February 28, 2006

Back to the regular grind

Now that the Olympics are over, I have returned to some of the little projects I was working on before. I've actually made quite a bit of progress on the socks I'm working on for Richard. I've turned the heel of the first one and am now making my way through the side decreases, and need to try to spend some more time on it, and soon. I'd made this little goal to make one pair of socks a month this year, and February just blew by before I knew it, without any new socks to be seen (okay, there was that Olympics thing going on, so I suppose I do have a good excuse). So my goal for March is to finish Richard's socks and also at least start on my Sockpal000za socks. I really like the look of the Waterfall Rib from the Sensational Socks book, and I have a few possiblities for yarn in my stash, so I'm mulling that over in my head for now.

I am also back to doing yet more cable swatches for my FLAK cardigan. I've heard from Black Water Abbey Farms, and they don't have all the yarn I need in stock yet, but they've got three balls in the same dye lot as the next batch that's being shipped to them, so she's going to send me those so I can get started. This means I had better hurry up and make a decision on which cables I intend to use - something that has been far more difficult than I ever anticipated (mainly because there are so very many cables out there that I like!). I keep trying new combinations and writing up new spreadsheets and changing my mind over and over as to what works and what doesn't. Who knew designing my own sweater would be so hard? (grin)

Posted by Jenipurr at 09:53 AM

February 25, 2006

And we have a winner!

Edited to insert my "gold medal." Yay!

Luckily the yarn shop had saved aside some of the yarn for me in the same dye lot, just in case, so when I gave her a rather frantic call on Friday morning she said she'd wind off another quarter pound for me and set it aside for when I came by for the knitting night at her house that night. Phew. So even though I was intending to finish the shawl yesterday (since I had it off from work) I spent a good part of the day sleeping (and recovering from the stupid head cold) and instead made a little more progress on the sweater. I've seamed the second side and attached the first sleeve and tucked in all the ends, so all that's left now is to seam and attach the second sleeve and add the edging for the placket, and it will be done. And with both sides seamed and one sleeve attached I was able to try it on to see how it worked so far, and it's actually working pretty good. I suspect I will need to do some additional tweaking of what numbers I feed into the Sweater Wizard software next time, but for my first autogenerated pattern, I'm quite pleased.

Last night at the knitting group was a lot of fun. We all crowded around a table and fondled all the new yarns she'd picked up while at Stitches West, and when she mentioned that she'd just received the very last packages of Opal Sock Yarn in tiger and flamigo and ladybug (and that those designs are being discontinued) there might have been a teensy little dash into the yarn bags and some clutching of balls of sock yarn tightly to chests (I already had the tiger, but I really could not resist getting the flamingo this time too)). She gave me my extra yarn and i heaved a very huge sigh of relief and then promptly got right back to knitting. I made it to the first two rows of garter stitch before the knitting group broke up, and sleepily worked my way through about 1 1/2 more rows last night, and then got up this morning and finished off the rest. The choir was singing at a funeral today so we had rehearsal, but there was just enough time between rehearsal and funeral for me to dash home, weave in the ends, give it a bath, and pin it to a large blanket to lay it out on the lawn (thank goodness for sunny, warm days).

. Please ignore my poor blocking skills - it was straight when I pinned it to the blanket on the kitchen floor, but transferring it to the back yard got things a little discombobulated and I was kind of in a hurry.

A few hours spent baking in the sun, and it was done, a day early, no less. And it turned out better than I could heve even dreamed.

All the important facts:
Pattern: Irish Diamond Shawl, from Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls
Needles: 4.5 mm Inox circulars
Yarn: Jagger Spun 2/8 Heather in Chokecherry

Thoughts: The shawl pattern was extremely well written and I am already eying a few more in that book that I would love to make. I loved working whith the Jagger Spun, especially for this particular shawl, and am pondering ways in which I can use it again, since it comes in a truly amazing assortment of gorgeous colors. The wool is a little rough, but the rustic look is exactly what I wanted, and the fingering weight means that the shawl is heavy enough to provide warmth. The needles worked out fine - the ends are nice and sharp, although this wasn't as critical for this yarn as it's been for other lace knitting projects. The only thing I would change is to use a MUCH longer circular. The final stitch count - 762 - was about 200 stitches too many for the length I was using.

Posted by Jenipurr at 07:26 AM | Comments (7)

February 23, 2006

Ooh, that fall looks painful, Bob

I've reached the point where every row of this shawl feels like an eternity. Especially the purl rows on the wrong side. Good grief they just go on forever. I suspect this is because I now have over 700 stitches on the needles.

