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Brewer Burns

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thuja x 4

I’ve finished my FIL’s Christmas present. A pair of socks knit up quickly in a colorway meant to reflect the school colors of his alma mater: Syracuse University. Really, I’ve had this sock yarn for about a year now and when I held it up to Stephen with another ball in a green-blue-white colorway and asked, “Is your father an orange guy or a green guy?” Stephen recommended the orange ball because it was in Syracuse’s colors. And I went with it. Because that’s what you do when you’re knitting socks for a male member of your husband’s family. You don’t take risks with colors. Otherwise your socks could end up sitting in the back of his sock drawer for all eternity. There is an added comfort here too: even if FIL won’t wear the socks, my MIL will (and since the socks are knit I think there’s a good chance that she could wear them around the house as slipper socks) since orange is one of her favorite colors.

Why “x 4?” This is the fourth time that I have knit this pattern. I’ve knit it once for myself, once for Stephen and once for my father already. It’s a really nice little pattern. It’s just 3 x 1 seed stitch rib all the way from the bottom of the toe to the top of the leg. The pattern stitch is in multiples of four, which makes it really easy to adjust for different sizes. Since it does have those purl stitches every other row it’s not too terribly boring either.

Project stats:

Pattern: Thuja from Knitty
Needles: Size 2 dpns
Yarn: Opal
Mods: I worked them toe up instead of toe down, and substituted short row toes and heels.

I did modify the pattern to make it toe up instead of toe down, and substituted short row toes and heels. At the moment I’m completely enamored of toe up socks with short row heels and toes. I haven’t actually made a pair for myself yet though. Which makes me wonder how well the heels fit. Soon I will have to knit some socks for myself. This year though? Everyone is getting short row heels and toes. And perhaps for all years hereafter.

That’s all I’ve got today except one thing. I cast on for Stephen’s second mitten last night. I’m ready to tackle the Latvian beast once again.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This is so embarassing...

Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

20 wpi, 94 yards

My latest ball of handspun (from the Montadale/dog hair batt) is approximately 94 yards and 20 wraps per inch. It’s beautiful and I love it.

I am so incredibly happy that I bought a new spindle. There was no way that I was going to spin with any regularity using my old spindle. I found it uninspiring and frustrating. When I was still wrestling with my old spindle I thought that people who talked about spinning being relaxing were clearly insane. The only thing that I found relaxing about spinning was when I would quit in frustration and shove the spindle and roving into a box which I would then stuff into the far reaches of my closet. Oh, I might have waxed poetic a time or two about the beauty of the spinning spindle or the comfort of drafting the fibers between my own two hands. I even intimated once or twice to Stephen that I was “getting the hang of it” but these were usually at times when it had been a few months since I had pulled the spindle out to give a whirl. A long enough time that my memory of the last experience was foggy at best and painted by the passage of time with rosy hues. In reality, I was discouraged.

Why was I discouraged? Well, lots of reasons. At first I had a hard time figuring out exactly what I was meant to do with the spindle and the roving. So I read up on spinning some more and found some information about “preparing” commercially prepared fibers. In other words, I learned that having a bag full of perfectly even, smooth fibers all laying parallel to one another was not necessarily the easiest thing to spin. So I started experimenting with “teasing” the fibers. This helped some. I was starting to spin smaller weight yarn. That was good.

Of course, the problem with spinning finer singles is that it increases the possibility that your yarn will break and illustrate why it’s called a “drop” spindle. Ugh. The spinning, the breaking, the crappy, slubby joins. All of it combined to kill my enthusiasm for spinning. Back into the box it went. Until two weeks ago. Two weeks ago I was in Holy Threads (a local yarn shop) looking for the perfect yarn to make Stephen’s Latvian mittens with. After I had found the yarn I spied a spindle and some sample fiber on a table. Curious to see how this spindle might work (and, it had been awhile since I had shoved the spindle into the box and the box into the closet, so I was feeling hopeful once again) I picked it up and gave it a twirl. I played with drafting the fibers. And it WORKED! It worked in a way that my spindle and roving had never worked at home. This spindle was smaller, lighter, and had a top whorl instead of a bottom whorl. It was beautiful. I was instantly in love with it and I had to have it. Regretfully though, I left it there on the table but not without vowing that it would be mine.

And so it was. And now I’m spinning again. My yarn is not perfect. It is not perfectly even nor is it slub free. But it is lovely and I am inspired, both by the yarn I am making, and the spindle with which I’m spinning it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

You are The High Priestess

Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education.

The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she might, or might not reveal to you. The moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see, reveal the secrets you need to know. The High Priestess is also associated with the moon however and can also indicate change or fluxuation, particularily when it comes to your moods.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Another Sunday

Feels like it was just Sunday, doesn't it? Well I survived the trip to my parents' house. I even survived the trip back. On the knitting front, I finished Stephen's first mitten. It's drying as we speak. I sort of fucked up the thumb. I intentended to hold 20 stitches (for a 40 stitch thumb) but only held fifteen. Then I cast on 20 stitches in the next round. Yeah. That worked out well. I also couldn't remember exactly where I should place the thumb, but it all worked out in the end. Even the rolly cuff seems to be responding to a stern blocking. I think it will curl a bit, but the roll will be acceptable.

