June 24, 2005

Sneaking in a row here and there

The last four days have had barely any knitting content whatsoever, unfortunately. Our church is a little old one from the 1800's, without a lot of money, so when there's maintenance work to be done, the members gather together to do it themselves. There's the benefit of getting to learn new skills (for example, when they were building the new front steps and porch, a lot of us got to learn how to lay bricks), but it does mean the occasional blitz of time dedicated to hard work. This past week was a blitz week, in that we have had projects going on every night from 5-9pm. If I wasn't the chair of the Board of Trustees I might have found all manner of excuses to not go every single night, but unfortunately, with position comes responsibility, and all that. So my days this week have been spent getting up, going to work, coming home just long enough to change into grubby clothes, and head over to the church to do things like paint and repair and clean and so forth. Last night we ended a little earlier, enough earlier that I came home and immediately picked up my Kiri, just so I could get in a few rows. Despite nearly falling asleep a few times, I did manage to finish off another pattern repeat, bringing total stitch count on the needles up to 273. It's coming along really nicely.

The good news is that I should have a little more knitting time over the weekend. I'm flying off to Las Vegas with my sisters for our third annual Sisters Only weekend (no husbands, no kids, all fun all the time). I figure Kiri is the perfect project for knitting on the plane, and since I have a very hard time sleeping in strange places, I'll likely end up getting a lot of knitting done in the wee hours for the next two nights. But hey, if I have to deal with insomnia, at least I can be doing something useful with that time!

In knitting-related news, I checked out the entire Harmony series from the library, and decided I needed to buy them for myself. So I bought volumes 2 through 5 (since volume 1 is basic knitting, which I already know) and have been having fun poring through them and oohing and aahing over all the different stitch patterns. I have a few more afghans to make, after all, plus I'm pondering trying to make some kind of lace panel for the glass door to the back yard, so I need all the inspiration I can get!

Posted by Jenipurr at 08:35 AM

June 17, 2005

A day off means knitting

Lace knitting is addictive. Of course it may also cause me to go blind, but it'll be lots of fun in the process. Working on Kiri is certainly showing me all the places in my house that lack appropriate lighting. I got up this morning and camped out in the library because there are no curtains in there and the sun was streaming in. Amazingly, I could actually see what I was doing - plus the detail of the pattern came through beautifully, backlit with the sun. Think I could arrange to have that room filled with sunbeams 24 hours a day? The cats would appreciate it at least, since they are, after all, solar powered (based on the number of hours they spent sprawled out in sunbeams, 'recharging their solar cells'. Grin).

I've got over 200 stitches on the needles now and am not even done with one skein of Alpaca Cloud. That laceweight stuff just goes on forever and ever and ever...sheesh. I am thinking maybe I should set the Kiri shawl aside for now and focus on the cabled afghan, since the shawl - now that I have memorized the pattern - is an extremely tiny and portable project, capable of being smashed into small places (like the spare room in my purse), whereas the afghan is, well, a wee bit bulky.

This afternoon I sat down with my new knitting machine, and my lovely new folding table (bought specifically for this purpose) and walked myself through the directions. The first time I tried this (last weekend) it didn't work so well, but this time I feel like I got the hang of it. I dropped a few stitches on the ends, and I think I may just have to figure out how to work the tension holders on the sides to prevent that in the future. But I was able to pick the stitches back up again, and it worked out.

With all the problems I had with Soleil, I am still enamored of the pattern. And I am now pondering whether I could actually do Soleil on my nifty new machine. It would take care of the problem I had with uneven tension. I know one can do lace on these things. I'd have to convert it to pieces instead of doing it in the round, but I think that might still work. Hmm. If nothing else, I can see that I'm going to be having fun playing with this thing over the next few months (between making completely impractical shawls out of wispy yarn that I will never wear, and the never-ending pile of Christmas present afghans), and maybe I'll even end up making something useful (like parts of a sweater, or even a vest) in the process.

