagine a sail designed by Maggie Jackson. It might look something like this pillow (scroll down).

I love knitting lace. I could maybe knit a sail made of lace. Imagine a harbor on Independence Day full of tall ships with lace sails.

However, lace by definition has holes, and we’re looking for a fabric that will catch the wind, not filter it.

So, you see, in the end it did not make sense to give Dave a hand-knit gift for his birthday this year. Maybe next year.

If by now you're thinking: "Poor Dave. Susan does not love him enough to give him his heart’s desire," you’re wrong. I’m just not going to write about that sort of thing here. My children read this blog. Let’s keep it clean, people!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


In true Susan fashion, I've been obsessing forever about the Shetland Triangle Shawl.
I hold Brooklyn Tweed responsible for this. Have you seen his ST?

I’ve been watching Sundara’s website for just the right colorway.

Insaknitty made an exquisite ST with Sundara aran silky merino in a turquoise.

However, I’ve been spending A LOT of money on yarn and knitting-related items lately. Believe it or not, I don’t feel I can justify another big purchase right now.

Then I saw Kathryn’s ST made with Knitpicks Merino Style in the Frost colorway. Wow. I love colors that pop. That is a gorgeous shawl in a gorgeous colorway at a VERY justifiable price. (T will tell you I can justify just about anything when it comes to knitting, but Merino Style really is reasonably priced. Honest.)

So, when I ordered the books from Knitpicks, I asked them to include 4 skeins of the Merino Style in Frost. (I hope Kathryn believes imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.)

There’s nothing that says I can’t make a second ST with Sundara aran silky merino later, right?

Once I ordered the yarn, I borrowed Wrap Style from the library.

Now, when it gets late and I’m struggling to concentrate on the Alpine Shawl, the Frost and Wrap Style mock me from the coffee table. This is a test to see how long I can remain faithful to the Alpine before I break down and cast on the Shetland Triangle. (Hint: The smart money is on the ST.)

I’ve never had two lace projects on the needles at the same time. Is that asking for utter insanity?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Back to the Classics

Knitpicks is having a big book sale. They've marked 40% off all books in stock through Friday, and they’ve got some amazing deals. I took advantage of this opportunity to pick up some classics. These are books that I’ve borrowed from Teresa or the library multiple times. I borrow patterns/books whenever possible to save my money for yarn, but I’ve really wanted to have my own copies of these for a long time.

The Purl Stitch by Sally Melville has some really cute patterns. It has lots of basic information about techniques, too. I’ve made blankets, pullovers, cardis, shawls, and a hat, but believe it or not I’ve never knitted socks or mittens. The Purl Stitch includes some basic patterns – perfect for a knitter’s first attempts at either.

Scarf Style by Pam Allen has some really creative scarves. I’ve made a couple of Ene’s Scarves (shawls), but there are many other eye-catching patterns I’ve been wanting to make.

Finally, I’ve had my eye on a number of patterns in Folk Shawls by Cheryl Oberle for some time. This past winter I began to obsess over the Wool Peddler’s Shawl. During the winter my neck and back get cold when I sit on the sofa under our big front window. The WPS would be perfect for snuggling up there to knit and watch TV when it’s really cold out. Another must-have for winter is the Aran Pocket Shawl. I probably won’t start anything that heavy until the weather gets cold, though.

The arrival of these books has been a pleasant diversion because the Alpine Shawl was giving me fits last night. I kept dropping stitches and had to rip back to the lifeline twice before I was able to get into a rhythm. Some nights are like that, I guess.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Compare and Contrast

WARNING: Political Commentary Ahead

What do President George W. Bush and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have in common? Well, for one thing they both like to fight by proxy. Ahmadiniejad utilizes this strategy effectively. President Bush – not so much.

Last summer Iran successfully waged a war by proxy against Israel by supporting Hezbollah. All Hezbollah (and therefore Iran) had to do to win was survive. In that instance, Ahmadinejad picked good proxy foot soldiers. Hezbollah is an extremist terrorist organization. Their main objective is to wipe Israel off the map. They will fight Israel with or without Iran’s support.

Similarly, Iran is engaged in a war by proxy in Iraq. Iran supplies the insurgents, a number of whom are foreign al Qaeda fighters committed to fighting the US and western influences. These al Qaeda fighters will fight US forces with or without aid from Iran.

