Sunday, April 17, 2016

FO: The curse has been broken.

Look, I know it's been a long time. I'm not going to make any excuses. I'm just checking in to tell you one very important thing.

The curse that has hung over me since this blog was started, the curse of Pickle's socks... has been broken.

Started: June 30, 2015

Finished: August 2, 2015

Pattern: Francie by Rebekkah Kerner. I've knit this pattern before for myself.

Yarn/yardage used: Textiles A Mano La Paz, in an unnamed colorway that ranges from dark green through dark blue and purple. This is DK weight, non-superwash wool. Not the kind of stuff you usually knit socks from. I'm unsure of the exact yardage, because 1) I gave these socks to Pickle without weighing them first and 2) I can weigh the leftovers now, but I don't know how much was in the cake to begin with.

Needles: Size 3 Karbonz interchangeables. This was, I think, the first project I ever tried with my now-beloved interchangeables.

You might remember that I tried all sorts of things in order to break the curse of Pickle's socks. I tried changing needle sizes several times. I tried sneakily changing the yarn. I wanted to change the pattern... but that would have made Pickle sad. In the end, what seems to have worked is changing both needle sizes and yarn... and technique.

Yes, that's two-at-a-time socks on one very long interchangeable cord - the first time I've ever tried something like this. It will probably also be the last time, given how fiddly and tangly I found the whole process to be. Hey, I'm willing to go to great lengths to break long-standing knitting curses, but for everyday? Hand me my trusty old DPNs, please.

But that's not all. How do I know the curse is really and truly broken?

I knit him another pair.

Started: September 18, 2015

Finished: October 4, 2015

Pattern: The Password Is Swordfish by Heidi Nick.

Yarn/yardage used: Dream In Color Smooshy, in Night Watch. The original cursed yarn, bought all the way back in July 2002! I used just shy of 400 yards.

Needles: Size 1.5 Karbonz DPNs.

Original yarn, original needle method... all is well again with my sock-knitting mojo. I did change the pattern, mind you, and I converted the pattern to toe-up. I've become a huge, huge convert to the ways of the Fish Lips Kiss heel since I first posted about it, and now I use the heel technique and the cardboard foot tracing for almost every pair of socks I knit.

So there's that! You might have noticed that my photographs are less polished-looking and more cluttered than they used to be. Suffice to say that I started a new job and moved into a new house at pretty much the same time last year, and my DIY lightbox didn't survive the move. I plan to make another one, when I can find the time to. (Who knew that starting a standard 40-hour-workweek job would cut in on my free time so drastically, right?)

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Now, I know I'm a week or so late to the party, but I'd still like to share my problem with resolutions with you.

First of all - simply put, my desktop computer suddenly died on me the day before yesterday. I'd just inherited it from Bandit a few weeks ago, when he got his new iMac. It had been a top-of-the-line gaming computer back in its day, but it was now years old, and it had started to show its age. Occasionally the USB keyboard wouldn't register on startup until I unplugged it and plugged it back in. Then the monitors started not registering on startup, which was a more serious thing, since the display ports were on the back of the tower and much less convenient to get to than the USB ports. Then, in the middle of use, it just locked up and died. Bandit opened it up and found that one of the fans had stopped working; his verdict is that either the motherboard or the processor had died.

So now I'm back on my laptop (well, technically, it's his laptop - another gaming machine that I've appropriated for my own use). It's always tough to move from a familiar machine to an unfamiliar one, but moving from a familiar machine back to a previous familiar one is... odd. I instinctively go to the places where I feel my files should be, and some of the time I'm wrong but other times I'm right. And I had just gotten used to having two monitors at 1920x1080, when all of a sudden I have to go back to the single laptop lid monitor at 1600x900. We fiddled with the displays until somehow all of a sudden I had three displays at 1600x900. That was too disorienting for me.

So there you have it. That was my problem with resolutions.