On a completely unrelated note, surely I cannot be the only one who, eying a cat with extremely thick fur that mats if you look at it cross-eyed, nas pondered the feltable qualities of yarn made from cat hair? I mean seriously, think about it. Not only would it apparently felt into a dense and impenetrable material, it would also have magical magnetic properties. As anyone who lives with cats knows, cat hair clings to EVERYTHING. Would yarn made from this substance also do the same?

This is, of course, assuming one can acquire enough fuzz from cats to make all this worthwhile. Because it is always the extra-furry cats with extra-matting fur who hate being combed the most. Sigh.

Posted by Jenipurr at 02:52 PM

June 12, 2005

It's all about the fun

First things first. My birthday was about two weeks ago (May 30th), and it was lots of fun. Since we had the day off, Richard and I decided to head down to the San Francisco zoo. We both love that zoo because they really seem to focus more on creating habitats that make the animals happy instead of boring, bare cages focused only on whether we humans can see them. We got there when they opened, which meant we got to see all the lemurs at their most active (I adore lemurs - they're like the cats of the primate world!), plus we got to go into one of their newest exhibits, where they have a dik dik! It's one of the cutest little things out there. Pictures from our trip are all posted here.

Now back to knitting content. It being my birthday (and for those of you who care, I turned 36 this year, which means that I shall spend the entire year telling people that I am 6 squared if they ask my age, just because it seems like the right math nerdy thing to do. Heh)., naturally there were presents. And this year, since my family has all figured out that I am a wee bit obessed with knitting, it was all about the enabling, baby! My marvelous husband not only got me Weekend Knitting, he also got me the Sweater Wizard 3.0 software, and if that weren't enough, he also got me a knitting machine, which I really wanted! Woo! There's a lot I'm always going to have to do by hand, but this thing is going to make some of the larger projects go by just a little quicker.

Other knitting related presents included organizers for my DPN's and my circulars, from my parents, which is marvelous because this means I no longer have to go rummaging all over the house trying to find all my needles, as well as figure out if I have the size I'm looking for.

The cabled afghan is coming along rather nicely. I'm about 2 feet into it, and have already finished the first twining trees motif, plus I tracked down a cable knot for the center, converted the graph to text (because I can follow text much better than graphs), had Richard pick a stitch pattern from my 365 Knitting Stiches A Year calendar (I narrowed it down to about 5 choices to make it easier for him) for something to fill in the huge gap between tree and knot in the middle, and did the math to figure out exactly how many rows this thing is going to take. 320 rows, in case you're curious - it'll be 8 repetitions of the outermost cable pattern, and 20 of the Saxon braid. I wouldn't normally care how many rows, except that if I want the second, and upside down twining trees motif to match the exterior cabling, I have to know exactly *when* to start it...which means knowing how many rows.

If I had started this thing with all the calculations and such I probably would have been dreading it, but I'm adding in all the steps as I go, and I'm actually having fun. Here's a shot of the first trees, with the interior cable edge (the Saxon braid), and the single cable twist around the trees. You can't see the outer ring cable in this shot, but trust me, it's there.

In addition to working on the afghan, I cast on for Kiri. It took a few tries, since I quickly discovered that using my lovely smooth plastic Denise needles is not a good idea for teensy laceweight yarn. So I zipped off to the yarn store, procured a pair of bamboo circulars (and something for my Secret Pal too), and transferred everything over to my new less-slippery needles. I felt like I was going turtle speed for the first few rows of the pattern, but eventually it all clicked. Here's a progress shot of the first 54 rows.

I'm using KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud in Iris, on size 5 Clover bamboo. I posted a nervous newbie message to the Summer of Lace discussion group, dithering over the open weave of the pattern, but really, I should have just held off on my worrying until I was further along and could see the pattern really taking place. I think once this is blocked, it's going to be gorgeous.

Posted by Jenipurr at 06:36 PM | Comments (7)

June 08, 2005

Secret Pal 5 Questionaire

Wow - June is getting away from me already. I've been so focused on that cabled afghan that I wasn't paying any attention to the date!

