Friday, August 31, 2007

Great, glorious, fantabulous day.

Remember I've been working out? (And now dieting... long story.) It's going on three months now. And today I threw out my big ugly underwire bras and AM BACK TO WEARING MY SMALLER BRAS!!!

Not the smallest ones, yet, I've still got a ways to go, but I'm not wearing underwires any more.

There are no words to say how happy I am about no underwires.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lace Q&A.

LisaMae asked, in the comments, for some suggestions for a first lace project, something like a shawl. Instead of a list of patterns (though I will give a few for ideas), I'm gonna give a list of things to look for in a first lace pattern. This is an extension of the 'what do you consider hard?' discussion we had a few months back.

-Make sure it's something you really like because you'll probably wind up tearing out parts of it and re-knitting at least once, and loving the project will help with that.

-Avoid hard-to-unravel yarns for the first go; stuff like mohair that clings, and fragile yarns like single-ply laceweight.

-With tearing out in mind, make sure to use a life-line as needed. At the end of a repeat, or any hard bit of knitting, when you are SURE the pattern is correct, get some smooth thread/yarn and thread through all the stitches, either while they're on the needle, or in the row below the needle. Then knit on. That way, if you screw something up horribly, and you have to tear it out, you can unravel down to that line of thread and KNOW that the stitches will be there to pick back up again.

-Two-row lace is definitely easier. That means lace where there's a row of action (yarnovers, decreases, whatever) and a row of plain knitting or purling. (One-row knitting means a pattern with action every row.) The plain row 'resets' the stitches on the needle and makes them much easier to work on the next action row.

-Try to find a pattern that contains stitches you already know - knit, purl, knit two together, slip slip knit, yarnover. MANY lace patterns contain just those. Try to avoid odd things like 'knit and purl into back of stitch twelve times' or what have you. Save that for the second project.

-Patterns with smaller repeats (less than ten stitches and rows, ish) are easier to remember and anticipate, and therefore usually go faster. But it's not a vitally important thing.

-I've found that gauge doesn't matter as much as yarn/thread color does. I'd rather knit a light colored thread on 0000 needles than black yarn on size tens. It's just easier to see what's going on.

-Knitting something flat (back-and-forth) and square is, in general, easier than anything shaped, or center-out. (In the case of center-out, it's the cast on that's most of the trouble. If you're used to doing toe-up socks, you're more than capable of a center-out shawl or doily.)

-Knit-on edges are kind of tricky, and in my mind fall between easy and hard. Once you get the hang of them, they're quite easy. Getting the hang of them can take a while, though. This one's your call.

-Whether you read charts or written directions, make sure whatever you'll be using is clear enough for you to understand. I often re-write charts with symbols I prefer, if I'm going to be looking at them for a long time.

-If you're up for a challenge or really in love with something, ignore any and all of these suggestions, as needed.

Some suggestions:
Anything marked 'easy' in Victorian Lace Today.

The "La Traviata" stole in "Second book of Modern Lace Knitting" by Marienne Kinzel is awesome and I've been wanting to knit one for myself for a while now.

I've just had a quick look through Elann, and most everything they have in the free pattern section is reasonably easy. The SunRay Shawl looks particularly simple, and yet impressive when finished.

Anybody else got a suggestion?


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Well that was a pain in the ass.

I was chugging along, a little less than halfway up sleeve one, when I started looking at it. It looked a little narrow. So I laid the ruler on it and lookit that - the gauge was off. I knit the swatch one day, and the sleeve the next and THE DAMN THING WAS OFF BY ALMOST A STITCH PER INCH.

So I washed it.

Knit-purl stitch patterns like ribbing or cables or fluffy stuff like this one can relax quite a lot when they hit water, and I'd washed the gauge swatch, so I figured before I completely freaked out, a trip through the sink was a good idea. You can see I left the ball attatched; just put some (cotton) waste yarn through the stitches and chucked it in the drink.

After it dried, I laid the ruler across it and had another good look.

The gauge is tight at the bottom/cuff, and loosens to what it's supposed to be (according to the gauge swatch) up near the top. I suspect the cuff hem is pulling things in a bit, which is fine, 'cause that's what cuff hems are supposed to do.

For those of you who are relatively new knitters (I just typed 'knew knitters', I really need to get a grip), this is probably the fastest, easiest way to get a solid idea of what's going on with your gauge while you're in the middle of knitting something. If you use plastic or aluminum needles, you can even wash it right on the needle; I couldn't do that today because I was using a wood needle.

But next time I'm taking a BEFORE measurement of my swatch, and totally avoiding the situation. (See? Long-time knitters are still learning stuff, too. Often really obvious stuff.)

Bah. What a waste of a day's knitting.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

September sweater.

I'm getting an early start. I spent the morning measuring the swatch and running figures:

This thing is knit side-to-side and my row gauge is WAY off. I'm hoping that gravity will fix the problem (it's knit with alpaca/tencel blend, which traditionally does have a lot of 'hang' and drape to it). This should be interesting.

