Friday, June 30, 2006

Oh my gauge!

Wow. I went down two needle sizes for Elann's yarn Sonata. The yarn band calls for size 6, the pattern calls for size 6... and when I did a swatch (thankfully!) in the round on my usual bamboos I had 4.25-4.5 inches instead of 4! And when I tried it on size 5 needles, it was pretty much the same! Only when I went down to size 4 (and that was some kind of Addi-like needle, ie, metalic, that my mom gave me a few years back) - size 4, people! - could I get gauge!

If this means I'm not such a tight knitter anymore, that's good. But I didn't think I'd become so loose that I'd need to go down so far in my needle sizes. I'd like to be smack dab in the middle, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it's not just me, that it's also the yarn. I feel like my tension is much looser with cotton yarns, as well as with thinner yarns, than with thicker wooly yarns.

Well, let's just hope the swatching worked and I stay on gauge for Soleil, because it appears that gauge is very important for that pattern.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The second-biggest hoop

First, a knitting photo of an SIP (a sock in progress, obviously):

The pattern is the Pretty Comfy Sock. I actually messed up on the pattern, omitting the last 3 rows of the lace repeat due to forgetting to turn the page! Oops! Pretty much all I'm missing is one more row of YOs. Personally, I think it looks OK as is. I'm making it with some Cascade Fixation that Angel gave me, and it's a lot more minty green/blue in real life. The yarn is very squishy and the elastic takes some getting used to, but it's a fun yarn and pattern. It involves a short-row heel, which I've never done before. I've just started the heel, and so far it's making sense, although I'm a bit worried my heel stitches are off. The heel doesn't appear to align over the beginning-of-row marker as it does with a flap-style heel. Well, we'll see how it goes!

Next, on the grad school front, I've started studying for my PhD/general/comprehensive exams. (Pick a name, any name!) The point is, they're big. They are, in a way, the second-biggest grad school hoop to jump through, the biggest being the dissertation. However, unlike the dissertation (which is hopefully on a topic of interest to the student), exams are long, intense, and scary, and they appear to be taking over my life in a a big way! Of course, there is still knitting, gardening, cats, Coffeeboy, etc, that I also need and want to pay attention to. "How will I do it all?" is the question of the hour. I guess I need a better schedule, perhaps. Suggestions anyone?

I do have a general plan for the next year or so. Here it is, if you are curious!

  • Exam 1: Mid-August (I'll aim for August 14, to be done in plenty of time for August 19th, Coffeeboy's Birthday)

  • Exam 2: Mid to late October, preferably mid-Oct

  • Exam 3: a written paper, plan to turn in by late January, 2007

  • Exam 4: Lit review on dissertation topic (to be determined), turn in by mid to late March, 2007

And finally, the dissertation proposal itself, May, 2007.

It's a tight schedule and won't be easy to stick to, but it's graduate school. It's not supposed to be easy, right?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

One very fuzzy foot

Nevermind. I do have a knitting picture for you. I give you one Fuzzy Foot in progress!

It looks a bit large, don't you think?

No, seriously, I hope it felts down small enough around my very small feet (size 5).

Isn't it great to have a garden?

My hand is feeling mostly better, after several days of virtually no knitting, periodic doses of ice, overnight splinting, and regular Advil. Where two days ago, I could bend my left hand forward about half of what I could do with my right, and that with pain, now the two hands are on an even keel and the left is without pain! Hurrah! Let the knitting commence!

Last night, I cast on for a felted slipper (Fuzzy Feet, actually) which I've been meaning to make for a long time. Since the needles are large and gauge is less important, I figured it would be a good way to ease back into knitting. I'm working on the heel currently; it goes quite fast. I'm also hoping to get back to the PNW Shawl soon, for which I'm still on the seagulls. I also am planning to cast on for Soleil - another belated project, I know! My tradition of having way too many things on the needles continues, but hopefully, since I'm without hand pain finally, I'll actually make progress on them!

I don't have knitting pictures today, as there really is very little to show. Instead, this is what happens when you ignore a vegetable garden for about half a week (due to rain and wanting to avoid the aphids). We'd planned for the pie pumpkins (left) to sprawl across the yard; it's only June. I think that by October they will have effected a mutiny!

