Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Deceptively productive

I've been very bad about keeping up with the blog, what with two trips out of state and the sneaking suspicion that no one reads it (poor me), but I've finished, and I mean really finished--ends sewn in, buttons, and in one case, bells--a few projects. The booties should get to their recipient before Christmas (they are in the mail), and the composed mitts (from Interweave), are ready to be wrapped for their recipient. My first Knitting from the Top Down sweater was also a huge success. Photos soon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Happy Accidents

Although gracious and flexible are not the first two adjectives that come to mind when I think of my daughter, perhaps they should be. Faced with the problem below (nearly finished gloves, but no more yarn), her response waas, "You can just make the fingers a different color." I think they turned out rather well, as does she, and Washington was absolutely thrilled to help me unravel all those purple fingers.

Another small project that came surprisingly off the top of my head was this dishtowel, which Ian pointed out looks like an eye. Started with no plan, just straight increases on the outside, I decided I'd like a YO diamond in the middle, and that this called for a bobble in the exact center. Interestingly, though the KFB at the ends and the YOs closer to the middle increase the same nember of stitches, they don't add the ame amount of width. Live and learn and produce inadvertent art.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Plugging away, with a few diversions

The biggest diversion was a rush proofreading job that took all my attention last week--12 hours of work in a seven-day period. Not impossible, but distracting and rather stressful. On the upside, it was the second half of Montel Williams's new book, Living Well, and I ended up enjoying it and agreeing with quite a bit of what he said, especially regarding ridiculous portion sizes, marketing of junk food to kids, and keeping one's home environment safe and healthy. I did keep carrying the cardigan, and am more than halfway through ball 6. I finally felt I had enough to make Ian try it on, and I'm pretty sure that after one more diamond, I can start the armhole steeks and V-neck shaping!

The day Ian dropped off my job, I had the irresistible urge to start (and complete) a very small project, so I crocheted this small orange ball. It was going to have a Jack-o-Lantern face, but Washington was too eager to play with it.

Finally, I've got about 5 inches of the never-ending bathmat done, and the good news is that it feels very nice if you rub your bare feet on it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Deadlines can be a good thing

Not only did I finish the mittens (and show them around to most of the people I saw Sunday, somehow neglecting to take the finished item photo though I had several willing models) by Friday night, but, realizing that I had until Tuesday because mail doesn't go out on Columbus Day, I managed to finish a pair of socks in three days. It would have been a little bit better if I had realized how little green I had and put some gray in the first sock also, but here they are on and off, showing that they mostly look like a matching pair. I ended up mixing two sock patterns from Knitting for Peace together to come up with a somewhat unique design. I really wanted to turn the heel rather then doing the usual toe-up short-row heel, and I'm pretty pleased with how they came out.

Riding the wave of euphoria that comes with finishing two projects (however small) in such a short time, I decided to start the project that may take the rest of my adult life, the Loopy Landing bathmat from Not Your Mama's Knitting. Straight knitting on the WS, but on the RS one has to make a loop 84 times. I'm just now finished with row 6, and it's not no-look knitting either.

Interestingly, when Ian saw me starting, he didn't say, "Hooray for you for using up that big cone of green wool." First he said, "A bathmat? What about the other tablemats?", then he really got to the point: "What about my cardigan?" So, even though I'm more than halfway done with ball four and it's getting quite bulky, his cardigan is back to being my take-everywhere project. For now. Here's a belated link to Grumperina's cabling without a needle tutorial, which has made this cardigan that much easier and faster.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


Been very sidetracked lately. Had some white sandwich bread turn out gratifyingly well.

Made another small dishcloth and finished the first tablemat (will I have the fortitude to make three more? If I don't we'll be stuck with our ocean life, jungle life, and animal alphabet ones).

Ian's cardigan is shaping up, but is getting almost too large to be carried around. Decided to do a horizontal rib in the third diamond, but what's really helped speed it up is that every fourth row I'm cabling WITHOUT a cable needle. I'd been wanting to do this for a while, and finally found Grumperina's tutorial. Perfect!

