I’ve noticed that lately, as I finish projects and have some leftover ends, I’m becoming increasingly more interested in the remaining weights of my leftovers — so much so that I’ve finally done something I never thought I’d do: I purchased a food scale so I can weigh my yarn. I confess that this sounds ridiculous even to my ears; real knitters just have this innate sense of where to knit to so that there’s nothing left, right? That’s what I thought, but it seems I don’t have this supposed innate sense myself, and so I need help. To add insult to injury, more and more patterns tell you to knit until you have a certain percentage of weight left, or some other stupid math equation that we both know I have absolutely no interest in solving with my brain. I just want to know the bottom line: will I have enough left to finish the piece I’m knitting? Do I have enough leftover that I can squeeze another project out of that? Aye, there’s the rub.

What does it say about me that my most recent purchase is causing me such knitting joy? I’m not really sure, but I do know that I’m giddy with delight. It makes the whole concept moot: Have or have not. There is no question.

Boy is that a weight off my mind.

Well, it’s finally done. I’ve put the needles down, blocked it with a frenzy, and at last, the Clapotis is off the wires.

And I’m really not impressed.

I feel like that’s some sort of sacrilege to say out loud. Apparently everyone loves this pattern. But I just don’t see it. Maybe I knit it too loosely. Perhaps I’ve always subconsciously had something against this yarn. It could be that the pattern should be made with a heavier yarn. Most likely it’s a combination of all three. But whatever it is, I’ve never felt the love for this piece. And you know what? I think that’s okay (even though I’m nervously looking up for the lightning strike).

What I’ve learned here is this: I don’t care for the dropped stitch pattern on this weight of yarn with such big needles. I want a firmer binding on a finished piece, and this is not that. Now that I’m done, I see lots of places where it could be better, where the stitches could be tighter, or gaps where I don’t think there should be gaps. I’m even wondering if I might have gotten the stitches wrong on the edges, or messed it up when I had to go down and fix a missed yarnover. Hmmm. Also, I just dread the first time something snags a loose thread, because you know it’s gonna happen. Suffice it to say, this particular Clapotis is not one of my favorite pieces.

So I’m glad I did this, because I think it’s important to discover the things you don’t like as well as the things you love. And even better if I can put words to it, so that next time, I can avoid what I don’t like. But now I can check this off the list, and move on to something I’m gonna love a lot more. Besides — TheCoed has been nosing around as I blocked this piece, so I think it’s going to become hers, just because I know she’ll wear it with joy. And that’s really the point of it all, isn’t it?

So there’s my report, and my teachable moments. Everyone sing along with me: “Clap on! Clap off! Clap on, clap off, Clapotis!”

Just got back from a lovely two week stay in Oregon with TheCop. While he had plans to hike and explore Mt. Hood, I was set to spend time catching up with my sister in Portland, taking day trips to locales of interest (read: wine, food, beach, yarn). This is one of the reasons the pacific northwest is so appealing to us — we can both do things together and apart that appeal to our varied interests. I love that. Our first day trip: to drop TheCop off at Mt. Hood for a five day hike along the Timberline Trail.

After we left TheCop at the trail head, we wandered a bit as we headed back toward Portland. Outside Hood River we found fruit orchards, wineries, and Cascade Alpacas of Oregon, an alpaca farm where we stopped to feed the alpacas and browse Foothills Yarn & Fiber, their yarn shop (yarn! in the middle of nowhere! have I got mad skills or what??!!). Alpacas are a funny bunch; very friendly, not a little shy, and more than a little hungry. My sister TheProgrammer was not completely convinced that alpacas are harmless, but it was a hoot.

I have to admit, alpaca farming in the shadow of Mt. Hood seems to be a pretty fantastic way to spend your days. More than a little picturesque nestled there in the mountains, isn’t it? And freshly shorn alpaca with that topknot mop of hair is just cuter than cute. Not to be outdone, the yarn shop was chock full of — you guessed it — yards and yards of fabulous alpaca. I tried like hell, but ended up not buying any alpaca to bring home and add to the stash; instead, I bought a crochet hook (!!!) to fix some dropped stitches on my Clapotis scarf. Oh yes, just call me Big Spender.