In contrast, President Bush is not so adept at fighting wars by proxy. Remember Tora Bora? The US allowed Osama bin Laden to slip through our grasp because President Bush relied on regional tribal forces in Afghanistan to capture him there. Bush reasoned that it was in the fragile Afghani government’s interest to aid the US. The plan failed because the regional tribal forces had nothing against bin Laden and the US/western agenda meant nothing to them.

President Bush has made the same mistake with Pakistan. He believes (probably wrongly) that it is in President Musharraf’s interest to aid the US. But once again the plan depends on tribal leaders to hunt and capture bin Laden in the lawless mountainous regions of the country. This strategy is equally doomed to fail.

What’s that old saying? Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Bush is nothing if not consistent. He will stay the course.

President Bush’s latest plan is to give Mexico tens of millions of dollars to fight the war on drugs. No doubt he has reasoned that the Mexican government is equally motivated to aid the US AND fight the war on drugs. I guess the idea is to outsource our dirty work. In effect Bush is hoping his American dollars will go farther if we pay Mexican police lower wages than we pay US law enforcement to fight crime for the US.

Surely it’s OBVIOUS (to everyone but Bush and his sycophants) that this latest war by proxy will continue his losing streak! The plan depends on Mexican law enforcement, who are underpaid and notoriously corrupt. Given their culture of corruption, Bush is a fool to believe Mexican law enforcement will effectively fight the war on drugs no matter how much money we throw at them. Like all of his other foreign policies, this plan defies logic, good sense and is fiscally irresponsible. His term as president just can’t expire fast enough!

Alpine Shawl Update:

The Alpine is coming along. Last night I finished the 7th pattern repeat of Chart B then started the 8th. I was tired and should have known better. On the 5th row I dropped some stitches and had to rip back 5 rows to the lifeline. Thank goodness for lifelines!

I used the center cushion of the couch as a pin cushion to pin it out for you. I can't wait to see this baby blocked!

I do have a question: The pattern calls for 850 yds of yarn and says to knit 37 repeats of Chart B. It doesn't say an additional 37 pattern repeats, so it may mean a total of 37 repeats. However, an odd number of repeats will make one end of the shawl different from the other. There are 8 rows per pattern repeat, and I have 1,000 yds of yarn. Should I do 36 or 38 repeats of Chart B?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Impulse Purchases

You know how sometimes, when you visit a yarn shop, yarn follows you home? Well, I had a similar experience at an outdoor art show yesterday.

It was Dave's birthday so we went to brunch. From there we walked to an annual event called Art on the Commons. It's a small show, but usually there are some really good pieces of art for sale. Our walls are pretty full. I really had no intention of buying anything. Really.

My first purchase was a handmade wood hair pin.

I think this will work nicely as a shawl pin.

Artists: Bill Schmidt and Diana Andra

Company: Turn of the Century

They also sell beautiful, handmade rosewood straight knitting needles in various sizes beginning with size US6. Prices range from $14 - $16 depending on needle length. Large needles (Metric sizes 13, 15, 16 & 17) sell for $16 - $18, depending on needle length. Other handmade items for sale include lace bobbins and crochet hooks.

As we wandered through the booths I stumbled on some fused glass sculptures. The artist is a regular at this art show, and I've always admired his art. Unlike some artists who do much the same thing over a long period of time, Terry's art changes every year. His medium is glass, usually colored, but lately he's expanded into metal. When I saw this menorah I. HAD. TO. HAVE. IT.

So it followed me home.

Artist: Terry Andrews

Company: Waters Edge Studios

Thursday, August 9, 2007

An Epiphany

Okay. So. On Saturday night I took a break from the Oakley Shawl and cast on the Alpine Shawl. The border is supposed to look like this.

On Sunday night I realized my lace did not look like the picture. I was also having trouble identifying which yarn over on the needle to knit or purl in places. This was most odd. I ripped back and cast on again. This time I noticed the yarn overs were twisted on the needle, but I’ve run into this before. If I knit/purl to the back loop the lace usually turns out fine.

On Monday the lace still did not look like the picture. I told myself blocking would fix the problem, so I finished the first pattern repeat. (I wish I’d taken a photo of that.)

On Tuesday morning I admitted that something really was wrong. My Alpine shawl did not match the picture, and blocking wasn’t going to fix it.