While the first mitten has been blocking I've used up all the yarn that I have for my SIL-to-be's fuzzy feet. I'm only about halfway through the second slipper so I will have to buy more yarn. I also cast on for my FIL's socks. They will be Thuja, from Knitty, but modified to be a toe up instead of a toe down pattern.

So what have I been spending all of my time doing, you ask? Spinning. Spinning like the wind. I spun up all of the roving that I bought from my LYS one and a half years ago and started in on some roving that I bought a year ago. It's montadale sheep's wool carded with dog fur. It's beautiful and wonderful to spin. I'm really, really pleased with myself these days and with the yarn I'm spinning. Did you have a happy Thanksgiving? I did.

Things that I'm grateful for today: a husband that wears handknits happily, not being angry with my parents over Thanksgiving, my nieces who are adorable, spinning yarn that I'm happy with, really enjoying spinning, and having a husband that is happy to drive on all of our road trips. If he didn't I would be a nervous wreck. And I'm still a nervous wreck when he does. But at least I'm not driiving. Everyone is safer that way.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Over the Mountains and Through the Woods...

To my parents’ house we go. The Spokane contingent will be making the trek to my hometown for Thanksgiving. It’s a five hour drive but I have my knitting so I won’t be complaining. In case you’re wondering, this is where my parents live. It’s also where I grew up. Really, Grotto is nothing more than a random collection of 30 houses on the side of Highway 2. Ironically, it used to be a real town of more than a thousand people. The entire area used to be economically vibrant due to: mining (largely silver, but other minerals were also mined), a cement mixing plant, and the railroad. The only one of those industries that is still operational is the railroad. In a way it’s actually kind of comforting to know that something like an entire cement plant can disappear, leaving little or no trace of its existence in just a few generations time.

My hometown has no post office, no school, no library. The only thing that brings the town’s residents together is a community well, and that has most often been a catalyst for division, rather than a uniting force. Growing up, I attended school in the next town over, Skykomish. The Skykomish school actually drew students from several towns: Skykomish, Baring, Grotto and Index. In spite of this enrollment perpetually hovered around one hundred students, grades K-12. I graduated in a class of seven.

Bill Bryson said in one of his books: “The good thing about growing up in a small town is that you know that you want to get out.” That was true for me. I always knew that I wanted to get out. One of the consequences of living twenty miles from the summit of Stevens Pass is that the nearest grocery store was forty miles down the highway, the nearest movie theater was an hour away, and when I say that there was nothing to do on a Saturday night I really mean it. There was NOTHING to do. At the time that the last census was taken there were two hundred residents of Skykomish (and of course much fewer in Grotto.) One might wonder what those two hundred residents do, in fact, DO on a Saturday night in a town where there is literally NOTHING to DO. Well, I can’t answer that question except to say that in a town of two hundred (but let’s say that there are maybe three hundred or three hundred and fifty people if you count those living in the general area) there are two bars, one stand alone tavern, and a liquor store. All of these businesses continue to operate while others (hotels, restaurants, ski shops, etc.) close.

As for me, I got out as soon as I could. I can’t say the same for most of the people that I grew up with, however. Next year will be the tenth anniversary of my high school graduation and I can tell you that there will be no need for an actual class reunion. I can tell you where all of the people that I graduated with are, and where most of the people who graduated before and after them are. Most kids intend to leave Skykomish and escape the small town life that they grew up with, but most don’t actually do it. Why? I’m not really sure. For some people life gets away from them in the form of a teen pregnancy or something similar. For others, there just seems to be a kind of inertia. A desire to get away but no real motivation to actually do it. It’s too easy to stick with what you know and who you know and continue to do what you know how to do.

Having been out on my own and living in Spokane for several years now I can understand that desire, that inertia. Every day I come into work and pretend that I know what needs to be done and how to do it. Most days I can understand why someone would be loathe to leave the familiar places and the familiar people and the familiar things that they grew up with. I glimpse it in people that I know here. People who grew up in Spokane and now know the people who know the people who can get them the interview for the job. Or the people who can always get a job with their dad’s company or their mom’s company if other opportunities fall through. Those with a backup plan that doesn’t involve selling the house and moving to another area code. I see it and I get it. And yet. I would do anything to prevent having to return to the place where I grew up.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Mitten from Latgale

I bought Latvian Mittens sight unseen from Amazon because I had read so much about it on the internet. I remember the Latvian Mitten phase that the Yarn Harlot went through a year or so ago and I have read in other places how much people liked knitting the mittens and how cool the book was in general. The whole idea intrigued me. Here was a book that was part knitting/part history, part technique/part culture. I bought it and I did not regret it.