But most of all, Afghans4Afghans sent out a particularly urgent call, with the very practical "A pair of socks or mittens -- can be completed in a couple days or over the weekend." Since I haven't made any mittens since last year, I pulled out my worsted wool stash and whipped these up (starting at knitting circle Thursday morning). If I mail them on Monday, they should get there by October 12, and I may be able to add a plain pair, too. I've gotten out my copy of Knitting for Peace to see if there are any relevant patterns (the mittens below were straight out of my head).

Monday, September 24, 2007


All kids like it, right? Well, just as with macaroni and cheese, my kids didn't, though they'll happily eat sushi, tilapia, tofu stir fry, or dirty rice. The good news is that I've managed to convert Washington, at least into enjoying homemade applesauce.

We had a wonderful time apple-picking, and, though a certain little boy was more interested in eating than picking, we came home with plenty of apples. Coco was able to take in 23 for snack to her first grade calss, and when she sorted through, she found a few with bruises. So, on Tuesday, instead of knitting, I peeled and chopped and stirred until I had some delicious applesauce. I've even been able to make one of my favorite breakfasts, shredded wheat with applesauce and milk poured over it (though I can't get anyone else to try that).

This sweater seems to be going amazingly fast, to me. I brought three balls of yarn (including the one I'd cast on with), and I'd practically finished the first by the time we got to Connecticut. I finished the second at knitting circle Thursday, and now the third is getting skinny. To be able to go around and around, always looking at the right side and knowing exactly what comes next--my kind of sweater. The only problem is that now I'm convinced I must have Knitting from the Top to move along my knitting growth. It was the Knitty interview with Cat Bordhi that convinced me. I also really appreciated her talking about her ten-year (!) knitting slump.

Finally, the first tablemat is so close to done, yet I have not been motivated to finishe the last TWO rows. I guess I really need another movie to watch.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Did I say this would be done in a week? I think I also mentioned, however, my reluctance to weave in ends. On the inside, there are still eight or so threads that need to be put in their place.

It's a miracle that I managed to get out my pom-pom maker to top this hat. Honestly, I actually needed the motivation of meeting the recipient, one Baby Sylvester, and seeing just how cute he is. He'll receive the hat tomorrow, in plenty of time for the nippy fall weather that the last rain brought in.
Truth be told, ever since I finished the book club book, (Like) Water for Elephants, and a very good read it was, too, I've been a little more into reading than knitting. Also finished in September: the Miss Marple classic A Caribbean Mystery, and a couple of very different nonfiction books that both deal with the adolescent struggles of minority girls in America. Once Upon a Quincenera, by Julia Alvarez, had a very sociological bent, with a side of woman's empowerment and a lot of self-reflection. Happy Birthday or Whatever dealt with Annie Choi's travails growing up as the youngest child of Korean immigrants. It is intensely personal and, in places, uproariously funny. I can identify with many of the experiences she describes, but the vignette that really made me think described how her mother decided to deal with Annie's out-of-control stuffed animal collection. What parent doesn't struggle with this? And, while I will probably never tell my daughter outright "You crazy. They no live," I do wish there were some way to thin their numbers. The final book I've just put down was a thin but fairly satisfying John Mortimer, Rumpole and the Reign of Terror.
Tomorrow we're heading to Connecticut to see the grandparents and to harvest apples, which should be fantastic, and my brilliant father-in-law pointed out that since there are so many of us, it might make sense to rent a van. So tomorrow, as Ian pilots us to his childhood home and the kids sing along to Dan Zanes, I will be in the passenger seat knitting away on Ian's long-awaited cardigan, which I just started today.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Wrong on all counts

I flew down to Houston sure that I would have little or no knitting time and that my nephews would have no interest in my knitting. In fact, when we took our short hiatus to Austin, I only brought the gauge-swatch hat, the Easter egg sweater, and some odd balls. Turns out I grossly underestimated drive time and also failed to take into account the enormous, netted trampoline, which occupied vast swaths of kids' time, while I could sit quietly on the gliding porch swing watching. I actually ran out of projects and had to come up with another:

It's a tiny baby raglan from odds and ends of merino style that I happened to have, but I'm thinking I can duplicate stitch or crochet some fish under the water (blue part) and a sailboat on top (white portion). Of course, I'll have to order more yarn for the sleeves and find a really tiny, nautical-minded baby, but it's also perhaps a pattern I could (enlarge and) use again.

