Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Rain in Spain/Old Dog Learns New Trick

Today I learned to knit backwards. This is one of those things I've been meaning to tackle for ages, (think entrelac, bobbles, edgings..any situation where frequent turning the work threatens to become a major PITA). But I kept putting it off.

The impetus: my lovely friend Ellen sent me Modular Knits by Iris Schreier. (Ellen knows I love coming at things from a different angle). In the introduction Schreier suggests that knitting backwards can also speed up her short row module technique. And she provided directions with pictures. So I followed these (I thought carefully) and ended up with a lovely row of purl stitches. Hmmm..... now I was determined to lick this thing.

So I watched and analysed what I was doing stitch by stitch, and with great struggle finally ended up with a row of knit stitches that had been worked off of the right needle onto the left. But the stitches were all sitting on the needle the wrong way. Of course I could and did just knit into the backs on the following row to keep them from twisting (knitting backward Combination style?). But by now I was determined to be the boss of my knitting, and I mean Boss.

So I tried again, wrapping the yarn in the opposite direction, which worked; but it felt as if I were knitting with boxing gloves on. I couldn't control my tension. I dropped stitches. I almost dropped the needles. So I put down the knitting and Googled for directions, just in case there was some trick I had missed. Found several sites with pictures. Hmmm. They were doing exactly what I had been trying so clumsily to do.

So...... I went back to the needles, sighed, picked them up; and WHOO HOO it clicked. It was just like the moment when Eliza Doolittle finally nailed her "h's". I felt like dancing around the room myself.

I made myself a nice fat bobble without once turning the knitting.

Now I'm going to go conquer some of Schreier's modules.


Take note of something else about that picture. It was taken on a sunny windowsill.

The sun has actually been shining for the last two days! I had a beautiful drive up to Madison yesterday for Last Saturday Knitting. Elizabeth brought some of the yarn she's been spinning from Brown Sheep fleece, which you can see here. I'm really eager to see what it turns into. I'm thinking something with chunky big cables would be gorgeous. It was great fun meeting Molly Bee, who brought her Tidal Wave socks: very pretty, and you can see them here. She brought her friend Anne, too. Linda (mousey blog) had some show and tell, the alpaca shawl she made for her mother with beautiful variegated blues and greens that worked really well with the simple lace pattern stitch she had chosen. I think everyone was a bit euphoric with the sunshine. Whatever the reason, there was lots of laughter. Yarn projects and laughter (and sunshine), what can be better for the soul than that?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Still pondering

Where has the week gone? Let's see, during a break in the rain on Tuesday, the new gutters went up, thank goodness. They seem to be significantly reducing the amount of water entering the basement. During breaks since then I have been outside pulling some of the rampant weeds, and examining the grading around the foundation and trying to do some filling in where needed (which involves whacking back overgrown bushes).

I made a run down to Argyle to put up posters for the Library Book Sale. So I dropped in at the fiber mill and picked up some yarn for the Red Scarf Project. I suddenly realized that it is almost September and I had better stop thinking about it and start knitting. This is Cascade Quattro, which is just like 220, but with a color twist. The photo looks violently pink, but it really has more of a rust tone in it.

I've finished the leg part of the first Opal sock and started in on the second.

I'm still pondering heel options. I'm leaning towards an Afterthought heel, because of the way the stripes would make a sort of bull's eye. I could just even off the bottom edge with a couple more triangles and than proceed. But I wondered, "would it be possible to insert the heel into the chevron pattern and have it fit?". So I did a little mock up in sport weight left overs. The heel bulges out too much, but if I worked it on fewer stitches?

Monday, August 20, 2007

backyard woodhenge and opal socks

I wandered downstairs for a cup of coffee one morning last week, and glancing out the window I spotted Backyard Megaliths (well, not "liths", because they aren't stone, but that was the general impression.) Turns out they were really modular bookcases that Mr S had made for his classroom and set out in the yard while waiting for the stain to dry. Good thing it was last week, because nothing is dry this week, including our basement.

When I was Up North, Gayle gave me a present, a ball of Opal sock yarn. Opal is always nice, but this one is especially nifty. The colorway is based on a painting by an artist named Fredensreich Hundertwasser. It's called "Rainy Day on Dear Waves", which is rather charming. I like it so much that I've ordered another titled "The Road to Socialism". I've always wanted some Road to Socialism socks, I just didn't know it til now. Plus I really like the colors.

I wanted to do something interesting and a little unusual, so the socks will have just one big chevron on the front and one on the back. Haven't decided yet how I wil deal with the heel. I'm mulling over some ideas.........

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Speaking of Books....

The Blanchardville Public Library is having it's really big used book sale next weekend.

Friday, August 24, 2007 10 am - 3 pm
Saturday, August 25, 9 am - 1 pm

At the Blanchardville Legion Hall (just across the parking lot from the Village Hall).