When I bought the book I did so while willfully banishing the thought of my last stranded colorwork project. Last October, when I first really caught the knitting bug I did so after picking up a copy of Vogue Knitting on a whim. One of the projects that caught my eye was a fair isle hat. I chose this project because it was small but interesting to me. It did not work out well. I made the hat, and, using the SNB book I figured out how to add in more than one color in a row. Unfortunately I had no idea how loose to make the strands in the back, so they were way too tight. I also did not read up on how to weave in the long floats in the back and ended up with a twisted mass of yarns. And the beginning of the row? Terrible. Granted, the beginning of the row always looks a bit crappy, but this was terrible. The stitches were all wonky and really, really loose. So loose that there were actual gaps along that row edge. Bad. Now, I don’t consider the project a total failure for a couple of reasons. It actually fit over my head (although it gripped like a vise) and I did wear it once. And then I promptly lost it. I think the Universe was trying to tell me something. Anyway, aside from that project, the only other stranded colorwork I’ve done is something so vile I shudder to mention it (they may have been fair isle leg warmers, but if they were I’m not going to admit it.)

Needless to say I came into this project with a lot of trepidation. I really didn’t believe that I could do stranded colorwork. I thought that it would be too tight and pull. I thought that my yarns would tangle and drive me insane. I thought that it would look like something the dog dragged in. I was afraid. And yet, I was also wild to start in on a pair of mittens. So I did. As I was looking at the pictures of the mittens in the back of the book I noticed a pair that I thought would work. Since I had recently been through my stash I knew that I still had a lot of yarn left from that fair isle hat in approximately the same colors as Plate 2b, Chart 24. I decided to give it a whirl. Note: I used the pattern in Chapter Six of the book (the mitten from Latgale) for a guide as I knit this mitten. So, when I talk about what the pattern tells you to do, that’s what I’m talking about. As you all know, that first time that I cast on, I cast on way too few stitches. Fifty to be exact, which resulted in a mitten that would have fit one of my nieces perhaps, but not me. I did this not out of blind folly, but out of totally aware folly. I swatched but I failed to work a two color swatch. Folly. So, LESSON #1: make a two color swatch. When I was finally able to admit that my mitten was way, way too small I ripped back and started anew with 75 stitches.

I didn’t rip back and start over that first mitten just because I had cast on too many stitches. I also realized as I was knitting that my failure to heed the author’s words with respect to another (HUGE) detail had indeed come back to bite me in the ass. All of the charts show only the back of the hand. What this means is that they do not necessarily show the entire design. This also means that even if they do show the whole design, the end of the chart does not necessarily match up with the beginning of the chart. In fact, the two ends most likely do not match up. What does this really mean for you, the knitter? LESSON #2: You must draw out the entire chart on your own before you start knitting. I drew mine on engineering graph paper, but there are places where you can get printable knitter’s graph paper drawn to reflect your gauge. Just Google it. Another important thing to remember is that, since the chart doesn’t necessarily show the entire design, the total number of stitches of each repeat may be more or less than the number of stitches in the chart. So, when I cast on 75 stitches I soon realized that this was jackassed because there are actually 36 stitches in the main design of the mitten, and 34 in the cuff pattern. 75 is not a multiple of either of these numbers. I fixed this problem pretty easily by decreasing three stitches in one of the plain rows before the cuff pattern started, leaving me with 72 stitches, which is a multiple of the main pattern and only four more stitches than the cuff pattern.

The second time through I was determined to get it right. One of the things that had really driven me just about off the deep end on the first try was that every time I twisted my yarns to secure a long float, I twisted my yarns and therefore the yarn became more and more twisted as I went along. I decided that someone, somewhere must have come up with a better way of doing this. I decided to read through the entire section in my SNB book on fair isle. I was really glad I did. LESSON #4: Learn how to weave your ends in without twisting the yarns together. There is a way to do it and it depends on which yarn you’re weaving in. I can’t really explain it. My suggestion? Either buy a book that illustrates the technique or you can probably find it somewhere on the internet.

Once I had figured out how to weave in my yarns as I went along, it became obvious to me how I could keep my other colors from getting twisted while I was knitting with them. I figured out that I should hold my main color in my left hand and “pick” the way that I normally do (I knit continental.) I alternated the other colors in my right hand and “wrapped” like people do when they knit “American.” In addition, I kept the other colors always in the same order. For illustrative purposes, when I was knitting the cuff pattern I kept the green yarn to the far left, the blue in the middle, and the orange to the right. Then when I was alternating yarns in the right hand, the green always came under all of the other colors, the blue always came over the green and under the orange, and the orange always came over the other colors. LESSON #5: Learn to keep your colors in order.

The other big hurdle for me in this project was avoiding too tight stranding and puckering. I dealt with this mainly through mindfulness. When I was weaving in a long strand or alternating a color I took care to strand loosely and to stretch the stitches between the last time that I had used the new yarn color or woven it in and the current stitch that was being knitted. I also took care to stop every so often and physically stretch and loosen the stitches on the needle. This technique did not make my stranding perfect and I can still see some puckering but it is slight and does not affect the overall wearability of the mittens at all.