There are a few things that can get in the way of doing manic knitting in a deadline. The first would be getting sick, especially when it's the kind of stupid head cold that saps all your strength and makes you start to doze off in the middle of a row (although the rush of adrenaline you get when your hand jerks from almost falling asleep and you drop a dozen or so stitches can give you just the energy you need to somehow pick them all back up again without losing a single bit of the design, and at least finish the damn row). The second would be adopting a new cat midway through the Olympics - a cat who is very sweet but very nervous so that you end up spending hours of precious knitting time instead sitting on the floor of your library, giving pets and scritches to a tiny little cat because she is so very cute.

And the third, which happened tonight, would be if you look down at the cone and realize that, just as you had begun to fear a few days back, you are going to run out of yarn, and you have 15 more rows left to do.

Posted by Jenipurr at 07:14 AM

February 19, 2006

Stitches and beyond

After yesterday I have decided that the very best way to go to Stitches West is by train. Because those Amtrak people, they know how to treat knitters, even if we overwhelmed them and pretty much took over the entire train and created small panic amid the conductors who apparently had not been warned we were coming and were not entirely sure they had enough tickets to cover us all.

I got to bed pretty late because I'd been trying to finish that sweater but realized I needed sleep far more than a new sweater, and then I kept waking up at hourly intervals because whenever I have to get up early to get to something that has a set time, like to catch a plane or a train, my brain insists that surely I must have overslept and didn't hear the alarm and then keeps waking me up just to make sure. I could hire an entire brass band to stand by my bed and wake me up, with explicit directions to crash the cymbals directly on my head if necessary, and my brain would *still* insist that surely I slept through the alarm and hadn't we ought to wake up to be sure.

So by the time I finally dragged myself out of bed I was feeling pretty dead. That lasted only until I picked up my knitting mom in Vacaville and we headed off to the train station in Suisun, where we met up with the rest of our group, plus about half a dozen or so other knitters who were all heading down to the convention too. And we knew as soon as we got onto the train that we were in for some fun, because even though the train had started in Sacramento and only made one stop before ours, the one car reserved for knitters was already overflowing, and we weren't the only ones who had to scrounge for seats at the other end of the train.

Luckily the two women who were running the knitting-related activities were very accomodating and since more and more knitters kept getting on at every stop, they got used to zipping through all the cars until they found the matching raffle ticket. Plus they somehow had more than enough free goodie bags for everyone - and there were lots of free goodies in those bags. Cute little stitch holders, whole skeins of yarn and tiny little samples of silk and angora, pattern cards, sticky notes, and coupons galore for various vendors at Stitches. And the raffle prizes were pretty nice too - in fact one of the knitters in our car won an absolutely gorgeous Jordana knitting bag in black leather, and my knitting mom won an autographed book of patterns for scarves and shawls.

They had shuttle busses at the train station in Santa Clara, but the convention center was such a short distance away (and the line for the busses so very long) that our group decided to just walk. We'd all bought our tickets online so we could just cruise on by the extra long line to buy them at the door (my knitting mom and I were in that line last year - we learned our lesson!). Then we all made sure we had each others' cell phone numbers and we briefly discussed lunch plans, and then we all separated to do what we'd come to do - go shopping.

I decided to do a stroll through the whole hall to see everything that was available before I would buy anything. Since I've been working on the sweater and the shawl, I actually didn't have any good reason to buy yarn and the only thing I really wanted to get while I was there was the Sensational Socks book - and I'll admit that as soon as I found the big book vendor in the milddle of the hall, I tracked that book down, snatched up a copy, and held on to it tightly until it had been bought and safely stowed away into my little collapsible wheeled bag. I bought this bag last year at Stitches, since carrying bags around on your arm all day is just no fun, and I was so very glad I brought it with me this time too. I kept on wandering, and while there was some lovely stuff available, nothing jumped out and grabbed me, not even from the Tess Designer Yarns booth (although I must admit that I didn't even allow myself to do more than gaze at their yarn from a distance because I know my weaknesses and their yarn definitely qualifies).

I was doing really good in the 'buy no new yarn' mode until after lunch, when we all decided to do a tour of the market again. And then, as I was heading aimlessly down an aisle, I spied the booth for Black Water Abbey, and I was lost. I kept trying to leave, I swear I did, but the gravitational pull of the Iris colorway was too strong. I've already been a bit antsy about the fact that my yarn was back-ordered for the Follow-the-Leader Aran Along, and even though they'll still have to ship this yarn to me and it might take a week or so, I simply couldn't resist. The color is exactly what I was looking for and it's the type of yarn that simply screams out for cables. Plus I found the perfect buttons for the cardigan I intend to make out of my newly purchased yarn, and they gave me a little ball of it (the last they had in the booth) to take home so I can at least start swatching before the rest of it arrives.

