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Brewer Burns

Friday, December 29, 2006


Okay. I'm back. I know it's been a little while, but I can explain. First, there was traveling, which entailed many, many hours of driving (and much buying of expensive! gas.) Second, there was the almost-dying. Or at least the fear of being badly hurt with a totalled car. Let me explain. When we left my parent's house on Saturday, we were driving down the highway and it was "slushing" (in other words, a mix of rain and snow and ice was falling from the sky) and creating a layer of snow-ice-rain mix on the road. In addition, I apparently need new tires on my car. Anyway, Stephen was driving (which is why I'm still alive) and as we rounded a corner the car hydroplaned. I have all wheel drive and all four tires had no contact with the road for several, bone-chilling, seconds. As the car glided, rather serenely, toward the bare granite face of the rock wall that forms the outer boundary of the roadway I froze in panic. Luckily, Stephen was traveling the suggested speed for this particular curve, and the car did stay on the highway, and eventually regained traction. Scary, though.

After that you can be sure that we drove carefully. In addition to the hours we logged on the road, as soon as I got back home I came down with the flu. It's really not all that surprising since we encountered several sick people in our visits. It was only late last night that my fever finally broke and I'm back to feeling like I might be able to do something other than sit in my recliner and moan while sipping Theraflu.

The visiting was fun. My family is doing quite well. My parents and sister did lose power in the phenomenally destructive windstorm that hit western washington recently, but neither of them suffered any real damage. Just a few days in the dark eating out of cans. All the gifts were received graciously, and, it appears, with real excitement. On Sunday, Stephen and his brother, Patrick spent several hours singing Karaoke (which I forgot to record.) I also received several really cool knitterly things for Christmas, but I will blog those in another entry.

I also noticed that I've been tagged by Moni. So, here are Five Things that You Don't Know About Me and Maybe Don't Want To:

1. I have had five seperate surgeries on my mouth: the first when I was 10, to remove a cyst that was growing beneath my teeth, right on my jaw bone, right side, the second a couple years later to figure out if my adult tooth was ever going to come in (it wasn't,) the third when I was 16 to put an implant in where that tooth should have been, the fourth to remove my wisdom teeth (at 22), and the last one two years ago to perform a skin graft because the implant was loose and had rubbed against the surrounding gums causing them to recede. And I had braces in high school.

2. I have a high tolerance to novocaine. This means that when they did that surgery to put the implant in I could still feel something when the surgeon started to cut into my gums and they had to give me another shot. The result of all that? A severe needle phobia.

3. Because I have a needle phobia I have had cavities filled without novocaine. Also, if I have to have blood drawn, I usually have a little cry first. Some phlebotomists find this a little unnerving.

4. I eat lemon slices. Peel and all.

5. In the ultimate irony, I still have a soft spot in my heart for my childhood dentist, Dr. Emory. When I go home and I drive by his office I always point it out. In case any of you live in the area, his office is just west of the last stoplight in Sultan, Washington, above the little grocery store there. He was so good that I didn't even know that they gave you a shot with a needle to numb you up. I never saw the needle and the only thing I ever felt was the cold rush of the novocaine.

Well, that's all for now. Sorry that most of my five things are related to dentistry, but that's where my mind was today. Maybe there should be an alternate list? Maybe I'll save that for tomorrow. Oh, and the one, big surprising thing that we learned over the holiday? My BIL is getting married next month. So, congratulations Dave & Kim!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Knitting Wrap Up and Ene's Scarf

I am glad to be back to an all-consuming, all-encompassing, engrossing knit. In the madness of the xmas knitting season I not only had more than one project going at a time, I was constantly thinking of all of the other projects I had to finish. To give you an idea of what it was like inside my head, let me give you this little snapshot:

What yarn do I need to buy? What yarn should it be? Where will I find it? What color should I use? What size should I make? How long will it take to block? How will I block it? What if I can’t find the yarn? What will I make?

There wasn’t enough headspace left for me to exist alongside this litany of concerns, worry and self-doubt. But that’s over now. So, let’s talk a little bit more about the xmas knitting, and a little about Ene’s Scarf. First, xmas.

In a comment on an earlier entry Glaistig asked me how the Cascade Quatro was, and I’m glad she did. I have never used Cascade yarn before I made the Centersquare hats. I picked the Cascade yarn for a couple of reasons: it’s all natural fibers (mostly wool,) it comes in many colors, it’s worsted weight, and it’s reasonably priced. For these two projects I used: one skein of Cascade 220 (the mauve color) (100% wool,) one skein of Cascade Quatro (the yellow color) (100% wool, I think,) and two skeins of Cascade Pastazo (the purple color and the green color) (50% wool, 50% llama.) How did I like this yarn? I like it. Since they are all made from natural fibers they all stretched well. I was able to hand wind all four hanks into balls by hand without assistance because the hanks are wound in such a way that there aren’t any funny loops which lead to tangles in them. There’s 200-some yards to a hank so you get a fair amount of value for your dollar. They’re all just good, sturdy, yarns. As far as the Quatro goes, it’s just Cascade 220 with two complimentary colors plied together. In my case, the skein of Quatro contained a sunny yellow color and more a muted yellow color. Since the Pastazo is 50% llama, it is pretty fuzzy, but really soft at the same time.

