Monday, December 27, 2010

The presents I left behind

This post contains poo-talk and a poo picture.  You have been warned.

So, Christmas came and went.  I managed to get most of my knitting done in time. Implied is the fact that I finished up a dishcloth at the foot of the tree (not pictured here).  It's a pity, since it was, I think, the nicest of the four that I made, including grafting instead of seaming.   The pattern was pretty decent to knit, although I find kitchen cotton to be rather unforgiving when weaving in the ends.  I tried to use materials I already had in my stash, rather than buy even more of the stuff.  Hence, these got wrapped separately.

Dad received the slippers originally intended for little sis.  I'll finish hers today.  I am in the process of writing up my version of the pattern, which let me knit it in the round, among other things.  I've been wearing my sample slippers, which are kinda fun and a good bit comfy.

And here's me being so very depraved witty.  My sister has long corrupted me with her potty humor, and I was at a loss for what to give her.  So I knitted a gag gift: a Christmas poo.  Or rather, it's a Christmas poo-poo-ri.  I stuffed it with coffee beans--rather tediously because I lacked a funnel--to give it a strong aroma; I figured my sister would not appreciate the typical flowery potpourri scents.  And besides, coffee beans look rather like little droppings.  The odor was indeed strong.
For the twisted and curious folks out there who would admire such a gift and wish to seek out the pattern, I improvised this on US 2 or 3 needles using what I think is Berrocco Ultra Alpaca yarn.  I think I started with I-cord, increased to about 22 sts, and used lots of short rows to make it bend.  I enjoyed asking people to guess what I was knitting, and I got worse answers than even what it was intended to be.  When it reached enough length, I turned it inside out, stuffed it with coffee beans, and knitted the decrease rounds until I could draw it closed.  I only had the final tail to fuss with, as the other end was left inside the poo.  (The beginning end is resting at the top in the picture.)  To help drive the joke home, I included a pack of wet wipes, which added a useful dimension to the gift.  I included chocolate covered espresso beans in her stocking as an edible supplement.  As a finishing touch, I included on the package a line from Weird Al's hilarious movie UHF, which is followed by the rather a propos exclamation, "What is this piece of crap!?!"

In an act of penance, I also gifted to big sis the dear, sheepy project that has haunted me of late.

On Christmas afternoon a few snowflakes drifted to the ground, which I promptly celebrated as being a "White Christmas."  I had no idea that today I would be shoveling over a foot's depth of snow.

Igor was very gracious to help me.  (Actually, I just haven't been able to get him off since he first latched on.  I'm becoming kinda fond of the little sucker.)  I recently heard someone who didn't know any better hating on the fish hat because she thinks it is kind-of silly.  Apparently, she hasn't taken into account my extraordinary fashion sense.

Like I said before, I know I have a promising future in modeling or fashion or both.  That's good, since I need some income to replace my poor car (R.I.P).  I got him after last year's third and final blizzard, and he died just in time to save me the trouble of digging him out this winter.

On a much happier note, registration for the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat is open!  Check out QueerJoe's blog for details.  I'm excited this year to be helping out a bit with the organizing of the retreat.  If anyone would like to donate to the retreat, it's a great opportunity to promote your unique products to a group of enthusiastic, if not somewhat overlooked, knitters.  And if you're considering attending, register soon; these events have a history of filling up to capacity.

I can't wait!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas isn't all about the presents, but...

I think I do gifting mostly because it holds a sentimental value.  I recently received a Christmas gift in the mail, and it reminded me that someone is thinking of me enough to send me a beautiful package.  (Mind you, the jerk won't let me peek until next Saturday!)  And as I bunkered down today to knit gifts for loved ones, I found that it was comforting in a way.  If I can avoid getting too worked up making extravagant gifts (as I learned last year), I'm finding that I really enjoy being able to make something small as a wonderful meditation on the other person.  I don't get that experience when I go Christmas shopping.  Oh, no.  A recent experience in the swollen traffic volume of the season reminded me how much I hate the mania that is called Christmas shopping.  True, when I was little, it was a fun event as the family went to the mall together and would switch off partners and help each other shop for the other members.  But now that we've all grown up and apart in some ways, I find that handing over some money to hand away a gift card just doesn't seem to tap into the old memories and affections.

Warm, wooly knits, on the other hand, can be gifts that keep on giving after the exchange of presents has been completed.  I asked for underwear this year, because it's something I can use everyday.  But chances are that I will forget to remember who gave it to me each time I wear it.  (And yes, I'm figuring underwear is probably a given; Mom doesn't pass up an opportunity to clothe her kids.)  But the pair of boxers that I knit are super special; I love wearing them, and if my mother had knit them, I bet I'd think of her every time I selected them.  Hand-knitted stuff just has that kind of presence.  At least in my mind.  (So if you want me to think of you, knit me some shorts.)