Nonetheless, this was, quite possibly, the best day of back country wandering I’ve ever had. Beautiful weather. Beautiful scenery. Beautiful alpacas. All less than two hours away from culture and city life. Why do I live in Pennsylvania when there’s such beauty here?

Alpaca think on that one awhile.

I feel like I should put a quick note in here about this year’s Ravelympics — err, Ravellenic Games. It seems this year was destined to doom, from the ridiculously insulting cease-and-desist notification from the USOC, their subsequent apology, yet another apology and, finally, Ravelry’s making peace by changing the Olympic knitting festivities to the Ravellenic Games (the punster in me appreciates Slate’s write up the most). Not like they really had an option, and not like I can’t even understand the need to protect trademarks, but in my opinion, this is old school meets new school in a highly unlikely venue — and the old school bully got a whuppin’ it didn’t expect.

Take that, beyotches.

Now, I had all intentions of participating. I chose projects for a number of categories, I caked a bunch of hanks and had things all aligned. It seemed, however, that life had other plans. I was gone for the first week to Arkansas, where I spoke at one conference and attended a second one. Fabulous learning takeaways, but the push for knitted progress took a backseat (other than during the plane rides). Once I got back, I fully intended to hunker down and knit up, but then came the brother-in-law and his kids for a surprise encampment at my house for the better part of a week. Lovely to see them, but more talk, less knit. By the time the crew departed, TheCop went out to Camp Cadet for a week of leading young men in the fine art of leadership, and I was pushing to get a client ready for a launch date that they seriously weren’t ready for. Then, of course, there was the whirlwind weekend roadtrip to Massachusetts, packing five healthy folk into my Jeep.

And like a puff of smoke into thin air, the 2012 Games (both kinds) had passed me by.

I thought about it and tried to chastise myself about not getting more done, but then I realized there was a bigger truth here: I knit because I love it. I knit because it makes me a kinder, gentler human when I’m otherwise frustrated with waiting. I knit because I like the pretty finished objects. But pushing to get through projects just to move on to other projects without taking the time to appreciate the process? No thank you. Not interested in that anymore — if indeed I ever was. I’m not taking time off of work so I can finish another project before the deadline. I have a life. I want to enjoy it. And I want to enjoy my knitting. I believe, like most things in life, it’s about so much more than the competition. It’s the camaraderie, the friendship, the enjoyment of a pastime that’s fulfilling.

In that sense, I think I’ve already earned my place on the knitting medal podium of life. Knit on, world. Knit on.

Apparently I am on the fence about variegated yarn. I see the skeins and love the play of colors together and can’t help but reach for it. But it seems that once I start to knit it, I become far more persnickety about the same play of colors. I’d never really noticed how strongly I felt until this latest episode of stashbusting — and now it seems like a bitchslap to the head.

At Rhinebeck last year, I discovered Miss Babs yarn. This was probably a mistake, because now I know to make a beeline to her stall from now on. 2011 seemed to be the Year of the Warm Colors, which was also unusual; I came home with an inordinate amount of yellow and orange mixed in with some other gorgeous tonal blends. But after I’d made my (rather large) Miss Babs purchase, I noticed a skein that seemed to contain it all — reds, oranges, yellows, and even a touch of green. It was speaking my color language. It also didn’t help that it was the Rhinebeck 2011 limited edition colorway; I cannot seem to resist the words LIMITED EDITION. *eyeroll* So I decided to buy it and make a scarf out of it so that I could, in fact, wear it on my next festival trip. And over the months, I’ve been looking for something that would allow the color play to shine, without taking away from it with an intricate lace pattern. Enter Trillian — a simple triangular scarf that is mostly garter stitch with a decorative geometric edging across two edges. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right? So I queued it up, and when I was ready for a new travel project, I wound the skein and cast on.