I also wanted to mention that the Centersquare pattern did contain an error when it first went up on Knitty, but it has since been corrected. This, by the way, is one quick knit. I finished both hats within a couple of days and was quite pleased with the result. I will say that if I were to knit it again that I would probably make mine a smidgen bigger, but that’s because I should always make anything I knit in fair isle bigger than I think it should be. Because fair isle pulls in.

Before I run out of energy, time and space I did want to talk a little about Ene’s Scarf. The scarf starts along the two lower (read: longest) edges. This means that the casting on is a bitch (375 stitches) and the first few rows take forever, but it also means that the rows gets shorter as you knit. This, is a good thing. I’m still only on row 16 however. And that’s about it for me. I will be leaving town tomorrow and not returning until next week, so there probably won’t be any posts here until sometime next week. You all have a merry xmas and a happy new year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Little Perspective

In September, I drew up the Big List. It looked something like this:

Mom: Mini- Clapotis, plus something for her birthday
Sister: Mini-Clapotis, out of Noro Silk Garden that I have yet to buy
Niece #1: Laura Jane Bear. I also need another gift for her birthday
Niece #2: Laura Jane Bear (already knit), and a hat that I will design myself
Niece #3: Miss Dashwood
Nephew: I’’m not sure yet,
Kevin: Hop Pillow
Emily: Nautie
Noah: Nautie
Brother in law #1: socks. I think.
Brother in Law #2: Dinosaur of some kind, to round out the family tradition
Brother in Law #3: well, probably nothing knitted.
Sister in Law #1: Possibly nothing knitted.
Sister in Law #2: Something.
Mother in Law: Scarf.
Father in Law: Sharfik. Full size.
Lori: socks for her birthday (I’’m thinking Falling Leaves) and a scarf for Christmas.
Mike: socks for his birthday (obviously) and something else for christmas, perhaps not knitted.
Stephen: dinosaur. He wants a dinosaur.

As time went on and xmas drew closer the list changed. Some things were done, some things were changed, some things were dropped entirely. In the end, this is what I actually made:

Mom: Mini-Clapotis, and Kew socks
Dad: no knitting
Sister: Mini-Clapotis and Perdita bracelet
Niece #1: Laura Jane Bear, and I have purchased a book and made a scarf for her birthday
Niece #2: Laura Jane Bear, and the dragon hat of my own design
Niece #3: Miss Dashwood hat
Nephew: Norberta
Kevin: no knitting
Emily: Center Square hat
Noah: Mr. Stegs
BIL #1: Fuzzy Feet
BIL #2: no knitting
BIL #3: no knitting
SIL #1: scarf
SIL#2: Brooke’s Column of Leaves scarf
SIL to be: Fuzzy Feet
MIL: Backyard Leaves Scarf
FIL: Thuja socks
Lori: Falling Leaves socks, Center Square hat
Mike: socks for his birthday, no knitting for xmas
Stephen: Latvian mittens, and other things which I shall not mention because they are not started yet

In the last four months or so I have knit twenty-three items for other people. Not too shabby. Stephen sent off all of the gifts that need to go to Alaska yesterday, so they might even make it by xmas.

My perspective on all this knitting madness now that I’ve thrown in the towel? Well. I’m glad that I did it. Now all I have to do is wonder about how the knitted items will be received, and for the first time, I will actually have the opportunity to observe the recipient’s reactions when the present is unwrapped. Either it will be torture or it will be wonderful. I have some worries about some of the gifts that I’m giving. Will my FIL’s socks fit him (they seemed a tad narrow?) Will Lori be able to wear her hat without itching? Will my decidedly low-tech knitted toys excite my nieces and nephew or will they quickly be abandoned for other, more interesting, toys? Will the dragon hat fit my niece? Will Miss Dashwood fit my other niece? Will my BIL and SIL to be feel that their Fuzzy Feet are, in fact, too fuzzy? All of these things and more fill my mind with worry. What if my mom’s socks are too big?

I won’t know until I know, will I? I guess I’ll just have to wait.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

First things: the computer. Stephen unhooked the computer and took it down to CompUSA yesterday fully intending to leave it for the duration (or until it was fixed.) When he was dropping it off he asked the guy if we would be losing any information from the hard drive and the guy confirmed that it was possible. Then Stephen asked if they would back up the hard drive if it came to that. The guy said they would, if we agreed to purchase an external hard drive for $50.00. Stephen told the guy that we already own an external hard drive, which he could bring to the guy, thereby relieving us of the duty to buy the external hard drive. The guy said fine, that’ll be $50.00. At that point Stephen had a little chat with the guy. It seems that if you want them to back up your hard drive they won’t do it on an “as needed” basis but instead charge you $50.00 up front and do it whether or not it’s necessary (and let’s not forget the fact that the guy originally told Stephen that the $50.00 was for the purchase of the external hard drive, not for the labor involved, since we have the “Apple Care” package (which is basically the extended warranty and CompUSA is the authorized apple “dealer” in Spokane.)) So then Stephen decided that he would rather go home and back up the hard drive himself, for free, with the external hard drive that we already own. And you know what happened when he hooked the computer back up? That’s right. The internet was working fine. So, as of right now my computer is home and working fine. We figure that we might as well ride out the good times while we can. If we need to we can always take the computer back down to CompUSA after the new year.