Bad puns aside, 2015 has been a little rough getting out the gate - technological difficulties being only one of the frustrations that have cropped up so far. I won't go into details, but it's really made me think about adulthood and taking charge of one's life. One of the things I've decided was to make a concrete list of resolutions for the first time in my life. Heading the list are what I'm sure are three of the commonest resolutions out there:

  • Start working out. I've always been small and frail and weak, and I'd like to build up some stamina and energy.
  • Cook at home from scratch more often. I grew up with homecooked meals every day, and I miss that.
  • Keep better tabs on our finances.

But those are the kinds of vague, general resolutions that one never quite achieves, just improves on a little year by year. I have a couple of more specific goals that are directed at my known weaknesses:

  • Be more mindful of punctuality. I tend to have a hard time getting moving, so I usually show up to events just barely on time or a few minutes late. I'd like to fix that.
  • Drink more real tea. I love looseleaf tea - another thing I grew up with as an everyday thing. Instead of buying sugary bottled teas, I'll make an effort to put a pot on the stove every morning and work through my boxes of Earl Grey, lychee tea and rosebuds.
  • Renovate my wardrobe. Ninety percent of my wardrobe currently consists of either T-shirts with graphics on them or long black skirts. The long black skirts can stay, but I'd like to phase out some of the older T-shirts from my teenage years and introduce some plain long-sleeved shirts as staples.

And my knitting resolutions? I've decided to go fairly light on these, in hopes that I'll actually achieve them!

  • Catalog and photograph everything in my stash to go up onto Ravelry. I'm actually not far off from achieving this at the moment - of the 56 yarns I have listed in my stash, only 11 don't have photos - but I'd like to make it a habit to enter any new yarn into my Rav stash as soon as it comes into the house.
  • Knit more things that I'll actually use. I have this tendency gravitate towards patterns that will teach me new techniques or broaden my horizons, disdaining simple things like scarves or potholders. Well, I finished a woollen potholder on New Year's Day, and let me tell you, it is the most effective and most useful potholder I have ever come across. Especially in conjunction with my resolution about making more tea.
  • Write up my dragonscale gauntlets pattern! I've been sitting on the pattern for over a year now!

Have you made a list of resolutions this year, or have you decided instead to choose a word to focus on for the coming year? How have you fared with resolutions in years past?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hello again!

It's been a while, hasn't it? I planned to take a break only until the end of November when my Master's thesis defense was originally scheduled. After two postponements, however, I finally held my defense on December 12th, flying in the day before and flying out again the day after. Then right after that there was a flurry of holiday preparations to make, and then the post-holiday visitors... I've managed to get a surprising amount of knitting done in stolen minutes here and there, and even take picturea, but this is the first time I've made time to sit down and get back in touch with the blogging world. (Expect a ton of comments as I go through the backlog of my blogroll in the next few days!)

I wanted to get at least this one post in before the end of 2014, so that I could get you all up to date on what I've been doing during my hiatus before I dive into New Year's resolutions and the like.

First... I passed my defense! While I was in town for it, I stayed with Shannon and Eli who were the best hosts ever, considering that they were also dealing with hectic end-of-year things. Shannon even let me destress with some of her stash yarn when I asked for some skeins to wind - one project was not sufficient yarny comfort for me, even on a trip of only two days. I really miss the weekly crafternoons that Shannon, Alexis and I used to have; maybe someday we'll all live close enough again to meet in person. Or failing that, maybe the two of them will join me in the knit-blogosphere (get on that, guys!).

Second... I regret to say that none of the WIPs I highlighted in my last post have progressed very far. The Whispers top and Bandit's socks just stopped holding my interest, so they're now languishing in my storage ottoman, which is where my WIPs go to die hibernate. Dreambird, on the other hand, made it to four whole feathers before I discovered that the Mini Mochi I was using for those beautiful gradient feathers... was full of knots. In fact, both skeins were full of knots. And they weren't just ordinary knots either. They were knots that were tied with no regard for preserving the color repeats. I spent a day undoing all the knots and winding the yarn up into five separate mini-cakes, none of which could be easily joined together in a smooth transition. Maybe at some point in a few weeks or months I'll have come to terms with the task, and start snipping and regrafting the colors, but for now, it's sitting at the bottom of the WIP bin.

I did, however, finish a WIP older than any of these.