We finally have flower buds on our eggplants! They have had a rough fight with some beetles, but we seem to be winning that fight. We also had two more giant zucchini. I'll have to keep a better watch on th further reaches of the plants! On the right is the forest that is our tomato jungle, fronted by some cilantro that has gone not only to seed, but to sideways as well.

And it's only June! Yes, it's late June, but oh my goodness! The vegetation in the backyard is very much alive! Luckily, it gives me lovely fresh things for dinner such as the following: yellow squash, parsley, and (what's even better!) the first green bean harvest!

And speaking of harvesting, for the past few days, I've been spending most of my time reading and skimming Sydney Ahlstrom's A Religious History of the American People, a 1,100-page tome that is a classic in my field. Every so often, when he's not offering paeans to America's Puritan heritage or celebrating the evangelical tradition, he talks about other groups, such as the Amish, the Amana colonies, or other types of German pietists. As I plucked the green beans from the vines, I pictured women in bonnets and skirts on theikr farms in Pennsylvania somewhere, living off the land. Realizing full well that I like my modern comforts (like the Internet!) simply felt grateful that I have this fresh produce, that I don't need to run to the grocery store to get it, and that, despite the aphids and the beetles and the imminent takeover by nearly sentient vegetation, it's great to have a garden.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


My hands are feeling a bit better, but I've gotten still very little actual knitting done. So, instead, I thought I'd give you a little knitting autobiography.

It's a wonder I didn't knit as a kid. I grew up in California, but had lived in New England until the age of six, and I always missed having a real fall, real sweater weather. When I went back to college in New England, I was overjoyed at the prospect of sweaters and scarves and hats and ... well, yarn should have been on that list, but wasn't. Knitting wasn't quite cool yet and I had (horrors!) politely hidden away the dorky "learn to knit" kit my mom gave me halfway through high school. There I was, in love with the products of knitting but without the skills to make them myself. It was only a matter of time.

I started knitting about three and a half years ago, when Coffeeboy and I were long distance. I was in the second year of my master's degree, and he was in the first year of his PhD program, several states away. We met during my first year and his second year, dated for half a year, and then he moved and we started an LDR.

I spent a lot of time on the phone with him, usually fiddling uselessly with things on my desk, or folding laundry, always hooked into a hands-free device. One evening, I was at my friend Greta_Jane's apartment, and she was knitting a scarf for her then-boyfriend. (An Irish hiking scarf, perhaps?) Suddenly, I wanted to learn to knit! In the course of an evening, she and her roommate taught me to knit. I was hooked. Within days, I bought a book and learned to purl, starting a ribbed scarf so that I wouldn't be afraid of purling. (When I confessed how I don't really like purling, she exclaimed in great frustration, "We taught you purling early so this wouldn't happen!" I still think she had a good idea to start me off that way, though.) Instead of fiddling with my desk, I now had a much more pleasant activity to pursue.

I graduated, and followed Coffeeboy to his new home, where I took a year off from school and worked in an academic library in the area. I knit scarves and hats, mostly, and branched out into sweaters, with two lousy attempts that are never worn today. My stitches were tight and I enjoyed having to go up to bigger needles to get gauge. ("If the needles are bigger, it'll take less time," I thought.) The thought of anything below, well, a size 5 (if I recall correctly) terrified me. Socks? Too small! Lace? Too thin!

Somewhere in the last two years, I applied to graduate school, was accepted into my first choice, got engaged, moved away from Coffeeboy, started my PhD program, planned a wedding and got married. I switched to continental knitting, and my stitches have loosened up considerably, especially on smaller needles. I knit (in the short list) a sweater fits perfectly, novelty yarn scarves for my five bridesmaids, a sweater for Coffeeboy, several pairs of socks, a lace shawl... Small needles no longer terrify me; lace amazes me, and socks are the joy of my feet and my solace during, ahem, drier lectures and talks at school. I'm glad I've branched out into new skills; it was only a matter of time. And it still is a matter of time: too much to knit, and much too little time!