Second things: the knitting. I mentioned that I completed the first four rows of Ene’s Scarf Sunday night. Well, the daiquiries, I’ve decided, were not the best idea, because when I got to the end of row 5 last night it was all wrong. Just wrong. In addition, I realized that I had cast on using size 7 needles instead of size 6. So I frogged the whole thing. And started over again, casting on 375 stitches. I knit up through row 3 last night. So far, all is well. It’s the double decreases that are throwing me off. They move. A little. Each right side round. It’s very annoying.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Computer Update, Knitting Update or: The Fifth Circle of Hell

Well, I spent an hour on the phone with Apple Care Friday night only to determine that we couldn't pinpoint the problem. We replaced the modem on Friday and the ethernet cable from the modem to the computer on Saturday morning. Now, we have been instructed to take the computer back to CompUSA (where we bought it) so that they can test the ethernet card (which is built in) to see if it is fried. So, my computer is not fixed and we are probably going to be sans computer for quite some time (sob!)

I am not happy. Not happy at all. I'm really glad that we bought the Apple Care package and I'm really glad that there is somewhere to take the computer to have it fixed and all that but I also think that when you spend thousands of dollars on something, it should actually work, and work well. We've had it for less than two months. I am not happy.

In knitting news: I. AM. FREE.! I finished Emily and Lori's Center Square hats on Saturday and my BIL's Fuzzy feet on Sunday. Then I cast on for Kevin's hop pillow and decided that I was done. So, Kevin, I'm sorry. I'm not making the hop pillow for you. Instead, I cast on for Ene's Scarf from Scarf Style using the Kaalund 100% silk yarn I got for my birthday. Casting on was actually quite an adventure. The instructions tell you to cast on 375 stitches using the knitted cast on method. Since I know myself, I did the smart thing and put stitch markers every 20 stitches and I did manage to cast on the right number of stitches the first time through. Good so far.

Unfortunately, by the time I had cast one 375 stitches (this took more time than I'm willing to admit) I had consumed one or maybe two daiquiries and my brain was not functioning optimally. So I miscounted the number of repeats on the first row and didn't realize it until I got the end and had 20-some stitches left over. Fuck. So I tinked back half a row (that's about 187 stitches in lace weight silk) and re-knit. Of course, as I tinked back I lost a couple of stitches on the first couple double decreases (too much rum, not enough light) so I had to cast on four stitches at the end of that first row. It's fine though. I worked a couple more rows with no problems and then put it all away. My total progress for the night: four rows.

Stephen and I watched the BBC Pride & Prejudice last night. I love that movie. If there is any movie that can get me through casting on 375 stitches, working 375 stitches in lace weight, and then having to tink back 187 stitches, it's this movie.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Speak to Me of Macs

So, here's the deal. Stephen and I bought a brand-new iMac in October. It has an intel processor. We also have high speed cable internet through Comcast. Here's the problem. Sometimes, we have an intermittent internet signal. Keep in mind here that the modem (owned by Comcast) is directly connected to the cable, and the computer is directly connected to the modem with a line into the USB port. When this happened for the first time last week, we called Comcast, and they did what they could on their end and determined that our service was up continuously, and they tested our modem and it "received" all of the "pings" that they sent it. The next morning when Stephen talked to Apple, the woman that he talked to said that she had never heard of the problem, although her supervisor came on the line later and said that he had experienced the same problem and that his modem had died soon thereafter. NOW, in addition to all of this information (and predictability, Comcast doesn't want to say that the problem is on their end it must be our COMPUTER, and Apple doesn't want to say that the problem is on their end, it must be a problem with our MODEM) I also found articles on the Apple site last week talking about this very problem. Apparently, with some older versions of the iMac there were known problems with Comcast cable internet, namely, that the internet connection would be intermittent. That particular article (two years old, I might add) suggested calling Comcast and asking them to cycle our modem on their end (they can do that because they own the service and the modem.) Last week we did that and clicked a button on our networking page on the iMac labeled "renew dhcp lease" and our internet was problem free. For exactly one week. Then the same thing started happening last night, at pretty much the same time.

So, what's the deal? If anyone out there has experienced this and knows what to do to fix it I would be very greatful. Obviously, if the insanely expensive computer that I bought is not going to deliver to me the thing that I use it for the most: internet, then why shouldn't I send it back to Apple? And if the insanely expensive high speed internet service that I pay for isn't going to work with my new computer, why should I pay for that either?

There are no known outages in my neck of the woods, I have done anything unusual with the computer lately. I just don't get it. The only other thing that we've done to the computer lately is segregate our hard drive and install Windows XP.