I did modify this pattern slightly. In the patterns in the book the author places the beginning of the round at the side of the mitten. I decided that I wanted my beginning of round to be in the middle of the palm because that part always looks crappy, no matter what you do, and I figured that in practice the middle of the palm would be seen the least. In order to accomplish this I placed my thumb hole in a slightly different place, which meant that I needed to place my top decreases in a slightly different place as well. Basically I moved it all over one needle, or 18 stitches.

On my second mitten I did two things differently than my first. I cast on 72 stitches instead of 75 and I actually followed the directions for the patterning on the thumb. On my first mitten the patterning on the thumb is the same all the way around. On my second mitten I did as the author instructs: On the portion of the thumb that will be facing out I continued the patterning of the palm UP, and on the portion that will be facing in I continued the patterning of the palm DOWN. I didn’t do this on the first mitten, frankly, because I read that direction and couldn’t figure out what the hell the author was talking about. It turns out that it means exactly what she said. On the inside of the thumb you cast on in the pattern and then follow the pattern but work down on the chart instead of up (the opposite of what you normally do) and on the outside of the thumb you work up in the chart (like you normally do.) This is a small detail that doesn’t really make that big of a difference, but is neat when you get it right.

This is my last note on the pattern. I promise. The author actually instructs you to work the left hand mitten chart as a mirror image of the right. I didn’t do this but I can see why that would be neat if you did. It’s like the thumb. It doesn’t make that big of a difference but I can see why you might take the time to do it.

Alright. Are you read for the pattern stats? Here they are:

Yarn: Katia Australia (I think), 50% merino, 50% acrylic. About the yarn. All I can say is what the author says over and over in the book: USE WOOL! OR A NATURAL FIBER! DON’T USE ACRYLIC! Because it won’t stretch as well and it won’t be as nice or as warm. Basically all the reasons that it’s better to use natural (animal) fibers when knitting.
Pattern: Plate 2b, Chart 24, in Latvian Mittens by Lizbeth Upitis
Needles: Size 2 dpn’s
Mods: See above

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Sunday Update

Random fact about me: I love the Beatles. One of my favorite records to put on is Hey Jude.I know all the words to "Can't Buy Me Love" and I sing along to it. One of my earliest memories is of listening to "Strawberry Fields Forever" in my parents old Dodge Dart on the way to... somewhere. I do believe that I was standing up in the back seat of the car. Um. So. There are worse things than placing your child facing forward in a rear-facing car seat. 1. Not making her wear a seat belt, 2. Driving a Dodge Dart, 3. Allowing her to stand up in the back seat and 4. Exposing her to "Strawberry Fields Forever." Any of these things, together or separate could, conceivably, produce a woman like me. A woman who puts on Hey Jude when she's drunk and sings along to the entire album while her husband desperately tries to regain control of the stereo system. Consider yourself warned.

Knitting and spinning, knitting and spinning. What do I have for you? Well, I finished the second Latvian mitten and it is indeed a fraternal rather than an identical twin. I only ran out of the green yarn though, so it's not that different. Down to the very end I was worreid that I was going to run out of black which would make for a very different mitten indeed than the first. But it's finished now and almost dry.

I also washed some of my homespun and rolled it into balls. There is very, very little of it and I have no idea what I'm going to do with it but I am rather pleased with it. I'm really enjoying spinning with my new spindle. I just enjoy it more.

After I finished my second Latvian mitten I started in on another pair, this time for Stephen. It's a two-color mitten, Graph No. 50 in the book. I'm using 100% alpaca yarn for this one and it is beautiful. And stretchy. It's just so much better in every conceivable way than the 1/2 acrylic, 1/2 wool that I used for my mittens. As I said before, it was stash yarn and therefore has served its purpose nicely, but the new yarn is just a dream to work with.

I will be posting pictures either tonight or tomorrow afternoon. Oh! And I have now discovered, through the magic that is the iMac, the wonder that is the knitting podcast. I absolutely love Cast-On. I also really like Pixie Purl's podcast, and Lime and Violet.

I would also like to thank Glaistig for letting me know how to link on blogger using the iMac. Unfortunately, I can't remember just now how to do it but look for linky goodness sometime soon.

Friday, November 17, 2006

As The Whorl Turns*

I am a spinner. I've never written about this before because I do it so poorly. When I first started to teach myself to spin I bought an Ashford traditional spindle and went on my merry way. Oy. I sucked. Then I went online and watched a lot of spinning videos and read a lot about spinning. Then I practiced some more. I still sucked, but it got a little better. I figured out that I really needed to prepare my fibers before I attempted to spin them. I have tried several different things, but basically, what I've learned is that I really need to tease my fibers out and break them up in order to spin at all well. I still don't spin well, but I am starting to slowly spin more evenly and with much fewer slubs. Small victories.

