Thursday, March 30, 2006

Fun with Kool-Aid

Last night I decided it was finally time to break out the Dye-Your-Own Knit Picks yarn and the packages of Kool-Aid I had in my pantry and make some of my own self-striping yarn. Unfortunately, I didn't think far enough ahead to plan correctly for this project, and I didn't have nearly enough Kool-Aid (just four measly packs). The result was what I chose to call a base for my real dyeing adventure. Here are some shots:

Yarny takes a bath!

Skein drying after preliminary dyeing session. The purple on the left was a result of mixing one package BlueRraspberry and one package Pink Lemonade. The green is one package Lemon-Lime and one package "Changin' Cherry," which allegedly starts out blue, changes to green, and tastes like cherry (I didn't test to see if the last point was true).

Mmmm, yarn soup! This is tonight's batch, with a much, much higher concentration of Kool-Aid. The green is exclusively Lemon-Lime (six packages of it); the blue, which for some reason came out cloudy, is composed of four packages Blue Raspberry and three Blue Berry. I picked up more blue than green because the green did a much better job in the preliminary dyeing round, besides which blue is my favorite color and I really wanted it to dominate this colorway.

This yarn is destined to be a pair of Broad Street Mittens -- appropriate, considering I used to live about five blocks from Broad Street when I was in grad school. I know that Jessica had some difficulty with hers, and I'm a tad bit nervous as my hands are also on the smallish side (well, they're skinny, with ridiculously long fingers). I'm hoping that this pattern is where my tendency to knit tightly will become very helpful.

All this week I've been working on the mate to J's sock, and it's coming along swimmingly (sockingly?). I'm well into the boring portion of stockinette in the foot, and I've switched back to two circs to get through this a bit faster (I used dpn's to turn the heel and do the gusset decreases).

In the meantime, I've been thinking about sweaters and which one I want to conquer next. I think I've settled on Bristow. Its pattern is tricky enough to look impressive to non-knitters and keep me entertained, but simple enough that I shouldn't have to take pages of notes and carry around a spiral notebook like I did with Blanche. The best part? This pattern actually calls for Knit Picks yarn! Even overestimating my needed yardage (which I now will always do, probably more so than necessary, after the Knitting Olympics Equipment Failure -- e.g., yarn shortage), I figure it'll cost me less than $50 for the yarn for this sweater. I still have to dig through my needle drawer to see if I have the called-for needles; if not, I will just have to get myself some Addis for this one. I have not purchased yarn yet (just calculated the cost, mind you!) because I've put myself on a modified yarn diet. J and I are going to DC next weekend, and I know I saw ads for at least two DC yarn stores in the spring Interweave Knits. You know I will make it my mission to find them in between taking silly touristy photos and visiting with friends. I know I just will not be able to leave without taking something home with me -- it would just be rude to travel all that way and leave pretty yarn behind!

Tonight's yarn soup is still cooling on the stove. I'll post pictures of the finished product once it's dry and been "baked" into a lovely yarn cake. Until then, I'll be enjoying an unexpected side benefit of dyeing my own yarn -- the yummy fruity smell of Kool-Aid in the morning!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Not So Much

After taking Blanche in to work for some feedback from my fellow work knitters, I did a bit of surgery on her Thursday night. Specifically, she got herself a little bit of a neck lift: I sewed a series of small vertical seams around the back of the neck to reduce the total amount of fabric and make the neck stiffer. It seemed to work moderately well, or at least well enough to wear it to work on Friday. Here are some more shots, courtesy of J:

The neck is much better, but I'm still rather dissatisfied with the front border sections. There are still a couple possible fixes to try, including another attempt at blocking or (Miriam's suggestion) sewing some grosgrain ribbon along the back of the black stripe to make it stiffer. For now, Blanche has been relegated to the closet until I feel strong enough to deal with her again. At least she got a good reaction from everyone who saw me wearing her on Friday. Those who knew I'd knitted her complimented me, and those who didn't know I'd knitted her didn't ask me if I did (and if they didn't suspect, that leads me to believe it looked a whole lot better than I thought).