This is why I have no pictures up by the way. No internet at home means no pictures on the blog. But I have been knitting. And I'll talk about that either: tomorrow or Monday, if we can't get our internet up and running.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I Fell On Strange Days*

Good god. People are strange. I blame the holidays. And, since this is the holiday season, and I too am strange, here’s my strange list of the day:

1. I met a woman last night who made a remark that I believed to be scornful of the idea of knitting socks. Now, in the dwindling light of the next day, I can’t decide if she was actually being scornful of the idea or if she was simply intimidated by the idea.

2. I refuse to knit with two strands held together. I just won’t do it. Need proof? Both Norberta and Center Square are supposed to be worked with two strands held together. Did I do that? No. (I finished knitting the pieces to Norberta last night, and swatched for Center Square.)

3. For some reason, I also refuse to actually buy enough yarn to finish my project. At the moment, I can’t find another skein of yarn in town in the same color LP to finish my BIL’s Fuzzy Feet. Why do I do this to myself? (Because I’m cheap.)

4. I ran into a guy that I went to law school with in the courthouse today. We talked about the fact that neither of us know what we’re doing.

5. It irks me ever so slightly every time that someone (usually a complete stranger) refers to me as “Miss” Burns. “Ms.” Burns would be the politically correct term. “Mrs.” Burns would, at the very least, be accurate. I am not nor have I ever been “Miss” Burns. And if you don’t know, then you should err on the side of political correctness. Say it with me people:

“I will not refer to women whose marital status or preference of address is unknown to me as Miss or Mrs. I will instead use the proper, neutral, term: ‘Ms.’ ”

6. You know how sometimes you can see exactly how wrong a particular plan is going to go and then it does and you feel like you’re standing on the one stable piece of ground as everything else falls in around you? Yeah. I’ve been there too.

7. Yesterday morning I literally could not get a brush through my hair. (My solution to this problem: bun.)

8. On Tuesday night I was the only person in my office at 4:40 p.m. when someone walked in. As I walked out to greet him the thought running through my mind was: This guy is going to kill me. (It was the courier and obviously, he didn’t kill me.)

9. I spend a lot of my time, in my life generally, and especially in my job, trying to disappear. The result? Today, the judge forgot all about me and my motion as I waited patiently (in the very back row, pretending to be part of the bench I was sitting on.) (When I was finally the last person in the room he asked me what I was waiting on.)

10. I am a complete crackpot.

*with apologies to Sound Garden for misappropriating and modifying their title.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Kew-- Finished!

In a burst of stamina, I finished up Kew last night. After I had kitchenered the last toe shut, I tried it on. It's still a tad loose for my liking, but not as bad as I remember it. And I have to remember that my mom has wider feet than I. I'm hoping that makes up for any looseness in the sizing.

Now, I just have to decide which Christmas project to tackle next. I have already started my BIL's Fuzzy Feet so this would be the next logical project. However, it's plain stockinette around and around and around so it's not really exciting me at the moment. In addition, I may not finish my list in time for Christmas, so if someone has to get a late present then I don't think he'll be terribly disappointed. Plus I still have to buy yarn to actually finish the Fuzzy Feet. So, I think my next project is going to be Norberta. It's inspiring (dragon! Cute!) and it's for my nephew, who probably would be disappointed if his Christmas present was late (of course, there's also the possibility that he won't even notice, but I like to think that he likes the knits I gift him.) Plus, in order to make stuffed knits look good, I like to knit all the pieces, block all the pieces, then sew and stuff. Otherwise you never get to block because you can't block once you've stuffed.

I've also made some changes to the Christmas list. It now looks like this:

BIL: Fuzzy Feet
Nephew: Norberta
Kevin: Hop Pillow
Emily: Center Square
Lori: Center Square

Yep. I'm making fair isle hats for Lori and Emily. I bought the yarn when I was out on Saturday. It's all Cascade, but different wool blends. At this point I can't remember exactly what I purchased, except I know that I bought (I think) two skeins of Cascade 220, one skein of Cascade Quattro, and one skein of some other Cascade yarn. I picked them on the basis of color and wool content. Emily's hat will be in a yellowish green (mc) with yellow (cc) and Lori's hat will be in a pinkish purple (mc) with dark mauve (cc). I hope that: 1. these colors work together (I am not the best person to pick out colors. In fact, I have demonstrated in the past that I kind of suck at it.) 2. that I bought enough yarn. Crossing my fingers over here; 3. that I finish them in time and 4. that the recipients genuinely like them.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Things Which Cause Me to Break Out in Hives

What can I say? It was a rough weekend for me. We went Christmas shopping on Saturday. I bought (almost) the rest of the yarn needed to finish my Christmas knitting and we shopped for each other and the few people that I’m not knitting for. I do enjoy Christmas shopping. I don’t know why but I think it’s because I do so little of it. These last few days I really haven’t been holding it all together that well but that’s life, right?