Anyway, the reason that I'm writing about this now is twofold. First, I've decided that it's silly to give up on the spinning, so I'm going to practice a little every day. Second, I bought myself a new spindle this week. It's a top whorl spindle. I don't know the manufacturer. I bought it from Holy Threads here in Spookaloo and so far I'm enjoying spinning with it. Soon I will have spun up all the fiber that I bought from my LYS. I will have to break out the good stuff. In other words, I will have to find and then spin the fiber that I bought at Barter Faire last year. Should be fun. I will let you know how it goes.

*I suspect that every handspinner with a blog has used this title for an entry at some point. And yet. I couldn't help myself.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Wee Dragons

I finished the dragon hat last night. I'm quite pleased with it but a little worried about the fit. Now, I swatched, as you might recall, so the hat is, approximately, the size I intended it to be. It just seems so big! The thing is that my niece has a rather large head, so I'm hoping for the best. If it doesn't fit her now, it will eventually.

Project Stats:

Pattern: My own (cobbled together from other hats I have made)
Yarn: Dale of Norway Baby Ull in green and peach. Funny story. I was in a yarn store last weekend, the one that's organized by color and that I don't go to very often, and I asked one of the sales women whether they carry Dale of Norway and she said, "I don't think so. What kind of his yarn are you looking for?"
Needles: Size 3 dpns. Bamboo. All my needles are bamboo.

About the pattern. Yeah. It's a great pattern (hah! hah!) I crack me up. I love the yarn. Love Baby Ull. Really, what's not to like? It's incredibly soft, reasonably priced, and superwash for those messy toddler accidents. I will say that it is a little limp and therefore stretches a bit when blocked. This was not a problem for me, however, since I had washed my swatch.

The one thing about knitting this hat that made me slightly insane was that there were too many stitches to fit on three dpns until I started decreasing for the crown. This meant that I had to knit the first four inches of the hat on four dpns. That killed me. I hate knitting in a square instead of a triangle. I feel like that extra needle makes my knitting dangle in a dangerous fashion. I constantly worry about stitches popping off the ends of the dangling needles while I'm knitting. That actually did happen a couple of times while I was knitting this and it nearly gave me a heart attack. Seriously. I hate it when the stitches pop off the end of one of my needles. This is one of the reasons why all of my needles are bamboo. They're sticky so the stitches are much less likely to slip off.

The pattern worked out well. I was even able to join the cast on edge to the rest of my knitting to form the picot edge without using a crochet hook. I really like the way the dragons look and all in all it was really a simple pattern. The only hard part was creating the dragon chart, but Stephen really did all the work there.

So, if you want to make one of these yourself (and please feel free) here's the basic recipe:
Cast on as many stitches as needed to fit the intended recipient. I cast on 140,
knit two inches in stockinette in the round,
knit a picot round (yo, knit one, around),
knit six more rows of stockinette*,
knit the ten rows of the dragon chart, evenly spacing the dragons around the hat, Since I had 140 stitches, I knit six dragons total, with three stitches between each dragon, except in two places I knit four stitches between dragons
knit one row stockinette,
knit one row stockinette in the contrasting color,
knit one row in stockinette alternating one stitch in the main color and one stitch in the contrasting color, around,
knit one row stockinette in the contrasting color,
knit two more rows stockinette in the main color,
join the cast on edge to the knitting by knitting one loop from the cast on edge together with one stitch on the current row around to form the picot brim
Start the decreases for the brim. If you have 140 stitches then you should:
knit 18, k2tog, place marker, all the way around. If you have a different number of stitches then you should find some number that your number of stitches is equally divisible by and then decrease equally around.

1. knit one row even
2. Knit to two stitches before marker, k2tog, around

Repeat these two rows until you have 7 stitches between each marker, knit one more row even,
then knit round 2 until you have one stitch between each marker.
At that point you can cut the thread and draw it through to cinch up the top, or do like I did and do a couple more k2tog's and double decreases until you are left with three stitches total, then cut thread and draw through the stitches. Three stitches seems to be the magic number for me. Three stitches leaves basically no hole at the top. Anyway, then you can weave in the ends and block. It's lovely and should fit a three year old with a large head.

*If you're getting a different gauge than me or if you're making your hat bigger or smaller than mine then what you really want to do is place the dragon so it is a roughly equal distance from the picot round and the round where you will join the cast on edge and to the rest of the hat.

Other important information if you want to make this hat:
Gauge: I was getting 7 stitches to the inch and 11 rounds to the inch on size 3 dpn's.
The dragon chart is 20 stitches wide x 10 stitches high.

Really, this is a very basic hat with a picot brim and a fair isle patttern on the brim. It could be changed to make it bigger or smaller. In fact, I'm thinking making one for myself (maybe in pink? with green dragons? Cute!)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Sunday Update

Did you know that the hotlink tool in blogger doesn't work if you're running MAC OS? Now you do. So when I blog from home there will be no linking, just web addresses in the text. I figured that you should know that. Okay, on to the knitting/life update.

First, in case you were worried, the check that was lost in the mail? It somehow made it to its final destination. I don't know how since most of the envelope came back to me, but it made it. Now we're just waiting to see if it cashes in spite of the stop payment order we put on it.