There will be pie tasting on Saturday morning, and a bag special from Noon - 1 on Sat (fill a library bag for $5.00)

The Pec Jam (music in the park) will be running simultaneously, and the Pecatonica River Art Confluence (show opens Sat am at River Valley Trading Co at 204 S. Main St.)

So come on down! (If you want to Mapquest, use 208 Mason Street, Blanchardville, WI 53516 as your destination. That's the Village Hall.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Back to the Books

Well just one book, really. I said I would get back to this after I had a chance to dig into it.

Aran Sweater Design by Janet Szabo: Big Sky Knitting Designs, Kalispell, MT, 2006

It's not eye candy (most of the illustrations are black and white), but it is clearly and liberally illustrated with photos, schematics, charts and graphs.

It's not a cable stitch dictionary.

It is not a collection of sweater designs - though there are three complete patterns at the end.

It is a very through, informative discussion of the elements that go into designing and constructing cabled sweaters based on the traditional Aran style; and I like it a lot.

Szabo has distilled years of her own knitting and design experience. Reading through it was like sitting next to a friendly and entirely unpretentious expert, who not only says "Here's what works", but also "Here's why it works, oh and by the way, here's a tip for......"

The first section of the book is focused around the process of putting together cable stitch combinations. There is no stitch dictionary, but one chapter is devoted to an examination of different types of cables and other stitch patterns used in Aran sweaters, and suggestions about how different types are most effectively used. The next chapter goes on to combining stitch patterns, both from an aesthetic and a technical point of view. She then moves to swatching, choosing body style and sleeve styles, and deciding edge treatments.

The second section is devoted to sweater construction: flat, in the round, bottom up, top down, with or without saddles. Szabo offers her view of the strengths/limitations of each method and proceeds to give directions for working all of them. Shoulder/yoke treatments covered include: dropped shoulder, peasant sleeve, set in sleeve, shallow set in sleeve, raglan, vests (sleeveless), tee-sleeve and wide saddle. There are clear schematics for each variation, hints about fitting, more hints about planning the stitch pattern to fit the garment shaping....

The book does not include information on shaping a round yoke, if you should be so inclined, or for designing a closely fitted garment (that is, with bust/waist/hip shaping), but the information she offers would be extremely helpful in moving on to incorporating cable work into other design styles.

I'm glad I've got this one.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

One Little Mitten Selbuvotter Style

I've tweaked the charts for the Squirrel Mittens a bit: changed the direction of the main motif so that the squirrels will be facing each other when worn, broken up some (but not all) of the long stretches of a single color, substituted a different side border. I debated whether the squirrels should have their heads toward the wrist or towards the fingertips. Since the mittens are for a child, I decided that the squirrels should be right side up when the wearer looks at his/her hands, so it's "heads toward fingertips". The new charts (in pdf format) are here.

These are charts only, and do not include line by line directions. If you have ever knit Norwegian style mittens you will know that a chart is all that is needed.

The sample was worked in Knit Picks "Telemark" DK weight wool at a gauge of 6 1/2 sts per inch, giving finished measurements of 6 inches around the palm. This resulted in a pretty firm fabric, and if I were doing it over I would probably shoot for 6 sts/inch. For larger mittens worsted weight could be used at around 4.5 sts/inch to make mittens measuring 7 1/2 inches around the palm.

This is what the back looks like. You will notice that at the left side of the top decrease section there is a bit of goofiness. While I cannot exactly say "I meant to do that.", I will quote Terri Shea:

"Selbuvotter are folk objects, not high art. A hallmark of folk art is the small mistakes and inconsistencies; they are what give a piece its life and liveliness..."

All the same, I'll be aiming to get it right on the second mitten.

Friday, August 10, 2007

If there is a box available

Baxter will be in it,

even if the box is about two sizes too small.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Have It Both Ways Hat

I've knit up another version of the hat with the simple basketweave brim. The new one is in two colors, with a turned up brim. This time I worked in the round, for an even quicker knit.

The original (lying flat in the picture) was made from Classic Elite "Waterlily", worsted weight 100% extra fine merino. This is a worsted weight wool. The subtle variations in shade give the color a nice richness, and the yarn is deliciously soft.

The new version on the stand is done in Knit Picks "Wool of the Andes" 100% Peruvian Wool, also worsted weight. Not as soft, but very economical.

They took about 125-150 yards of yarn.

The hats fit my 22" head closely. They measure about 19-20" around the brim when unstretched. So I reckon they would fit most women's heads.

If anyone would be interested in testing the directions for me, just send me an email (there's a link at the top of the sidebar where it says "Drop me a line"). Just be sure to include something like "test knit hat" on the subject line so I know it's not junk mail.


For those who asked, here are my thoughts on Vista so far:

All the security pop ups are really annoying, but I haven't disabled any of them yet.