I have been chugging away on my Christmas knitting. I’ve turned the heel on my second Kew sock and am working on the gusset. There are some parts of this pattern that are a little fiddly. The pattern has you divide the stitches unevenly, then work the first five (garter stitch) rows, then instructs you to rearrange the stitches again before beginning the lace pattern. Then, when you’re working the lace pattern you are instructed to move one stitch at the end of each needle to the next needle on every other row for several rows. This makes me a wee bit crazy. It seems like there is a purpose to all of this moving the stitches about but it also seems to me that there’s got to be a way to achieve the same effect without moving the stitches. But maybe not? Or maybe moving the stitches is easier than the alternative?

While we’re on the topic, I’m also a little suspect of the sizing. I tried on my finished sock once I had kitchenered the toe shut and I don’t know. It seemed to fit great at the top of the leg, but was a little loose in the foot. I’m hoping that this won’t be an issue for my mom, since her feet are wider than mine. Of course, LLSS (Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock) does tend to grow a bit when washed. I don’t know. If I were to make these again, for myself, I would definitely go down to a size 0 needle. Or remove a pattern repeat.

The one thing that I didn’t get while I was out shopping over the weekend? More yarn for my BIL’s Fuzzy Feet. The yarn store didn’t have it so I’m going to have to stop by the other yarn store on my way home tonight.

You know, Christmas is such a funny time. We idealize it so much and yet it rarely lives up to such unrealistic expectations. Billy Crystal, in “When Harry Met Sally” says that Christmas is the traditional season for groveling. That may be, but in my family it seems to be the traditional season for guilting. My mother, for instance, would love it if Stephen and I came and stayed at my parents’ house Christmas eve, were there Christmas morning and opened presents. I understand this. She wants me home. She wants Christmas to be as it always was. What she conveniently forgets is that Stephen and I have formed our own family now. We are family. We have a home. I went home every year for Christmas until the year that Stephen and I bought our house and got engaged and every year my mother has tried to convince me to come home for Christmas. It’s not that I don’t love my family and it’s not that I don’t want to see them, it’s that I want to be free to chose how to spend my time. More importantly, I want to be free to spend Christmas in my own home. Stephen and I travel all year long seeing family and friends. Since we don’t have kids, it’s assumed that we will travel. And, for the most part, we do. That’s fine. But we decided that we had to put our foot down when it came to Christmas.

This year, for the first time in our marriage, we are traveling around the Christmas holidays. Why the change in policy? Stephen’s brother and his family are going to be in the Seattle area for Christmas. Since they moved to Atlanta, and may not make it over to Spokane during their time here, we decided to go over there to see them. And, since we’re going to see Stephen’s family, we’re also going to stop in and see my family along the way. I’ll be glad to see them all, but I have to admit that I’m not really looking forward to the trip. It will be long. The roads will be shit and they will be full of other people doing the same thing that we are. My dog will be nervous, and unwelcome at some of the places where we will be staying. All of this makes me supremely uncomfortable. I think that I may have to readjust my perception of the entire trip.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Casual Friday

That’s my fancy way of saying “randomness ahead.” First, the Winter edition of Knitty is up. Please go take a look. I am really quite impressed with this issue. There are two! pairs of stranded colorwork mittens. I love them both. There is a fair isle hat. Love it. There are also a couple different pairs of socks, including a pattern by Cookie A. Although I have yet to knit one of her patterns I still have a girl-crush on her. She’s awesome. Lastly, Knitty has saved my fucking ass. Please go and see the pattern that has inspired me to knit something for my nephew. Isn’t it cool? At this point in the Christmas knitting season I was experiencing some true knitting ennui. I knew that I should make my nephew another stuffed dinosaur, because he deserves it, but I was really not feeling the love for those patterns. They’re fantastic but I’ve made Bronty once, Trice once, and Mr. Stegs twice. There’s only so many times that I can make the same pattern before it makes me want to stab myself with a pair of size 6 straights. Know what I mean? So, my sweet little nephew will be getting Norberta for Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas knitting, let’s check in on the Big List, shall we?

Mom: Kew– 1/4 done
Nephew: Norberta!
BIL #1: Fuzzy Feet. 1/4 done.
BIL #2: That’s Stephen’s job.
BIL #3: Right. I have no idea.
Kevin: Hop Pillow
Emily: Nautie. I think.
Lori: Hat? I’m thinking a hat. Possibly fair isle.

Okay. Six projects left. I’m not going to make it.

Moving on! The December issue of Magknits has also been up for about a week. I’ve printed off the Cinnabar scarf and am looking forward to making some of these patterns when the “season of giving” is over.

There are only twelve days until we leave town to visit relatives and friends. Twelve! Days! Help me now.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sitting on a Christmas Bough

I did it. I attended the knit night at Holy Threads and it was a lot of fun. I will definitely go again. I fully intended to upload photos after I got home but I only got about halfway there. I took the pictures, uploaded them to the computer, and doctored them. And they all pretty much sucked (except the one I took of my handspun. That one deserves an award or something) so I didn’t upload any. I will upload the two photos that I liked tonight, and hopefully get a good shot of my mom’s socks while I’m home for lunch.

I actually wanted to talk a little about the socks. I’m making Kew from Knitty, in Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in the Bittersweet colorway. I love this yarn. I’ve spoken of my love for Shepherd Sock before and my infatuation with it continues. In addition, this colorway is PERFECT for my mom. The colors range from purple-pink to magenta to orange to lighter orange to yellow, and magenta is my mom’s favorite color. So, I love the yarn and it’s perfect for Mom.

