I just got home from a short trip to A Verb For Keeping Warm, where I attended a very funny and informative talk given by Franklin Habit on the topic of Weldon’s Practical ___ (fill in the blank as you please: “Needlework” is the blanket term, but they put out specific booklets for many needle crafts (knitting and crochet and embroidery) and also branched out into crepe paper (horrifying, really!) and iron work and more). His talk covered some of the practical and much more of the not-so-practical items he has discovered in his readings of these publications, and he ended, as I am guessing he must end every conversation with knitters these days, with the striped bathing drawers made so famous on his blog, “The Panopticon,” a few months ago. So, while I did inspect drawers belonging to a man I have never met, all of us in the audience had an invitation to do so. They are, indeed, worthy of their fame. I must also add they were lying on top of a pile of yarn on a table and not worn by the man himself, lest any of you readers get the wrong impression here.

A trip to AVFKW rarely comes off without enhancing the stash because, boy, do they have some nice yarn. Some of it grabbed a ride home with me.

AVFKW

That’s Even Tinier Annapurna, in Sarah’s Sunny Disposition and Indigo Blue Sky, and the pattern I intend to use with them.

It was a good month for knitterly talks in the area; on the 6th I attended Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s scheduled book tour stop in San Francisco. She gave a short talk, read two chapters from her book, then probably developed a hand cramp signing her name in copies of her book over and over again (how she knits in the evenings on book tours after signing her name, legibly and in nice script, a couple of hundred times a night, I’ll never know). I bought her book, of course, and admit she’s the only the only author whose books I buy without having first gotten them from the library to see if they’re worthy of shelf space (once I check out a book 3 or 4 times, I consider that a copy of it might want to live here). This book is worthy.

Random thing to end a late-night post: baby hummingbirds in my friend’s rosebush!
Hummingbirds x 3

 

Knitting is usually nothing except pretty darn orderly, and I do well with orderly (anyone peeking at my desk might question this bold self-assessment, not knowing there’s a method to the madness). This is probably why I took so well to my hobby when I learned it nearly 20 years ago. Sometimes, though, you get a project that specifies random action. How random it really can be when I’m the one choosing the arbitrariness of bead placement, I don’t know. But there’s help for us precise types: a quick stop at the games shelf this morning yielded a couple of chance cubes which are now helping me place beads in the watermelon sock in progress:

Socks WIP

It’s a simple enough method: I rub the dice in my hands (I would never find them again if I were to toss them while riding the bus) and read them left to right. The reading above is 3-5 so I work 35 stitches before putting a bead on the next knit stitch. Had the 5 been on the left, I would work 53. There are 60 stitches per round and the dice method gives me between 11 and 66 stitches between beads. I’ll decide after about 20 rounds whether I need to increase the interval so I don’t run out of beads before the heel flap. I’m not putting beads on the foot part, imagining that will be quite uncomfortable in a shoe.

I pawed through the stash this week and pulled out three balls of purples which accompanied me to quilting group yesterday (I definitely socialize there but am a quilting lurker, just go to ogle the lovely quilts) and to the Laundromat today (such a life of glamor here at Mmm… Yarn), and are now working up into a rather nice-looking hat:

Purples hat WIP

I like the way the different textures here work together; the yarns are wool, cotton (duller than the wool), and a wool/polyester blend (shinier).┬áSometimes cleaning random things out of the stash works in one’s favor.

I took a brisk walk in the park late this afternoon and saw the trees have gotten their annual pruning to remove all the twiggy little bits they grow in spring and summer. They now look knobby, like their branches are a bunch of clubs reaching up into the sky. I lay down on a bench to get this shot upward.

Knobby trees

A bunch of the birds I saw were toting strands of things in their beaks as they flew overhead. This means nesting time is coming soon!

Friday’s “to do” list, had I written one, would have looked something like this: wake up at 4:30am due to weird dreams, including one about arriving at Stitches West without cash (so stupid to dream this, because vendors all take credit cards); drift in a semi-awake state until 6:30am to pretend this was a full night’s sleep; write SW shopping list because did not take the time during the week due to frantic last-minute knitting on massive sweater; weave in ends on sweater while oatmeal cooks, spit-splicing having reduced number of ends to make this a manageable morning task; drive an hour; wander market for 2 hours; long lunch; wander market for 2.5 more hours; meet up with friends for knitting and dinner and more knitting; drive home, arriving a little after 11pm.

Whew, what an exhausting day that was! I woke up so tired yesterday that I barely dragged myself out the door for Saturday errands and didn’t have the wherewithal to play with my new toys in the afternoon, which makes today play day. Here’s this year’s loot:

2014_02_20_StitchesWest_loot

Dollars-wise, I spent about as much as the last 3 years, but came home with less yardage. I added 5,010 yards (2.85 miles) and 8 ounces of fiber to the stash this year and apparently I was in the mood for green, which didn’t notice until I unpacked the shopping bag.