Word looks radically different to me. I don't know if this is specific to Vista, or is just a much newer version of the software than the one we acquired 9 years ago. There are toolbars instead of drop down menus, and some things are rearranged and/or function a little differently. I'm slowly getting it figured out.

I like the way I can see thumbnails when browsing picture files - makes it easier to select the one I want when I'm browsing.

So far, I haven't figured out how to add a website to a specific folder in my Favorites list. I can add it to Favorites, but then have to go back and Organize Favorites to get it where I want it.

After a fair amount of horsing around, I was able to get my Knitware Sweaters and Sole Solutions programs to run in "compatibility mode".

So all in all, it's going OK.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


While I was away, it rained in Blanchardville. It rained even more upstream. Here's how things looked yesterday morning.

Normally, you can see a 3 foot dam to the right of the bridge, extending out from the little red building.

View from the bridge. The water is muddy and moving very fast.

The campsites in the park were flooded, though the water had receded a couple of feet since it crested in the middle of the night.

The football field was totally covered, and some of the equipment already out for the beginning of practice season went bobbing away.

So far the baseball diamond and swimming pool escaped inundation, though the field was too wet to play on. All morning, little clusters of people were stopping to look.

The river was back within it's banks by late afternoon. It rained again last night, but so far, no more flooding.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Returned from the North Woods

Well, the trip up north was wonderful.

Let's see, cool weather, loons calling, humming birds, good food, lots of wine, fireworks, but mostly time spent laughing and discussing politics, knitting projects, family events, hot flashes and how to deal with them... everything under the sun, really, with three smart, funny, simpatico women. And did I mention lots of wine? It was so great to reconnect.

This is the view from the loft. Kathy is cooking. Gayle is knitting. Betsy was out of range.

Kathy the corporate lawyer is also a complete nut for fireworks. This is the collection she and Gayle put together somewhere between Minneapolis and the cabin. The very large one at the center was called, appropriately enough, "Baby Boomer." We were also particularly fond of the box titled "Shagadelic Mojo".

After the photo we, and the fireworks and the bottle of wine, made our way down to the dock. Betsy and I sat on a bench ashore while Kathy and Gayle set up a row of packages on the dock, then alternately lit fuses and rapidly retreated. We aren't talking Roman Candles and sparklers. These babies were actual skyrockets. It was quite a show. Way to go Kathy and Gayle!

Here's a shot of Willy the Dog Who Likes to Chase Rocks.

I'm kicking myself for not getting pictures of Gayle's show and tell. She brought some very inventive socks (her Knitting Camp "ugly yarn sock contest" entries) which were funky and extremely fun but not at all ugly, and a rather breathtaking pair of cabled socks from a Eunny Jang pattern (90 sts around on size 0 needles). And she got to meet Debby New, one of my personal knitting goddesses.

Final report: no bug bites, no sunburn, two skinned knees (don't ask), and a happy heart.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I just can't get the images from Minneapolis out of my mind. I grew up near the Twin Cities, lived in Minneapolis after college. The old arched bridge next to the collapse is a familiar landmark. When I see it, something in my heart still says "home". Two of the college friends I will be seeing this weekend live in the Cities - they are OK. My Mom is visiting nearby, she is OK, as are my cousins. Kmkat is OK. But a lot of people aren't OK. Mostly I think what an agonizing time this must be for people who haven't made contact with their loved ones, waiting for the divers to confirm the worst. My heart is heavy for them.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I'm back

I know, you probably didn't even notice I was gone; but yesterday was computer transition day, which meant I was without access for about 12 hours. OMG, it felt like a year. (Am I looking at a dependency issue here?)

Anyway, the good news is that the new computer is about eleven billion times faster than the old one, and I have a slick little flat screen monitor, and I can plug my camera card right into the computer, and did I say that the Internet is really fast? and the monitor screen no longer has an overall pinkish tone.... Other good news, the Geek Squad transferred all the files (and I seem to be able to find them), and our extensive "favorites list. The email is working.

The not really bad, but ambivalent news: Best Buy does not stock any computers with XP as the operating system, and a special order would have taken weeks, so we caved in and went with Vista. So far, Sweater Wizard and Stitch and Motif maker have loaded without a hitch. The little Sole Solution sock program gives me an error message, but maybe I can figure out how to get it up and running (I don't use it much, anyway). I haven't yet tried reinstalling the Knitware Design program that is my current favorite.

Mainly the whole file organization feels totally weird, but I expect I just have a learning curve thing ahead of me.


This a not very good picture of the current hat. The exciting to me thing about it is that I loaded it directly from the camera card to the computer, and then was able to find it!

That's probably all until next week. Today I go back to installing programs, learning, playing with the new computer. Tomorrow is work at the library and shopping for the trip up north, Friday I take off for the mini-reunion (lake, deck, boat, good company - I'm jazzed!)