Because I had so much fun with it last time, I've signed up for Secret Pal 5. I've already got a few ideas for what to send my own secret pal, but I realized I need to post an updated version of the secret pal questionaire so the person who's got my name knows a little more about me.

If this doesn't answer all your questions, try my regular journal, A Cat By Any Other Name, where I cover all the rest of my life (the non-knitting bits).

  1. Are you a yarn snob (do you prefer high-end/natural fibers)? Do you avoid Red Heart and Lion Brand? Or is it all the same to you?
    I am definitely not a yarn snob. While I may sigh longingly over the fancy, expensive cottons, wools, and blends, I simply cannot afford to be a yarn snob. Plus, I simply haven't the patience to deal with clothing that has to be dry-cleaned or hand-washed. This isn't to say that if I suddenly stumbled across a supply of Noro or Debbie Bliss or other types of yarn that was actually affordable I wouldn't immediately snatch it up in my arms and race to the checkout counter while hissing "My preciousss." in my very best Golum imitation and then dither for weeks over what to actually do with it. But since most of what I make is for other people, I'd rather stick to the more inexpensive (and machine washable!) yarns. In fact, the afghans I'm making right now are all from Red Heart, TLC, or Lion Brand yarns - they're lovely colors, soft yarns, machine washable, and sturdy enough to stand up to the normal wear and tear of life.

  2. Do you spin? Crochet?
    I do neither - at some point I will probably learn to crochet, but honestly, I like the look of knitted fabric better, so it's not a huge priority for me.

  3. Do you have any allergies? (smoke, pets, fibers, perfume, etc.)
    If it's small and four-legged and fuzzy, I'm allergic to it. If a mouse, rat, or other rodent-shaped critter has been in the general vacinity I break out in hives. Happily, since last August I have been on allergy shots, which actually do seem to be working. I have dreams of one day being able to visit my friend with the guinea pig without having to load up on meds first. However, luckily I seem to be blissfully allergy free when it comes to wool for knitting.

    The answer to the obvious question, by the way, is yes, this does include cats. However, I figure my poor little immune system just gave up on that one years ago, since I've been living with large quantities of them for years (we currently have six) and have absolutely no intention of ever living without them.

  4. How long have you been knitting?
    I've been knitting a little over 2 years now.

  5. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
    Why yes, as a matter of fact, I do - here it is.

  6. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)
    I love the smell of vanilla, almonds, sandlewood (if not too strong), and jasmine.

  7. Do you have a sweet tooth?
    I'm not a big candy eater, and since I'm odd enough to not like most fruits (anything berry-related makes me nauseous, sadly) that tends to cut out a lot of goodies available. However, I firmly believe that dark chocolate (with or without nuts) is one of the major food groups, and also an essential nutrient.

  8. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do?
    Mainly these days I write, poke about on the computer, or knit. Occasionally I wield a paint brush, but that's only to paint a room in the house since I have not a drop of artistic blood in me.

  9. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
    I live in a house with six computers - or in other words, we are very much a little family of nerds. So we've got the ability to not only play music on the computers, but also convert MP3's to different formats should the need arise.

    My music taste tends to be rather random. I'm a big fan of Billy Joel, Abba (shut up, they're cool!), and Barenaked Ladies. I like woodwind music (I play the oboe, so I'm a wee bit biased in favor of the woodwinds versus brass or strings) and most classical. I also occasionally like to listen to Celtic rock (Tempest, Seven Nations, that sort of thing).

  10. What's your favorite color? Or--do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer?
    I tend to prefer greens, blues, and purples, with the occasional red thrown in for fun.

  11. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
    I am married, childless by choice, and owned by six rather spoiled cats who think that my yarn is edible, my needles are great toys, and anything knit is fair game to snuggle into or under, or knead upon until full of claw-induced snags. We have a great game in my house called 'where can Jennifer hide the knitting so the cats cannot get it'. Sometimes I win. Sometimes, however, I lose.