Postscript: The zucchini say: Don't forget us! We take extraordinarily little time to grow very, very large and even less time to eat, including the big three-pounder! (Yes, I weighed the big one in back. It's 3 lbs and way too big. The little one up front is the perfect size).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I'd rather be knitting

I've been having minor hand and wrist pain for about a week now, and hence have only allowed myself to knit a very little bit. Strangely enough, I really think that the pain was caused by lifting a suitcase. I mean seriously, is my left wrist (and I'm left-handed) so out of shape that I can't lift a medium-weight suitcase without a week of weakness? I think I lifted it one handed; I probably shouldn't have done that, but I did, and now I'm stuck.

Thus I've been taking it easy and pretty much not knitting. I haven't worked on the shawl since Saturday, and I only knit about 10 rows of a sock on size 3s yesterday. My hands are twitching with the desire to knit, especially with Coffeeboy away and the house so quiet. But... but... I want to knit, dangnabit! I mean, seriously, it's like an actual addiction. It's a good thing it's a relatively harmless one, as it's better than drinking or smoking, or whatnot. Obviously, this addiction can cause harm, at least to one's hands and wrists, which is no good, because we need those to fuel our addictions! (Plus for other things in life, but really... ;-)

I guess the good thing about being strict with myself, wearing the wrist brace and not knitting, is that I'll maybe get more work done instead. But man, when it's late evening and I'm tired of reading or writing, sometimes I'd really just rather be knitting!


I'm going to change the background color of my blog to white. I know, I do love the blue, but I think the white will make it easier to read. And since I have a Mac, I have no idea how the colors look on a PC. Thus, go with the tried and true. If you happen to have an opinion about background color, I would be curious to know about it!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A little bit of everything

Today has been a mighty full day, especially since it started at 4 am with taking Coffeeboy to the airport. He's off to California, of all places, to do research (with the added benefit of staying with a friend in Santa Barbara and with my mom in San Jose!) Somehow I've stayed awake for it, though. Getting home from the airport at 7 am was ... entertaining, as I'm not usually even awake at that time, unless I have an early class. What did I do? Finish my coffee and knit, of course! I cast on for the Pacific Northwest Shawl.

I think it's going to be a really fun project. Right now, I'm working on a seagull section, and there are trees, fish, and seashells yet to come! I'm not sure I can do much more today though; my left wrist is still feeling sort of strained. Thus far, which isn't very far, I think it will be neat to see the different shapes emerge. In explaining lace to Coffeeboy last night, I compared it to ASCII art, you know, where you use fixed-width dashes and lines to create images? Lace is ASCII in the negative, if you ask me. Juniper and Mage find the new project very interesting, too!

After knitting a bit, I worked in the garden, removing dead plant matter. I went to the garden store to fill in the holes left by my trimmings, and came home with this:

From right to left, that's a salvia, a tickweed, and a zinnia plant. 2 of each to be planted where they're placed in here:

Then, it was off to the library to pour through some microfilm in a last dash effort to work on a paper before the exam studying commences. And finally, the two little creatures, June and Mage, wish to say a very, very sleepy hello.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Shawly goodness

Well, I've returned! We had a lovely time. I wore my newly finished Charlotte's Web to the rehearsal dinner, where it received a bunch of compliments. The wedding itself was lovely; Coffeeboy did an excellent job officiating at the service (his first time!) and the couple seemed very happy! The huppah (knit by Rose and another friend of ours) looked beautiful; she has pictures of it on her blog. Pretty much all of the women were wearing shawls of some sort, because the weather was in the 50s - a strange thing indeed for mid-June! (Our wedding, which was last year, had temperatures in the high 80s at least, by contrast!)

At long last, I have some pictures of Charlotte, not in sunshine, but in natural light, at least!

(the ubiquitous fence shot)

After the wedding, we spent some time in the Catskills, celebrating our own wedding anniversary, which was a year ago Monday! Yay! We took a hike that went 2.5 miles straight uphill to a lookout tower, which was a lot of fun besides the uphill part - ugh! My legs are feeling it today, I can tell you! The rock, where we at a lunch of bread, cheese, and fruit, had names carved into it from as far back as the late 1800s, which was really fun to see. It always makes me wonder about the people who carved them, what they thought, how long they spent on the carving, what the landscape looked like then, what they were wearing, how many of them were women, etc. I wish I'd gotten pictures of the carvings, but you'll have to suffice with this image of the view of the Hudson River Valley.