I also really love making lace socks. If I have to choose between a cable-y or textured stitch pattern and a lace pattern, the lace will win pretty much every time (the exception being when I’m making socks for males. No lace for them.) Kew is a fantastic lace pattern. First of all, I have found no mistakes (yet) in the pattern. The pattern itself looks like little shields or leaves perhaps. Lovely. What’s more, I don’t feel like the yarn is obscuring the lace. I’m sure that if I had used a solid colored yarn that the lace pattern would be more visible, but I feel really good about my yarn choice.

I will admit to having some misgivings about the sizing. Since the top of the sock is not ribbed, but done in garter stitch, you have to be much more careful about the sizing and unfortunately I don’t have my mother available to measure. If the sock is a little snug up top, that’s okay because the yarn will stretch while my mother wears it. On the other hand, if it’s too big then the socks will sag and there is really nothing worse than saggy socks. We’ll just have to see. If they don’t fit her then I will keep this pair for myself and knit her new ones. Oh yes. I bought enough yarn to make two pairs of socks.

These socks also mark a bit of a departure for me. To begin with, I swatched. Usually I don’t swatch for socks because I’m: 1. Cocky and 2. Impatient. Lately though, the swatch has really been doing it for me. Like I did everything right so if the size doesn’t come out right it’s not my fault. Since these were socks, I swatched with my favorite size 2 dpn’s and promptly found that my gauge was off. So I went down to size 1's (like the pattern calls for) and didn’t swatch again. Basically, I’m holding my breath and hoping that it will all be okay. I’m also a little bit nervous about the fact that, while the leg is worked in the lace pattern, and the instep, the gauge is given in stockinette stitch. Just because someone is knitting at the same gauge as you are when they’re knitting stockinette stitch in the round does not mean that they will knit at the same gauge as you do if you switch to a lace pattern. That’s all. So it’s kind of a crap shoot all around. I plan to hedge my bets by trying on the sock tonight to see if it fits me. If it does, it will probably fit my mom. If it’s too big I will rip and start over with size 0 needles.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Latvian Mittens: Innocent Knitted Accessories or Tool of the Devil?

I figure that it’s time to do a proper write-up on Stephen’s Latvian Mittens.

Project Stats:
Pattern: Graph #50 from Latvian Mittens by Lizbeth Upitis
Yarn: Drops Alpaca, 100% Alpaca, 180 m./200 yds. per ball. I used almost all of one ball of black and most of one ball of orange/rust on this pair of mittens.
Needles: Size 1 dpn’s, 2.25mm
Gauge: ten stitches to the inch
Measurements: 9.5" wide, 11" long (from cuff to tip of top decreases), thumb: 1.5" wide, 3" long

I started this project by swatching. I cast on 45 stitches and worked a complete pattern repeat (of 12 rows.) This takes up very little yarn and very little time, especially when you consider the consequences of not swatching for this project. Then I washed and blocked my swatch. For those of you wondering what I do while I wait for my swatches to dry, I will tell you: I wrote out the entire chart for the pattern, and then I continued knitting on another project, the Fuzzy Feet for my SIL-to-be. I did not repeat the mistake of making a single color swatch. I used both colors. Incidentally, when I was working in this project I read some stuff I had skipped in Latvian Mittens. Ms. Upitis recommends that you swatch with two colors and then add two stitches for each additional color that you will be using in the mitten. That’s good information to have.

Once my swatch was dry I measured my gauge: ten stitches per inch. The pattern is twenty-two stitches wide. My initial measurement of Stephen’s hand revealed that his hand is between 9.5 and 10.5 inches around, including his thumb. Well, I thought, I can work with that. 10.5" x 10 stitches per inch = 105 stitches. 4 x 22 stitches per pattern repeat = 88 stitches. Way too small. 5 x 22 stitches per pattern repeat = 110 stitches. Perfect. Or so I thought. I cast on 110 stitches and knit, oh, about eight rows. It was at that point that I made Stephen stick his hand into the knitting. It was WAY too big. So I ripped it all the way back to yarn spaghetti and started my calculations again. This time I measured my mittens, which are a tad big on me, and my hand and figured out how much ease I have in my mittens. I realized, after I had measured my hand and measured my mittens a couple of times that the thumb really shouldn’t be included in the body of the mitten measurements because the thumb has it’s own thumb hole, with a couple extra stitches added for ease. Finally, I figured out that I should measure the circumference of Stephen’s hand without his thumb, and then add about an inch of ease to that. I also found that I was going to have to give up on the idea of having full pattern repeats around the mitten. 88 stitches was still way too small, and 110 was way too big. I settled on 98 stitches. Stephen’s hand was about 8.75 inches around, if you add an inch that means that you’re shooting for 9.75 stitches, which gives you 97.5 stitches if you’re getting ten stitches to the inch. Obviously you’re either going to have to round down to 97 stitches or up to 98 stitches. I chose 98 stitches because there are portions of the pattern that will look better with an even number of stitches..