In knitting news, I've done several things. I completely finished the Latvian mitten, including weaving in the ends and blocking it. It's beautiful and lovely and I'm going to make a second one. I may not have enough yarn, so the second mitten may be more of a fraternal twin then an identical twin. In addition, I plan to subtly fix the mistakes I made in the first mitten (as best I can.) To wit: I will cast on 72 stitches instead of 75, I will not attempt to make a jogless join since the failure of such attempts in the first mitten were spectacular (see the picture up there of the palm of the mitten and the severe zigzag that the blue line/black line alternation takes? Yeah. Bad idea.) Lastly, I may actually attempt to follow the directions with respect to the thumb patterning. Because it will be prettier that way. Oh, also, the yarn bloomed beautifully in the blocking, meaning that the mitten fits me perfectly and does not cut off my circulation anywhere.

After I finished my mitten, I swatched for the dragon hat. I made the cutest little 45 stitch, two color, circular swatch, using the dragon motif that Stephen drew. Which reminds me. If you're making a garment that will require two or more color stranded knitting, please, please swatch using at least two colors. That's why my first latvian mitten could have fit a five year old. I swatched, but only using one color. That came back to bite me in the ass. So, yeah, I swatched, I blocked my swatch, and the dragon looks good. It has a real chinese new year dragon kind of feel to it. I've started the hat. It will have a picot brim and fair isle dragons traveling all the way around the brim. If I can figure out how to make it work there will be little peach splotches above the dragon at regular intervals. I have to think about how to make it work with the decreases though.

Lastly, while I was waiting for my swatch to dry I started another pair of Fuzzy Feet (www.knitty.com) for my sister-in-law to be. I'm using the same teal ball of LP as I used for my fuzzy feet and I turned the heel on the first one during Friday night's chess game. I won. Stephen was crushed. That's the Sunday update. Stay tuned for a more in depth discussion of the Latvian Mitten sometime next week. I know. I can't stop talking about them. I admit that it's a bit obssessive.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Latvian Mitten Gyro (and some Yarn Porn)

I finished the decreases in my latvian mitten. It is lovely. I've started on the thumb. See?

I've been meaning to blog the latvian gyro. The latvian gyro is a styrofoam container with holes cut in the top. The yarn goes inside the gyro and is seperated by chopsticks, thereby allowing me to knit with a minimum of entanglement. Stephen got so sick of heairng me yell at my tangled yarn balls that he decided to remedy the problem. Shortly after he made me the gyro, I figured out how to keep the yarn from twisting together with the other yarn balls, but still. It's really helped me through this mitten. It's been like training wheels for colorwork for me. By the way, when Elizabeth Zimmerman (I think) said that you should never put more than three colors in one row, I now know why. I've learned how to keep three balls of yarn, one background color (the black in this mitten) and two contrasting colors (green and orange) from tangling. Adding a fourth color makes it much harder.

My advice for those of you thinking of making these mittens? Definitely read up on fair isle work. Hold the main color in one hand and the contrasting colors in your other hand. Learn how to weave in the contrasting colors of yarn as you go, so as to avoid really long floats. Remember that you need to take the charts in the book and chart them out on graph paper. I used regular engineering graph paper, but you could use knitter's graph paper. Also remember that the patterns and the charts in the book are more like "recipes" for knitting a latvian mitten, and less like step by step patterns (although there are several step by step patterns.) Don't forget to swatch using two colors. Using more than one color really affects your gauge.

Okay, I'm working on the thumb but I have a confession to make. This is probably going to be a singleton mitten. Not my only latvian mitten. You see, I don't have enough yarn to finish my mitten. In addition I made the cuff very, very long. Finally, I could, but don't want to buy more of the yarn I used. It's stash yarn, Katia, a 50% merino and 50% acrylic. It has a nice feel and all, but I think that if I make another mitten I'm going to buy some nice 100% wool yarn. I'm thinking Dale of Norway (they make their yarn for colorwork) Helios. Just thinking though. I may make a not-quite-matching mitten that I will wear with this mitten or I might make a completely new pair using a different chart. I don't know yet.

Right. Last thing. I bought some yarn yesterday. It's Baby Ull, in green and peach. Remember that dragon hat I was going to make for my niece? Well, I'm finally going to do it. Stephen graphed me a fabulous fair isle dragon. The main color for the hat will be the green, and the dragon will be in the peach. It will be very pretty.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why I Vote

I am a young woman. Less than half of the eligible female voters in this country voted in the last national election. I want my voice to count.

I hope to live a good, long life. I will turn 80 in the year 2059. Will there be social security available to me? What will the size of the national debt be? What about Medicaid and Medicare? Will they be available? All of these things are influenced by what our elected representatives do NOW.

I am a young woman. It is my duty as a citizen of this country to weigh in on issues that are important enough to make it onto the ballot, and to actively participate in the choosing of the people who will represent my area of this country.