When I returned home, I had a lovely surprise in the mail - yarn! 5 skeins of Knitpicks Shadow, plus the pattern for Adamas, for which the blue - "jewels" - is reserved. The green - "mountain lake" - is for the Pacific Northwest Shawl from Fibertrends - a perfect color for it, I think. I would start in on one or the other, but my left wrist has been hurting mysteriously for the last day or two, and I haven't been knitting at all since Sunday. Sadness!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Wedded to socks

Just a short post to say that I'll be away for the next few days, and off-line. Coffeeboy and I will be taking a short trip to see 2 friends get married, to visit Seneca Falls and women's rights related things, and to celebrate our own wedding anniversary, which is this coming Monday. For that we'll be staying in a little B&B. Hopefully this nasty, cold, rainy weather will have cleared off enough for the wedding to be on a warm, rather than cold, day, and for us to take a little hike in the Catskill Mountains. It should be a fun weekend of driving around Upstate New York.

On the knitting front, I'll be bringing two socks, a plain stockinette one and one requiring usage of a pattern (Pretty Comfy Socks in Cascade Fixation). Hopefully I'll get a bit down during down-time. I'll also be bringing the finished Charlotte - yay!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Continuing the roundup

Written earlier, when Blogspot was down:

It's pouring rain out. And it is supposed to pour rain tomorrow too, possibly with thunder, too. Hence, no FO post as I'd hoped for.

Instead, I give you Eris, another one for the UFO files and the latest cabled sweater from Girl from Auntie. I'm using Green Mountain Spinnery's Mountain Mohair yarn.

It's funny, I got the pattern for Rogue two years ago, but I never knit it. I got involved in the massive yarn obsession that sweater seems to induce (you must find just the right yarn!) and then I got busy starting school, and it just never got done. Plus, I don't wear hoodies that often, so I never could quite commit. One day I will, though. I promise.

When she announced Eris last summer - without a hood! - I jumped on it, and started it last fall after only a bit of quibbling about yarn. I was waylaid by many projects, including The Husband Sweater, and Eris never quite received her due. She will by fall, though; I only have one cable panel to go and the sleeves.

Gratuitous shot of Eris with Juniper the cat (isn't she cute!)

It's amazing how the cats come to check out the knitting when it's on the floor for a photo. Now I know how people always seem to have their pets in their pictures!

For a final Eris photo, I took a close-up of the back corner where I grafted the hem and the cables together. I went right through the purl stitches as if they were knit stitches, because I wasn't sure how to do the purl stitches. I don't think it looks too bad that way. It's on the back, though, so I can always change it for the front if I decide I don't like how it looks. It's there on the left by a few stitches, and unblocked, which I suspect that will clean up the slight jaggedness.

Since it's summer time, I'm planning to pretty much put Eris on hold while I work on other projects; then I will return to it in the fall, in time for sweater-weather.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Plots and plans

I'm done with Charlotte's Web! Pictures to come tomorrow, sunlight permitting. Thanks so much for all of your kind comments so far! (And yes, Rose, it will come to the wedding this weekend!)

With that FO, I'm down to 3 projects in progress, sort of. The main one is Eris, which I'm working on slowly, given the summer weather. More on that one later. Then, I have a basic stockinette sock with self-striping yarn that I'm working my way through. And finally, there's Cozy, but I'm dissatisfied with my choice of yarn (KnitPicks Andean Silk). I like the yarn, but not for this project. It's a dark navy, and it hides the pretty textured pattern. I think I'm going to switch to a tweedy yarn from Webs.

So really, that's only 1 project (Eris). Which means I can start more, right?! I want to do more lace knitting. I've had my eye on Adamas shawl for a while and also on the Pacific Northwest Shawl from Fiber Trends. And I (cough cough) conveniently enough, KnitPicks is shipping me some Shadow to do both of these projects in. I'm also going to start, probably today, a sock with some Cascade Fixation that was gifted to me at Christmastime. The pattern is the "Pretty Comfy Sock" by Debbi Young.

So, in other words, I have plenty to do on the knitting front. I've been a bit obsessive about knitting and blogging since turning that paper in on Friday. But I see this time as my break between semester-work and summer studying. I spent today sorting through papers from the last 2 years of school, in preparation for studying for my PhD examinations later this summer and fall. (So it wasn't all knitting!) I expect hard-core studying to start in a week and a half, when all the visitors have cleared out for a while and Coffeeboy goes out of town and it's just me and the cats.