Wasting no time, I cast on for the sleeve:

As you can see, I've got the hem (the stockinette bit) and a bit of the sleeve itself done. One good thing, my mother-in-law has short arms. So this should go pretty fast. I hope.

Official Strikke-along signup starts September 1. Anyone got a suggestion for a button?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Amish Lemonade

The original recipe as it was given to me:

-juice of six lemons
-1 cup white sugar
-16 cups cold water
-4 cups ice cubes
-1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
-pinch of mint

Mix together and enjoy.

A few thoughts:
If you use room-temperature lemons you get more juice. And the six lemons should yield about one cup of juice, if you're going to be a sinner and use juice out of a bottle. I won't tell. But it's better fresh. I strain the pulp/gunk out of my juice before use, but it's better for you if you leave the pulp in. (Didja know lemons have more vitamin C than oranges?)

If you boil the one cup of sugar in one of the sixteen cups of water, THEN mix it all together, the sugar obviously dissolves a lot faster.

If you sift the nutmeg through a very fine mesh (I use my grandmother's tea strainer), you don't wind up with large fragments of spice in the drink, leaving relatives like mine to turn up their noses and say "What in hell's in this stuff?" Of course, if you do leave big fragments in, no one else will touch it and you can drink it all yourself. Up to you.

If you can get it, use a couple fresh mint leaves and bruise them before you put them in; just roll them around between the palms of your hands until they look a little beat up. You get more flavor that way.

You can mix vodka with this and produce quite a satisfactory summer drink. Gin works too, but not so well. And Grand Marinier is a lovely addition, too. The authenticity of the recipe fades, the more booze you add. FYI.

You can also do this with grapefruit juice or a combo of lemon and grapefruit. Or, if you live in California, use Myer lemons. (I can't find them here.) They're a cross-breed between lemons and tangerines. Deeelish. Or limes, or key limes, or bush limes, or, you know, anything citrus that'll hold still.

The nutmeg is the secret ingredient. I had to badger an Amish/Mennonite lady I worked with for months, to get this recipe. So don't tell her you have it. Shhh.

Great moments.

In parenting, part one: The Baby and I had a conversation a while back that went like this:
ME: "Can you say cow?"
BABY: "Oh, shit, no."

In knitting: I just unraveled the last of the knitted edge I'd originally planned to use for the Pinwheel Jacket. At least ten hours of knitting, wasted, not due to mistakes or bad materials or something reasonable, but because I can't make up my damned mind.

In housekeeping: Before the in-laws came to visit, we cleaned the house. There was a bar of soap stuck to the sink in the front bathroom that took a ten pound sledge hammer to unstick.

In parenting, part two: We're pretty sure The Baby called us poo-heads last night. Maybe poo-butts. We're not quite sure, but the word 'poo' figured largely, and it was said at the top of her voice while pointing at us. We're poos.

In fitness: I got a carton of protein drink mix; apparently my muscles are sore 'cause my body's not getting enough stuff to fix them. While drinking some the other night, I confessed to the husbeast I felt like a fraud; protein drinks were for Rocky Balboa, not me. He informed me that I look like a fraud, too; I'm supposed to be slugging it back out of some shaker bottle thingie, not sipping it out of a tea cup. My gym doesn't cover this stuff. We discuss donut cravings.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It's wheat straw.

Since getting this new yarn, the stuff called "Celery", I've been trying to place exactly where I've seen the color before. It's an odd green with yellow-gray overtones. I finally placed it. Wheat straw that's not quite dried out yet. (Those of you who grew up in cities, just forget it - it looks like dried grass.)

If I can get over the color NOT being celery, I think I'll like it. Eventually. The pattern is "Dot Stitch", a variation of Seed Stitch without as much knit-purl-knit-purl insanity. You can see from the way the cast-on and cast-off are on waste thread, I'm dead serious about getting an accurate gauge. Barring anything REALLY strange happening in the wash, I'm close enough to gauge and can start knitting by tomorrow night. To hold to my one-sweater-a-month plan, it needs to be done by October.

Oh, and for those of you expressing worry about me knitting another sweater on size one needles, no. This one's on a size fives (3.75mm), with the sleeve cuffs done on fours. If I ever do another sweater on ones (and I'm not saying I will), I'm going to keep it for myself.

-... -

There has been quite a discussion about the Key Limes. The martini I invented is actually based on a Lemon Drop (lemon martini), so you can substitute other citrus juices, including regular lime, and produce something drinkable. The husbeast says to warn everyone, if you're mixing up keytinis by the pitcher, no matter how much you stir the drinks when you pour, the last drink will pucker your head inside out. He didn't seem to find that off-putting enough to not drink it, though.

Alwen has also pointed out that Key Lime juice makes a lovely drink similar to lemonade. I've got a from-scratch Amish Country lemonade recipe around here somewhere, complete with secret ingredient, if you guys are interested. Let me know.