It didn’t take me very long before I realized that I really didn’t like this. I mean, I really didn’t like it. That doesn’t usually happen in a project, but this time it stood out like a sore thumb. Four inches in and I was itching to frog the piece and give the yarn to the next person I passed on a street corner. I probably should have guessed something was wrong when I looked at the cake of wound yarn and noticed how different the color play looked from the skein — the skein has large patches of color while the cake is quite streaky. “It’ll be fine once I start knitting it,” I nervously muttered to myself, but alas, it never got to ‘fine.’ It actually got to “Oh my god, this looks like a freaking washcloth,” which was pretty much the kiss of death because, in my mind, people knit washcloths out of yarn they don’t want and can’t think of anything better to do with it. That’s a pretty sad state of affairs, if you ask me — especially if we are talking festival yarn. So I stopped knitting but kept the pathetic triangle around to contemplate it. Perhaps I was being too harsh. Maybe it’s just me. So when a friend stopped by for a cup of coffee, I decided to ask her what she thought about it. Her first reaction? “It looks like a washcloth.”

Okay then. Not just me.

I continued to ponder the situation, and sifted through Ravelry stashes and project pages to see what others did with their variegated yarn. Eventually — because, really, it’s like six degrees of Kevin Bacon — you see that everyone has knit a Clapotis. While that pattern has never really beckoned to me, I did notice the stripes of dropped stitches seems to lend itself to continuing the line of color across the piece. Since I didn’t have any other alternative, I decided to see how the yarn played out in this pattern. I frogged the triangular washcloth and cast on for Clapotis. And am I glad I did. Almost immediately, I saw a difference in how the variegation played across stockinette rather than being confined by the garter stitch. The stockinette allows the color play to take front seat to the stitch, and I can see much more of a flow to the color, rather than the choppiness of the garter stitch. It makes sense, really, when you think about it, but until I saw it in action, I really had no idea that it would ever make a difference. It’s also interesting to note how much more I knit up with the same amount of yarn frogged from the garter stitch — again, it makes sense when you think about the construction, but it’s not something I’ve actually considered. Now I know that the stitch is just as much a factor in the look of a finished object as is the drape of a yarn and the color play. Thank goodness for teachable moments.

After I had this epiphany, I went back through my stash just to see how much variegated yarn I had. Ironically, I have 29 different variegated yarns (not including the Noro, which is another beast entirely) and I’ve got several cakes where I started a project and then quickly abandoned it because I found myself yet again not really liking what I’d started. I suspect how the yarn was dyed also has a distinct effect on the outcome, although I haven’t done my due diligence in figuring this out. Which also begs the question, can I predict the type of pattern that will knit out by the way it looks on the skein? I’m thinking I will need to look into this further. Watch for the inevitable follow up post, because now I’m actually gonna research this because it will bug the shit out of me.

But as for now, I’m just relieved this is working out and that I’m actually enjoying this project. The pattern is super easy (although, God help me if I eff this up, as I won’t really know until I try to drop the stitches at the end to see if I did it right. And what happens if I actually DO make an error in the stitches? I’m trying not to let myself think about this because, really and truly, it is what it is. If I have to frog back, so be it. After back-to-back-to-back projects on size 4 needles or less, size 8 needles are a FREAKING BREEZE. So what do I care? Since I have approximately half of what the pattern calls for for a shawl, I think this will be a perfect scarf size. And it’s something new, and it’s different, and I think it actually salvages what could have been a very ugly situation. Not to mention a fugly washcloth.

Besides. Everybody knits a Clapotis, right?


My god, I am behind.

I mean, seriously, idiotically, behind. Behind in knitting, behind in blogging about knitting, behind in blocking knitting I’ve been behind in blogging about.

You get the idea.