In March I started planning for the second Vericon charity auction shawl of the year (Celestarium being the first). The recipient wanted a shawl that would evoke dragons, and that would fade gradually from brown at the neck to green at the edges. After a bit of back and forth, we decided on the Y Ddraig pattern and the Elphaba colorway from Twisted Fiber Art, an indie dyeing company that specializes in gradients. When Elphaba finally rotated into TFA's active colorways in June, I happily snapped up a triple evolution in the imminently-discontinued Duchess base, a lovely merino DK weight. I cast on and... the dark dye immediately started coming off all over my hands and needles.

No one else in the TFA forums seemed to be having any trouble at all, and the color wasn't actually fading from the yarn itself, so I figured that it was just a bit of excess dye crocking off of oversaturated yarn. I gritted my teeth and knitted, and knitted, and then I got too fed up of having to scrub at my hands after every knitting session and put the project into the Storage Ottoman of Hibernation.

In the midst of thesis-related stress, I decided to pick the shawl back up again. As it turned out, it was perfect for stress knitting. The pattern was soothing - simple and repetitive enough to memorize, but engaging enough to keep me mindful of my stitches and not allow my mind to wander off. And the dye issue kept my knitting sessions short; as soon as the dye built up on my hands I knew it was time to set the knitting down and start working again. I had just finished the brown section when I held my defense.

Free of the thesis-related stress, I found the rest of the shawl went surprisingly quickly - except placing beads, which the original pattern didn't call for but which my recipient wanted. My tiny beading hooks, bought for beading on lace or, at the very most, light fingering, tended to just split the DK yarn rather than bead smoothly. I finished knitting on December 21st, and blocked it on December 22nd.

Keturah helped.

The same day I cast on a pair of my self-designed dragonscale gauntlets, also a charity auction commission item. These took just a week to finish, even with something of a false start on the first gauntlet as I tried to recreate my pattern. I've made some tweaks to the design since I first posted about them in April, and I think they look much sleeker and nicer now.

One of my New Year's resolutions will be to finally get the pattern written up and made available as a PDF. I might as well get all my notes in one place, because I have two more pairs of these to knit in the next few weeks!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Putting (the knitting) life on pause.

So I've decided to finally face down the fact that I'm defending my thesis in almost exactly a month, and address it with the proper reaction: panic!

While my normal instinctual response to panic is to grab needles and yarn, I'm working towards channeling my frantic energies away from the knitting, and towards more productive things like writing, revising, and emailing people. I've barely looked at Ravelry for weeks, and I have a backlog of thirty posts on my blogroll to read. I don't expect this situation will change much before the end of November.

So here's where I am now:

Remember these socks? I started trying to knit socks for Amy out of this yarn... back in 2012! After a few sizing mishaps and much frogging, I began again with the Slide pattern by Cookie A on May 1, 2013. I finished the first sock on May 18th, then knit halfway through the second one... and just stopped. They sat in their bag for over a year, nearly a year and a half. It was the RemRants monthly WIPdown that finally motivated me to dust them off again and finish the second foot.

I finished them on October 9th. Amy came over on October 17th and tried them on... and they were too small. Again.

Fortunately, all that was required to fix them this time was to unpick the grafting on the toes, add four rounds, and then regraft them.

The Slide pattern is really great, by the way. I plan to knit myself a pair with plain gray wool after I finish a few more WIPs.

Whispers might be the next WIP to come off the line. I've finished all the knitting; all that's left is the sewing up... but I tried it on and I'm not sure the armholes will be big enough once I graft the front and back together. I'm waffling between frogging the top and adding a few more rows somewhere, and just grafting it and trusting that blocking (and not having to hold it up while still on the needles) will take care of the difference.

Bandit's fourth pair of socks is coming along nicely. I've knit to the cuff of one sock, and I've started the second sock with the other end of the skein in order to make sure I can divide the yarn up evenly. (I've complained before about how big his feet are, but to put it in perspective: each foot is 96 stitches around, and there are a hundred rows of the darker yarn between the contrast toe and heel!)