-... -

Over at Cast On, Brenda and the gang have developed tongue-in-cheek knitting merit badges, including patches for knitting under the influence (they need one with pill capsules on it, as well as the one with the martini glass), injuring yourself with a knitting needle, and being rejected by assorted knitting magazines. I'm trying to decide exactly how to use mine, but I think I need a new blog header. Maybe a whole new design for the blog. (This last design is based entirely on the colors of the Starry-Night Ruana Thingie, but I think I need to get over the lunacy that was the Starry Night Ruana Thingie.)

At any rate, go check out the badges, they're fun. One I want to actually get and physically attatch to my knitting bag is this one:
The "I will crush you with my math prowess" badge. If I'm gonna have the rep, I want the patch.

LOOK! It's Elton John!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pass the vodka.

This is a Key Lime.

They are native to the Florida Keys (that little trail of small islands that seems to drift away to the west from the bottom of the Florida peninsula), though apparently they are not grown commercially there. This one came from Texas. The juice is milder and sweeter than that of a regular lime. (It is also very murky, and yellow instead of green.) A dozen limes will produce, maybe, a cup of juice.

This week, I juiced between ten and twelve dozen of them.

I'm not sure how many, because I was afraid to keep track. But at one point the husbeast went out and bought me an electric juicer, and at another point, my father-in-law came in with two bags and reported that there were no more left at the grocery store. What were we doing with all these limes?

Making drinks, of course.

I have named it the Key-tini, and as far as I know, it's my own invention:
One part key lime juice
One part sugar syrup (boil equal parts sugar and water together until dissolved)
Two parts vodka

Shake with ice and pour into a martini glass.

After a while I gave up and started mixing them by the pitcher; figuring backward from how much vodka we used, I estimate I mixed up about a gallon of them, a quart at a time. The most pitiful thing of all? Thanks to my medication, I couldn't drink. Closest I came all week to joining in the party was eating cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Creme icing.

The husbeast is drinking up the last of them, tonight. I'm still medicated.

It makes this seem oddly appropriate, though:

(Knitting merit badge from Cast On; further discussion tomorrow.)

Friday, August 24, 2007


And anyone else who has ever done a seamless saddle-shoulder sweater/jumper:

Bells and I need some help, tweaking her jacket. To help her out, I need some measurements. I need to know how big-around (chest measurement) your jacket is, and how long the second part of the S-shaped shoulder decreasing is (the part where the decreases run in a vertical line along one of the vertical pattern lines - in my directions it's the second stage of part one's shoulder shaping). Just lay a ruler on the shoulder and measure how long that part of the decreasing is.

Centimeters or inches, doesn't matter to me. I just need to know the ratio between chest measurement and that part of the shoulder decreasing (there is a ratio, I swear). That way we can make sure it's long enough on Bell's sweater.

Leave me a comment here, or e-mail, makes no difference.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

And so, to Charleston.

Old town Charleston, that is. The destination of the day was the Slave Market. Slave Market, as in, where the slaves used to go shopping for groceries and stuff. The slave market where slaves were actually bought and sold is closed to the public. There is discussion about making it a museum similar to the Holocaust Museum. (While I've nothing against it, I doubt the people who really need to go to these places and contemplate the equality of all man/womankind, ever get to said museums. So they might as well make it another shopping center to fleece tourists and make some money for local folks - many of them descendants of said slaves.)

Anyway. Slave Market. They had sweetgrass baskets. It's a very old, traditional basket-weaving method, possibly brought over with the slaves from Africa. It's certainly been a craft in this area for three hundred years, easy. And I desperately want one. Or two.

The small ones run about $65. Anything large enough to be worthwhile, in terms of a knitting basket, would be pushing toward $200. While I am thrilled that traditional artisians are making a good living, I suspect that the tradition of taking advantage of tourists is also being honored. I'm gonna see if I can buy one, out in the country, further toward the end of tourist season. The prices probably drop by 10%, every ten miles away from Charleston that you drive. Well. Unless you're going toward Hilton Head.

In other news, the Baby has learned to work the camera; I hold it and she pushes the buttons. She finds it quite fun.

Fortunately this doesn't use actual film I have to pay for. Digital photography is a wondeful thing.

Otherwise, I haven't done anything resembling knitting since Tuesday. I've been eating cup cakes and deep fried foods, and have invented a new drink: The Key-tini. I'm still working out, but I doubt it's doing me a bit of good.

But the cup cakes might be worth it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Blogger's Choice Awards.

Yup, someone nominated me! Apparently every time someone votes for me, my standing changes and my placement in the list moves and I'm not where I was any more. To vote for me, go to and log in or create an account. Then click on "Hobby Blogs" and find me in there - right now I'm around page thirty. OR, you can just do a search for Samurai Knitter. Either way, there will be a short description of my blog, and a little window that shows the number of votes I have (four at the moment); it has a little yellow button below it that says 'vote'. Click on that, and it'll turn green and the number of votes will go up by one.

Ooooh. This is so exciting.

Somebody loves me.

I've been nominated for a Blogger's Choice Award! Whoever did the honors, thank you.

If you'd like to vote, click here.

I'm tagged for having adult content. Heeheehee.


