Tuesday, January 30, 2007

First socks and "virgin" rocks

Wow! I should write funny posts more often. You guys crack me up with your responses! Thanks!

A couple of answers - sgeddes,the yarn for the Clap is a sock yarn from an LYS, Woolbearers. It's their Cestari sock yarn (feels practically like worsted weight to me, it's a very thick sock yarn) in the colorway "Tuscany." Holly, feel free to take my word as as note to your DH any time! :-)

But now, on to the socks! My first finished sock of 2007 - the "parrot sock!"

Colinette Jitterbug socks

Yarn: Colinette Jitterbug in color "jewel"
Pattern: basic stockinette sock. I added a twisted rib for the cuff, and did a star toe instead of my usual wedge toe.
Needles: Knitpicks size 0 in magic loop
Time: 2 weeks or so
The specs: I think I like the feel of the wedge better, but it was fun to do the star again! Since this yarn is somewhat new, I'll add these details: I made the cuffs 6.5 inches long. My foot is pretty small (a size 5, or 8.5 inches) so I ended up with yarn to spare at the end and probably could have done 7" on the cuff. I'll know for next time. Also, knitting on size 0s gave me a nice, tight gauge of 8 sts per inch. I like how this yarn feels, for me it's a lot like Cherry Tree Hill. I was also pleased that there was relatively little pooling except (predictably) by the ankles and on the cuff ribbing.

Star toe
See the pretty little star...

Speaking of socks, I now am the happy owner of some Socks That Rock yarn! Remember Cara at January One's contest for STR virgins? I was a winner! And somehow, she or Blue Moon Fiber Arts chose a wonderful colorway for me, "Crazy Lace Agate:"

Socks that rock package

The package came with one of Cara's pretty yarn cards and a little business card-like thing with her blog address and Blue Moon's name on it. How nice! Thank you so much, I'm sure I will enjoy this yarn!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Doctor, doctor!

Now, those of you who know me well know that sometimes I have a little penchant for worrying that things are wrong, that I might be getting horribly sick with some sort of strange disease. As far as I know, though, I've never visited Dr. Knit and asked her any questions about my knitting health before. But you see, I cast on for another Clapotis, and that had me kind of worried, so I thought I'd pay a visit to the good doc:

Lazuli: Doctor, can you help me?

Dr: Sure, what are your symptoms?

Lazuli: Well, I think I have Clapotitis. I've just finished my first one, and I've been getting tons of compliments on it. Heck, I just showed it to my knitting group this past Wednesday. And then on Thursday I started another one! And I've already reached the straight rows. (Points to the evidence to show the medic)

Clapotis #2

Dr: Well, that doesn't look so bad. I mean, the colors are kind of pretty. If I had that yarn lying around, I might cast on again too! I'd say another week - probably two or so - of knitting, and you'll be over that Clapotitis just as fast as you can bind off and wear the new one!

Lazuli: But that's not all! I have other things going on too!

Dr: Oh?

Lazuli: Well, I started a sock. The Lombard Street socks. But you see, they're too big on size 1s, and the pattern calls for size 2s. I mean really? Size 2s for a sock knit with fingering weight yarn? They must be kidding.

Lombard street socks

Lazuli: So they're too big, and I'm going to have to start over.

Lazuli: Also, you know how it's gotten cold out finally? My hands are cold. I mean, yes, I have these old "voodoo" wristwarmers from Knitty, but they're kind of boring, and mine covered in cat hair. So... I printed out the pattern for Fetching. I think I'm going to start that in the next day or so, too.

Fetching yarn and pattern

Dr: Having cold hands is never a good sign; I think this looks like an excellent solution.

Lazuli: But the problem is, I shouldn't start on Fetching until I finish my parrot socks! they need to be done by the end of January to count for the Socktopia contest!

Parrot socks

Dr: Oh, my. You've got Startitis! Well, it's not that bad a case. I've seen worse. Give the needles to a few projects, and once you have those fun new WIPs and maybe a few UFOs, it'll go away soon. I'd say in a day or two, at the rate you're going. Oh, and don't forget to turn in your last incomplete paper from that class a year ago! Then you can knit guilt-free.