And then I stumbled on another booth and there was a sign next to a heap of Lorna's Laces that said 'sale', and my coworker is having a little girl in May and they just happened to have three skeins in the perfect colors, so that had to come home with me too (along with two more skeins just for me because it was sock yarn and it was On Sale!). And after that I realized that I was heading down a very slippery slope, and besides the aforementioned lack of sleep was starting to really catch up to me, so I volunteered to camp out at one of the lunch tables while the rest of the group kept on shopping, so there'd be someone there to watch their stuff. Plus, it gave me a great opportunity to plow through a few more rows on the shawl, since I will take any knitting time I can get, in the name of the Knitting Olympics.

By the time the market closed we were all tired and shopped out, and also it was pretty cold outside so we wimped out and took the shuttle bus to the train station. Several busses of knitters all piled onto the train, again overwhelming the conductors (you think someone might have warned them) and we found spots and pulled out our knitting and let the train carry us home.

I think I can speak for all of us when I say that I had a wonderful time. I am so excited about finding the perfect yarn for my aran cardigan, and the Sensational Socks book looks like it is going to be an amazing resource, and best of all, because I got to sit on a train instead of behind a steering wheel, I managed to get 12 whole rows done on the shawl, bringing me to just under 50% of the way done.

(Most of) our group, posing in front of the booth for what is very quickly becoming my very favorite LYS - Fiber Elements. Notice that we are all very tired, but very happy (which explains why some of us are hugging the display of Opal sock yarn).

Posted by Jenipurr at 04:14 PM

February 18, 2006

Postcards from the Edge

Digital postcard from Stitches West, which also shows the Irish Diamond Shawl in progress. She was a little confused about the whole Knitting Olympics thing (because I am *so* not only 3 rows from the end, alas), but the very nice lady who was doing these nifty digital postcards thought it was pretty cool anyway.

More on Stitches West later. Suffice it to say we came (early, on a train crammed with knitters), we shopped (oh my word, the yarn), we had a blast.

Oh, and notice the distinct lack of me wearing a newly knit sweater? At about 1 am this morning, as I finished seaming up the first sleeve and realized I still had to seam the second, finish one side seam on the body, attach the sleeves, finish the second half of the placket, and weave in all the ends, I decided that no sweater is worth that much effort in lieu of sleep. I'm still going to get it finished (the sweater *and* the shawl) by the end of the Olympics, but it will have to wait for its Stitches West debut til next year.

Posted by Jenipurr at 07:36 AM | Comments (1)

February 15, 2006


Last night was knitting night at the library, and it was a lot of fun. Our group there is slowly growing, but it's so fun to see new faces when they walk in, and to see what everyone is working on. We helped a woman take the plunge into multiple row frogging for a project done on circular needles, and helped someone else figure out where she'd stopped on a project she hadn't touched in more than ten years. We talked about the Olympics (of course) and yarn shops and the differences between English or Continental knitting, and Stitches West came up in conversation once or twice, and even though I only got slightly over one row done during the entire hour, I was very glad I went.

I settled into my usual spot and got down to some more serious Olympic knitting as soon as I got home, however. Men's downhill slalom racing and men's figure skating are not nearly as distracting as the pairs skating was on Monday night, so aside from an occasional moment to glance up at the television during House (because it is not all Olympics all the time around here), I was able to make some good progress.

I have reached 102 rows as of last night, which puts me just about at 40%, with only one more pattern repeat of the diamond lace to go on the Irish Diamond Shawl. And this puts me in a bit of a quandry. Once I move to the next section of the lace I am going to need to be paying very close attention, because it will no longer be repetitive; which means that this no longer becomes a portable project. So do I hold off on any more knitting on the shawl until Saturday, so that I can work on it in the Knitting Train on the way to and from Stitches West, or do I bring something else (like those socks I am very slowly making for Richard) for train knitting, and worry about the rest later?

Luckily, it seems as if my decision is mostly made already. I've got three more evenings to finish up that sweater I'd started before the Olympics. Monday night I seamed up the shoulders and one side, and picked up the stitches for the neck collar and one side of the placket. I think the timing of where I am on the shawl means that the knitting gods are trying to tell me something; namely that this is the perfect spot to stop for a few days, and focus exclusively on getting this sweater done in time to wear to Stitches. I am especially anxious to get this thing finished since now that I've got the main pieces seamed together I can see how it's going to look and amazingly, it seems as if it is going to fit me quite well. I think I just might love my Sweater Wizard software for this sweater pattern alone.