We're deep in the midst of birthday celebrations here. The Baby doesn't turn two until September, but this is when everyone could get leave, and drive down to visit, and so this is when we're celebrating.

Last night, we had the birthday dinner, with cupcakes.

The cupcakes are a traditional recipe from my family. I topped them with icing made with Bailey's Irish Creme. (My grandmother, who made these all the time, would have quietly disapproved of making icing with booze. Then she'd have tasted them and admitted that it was pretty good.) We all had cupcakes for breakfast this morning. There are about six left. I think I'm gonna have another when I'm done writing this blog post.

After the cupcakes, we opened presents.

A good time was had by all.

This morning, we went on out to the driveway to try out all the new outdoor toys, including a sand and water table - sort of like a sand box, but with more mess, and you can do it standing up.

Still getting the hang of the Big Wheel.

Knitting? Well, I picked out the thumb trick for the first of the sleeves on the Pinwheel Jacket last night. I could probably make a good start of it, if I'd quit eating cupcakes and sit down and actually work on it.

Maybe I'll do that.

After another cupcake.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Every fuckin' year.

For those of you who are new to the blog and catching on to the routine around here, every year I knit my in-laws sweaters for Christmas. And every single stinking year, something goes horribly wrong with my mother-in-law's sweater. Every. Year.

The first year I did this, I was in Hawaii, and having to mail-order in Icelandic lopi, 'cause sure as shooting no one carried it in any of the (at the time) maybe two yarn shops in Honolulu. The ordering didn't go so well, because as always the colors were off in the catalogue and on-line, and I wound up having to order almost two sweaters' worth of yarn to get the colors right. You can't tell, but the darker brown color in that sweater shades from VERY dark to a russet color, bottom to top. (See the beautiful match between the sweater and the turtleneck? My mother-in-law is known for going out and buying an entire outfit to match the sweaters I knit her. One of the many reasons she gets sweaters knit for her.)

The next time I knit the Christmas sweaters, I knit "Ljod" from Elsbeth Lavold, and the decreasing was completely wrong on the sleeve caps. I was knitting both sleeves at once, which meant having to unravel both at once.

This was hard, 'cause I'd just had The Baby (in fact, I knit half the back while in the hospital while giving birth), and for the longest time I thought the errors were from me reading the pattern wrong. But eventually I got a highlighter and a calculator, and took a good look, and by golly, those sleeves were WRONG. They were also about six inches too long. I knocked off two inches while knitting them, because I could tell they were too long. Then once I gave her the sweater, I shortened them another four inches, by cutting off the cuffs, unraveling four inches, and grafting the cuffs back on again. Always a good time.

Last year was the notorious Blue Shimmer.

EVERYTHING went wrong on this one. (If you didn't witness the carnage at the time, the August and September '06 archives can be interesting reading.) I knit it on size ones and twos, it took two months, I had to re-work the pattern once or twice... then I entered it in the state fair and they didn't even place it. (Resulting in my not entering the state fair at all this year.)

This year? I want to knit the opera-style coat in "Andean Inspired Knits". It's a knit-purl texture with a fancy knitted border. I ordered "Quechua" from Elann to knit it with. They're calling the color "celery".

Celery that's been boiled in beef stock for a week, maybe. I'm telling myself it looks different when it knits up. (And a brown element in green is more flattering to European white skin. Seriously.) But still.

I forsee another good time on the horizon.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Food books.

I had a request a while back for some good books on food. I've been saving the topic for a day when I didn't have anything to discuss, and today's the day. The in-laws arrive in a couple hours and I still have most of the house to clean, and a trip to the gym to do. But talking books will make me happy, so here we go.

Food in History, by Reay Tannahill may be familiar because it's lurking in my sidebar under "what I'm reading", even though I've been done with it a week or two, now. Anyway, this is THE book on the history of food. Well, there are others, but they're either biased, or too detailed, or not detailed enough. This one makes a heroic effort to cover every era of history, everywhere, and does it in layman's terms. If you're interested in food, it's an enjoyable read. If you're only going to read one book on the subject, read this one.

The Man Who Ate Everything, by Jeffery Steingarten isn't meant to be food humor, but it is. This guy is a curmudgeon in the finest sense of the word. And he doesn't like putting up with bullshit. So who better to debunk food myths? Low salt and low carb diets, "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" he debunks them all. With wit and dry sarcasam. And some lovely side trips into Paris and Northern Italy to simply talk about good food. This is a fast and easy read, too; excellent beach reading, or vacation reading.

The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan, takes four plants (apples, potatos, marijuana, and tulips) and shows how the human race has altered them to suit ourselves. This one pretty much covers all the methods of modern plant-breeding and industrial farming. That may sound boring, but if you're interested in food and plants, it's a fascinating read, and he's a wonderful writer. (I suppose any book is boring if you don't like the topic.)

