Friday, December 30, 2005

And socks...

A second pair for Dad, two pairs for my brother, whose feet shrank (edema!) so they are baggy, and the fitting sock was just right for my aunt, and turned inside out it just needs a slight change in the toe for her other foot.

afk, but knitting!

Blogger and I are having a little disagreement today, so here's a pile of photos and a bit of text, but I've given up on alignment! Sorry...

An omiyage for an amber pendant made by Nome. DD's handspun bombyx. If you're ever in Eugene, Oregon, stop by the Saturday Market to see the beautiful jewelry in Nome's booth. Her wirework is perfection. Also, some Nancy Finn dyed bombyx DD spun, in swatch mode but probably becoming wristlets. Nancy uses the *best* quality fibers and I wish the photo showed the variation of hues better... The yarn is gorgeous.

DD's new Balkan spindles. The mesquite is feather light and spins forever, perfectly balanced. The honey locust will be perfect for plying her silk fingering.
Alden's woodworking is always superb, but these are spectacular!

A messenger bag, Elann's pilling Peruvian Highlands Wool, washed and dried once with a load of laundry, flap and toggle added for stability as the top falls open otherwise. It is very comfortable, holds two hardcovers or a pile of paperbacks.

A batch of slipper socks and hats to send off to The Ships Project to keep sailors warm and let them know we're thinking of them at home.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


I just ordered DD's Christmas presents from Stephenie Gaustad. Alden made a new batch of Balkan spindles. Here are Stephenie's notes that go with her photo above:

"The mesquite spindles are nearly purple/brown/black. The silky oak ones have little spindle shaped black polka dots. The apple one is very hard, dense and glossy with little figure, but a lot of substance. The honey locust ones look like yellow oak with lots of figure and definition. No rays. The Olive one is greenish yellow, not terribly hard, but has a nice hand.

They are, left to right:

chestnut (light weight)
olive (light weight)
apple (medium weight)
honey locust (medium weight) **sold**
mesquite (heavy weight) **sold**
birdseye (heavy weight)
mesquite (heavy weight)
silky oak (very light weight)
honey locust (medium weight)
white oak (medium-heavy weight)
honey locust (heavy weight)
walnut (medium-light)

My sense of these spindles without weighing them is that they all would perform nicely on silk. The silky oak would spin cotton and very fine silk."
There's a bit more data about Balkan spindles on Stephenie's website, and you can contact her for pricing and availability. Usual disclaimers, satisfied customer, shameless plug!

I am in the midst of some larger projects and will post when there is something worth photographing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Gull antics & tandem knitting

It's Wednesday, so Teen Knitting Club and bird photos. The sun angle was wrong for all the good shots I wanted to take, so instead we have a few gulls being gulls and a trio of young pelicans.

Knitting club was wild today. A pesky girl came in and waved knitting needles around and I used The Voice and ejected her. She came back and I made her choose between sitting and leaving (she sat). All those years of voice lessons have paid off -- I can project a totally intimidating authoritarian voice and then go right back to tandem knitting and encouraging uncertain newbies. I have clear memories of being marched up to the principal's office at that school...

Had a lot of newcomers and most of the regulars. DD taught more spinners using her Bosworth spindles and Grafton batts. Each of the girls who could knit had two or three girls to teach, and I worked with three at a time. A bunch of boys came in wanting to learn how to knit socks, but we were using all our needles and I simply didn't have enough hands. They'll be back -- I showed them the pair I had on and they were intrigued.

Tandem knitting is wonderful, now that I've bent my brain around it. First, I show the kid how to knit, sitting facing her and knitting as if it were her hands knitting. Then as it starts to make sense, I let her choose a needle to hold and I do the rest. By the end of the row, she has both needles and the yarn under her control and I'm just the coach.