In the meantime, I've been focusing on socks, and lots of 'em. First on the list was finishing Jaywalker #4 (the mate for pair #2). All that required was one more knitting session during lunch today, and voila:

(Like my attempt at foot modeling?) These are for me, if you couldn't tell, and now that I'm done I'm all charged up again to knit a second sock for J, the companion to his Gentleman's Plain Winter Sock. I was finally able to show him the first completed one this weekend and he tried it on for size. It fit him perfectly. It was snug, but a) it hasn't been blocked yet, and I fully expect it to relax a bit when it is, and b) he likes it snug so it'll stay up. He was especially pleased with the fact that the ankle band wasn't too tight; the first pair I made him were toe-up, so the bind off row was around the leg and admittedly I bound off a little tightly. I figure I can finish the second sock up this week and have a finished pair for him by the end of the weekend. I guess then it's time to start another pair for moi? I do have some Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock that is just calling my name from within the stash...

P.S. Is anyone else having serious issues with Blogger and uploading photos? It took me over an hour to get this post up because of the three pictures.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mixed Review

I have conflicting emotions about sharing the following with you, which I'll explain later. But, as I've been talking about it so much over the course of the last month, I don't think I can get away with just pretending like it no longer exists. So, I give you this:

Pattern: Blanche-Neige by Axelle de Sauveterre, Winter '05 Knitty
Started/Finished: February 10/March 21
Yarn: Knit Picks Merino Style in Vanilla (100% merino wool) and Elegence in Coal (alpaca/silk)
Needles: Addi Turbo 32 in. circs, US 2
Mods: The yarn, obviously, because frankly I could not afford the designer's hand-dyed cashmere. I also eliminated the beading in the border rows in favor of simple -- but elegant -- stockinette.

You will notice there is not a picture here of me wearing the sweater. There's a very good reason for that. When I finished weaving in the last end last night, I held up the sweater and smiled. And then I tried it on. It was not pretty. To put it mildly, the collar/border is a disaster. It hangs open on flops over on itself, and in short looks nothing like the picture in the pattern. I need to find some way to fix it so that it will lie the way it's supposed to, be that weaving in reinforcing yarn to make it stiffer or sewing up some portions of the collar to make it smaller. Right now the "neck" is falling about three inches from the end of my shoulder. Any and all suggestions would be welcome!

My main beef with this pattern is that the yardage was way off. If you've been following my Blanche saga, you knew I ran out of yarn before I was even close to being finished. Thankfully I was able to fine some additional Merino Style (and frankly, even though it's a different dyelot, I can't see any difference). In all I think I used about 13 skeins of the Vanilla, plus nearly all of the Coal (although that was entirely expected).

I have to be honest and say that I was really discouraged when I put the sweater on and looked in the mirror last night, but when I told J about it, he reminded me of the bigger picture: I finished my first sweater. Really, other than the border, it fits perfectly and the seaming looks good. Next one I try will definitely have a normal neckline!

Now that Blanche is (mostly) out of the way, I am focusing on socks for a while. My second/fourth Jaywalker is about an inch from the heel, and I have to cast on for J's second gray sock. I'm also experimenting with another Knitting Vintage Sock pattern to see what becomes of it. Apparently it's a common obsession: when I sat down on the bus this evening, I noticed someone knitting a sock. Then I looked again, and realized it was Jen! She is very close to finishing Tubey, but needed a diversion. Trust me, I so understand.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Knitting Update

Call me anticlimactic if you will; I still haven't finished Blanche-Neige. I did some seaming last night and sewed in one sleeve plus one side seam. I'm having a weird issue with the underarm area of the sleeve being too big for the corresponding area of the front and back pieces. Anyone else have this problem and have any advice? I'm going to try to get through the rest of the finishing this weekend, if I have time (read on for further explanation). My goal is to wear it to work one day next week.

In the meantime I've been knitting socks -- I cast on for sock #2 of my second pair of Jaywalkers after finishing J's first sock -- and answering e-mails. I've had several knitters e-mail me about this sweater after they saw my postings about it. Rose has been keeping me updated on hers; go take a look at the pictures of her finished sweater and take an extra close look at those adorable buttons! I've also had an inquiry about Blanche from a knitter getting ready to start it. (Hi Laura! I will reply to your e-mail soon, I promise!)