I think my recent Marr Haven knit is largely to blame for this gushy sentimentality.  Yum again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sheep on the brain

I just realized that Ebenezer Scrooge wasn't the Christmas grinch; he was just a misunderstood sheep.

Wakka wakka wakka!

Life has been busy these chilly days, which I'm sure is no big surprise to anyone living in North America.  I'm knitting every moment I can, but I still can't talk about it much, since it's almost all on the down low.  Suffice it to say that I'm enamored with worsted weight, rustic, sheepy-smelling yarn. When knitting with Marr Haven yarn, being hypnotized by wool fumes is not just an excuse for extravagance in a yarn store. It is a wonderful reality.

I fussed with my cabled mittens design until I kinda hit a wall; it's on the back burner now, having scratched the itch.  So much for my dreams of becoming rich and famous.  I can better appreciate the already-designed patterns I'm working on for gifting.  Thank you, you smart designers.  I enjoy the way your patterns flow so effortlessly.

Between sentences, I'm pausing to knit some honeycomb cables.  Now I want to knit a full aran sweater in the color grey.  Yumm.  Is it bad that I'm fantasizing about smelling like a sheep?  (That is to say, because I'm wearing sheep's clothing...)

Because I'm blogging and knitting in entertaining and somewhat mercurial company, the next statement is unrelated to the previous line of thought.  The weather is really cold today.  Really cold.  To all disrespecters, I just want to say,
How do you feel about knitting now??  Huh???

So there.

Oh!  I almost forgot to show you how my Akimbo turned out:

I think the Noro behaved this time.   Woot!

P.S. Can you guess what is today's new vocabulary word?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who says it's too early for Christmas carols?

You better not pout, you better not cry,
You better like lace, I'm telling you why,
Franklin Habit's coming to town...

Or came and went.  And I got to meet him.  

If you're new to knitting, maybe you don't know who he is, but let me just say I have sock yarn named after him.  Sock yarn which has been rather naughty.  Franklin is a hilarious blogger/cartoonist, but I found out that he is also a gracious teacher and a friendly celebrity.   So friendly that he put up with my request that he work some good karma into my half-knit socks.  

This pair of socks has been knit and frogged and knit and frogged and knit and frogged... you get the idea. My problem is the fit around the heel/gusset area. While my struggles to get the sock right may be close to a breakthrough, my desire to finish this pair of socks has severely waned. Hence, the pilgrimage to meet the colorway's namesake. Hopefully the socks will feel better about themselves now.

Anyway, I was fortunate enough to take two classes with Franklin, in which he gave a historical introduction to the three big schools of knitting.   In the class on lace edgings, we actually got our elbows dirty knitting a small model demonstrating the construction of Orenburg shawls.  The result?  A stupid little snowflake.  (Note: that's Franklin's wording, not mine.  Just in case you think I'm disrespecting.)
I've knit lace, and it doesn't really faze me, but this class was challenging for me.  I attribute this to two factors:
    1) It tested my ability to constantly turn an object in the air and see what's happening, kinda like writing while looking at a reflection in a mirror.
    2) I had not gotten any coffee that morning.
It should not have been so mindbending, but leave it to me to make a simple thing complicated.  We all have our intelligences and lacks thereof.  Coffee tends to simulate the latter.

After the class, I can say that somehow I am gonna find some way to use the herringbone stitch to join two pieces.  Super cool!  Ooh... an idea is brewing right now...

I didn't get a chance to take Carol Sulcoski's class on yarn substitution, but I did manage to snag a few of  her yarns.  One was simply labeled, "Mystery Wool."  That tickled me, but it was beautiful, so I had to add that to my purchase.  You'll see it at some point, I expect.  Oh, and I finally got her to autograph her book, too.  If you're no stranger to my blog, you may remember my mutant version of one of the patterns published in her book.

Recent Knits...
I had a blast knitting up the Cairn hat by Ysolda Teague to match my Diamondback Mitts.  

I also made myself a cowl neckwarmer out of Malabrigo Rasta.  It's a little monster-ish, but it does the job.  I'm generally anti-scarf in the traditional sense.  I don't know if it's because they don't really cover my neck the way I want them to, or because they get stuck in the armpits of my jacket, or because they take so freaking long to knit, with turning the work constantly... I just know that I'm more a fan of knitting a shawl or cowl or a neckwarmer.  The difference between the last two, as I was told, is that if it's close to the neck, it's a neckwarmer.  So there.

I know with looks like these, I'm bound to either become a knitting superstar or a model or a judge on Project Runway. 