Over the last three or four months, I have latched onto my travel knitting like a drowning woman desperate for a floating piece of anything to save her from being claimed by the ocean. Somewhere, somehow, this knitting thing has gone from “something people say I should try” to “this is stupid” to “yay knit night and time with the girls” to “I’ve got this interesting pattern I’d like to try” to “I really need to spend some time curled up knitting” to “I’m flying out in 30 minutes–WHERE’S MY GODDAMN KNITTING??” I’m not sure how it happened, actually, but I’m sure not sorry about it. Knitting is what I reach for to relax with. Knitting is what I take along to focus on in waiting rooms, rather than chasing my tail, getting all angsty about whatever I’m waiting on. You might say it makes me a kinder, gentler person.

What I never anticipated was that having travel knitting (well, actually, I never expected I’d have anything called travel knitting, or more than one project at a time…but I digress. again.) would make me a better knitter. For several reasons.

  1. I’ve learned it’s good to have an easy project ready to offset the more complicated project. When I need a break with the complex lace patterns, I can switch gears and feel more sure of my pace. That’s a good thing.
  2. If I get tired of a pattern and don’t have something else to pick up, I am less likely to keep knitting, and more likely to lose interest. Different projects provide different challenges.
  3. I wait a lot. I didn’t realize it. But I am also an impatient person. Having something in my hands keeps me from throttling someone. Or, conversely, keeps me focused on stitches rather than the very real possibility of bad news.
  4. My mistakes on a travel piece are usually more controlled. I find it and I’m forced to deal with it. I’ve learned how to tink a single repeat down through several rows, fix the error, then reknit back up to the current row. Without frogging the entire damn eight rows. Or ten. That’s a valuable skill set right there.
  5. I’ve learned when it’s best to just frog the entire damned thing and start fresh.
  6. I learn how many people knit. Or appreciate knitting. Or know someone close to them who knits. Many an onlooker or flight attendant has commented on my work in progress. That’s a pretty damned cool intro to new people. Gets you better service, too.

So the latest travel piece was the Holden Shawlette, knit out of madtosh in Fathom–this beautifully deep blue color I’ve been simply dying to use. If I did things right, I’d have just enough yardage for it with maybe ten yards left over (if I was lucky), as long as I took out a couple of useless yarn overs in the pattern. Thankfully, that was all it took, and I probably have what would appear to be around ten yards left. I was shocked.

Holden kept me occupied to and from Arkansas for a couple of conferences (the HighEdWeb Arkansas regional and WordCamp Fayetteville, if you must know). While I try not to choose anything that will get me in trouble, I was tricked a couple times with the deceptively simple lace pattern. Easy? Yes. Not so much if you assume it’s easy and get to talking and forgetting about keeping track of where you are, however. Thus, learning three rows up that you forgot several yarn overs and have to tink down and fix, then reknit up again (number 4) does get old after a while. Yes, I was cut down by my hubris. And learned to pay attention, dammit, even with an easy pattern. About four of those fixes fixed me of that tendency. But learning to take the entire 13 stitch repeat down so I could rebuild the pattern back up? That was a priceless lesson which is going to do me in good stead down the road.

I still need to block Holden, and take pictures as well. But at least it’s done, and I’ve learned how to do a picot bindoff (blerg, but nice) and even live to tell teh tale. I can guarantee this is one of those pieces which are even more amazingly beautiful blocked. Hopefully, mine will follow suit.

Until then.


Dear Mother-of-God. I. Am. Done.

It took a dogged persistence and a weekend of focus, but I managed to get fracture complete before my friend arrived for the conference.

I’m not sure why this was such torture for me. The pattern is easy to follow; the size isn’t so overwhelming that I was afraid the end would never come; the yarn is luscious to the touch. And yet… I was glad to weave in the ends of this one.