The gauge-swatch hat turned out very nicely, also sized for a tiny baby, but after my two-year-old nephew was kind enough to try it on, he became fascinated by it and wanted to put it on again and again. I promised him one more his size for Christmas, but when I took out the measuring tape to check his head circumference he became enchanted with that and carried it around for the rest of the day (to be fair, it is shaped like a dinosaur).
Meanwhile, as my two-year-old nephew was angling for hat and supplies, my six-year-old nephew took some time off from jumping to come sit with me and gently hold the ball of yarn I had just finished with. What is Sam doing in this photo?

Knitting a hat for Batman.

Of course, when I say I've finished the Easter egg sweater that really means it's off the needles. Boy do I have a lot of weaving in to do. Somehow, all my tapestry needles were conveniently forgotten. But that did enable me to start one more project:

It's another baby sweater from the Knitter's Almanac, but this time in merino, so I don't have to feel as if I'm betraying EZ's trust. The color is called cornflower, but is much more lavender in person, and I seem to have internalized the simple lace pattern.
As for the V-neck, we've had a beautiful reunion, both armholes are done, and the neck is halfway to completion. A few ends to sew-in, and I think it will be waiting for the next 65-degree day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Torn apart

Once again this summer, I'm leaving home and taking the kids south, this time to Houston. Apart from Ian, who doesn't have unlimited vacation time and thus can't accompany us, the thing I'll miss most will once again be the deep V-neck sweater.
Actually, it's just as well I'm not bringing the huge merino creation down to Texas, because I've managed to somehow just fall short of the yarn requirement. Happily, I had enough Hollyberry to finish knitting the body, bind the armholes together, and do one sleeve,
but I'll need another ball for the neckband for sure.
But, as you can see from the last photo, I have finally cut steeks,

and although it was a little nerve-wracking, it was mostly fun,
and the feeling when it's cut and doesn't unravel? Deep contentment. So, once I return, I should make short work of the other armhole and neckband (just 7 rows of ribbing each) and have a lovely fall vest.

Since I've finally proved to myself that steeking works, it's time to start Ian's Aran cardigan, and I'm following EZ's advice and making a gauge-swatch hat. I just started tonight, and I am in love with the yarn, Firecracker Heather, because it's mostly a deep orangey red, but every so often some blue or gold will pop out. The diamond and fishbone patterns are shaping up, too.
So, that will come with me, along with my long-lost autumn sock, and the two lace shawls, and possibly the table mat. Or maybe I'll finally finish the Easter egg sweater. That would be nice to have off the needles. But don't be surprised if I come home from Texas needing to rip out twelve rows of lace and with nothing else to show for myself, because the real purpose of the trip is quality time with the eight-and-unders and that requires a lot of running around, especially since my nephews aren't trained to let me knit and read them a story at the same time and are unfamiliar with the "hang on, just let me finish this row" which comes to the childern of knitters so early.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Progress report

The start of August was a little hectic for me, what with two assignments due, and various other commitments. Though, if one has to read a book word by word twice, Emma by Jane Austen is a pretty good choice. Speaking of lace shawls (there are quite a few mentions of knitting in the book, though it's mostly done by doddering old Mrs. Bates), I have proved and reproved over the summer months that lace knitting cannot mix with drinking alcoholic beverages, watching children, or even conversing with friends. It seems to be best done while your life's companion is watching sports and the kids are safely asleep, or while said companion is reading, silently or out loud. This is also meant to explain why I'm still stuck on clue 2 of the Mystery Stole. As for the non-lace stuff, the armhole steeks of the deep-v vest are fast approaching, and I expect it to fly after that. I love to lay it on the table to observe the hourglass shape already emerging, but the last time I did that, a certain young boy did his best to pull the circular needle out. My favorite way to work on the vest is while listening to the Knitpicks podcast, a wonderful feature that makes me feel much better about supporting them vs. my LYS. And I'm not the only one who likes to listen.