I did have a couple of problems with that first mitten. When I held the stitches for the thumb gore, I only held fifteen, instead of the intended twenty, stitches. Then, to compound the problem, in the next round I cast on twenty stitches. And I fucked up the pattern repeat. On the round after that I discovered the problem with the pattern and artfully rearranged the stitches so that the pattern was correct but I didn’t notice the extra five stitches for several rows. When I did finally realize the problem I took the lazy way out, and decreased those stitches over the course of a couple of rows. Luckily, this part of the mitten is on the palm, so I doubt anyone will notice.

On the second mitten I: initially cast on using the wrong color, ripped back to the beginning and re-cast-on, then: completely forgot to add the thumb gore, ripped back to add the thumb gore and did so on the wrong side of the mitten, then tinked back 300-odd stitches to put the thumb gore in the right place. At least I held the right number of stitches. All in all the second mitten is more correct in its execution than the first mitten, but I suspect that’s the case with most knitted items that come in pairs.

I have to say that all of this two-color knitting has really inspired me and I definitely foresee more two and three and four color knitting in my future. Tonight: I am taking the plunge and setting out into the great unknown. I plan to attend the knit-night at Holy Threads. If you are there, I will be the shy one in the corner trying to fade into the wallpaper. Tomorrow: I will tell you all about the socks that I’m knitting my mother for Christmas.

Monday, December 04, 2006

No, I Can't

More often than I’d like to I have to tell people, “No, I can’t.” Sometimes these people are clients. Sometimes these are people in my personal life. And I find it hard to do. Every time.

Why do I find this so difficult? Part of the problem is that I desperately want to please people. I want to tell them what they want to hear. I want to appease them if they’re frustrated. I want to make them happy if they are unhappy. The need to please people, to do what they believe will make them most happy, is like a gravitational force that sucks me in. It is only through difficulty, emotional difficulty, that I am able to tell people, repeatedly sometimes, that I can’t do what they want me to do. That I have no words of comfort for them. That I can’t make them happy.

As you can imagine this causes me difficulty in my life, particularly in my professional life. Sometimes I realize that I’ve agreed to do something that I can’t do and I agreed to it only because someone pressured me and I caved. Then I hate myself a little. Sometimes I don’t cave in to someone’s demands but the stress of the encounter: the request, my initial refusal, the pressure, my next refusal, the resulting discordant energy that is the result of the person’s disappointed expectations, get to me. Even though I haven’t, in these instances, thrown myself under the train by telling someone I will do something that I can’t do, the stress is almost as bad as if I had. In addition, if the person harbors negative feelings against me that crop up at some later date it is even worse.

This problem is compounded by the fact that my job exposes me to lots of people with really unrealistic expectations of what I can do for them. First, I’m a lawyer. Because movies, TV shows (Perry Mason, anyone?) and various other media outlets often portray lawyers as miracle workers who can make anything happen, instantly, many of my clients come to me with the expectation that I can make their problem go away, instantly. Unfortunately, this is never the case. I don’t have a magic wand and legal action is generally time consuming and costly with no guarantee of victory. This is why so many cases settle: settling guarantees that you will get some of what you want, and it shortens the time parties spend trying to out-maneuver each other.

Second, I answer the phone at my office. This means that I spend a lot of my time every day telling people that they can’t talk to one or the other of my co-workers. I have found that people tend to take this personally. Which is funny because, of course, it isn’t personal. It simply is. No one can talk to more than one person on the phone at the same time. Neither can either of my co-workers meet with clients while talking on the phone with another client at the same time. Since the two things are mutually exclusive, someone is going to be disappointed.

Over the last few months I’ve felt better about answering the phone. It’s one of those things that just sort of happened. One day I guess I just decided that the phone, and the feelings of the people on the phone, weren’t my responsibility. It wasn’t my responsibility to make them happy or acquiesce to their wishes. I do what I can for them, and, for the most part, don’t feel bad about the things that I cannot do. Granted, there are days when I still let the ringing phone get to me and people who still manage to get under my skin, but it’s much better than it was.

I’m going to leave off now, but not without mentioning: I finished the second of Stephen’s mittens, I’ve spun quite a bit more of the cotton candy wool, I’ve changed my spinning technique yet again, I finished my future SIL’s Fuzzy Feet down to the felting and they are drying in front of the heater vent as I type this, and I started my BIL’s Fuzzy Feet. The stockinette in the round is rather satisfying at the moment.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Brewerburns Recipe for Holiday Cheer

First. get up. This is usually the first step for any project. Second, brew some coffee. Extra strong. Second, realize that you already have a Second. Third, get out your bottle of schnapps. Peppermint, cinnamon, spearmint will do. Also: Brandy, preferably flavored (I have some apricot brandy sitting in my cupboard.) Or Baileys. Or Rum. Not Vodka! Get down your normal coffee mug. Pour in a shot of schnapps, then a splash of half and half, then coffee. Drink. Repeat. Too late on a Sunday night for coffee? Replace the coffee with hot cocoa. Or remove the half and half and coffee from the recipe, and the schnapps, and have a shot of vodka instead. Or maybe two, depending on what your Mnoday morning looks like.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Many Ways in Which the Latvian Mitten is Kicking My Ass

This particular mitten has been kicking my ass from the very beginning. The very first thing I did was cast on 98 stitches (long tail cast on) with the wrong color. I ripped out and re-cast on using the right color. I did manage to knit the bottom of the cuff correctly.