Left to right across the top: mini-skein of Regia sock yarn that I cast on while wandering, Kollage square needles, stitch markers from Miss Purl, lip balm and lotion bar from Bar-Maids, 2 bags from Erin Lane, 10 skeins Cascade 220 Paints. Left to right across the bottom: black alpaca/silk and Falkland fiber from The Sassy Sheep, 2 skeins DK weight from Oink Pigments, 5 skeins Traveller from The Verdant Gryphon, Damsel from Dragonfly Fibers. At the bottom: Silk Sock from Red Fish Dyeworks.

The stitch markers from Miss Purl were on my shopping list; I didn’t have any large enough to use on a size 10 needle. These are great because the rings she uses are solid, meaning they won’t snag on your yarn while you’re working or stretch out and split. I bought the lotion bar as a comparison to my own lotion bar. [A couple of friends came over last weekend and we made caramel candy and lotion bars (in separate pots, I assure you). The bar was nearly as sticky an affair as the caramel because the honey oozed out after the bar hardened. A couple of days of resting on a towel and some rinses under the tap made it so I can actually use it without wearing it permanently. Sticking a bar to my dry shins might be an effective moisturizing treatment but I'd end up with a puddle of beeswax in my socks and that's just not the look I'm going for.]

The sweater I began on February 1 was in a wearable state so I wore it to SW; however, it was over 70 degrees outside and about the same inside, so I carried it more than wore it (bulky wool/silk yarn + summery weather = NO). I had hoped to find buttons and did find one style I liked, but $18 a button isn’t happening when I need 5 of them.

Cardigan_2014_02_Emerald_Noro-Iro_WIP

It’s not completely finished. I used two balls of yarn for the buttonband/collar so the stripes would match, but at the back of the neck where I twisted them around each other intarsia-style, I twisted them on the wrong side. I didn’t pay attention that it’s a foldover collar until I was on the last two rows and the twists are visible, so I need to rip and re-knit the buttonband and collar. I also may lop a few inches off the sleeves after blocking; my swatch ended up shorter after blocking so they may be OK, must wait and see.

Today’s lunch is simmering on the stove: a root vegetable stew, because although winter isn’t really happening (it’s warm with sparkling sunshine outside now), the root vegetables know it’s winter and they’re what’s to be had at the farmers’ market.

I started a new cardigan for me with a lovely silk and wool blend, Noro Iro. It’s going so quickly — it’s such a treat to see a sweater’s rapid progress on size 10 needles. As always in my experience with Noro yarns, though, nearly each of the 10 skeins had a break where it abruptly changed to a different color in the stripe sequence. My solution: to wind each skein and start a new ball wherever there was a break, and to note all color changes changes. For each new skein I put on the swift, I found the ends, pulled out a few yards of each to see which direction the color changes were going and used the one in which the colors went the correct direction.

Noro

The result: a cookie sheet of yarn, with a piece of paper on top that’s the map for which colors are in each ball. Writing it here so I don’t forget: I wrote down the color sequences from the inside of the ball out while winding but I’m knitting from the outside, so read the sheet from bottom to top. The system is working well and I’m 7 inches into the body already.

This week’s crafting took me in different directions. First, the Follow Your Arrow mystery shawl. I’ve never worked a mystery project like this before, where I have no idea of the end shape. You won’t, either, because I took a wadded-up photo so as not to post any spoilers of Clue 1 complete and 2 rows into Clue 2:

2014_01_20_Follow-Your-Arrow_WIP

Needlepoint grabbed my attention a few weeks ago and I did nothing but pore over Kaffe Fassett’s Glorious Needlepoint, Glorious Inspiration, and Glorious Interiors books in the evenings and mentally plan projects (not much knitting got done, and, truly, some nights it was simply too warm to knit (just try to wrap your head around that; I can’t, not in January!)). Then I went to the needlepoint shop and purchased a much-less-complex painted canvas just to get going with something. It’s 85 stitches square and I worked it in a couple of nights. I’m sure sewing it together into a pillow will take me as long as stitching it did. A deliberately layered photo to avoid spoilers for the recipient:

Needlepoint

Tonight I’m having Sunday night bus knitting project panic, with nothing mindless currently on the needles. Then I realized it’s Monday. It doesn’t solve the problem but I get to call it something different. Tonight was also my knitting group’s 9th anniversary at its current location. Thanks for a great bunch of years so far, ladies!