This weekend is going to be crazy one. I am working tomorrow morning and then have an associates' meeting Sunday morning, and I told a family friend I would do a freelance proofreading job for her that may take as long as 12 hours (because I guess I thought I wasn't doing enough proofing during the week?!) J is going to San Diego this weekend, which I'm not happy about because I'll miss him, but it's probably the best weekend he could go away considering I don't need anything else in my schedule. I will need my knitting time to relax, that's for sure.

Finally, I have to say a big thank you to my darling J for helping me get those long-overdue thumbnails of my 2006 FO's up in the sidebar. I can't do it because I don't have Photoshop on my computer, so he was nice enough to use his computer and take the 30 or so minutes last weekend to take care of them. Ironically, he forgot to put up the thumbnail of his socks!

Have a great weekend, everyone, and happy St. Paddy's day to all you Irish out there.

Pampered Pal Survey

Here are my answers:

1. How often do you set aside time just for yourself?
Every day, no matter what, even if it's just a few minutes of quiet. Usually I knit and/or watch TV in the evenings to unwind, and I knit during my lunch hour at work just about every day.

2. Do you have any hobbies? If so, what are they?
KNITTING (obviously), reading (when my eyes allow), crochet, embroidery (cross stitch), blogging, watching movies, cooking.

3. What are your favorite scents for candles/bath products/etc.?
I'm very sensitive to strong scents, and I'm allergic to anything lily scented. I usually prefer "clean" scents like clean linen (or whatever that Yankee Candle scent is called), very mild floral scents (e.g., rose, lavendar), or fruity scents like apple, strawberry, pomegranate, etc.

4. White, dark, or milk chocolate?
DARK DARK DARK. Milk is eh. White -- absolutely not.

Knitting updates later...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The End is in Sight

This is not the greatest picture, but here you have Blanche-Neige nearing knitting completion. That's right -- all I have to do is do the bind-off row on the second front border section, and the knitting is DONE. My "relief" yarn from Caren in NH arrived on Saturday and I promptly started the second border on Sunday evening. Once I bind off, all that is left to do is weave in the ends from the border rows and finish sewing this sucker together. I'm hoping to finish it up tonight, in part so I can show it off at SnB at the Waterworks Barnes & Noble tomorrow night (7ish, hope to see all you lurkers there!). It appears that I may have jinxed myself in wishing for one more semi-cold day so I could wear the finished object; all the weather reports are saying no higher than the mid-40s through the next week and a half. Grrr. At least I will be able to wear Blanche, as I'd hoped, and I'll get some more wear out of Odessa (and maybe even have the time to knit the other two for the cousins in Chicago, where it's gotta still be chilly).

Since Blanche is obviously too big to shlep back and forth to work for my lunchtime knitting, I've been stitching away on J's socks. I am almost done with the first one (I'm in that "miles of stockinette" portion right now). This is far and away the plainest sock in the book (Knitting Vintage Socks), and although it's a good fast knit, I am just craving a pattern. The "Gentleman's Fancy Sock" will be next, and as soon as I get around to knitting the mate for my second pair of Jaywalkers, I'll cast on a pair from the book for myself.

Now it's off to finish Blanche! See you all tomorrow at SnB.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Thank heaven...

... for sympathetic knitters! Thanks to Miriam's facilitating, the lovely Caren in NH is sending me two brand-spanking-new balls of Vanilla in exchange for two skeins of Sock Garden, sent off earlier today.

I finished binding off the first border of Blanche last night and it looks good. I'm waiting until the rest of the yarn supply arrives before I start the other border -- not sure why, but maybe it's some sort of superstition. In the meantime, I am working on J's socks. Here they are as of a few minutes ago:

I've just started the gussets after turning the heel. I think I should add that I turned the heel, completed the gussets, and had about an inch of foot done last night. When I picked it up today, I discovered that I'd somehow dropped a stitch several rows, and when I ripped back I discovered that somehow I did not have enough stitches. I didn't have the patience to try to figure out where I went wrong, so I just frogged back to the heel and started again at picking up the stitches from the heel flap. At most I lost an hour of knitting time, which is no biggie (especially as I do not have any time restrictions on this project). I was going to have to stop soon anyway to measure J's foot.