My looks aside, this yarn is quite nice.  And very big.  

Current Knitting (or Designing???)
I'm working on a bunch of secret knitting, either for Christmas, or because it's a testknit for Stephen West. I've spent a good bit of time poring over stitch dictionaries, swatching, graphing, and trying to design a shawl.  I now have a greater respect for Stephen. Not only are his designs great looking, but they knit easily and the ideas tend to be pretty simple.  Ingeniously simple.  It makes me realize I probably will never be a knitting designer for my living.  Still, I want to dabble.  While I was at Loop, I got to splurge on a bit of BrooklynTweed's Shelter yarn.  I'm cooking up a convertible mittens project in my head that is borne out of necessity more than aesthetics.  Kinda like that neckwarmer.  Stay tuned to see how it works out...

Friday, October 29, 2010

If Project Runway could see me now...although it's probably for the better

It's Halloween this weekend, and we had our costume party today at the nursing home.  I've never been one for scary costumes, and I was really hurting for costume ideas a week ago, so when a coworker suggested I dress up as the star of Where's Waldo, I knew it was fate.  I used to be a huge fan, and besides, here is a costume requiring a knit hat!

It was a pretty affordable costume... I think I put out about $7.50 for the yarn and duct tape.  I was very pleased that people were so surprised that the white stripes were my own handiwork. 

Fueled by my apparent success, I suddenly found myself a font of ideas.  Really corny ones.  So if you're trying to figure out what to dress up as this weekend and have an aversion to store-bought costumes, I'm gonna give you a few of these babies for free.  So reach for the antacid and revel in my phosphorescent wit...

If you like wearing pink, you could be a flamingo or (thank you, sis!) the gum on the bottom of your shoe.  I was able to fashion a beak out of construction paper, tape, a hole-punch, and some ribbon. For the gum, tie a shoe to your head.  Both of these assume you are wearing everything pink you can obtain.

Wrap yourself in plastic wrap and call yourself a bubble.

Or wear a white sheet, perhaps a white pillow on your head, and throw balled-up socks or white shopping bags at people.  When they become angry with you, tell them you are the abominable snow man.

It gets worse.  Start with a black, hooded cape (or white sheet) and add a utility belt, hold a wrench, or wear a badge, and possibly a police hat.  Then call yourself 'Spectre Gadget.  I can hear the groans now.  But I would totally do it.

Or how about this one: A witch costume, a rubber chicken, and a bottle/bag of sand.  Chicken sandwitch.  Or, if you wish, wear a fish.  Fish sandwitch.

Speaking of fish, I was determined to get someone to wear my fish hat.  So I gave the poor victim a grass skirt and a bit of hot pink bling, and stuck the fish on her head... Fish Bait.  (She's al-lure-ing!)

I'm gonna stop that now.  I'm beginning to feel ashamed.

On another note, I have been knitting like a fiend, but feel like I have little to show for it.  I whipped out a pair of mitts that I'm delighted to have finally made.  The gray wrist gear somehow reminds me of Wonder Woman, and I feel a bit like a super-cool superhero when I wear them.

It's kinda nice that I'm starting to knit up enough accessories in these blues and greens that I can coordinate my cold-weather gear.  Peacock, anyone?

I also knit up the new Brambles beret for a friend.  It's a fun little knit, and had some of the fun catharsis of blocking lace.  Forget that I fumbled and bumbled my way through the blocking of this hat.
I'm just about finished my Akimbo shawl, as well as knitting up some baby mitts for a coworker.  I've also been staring at books of stitch patterns in an attempt to get inspiration for a shawl of my own design as one of the ten that I still aspire to knit before the new year.  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.  The Akimbo will put me at seven... and Christmas approaches fast.  We'll see what happens, as I don't intend to knit really big gifts this year.  If only people I know liked beanies and berets!

Anyway, have a great, safe, and corny weekend.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Drumroll, please!

I told you Stephen West's first book of patterns was soon to be released; today is that day!

I didn't necessarily intend to be a fan, but I guess I am.  Here's what I like about Stephen as a designer:
His patterns are accessible to fairly beginner knitters, yet I usually find myself learning another trick to keep in my bag.  His patterns are simple and allow a lot of room for reinterpretation; at the same time, they are interesting and have a twist to keep the knitter interested.  And of course, his patterns are unique and stylish and versatile.

Stephen holds a special place in my heart because back before he became the knitting celebrity that he is today, he helped reestablish shawls as a hip accessory for men--at least among knitter-folk.  I must admit that before I came across his blog, I was rather set against shawl and lace as being "for girls." Since then my feelings have changed.  Not everyone agrees with my opinion that guys can pull off wearing shawls and kerchiefs without coming across as flamboyant.  But Stephen eased me into a place of comfortability with shawls until I became hooked.

