Saturday, November 10, 2007

Knitting Frenzy

I just looked at my last entry on this blog and was appalled to see that it has been over 3 weeks. Not that ever had many readers, but is anyone still out there?

I haven't been writing, but I have been knitting. To the point that my shoulder aches, and I'm pulling out the xerox sheet of physical therapy exercises I got a few months ago when my shoulder pain became unbearable and an orthopedist referred me to physical therapy. That was back when I thought Taekwando was causing my shoulder pain -- now I know it's kntting.

I am on a bit of a knitting frenzy -- the holidays are coming!!! My two youngest children have come to believe that the holiday season is When Mom Knits Us New Stuff. And I love knitting things for them, because they wear my creations obsessively. I also want to knit gifts for other family members. But the real reason I'm in a frenzy? There are so many projects I want to knit for myself.

So here's the latest batch of FO's.

Winter Camp Sucks Socks for oldest son, who does not share his siblings sense of entitlement around hand-knitted items for the winter season:

That's my feet they're modeled on. I knit and finished these right in front of him, and he never blinked. I quietly put them away in the closet after I finished them. He likely thinks they were knit for myself -- our feet are the same lenght, but his are a bit wider. Please see previous blog posts for the reason behind the project name.

Yarn: Elann Peruvian Luxury Merino Superwash in Slate Gray. Lovely yarn. It was billed as DK, but it was nice and beefy -- more like a Worsted, truthfully.
Pattern: A melange of instructions from C. Schurch's books. The leg is Ribbed Squares from More Sensational Knitted Socks, the cuff and foot patterns are just extensions of that pattern. Short row heel (to minimize bulk) and traditional toe.
Needles: Clover 24" size 3 bamboo circs. First time I've used these. Nice needles, very smooth join, but a bit too "sticky" for working with wool. Slow.
Learned for next time: Short row heels are shorter than flap heels, and I really need to add an extra inch or two to the leg!

Next up, Tri-Peak Hat, knit for one of my sib's kids. I actually started this as the jester hat my middle son asked for, but realized after about 4" that it was mistake to change both the needle size and %ease without re-doing the calcs. It was too tight on my 11YO, but I figured it would be a good fit on a pre-schooler -- and since I intended to use the same yarn for the tri-peak hat anyway, I just switched patterns mid-way. The hat is modeled here by my daughter, ever-willing to model knitwear and never without a knitwear request...

Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts "Twisted", in Gingerbread Dude.
Pattern: Baby Tri-Peak Hat by Woolly Wormhead. Modified for finer gage. I also added 2 rounds of 1x1 rib to control the roll of the brim.
Needles: addi turbo circs, 4mm.

And then I did actually knit my son's Jester hat -- a pic from above:

...and one from the front, pulled over the face, glasses and all:


Pattern: Jester Hat from Woolly Wormhead. Adapted for finer gage and smaller head -- easy enough, just cast on a multiple of 6 stitches. Also with 2 rounds of 1x1 rib in the brim.

Yarn and needle same as above.

Learned for next time: IF I knit this pattern again, I will work a couple of inches fewer in the main body so that I can make the points way longer, per my son's preference. Also, cast on either 6 more or 6 fewer stitches to eliminate the pooling that this hat suffered. And finally, double check that you've woven that end in before you snip it!!!!!

And a few more comments about the yarn. I LOVE this yarn. It is wonderfully soft, and the colors are almost literally delicious. Maybe if the colorway had a different name I would have had a different reaction, but every time I got to the white section of the yarn my mouth would water. I would envision white frosting piped onto a warm gingerbread man, and I would wish I could run a finger through and lick it before anyone came in the kitchen. The yarn came in a generous 560 yard skein -- enough for 3 hats, but I'm going to save the last little bit to enjoy over the Christmas vacation.