This sock is knit in Knit Picks Essential (75% superwash wool, 25% nylon). To answer your question, Jen, this yarn is not nearly as soft as the Sock Garden; but then again, this yarn is not 100% merino. I think it'll soften up a little when it's washed, and frankly I didn't want to give J something that he'd have to handwash. This way he can just toss 'em in the machine.

I expect to have the needed Merino Style in hand by sometime next week. Until then, it's all socks, all that time!

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Light at the End of the Yarn Supply. Maybe.

Well folks, it looks like I might be getting my hands on some more Merino Style. The details are still being worked out, but it looks good at this point. I'll post the story when everything gets the okay; in the meantime, I've been making do with what I have, and here's the progress on the first border section. I have three more rows to go with the black, and then six more rows of Vanilla before I cast off.

I've encountered the first mistake in the pattern (haha, other than the yardage requirement!) on this section. When you get to the garter stitch rows, it says to knit all stitches. However, these rows start on the wrong side, so if you knit them (in black) the loops from the last row of white show up on the right side. Luckily it's an easy solution: purl every stitch. Seems to look right, so I'm going with it.

As you can tell from this picture, Blanche is now a little too big and hefty to carry back and forth to work (my Jordana Paige bag has a big knitting compartment, but it's not that big!) I've been busying myself in the meantime with a cute little sock for J. It's Nancy Bush's "Gentleman's Plain Winter Sock," in Knit Picks Essential in a lovely gray shade. Here we are as of this afternoon, about an inch short of the heel:

Now the coolest thing about this sock is what you don't see. That's because the last stitch of each round is purled, and it's of course pretty much hidden because of the mass quantities of stockinette around it. But if you peek on this inside, you see this:

See that adorable little column of stitches? It runs all the way down the back of the leg and the heel. It's not obvious at all, but I just love it. I have no idea if it serves a functional purpose, but I get a kick out of the fact that it's there and only the knitter and the wearer of the sock will know about. And all of you who are reading this. I guess the secret's out.

Tomorrow is a big day -- my birthday! By some amazing stroke of luck, my office is closed on Friday, so I can relax and celebrate tomorrow night. Tomorrow is actually going to be fairly low key. I'll have a busy day of work and then will go over to my parents' for dinner. J has an event to go to, but he'll try to stop by for cake. We're doing our real celebrating this weekend, first with dinner with my parents and J's parents on Friday night, and then an evening alone with J on Saturday. We're going out for dinner here and then to see these guys, my special request. (I just hope they don't do their usual Spring Fling act! Fellow quakers will know what I mean...)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Possible Solution?

I think -- THINK -- I may have found a solution to my yarn shortage program. Last night I unraveled the two swatches I did at the beginning of this project. Lacking a niddy noddy or any other proper tool, I wrapped my yarn around the case of my sewing machine, which is about 51" around. My rough estimate is that I've got another 30 yards (that's an underestimate) to work with, and I'm hoping and praying that that will be enough. If not, I'll have to rely on the kindness of other knitters. Thank you to those who left suggestions for finding additional Vanilla. A big thank you to Miriam to posting about my plight on her blog! She's not only an amazing designer, she's also a very nice person! (Wished I lived closer to Utah so I could meet you, M!) Here's what the frogged swatches looked like:

Mmm, Vanilla yarn ramen! These took a little bath last night and are now ready to become border stitches of Blanche-Neige. I'm going to attempt to start one border tonight. I suspect I have more yarn than I think I do, and I certainly feel more confident with this extra yarn. I figure it can't hurt to just start the knitting and see how far I can get with what I have. If I run out, I'm only back where I thought I was.