  12. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with?
    I'm not sure I necessarily have any particular favorites. I tend to prefer wool and wool blends, or acrylics - smooth yarns instead of the bumpy ones. Cottons can be lovely, but they make my hands hurt.

  13. What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
    I have to admit that I have completely failed to see the point of all those fun furs. They're nice to pet in the store, but since I am not much of a scarf girl, or a fashion maven, I have never had the remotest desire to actually make anything with them.

  14. What is/are your current knitting obsession/s?
    I think knitting in general qualifies as my obsession.

  15. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
    I am all about the sweaters, since that's the main reason I wanted to learn how to knit in the first place. But I tend to like knitting almost anything if it lets me play with yarn and needles. This summer is the summer of afghans for me, since I've decided a number of members of my family need them for Christmas. I've also joined Wendy's Summer of Lace group, since in between all the afghans and the socks I intend to make at least one lightweight, lacy shawl this summer.

  16. What are you knitting right now?
    Right now on the needles I have the basketweave socks, my second market bag (open mesh) with some gorgeous fiery cotton, and a cabled afghan for my husband that is going to take forever because I just *had* to make it complicated (but it's turning out gorgeous so I can forgive myself).

  17. What do you think about ponchos?
    I think they can look nice on some people. On me, however, they would look as if I was wearing a well knit tent. I'm not so sure that's a look I'm all that keen to acquire.

  18. Do you prefer straight or circular needles?
    I tried straight needles exactly once. Then, after spending every bit of knitting time fending off cats (because knitting with a full grown cat clinging to the other end of the needle makes it a little challenging) I switched to circulars and have never gone back. The only straight needles I ever use are DPN's.

  19. Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
    I'm not sure I really have a preference. I've used metal and plastic needles and they were both fine. I've never tried wood, mainly because I'm a little afraid the cats would decide they were edible. I mainly use my Denise Interchangeables, although if I'm going to buy needles individually I tend to head for the Addi Turbos over anything else.

  20. Are you a sock knitter?
    Yes! In the previous secret pal exchange I was sent a skein of sock yarn and a pattern and now I am hooked! I prefer machine washable sock yarn, however.

  21. How did you learn to knit?
    A friend at church was knitting and I asked her to show me how. So we set up a few meetings (it helps she also occasionally fosters kittens so I got knitting lessons *and* a kitten fix at the same time), she taught me the basics, I picked up a few books, went a little crazy building up my stash, and the rest is history.

  22. How old is your oldest UFO?
    I have actually been pretty good about this. I tend to try to get things finished because a lot of what I make is for other people. So right now the only unfinished objects I've got are the ones I'm actively working on right now - the afghan and the socks. I do have two incomplete bags, but I don't count them as UFO's because they are eventually going to be frogged and the yarn saved to make something else.

  23. What is your favorite animated character or a favorite animal/bird?
    My favorite animal is the cat (I'm sure this comes as a big surprise by now). I'm not sure I necessarily have a favorite animated character, since I'm not so much into cartoons, and never really watched them as a kid.

  24. What is your favorite holiday?
    Christmas! I love the smells of pine and gingerbread; I love the music; I love the sparkly lights and the tree and the way the house looks when it's decorated.

  25. Is there anything that you collect?
    I'm not a big fan of kitchy, cutesy stuff, so we don't really have any collections to speak of. I like dragons and gargoyles but I'm pretty picky about the types. And as much as I like cats, I do try to keep the amount of cat-related stuff to a minimum. Also, since I live with six cats, there are very few places in the house where knick knacks would be safe from investigating feline noses and feet, so we try to avoid having any breakable things out on display.

    Posted by Jenipurr at 06:09 AM

June 05, 2005

How many frogs will this take?

The first afghan is done, and I think it is going to be for my niece after all. Turns out my youngest nephew already has a knitted afghan, and while the oldest nephew needs one, the colors in the Red Heart Monet are just a wee bit too girly for a little guy.