BUT a word of caution -- Twisted is billed as Aran weight, but it worked more like worsted for me. Maybe with big enough needles you could get 18sts/4", but to get a not-too-flimsy fabric for a hat I worked it at 24 sts/4".

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hello again! Why, yes, that is an FO!

I've been absent from my blog for too long, I know.

The last couple of weeks have been nightmarishly busy. I've taken on a new "25% of my time" assignment at work (but of course haven't shed any other assignments), have become a new girl scout leader (with all the meetings and training that entails), and my spouse was out of town this week (and since I haven't mastered the art of teleportation, my 3 kids and I were 10 minutes late for absolutely everything.)

When I have spent personal time with a computer, it has been to log my stash into Ravelry. My husband doesn't understand this at all. "Why do you want to put pictures of your yarn on a web site when you can just go in the closet and look?" Well, yeah,'s SO COOL.

One of the coolest features is downloading your stash list to an excel spreadsheet. Just how much yarn have I logged so far...hmmm, let's, 4 miles...wait, that's in, what?12 miles? And that's just sock, lace, and wool yarn. I've got a bit more wool to go, then I start on the cotton, which I buy by the sweater's worth rather than by the ball. I'm worried. I'm debating whether to list the acrylic or not. I have not yet done the backwards calculation -- how many miles of yarn have I knit so far this year -- but 12 miles seems like an enormous amount of yarn.

So, anyway, no time or energy for blogging, but I've had some time for knitting. I made good progress on my Dunes socks. So much progress, that all I had was one toe to decrease and to weave in ends tonight. I am very pleased with these, despite the trouble they gave me initially. I love the delicate lacy look, I love the way the stitches flow, I love the way this yarn looks with this pattern, I love the way they fit. And it got cold enough this week to wear pure wool socks! I hope we have another "cold snap" next week, or maybe just another rainy day so the air conditioner works extra-well.


Pattern: Dunes of Tinfou by Dipsy
Yarn: Unknown, charcoal wool sock yarn I bought several years ago to finish the toes on a pair of men's self-patterning socks. I had at the time such an amazingly powerful memory that I didn't feel any need to keep the ball band.
Needles: US size 1 Brittany Birch DPN's initially, then switched to Crystal Palace Bamboo circulars. Love the tips, hate the joins, but didn't want to change to metal circs.
Modifications: Besides working mostly with 2 circs instead of DPN's, no modifications. The YO's for the lace fell just before purl stitches, so I do wonder whether the pattern intended the YO's to be the half-wrap you get when you purl with the yarn in back or a wrap-and-a-half. I did the latter, because I liked the more pronounced holes in the lace. The sock might have been too small with the half-wrap.
Learned for next time: I knit tighter with circs than with DPN's, even when the needle material is very similar.

Like some others who have knit this pattern, I wasn't wild about the 2 extra stitches on each round. It was only an issue on the leg (and it was much easier to manage with 2 circs), because on the instep you expect to make some adjustments anyway. So when I finished the leg, I just adjusted the stitches so that the extra stitches were down the back of the leg. I'll never have to think about them again.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Hiding in Plain Sight

A few weeks ago, M and I told our sons that they would be going to Boy Scout winter camp this year. Both of them have said that they want to earn their Eagle rank long term. Earning an Eagle rank requires lots of service hours, a big service project, and lots of merit badges. About half those badges are non-discretionary "Eagle-required" badges on subjects like "Citizenship in the Community" and "Personal Management."

My husband and I have been, and will continue to be, very supportive of our kids' scout activities. But sometimes support feels more like, well, nagging. Citizenship/Community for our older son required nearly daily "support" all summer. Occasionally this "support" culminated in screaming fits of exasperation. As in, "This is the third day in a row you've told me you didn't have time! How could you not have 10 minutes to google 'suburban alligator control'!" The worst was the 3 weeks of "support" it took to get him to actually talk to someone in the Texas Parks and Wildlife department about alligator control -- the absolute last requirement on that badge. While I remember my own teenage mortification at the idea of talking to a grownup, I was nevertheless impatient with his plight.