I hope to live a good, long life. If global warming continues, will I be able to do that? All of these things are influenced by what our elected representatives do NOW.

I am a young woman. Eligible voters aged 18-25 are the least likely to exercise their right to vote. That means that elected officials feel no desire to attend to the needs and wants of those people in that age range. Imagine what would happen if they actually voted.

I hope to live a good, long life. Will I always have healthcare available to me? What if I lose my job or my employer drops the company plan? If I have to buy my own health insurance, can I afford that and will I be able to afford it in the future? All of these things are influenced by what our elected representatives do NOW.

I am a young woman. I will be able to reproduce for (probably, approximately) the next 18? 20? years. If I want to have a baby, will I have the right to receive adequate pre and post natal care? If I don’t want to have a baby will reliable forms of birth control be available to me? Will I always have access to an abortion? What if my life is in danger? All of these things are influenced by what our elected representatives do NOW.

I have three nieces and one nephew. I want them all to live good, long lives. My youngest niece will be 80 in the year 2086. What will the world be like then? Will she have access to health care throughout her life? Will she have access to pre and post natal care if she chooses to have children? If she chooses to not have children or to wait, will she have easy access to reliable forms of birth control? Will she have access to an abortion? What if her life is in danger? Will she have access to good, affordable, end of life care? All of these things are influenced by what our elected representatives do NOW.

Vote. Vote for the person that you think will do the best job representing your interests on the local, state, and national level, even if that means that you write yourself in. Take a few minutes to read up on the initiatives and referendums on your ballot. Do you want these laws to be enacted or not? Vote. Make your voice count. There are people all around the world who fight for the right to vote, and who risk their lives in exercising that right. Let us not be a country full of apathetic people. Let’s be a country full of people that vote.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Latvian Mitten is Dead. Long Live the Latvian Mitten!

On Saturday morning I made a horrific discovery. No. Scratch that. On Saturday morning I finally admitted to myself what I already knew was true: the Latvian Mitten was way too small. We’re talking very-small-child-sized. I couldn’t get may hand through it. So I ripped it. And you know what? It was a really good thing that I did. Not only had I made my mitten way too small, I had also willfully ignored a warning given by the author about the charts: THEY ONLY SHOW THE BACK OF THE HAND. In other words, the charts don’t necessarily show the whole chart. Likely, they show some portion of the complete chart. That means that it’s your job, as the knitter, to look at the chart, look at the picture of the mitten, and then extrapolate the rest of the chart. Unless you like your mittens to look jack-assed. Another interesting point: the CHARTS show the back of the hand, the PICTURES, show the palm of the hand. So you can see how the mitten should look throughout.

In order to make my mitten both: fit me, and not look jack-assed, I did two things. First, I cast on a third more stitches. That’s 75 stitches total. Then I worked through the braided cuff and a few more rows to bring me up to the first bit of colorwork. Then I sat down and charted out both the cuff pattern and the (main) hand pattern. Which brought me another surprise. You see, I cast on in multiples of 25 because that’s how many stitches were in the chart. However, the completed chart for the cuff pattern was actually 34 stitches wide, and the complete pattern for the hand chart was 36 stitches wide. This means that I had enough stitches to complete the cuff pattern twice, plus seven extra stitches, and the hand pattern twice, plus three extra stitches. Being the brilliant knitter that I am (hah!) it occurred to me at this point that: since I realized that the chart didn’t show the whole pattern, I was a even more of a jackass for not charting out the full pattern before I cast on again, and: I could just decrease three stitches. That’s what I did. Over one of the plain rows before the cuff pattern began I decreased three stitches. This left a few extra stitches on the cuff pattern, but would leave no extra stitches on the hand pattern. (Insert picture of me grinning like an idiot.)

Here’s the thing that I’m really excited about. First, I’ve been working the colorwork in this pattern using the two-handed method. Normally I knit continental. To me, this means that I hold the yarn in my left hand as I knit and I “pick” the yarn for the new stitch with my working needle rather than “wrapping”it around the needle using my hand. I knit this way because I came to knitting from crochet, and when my grandmother taught me how to crochet she taught me to hold the yarn in my left hand. Well, I’ve figured out that if I hold the background color in my left hand (black) and the other, variable contrasting color in my right hand, I can knit two handed. This is how I do it: with my left hand I knit as I always do, picking, but with my right hand, I wrap. This also means that my yarns do not become tangled around each other because the yarn in my left hand always comes under the contrasting yarn, and the yarn in my right hand always comes over the main yarn. This has done a lot to keep me from poking my own eyes out with my dpn’s.

After I ripped my mitten and started anew I also broke out my SNB book and looked up the section on fair isle. In that section I noticed that it gives directions on how to “weave in” your yarn as you go, so as to avoid really long floats in your work. And? The best part? This method will also prevent your yarn from tangling on itself when you do it.