Finally, my most recent guilty obsession: Dreambird. I've coveted one so long, and it's starting to get chilly enough to need a nice big snuggly shawl, and I'd be using up two of the oldest yarns in my stash, and I'd just finished two WIPs in a row... Yeah, I broke my WIPdown rule just a teeny bit in order to cast it on. Knitting it is utterly fascinating. I'm using Cascade Yarns Eco Alpaca for the charcoal-gray background yarn, and it's so beautifully smooth, it knits like butter. The feather yarn is Crystal Palace Mini Mochi, the first yarn I'd ever bought for myself at a LYS. It's a very loosely-spun single, so I'd had trouble finding projects where it would hold up under use and where its medium-length color changes wouldn't pool in an ugly way. Dreambird seems to be written just for such yarns. The pattern is rather wordy and confusing, but careful reading and then a bit of practice clears it up quite nicely.

So with that, I'm officially hitting pause on the knitblogging. Hopefully I'll keep myself industrious enough that my knitting won't change too much in the next month or so. See you all in December!


(P.S. Not only did I break my WIPdown rules, I also broke my cold sheeping. Craftyyarn is closing in a few days, and after the 50% clearance coupon, most of the yarn is less than $4 a skein. I bought four thousand yards of laceweight for $24. Check it out!)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

FO: Celestarium!

I've finished knitting the Northern skies.

Started: May 5, 2014

Finished: September 30, 2014

Yarn/yardage used: Silk/merino lace in the Aegean colorway, from Black Sheep Dyeworks. I held two strands doubled, so my best guess is that I used a total of about 2000 yards.

Beads: About 450 size 6/0 beads. The color? Well, FusionBeads calls it "Silver Lined Transparent Light Aqua Rainbow". So there you have it.

Needles: Size 4 Addi Turbo Lace circs, with the longest cables I could find (47"). They still felt rather short, though, since the finished circumference of the shawl was well over 100 inches.

The recipient wanted a pointy edging, so I followed the lead of many other Celestarium knitters and adapted the edging from the Lunar Tide shawl. When I went to start the edging, I found that I somehow had over 200 leftover beads. Now, the pattern calls for 370 beads, and I'd bought three packets of 150 each, so... who knows how that happened? I just went ahead and added beads to each of the 82 pattern repeats in the edging.

This was an odd knit for me in a couple of ways. For one thing, it was only the second project that I've knit to someone else's specifications. You see, when I knit something as a simple present for someone, I might elicit some suggestions on color and fiber, but I always make the final decisions on pattern and yarn. Often the recipient doesn't even know they're getting something until I've finished knitting it. But the custom knitting that I auction off at the Vericon charity auction seems to carry this weight of responsibility with it. I need to make sure that that what I produce comes as close as possible to the commissioners' dream shawls in all respects. So I flood them with options for fiber, color, weight, pattern, and beads. I've been fortunate in that both commissioners so far have been knitters themselves, and so they know what they (and I) are getting into. I've been doubly fortunate in that they've both picked shawls that I had already wanted to knit anyway, making the commission knitting feel just like personal knitting.

Which brings me to the second way in which this is odd: I want to keep this. I want to use it. This is extremely strange behavior for me. I'm a process knitter who never actually uses any of my finished knits. Sure, I wear my socks sometimes, but I don't knit socks so that I can have the pleasure of wearing my own pretty handknitted socks. I knit socks because I enjoy knitting socks, and then I wear the socks because I need to put on socks and these were the ones that were lying around. I knit shawls because I enjoy knitting beautiful intricate lace, and then they get put away somewhere. I'll wear them maybe once a year. (This realization is what prompted me to start offering my custom shawl-knitting services for auction in the first place. Someone may as well enjoy the fruits of my labor.)

So why do I want to keep and use Celestarium? Is it because I've spent so much time with it? Is it because it falls on the right side of the "everyday stuff" and "fancy special-occasion stuff" divide in my mind? Is it just because the weather's grown chilly recently?

Who knows. The urge to keep it, though tangible, is not very strong, and it's getting mailed out to its proper owner today or tomorrow. If I continue to miss it, well, I have some lovely dark blue-purple Malabrigo lace that has been waiting in my stash for two and a half years to learn what it'll become.