So I'm a bit weary of "support." And this winter camp looked like an exceptional opportunity. Large attendance (something like a thousand kids) and staffed by parents and scout leaders who share our interest in knocking out those badges. In a 4 day camp, they typically earn 4 to 6 badges. And with the large numbers of boys, they offer just about every merit badge.

We decided to trade in our summer badgering routine for a few relatively short weeks of acute whining. Good trade-off so far. The boys even wrote a highly entertaining essay on Why Winter Camp Sucks.

From the opening paragraph:

You get pneumonia from being in an overly cold environment, like winter camp. It
is one of the most horrible diseases ever. Frostbite can cause fingers, toes,
noses, etcetera to fall off. This could make it quite hard to play the guitar or
trumpet. And it would suck.

They tried pushig every real and perceived parental button -- here's one of the more entertaining attempts:

With the $280 bucks that you save from not sending us to winter camp, you could buy your own x-box 360 and the Tiger Woods golf game.

There was a comment about starving children in Africa -- a cliche I thought had passed with my childhood.

Or try this one:

Grandma and Grandpa won’t get to see us over the break and they will be sad because their only grand children are at some sucky winter camp in crappy little tents, trying to stay warm and not die of pneumonia or frostbite of the brain.

And the coup de grace:

There is no caffeine.
I suffer from caffeine withdrawal and there is no caffeine at camp.
There is no eggnog.
Eric suffers from chronic eggnog withdrawal.

If I could quit laughing I might feel bad for them.

But what does this have to do with knitting, you ask?

Lest anyone accuse me of not being sympathetic to my sons' miserable situation, I cast on a new pair of socks last night. Winter Camp Sucks socks for the elder son. Worked in DK-weight merino on size 3 needles, they should keep his toes from freezing off.

I knit the swatch as he sat across the kitchen table from me, doing his Chemistry homework. He never asked. He showed me a magic trick while I was doing the ribbing. He might have looked at my pattern notes with the heading "WCS socks." But I'm sure he didn't. And I'm sure he won't look at this blog either. And the funnest part will be that since our feet are the same length I can try them on my own feet instead of his, and he will just assume the socks are for me. They will be a surprise Christmas present that he's seen a hundred times but not noticed.

If he's lucky I'll have enough yarn leftover to knit him a Winter Camp Sucks hat.

Monday, October 1, 2007


I finally got my Ravelry invitation! I was so excited Sunday when I saw it, but it's so simple to use, it's almost a let-down. I was looking forward to a couple of hours of loading my current WIP's to Ravelry, as a warm-up, and it only took a half-hour or so. Sigh.

Over the weekend, I began my X-mas knitting. I started with what I hoped would be a quick but luxurious project and it was everything I wanted it to be...almost. It was nearly perfect --easy to knit, delightful stitch pattern, lovely soft yarn. But the pattern calls for beads, and the ones I picked look terrible. I was wrong to assume that "size 6 beads" are the same as "6mm beads." Perhaps my error was in worrying too much about whether the yarn would fit through the bead hole? Regardless, the beads are WAY too big for the pattern, and since I haven't been able to convince myself that It Will Be OK, I must rip the otherwise lovely half-done project.

Alas, I cannot post pictures project since the recipient knows about this blog. The recipient is not a knitter, however, so I have posted more info on Ravelry. (My apologies to those of you who are still waiting for your invite!) But I won't leave you pictureless. For your viewing pleasure, Belinda's Dream:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Finished: Funky Camo Socks

I knit these for the most "unique" of my children -- my middle son E. He picked the yarn and told me how he wanted them made: "only up to about here, and just a plain pattern, and not too loose 'cause I hate when my socks bunch up inside my shoe." Done:

When I asked him to model them for me, he thought they'd look good with his pajama pants:

Yes, that's flannel. No, these aren't old pictures. Yes, Houston is still sauna-hot. No, his bedroom is actually kind of warm. He just really, really likes flannel pants and thinks they are year-round wear. The difference between winter and summer is that in summer you don't wear a shirt and you turn the ceiling fan on really high.