Lazuli: Well, the paper's pretty much done, but I'm not sure about guilt-free. I'm meeting on Friday with the professor for I'm TA-ing and even more scary, I'm meeting with my advisor on Wednesday to discuss potential dissertation topics - a prospect which probably has me a lot more nervous than I should be. Yikes! What can I do about that, doc?

Dr: Knit!

... I pick up the needles and begin to fidget, productively...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Am I commitment-phobic about sweaters?

In my last post (about hats), I mentioned that I might be a commitment-phobe when it comes to knitting sweaters. Specifically, my track record with sweaters is pretty low. I've finished one sweater for myself that I like, a simple striped raglan (finished in early 2005). I've finished one for Coffeegoat; it fits him and he likes it (finished early 2006). I finished two others for myself - both years ago (we're talking 2004, here) and neither of them fit or make it out of their hiding places to be worn. Both successful sweaters were knit in the round and had minimal finishing: just adding a simple collar band. I didn't even have to stitch the sleeves on as they were an organic part of both sweaters .

Lately, I've been writing papers as if they were sweaters that needed extensive finishing: blocking, seaming, button bands and buttonholes, crocheting the edges, sewing on the buttons, tweaking, and a tiny bit of admiring that it all came together so well out of so many fragments and strands. I've been experimenting with a new method of writing papers (well, new for me). Previously, I'd almost always sort of wait until I had most of my materials gathered before writing anything. Then I heard that some of my professors write their books by writing a little bit every day, even if all they write is that they have no idea what's going on in a certain project.

The idea stuck with me. In December, right before going to Panama, I managed to write about 8 pages of 3-4 different sections of a paper. I wrote what I could based on the research, primary and secondary, that I'd yet done. While in Panama I did a lot of the primary source reading because I could carry that with me more easily than the secondary sources. When I got home, I started writing about the primary sources and integrating them into what I'd already written. Since I already had 8 pages, the rest of the paper seemed to fly by. Somehow I was able to take rough ideas, awkward sentences, and sketchy transitions and stitch them together into an actual paper.

I seem to take it for granted that writing is a craft, something that takes time, effort, a little frustration, a little skill, and a little luck. Yes, sometimes it's a bother, but the results of a job well done are worth it. (And yes, I don't always apply this to my blog; maybe I should do so more often!)

Why can't I assume the same about craft for sweaters? Have I been tricked by the instant gratification of buying them in the store into thinking they should pop as easily into existence as a stockinette sock? Aren't they "crafts" - things that need to be shaped, sculpted, cut, worked, labored on with skill, attention, and care? Why can I happily knit a sock when I balk at the idea of starting a sweater?

My use of fiber-artsy metaphors to describe the writing process is partially intentional (this is a knitting blog!) and partially unavoidable: why not speak of "stitching" sentences together, of "finishing" a paper? The metaphor is apt, isn't it?

This thought brought me to another idea about my apparent aversion to knitting sweaters: maybe they are too much like what I do for what I consider to be (at least part of) my job and my career - namely, writing. I knit for a hobby, for relaxation, for enjoyment, right? Perhaps the mental energy that goes into putting a sweater together is too much like work to be adequately relaxing.

Or maybe I'm just making excuses for why I've hardly knit any sweaters, despite a profound love of wearing them, and my problem has nothing to do with anything.

What do you think? Do you have a type of knitting (or related fiber art or other hobby) that you prefer because of how it does or doesn't overlap with your job or whatever you're taking a break from?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Don your caps!

Thanks, all of you, for your extremely kind comments about my Clapotis! You are all so generous with your praise that I'm sure the Clapster hardly deserves it, but this blogger sure appreciates it!

I finished two hats this weekend, one for myself and one for Coffeeboy. It's cold out, but is it really winter? With daffodils coming up in 25 degree weather? At least they keep our ears warm when we need it!

Lusekofte hat

Pattern: Lusekofte from Hats On! by Charlene Schurch
Yarn: lining: one strand fingering weight wool, one strand Rowan Kidsilk Haze, in greenish colors. Body of hat: The main color is a Cascade 220 yarn from an LYS that's out of business. Brown contrast: Mission Falls 1824 in Cocoa. Dark orange contrast: Knitpicks Swish in Copper.
Time: less than a week
Needles: for the lining, Addi Turbo size 4; for the body, Addi Turbo size 5. Finished off with some bamboo DPNs.
Thoughts: I'm glad I decided to do this pattern in 3 colors. It was fun to see the speckles switching back and forth at the top. Also, it was an obsessive knit: each new row revealed the pattern in greater detail, so I couldn't put it down!