In other news, because I am a nerd, I whipped up a quick little Access database to track all my Sockpal000za Sisters, which includes a nifty little chunk of VBA that extracts all the latest updates, creates an email, dumps all the information, formatted just as Allison has requested, into the body of the email, and then sends the email off to Allison, all with a push of a button. I do so love SQL and VBA.

Knitting, databases, pattern-generating software, and code. It's all glorious numbers and math. Really, I ask you. What's not to love?

Posted by Jenipurr at 09:01 AM

February 12, 2006

Full speed ahead

I finished up row 90 just as the credits were rolling on Grey's Anatomy, which brings me to just over 30% complete (32.6%, for those of you nerdy enough to want more specific numbers, like me). I really do love this tracking spreadsheet I created - it took seconds to set up, but with every row I not only know how far along I am in terms of total number of stitches, I know the total number of stitches I should have on the needles, the total number per section (since it's divided into four parts), and most importantly, how far I have left to go. I am telling myself that I really do not need to create one of these for any large project I undertake from now on, but the allure of little numbers in boxes is awfully hard for math nerds like me to ignore.

I've been trying to pace myself because I know that when I've tried to do insane knitting before, my hands cramp up and my wrists hurt and I regret it. So I've been taking breaks at least every pattern repeat. This evening I spent some of that break time going through my list of Sockpal000za Sock Sisters. The moment I got the initial list I went through and dumped as many as I could into Bloglines, because it's the easiest and quickest way I know to skim through a lot of online journal/blog entries at a stretch. I have an awesome group of Sock Sisters, though, because I am getting lots of update emails and having a lot of fun reading their entries and oohing and aahing over the gorgeous socks some of them have started to make.If you ever needed some inspiration to convince you to start knitting socks, browsing through all the participants of Allison's Sockpal000za should do the trick.

I have not made any progress on my own sock pal's socks, mainly because I have been focused on getting the sweater done, and also there is that little thing called the Knitting Olympics and an Irish Diamond Shawl taking up most of my available knitting time. But I have been pondering patterns and yarns and there are a few that seem promising. I do realize that once the Knitting Olympics are done, I will have to get working on those Sock Pal socks immediately, because I've got a bunch more socks to make by July, and those are going to be pretty important socks. You see, after the Knitting Olympics are over and I've finished my Sock Pal socks, I'm going to make three pairs of these socks, one for each of my sisters and I, which we will wear this coming July, as we take part in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, a 26 mile walk through San Francisco to raise money for Breast Cancer.

I've put a bright pink button on my main page for you to click if you'd like to sponsor me, or you can click here. If you'd rather send something in via snail mail, drop me an email with your street address and I'll send you a form and an envelope to send directly to the Avon Foundation. And think about making a pair of pink ribbon breast cancer socks for your mom or your sister or your best friend, your sock pal, or even yourself, to wear as well.

Posted by Jenipurr at 11:58 PM | Comments (2)

February 11, 2006

And away we go

In all my planning for the Knitting Olympics I neglected to consider one thing; the one thing that has demonstrated the rather obvious and glaring flaw in my plan to knit a large lace shawl in only 16 days.

This would be the fact that watching amazingly talented people do marvelous things on television (i.e. watching the *real* Olympics) is extremely distracting. And if this were just a plain old boring stockinette sweater I could easily knit along and not have to watch what I am doing. But it is not, and focusing on the lace means not being able to focus on the aforementioned amazing people doing amazing things. Heh. Oops.

The good thing, at least, is that I am making good progress. Last night, even while consistantly distracted watching the Opening Ceremonies, and then Battlestar Galactica, I managed to get the neckband done and work up to the fourth repeat of the first diamond pattern. And today, since Richard was off at a writer's group meeting for the most of the day, and the amount of skiing I can watch on television is rather small, I had nothing at all to distract me. Even the cats mostly left me alone, since daytime knitting time is their prime nap time.

I took a short break this afternoon to whip up a progress tracking system in a spreadsheet so I can figure out how far along I am, just because this sort of thing amuses me, but also because it is really nice to be able to take a break now and then and see where I stand. Just in case anyone cares, there are about about 82,500 stitches in an Irish Diamond Shawl (including the binding off). That's a lot of stitches.