It’s interesting; it has some components of Westknit’s Clockwork, but more broken up and really, more delicate. If you’ll recall, this is the shawl for my friend, Goodwitch. She fell in love with the yarn and the colors when we were yarnhopping in Austin (actually, only about 15 minutes from her home. Who knew?) and just thought the piece was light and lovely. She loved the colors because they reminded her of the beach. I loved the color names for what they said about the piece: “Cedar — I am grateful for the wisdom of my ancestors” and “Peace Within — I remind myself that peace is found within.” I thought they were so very calming, and the silk/wool blend was just perfect to give a friend who lives in the middle of Texas. I started knitting this as a thank you for her wonderful hospitality time and time again but, in an odd turn of fate, Glenda’s father passed shortly thereafter, and I was struck about the added significance of the Cedar color in providing some comfort for her dad’s passing.

Memorial Day weekend, I realized I needed to make some serious progress on this project if it was going to be done in time for Goodwitch’s arrival, so I put in a lot of time over the holiday weekend. Finished the first set of stripes, the second full block of blue, and the first full pattern block. For some reason, I had an extraordinarily hard time switching to the pattern; somewhere I’d lost 2 stitches, so I had to incorporate them somewhere inconspicuous, which meant frogging several rows, tinking down, and reknitting. Finally I made it back on track, and finally made it to the point where I’m noticing that the rows are considerably shorter than they were, and that makes me happy as well. As I continued up the shawl, I I substituted shorter cords on my circulars.

A note about myself: not really sure I love the bottom up idea. Not in shawls, not in sweaters, not really in anything having to do with knitting. I think it’s because if something goes wrong and the unthinkable happens and you run out of yarn, you are suddenly up shit creak without a paddle or a skein to save your life. I would much rather do top down knowing that my rows were getting longer at the end, but that if I had to, I could end early, or camouflage my error as a decorative border.

I was a tad concerned that this was not gonna be big enough. Until I blocked it (last minute, of course–in fact, about 10 hours before I was going to see her). ZOMGBBQWTF. Thank god I only made a small!

As you can see from the picture, it blocked out bigger than my dining room table. Seriously. And that magical question, as always, is “How does soaking fibers and then stretching them out to dry end up making a deliciously soft finished object?” The world may never know. But what I do know is that the tumultuousness of the emotions that ran across her face when I presented her with this scarf, and explained it’s significance, was beautiful and overwhelming and raw and real. And to know that something I’ve made can cause such an effect on the recipient is an amazing experience, and it is well worth the love, time, and effort put into it. If I only see that effect once in my life, it is enough.

Love to you, Glenda. May you wear it and remember your father with love.

Clearly my mind doesn’t care to work in a linear fashion. I have been working on Hitchhiker as my brainless travel piece, while leaving Fracture home as it is a two yarn work and it’s just easier not to umm, knot up. Of course, the downside to working with incredibly amazing yarnporn is that the feeling is so nice, you get in a groove and tend to continue with it wherever you are. Such is the case with Hitchhiker and, as a result, last Friday I finished that puppy over strawberry-mango margaritas (but while I was out at a bar drinking. THAT TOTALLY COUNTS). An EXCELLENT way to finish a project, by the way. It’s soft, it’s delish, and I’m sorely tempted not to block. That being said, it probably would be a good idea to do a gentle block just to get a little bit more length on it.

Which brings me back to Fracture. You know, the piece that has to be done in less than two weeks. I don’t know what my major malfunction here is; this is not a difficult pattern to follow. For some reason, I simply had mind freeze every time I tried to pick up the project and move forward. So instead, I’d fallback to my normal procrastination position of strength and reach for the orange fuzzy yarnporn. Gah. So Friday evening, with a three day holiday in front of me, I picked up Fracture and dug in. Half a row in and I couldn’t understand why I’d had such problems picking it back up, but I guess that’s my own brand of crazy. So while I’m actually about halfway through the row count, I’m really farther than that, as this is a bottom up pattern and my rows continue to decrease in length. Woohoo! (Of course, we’ve heard this before…)

So I’ll get some pictures of Hitchhiker and post. And perhaps I’ll see how portable Fracture is, now that I’ve used up a good amount of the blue cake. That would help me move it along, and if I want to do ANYTHING other than knitting this weekend, it’s getting rather necessary at this point.

At least we’re not at the panicking part yet. YET.