Lusekofte hat - unblocked Lusekofte hat - inside
Before blocking / After blocking, inside out

I learned a lot doing this pattern. For example:
1) It's really a good idea to keep the floats loose.
2) I shouldn't have put those first few rows of MC on the body, or I should have ribbed them as the pattern specified. That would have taken out some of the flare on the bottom of the hat.
3) The lining. The pattern didn't call for it, but Coffeeboy likes his ears warm in his hats, so I figured I'd do it. The lining was mighty difficult to attach. I shouldn't have included the mohair on its first few rows, and I should have cast on in such a manner that knitting in the lining wouldn't have been such a messy operation. I also shouldn't have knit so tightly on that row; it makes the lining really obvious. Ribbing the lining also might have helped.
4) Significant negative ease helps a hat fit better. The first hat I knit for Coffeeboy was way too loose; the second was a bit tight, and this one is just right. As Goldilocks might say, the third time's the charm.

The third time's a charm in the world of tams, too. As I mentioned before, I knit one tam to match my Clapotis, but it was too small. I knit it again on Friday; it was better but still too small. Finally I remeasured my gauge and discovered that I'd gone from 3.5 inches to 4 inches. Right! That would explain it!

Blue tam

Pattern: Tam from Ann Budd's Knitter's Book of Handy Patterns
Yarn: brim and sides of tam: 1 strand mohair, 1 strand Koigu in light blue, 1 strand Claudia Hand Painted in Blue Sky (from my Clapotis). Top of tam: 1 strand lighter blue mohair, the same strand of Koigu, 1 strand Lorna's Laces in Jeans, and eventually, at the center, some tan-colored Kidsilk Haze just to add some brown back in
Needles: size 7 Addi Turbo in 16 inch for the brim, followed by size 7 Knitpicks Options in the 24" length for the increase section, and finally size 7 DPNs at the end.
Time: a matter of hours once I had the gauge right!

Blue tam

Thoughts: I modified this pattern a bit, making the brim quite a bit narrower than the size called for, and then increasing to the right size during the increases. I also made the tam about 4.75 inches deep rather than 4, so that it would cover my ears. A good solid steam blocking on a cardboard cutout of a circle the right size really helped this hat assume its present pleasing shape. Before blocking, the decrease seams were causing funny crown-like points on the hat, and now it's much smoother and more round.

I haven't started the any sweaters yet. (I think I might be a sweater commitment-phobe at this point. Note the UFO presence of Eris in the sidebar, mocking me. Not to mention Cozy.) I'm thinking I need a detailed, fun sock and am debating the many, many (many!!) possibilities! I'm sure I'll share the results of my debate with you in a day or two!

Juniper won't let me leave this post without saying hello to you...

The cutest cat of them all
...and herself...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Clap-O-t, Clapotis!

My first FO of 2007!

My Clapotis is done! I wore it to Toastmasters last night and got tons of compliments from people who remembered my speech about knitting and thought, "that scarf is so beautiful she must have knit it herself." The first compliment of the night even came from a new member who's also a knitter; she asked specifically whether the scarf was Clapotis! I was so surprised!


The specs:
Pattern: Clapotis from Knitty
Yarn: Claudia Hand Painted in sport weight, color "Blue Sky," dyelot 002. I used 2.5 skeins
Needles: Knitpicks Options size 4 on a 24" cord
Time: December 27-January 16, a very quick knit (for me, for something so large)
Thoughts: What a fun, fast knit! It was so easy to do and the yarn returns stunning results (thank you, coffeeboy!). I was quite surprised at how easy it was after seeing so much internet blather about this scarf a few years back. I blocked my Clapster pretty vigorously, and now I wish I hadn't done so; it's about a foot longer than I'd like and has lost some of its nice twisty curl. Oops! Now I will know for next time (yes, I have the yarn for it... there probably will be a "next time," possibly sooner than makes rational sense). Despite being the same dyelot, the third ball of yarn was significantly lighter than the other two, resulting in something that's fairly obvious if you're looking for it (though Coffeeboy didn't notice). It would have been fine had I introduced the new skein by alternating it in... but I didn't. Oh well.