I am telling myself that I am not allowed to go quietly insane from doing the purl rows, because even though purling across 400 stitches at a time (what I currently have on the needles) is tedious, it is going to be that much worse when I near the end and have over 750 stitches on the needle. Just the thought of purling that many stitches in a row makes me feel a little queasy. But I am going to be strong.

Anyway. End of Day 2 status report. Just finished row 71, and have decided it is time to stop because my hands are starting to hurt. I'm nearly at 23% complete, which means I am well on my way to my goal to have this thing over 25% complete by the end of the weekend.

Posted by Jenipurr at 12:11 AM | Comments (2)

February 09, 2006

Get ready, get set...

In preparation for tomorrow night I have been knitting madly on a sweater made of this yarn I bought at Stitches West last year. It's blue and has little flecks of color and sort of looks like someone attacked the sky with an entire box of crayons, and some of the colors have a little bit of sparkle to them and even though I suspect it might have been more appropriate for someone whose age is only one digit instead of two, I really do love the yarn and how it is knitting up into nice, drapey sweater parts, just for me.

But the point is, it's a very simple pattern (thank you Sweater Wizard software) and I have already finished the back. If I work extra hard I am hoping I will have the front finished as well, before the official start of the Knitting Olympics, and then, depending on how good a start I get, I might even be able to fit some sleeving and seaming in around the lace knitting, since I am still clinging to the faint hope that I will get this thing finished in time to wear to this year's Stitches West. I am beginning to have my doubts about the wisdom of committing to both a rather large lace shawl that must be done in 16 days, *and* trying to finish a sweater by the 17th, but hope springs eternal, and sleep is for the weak, and by golly, if I can finish a sweater in one week and a large doily on size 0 needles in 4 days, then surely I am capable of other feats of similar knitting insanity. Right?

But speaking of my Olympic knitting, and preparations thereof, I have printed out the errata for the Irish Diamond Shawl pattern so I will have the correct version at hand. Luckily the book provides both chart and written instructions, since I do not do well with charts unless I can translate them to text myself (which I do any time I run into a chart that has more than a few rows of incomprehensible squiggles that I have to look up every stinking row because my brain simply does not process images like it does numbers and words), so I do not need to do any pre-project prepping of the pattern itself.

So really, the only thing left to do (aside from the zipping through the remainig 40 or so rows of knitting for the front of that sweater) is to make sure I've got the right sized needles, a large quantity of dark chocolate, something to distract the cats so they will not try to eat either yarn or needles while I am knitting, and then just sit back and wait for the flame to be lit so the knitting can begin!

Posted by Jenipurr at 12:04 PM | Comments (2)

February 04, 2006


I am getting very frustrated with the knitting machine. I can do small pieces on it just fine, but I am not toddler sized, so making a sweater for me requires making big pieces...and that ends up in a lot of dropped stitches and sticking needles and swearing. Last night I slogged my way through most of one sleeve, but it was a tense and frustrating experience the wider the sleeve became, and I am beginning to wonder if I am missing some crucial part of my brain that would let me figure this darn thing out. Grr.

That aside, I have ordered the yarn for the FLAK (Plymouth Encore Worsted, in Blue Ivy) from Webs. I wasn't entirely sure how much yarn to order, but with the Webs discount it was going to be less if I ordered more than I thought I might need, so I decided I might as well take advantage of that and order a little extra, just in case. I'm looking forward to the yarn arriving, but in the meantime I am still dutifully swatching out my cables so I am completely prepared.

Tonight was First Friday craft night at my knitting mom's house, and there was quite a crowd of us there. Lots of us are knitters, so we are all making plans to take the Stitch and Ride train to Stitches West in two weeks. Plus there was a kitten running around in little cat heaven - all that yarn to bat at and needles to attack and an entire house full of women who were perfectly willing to stop what they were doing and play with her. I admit that I am starting to get a little tired of swatching out my cables, and I didn't feel much like dragging out Richard's sock to work on, so instead I took advantage of the kitten's need to find someone to fall asleep on, and let her settle in the crook of my arm for about half an hour.

I think that, regarding the sweater and the knitting machine, I need to back up and start small again. My coworker has a baby due in May so I am going to try to use the machine to crank out pieces for a little blanket or sweater, or perhaps both (I will make it on the large size, since babies in the Sacramento Valley are not exactly in need of sweaters during the summer). And as for the sweater I was hoping to make, well, I can knit stockinette by hand just as well as by machine, plus I suspect it will be a nice, mindless thing to work on while waiting for the Olympics to start, and when I might occasionally need a break from Olympic knitting.

Posted by Jenipurr at 03:05 PM