At this point, I’ve knit through the cuff pattern, a portion of the hand pattern, and have just added the thumb-hole. I will post pics tonight of the new, improved Latvian Mitten.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Friday Update


1. I didn’t run out of gas before I got to the gas station.

2. I finished a second Perdita bracelet (Bluebells) and both are currently blocking in front of a heating vent.

3. We brewed up some of the Genmaicha tea this morning from Japan. It was fabulous. Very oily and pungent. Not dried out. I think it probably helps to get it from the source.

4. IK has assured me that they are going to add a correction to their errata page for the Padded Footlets pattern. I’m quite impressed by their response to my query.

5. It snowed yesterday. Then it rained. Then it snowed. And finally, it rained and rained and rained. In short, my deck furniture is soaked and my dog refused to go out to pee last night so I had to get up at 3:00 a.m. to let her out. Yes, my dog refuses to go out in the rain. She’s a wee bit spoiled.

I ordered Latvian Mittens by Lizbeth Upitis a few weeks ago and it arrived at my house on Wednesday night. Last night, I couldn’t resist and I cast on. Oh. My. God. I. Love. Braided. Cuffs. Seriously, I am in lust with my mitten at the moment. It is Plate 2b and Chart 24. I also love the book. How could you not love a book that’s written half in English, half in Latvian? It’s fantastic. And I love the color photos of each of the mittens. I understand that some of the earlier versions of the book did not contain the color photographs, so definitely, if you’re ordering this book, get the newer one with the color photographs. Unfortunately the charts are not in color. They are also a little hard to read because they are sort of crammed in there, like six to a page. That being said, they’re definitely readable and, so far, I’m finding mine to be workable. I’ll let you know how things progress.

By the way? I love The Office. I love the American version, but I’ve fallen deeply in love with the BBC version as well. Stephen and I Netflixed both seasons of the BBC version and this week we also watched “The Office Special” which is set three years after the end of the original series (can you believe there were only two seasons of this show? I can’t.) If you like the American version, you should rent the BBC version. If you’ve seen the BBC version, but not the Special, you should see that too. It has the Best Ending Ever. Seriously. The Best.

Oh, and another reason to buy Latvian Mittens: it contains several Latvian poems about mittens. Poems about mittens! Did you know that the average Latvian dowery included 100-200 mittens, all hand knit by the bride and her female relations? Amazing.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Things that Happened to Me this Week that You Don't Know About

1. The gas light has been on in my car for a day and a half. I may not make it the two blocks to the gas station when I leave for lunch today. I’m testing the theory that my car can run on air if it has to. You know, out of necessity?

2. One of the trick or treaters who showed up at my house last night had a tattoo on her lower back. Um. Yeah. Methinks she was a little old for the trick or treating.

3. On a similar note, the bratty teenagers that live next door to me and egg my house (and paintball my house and throw loud parties in their backyard filled with other drunken, fornicating teenagers)? They also came by last night and trick or treated. Luckily, they have been much less obnoxious lately. I gave them candy. Maybe they will turn out to be decent human beings after all.

4. The rest of the trick or treaters were the right age, and incredibly cute. Cute, cute, cute!

5. I finished the first Perdita bracelet (Lilacs) and started another (Bluebells.) These are an incredibly fast and satisfying knit. As I mentioned before, I’m using cotton embroidery thread that I have in my stash (Yes, I embroider.) What’s not to like? These things knit up really, really quick with very pretty lace patterns, and the thread is cheap.

6. I read The Giver last night for what is probably about the fourth or fifth time. It’s written by Lois Lowry and aimed at kids, 9-12. However, I would recommend it to anyone of just about any age group. It’s a fantastic book. It’s one of those books that really changed the way that I thought when I first read it and remains one of my favorite books even now. Read it.

7. Stephen’s boss, Marshall, returned from his trip to Japan this week. He and his wife bought us a package of GENMAICHA TEA! FROM JAPAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

8. I’ve been in contact with IK about the Padded Footlets pattern. They agree, that in order to make the pattern work correctly, then all repeats subsequent to the first repeat, you should start round 2 with a purl stitch instead of a slipped stitch. I’m still corresponding with them and will update you as I go. They’ve been quite prompt, by the way.

9. Eunny is back and I’m quite happy about this. Also, you should all go over and look at what Moni has been up to lately. Granted, she comprises a good percentage of my readership, but the other two or three of you? Go see what she’s been up to. Ooh. Also. Go see Glaistig. She’s awesome and the video of the intergalactic karaoke (scroll down a couple of entries)? Hilarious!

10. There was snow at my house Monday morning. Actual snow. It had melted by midday and hasn’t been repeated since then, but there was snow. The winter is definitely on its way.

11. I signed up for the Dulaan Brigade yesterday. As long as I’m going to spend an obscene amount of money on this hobby, I might as well send some of that yarn and knitting to where it can make a real difference in someone’s life.

12. Lastly, Michael Hanscom, who is the son of John (frequent commenter) and brother of Kevin (Stephen’s best friend) is having one of his photographs published in the November 27 issue of The New Yorker. It’s a very cool thing. Scroll down to his October 9 entry to see the picture.

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