I added a few beads to the bag for DD's Spanish teacher. I knit a quick hat for Coach, just crossing cables at the top, symmetrically this time since it's quick and he's that kind of guy. We've put an assortment of tea bags in one purse, a can of Scharffen Berger cocoa in the second, and shortbread in the third (each teacher's favorite). I have three balls of merino yarn wrapped for the teacher who comes to TKC, and we put bags of chocolate-covered espresso beans in the guys' hats. Now, it's just two gifts for our favorite librarians and a few for friends, lip balm and soaps for DD's girlfriends, and a few pairs of socks for The Ships Project. Oh, and swatching for the three KAL's that start in January. Ack!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Star Hat Pattern

My copy of Nitsuto ni koishite shimada... arrived from today, sealed in cellophane and wrapped in bubble wrap and packed in a sturdy box. It is one of the most beautiful knitting books I have ever seen. Wow. The CIT KAL is going to be spectacular!

For Helen, the pattern. (H, do you still have that heart cable written out? I'm not sure where my copy is and I have it on a swatch somewhere but it would be lovely to see the pattern, please pretty please?)

As I posted earlier, I used Wool-Ease (worsted weight) in a soft medium blue to make the cable work subtle, and the hat is short because DD's teacher is fully adorned with piercings and I doubt he's fond of snagging. The cables would have better definition in a yarn with more body and either more or less depth of shade. My gauge is a bit loose and this is definitely a large size hat -- plenty big for me with all my hair.

I knit this swatch last night as quickly as I could so the tension's off and I didn't block. Apologies, but I've got a bunch of deadlines and couldn't spare the time to do it properly. I isolated one repeat, sort of, to show the mutant cables. It drove me nuts leaving that blank bit of stockinette in the middle, but then I never expected to repeat this -- it's just a hat for a teacher. It's US 5's and PH Wool.

There's a stitch that's messy to write out but easy to execute. I don't know whether there is an easy name for it, so let's call it C(F or B)dec2 for now. {If anyone knows the name, please post the reference in the comments! Thanks.} The goal is to decrease two of four stitches in a faux C4 cross. The first few CBdec2's lose the p2 ditch under what becomes the dominant rib in that arm of the star. I did these without a cable needle, but you could use one (or a yarn needle) if your yarn is slippery.

CBdec2: Without slipping any stitches, knit the third stitch from the end together with the 1st/end stitch in a k2tog, and catch the second, in between, stitch with the left needle when you slip off the 3-1 stitch. Knit the remaining two sts (#4 over #2) together and slip.

CFdec2: A little more fussy because it is two ssk's instead of the k2t's of the CBdec2. Stitch #1 (end stitch on the left needle) goes over #3, and #2 over #4. Slip 1 knitwise, drop next stitch (#2) and hold to the front (pinch if you need to), slip next stitch (#3) and knit those two stitches together. Pick up dropped stitch (#2) with left needle and ssk (#2 and #4).

Draft of Star Hat
{This pattern has not been tested yet -- these are just my notes I wrote yesterday while knitting.}
Yarn: At least 45 grams of Wool-Ease worsted weight, or more of something else.
Needle: 4.5 mm (US 7). I used two 32" Addi circs since they were on the top of the pile. Four US 5 dpns.
With the larger needles, cast on long-tail (or whatever you prefer) 100 sts. [100]
Knit 2, purl 2 ribbing for a minimum of 40 rounds. {The hat measured 6" x 6" relaxed and flat at this point.} [100]
(K2p2 x 3, k2, CBdec2, p2) x 5. [90]
Knit 1 round in pattern. (K2p2 x 3, C4B, p2) x 5. [90]
Knit 1 round in pattern. (K2p2 x 2, k2, CBdec2, p2) x 5. [80]
Knit 1 round in pattern. (K2p2 x 2, C4B, k2, p2) x 5. [80]
Knit 1 round in pattern. (K2p2, k2, CBdec2, C4F, p2) x 5. [70]
Knit 1 round in pattern. (K2p2, C4B, k4, p2) x 5. [70]
Knit 1 round in pattern. Tink 2, (CBdec2 x 2, k2, C4F) x 5. [50]
Knit 1 round (no purls left). (C4B, k6) x 5. [50]
Knit 1 round. Switch to smaller needles. [50]
(K2, CBdec2, C4F) x 5. Knit 1 round. [40]
(CFdec2, k4) x 5. Knit 1 round. [30]
(K2, CFdec2) x 5. [20]
(Ssk, k2) x 5. [10]
Ssk x 5. [5]
Run end through. [0]