CookWise, by Shriley O. Corriher. Shriley's a chemist. This isn't a book about the history of food (except in the sense that any good book will touch on the history of something, even if it's just 'we used to...') it's a book about how food WORKS. Why baguettes are dense and chewy, yet biscuits are light and fluffy; how the actual shape of salt crystals can effect your cooking; why chocolate gets grainy if you heat it wrong. It's all there. The writing is pretty dense and matter-of-fact, which is what you'd expect from a chemist, but it contains so much information that it's still fascinating. Plus there are over 200 recipes to try out the techniques she discusses.

So there you go. I think if you read those four books, you could probably carry on a food conversation with nearly anyone. Well, there's a fifth book, "The History of Food" by Mag Toussaint Samat. But it's a bit extreme; 782 pages. Plus it's a translation from French, and a bit on the dry side. And slanted toward French food. But if you're obsessed by the topic and want something almost entirely European, it's a good book.

Mmmm, books and food. You can't beat the combination.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Still alive.

And generally feeling like crap. I don't know what's going on. Could be some evil combination of PMS, intestinal flu, and nutritional weirdness. Or it could be my thyroid - I never have heard back from the idiot doctor I saw two weeks ago.

But, anyway. I continue to crochet at the Pinwheel while waiting for an Elann order to get here. Then it's swatching for the September sweater. (Jumper. Whatever.) September is the first of two Christmas sweaters; then October is the Strikke-along, then November is the second Christmas sweater. Yup. Leaving it late this year. You guys may yet get a round of shrieking and stress and spazzing out around here. (Odds are certainly in favor.)

Otherwise, there's not a lot going on. We went out for a nice drive before dinner last night. The husbeast couldn't resist driving through some puddles.

Unfortunately, it hasn't rained here in a while, and the mud is the consistency of fresh cement. About as sticky, too. We used baby wipes to clear off the head lights, so we could get home.

Nothing but good times ahead.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The crochet thing. With (lame) photos.

Sooooo. Last night I went out and bought "The Happy Hooker" from Deb Stoller. I hadn't intended to, but the other book there, about thirty pages long and maybe four by eight inches per page, was the SAME PRICE. I figured if I was going to pay, I'd get more information for the same money.

My problem, I think, is that crochet makes no logical sense to me; single crochet means forming two loops on the hook. Double crochet means forming THREE loops. No sense. So I'm going to take the same approach I did with algebra, quit demanding it make sense, and just memorize it. So far, so good.

I'm doing the simple deal where you make a chain around, attatching it at certain points, then you go around again, making a chain and attatching it to the chain, so you get little scallops. It looks kind of neat.

You can kind of get the hang of what I'm doing there.

Here's a bigger picture, of the huge circle draped artfully (ha) over the back of the recliner, to give an idea how long it's taking me to go around this thing each time.

The white stripe is the Thumb Trick, which will become the arm hole opening, remember.

And here's a shot of the hook I'm using; it's a Clover ergonomic job.

So far it's not bothering my hand much at all to crochet, but so far I haven't had the patience to sit down and work on it for hours at a time like I do the knitting, so, we'll see.

Oh, and the Baby's cute.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Sorry about the skip yesterday... it was a bad day. It's never a good day when you bleed on the floor. There was minimal pain and no life lost, and I'll spare y'all the gory details, but it was a bad day.

Anyway, there was a whole pile of stuff I was going to mention, and I'll probably forget half of it, but here goes.

-... -

I got a package in the mail Monday (the husbeast is definitely getting jealous), and it turned out to be a lovely note and some very cool yarn (fluffy pink with sparkles) from Cindy, thanking me for hosting the steek-along. She's very welcome, and it's very kind to send a note and a gift. Thank YOU, Cindy.

Is it common to send a note and gift to the host of a knit-along? Am I behind in knitting etiquette, or do I just have exceptionally nice, generous participants?

-... -

Speaking of knit-alongs, we'll be doing the Strikke-along, starting October first. I'll open up signups at the beginning of September, but I'm reminding everyone now, in case they have to budget for yarn, like I do. The point of the Strikke-along is to be inclusive; everyone who wants to join, join. I'm serious. We'll find some way to call any project you're doing related to Scandinavia, somehow. Or maybe you have Scandinavian ancestors (or ARE Scandinavian), or your knitting needles come from Norway, or something. We'll figure it out.

I've also cooked up the knit-along for late winter, already. Or rather, one of the regular readers has, and we're going to try to run it out of here. It should be a crazy one, so brace yourselves. I'm going to keep it mysterious so you all get curious.

-... -

The Baby has moved on to verbs. "Hop" is the first one she learned, that I know of. Next up, compound sentences. She's also begun arguing, of the yes-no-yes-no-yes variety. For fun. She'll walk up and start saying 'no', for no good reason, and giggle when you say 'yes' back. She varies with 'nope' and 'nuh-uh' for a change of pace.

I see some really fun teen years on the horizon. Ha.

-... -

Eunny Jang is back. Her blog, See Eunny Knit, has been shut down - or at least, the comments have been turned off and she's said she won't be posting there any more. But she's leaving it up for everyone, which is kind, because there's a pile of great info over there. Her new blog is being run from the Interweave web site (stands to reason), and she says she plans to treat it like an extended letter from the editor. We'll see. Unless she's got something in her contract, I bet she'll be doing more great tutorials before long. She's also on Ravelry as EunnyJang. Yay!

-... -

So, this crochet thing. It's supposed to be fast, isn't it? That's what I always heard about it, from people who preferred it over knitting. Comments like "Oh, knitting's nice, but I don't have the patience for it, I can crochet an afghan in nothing flat." I assume, like everything else, the speed comes with practice, because I am slower than a lame turtle right now. (Using really splitty yarn isn't helping things a damn bit.)

I figured out that what I have been doing when I bind off lace, I THINK, is chain stitching (knew that), with slip stitches (didn't know that). We get paid today, so I may go out and buy a BOOK on the subject, tonight.

You know I'm serious when I buy a book about it.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Remember "Knit from your stash"??? (If not, there's a link at the bottom of the side bar.) Remember how I was going to knit up all the yarn sitting around the house?? (Well, in the Yarn Closet.) REMEMBER ALL THOSE GOOD IDEAS I HAD AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR?

The Baby's birthday is coming up, and that means a party, and that means the in-laws visiting. So this weekend I began the needed shoveling-out of my office, which doubles as a guest room. I figured they'd want somewhere to sleep while they were here. While shoveling out the room, I realized that I really, REALLY needed to clean out and rearrange the yarn closet. Just shoving in yarn wasn't working; the shelves all looked like they were ready to throw up, there was no room to hang up any clothes, and you couldn't get in the door, even though it's a walk-in closet.

So I did.

And I found piles and piles of yarn that could keep me going for AT LEAST a year, probably more.

There's this:

Ten balls of lavender cotton I've been meaning to knit into a summer sweater for myself for at least two years. I can't remember if I moved it here from Hawaii, but I think so. Which makes it almost four years old. (And the idiot cat saw the plastic bag and laid on it immediately. I assume it reflects heat. Or maybe she's got a death wish and wants to play with plastic bags.)

Remember this?

This is the yarn I keep meaning to knit into Kaffe Fasset's "Geometric Star" jacket. It's not the original yarn pack, it's 24 colors of Elann's Highland Wool. I used my color theory tricks to pick the colors and it SHOULD work and knit up well. IF I GOT OFF MY ASS AND DID IT.

And then there's this.

Thirty-plus balls of cotton yarn in about twenty colors. I keep meaning to make a meitered shirt sort of thing with it. I never get to it, so I keep buying colors and throwing them in the bag. Because there isn't enough yarn there yet.

In addition, there's a pile of wool-acrylic blend I keep buying on sale to knit baby clothes, and then I never have bloody TIME to knit the baby clothes, so it sits there and piles up. ARGH. And of course piles of odds and ends from ten years' worth of leftover projects, including heaps of oddballs of Dale of Norway and Brown Sheep.

I used to joke that if anyone tried to break in to steal my yarn, Sekhmet the Watch Cat would warn me (she's foiled one burglary already). Now, I think if someone comes by to steal the yarn, I should let them have it. At least the odd balls.

-... -

I finished Tut Tut last night. It doesn't fit. Too fucking tight. (I have a theory - I knit the swatch before I joined the gym, and knit the sweater after. I'm betting my increased hand pain made me tighten up.) If I lose the thirty damn pounds I'm fighting with, it'll be perfect. If it doesn't, maybe I'll hold a raffle or a charity auction. Or burn it in the back yard. I mention this because I suspect some of you think I know what I'm doing, and that is so, SO not the case.

Since Tut Tut was done, I went back to the Pinwheel Jacket. I'd been brooding over this one for a while; the reason I was putting on the knit edge was to enter it in the state fair, and, hello, no state fair this year. Sooooo... I'm crocheting on the edge. Or trying to. Some of you may be getting hysterical e-mails begging for help, before this was over. You know who you are.

But at least I don't have to graft lace this way.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Clothes to Dye For.

And so, at long last, finally, the post on what I was doing at the Charleston Museum almost two weeks ago. (Good grief, time flies when you're feeling shitty.)

It was a curator-led tour, and after, I had a chance to talk to her for a bit. The museum has piles and piles of clothes from generations of wealthy local folks emptying out their closets and donating the stuff (or the heirs doing the emptying, as the case may be). They do clothing exhibitions regularly, but she'd been trying to come up with a new angle, and tried the clothing/dye angle. The dye information in the tour was very simplistic (I'm pretty sure I was the only semi-professional dyer there, haha), but apparently there is a dye workshop being held on Saturdays. When the weather cools down I'm going to check it out. I've got until April of 2008, when the exhibit closes.

Anyway, on the tour I was accompanied by two groups of tourists; a couple, about my age, and a woman with two younger kids. I think the women had a mild interest and hauled along their traveling companions - the kids and the husband had no clue, but they were curious and good humored about it. I mention this because they were quite entertaining, in their reactions to some of the historic clothing. The girls were horrified at the idea of corsets, and what kid's playclothes were like.