I’ve long had my suspicions that other knitters don’t have to knit/purl to the back loop of yarn overs unless the pattern specifically says to do so. It’s occurred to me in passing that perhaps I’ve been making yarn overs incorrectly. Victorian Lace Today has a well illustrated “Techniques” section, and sure enough I was incorrectly passing the yarn over the needle for yarn overs between knit stitches and under the needle for yarn overs between purl stitches. So far, as long as I knit/purl to the back loop of the yarn overs on the next row, this has worked just fine. HOWEVER, in her comments about the Alpine Shawl Jane Sowerby notes that the Alpine is “true knitted lace” because the wrong sides are patterned (not just purl or knit stitch). Apparently, knitting/purling to the back loop of incorrectly made yarn overs does not work on true knitted lace. Lesson learned – the hard way. Naturally.

On Tuesday night I ripped back and cast on again. Last night I finished the first pattern repeat. Now the lace border looks like this.

Not only did the lace turn out correctly, I find that making yarn overs correctly is a much smoother/faster motion than doing it incorrectly. Who knew? (Everyone but me, apparently.)

After the first pattern repeat was completed I added a lifeline. It has taken so long to get this far, and Sundara silk is really slippery. I didn’t want to risk losing my hard won progress. I don’t remember using a lifeline before, so I just guessed how to do it. Without giving it a whole lot of thought, I threaded the lifeline through the stitch markers as well as the live stitches. Wouldn’t you know, the next row of the chart required that the stitch markers be shifted over 1 stitch. Of course, I couldn’t move the stitch markers because the lifeline held them in place, so I had to drop them off the needle and add new ones.

(Sorry about the blurry pic, but you get the idea.)
The dropped stitch markers look goofy dangling there, but there they will stay until I add another lifeline and remove that one.
Another lesson learned the hard way. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Here's the Plan (for now anyway)

After much contemplation, I've decided that the Alpine Shawl from Victorian Lace Today (page 36) is a pattern worthy of the Sundara silk lace weight.

Last summer I learned how to read lace charts, and I’ve made a number of shawls over the past year. Still, the Alpine is a rather ambitious endeavor for Ms. Instant Gratification.

I cast on the first time on Saturday (more about that tomorrow), and it’s apparent that I’m going to need a second “mindless” project to knit when I’m too tired to concentrate on lace. This will make the Alpine take longer, but I think it’ll save me a whole lot of tinking back and aggravation in the long run.

Now, I just have to choose a mindless knitting project.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Retail Therapy Cont.

Sundara yarn is like crack cocaine for knitters. One hit makes me crave more. When I had insomnia about a week and a half ago I ordered a fix. (Insomnia can be expensive.) This is 1,000 yds of lace weight silk in the Cobalt Over Mediterranean colorway.

Be still my heart.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Knitter, Know Thyself

The Oakley Shawl is finished - at last!

In a fit of optimism I assumed I’d have it done by midday on Saturday and would be ready to move on to something new and colorful. WRONG.

When I had 178 stitches on the needles and the shawl measured about 25 inches from the lower back to the neckline, I cast off – out of concern that I’d run out of yarn for the fringe. The shawl was definitely small but it would work in a pinch.

Adding the fringe took HOURS.

By evening it was done, but there was this much yarn left on the ball.

It was enough to add some much needed length to the shawl. Nancy must be rubbing off on me (isn’t THAT a scary thought?!), because I ripped back the cast off (this was actually the second time) and resumed knitting.

After a few more rows I began to hold my breath with each row because I wasn’t sure whether there would be enough yarn left over for the cast off and any extra fringe that would be needed.

When there were 192 stitches on the needles, I cast off a final time. After adding the fringe, there was this much yarn leftover.

I probably could have gotten at least one more row out of it, but it just wasn’t worth ripping out the cast off one more time.

Here it is in all its glory:

Pattern: Oakley Shawl – Berroco pattern leaflet #225
Yarn: Berroco Suede (6 balls)
Colorway: Hopalong Cassidy #3714
Started: May 2006? (The yarn was purchased at the end of April 2006)
Finished: August 5, 2007

As I’ve remarked (whined about) before, I found knitting the suede tedious because it’s a ribbon yarn, and I took pains to keep it flat. The project languished in the UFO pile for a long time because the knitted fabric felt a bit rubbery (not bad enough to say “ew” though). Despite all of these complaints, if I had it to do over again I would have ordered an extra ball or two of yarn so I could make the shawl larger.

I’m really glad I finished the Oakley, but now that it’s done I’m not sure how much wear I’ll get out of it. I like to look a little funky sometimes, but with the fringe this shawl may be over the top.

The real moral of this story is that in the future I should avoid any project (no matter how cute) that:

1. involves ribbon yarn; or
2. requires endless garter stitch

Let’s face it, I have the attention span of a gnat and not much in the way of self discipline when it comes to sticking with a knitting project once the newness wears off.