Churning out the gifts

Meeting deadlines left and right! Here are before and after fulling photos of a little bag for DD's Spanish teacher, Peruvian Highlands Wool. Cast on the edge of the envelope flap, did a ridge of garter, then did turning-heelesque short rows with wraps to make the V. Did some rows of reverse stockinette to make the flap fold down on its own. Cast on more for the front of the bag, did a bit of garter to keep the front from curling, increased a few sts on each side to give the bag a nicer shape, then decreased twice that in stages at the bottom, 3-needle bind-off, mattress stitched the one side seam. Cable plied 6 strands tightly for the strap and lashed it to each side. Once through the laundry in a mesh bag with a dark load. We'll probably add some beads, perhaps a toggle and loop for the flap. It depends on whether DD has a lot of homework or has time to dive in the stash and find the perfect beads.

A star hat for DD's English teacher. Wool-ease (I doubt he's laundry savvy), a bit short because he has a lot of metal on his ears, an intricately cabled crown to make it interesting, but a subtle color so he'll actually wear it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Another gift finished!

Here's the Yankee bag ready to go in the wash, then finished. It was definitely a form of improvisation, but then I always do that when I knit bags. I may fuss seriously over fitting a sock perfectly, but bags are like scribbling, just a fun way to make a gift. I am the same way with beadwork: the animals must be exactly right, but when I make bowls it's for fun. I try new ideas, practice new techniques, try to convert mistakes into new methods, and I do this all as fast as I can. I usually set a few basic rules, like no sewing seams and only garter stitch allowed (knitting) or black beads are always single and the other colors are worked so there are three of one color touching at all times (a fun mapping technique to play with when doing beadwork).

I ended up doing a 3-needle bind-off of the active side seam (because it's quick), then picked up the loops in the long-tail cast-on and did a 3-needle bind-off on that side, too. Fulling masked the minor difference in appearance. I picked up a loop per ridge around the top, knitted a round, purled a round, bound off the sides, did garter up (with little dec triangles to take the 13 st down to 9) and grafted when I ran out of yarn.

I expected the blue to bleed so washed the bag alone in a half washer of hot water. Having a high water:fiber ratio decreased the probability of excess dye latching back on, plus I used lots of detergent. Dried it until it was just damp, but it was still too stretchy so ran it with a normal load of laundry (wash and part of the dryer cycle until it was only slightly damp). It has more visual texture than I prefer because it's garter and I would have liked stockinette for this project, but didn't have the time to spare for facings. DD's teacher will like it (and not know the difference...).

June's December 7th post is spinners' eye candy. Beautiful!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Some progress

It is Wednesday, so here are bird photos from my walk. It was raining and I found out my camera takes pictures of the rain drops, which end up looking like missing pixels in the photo. The sanderlings are cute anyway. It was mostly sleeping ducks and some harlequins diving in shallow water.

I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by my list of things to make this month so I joined a few more KALs for encouragement and inspiration. I am making headway, but it's been three years since I tried to meet a deadline like this and I'm definitely out of practice. Miscalculations include the facts that when it's cold out I knit at about one-fourth my usual speed, and when it rains the needles get tacky and I cannot knit. Winter here hasn't really begun but we've had a chilly snap (doesn't qualify as properly cold) and some rain. At least I'm warm in my wool socks and the Aran sweater Michelle knit.

I cast on a quick bag for one of DD's teachers today. She's a Yankees fan so DD asked for blue and white pin stripe, which is vertical so I've cast on one side edge, increased to make a triangle at the bottom/center, and am now knitting the body of the bag. The white is Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride worsted and the navy is Elann's PHW. I'm going to work double decreases at the far edge, then sew the side seams, add some sort of border around the top, add a strap, full, and block. You can see the sloppy k's that form the fold lines between the front, back, and base. I had all purls and decided it was too subtle, so laddered and turned them into knits. Much better, and I'll rub out the slack when fulling.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

As good as it gets

I was exceptionally fortunate that the teacher of my second spinning class was Alden Amos. It was his short course in plying, at Straw Into Gold about twenty years ago. Alden was amazing, pouring knowledge into our minds and showing us techniques in the most logical way. I have a notoriously steep learning curve, but with Alden it was like skiing in the tracks of an expert. I'm certain he found me to be a frustrating numbskull, yet he treated me like a princess and somehow figured out how to explain things in a way that made perfect sense to my perverse brain.