Coco: "Mommy, can we listen to your iPod?"
Me: "It's just a lady talking about knitting, I can't imagine you'd be interested."
Coco and Washington: "Pleeeease?"
Me: "Here."
Coco: "This is really cool. We like it."
Washington: "Yeah. We like it."
Coco: "This doesn't mean I'm interested in learning to knit, though."

Well, if I bide my time, I have a feeling she'll come around. She's back into the idea of karate, if we can only find a Saturday when she's not invited to a party or otherwise committed.
Speaking of karate, we bid a fond farewell to a brown belt student who's off to college, and I managed to assemble these flower face cloths:

In cotton, not chenille, since I have cotton coming out of my ears. and another thing I'm doing with one of the peaches and creme cones:

Here you see it lacking one sleeve, but it is now finished and was immensely satisfying. I modified a raglan funnel neck sweater from Debbie Bliss's Baby Style, then added a little seed stitch star that I got out of my Christmas stocking book. I love raglan decreasing and sewing up perfectly aligned mattress stitch seams, but I think top-down would have made it go even faster (6 fewer seams to sew).
I'll be back soon with pictures of armhole steeks and observations on finger pain.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Baking News

We interrupt this knitting blog to wish a Happy 3rd Birthday to Washington and a Hap 37th Birthday to Ian.
Since we haven't yet installed our air conditioner (and when we do, it will only cool the master bedroom), we decided to try to have Washington's July 21 party outside. Now, when he was asked who he wanted at his party, his first answer was "My sister will be there" and, when pressed, he added that he wanted his big red plastic crawfish to attend. Nevertheless, since we hoped to catch up with friends and knew he'd be happy to see some other kids after a very low-key summer, we started telephoning some families. My biggest quandary, though, was how to get a homemade cake up the hill to Mount Prospect Park. I've made the kids' birthday cakes myself every year that we've been home to celebrate, and usually only have to carry them from the kitchen to the dining room. The solution: a cookie cake.

Since I couldn't find a round cookie sheet at Bed, Bath, & Beyond or our local equivalent, I got a round stone and spread (on wax paper) an entire batch of chocolate chip cookie dough on it in a circle. Brought it out, let it cool, and added a Toob of horses for decoration. I let Washington help with the placement, and quite a few more horses ended up in the "river" than I anticipated, but the kids liked it, and it tasted good.

For Ian, Washington got it into his head that Daddy should have a chocolate cake, which seemed to go well with the requested steak and potatoes birthday dinner, and, anyway, I was eager to try out the Devil's Food cake that Ruth Reichl describes making as a teenager in Tender at the Bone.
I have very vague memories of making a velet spice cake from the Joy of Cooking as a tween, but in general I make cakes with help from my friend Duncan Hines. I've always felt that there was too much at stake to risk a baking catastrophe, and though Joy doesn't usually steer me wrong, the intro to the cake baking section is incredibly intimidating. But Ruth Reichl, with her simple instructions and her confidence that anyone can cook as she does, gave me the confidence I needed. (I used her lamb recipe, her Brussels sprouts recipe, and even made her cheesecake all for our Easter dinner, and I make her spaghetti carbonara at least once a month, usually at Coco's request.)
The cake was a breeze, and the seven-minute icing was exactly as she described it, though if I had it to do over, I'd put a little more frosting between the layers. We had a brainwave to try to make it Ian's favorite color instead of plain white (he actually likes more of a hunter green, but we couldn't dump in the whole bottle of food coloring).

Everything went according to plan, until the decorating was almost done. I knew I didn't have much black icing left, so I started by writing "Daddy", then "Birthday." Full of confidence, I moved on to "Hap . . ." and couldn't go another letter.

We walked all the way to Flatbush in search of some more writing icing, but turned up empty, so we decided to make the best of it with some leftover orange.