Clapotis Clapotis

Now that the Clapster is done, what have I been working on? No fancy cabled sweaters yet - though the votes are in and it appears that one day, I might try Nantucket! For now, though, I'm making hats! Winter weather has arrived in New Jersey, and with it the need to keep one's head warm.

DSCN2807.JPG Lusekofte hat

I'll be making a tam to match the Clapster, with the remaining 1/2 skein of yarn plus a strand of smoky blue mohair plus a strand of light blue Koigu. The result will be quite pretty. I know this because I already knit the hat once, and it was too small by a long shot, so I ripped it out without photographing it. But the yarns wound together look quite nice, don't you think?

I've also started a colorwork hat for the Coffeeboy, the Lusekofte hat from Hats On!. It's a lot of fun but requires concentration. The lining is knit out of some Kidsilk Haze and some sort of fine, soft wool, both of which I had in my stash. So soft!

I'll leave you with an image of this strange winter we're having: Daffodils in January!

Garden in "winter"

Have a wonderful weekend, and if it's wintery, may you have a cozy place to curl up and knit!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Partial parrot sock - what next?

OK, OK, I can finally show you all some of the "parrot sock."

Jitterbug Jewel sock
Flickr has a larger image

See what I mean? Very bright and tropical. This photo was taken indoors, at night (it's been too cloudy to try to find nice "daylight"). The colors are relatively true. Actually, I think it's not that bright except for the orange, which really stands out, since it's sort of neon and outside my usual color range. But I like it anyways. The blues, purples, and greens are very nice.

In case you're curious about Colinette's Jitterbug, which yarn this is, I'm knitting on size 0s (knitpics needle and magic loop), and am getting an even 8 stitches to the inch. The only pooling seems to have been during the simple cable ribbing on the cuff. The yarn is quite soft and I expect it'll feel very nice on the feet. I have only one complaint, which is that the yarn smells a bit chemically, but only if you put your nose up to it. Yuck. Hopefully a wash-before-wearing will take care of that.

Clapotis is blocking! I can guarantee that it's quite pretty! And finished just in time. We're supposed to have actual cold temperatures for the rest of the week.

Now I just need to decide what to knit next! Do I return to that colorwork hat for Coffeeboy? Or do I start some patterned socks? What about a cabled cardigan such as the Must Have Cardigan (below left) or that beautiful Nantucket Jacket from Interweave Knits Winter '06 (below right)? I think I could knit either with the same yarn from my stash (Mission Falls 1824 Wool in "Cocoa")!

And the yarn:

I'm very tempted by the Nantucket Jacket, but it has so many finishing details that I'm afraid I'd never actually finish it! Not to mention everything I've read about people having trouble actually getting it to fit well. The Must-Have seems to have a more tried-and-true track record of making a nice cardi, but it strikes me as not being quite as classy as the Nantucket.

Some of you have knit these. What do you think? Help me decide what to do! Thanks!

Monday, January 15, 2007

A man, a plan, a canal: Panama

Thanks for your well-wishes! I'm feeling better, mostly (or else I wouldn't be typing this). Thankfully it's been a short and relatively merciful little bug.

I'm on the decreases of the Clapster, and should have my first FO of 2007 in a day or two, as well as a bit of parrot sock!

Also... I (and a host of other apparently deprived knitters) won some Socks That Rock yarn from Cara's contest at January One! Yes, I'm a STR Virgin, along with, oh, about 800 other commenters. (And no, this doesn't break my yarn diet since I didn't spend a penny and anyways, it's for a good cause, supporting the makers of yummy sock yarn in the faces of those who can't believe so many people want to knit socks.)

Panama in photos and words (picture-heavy, just to warn you)
As I mentioned in the previous post, we stayed with my relatives while we were there. They're ex-pats, living half the time in Panama and half the time in Washington State. They've lived in Panama for approximately a year now, with comparatively little time in the States. For me, this is the first time I've had family living overseas (while I've been alive, that is... my parents lived overseas before I was born). Thus, I kind of forgot to brush up on the little Spanish I remember from elementary school or to think about much having to do with international travel except the need for a passport. We're visiting family, so what could be different?