I have crystal clear image memories of the skeins he showed us and his voice in the background describing the construction methods and reasons. Chenille was a splendid mind-bender. What has stayed with me forever and with the greatest intensity, though, is a black lambswool skein Stephenie Gaustad had spun. Perhaps it is because Alden's love for his wife made that skein seem magical, but it was also a truly perfect example of spinning.

Since I cannot plug the USB cable into my brain and download the memories, I've taken a few photos of a skein of tussah silk Stephenie spun and gave me. [Yes, Steph, I *will* use it someday -- I promise!] It is 3-ply, with the space-dyed strand a slightly heavier grist than the two undyed tussah strands. I look at this skein and instantly see designs for shawls and scarves. It's brain fertilizer. I wish I could convey through the ether how light the skein is, how alive and shiny and sproingy the yarn feels in my hands. Lovely stuff!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sock on a walk

Claudia's photo this morning inspired me to take the camera and a sock on the walk to the bus stop. Winter is being kind today, though the tide was coming in and with it a bracing ocean breeze. I almost got a photo of a sea lion, but he dove and came up out of range. I need to work on my quick draw with the camera.

These are Mellenweit Multiringel, k2p2, knit on US1's. It's lovely yarn; when I drop a stitch it ladders incredibly fast, so I'm curious to see just how much it will full when washed. I suspect it will stay pretty crisp.

Claudia brought up an interesting topic about color striping. Have you gotten to the point where you can look at a self-striping ball and have a pretty clear vision of how a sock will appear? Can you see whether it will work up better as ribbing or stockinette, whether the color repeat will pool, swirl, or zig-zag? What startled me as I worked my way down the shank on these blue socks wasn't how much blue there is, but how long the color repeat is (about 2400 sts). It really isn't much different from many other self-striping yarns, but the uneven striping makes it appear longer. I am fascinated by the behavior of various color periods.

When I first started knitting with self-striping yarns a few years ago, I was so excited by the colors I'd just knit away. I have become fussy. I wind off the first few yards to get to just the stripe I want for the top of the cuff. I often use that butterfly of yarn later to make the heel cup end on the right color or to widen the first stripe around the gusset/pick-up. I will edit out a certain color if I don't like it as much. I will make a longer or shorter shank to set up the heel flap in a more pleasing colourway. I become a truly happy person when the yarn makes a thunderbolt on the heel flap. If the yarn has a motif that needs to be knit at, say, 68 stitches around in order to be properly synchronized, I will save that ball for someone with a shank and foot that are 68 stitches around.

Am I obsessive? Probably. Will I outgrow this in a few more years? Perhaps, or I'll learn to look at a ball and see what I want ahead of time, as I can with solid color yarns. Frankly, I hope the dyers continue coming up with new colourways!

Friday, December 02, 2005


I'm not usually a fan of memes, but it seems to be the least crying-in-my-beer way to answer a bunch of questions about me that I've been fielding lately.

The husband, aka Himself, says the following about memes and recommends reading various books. And yes, this is the way he speaks most of the time. Every now and then he lightens up and we see his surfer side, but usually it's the Professor. "Human societies carry information via memes and their individual members have biological constraints known as genes. The gene pool and the meme pool are the modes of transference of information from generation to generation within a society or culture. Humans as a species have a relatively large meme pool because of their high ability to process and extract abstract information (storage of external metadata, etc.)."