Crocheting and blocking, oh my!

I took Charlotte off the needles today! Actually, I finished the majority of the knitting on Saturday (ending with color 4). Here you can see what an unblocked medium-sized shawl looks like on my back!

Then Sunday I taught myself how to crochet! It was surprisingly easy. I'd been led to believe, years ago, that it would be fantastically difficult for a knitter to learn crochet, based on the difficulties knittingangel had teaching ivoryneedles to crochet. Thus, I was totally surprised when the instructions in the original Stitch N Bitch book turned out to be easy to follow. And, what was more surprising, was that it's remarkably easy to pull the crochet hook back through the loop on the same hook! Wow. I still am not quite sure why it works, but all I know is that it does work, and that I was able to do all the crocheting parts of Charlotte. Now, I will have to go back to a certain summer top and crochet the neck edge and armholes to neaten them up!

Charlotte is blocking now, as you can see. Not the best shot for color (at all), but it was better than the one with flash. It'll have to do until I can get to the ubiquitous fence shot. (Actually, it's blocking on a beach towel, and if you focus your eyes just right, it almost appears that the shawl is lying across the back pocket of a pair of jeans, strangely enough. ... 10 minutes later: a second glance confirms that yes, the beach towel is of a pair of jeans. I never noticed that before. Note, for example, the belt on the left-most side of the picture.)

Blocking was rather difficult, mostly because I either bound off too tightly, or, more likely, my crocheted border was too tight. I did bind off on vastly larger needles, so I think it's the latter. If I laid out the top of the shawl straight across (with help from Coffeeboy, who attempted to be very mathematical about it), the pointed end just wouldn't unfurl far enough; there wasn't enough give on the sides of the triangle. So I had to bend the tips a bit. I think it won't matter too much when worn, particularly once I fringe it.

More pictures to come, when the shawl comes up!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

UFO: Charlotte's Web

I finished my big paper! Yay! That means I get to knit this weekend! I'm also considering going into school to catch some of the reunion festivities, but it's pouring hard out, so I feel much more like knitting than like wandering around in the rain. For now, I think I will knit. I might go in later.

Last August, I started knitting Charlotte's Web, my first lace shawl project. I loved the colors, the yarn, the pattern, everything! And then I got into the third, then the fourth color, and the number of purl stitches on the way back across the wrong side just kept getting bigger, and bigger, and more and more annoying. (They were especially annoying for the cyst that had developed on my right wrist). So I put it down, sometime in September or October. I can't remember which. And CW sat on a shelf for months and months, entirely untouched. Until now, when this blog has inspired me to go through all my UFOs and catalog them here so I get back into them again. I was actually surprised that taking things out (there are a few others, yes) to photograph them did, in fact, get me excited about knitting them again. The feel of the yarn, the texture of the pattern, the excitement of the eventual FO...

Plus, I want to knit other lace objects, but I've told myself I can't until I finish CW. So, back to CW it is.

(It looks a bit like a psychedelic manta ray, doesn't it? I really hope the blocking cleans it up!) I actually have a fifth color of yarn to add, but I think I'm going to forgo it. I'm a short person, so hopefully 4 sections of color will be nough. Plus, I'm eager to move on to other projects. Thus, it's just 8 more rows until I cast off, which hopefully will be this weekend. And then I need to learn to do the crochet chain so that I can block it so I can add the fringe ... Or do you add fringe and then block? ... You get the picture. Now, back to knitting!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

the green garden, it groweth

We have a jungle in our backyard. To start with, tomatoes, the princes and princesses of the garden, with various herbs (and marigolds!) in front:

Then, there are cucumber, followed by beans, followed by gourd plants:

and then, at the end, those massive things? Zucchini!

Hidden by the zucchini, where the house meets the fence, are eggplants that we're currently trying to rescue from the siege of the evil Colorado cucumber beetles, or something to that effect. On the facing side of the "L", after the eggplants, there are peppers, and then some pie pumpkins interspersed with leeks. They're smaller, so I'll save bandwith for pictures later.

I'm very happy that later this summer, we will have all the main ingredients of gazpacho. For now, we'll just have to settle for baby zucchini (with their blossoms) sauteed in a bit of butter.