Obviously, there's the canal. I've never been terribly into machinery. Sure, it's interesting. But there's something about seeing ginormous boats pass through a sliver of water that seems to captivate people's attention, including mine. We'd stop along the highway to watch a Panamax - ships just as wide as the canal - pass through, before heading home. A nice restaurant sits next to another set of locks, Miraflores, just so people can watch the ships pass through.

Miraflores locks Miraflores Locks

The human historical landscape of Panama has much to recommend it other than the canal, of course. We didn't make it to any pre-Columbian sites, but we did see the main centers of Panama's Spanish heritage. Panama Viejo ('Old Panama') the first Spanish settlement, was destroyed by Cap'n Henry Morgan (arrrgh!) in 1671. Today, the old church square sports a life-size replica of the manger scene, wise men, camels and, of course (this is a knitting blog, after all) - sheep! They weren't very wooly, though.

Panama Viejo Creche at Panama Viejo

After Morgan's sack, the city moved a few miles away to what's now called "Casco Viejo," the Old Helmet, referring to the shape of the land.

Casco Viejo Casco Viejo

Today, of course, Panama City has spilled out of the former bounds of "the helmet" and now sports a bustling metropolis complete with an increasing number of sky-scrapers.

Panama City from Balboa Circle Paitilla Point in Panama City

As I've mentioned (several times) before, Panama is tropical, hot, and humid, and that means interesting flora and fauna everywhere one looks. Our host Jen could tell you more about the incredible natural bounty found in Panama, especially the birds, which she's become fascinated by. Coffeeboy and I didn't quite share the fascination with birds, but we found the flora to be quite beautiful. The weather in Panama is approximately the same year-round, we hear, around the 80s-90s, allowing for gorgeous flowers pretty much all the time. Coffeeboy takes excellent macro photos of flowers, doesn't he?

El Valle Hibiscus in El Valle.JPG

Fruits and vegetables flourish in Panama's temperate climate, too. Did you know you can buy a fresh pineapple for 75 cents? Or Panamanian coffee for as low as $2.10 a pound? We brought home a 5-lb bag of beans that cost only $12.40!

Produce market Produce market

Everywhere, it seems, there's jungle, crowding up next to the cities. The canal zone relies on the jungle as a watershed to keep it functioning, so much of the region around the canal, near where we stayed, has been turned into national parks for protection of the jungle.

Jungle in El Valle Fog in El Valle

None of these things, however, are really all that unexpected. What we found to be most different about this trip was the view afforded by staying with residents, with ex-pats. First of all, we saw a very small slice of ex-pat life, the close social network that can form where the most you might share is a home country, and that's somehow enough.

The second difference had more to do with not staying in a hotel than with who we met. I expect that had we stayed in a hotel, it would have felt much more like any other overseas journey - and it would been much less of an adventure. Our hosts live, for now, in a middle-class Panamanian neighborhood in a typical house. (They're building a new home and renting this one). We learned that despite being hot and humid, Panama isn't like Texas or Florida in that one can't take air-conditioning (in extremely cold or even just moderate forms) for granted.

Despite being perfectly potable (unlike water in other third-world countries, for example) the water doesn't necessarily run all the time; we woke up several mornings to a lack of running water that lasted through the evening. One day the water was out and we had a few electrical outages as well, for reasons unknown. I told Coffeeboy, "Think of it like indoor camping: it's hot, there's no AC, and we're not sure when we're going to shower next!" Panamanians, it seems, don't routinely have hot water heaters. Our hosts will have hot water at their next house, but for the time being, we got ... somewhat... used to tap-water cool showers. Not frigid showers, as the pipes never got cold enough for that, but cool nonetheless.

Annoyances sometimes, these little cultural differences, above and beyond the canal and the flourishing flora and fauna, made for a truly fascinating trip. You can see a few more of our photos here at my Flickr site.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Darker days of January

Well, we're definitely not in Panama anymore, Toto. The sky is dark and grey; it's raining, it's way under 80 degrees out, I'm sick with some bug, and I'm knitting socks. I'll give you the bad-and-ugly before the good explicit knitting content.