While I was knitting the socks, I kept wondering what kind of kid needs socks this long and skinny. The answer of course is my kid. Long skinny socks for long skinny feet:

All said, he likes the socks. "They'll be my Friday socks." We've checked his school dress code, and it appears that socks are actually one of the rare non-restricted areas, open for self-expression. He'd probably love the bmp socks but I don't want to knit them just yet so won't show him the pattern.


Yarn: Crystal Palace Panda Cotton in the "Fern" colorway, purchased from the Loopy Ewe.

Needles: Addi Turbo 2.5mm circs

Pattern: Basic sock pattern. 3x1 rib for the leg and instep, standard flap heel, standard kitchnered toe.

Learned for next time: I really should avoid doing too many simple projects like this -- if E hadn't been nagging me, these would have fallen to the bottom of my knitting list. Dull. The 2.5mm addis are the best needles for Panda Cotton for me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Sorry for my long absence -- M and I visited Philadelphia over the weekend, and my schedule before and after were/will be so hectic that I spent most of last week scurrying to have everything ready for the trip and for this week.
Let me first say that Philadelphia is a delightful city to visit, and I would expect it is also a delightful city to live in. We stayed at a 30+ story hotel in the middle of down town and yet were no more than a 10 minute walk from lovely green parks in every direction we tried. There were young families with children, people with pets, college students, and professional people on every sidewalk. People were friendly, and the streets seemed safe everywhere we went.
View from our hotel room:

One of the many fountains and many sculptures all over the city:

I had no idea that it was a statue before it was a postage stamp.

And, of course, the whole place is steeped in history. This is the room in the Pennsylvania State House (a.k.a. Independence Hall) where the Declaration of Independence was debated and then signed, and later where the Constitution was signed. The chair at the front is the very one that George Washington sat in when he signed the Constitution (my zoom was not strong enough to show the rising sun motif):

Other notable sites: The museum of the Americal Philsophical Society, which was running a small but very impressive exhibit on American explorers -- no photography allowed, unfortunately. The Liberty Bell, of course. The Ben Franklin Parkway, all of it, flanked with trees and amazing architecture and sculpture, from the "Love" fountain to the art museum with the steps of Rocky fame.

The reason for our visit was that M was receiving an award for technical achievement from the company he works for. I didn't realize how significant the award was until we got the awards dinner and I met and chatted with the CEO of the company as well as the company founder's son and grandson. So I'm very proud of my former lab and plant-design-project partner, now my spouse.

Nevertheless, I had made it clear to him that if I were going to spend 2 days of my vacation going to an out-of-town business function with him, he would have to accompany me for some yarn shopping. One short mile from our hotel, Rosie's Yarn Cellar. Literally in a basement, it was a tiny space with an enormous collection of the sorts of yarn I like to buy. The large selection of sock yarn was just inside the door, and a 180 degree turn and 2 steps took you to the very impressive collection of lace yarns. Knitted samples EVERYWHERE, most designed and knit by the staff. Who, by the way, were very helpful and friendly.

I need to do a "recent stash addition" post, but it will wait.

Oh, and I finished two socks (from two pairs) while I was there.

Oh, and I met a fellow knitter at the awards dinner -- she had a pattern published in IK a few years ago which I will have to look up...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Remembering the Symphony

They guys -- both sons and my husband -- went on a Boy Scout "camp out" this weekend. Quotes because the troop went to Schlitterbahn, an enormous, old, and truly wonderful water park in central Texas. They pitched tents at a genuine BSA camp near by, but ate all their meals at the water park so as to maximize fun time. So "camping" is term loosely used.