I impulsively and perhaps foolishly signed up for a mystery knitalong last week, not paying attention to when it started or whether I was ready. The first clue was released on Monday and today’s already Thursday and I haven’t even picked out yarn yet. The pattern asks for 620 meters of one color or 330 and 290 of two different colors. One quick look at the yarn spreadsheet for skeins with adequate yardage followed by a stash dive for those potential solid and semi-solid fingering weight yarns, and here are my options for the Follow Your Arrow shawl:

Yarn choices

I have enough of the two on the left to make the shawl in solid screaming red (looks coral in the picture, but it’s not) or dark purples with bits of fuchsia and burnt orange, or I could pick two of the 5 on the left for the 2-color option. I fished out solid and semi-solid colors because the first clue has a lace chart, indicating anything variegated or self-striping is not the way to go, then scrolled through some of the in-progress photos on Ravelry (I know: spoilers!), which confirmed that what I chose is on the right track. So… decisions, decisions. Worst-case scenario: I knit a bit with one option, and if I don’t like it, I get to start over with a different one. Not a bad scenario, really.

I skipped my usual new year’s eve post because, and brace yourselves, I didn’t knit the night away this year. For the first time in at least a dozen years I went out for the evening and played Bananagrams at a friend’s house down the street. We all had such fun, and I didn’t miss the knitting at all.

In cooking news, I found a new-to-me pumpkin at the farmers’ market a few weeks ago and cooked it up into a curry last night. The vendor said it was a French pumpkin. It’s softer than any pumpkin I’ve worked with, easy to slice in two, easy to chop up in general, and easy to peel: no post-chopping red areas or blisters on my hands, no wrist stress. It also tastes great. I recommend it! I took a photo so I could make sure to get more than one when they come around again late this fall:

Pumpkin

OK, while writing this I decided the dark purple is choice #1, so off I go to wind yarn so I can get started!

Here’s what the holidays look like when it’s 80 degrees outside, and with all the plant life browned due to lack of rain. My mom and I were roasting on this walk.

2013_12_24_MontanaDeOro

For those of you who celebrated Christmas today, I hope it brought you lots of joy!

2013_12_25_ShellBeach3-snowman
The rare coastal snowman…

After the hat jag came a jag of little cardigans. I grabbed a book off the shelf, sketched the schematic for a 12-month-old size cardigan, made a gauge swatch, and sailed into the math to calculate how many stitches to cast on for the first one.

I cast on 10% fewer stitches and used smaller needles for the garter stitch border so it wouldn’t flare and worked a simple diamond pattern to keep things interesting.

Cardigan_2013_02_18_DreambabyDK_diamond_1

Pattern: own
Yarn: 2.15 skeins Plymouth Yarn Dreambaby DK, 50% acrylic, 50% nylon, color 105
Needles: US size 3 for border and bands, size 5 for body
Size: 12 months
Started 2/10 and finished 2/18/2013

I worked the body back and forth to the armholes, then split the sections and joined new balls of yarn to finish the back and make the fronts, and used a 3-needle bind-off at the shoulders. I found Dreambaby DK to be too sticky, the all-synthetic catching on tiny rough spots on my hands. It didn’t split which made it fine to knit but I don’t like the feel of all-synthetic. Despite this, it turned into a pretty great little cardigan.

Cardigan_2013_02_18_DreambabyDK_diamond_3

I knitted the sleeves separately and sewed them in. Kind of a pain to sew them into a completely finished armhole, but it meant that the little diamonds all faced the same way; had I started the sleeves at the top, they would have looked different from the body diamonds. The buttons were ones I picked up at Stitches West a while ago and fit this project perfectly.

The possibilities of diagonals captured my interest next, so another gauge swatch and a bit of math and knitting later, a purple sweater appeared:

Cardigan_2013_04_03_purple-v-neck-v-pattern_12-months_1

Pattern: own
Yarn: 2.75 skeins Valley Yarns Superwash DK, 100% superwash merino wool, color 24
Needles: US size 3 for ribbing, size 5 for body
Size: 12 months
Started 3/1 and finished 4/3/2013

The yarn is lovely to work with, soft, didn’t split, felt comfortable in my hands. Where the diagonal lines met at the sides of the body and edges of the sleeves, I worked 2 stitches in plain stockinette. I picked up the sleeves around the armholes and knit them downward.

Cardigan_2013_04_03_purple-v-neck-v-pattern_12-months_2_back

Superwash DK’s a great deal: $16 for this project! The buttons’ sheep look a little crazy but they went with the yarn better than any others I found:

Cardigan_2013_04_03_purple-v-neck-v-pattern_12-months_3_detail

More little cardigans to follow.

My mom thought I was kidding when I asked her at Thanksgiving to keep an eye out for a glass head in secondhand or antique shops; she had never heard of such an item. She went to an antique store near her house about 10 days ago and there one was! It made it to me in one piece:

2013_12_16_glass-head

Why, yes, I did decorate for Christmas this year. That’s not a propeller, it’s a Weihnachtspyramide.

Hollow, so it’s not too heavy. A little greenish, so it’s not too boring. Smooth, so it’s easy to dust. Now I can block hats, take photos without having to walk all the way to Don & Sancho in the park (good for when I’m in a hurry), and do crown design without getting a crick in my neck trying to see a hat in progress on my own head in the bathroom mirror. Hooray all around!

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