Now, I know that icing that is squeezed out of an aerosol can cannot be natural or good for the environment or for those I am serving it to, but it is so much a part of my childhood memories, and so good, that I haven't been able to give it up. Now that the stores near me no longer carry it, though, I will look on this as an opportunity to find a healthier, or at least more natural, way to bake.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Things to make one feel better on a rainy day

Imagine the boy on the sofa with the exact opposite look on his face. Now fill in the details: his sister is off visiting her grandparents in a different state, he is without a playmate, and the rain is pouring down (like in that movie about the kids who had colonized Venus). Now imagine that two of my knitting buddies come over to sit and knit and watch my Lucy Neatby video and bring two two-year-olds and two seven-year-olds. Believe me, we all felt much better. Add to that this very simple, very sunshine-y baby sweater (a Debbie Bliss raglan funnel-neck), and a major finishing breakthrough that I was able to facilitate, and things were really looking up.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hostess presents

We're back from our trip to Louisiana, so I can now reveal the ball-band dishcloth hostess presents I've been plugging away at since May. Done mostly in Peaches and Creme cotton (as recommended by Mason-Dixon), with a bit of Charlie Brown yellow and mitred-square rug red--truly a gift from our home to theirs.
The trip was wonderful, but more board-game playing than knitting occured. Coco is just at the age where that's becoming fun, especially a game with a very skimpy board but some other cool apparati called Catchphrase. Ian trounced me at Scrabble not once, but three times, but graciously let me keep trying until I won the last game. Only then did we discover that the letter Z had gone AWOL under the table all week. There were also a few table tennis matches, including one in which I discovered that holding a 37-pound child on your hip as you play is not as big an impediment as one would think. (Ian still won, preserving his undefeated record, and also went on to drive the Jet-Ski much more daringly than I.)
Anyway, a wonderful trip to visit wonderful people in a beautiful place, and as my godfather would say, we passed a good time.

Friday, July 6, 2007

So hard to say good-bye

What will I miss the most on our week-long vacation? Well, I may not have access to the Internet, but that can be refreshing for a short time. I'll miss going to karate, and taking the train and bus everywhere. But, by far the hardest thing to leave is this V-neck vest. It has gotten sooo exciting. First of all, I've used a whole ball of white and seem to be nearing the end of my second ball of burgundy, and second of all, it seems as if, now that I've started the steek--that's right! See below--almost every other row has an increase or a decrease.


The no-look knit shell from Interweave (proper name: Lutea Lace) is done, and I couldn't be happier. The short rows and lace shoulders absolutely flew, and because I knit from a cone (Peaches and Creme), I only had about six ends to weave in. Today will be its first outing, as I will wear it on the flight to Louisiana to see my godmother. I'll be giving her some hand-knit hostess presents that I haven't shown, so as not to ruin the surprise.

*Finished object

Monday, July 2, 2007


Finished the fourth (and I think, final) component of a hostess present on Friday afternoon, and was overjoyed to cast on for this baby hat. It was the idea of this hat that led to the extremely ill-considered and -executed denim hat, but now I had the pattern right in front of me, so what could go wrong? For starters: ran out of yarn before the end of the long-tail cast on. No problem, just a few stitches of cable cast on and no one need be the wiser. I'm ashamed to admit I do this sometimes, but 154 stitches is a lot. So I started on the garter stitch brim, still enjoying myself, and at row 3 came the first decreases. K9, K2tog around. Fun! I love decreasing! But when I got to the marker, I had four stitches leftover. Not a problem, I thought, I'll fudge this, too, with a couple of extra k2togs. Two more garter rounds, on fewer stitches, then another decrease row. As I'm purling around, I reconsider my pro-top down stance. Maybe I was wrong; fewer stitches after every decrease, ending with an elegant six stitches? Bottom-up hats are the bomb. But all of a sudden I get near the end of the second decrease row and I am short several stitches. Shocking! Well, I snapped this photo then had Coco help me rip it out, and I must say that none of this would have happened if I'd started with a nice small number of stitches.
Since then I have cast on again (cable all the way this time), and counting carefully, am about to finish the second decrease row (again). Good thing, too, since my other no-look knitting project is now in the yes, look stage.