Luckily, it doesn't appear to be some sort of dangerous tropical bug, thank goodness. Nor is it the flu, or else I'd have to get mad at the futility of the flu vaccine I took a few weeks ago. Perhaps it's whatever our dinner hosts last Sunday night in Panama had. Or perhaps it's one of the more common gastrointestinal ailments that affects travelers in less developed parts of the world. I won't go into the yuckier details except to say that it involved a low fever and some gastrointestinal ickiness that sacked me out on the couch last night, alternately sleeping and knitting a bit of the Clapster. Thankfully, I'm feeling a bit better today and am sitting up, back to work, a new-born parrot-colored sock lying in wait next to my work.

Speaking of socks, I've joined a knit-along - Socktopia!

It runs for the whole year and features knitting socks each month that are geared towards three creative themes. January's are "celebrate good times," "blue monday," and "snowflakes and starry skies." I think that the new socks fall in the "celebrate good times," seeing as they're so bright and remind me of vacationing in Panama. Definitely not "blue monday" socks, which suggest something moodier to me. In this KAL, socks posted to the Flickr website by the end of the month are entered into a drawing for prizes. It should be a fun way to knit from my sock yarn stash, connect with other sock knitters, and learn new patterns, tips, and tricks!

Knitpicks Options update
While I was away, Knitpicks sent my replacement needles and replacement cords. I now have 3 functioning size 5 needles and 3 functioning 24" cords. This is great! Rather than send only 1 replacement cord to replace the 1 that didn't work, they sent a pack of 2, giving me a total of 3! I can now say that their customer service for replacing malfunctioning needles is excellent. One caveat - my needle set was a gift, and initially they sent the replacements to the giver's home, rather than to me (this despite the needles being sent directly to me). So if you ever have to do this, be sure your replacements are going to the right place.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Knitting in Panama

We're home! Coffeeboy and I had an amazing time in Panama. The weather was hot and humid - oh, so hot and humid. About 85 degrees and humid, although not as humid as Florida. It felt like Florida when we first arrived, but I think we both got relatively used to the humid heat by the time we left. Neither of us particularly likes hot and humid weather, which made some elements of the trip rather challenging.

Some of you probably know that I did have internet access while there (seeing as I left comments on some blogs over the course of the trip) but for some reason, I didn't do any blogging of my own. We were on vacation; I felt somewhat away from it all. Thus I'm left with tons to catch up on: New Year's, knitting, and of course, the trip! Thanks to all of you who stopped by, said hi, and wished us a good trip and a happy new year!

You're probably all wondering: was Lazuli able to knit despite the heat, humidity, and lack of air conditioning in her relatives' home? The answer lies here:

Clapotis lounging
Yes, I sure could!

Clapotis is about 2/3 of the way done, shown here louging on a hammock (lucky piece of knitting). I still need to give it considerably more length. Humidity made the yarn smell very woolly, but not damp.

However, I couldn't bear the thought of casting on for wool socks. I spent the entire time in sandals (except on hikes). About half way through, I considered putting some of the new Colinette Jitterbug yarn on the needles. See, I even took pictures of it for you, right before winding it into a ball!

Colinette Jitterbug yarn Colinette Jitterbug yarn
I thought I'd knit socks in the colors of tropical birds, but it was too hot to think about socks

Somehow, though, the socks never got started. Must have been the mental block against having warm, squishy wool covering my toes in 85-degree heat. Ugh! Nevermind that I wouldn't have worn the socks there, but I still couldn't knit them.

Probably given the climate, I didn't find any yarn stores. Of course, I didn't look too hard, and most of my google searches for yarn stores in Panama led me to Panama City, Florida - the wrong place by far!

I'm working on a longer post to tell you more about the trip. Panama confounded our expectations many times over, so I'm saving some of those observations for a separate post. Until then, I'll whet your appetites with a couple of pictures to give a flavor of the trip.

Paitilla Point, Panama City Miraflores locks.JPG
Paitilla Point in Panama City, and the Miraflores locks on the Pacific side of the canal

Happy (belated) New Year's, everyone!