So K and I were at the house by ourselves this weekend. We had talked about what to do with our Girls Weekend. She suggested we go "motoring" in the MINI, but she quickly abandoned that idea when I mentioned a drive through scenic countryside that would also go very near a LYS I wanted to visit. That, and she wanted to have a classmate over for a play date.

I quickly jumped on "play date" because she suggested a girl to put this...I think is a good match for K. The girl seems sweet, K never reports any conflicts with her, and I've met her parents and they seem to have the same values and lifestyle as us.

Last year, K had two good friends that I could never quite embrace. One was a girl I actively disliked -- she was petty, domineering, and manipulative. And, worse, the only time K didn't seem stressed about their relationship was when she was outmaneuvering, out manipulating the girl.

The second girl, the third of the disturbing little threesome, was nice enough but I couldn't connect with her mom. The girl was the grand daughter of a major sports celebrity, and dad had some considerable wealth from managing the franchises in grandpa's name. Her mom and I tried to connect for the sake of the girls' friendship, but we just couldn't find common ground. For one, I work full time and she never has. We had gone to the same university but she was into the sorority scene and I was an engineering major. We agreed that it was important to expose our kids to the things that would be important in later life -- but for her that was golf, tennis, and not pressuring kids too much about grades, and for me that was scouts, tae kwon do, and making sure my kids had challenging coursework.

So, I jumped on this opportunity to encourage a friendship with a sweet little girl whose parents are both professionals, who seem to have similar academic goals for our kids, and who have a hectic evening schedule that rivals ours. And that took care of Saturday DAY.

At piano lessons on Wednesday, the teacher and I were talking about upcoming Houston Symphony concerts and how we'd like to attend that weekend's program. As we left, K jumped on that idea -- "let's go see that, Mom. It sounds really fun." I agreed, we'll do it.

On the internet next day: cheapest seats were $45. I regained my breath, clicked "buy", and we were going. And on Saturday, I treated her to the whole thing -- dressing up in our best, getting dinner near the symphony hall with other concert and theater-goers, then claiming our seats at the hall.

They opened with Beethoven's 1st symphony -- good enough, but mainly interesting for historical perspective. The next piece was to be a modern thing, written in 1998 by Kevin Puts. K was already fidgeting, so I decided to start our intermission early. The bartender had a little sister about K's age, so he made her a very special Sprite with pink stuff and cherries. And we watched the Mr. Puts piece on the CCTV they had in the lobby (I actually liked it, but it was...modern.) Then we explored the hall a bit -- found all the bathrooms, talked about the 2nd balcony that had been closed off when they rejigged the ceiling for better acoustics, checked out the gift shop.

Then back to our seats for the Emperor concerto.

And what a treat that was. The pianist, Garrick Ohlsson, was wonderfully expressive, with tones ranging from silver bells to thundering cavalry. The orchestra was spot on with timing and phrasing. And, of course, it was Beethoven at his mature best, and there's not much in the world that can be better than that.

And I remembered why I love going to symphony, even though I haven't been in a few years. In a hall, you hear every note, every nuance -- without fiddling with the volume nob. And somehow you're part of it, not just a passive observer.

Ohlsson, for his part, was a very gracious showman. On his third call-back, he sat back down at the piano and played an encore -- the adagio from Beethoven's Pathetique. As it turns out, this was Kathryn's favorite part. When I told her that being able to play something like that was why I had started taking piano lessons again, she she said that she, too, wanted to learn to play pieces like that "so that when you and Daddy are making dinner at night, I can play something nice for you to listen to." How could she know that was the perfect thing to say?

Oh, and I got some knitting done. While watching the girls swim on Saturday, I got to within about an inch of starting the toe decreases on E's camo socks. And I finished the heel turn and gusset decreases on my Dunes socks. I really like the way the eye-of-partridge heel stitch shows off the shading in this nearly-solid yarn:

And I putzed around in the garden a bit. This guy seemed to be enjoying the flowers too: