Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hair pooftas and other controversy.

Yes, kids, I KNOW what 'poofta' can mean. Words can have more than one meaning! Think about 'fly'. Bug, verb, zipper, term for something cool, probably a dozen other meanings I'm not thinking of offhand. So a hair poofta is a little bit of ribbon on a barrette that goes poof! I DO use the whole phrase - hair poofta - to differentiate from those OTHER pooftas out there. Jeez, guys, if I didn't know better I'd think you were all really uptight.

However, you put up with me, voluntarily, so that can't be true.


Not much has gone on around here this weekend other than house hunting. Yesterday and today.

When we first started this hunt, the husbeast and I agreed that we were willing to put up with a whole lot of cosmetic problems - ugly paint, carpet we didn't like, whatever - but the house had to be structurally sound and ready to move into. So, the first house we looked at yesterday had the Yard From Hell, but the house itself was huge, and in a really lovely neighborhood. We came home, talked it over, and agreed that while the yard would need landscaped with a chainsaw and the Jeep (you can rip sizable dead trees out of the ground with a tow strap hooked to the trailer hitch - we've done it before), a crappy yard counted as 'cosmetic'. We could move in and spend the whole freakin' summer working on the yard, and it would certainly get us off on the right foot with the neighbors. At the moment, that house in that neighborhood, well, the husbeast put it best. It is a turd in a punchbowl. So, this morning we went back to take another look in it. Peek in the windows and other sorts of things that make the neighbors worry.

Unfortunately, the interior of the house looks like the yard does - and we can't landscape the inside with the Jeep. (Or rather, I guess we could, but it wouldn't improve things a damn bit.) Forget that. I don't like cleaning up my OWN messes, I'm sure as hell not cleaning up someone else's.

Then we went and looked at more houses. (Yesterday was the husbeast's pick list. Today was mine.) The first house sounded perfect - four-car garage (for all the hub's tools), three bedrooms, two full baths, etc. On a couple acres for gardening and dye-plant growing. The price was unusually low, and my first thought had been "so what's wrong with it?" We went out to take a look, and we figured out very quickly what was wrong with it.

The road.

The husbeast and I both drive four-wheel drives, right? We've gone trail-riding, and the husbeast used to be a spotter for his good friend in rock-crawling competitions. We know bad trails. And I am here to tell you, we've been four-wheeling on better trails than the road we took out of that neighborhood. (The road in wasn't exactly smooth and straight, either; one is paved, though twisty and one-lane. The other, shorter road is the dirt track.) What blew us both away was that there were quarter-million dollar houses back in there, at the end of a one-lane dirt trail through trees and over rocks. If it weren't for the road, we'd already be talking about touring and making an offer. As it is, we're going to stew over the idea for a while. Sleep on it. Decide if we want to drive that road in winter, even WITH four wheel drive. We we laughing our heads off by the time we got back to the main road today, but that was before we realized one of the brake calipers had hung up after going over a rock in the track, and I can see how the humor would wear off fast. We'll see.

We found another house in the same price range, in a nice neighborhood on a small lot, that's also a possibility. The husbeast and I aren't wild about neighborhoods, but it would certainly be a more sensible choice.

Sensible is SO boring.


Besides the house hunt, there's nothing going on. Due to the weather (I assume), I was in a lot of pain this weekend, and spent most of it zoned out, either asleep, watching old Castle episodes, or playing Plants Vs. Zombies. With luck I'll have more crafting of some kind to report soon, since I've got hair pooftas to make and a work space set up. Also, I think I'm taking the Goober for a short hike this week: I spotted a deer in the ravine behind the apartment building, and while it's not the Outback, it's certainly enough to keep a four-year-old entertained. I'll get photos, of course.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The art of the hair poofta.

"Hair Poofta" is what we call one of these:

I want to make a few for the baby I knit the Baby Surprise Jacket for. Little pink ones. For maximum cuteness. Girl babies need hair pooftas.

Of course, with the deadline and all, what did I start on?

Building a really elaborate floral spray. That I intend to give away, but geez, no deadline on this one. I'm telling myself it's just practice for the hair poofta, but it's like knitting a doily to practice for a garter stitch scarf.

The good news is, I finally got a little nest/workspace set up. I'd show you photos, but Blogger or my internet connection have gone funky on me and nothing will upload. So imagine my little table here, with a hunormous stack of ribbons off to one side, my netbook running Castle re-runs off Hulu, and a scatter of scissors, wire cutters, pins, needles, and other oddments scattered about.

I also have a photo of the Goober tooting on a toilet paper tube, but it won't upload either.


It's twenty 'til midnight here, and we've been watching the Penguins play in the hockey playoffs for the Stanley Cup. They've been tied with the Ottowa Senators for THREE overtime periods. Basically they've played two hockey games tonight, in a row. I suppose I'm supposed to be full of suspense and on the edge of my seat, but all I can think is "those poor bastards". They have to feel like they've run a marathon or two by now.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010



I started this Baby Surprise Jacket last Thursday. A new record: I've had a migraine the last four days and other than house hunting (house hunting with a migraine; THAT was a treat), all I've done is hunker down and knit. The only thing that stopped me was hand pain. I did knock off early a couple nights because my hands hurt.

Next, I need to sew up the shoulders and block it. Then tomorrow, I'm going out to buy some matching ribbon. With that, I'll make a frog or tie for the front of the sweater and some matching hair pooftas. This sweater is for my sister-in-law's first baby girl (she has a son), and what's the point in having a girl if you can't braid her hair and put flowers in it? If I have lots of time left over (HA), I'll make a matching pin for the baby's mum to wear on a hat or lapel. Then I've gotta wrap up the whole shebang and get it over to my in-laws' in Ohio before the second week of May, when they go to visit the baby momma and can drop off the gift.

Piece of cake. If I don't get carried away. That NEVER happens around here. No, never. Really. I hear you giggling.


The other awesomely awesome news is, I fixed the Wii. Turns out there's some kind of circuit breaker in the power converter in the cord. Once I unplugged everything from the Wii AND the wall, let it sit for half an hour, and hooked it all back up again, it turned right on. Did they have this fixit on the web site? No, not anywhere that I could find. I had to e-mail them and ask for repair info to get this suggestion. So now you know, too.

I, the person who killed two computers in a month, have fixed something. Hopefully this will break the jinx and the rest of my electronics will survive. (Plus I'm not putting tea next to my computer any more.) We're still not sure how the Wii got plugged straight into the wall (imagine some finger-pointing here), but it is now plugged into a surge suppressor with the rest of the TV-related stuff.

Still can't believe I fixed it. Not because it was such a skilled job, but because lately I've had a blue-smoke thumb.


See this? This freaks me out.

Mostly, Sekhmet still ignores the Goober. But occasionally now, the cat will unbend enough to play. Still waiting for them to start the world domination plan.

And this photo? I swear the Goob isn't drunk.

She was laying on my lap when I took this with one hand. The other hand is wrapped under her, with my fingers stuck in her rib cage. She was alternately laughing and screaming and yelling "TICKLE ME MORE! TICKLE ME MORE!" Now I feel like someone's been kicking my arms, because, hey, someone has. But it was really cute.

Now I'm going to sit here and revel in the fact that I fixed something electronic.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What a weekend.

Spent Saturday and Sunday house-hunting. We went through the information on thirty houses, drove by about twenty of them, and did a tour of one. Ten hours - ish - in the car, both afternoons. At this stage, all houses are starting to look alike and I think my eyes are wheeling in my head like an iguana's, with eyes in opposite directions.


The Goober has been in rare form. Today during the house tour, she ate some cat food. Then she came home and managed to spill her father's soda, flinging it over half the living room - the expensive half.


There was a storm Friday night. A power surge from lightning strikes fried our brand fucking new Wii.


My hands hurt too badly to knit, and I've got a Baby Surprise Jacket 'due' on May 5.

So that's my weekend. Hope everyone else's was better.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Called the realtor today to ask about seeing That House. Turns out it's already sold, or the next thing to it.

Back to the drawing board.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Getting back to normal.

Yes, I'm starting to feel better and all that good stuff. And today I have absolute proof of that, for any of you who've been reading for more than, say, five minutes.

This is the start of a baby jacket. It needs to be in Tennessee by May 5. Yes. I AM SETTING IDIOTICALLY STUPID KNITTING GOALS FOR MYSELF! Obviously I am back to my usual dumbass self! I am sure this is a relief to all of you. And I suspect a few are hoping for my typical slavering rants when the deadline draws near and I go insane.

Anyway. I'm using a Zauberball in the pink and purple color scheme, sock weight. Really like the yarn, in color, texture (nice and soft), and spinning quality. Too often these long color repeat yarns have horrific slubs where the colors meet. So far this one is smooth as a baby's butt. No knots, no nothin', just knitting 'til my fingers fall off.

Things are looking up. Or something.


There have been a few requests for Goober news, and we're into the no news is good news category. She's had a growth spurt.

You can kind of get the idea, there.

This is a blurry action shot, taken today.

We hiked up the hill (well, I walked, she ran) to the rental office to have a conversation with them about the fuckwits in this building who are smoking in the public spaces, thereby giving me asthma attacks. Since it's in the lease to NOT do that, all I wanted was for them to make people follow the rules. Once I explained the asthma and near-pneumonia (twice!) over the winter and the super expensive drugs (that seem to be working), they seemed very kind and are taking it seriously.

If that doesn't work, I'm gonna lay into the smoker with my niddy-noddy.

And here is the Goober last night. (More blur. Still getting the hang of the camera on the new phone.) We went out to eat, and she has lately developed a thing for pizza crusts.

That's her stuffing one into her mouth. Kind of reminds me of the macaroon photo shoot, actually.


So, that's about it. Situation again normal: I'm huddled over a knitting project, cursing myself and wondering what in hell I was thinking. Nothing but good times ahead.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

And then...

We went out for another look at That House last night. We wanted to see how close it was to grocery stores and similar things, how traffic was at rush hour on a week day, cruise the neighborhood, and take another good look at the house itself.

I still think the house is going to be the best we'll ever get in terms of space, size, accessibility, and price. We won't do better. It's in a nice neighborhood. But this time we crawled through the overgrown shrubs (that need ripped out) to get good looks in the windows, and there is going to be some serious negotiation before we buy this house. For one thing, whoever lived there last left some junk in the basement and junky furniture in the living spaces. Damn if that's my job to clean it out. The big problem that will probably make or break the deal, though, is the roof. The husbeast thinks it looks like the roof settled, meaning structural problems. Since he spends his days inspecting for structural problems, I won't argue with him. What worries me is, the roof has been patched. Sometimes roofs get patched because shingles were blown off during storms. But more often, roofs get patched because the roof has been leaking and the owner was too broke or too stupid to get the whole thing replaced. This may come down to "replace the roof and we'll buy it". Whether they will do that depends entirely on how desperate they are to sell this house, and that we don't know.

The good news is we are going to buy the house with a Veteran's Association loan, and the VA requires all houses to be inspected before they'll authorize the loan. So if the roof is bad, we'll have the VA backing us up with the whole 'replace the roof' situation.

I still have hope, but we'll continue looking.


In our apartment, Sekhmet has finally figured out how to get into the window:

She's using the husbeast's pillow as a launch pad, which thrills him to no end.

In the afternoons, when the husbeast comes home from work, I will occasionally go hide out in our bedroom, reading. It's kind of cozy to lay in bed reading, with the cat snoring above my head. It's also kind of funny.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Coil plying.

By request.

Art yarn has sketchy terminology, I assume because it's such a new thing, with still-experimental techniques. The term "coils" and "beehives" and other similar things are applied to more than one curly sort of structure, so I'm calling this coil plying because, hey, it's making coils while plying two threads together! Woo! I'm really wildly creative at that naming thing.

Lets have a look at our victim.

I can't get any closer-up without the camera going blurry or pixellated on me, sorry. But if you look, you can see how it's made.

It's a two-ply. The white is some of my nine miles of crochet cotton (probably more now, I can't quit buying the stuff). The colored ply is some space-dyed wool that I spun thick-and-thin. The thin parts get plied with the cotton in the usual method. The thick parts become coils; you have to anchor it on either side with the cotton. Check it out.

You start a coil holding the 'anchor' ply (it has to be something strong both because it holds the coil together, and because you really put a lot of stress on it during the spinning process) at a ninety-degree angle to the coil yarn. Let the anchor ply wrap around the coil ply a half dozen times. Then reverse the positions: Hold the anchor ply straight and the coil yarn perpendicular to it. Let the coil, well, coil around the anchor ply. You can see how I sort of roll it on. Then pinch your fingers on the anchor ply, below the coils, and shove them northward toward the orifice, mashing them together (how closely mashed is up to you; I like fairly close because it reduces snagging). After that, do another wrap of the coil yarn with the anchor yarn, to hold the coil where you put it. Then off you go, back to regular plying again.

Did that make sense?

Watch it again, a little more closely.

Again, we can't get closer without it getting blurry, and I couldn't slow it down any further without my fingers locking up on me. You can see why this is good for my dexterity and strength though, can't you?

There you have it. Coil yarn. I think I'm gonna knit a cardigan for fall, for the Goober. I'll knit it about ten sizes too big, and it might fit by then.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I've got the house-hunting blues.

Well, not really. More of an 'eh' than the blues.

Two Sundays ago, we went 'out for a drive' (think sixty or so miles covered), and looked at a couple-four houses. We hadn't really refined our search technique, or exactly what we wanted, so, well, the day was quite disappointing. We were looking in all the wrong spots and turning up things we absolutely hated in scary ends of town.

Last weekend, we went out again, this time with a slightly better idea what we wanted, and hit right away on a house we still like best of everything we've looked at. There was one other possible that day, a couple other rejects, and one we couldn't find - WITH the help of GPS navigation.

Three more rejects today. We keep saying "You know, that house last weekend looked pretty good..." so now we've got to get into the house from last weekend to look around. It's a bank foreclosure, which means the price is good. HOWEVER. We lived in a former bank foreclosure in Charleston, and you could see where someone went through with a hammer and pounded out walls, doors, and cabinets all through the house, we assume for spite when they lost the house (and this stuff was visible after what was probably a couple thousand in repairs). So at this point, that's the big black mark (sort of) for the choice house - making sure all the walls are in place, and no one's been raising Rottweilers in the downstairs bathroom. (We're so picky about our homes.) More good things about this house - near the (good) schools, potential outdoor dye studio for summer, ramp/handicap access to the basement AND ground floors with two easily-built ramps (one step up to the ground floor, one step down to the basement), and WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE TO DAIRY QUEEN. I say we buy it just for the DQ.

What's really entertaining, though, is how the husbeast and I have started in with the technology since we started this. At this point, we're looking up all the houses on Google Earth before we go out to see them, to get an idea what they're near and how rural they are. We're using GPS to find these things (or we'd probably STILL be out looking for houses from last weekend), and I'm using my Blackberry to take notes and photos. This whole thing is nearly organized.

In typical fashion, the husbeast has got the bit between his teeth and begun watching related TV shows on HGTV. Considering this tiny apartment, I get roped in, too. (Just now- ME: "What's the name of that show you keep subjecting me to?" HIM: "Well that's really fucking specific.") One we've watched a couple times is "Property Virgins", where first-time homeowners go out and buy a house. We had to quit watching because they were so stupid. One episode, the female half of the couple CRIED after she didn't like one house. So I always tell the husbeast "Well, at least I didn't cry today." and he glares at me. The other is "Holmes on Homes". Mike Holmes, the host, is a 'do it right' kind of guy who I'd get along fine with. But he goes into houses where contracting jobs have gone horribly wrong, to fix them. I spend the entire hour repeating "I hope they sued." "They should really sue." "Good GOD, DID THEY SUE?" Last weekend they did some asbestos removal in a house... I will bet you the cost of the removal was more than the value of the house. So, unless I can hire Mike Holmes, I'm never hiring a contractor, I'll do it myself.

So, that's the excitement here. Houses. And fix'em-up stuff.

If I wind up ripping out a swimming pool, first thing after I buy a house, I'm not gonna be happy. And I'm gonna want a saws-all to do it with.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Vague ramblings.

The inevitable has happened: Once I start feeling better, I lose my head and overdo and wind up in more pain than I started out with. However, the pain is shorter-lived and there's actually a reason for it so it's a little less annoying. Still feel like a dumbass for doing this, though.

So, not much going on with the knitting. I'm still spinning about an hour a day but can't take more than that. It's physical therapy as well as a hobby, though. I'm so glad to be such a hard-core crafter. My occupational therapists and I have always managed to cook up something interesting for me to do with myself, rather than the 'real' treatments like rolling a ball bearing around with my thumb. Compared to that, I'd MUCH rather sew flowers or do origami.


Yesterday was the 19th anniversary of the husbeast-Samurai hookup. We'd originally planned a real wedding, in a church, with bridesmaids and groomsmen and all the trimmings. But our families kept getting in on the act and demanding we do one thing or not do another, and, well, even in our early twenties we were stubborn cusses. So we canceled the wedding, took a Wednesday afternoon off work, and went to the Justice of the Peace.

The old rhyme, "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue"? For new I wore a casual sort of suit I'd bought for the occasion. For old, borrowed, and blue, I wore a pair of the husbeast's underwear. At the time I was working for a guy who was nosy in the manner of a young boy (openly curious, not judgmental or offensive), and the next day when he asked "What did you do yesterday?" I said "Got married" and he about fell over.

We had known each other ten years at the time we got married. I grew up with the husbeast's cousins and we met at a family function when we were about twelve. So when we went to the JOP and the whole family on both sides spazzed out and said it was 'sudden', well, I still don't get it.

It's been an interesting couple decades. For everything that's sucked, and of course there have been some rotten times and lousy aspects, there have been dozens of other events, experiences, and moments that were wonderful. I'd never have gotten to Hawaii to live if the husbeast hadn't dragged me out there, kicking and screaming (that's another good story, for another day). We've still got long-range, vague plans to retire to Oahu in another couple decades. Right now we're enjoying the novelty of being near our families again for the first time since we got married.


I think I mentioned this before. Meet the new Blackberry. I named it HAL. I always name things that talk to me. Usually so I can swear at them.

Anyway, we originally purchased it because it has GPS and navigation on it, to help me deal with the highway system around here, and it does work beautifully for that. The husbeast has the same model in black, and he purchased it because he's Son Of Gadget and had to buy the phone with the most buttons on it when he got a new phone. After playing around with it myself (mostly making sure I could push the buttons), I agreed I wanted one. We originally meant to get mine next year after my current contract expired. But I needed GPS anyway, and I text a good bit, and we just gave up and got the Blackberry. In purple, so we could tell it apart from the husbeast's.

I meant to only use it as a phone, for texting occasionally, and the GPS. Really. Instead, I fell down the rabbit hole. I keep the grocery lists on it. I keep a 'book list' of books I want, so I've got it with me when I wander a book store. I've been listening to the radio on it. I watch TV on it while I'm spinning (or sitting with the cat on my lap). I surf the internet and chat with my buddies on Twitter while riding around with the husbeast in the car (I never, ever text while driving, but I text nonstop when I'm riding). The husbeast has been calling it my "Crackberry" as in I'm hooked.

I feel like the biggest geek in the universe.


And while I'm geeking out, Girl Genius is getting REALLY GOOD.

If you've never read it, start here and work your way through. As a former English major, I have got to say it is one of the best-plotted stories I've read in a long time. I'm constantly impressed by it as a Lit Student. Add in that it's hilarious, and it's pretty much perfect. Seriously, if you love a good story, go read.

I'm pretty sure the husbeast is moonlighting as Airman Higgs. Or Airman Higgs is moonlighting as the husbeast. The resemblance is striking, as is the shared mechanical ability and attitude.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Lace Basics

Since I'm at a loss for something to blog about, here's an article I wrote a while ago that never got published. Enjoy!

One of the first things I did as a knitter was lace. (I didn’t know any other knitters, and there was no one around to tell me it was hard, or that I was insane to knit a doily on 3mm/size two needles as my second or third project.) Over the next twenty years, I learned a good bit through trial and error, and it wasn’t until recently that I realized a lot of what I considered common knowledge, wasn’t. So here’s what I’ve learned.

What IS knitted lace?

There seems to be an inordinate amount of finger-pointing, defining, and sneering going on over what, exactly, lace knitting is. So for the record, here are the standard definitions:

-Knitted lace: lace that is worked every row. Historically (and among hard-line types even now), one-row or knitted lace gets more respect.
-Lace knitting: lace that is worked every OTHER row, with a ‘plain’ round or row in between eyelet/decrease rows. It is supposedly easier to work, but of course I could produce an easy one-row lace pattern and a hard two-row lace pattern that blows the whole theory out of the water.

In my opinion (e-mail me with complaints as you like), anything with an eyelet or yarnover in it is lace, and the rest is hair-splitting. For practical purposes I call the two types of knitted lace one-row lace and two-row lace. The two types of lace are different in terms of structure and difficulty, but really, it’s all lace.

Many two-row lace patterns can be converted to one-row lace by simply removing the plain row/round, though not always. Swatching will tell you what you need to know. In the photo above, the increases, decreases, and yarnovers are in the same place. The only difference is, in the lower swatch, there is a 'plain' round between each 'action round. So, technically, it is knitted lace on the top, and lace knitting on the bottom. If you wanna nit-pick.


Two row lace, with its ‘reset’ row of plain knitting, is – generally speaking – easier to work than one-row lace. (I assume this is where the ‘real lace’ bias comes from.) With a plain row in two row lace, all the stitches are put back on the needle neatly in the standard presentation, for the next row of lace stitches. This means that all your decreases, yarnovers, and other stitches are worked into nice neatly aligned stitches that make working them much easier.

With one row lace, there is no ‘reset’ row, and you’re working knit three togethers, or whatever, into the lace knitting of the row below, and physically working the stitches is more difficult. (Knit three together, worked in one-row lace, is my own personal Waterloo. Takes forever. Drives me nuts.)

The exception to these rules, sort of, is two-row lace based on garter stitch (worked flat, you do one row of ‘action’ lace stitches and then knit back on the plain row, instead of purling). Even though there is a plain row to put the stitches back on the needle neatly, the way they present themselves on the right side of the work makes multiple decreases and other specialty stitches tricky (and frustrating).

Weird stitches (by weird I mean anything beyond the standard knit, purl, yarnover, knit two together types of stitches) always make things more difficult. Very large eyelets made by multiple yarnovers that are then taken off with multiple stitches the next round can be very frustrating to deal with; the more stitches there are in such a hole, the more bothersome it is (for example, yarnover eleven times, then on the next row, take it off with eleven knit-in-back stitches). Lace knitting contains a lot of odd increases and decreases if you look at enough patterns, and for first projects it’s probably best to stick with something containing types of decreases you already know how to work.

The color of your yarn can have a good bit of impact on how hard your lace is to work with. (Seriously.) Darker colors are harder to see; for those of us who are getting up in years, or have eye problems, or both, that can make a big difference. This applies to all knitting, really, not just lace knitting. I can only work with black yarn in direct sunlight, even if I’m knitting plain old stockinette.

Needle size makes a difference, of course. Not as much as many people think, but still. It’s of course easier to see something worked on size ten needles, than on quadruple zeros. Of all the difficulty considerations, I’d say that really, needle size has the least bearing, but it does matter. The worst thing about needle size is how it intimidates knitters. It really doesn’t make that much difference. I swear. Give it a try.

Then of course there’s yarn choice, which matters more than anything else, other than the basic pattern. Forgiving yarns are best to start with, both in terms of how the lace looks when finished, and in how your hands feel. You need something with a bit of give; wool is the obvious choice, but you can also use silk and the new processed cellulose fibers like corn, soy, and sea ‘silk’. Cotton and linen make fantastic lace, both for wearing and decoration, but they’re harder to work with, harder on your hands, and more difficult to work evenly (in fact this applies to all knitting, not just lace). Fuzzy yarns like mohair look wonderful and are VERY hard to work with – the hairs catch like barbed wire.

Synthetic fibers can, of course, be knitted into lace, but they have no ‘memory’ and don’t block well at all, so they don’t look nearly as good in a finished product. But it’s your choice; if you want something you can run through the washing machine, the trade-off might be worth it to you. And here’s some food for thought: What’s the point of working lace, when the yarn obscures the stitches? (I am talking about eyelash and think-and-thin yarns.)

One of the most common questions about lace knitting is, ‘how much yarn do I need for a project?’ Unfortunately, the only answer is ‘knit the project once with the needles and yarn you intend to use, and keep track of the yarn you use up’. There’s no good answer. Guess. If you’re using a commercial pattern, there are yardage requirements listed, but they’re not always accurate. A rule of thumb is, the smaller the needles and the bigger the square yardage/meterage is, the more yarn you’ll need, by length.

Don’t ever use yarn WEIGHT when converting from one type or another in a lace pattern. The meterage/yardage can vary amazingly, by weight. Always use length.

What your needles are made out of can make a big difference, but of course needle choice depends a lot on yarn choice. It also depends on the knitter. I like to use smooth aluminum needles, no matter what, but then I like knitting through lace darn fast and have had a good bit of experience at it. Wooden or bamboo (or plastic) needles hang on to the yarn a bit more, so if you’re having trouble keeping track of your stitches, they’re a good choice. 3mm/size two or smaller, bamboo needles are a little less likely to snap than wood. If you do snap knitting needles, it’s a sign you’re holding them too tight. (Or sitting on them.)


There are a few things you can do to make lace knitting easier. The simplest is to put stitch markers every pattern repeat. I use embroidery floss tied in loops; that way I can color-code to my heart’s content. Mark corners, increase zones, you name it. If you aren’t willing to put markers everywhere, you can find the center of each pattern repeat (there’s usually a column of stitches slap in the middle of a motif) and make sure each time you knit a repeat that it’s centered. Unfortunately that only works after you’ve established the pattern, and only if you’re good at ‘reading’ your knitting, and can tell what you’re looking at.

The other ‘trick’ is known as a life line. (I don’t know who invented this. I’ve seen it from several sources; if anyone knows, drop me a line and tell me – I’ve always wondered.) What you do is, when you’ve finished a row you KNOW is correct, thread some smooth waste yarn on a needle and thread it through the stitches on the needle, leaving the stitches ON the needle as-is. Then keep on knitting. If, later on, you find some huge screwup, you can unravel back to the life line, being sure that your lace won’t unravel further, you’ll be somewhere you can start again easily, and best of all, picking the stitches back up will be about as easy as it ever is.

Otherwise, your best bet is to practice, and to flip through technique books and study how all the different kinds of decreases are made. There’s only one way to make a yarnover (okay, two, maybe). There are infinite ways to do the decreases that go along with them.

So what’s a good first project?

Something square. By ‘square’, I mean without a lot of shaping. You’ve got enough to worry about with the lace pattern, without trying to knit circles and curlicues and what-all, into the bargain. Doilies, knit from the center out, (and shawls based on that method) are very cool, but the first couple-twenty rounds are hard to work (on the other hand, if you’ve got experience with toe-up socks, it’s really the same thing, only with yarnovers – give it a try). Knitted-on edgings are also very nice but kind of tricky. Here, for anyone wanting practice, is the easiest lace scarf pattern ever:

Really easy lace scarf:

Use any yarn you want, with the needles suggested on the ball band, or larger. (Shown in Art Yarns Regal/Royal Silk, one skein, on 6mm/size ten needles.)

-cast on 30 stitches
-knit back
-Right side row: slip the first stitch, *yarnover, knit two together* repeat to last stitch, knit last stitch
-Wrong side row: slip the first stitch, purl back
-repeat right and wrong side rows until almost out of yarn, then knit a right side row plain, and bind off.

After this, you’re ready to branch out into something using more complex stitches.

To design any kind of project, I’m afraid that yes, you’ll have to swatch. And then block the swatch in exactly the same way you intend to treat the finished product. That means pins and blocking boards and possibly starch.

And then we come to finishing.

Which means blocking. But not quite yet.

First you need to darn in the ends. Darn it. (Ahahahaha. Sorry. Couldn’t help it.) Unfortunately I don’t have any good answer on how to do that. Thread your end onto a needle and work it into the backs of the stitches on the wrong side. If it doesn’t look like a dog’s breakfast on the front, then it’s done right. (Oh. And if it doesn’t unravel, of course.) Leave about half an inch/1 cm of yarn dangling until after everything’s blocked – stretching out the lace can pull the darned-in-ends loose. After it’s blocked, you can go back through and trim the ends a little closer.

After all is said and done, blocking lace is really just wetting the fibers and then laying (or pinning) them out in whatever way you want them to lay, and leaving them to dry. (Sort of like washing and setting your hair.) Every lace book in the world contains blocking directions, so I’ll hit some high points they seem to leave out.
-for most lace, water is the only thing acting on your fibers, to make them behave. Make sure those fibers are good and wet. I usually put the knitting in a sink full of room-temperature water and leave it until it sinks to the bottom, meaning it’s water-logged. Sometimes I leave it in a little longer for good measure. Once you pull it out, DON’T squash all the water out of it – blot it until it’s not dripping, and then pin. It’s the water working the magic; don’t remove it before you even block the thing.
-ironing is really, really bad. Steam can be good, if you don’t overdo it.
-for decorative lace, smooth yarns can be starched and will hold their shape almost perfectly. For most laying-around lace I use regular liquid laundry starch (though more of it than suggested on the bottle), but if I want something to stand up, I use watered down glue (pick a glue that dries hard and clear, of course; Elmer’s is the one I use).
-stretch out your lace to about 90% of its total stretch-ability, and pin it there. You want the finished fabric to have some give.
-be careful with loosely spun or very thin yarns. They tear. I learned this the hard way.
-avoid pinning things out with steel pins; they rust. Otherwise, use whatever pins you want. I prefer quilting pins, which are extra long and have a nice colored ball on the head so I can see them easily, but you don’t HAVE to use those.
-blocking boards, while very nice, are a real investment for a beginner or intermittent lace knitter. You can also use your bed, the carpet, or (my personal favorite) foam-backed ‘core board’ from the art store (it’s like two layers of poster board with Styrofoam in the center). Core board won’t survive a great many wet blockings, but if you only do one or two lace projects a year, it beats the investment in a blocking board. (I still don’t own a blocking board; I just use core board and replace as needed. Don’t tell anybody.)
-for lace clothing, you can usually skip pinning it down and block it like you do other clothing; give it a good wash and lay it out flat in whatever shape you want it to be when you wear it.
-every time you wash lace, you’ve got to block it again.

I hope this has cleared up some questions about how to knit lace and what to do with it once you have. Really, though, the best way to learn is to sit down with some yarn and needles and try it. The yarn police won’t come for you if you make a mistake.

One row and two row lace swatches knit from the ‘dainty chevron’ and ‘dantier chevron’ patterns in Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury.

Suggested reading:
“Knitting Lace” by Susanna E. Lewis. BACK IN PRINT JUST RECENTLY!!!. Contains a lot of great information about how lace works in terms of decreases and increases and structure.

“Victorian Lace Today” by Jane Sowerby. The patterns are nice, but the information in the back on techniques, blocking, and designing your own lace is great.

“Heirloom Knitting” by Sharon Miller. Pricey, but so, so worth it. Primarily it deals with Shetland lace knitting, but it has a lot of excellent information on design and technique.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

In progress. And stuff.

I finished the short rows on the East Meet West Satchel (Rav link). I've done a couple rows past that and I think this part of the bag could be done in a week or so, if I get a move on.

This is a big relief for me, because I'd originally agreed to knit this with my mother-in-law, she bought me the kit, and I felt like I'd left her hanging when she started it months ago and I didn't. I saw her yesterday, and we knit together for a while, and we're in about the same spot on this, so I feel a lot better (and I imagine she does, too). She's also working on an epic garter-stitch project (a tunic), so I think I'll have a chance to keep up with her.

The test spin continues. It's a little trickier than I first thought. It looked all dandy at first, but some of the coils snagged on the flyer hooks and sort of oozed all over.

I went back and looked at some photos of coiled yarn, read up with some articles and books, and gave it another try.

I've about got the hang of it. This first bit is going to get knit up as an experiment, just to see what happens. I'll give it another go and hopefully the coils will stay where I put them, this time.

Aaaaand, I'm about halfway through prepping the gears for the Gear Yarn.

After some hilarity involving power tools and wire cutters (the husbeast brought home one pair, I used them for about fifteen minutes, and we threw them away because I'd destroyed the blades), we realized we could simply press the central hubs out of the gears, leaving the cut brass toothed part. You know, the part that looks cool. Every time I work with these, I think of more fun things to do with them, and think I need to buy more. Anyone know where I can find bigger gears, maybe the size of a quarter, or so?

I don't know if it's the sunshine, the flowers starting to bloom, or the fact I've finally found some pain meds that work and kicked the last effects of the lung problems I had all winter, but I'm finally feeling focused. It's a lot easier to knit stranded color like this when you can actually concentrate. Then again, I was having a lot of trouble counting to eight one night this week, so you never know.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

A short history of public health.

So, here in the US, the debate rages over the health care bill. Once you weed out politicians who were paid off by insurance companies, and the wealthy fearing new taxes, about the only argument left is "it isn't the government's job to offer health care". Well. Here is my reply to that.

For this, we're defining 'health care' as anything a government does to look after the health of its citizens. To do anything else would be picking and choosing and slanting things. Health is health. And it is in a government's best interest to keep its citizens healthy - otherwise, who else would they draft to fight wars? Governments started funding nutrition research after World War One, when a huge percentage of men drafted (45% in the UK, if I remember correctly, the book is in a box in SC) were rejected as too unhealthy or malnourished to fight. But it goes back a little further than that.

The first modern sewage system was built in one of the world's first planned cities, Mohenjo-Daro, of the Indus Valley Civilization, approximately five thousand years ago. The Romans built sewers as well as aqueducts for clean water, two thousand years ago. Then in the 1800s, Germ Theory was finally understood, and most of Europe and North America spent millions (in modern dollars) to build sewers. Eventually they were built in all major cities and most minor ones in the industrialized world. Tax dollars go every year to run waste water treatment, sewage treatment, and inspection organizations to keep our water clean.

The Pure Food and Drug Act founded the FDA here in the US in 1906, to safeguard the food we eat as well as everything we drink, and drug production and safety. It's still run by federal tax dollars. Germany is still running on a food purity law first put into effect in 1516 CE by the Duke of Bavaria. The Old Testament contains quite a lot of food laws, many involving safety and purity, going back, what, three thousand years? We think? Hammurabi's Code offers the death penalty for people watering beer. Chinese laws go back thousands of years, as well.

Vaccines. You know all those state programs pushing vaccines, advertising vaccines, keeping track of who has vaccines? The laws saying kids have to have them to get into school? You know who pays for the free ones offered in health clinics? The government. Here in the US they've been doing that for decades.

The Centers for Disease Control were founded as a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services in 1942. They look after all our sorry asses, developing new vaccines and monitoring the spread of diseases. They run on federal money. Always have. Without them there wouldn't be new influenza vaccines every year, among other things.

I could go on, but I think you're getting the idea. Technically, you could even say that traffic laws are a government-run system to preserve the health of the people. To claim that the health of the individuals in this country are not the problem of the government is ridiculous, unless we intend to shut down the Food and Drug Administration, the entire Department of Health and Human Services, cut all federal funding to hospitals, clinics, and doctors, shut down the water and waste treatment plants. That's not going to happen. So let's all pony up a few dollars to insure a couple million kids and keep them healthy, hmmm? Who do you think will pay your federally-funded social security when they grow up?