I blocked the second sleeve last night and now all the pieces are ready for finishing. Here's a semi-aerial view of the sweater as she is now (apologies for the not-so-good picture; I took it standing on my bed and holding the camera over my head to get it all in):

If you look carefully, you can see my toes there are the bottom! And is it just me, or do the arms look almost as big at the back? Good thing I know that when this gets sewn up, it actually looks like a garment.

Finally, remember this post when I was all-sock-yarn-all-the-time? Well take a gander at what arrived on Saturday. Oooh. Ahhh. I've already cast on for the first pair for J (Gentleman's Plain Winter Sock in that gray shade you see at the top). I started it Saturday afternoon and already have about 6 inches done on the leg.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Un-freaking-believable

Let's just go in order here....

The Good
I finished up the second sleeve of Blanche-Neige last night (all but a few ends to be woven in). I was in such a good rhythm and my needles were flying so fast that I hardly paid attention to ER, which is one of my favorite shows. Dr. Carter was even back on this episode! But I had eyes only for my knitting.

Since that was done, I brought my second pair (well, the first sock of the second pair) of Jaywalkers to work for my lunchtime knitting, and soon discovered that I was ready to start the toe decreases. So I need about another hour on that and I'll be finished with a sock.

The Bad
I had to start using my last ball of yarn to finish the second sleeve. That means when I was done, I was left with approximately three quarters of a ball (let's estimate maybe 100 yards, if I'm lucky). Call me pessimistic, but I don't think that's going to be enough to knit both border sections of the fronts. I was hoping that a full ball might do it, but I think it would have still been close.

The Ugly
In spite of the fact that I deliberately bought more yarn than I thought I needed, I'm still short. And the knitting gods must be laughing at me for being so complacent that everything was working out so well at the beginning. Because Knit Picks does not have any more Merino Style in Vanilla left in stock. Yes, you read that correctly. In fact, they won't have any more in stock until 3/17 (which would be even funnier if the color I needed was a shade of green). So in all likelihood, I won't be able to get more yarn in the same dyelot and furthermore by the time I get it and finish the knitting, it'll probably be too warm to wear the darn thing.

The Un-freaking-believable
(And I use that term so as to avoid cursing and annoying J, who doesn't like me to have a potty mouth.) In my previous life as an elementary school teacher, I got a lot of interesting gifts from my students around the holidays. In most cases they were things I would never use, but one student and her family gave me a great gift: an amaryllis. It's one of those bulb plants that has long straight leaves and has a stalk with multiple blooms. You see them a lot around Christmastime. In any case, when they gave it to me in December 2004, it was still a baby and was ready to start blooming in a few days. I took it home, put it on top of the bookcase in front of the window (which gets very good light), and took care of it. It bloomed beautifully and looked gorgeous, but eventually dried out. But then a second bloom happened, which was just as lovely as the first. When that stalk dried out, I decided to keep watering the plant because the leaves were still green and frankly I didn't know if it would bloom again. I cut off the dried out flower stalks and kept giving it the same attention. In the intervening time, I had a couple of the outside leaves turn yellow and dry out, so I cut them off, and I had about two or three new leaves shoot up from the inside. Not very exciting, but it was still green and alive, so I kept watering it.

Then, Wednesday evening, I brought my bottle over to water it and saw this:

Yes, that's a bud! It's going to bloom again! I don't know if these plants are supposed to bloom more than once in a lifetime, but you bet your butt I'm going to keep it around to find out. I'm thinking that now it probably deserves a sturdier, roomier pot to live in. Once the weather gets a little warmer I'll replant it.

And back to
The Ugly
I'm going to take this opportunity to send out an impassioned plea to the knitting community. I am in dire need of more Knit Picks Merino Style in Vanilla. I am very concerned that even when they get more in stock, it won't be the same dyelot, and as this is needed to knit the front part of the sweater, it'll be very obvious if it doesn't match. I am hoping that someone out there has one ball -- just one ball! -- of this yarn (Knit Picks Merino Style, Color Vanilla, Dyelot 59136) that they'd be willing to part with. I'd be happy to pay you for the yarn and the shipping, or arrange some sort of trade if you'd prefer. Please, help put Blanche-Neige together!