Stolen from

TEN random things you might not know about me
1. I have a deep-seated resentment of computers because the time machine my big brother built out of cardboard and Christmas lights didn't whisk him away even when I sang The Good Ship Lollipop full voice to help the batteries work.
2. I count things instinctively, like how many thousands of carrots seeds I am planting, how many stitches I've knit, how many strokes I've whisked some cake batter... It's soothing, nearly subconscious, and when I'm done I can look in a spot of my mind and find the final tally.
3. If I put a small stuffed animal on my chest I will sleep all night on my back without rolling. I had to learn this so I wouldn't roll over on my broken nose when I was a teen.
4. I read between one and three romances per day and very little else. I like happy endings and have the complete works of
Elizabeth Bevarly and oodles of other authors.
5. I have relative perfect pitch and uncannily good hearing, even though I have had severe tinnitus since a double ear infection when I was ten.
6. I have a photographic memory but cannot see well enough to drive.
7. When I was young I was only allowed to sing indoors if I ran the old Hoover at the same time, so I am exceptionally fond of vacuuming.
8. I have had two primary melanomas and one is resident and inoperable in my dominant eye, though irradiated. The radiation burns are healing very slowly, so I cannot risk flying, let alone leaning over or taking BART under the Bay.
9. I have no immunity to viruses and thus live a somewhat reclusive life.
10. I am named after my grandmother who was named after her grandmother who was named after her grandmother, and so on, just as my daughter is named after my mother...

NINE places I’ve visited
1. Canada for five minutes -- a friend drove me over the border just so we could see the hunky Canadian guards. Other than that, I've never left the 48 lower States.
2. Millie's Footpass near Mt. Whitney, California, with Bob & Dad
3. The Cascade Range, Oregon, with Bob, Christina, and the neighbor girl
4. The Wind River Range, Wyoming [photos are Dad's of Square Top and of the Grumman & moi on Green River]
5. Wupatki and Lomaki Pueblos, Nevada, with Tim
6. The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado (for the first Interweave Bead Bash)
7. Tony Grove Lake, near Logan, Utah, with Linda T.
8. Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium, Tempe, Arizona (played cello there with LHS orch)
9. Rainbow Falls, Glacier National Park, Montana, with the ex

EIGHT ways to win my heart
1. Make my daughter laugh
2. Take away the pain
3. Play cards with me
4. Rub my back
5. Drive me to the grocery store
6. Lend me a Regency I have yet to read
7. Wear what I've knit for you
8. Make *me* laugh

SEVEN things I want to do before I die (something I think about a lot)
1. See my friends from high school in Utah
2. Tidy all the paperwork properly so the transition won't be so hard on my daughter
3. Play cello again (mine was stolen)
4. Visit Scotland and see if I blend in
5. Hear
Drew Minter sing again
6. Become healthy enough to swim in the Pacific again
7. Visit my farm in Montana

SIX things I’m afraid of
1. Metastases
2. Having to go back on pain killers
3. Tornadoes
4. Scorpions
5. Car wrecks
6. Going blind

FIVE things I don’t like
1. Pain
2. Scary movies
3. Puking the dregs after a fluorescein angiograph
4. People who won't take responsibility for their actions
5. Drunk drivers

FOUR ways to turn me off
1. Lie to me
2. Smell bad
3. Be rude
4. Take the last slice of pie

THREE things I do every day (besides housework)
1. Make something beautiful
2. Pray for one of my friends
3. Strive for better health

TWO things that make me happy
1. Walking home from the library with my daughter and listening to her babble about her day at school
2. Singing

ONE thing on my mind right now
1. What to fix for supper?

A quick bag

The camera and I are still getting used to each other, so a few posts are written but waiting for pictures. Some are simply too serious and need to rest a bit before editing.

In the meantime, here are before and after photos of a quick bag I made for DD's history teacher. 82 stitches, Elann's Peruvian Collection Highland Pilling Wool, size 4.5 mm needle for the purse knit flat, US#5's for the I-cord.

Long-tail cast-on, a few rows of garter, BW1 Fretwork for one repeat, a ridge of garter for the bottom edge fold, mitered triple decreases at the corners to form the base, three-needle bind-off, mattress stitch for the side seam. Once through the washer and dryer with a load of laundry. I-cord washed in a net bag and attached and spliced after fulling.

And, the reason I'm using up the Highland Wool for fulled bags: world of pill. DD's Rogue is lovely, I like the hand of the fabric, the yarn felt good to knit, but it pills to the nth. We've pulled handsful of pills off the poor blighter and there's no end in sight. She's wearing it anyway because the pattern is so comfy, but I had to get a De-fuzz-it from Claudia. The yarn does full beautifully.