The clothes were all arranged in a rainbow, along the outer walls of the room. Down the center were glass cases of bits and pieces - shoes, bags, you name it. Standing in the door was like looking into Aladdin's Cave for anyone who is interested in textiles.

(Sorry about the bad photo; they had the lights down low, I assume for conservation purposes. I tried a slower shutter speed but without a tripod, they came out really blurry.)

We started out in the reds and worked our way around. I'm going to mostly stick to the knitted items, because we'd be here all day otherwise.

Charleston was founded in 1690, ish, to give you a frame of refrence as to how far back into the history of the place some of the clothes go. In particular, one of the prizes of the collection:

Silk jersey (knitted fabric later cut and sewn) knee breeches, from about 1740. Dyed with cochineal, these are probably one of the reasons the lights were low - cochineal fades badly in light. The kids were totally grossed out at the idea of dye from a bug, particularly after I told them it's what makes Cherry Coke red. I doubt they'll ever touch the stuff again.

There was also a red knitted bathing suit of what must be fairly recent origin, because it's a bikini.

To sort of go with, there was an orange men's bathing suit, down the way, that was hand-knitted. Out of wool. And someone wore it, too, because it was patched and darned in places, including one shoulder strap.

To the left, you can see one side of a fantastic Chinese kimono from the 1890-1940 period; at that time, there was a huge fashion for Asian fabrics and styles and people bought up the stuff as fast as China and Japan could make it and export it. Behind them both, you can see the bottom edge of a magnificent rust, green, and blue kashmir shawl that was hanging on the wall. Pure cashmere and in mint condition.

Yellow didn't have any knits, but there was another golden kimono from the same era as the last one,

and a completely outrageous yellow and black 'opera coat' that reminded me of something Louis XIV would wear (or Mick Jagger), but was more likely worn by a lady in the 1920's.

The green section also didn't contain any knitwear, though there was an interesting discussion at that point about overdyes, and using yellow and blue dyes to produce green, which was a very hard color to achieve. Even after synthetics were introduced, many of them were toxic because they contained copper or arsenic.

There was, however, a netted bag from the 1920's. The peacock feather motif is a dead giveaway. No information on what the bag was made from, and it was so fine I couldn't tell if it was crochet or some type of macrame or a real netting; I can only tell you it wasn't knit.

There were at least half a dozen beaded bags in the exhibit, and I had my nose to the case on most of them, trying to tell if they were knit with beads, or some other form of beading (crochet and just sewing the beads onto fabric being the most common). The only POSSIBLY knit, beaded bag I saw was this one:

I couldn't tell, and the curator wasn't sure. I was afraid to ask her to take it out of the case for me; I hope to chat her up at a dye workshop and see if I can get her to let me have a look at it. I can beg; I'm not proud.

Sorry for the bad photos of the two bags; like I said, the lighting was really bad. I took a dozen photos, and those two are the best of the lot.

In the blue section, we hit paydirt for more knits. The most entertaining of the lot, from the reactions of my tour group, was the 1890's women's bathing costume.

Knit knickers, with overdress. It would of course been worn with long stockings, shoes, and a hat. The gentleman on the tour was completely flabbergasted by this one. He just couldn't get over it, and kept returning to the bathing costume. Later, we were looking at an elaborate, three-layer, beaded wedding dress, and he said "Then, on the honeymoon, she could wear it swimming."

There was also a nice (I just typed that 'knice'), probably hand-knit women's suit from the WW2 era, or directly after.

I leaned WAAAaaaaay over the railing to get a close look, and I'm pretty sure the edging of the jacket, with the white triangles, was knit all in one piece - picked up all around and then increases done to meiter the corners. I hadn't been aware people were using that technique at the time. Very cool.

And then... then! A SOCK! A very darned sock.

Again, sorry for the photo quality. The reason socks are very rare in museum collections is, nobody saves them to donate. Think about it. You wear socks 'til they're holey, and throw them away. For those of you trying to get an idea of gauge, they're a women's regular size, and the white stripe is one round deep. I'd guess fifteen stitches to the inch, easy (about seven stitches to the cm).

That's it for knits. There was nothing in the purple section. (Well. There was a long, crushed-velvet duster from 1910 that looked like it belonged on Lenny Kravitz and was quite a hoot, but it wasn't knit. Neither was anything else there.) For most of history, purple has been either very difficult or very expensive, or both, to achieve. By the time a cheap synthetic was developed - 1860s - for the most part, people weren't doing fancy knitting any more, and so nothing purple got saved. (I'm sure someone knit some purple socks. But they're gone.)

So there's the tour. If you're in the area before spring of next year, try to get to the exhibit, it's really nice. There's piles more stuff, I just stuck to the knitting so I wouldn't have to type an encyclopedia. But it looks like I already have.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sekhmet, you... well, you're kinda cute.