It is hard to work up any disappointment over this, however, because what this means is that there is one less afghan in my future - phew. Of course this also means that when my big afghan yarn order arrives from Herschnerrs, I'm going to have to send two thirds of it back and exchange for other colors and possibly even a refund. But in the meantime I've got the yarn for the younger brother in law waiting, the yarn for the older brother in law is on its way to me, and I'm in the starting struggle with the afghan for Richard, because I told him that I would make him an afghan, and because it is going to be for my very wonderful husband, I want to make something really nice. Plus he loves celtic stuff and what screams celtic stuff on knitted objects more than cables?

So here begins the saga of the afghan. You may all laugh (or groan, depending on your previous experience in such matters) along with me.

The plan for this afghan all along has been to use the Twining Trees motif at each end of the afghan; one right side up and one upside down (so if you folded the afghan in half lengthwise, in other words, it'd be identical on each side). To this end I sat down and painstakingly converted the teeny tiny chart to individual typed rows of instructions. I can read simple charts, but something that busy would have driven me nuts trying to follow while knitting. This way I can cleary see for each row exactly how many of each stitch and cable technique I have to do, without having to decipher teensy little graphics.

However, this by itself would be a little dull, so next I searched for a cable pattern for the edges - something large enough to make a clear border that wouldn't get too fussy or tedious. I finally decided on the ring cable pattern from this afghan pattern, which will form my left and right edge.

First Try (Thursday): I started knitting with the ring cable pattern on the sides, and some basic moss stitch in the middle to form a base for the twning trees, but about 20 rows in I realized that the moss stitch forms a significantly tighter and shorter fabric than the cabled sections, which was making my whole afghan all lopsided and weird. Sigh. No way to fix this; ripped out the whole thing.

Second Try (Friday): I next decided to try just straight stockinette, and start the twining trees from the bottom instead of starting them further in. However, there's enough space between the bases of the trees and the edges of the ring cable pattern that it was curling. I tried to tell msyelf that it was fine, but after about 20 rows, I just couldn't stand it anymore, and frogged the whole thing aain.

Third Try (Saturday): Obviously there needed to be something in the 30 or so stitches between where the trees start and the ring cable pattern ends. I decided to try a basic non-cabled diamond pattern, which, while it wasn't as visible as I was hoping, was working, well, *okay* enough that I could convince myself it would be fine. But there was still curling around the base of the trees, and the not very visible diamond pattern was starting to annoy me, no matter how much I tried to pretend that it didn't. So....

Fourth Try: This morning I lay in bed, my brain racing around with possibilities. I still really want to give the twining trees a base, so that there is no curling around the bottom where they start, and as much as I was trying to avoid yet more cabling on this darn thing, if I want the diamond pattern to show, there is just no way around it but to cable those. Or I could just give up on the diamond pattern entirely and add yet another cable motif to the mix. Maybe something like this, perhaps. Since it's the perfect number of stitches. Hmmm.

Of course, this only takes me through the first few feet of the afghan. I am well aware of the fact that the twining trees pattern is only about 60 total rows, and even counting two of them, there's going to be a big huge empty expanse of boring stockinette in the center that is likely going to be crying out for a single cable motif just to keep it from being too dull. And this also does not take into account that I have yet to sit down and chart out the twining trees motif upside down, since I'm going to be doing the second one from the top down once I near the end of this thing. But I am telling myself that at least by the time I reach these crucial points, I will no longer have to rip the whole darn thing out. I may end up ripping and redoing whole sections, but not the whole thing.

I know that once I am finally done with this afghan (and I have a feeling this one is going to take me a while) it's going to be something I'll be extremely proud to have made. Technically it's the first thing I've ever 'designed' by myself, and I'm not so sure this really counts as an original design anyway since all I'm doing is cobbling together pieces from things other people have already done. But still, the point is that this is going to look fabulous when it's completed and I really can't wait to see it when it's done. I just wish I had a clearer picture of how to actually *get* it there in the first place.

Posted by Jenipurr at 09:04 AM