It was waiting. I should have seen it for what it was. A fiendish, deceitful mitten. Last night I was knitting, knitting, knitting away on the pattern. I held it up and showed it to Stephen in its two-color-stranded glory. Only then did I realize that I had passed the point where I should have created the thumb hole. One pattern repeat earlier. Twelve rows earlier. Fuck. I ripped back. I placed the stitches back on the needles, counted them, lined up the first stitch of the row properly, and placed the thumb stitches onto a holder. But the mitten was not done fucking with me. Three and a half rows later I noticed what I should have noticed earlier: I had placed the thumb hole for a right handed mitten instead of a left handed mitten. This time I tinked back and re-placed the thumb hole.

This morning I managed to knit back up to where I was before I had to rip back the FIRST time. Fucking mitten. The good news is that I'm now past that place and there isn't really anything else that i could forget to place. Aside from the top decreases.

I also did a little yarn shopping. I purchased the yarn for my mother's Christmas present (socks, pattern yet to be chosen in Lorna's Laces Shepherd's Sock, Bittersweet,) another skein of LP in Spruce so that I can finish the Fuzzy Feet for my SIL to be, and 8 oz. of roving! 100% wool, dyed in a colorway called "cotton candy." Tomorrow: pictures!

Friday, December 01, 2006

The First Sock

It’s December 1. The first day of the last month of the year. There are only thirty days left until the end of this year, and only twenty until the darkest day of the year. When I woke up this morning and stumbled out of my bed into the living room the view over the top of the closed curtains through the big window in front was of ice-and-snow-frosted pine boughs. I think that it’s natural during this time of ever-lengthening darkness and cold to reflect on the year that has just nearly passed by.

For me some of this reflection has centered on my knitting. It was just last October that I picked up the fall issue of Vogue Knitting and became truly enthralled with the idea of knitting. By this date last year I had already knit two truly atrocious fair isle hats, another project that shall remain nameless, and was already in the midst of Christmas knitting. Last year I made a scarf (cobbled together from a couple different lace stitch patterns) for each woman on my Christmas list. This amounted to...eight scarves. Yes. Eight. I’m pretty sure about that number. Eight scarves in exactly the same pattern. Poke my eyes out with a thousand size seven needles please. I learned a very valuable lesson from this experience. If you’re going to do the Christmas knitting thing then you should really pick different patterns for different people. For your own sanity. Hence the diversity of the Christmas list this year.

It was also, truly, a torture for me to knit those scarves (which I was knitting up until the point that I had to send them out) because I really, really, wanted to start on some socks. Ever since I decided to take up knitting, I’ve been enamored of the idea of knitting socks. Even before I knew what a dpn was I was searching knitting blogs for talk and pictures of sock knitting. I knew that I wanted to knit socks and I was going to do it. My first foray into sock knitting, however, did not turn out as planned. I decided, once I had purchased some sock yarn (I believe the brand name was “crazy” although I can’t be certain) in a mottled blue and white colorway, and a set of size 3 dpns I went in search of a pattern. After some googling I decided to try out the “sock calculator” pattern. Why? Well, I liked the idea that I could knit a swatch, measure the intended recipient, plug in the numbers and get a pattern custom written for my socks. No wondering about sizes or attempting to modify patterns to fit. That’s a good thing when you’re a brand new knitter. So, I swatched, I measured, I plugged in figures and printed out the pattern and off I went.

Unfortunately there were many things working against me. First, I was a brand new knitter. Second, I was an overly cocky brand new knitter. The sock calculator gives you a pattern for a knee high pair of socks. But I didn’t want to make a knee high pair of socks. I wanted to make a medium-length pair of socks. So, when I got the pattern, I simply figured out where the middle of the calf would be and started there. Yeah. That was never going to work out right. Luckily, I didn’t know that. My real problems started with the heel turn. Not the actual turning of the heel. Through the help of the internet I got through that alright. No, after the heel turn. You see, what I didn’t know was that there was a mistake in the pattern (really, a glitch in the program) which miscalculated the number of stitches that you should have after you’ve turned the heel and picked up the gusset stitches. So, I’m sitting there. Brand new knitter. First sock ever. And I have too many stitches. Too many. And I had no idea what to do. I ripped out several times and reknit the heel. I went back over the heel and the directions for turning the heel. I read the directions and added up how many stitches I should end up with if I knit it as directed and still. I had too many stitches. I swore. I cried. I may have stomped my feet. Finally I just decided to forget that I had too many stitches and keep knitting. I did finish that first sock but it was hideous and would have fit Stephen (the intended recipient) like a men’s size nine work boot would fit a horse. Everything about that first sock was wrong and as soon as I finished it I knew it and promptly frogged it.

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