Back in the day, when I lived in Hawaii, I had a Swiss Army backpack that lived in the car. It was full of beach gear. Bathing suit, towel, sunblock, hairbrush, first aid kit, rain slicker, flash light, emergency blanket... (You don't know the people I went to the beach with. I'd have taken signal flares except for the safety issue when they overheat.) I never knew quite when I'd wind up at the beach, so I always had the gear along.

When it wound up in the house by accident, Sekhmet could never get enough of it. She'd lay on it, rub her face over it, knead it, crawl inside it, and generally never leave it alone. We figured it had to do with some - possibly fishy - scent the bag picked up, laying in the sand.

Apparently, even after seven thousand miles and three years in the closet, the romance is not gone.

Odds and ends. Mostly odds.

While knitting away on the former Tut Tut, muttering under my breath about how I already had two beige cotton sweaters, I had a brainwave. If it works, it may yet become a salable pattern. If so, I amaze myself. (If not, the addition will be easily ripped out.) Either way, I'm about halfway up the yoke.

-... -

There was a question about when I'll next be updating my Etsy shop. I haven't been doing much with it lately because: 1. no one wants to buy wool yarn in summer, and 2. running a roaster at 200 degrees all day, when there's a 112 degree heat advisory, just sucks. I was toying with the idea of dyeing some cotton yarn, but then I realized I needed to heat it too, to set the color. (Plus I'd be back to the whole issue of using toxic dyes in the house with the Baby.) So, anyway, once cooler weather hits, I'll be back to yarn dyeing. In the mean time, if anyone wants something that's not up for sale, just say the word and I'll do a custom job just for you. (I'm in negotiations to do one now, in fact.) I love customs because I know I'm producing what the customer actually WANTS, instead of throwing dye in the pot while thinking "I hope someone likes this". As always, if you want a lace dye-job on sock yarn, or a sock dye-job on lace yarn, just say the word. I can even do heavier weights if you like, all the way up to super-bulky, but we'll have to talk about price.

-... -

The yarn for my mother-in-law's Christmas present was ordered last month, and I was feeling very clever about spreading out the Christmas spending and planning ahead, but since then I've tried to wind it. It is the Yarn From Hell. (Victorian two-ply from Halcyon Yarn.) It's even scratchier and more velcro-ish than Icelandic Lopi, and Lopi's pretty damn bad. So, in typical fashion, I have ditched the idea I had, and am plotting the purchase of about 20 balls of Highland Wool this pay day. Mostly I'm plotting how to get it into the house past the husbeast, who knows I already bought yarn for this project.

-... -

The Baby is having a massive growth spurt. She's been whining CONSTANTLY, and I finally figured out, yesterday, that she's whining because she's hungry. I'm not that much a moron; she's ALWAYS got food available, in the form of crackers, because she is a little eating machine. But apparently the crackers aren't cutting it any more. Last night she went out to the dining room, wailing, and pounded on her high chair (mind you, this was about two hours after a huge snack, WITH grazing on crackers after). Pretty clear communication for someone who has a twenty-word vocabulary (mostly consisting of animal names and noises).

This is the end of a week that started with some intenstinal germ, and then moved on to a case of killer diaper rash. Now it's eating constantly. She's not letting it get her down.

But it's driving me batshit.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sekhmet, you fucker.

...and incidentally, I've typed that blog title so many times that my computer automatically fills in the rest of the text once I type 'Se'.

So while the Baby was napping this afternoon, I was sitting in the nice quiet living room, reading, and I hear this... this... snorting, wheezing, growl noise.

It sounded, I kid you not, like a BEAR.

No, I do not as a rule hang out with bears, but I've seen quite a few in zoos over the years, and I've heard them make that noise before. So I kind of sat up and looked over my shoulder, out the back door. Bears used to be native to the area, though I doubt one has been seen here in the last fifty years. If I DID see one in the wild, the shock alone would kill me (we run more to bunnies and moles around here). Of course, there was no bear. When I began looking for the source of the noise, I found it pretty quick.

Sekhmet was snoring, asleep under the table right next to me. She NEVER sleeps there.

I'd have taken a photo, but really, you had to HEAR it to think 'ferocious beast'.

Sekhmet, you fucker.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What I did today.

Yes, that's pencil on graph paper. The bright green bits are just landmarks in the pattern; they'll be knit up in the same color as the gray pencil. This might be my mother-in-law's Christmas sweater, in sage green and beige. I'm dithering between this, original design, or doing "Russian Prime" from "Meg Swansen's Knitting". Either way it'll be knit in the round with steeked arm holes and a square neck line. We'll see how far ahead I am in the "Knit a sweater a month" plan when I start it; that'll decide whether it'll be an original pattern (takes longer) or someone else's pattern.

I also started on the yoke of Tut Tut.

Then I decided it looked like shit, ripped it out, and am now knitting an all-white ribbed raglan sweater with bell sleeves. Fuck it.

My child has begun wearing socks on her hands. I guess if you're two and never done it before, it's interesting.

And Sekhmet, that fucker, has been helping me knit.

Needless to say, it's been a bad day. After a week of really healthy eating, I lost my head tonight, went on a binge, and ate half a candy bar.

Fuck it.