So when Stephen asked me if I would test knit for him, I was flattered.  I still am not sure how I made it onto that list, but I love being a part of it.  I get to help him see the pattern as a lousy knitter would...or that's sometimes how I feel.  For instance, I got stuck on how to wrap yarn in intarsia.  It's not rocket science, folks!

Anyway, that's enough words.  Now to see the test knits!
I knit Piece Out in Peace Fleece, so I called it Peace Out.  Ha. ha. ha.  I'm so witty, I know!

Next comes Flagstone, with its interesting geometric appeal:

Here's Skinny Skid.  I ruined a nice hat by binding off too tightly on the brim.  I'm seriously considering knitting another one so I can try to get it right.

And last but not least comes Westward.  This was a fun knit, and it is written for one of my favorite yarns--Malabrigo Twist.

I forgot to mention that, designing aside, Stephen's a gracious person.  When I met him, he helped me pick the colors for the Skinny Skid.  Good thing I have enough left to try again...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kilts and Celtic Knits

I took a trip to the Celtic Classic Festival in Bethlehem, PA this past weekend.  I thoroughly enjoyed hearing bagpipes often throughout the day, even when they were only practicing before their turn in the competitions.

I brought along some knitting and garnered a few stares, knitting practically nonstop.  I also enjoyed meeting other knitters, although I must admit that there ought to have been more.  

I got to model my latest hat, made with Beata's handdyed yarn from Cork, Ireland.  It's a very simple pattern, most of which I knit the week before while at the beach.

After getting our fill of great music and vendors, my friend and I wandered up into town for a bite to eat at the local brewery and browsed the celtic store, where I came upon some handknit aran sweaters direct from Ireland.  Not the best picture, but I was trying to be discreet.  I loved how some of the tags on the sweaters gave pictures and descriptions of each of the aran stitches used within the sweater.

What I'm knitting:
I'm currently working on a couple of Stephen West's designs (yet again!).  I started his Akimbo shawl at the beach when I realized I had forgotten the needles needed for the crown decreases on my hat.  I'm hoping to incorporate the Noro yarn I had been so angry with last year...keep your fingers crossed!

The Akimbo has been hijacked by a test knit for Stephen's second book, scheduled to come out probably in the winter.  Soon, very soon, his first book will come out, and I will be able to show you a few things I knitted from it.  Yay!  I hafta say, as many patterns of his as I've made, I really enjoy the inherent simplicity in his designs, without being boring.  And he keeps coming up with interesting shapes and lines...what can I say?  I love his stuff.  

Oh, and I started two versions of his Flamboyan shawl, but they're in meditation/consideration right now, rather than active knitting.  But at least one of them will get knit.  I have a goal, after all. 

As for the socks with the Fleegle heels...well,  they're in the doghouse.

Fish of a thousand faces

I had the privilege to do a bit of travel during the past month, and I have a few pics to share.  Igor made an appearance at the beaches and dunes of Margate and Ocean City.

He had a bit of a crisis, and I had to talk him down from throwing himself into the watery depths.  I hadn't realized how nice the ocean feels in September!

While he stirred things up among the natives, he also stirred up the wrath of Lucy the Elephant.  

Fun was had by all; what a great way to spend the last couple days of summer! 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Food Chain Bites

Meet Igor.  
Not "ee-gor."  It's "I-gor."

And don't you dare call him cute.  He's one nasty bugger.  

I thought I was gonna get me some fish down by the lake, 
and apparently he was thinking along similar lines.

Well, he followed me all the way home, and started finding another playmate.

Yeah.  Another cat watching the incident was smart enough to run away.

Soon, I found that Igor had made other friends.

What can I say?  He kinda got under my skin.  So I named him.
(Yes, it's a reference to Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein.)

I guess you're allowed to like him...

... just don't get too close.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lace, Love.

I like to watch Project Runway, and while I'm in no way a fashion guru, as my wardrobe would quickly reveal, I'd say this is the closest I've gotten in my lace knitting to sportswear (looks, not function).

It's a rather heavy worsted weight yarn--Lamb's Pride Worsted, to be exact. I've been itching for some time to knit this color up into lace.  (It's very greeeen.)  Well, as I neared the border, I realized I probably wouldn't have enough yardage to finish, so I striped it with a couple other bits of yarn I have. The result? I'm completely delighted. I think for such a heavy yarn, it really benefits from a bold finish to make it pop.

It's kinda big.  Almost 62" across the wingspan.
Oh, and speaking of itch, I think the mohair in the yarn is a wee bit itchy, but I think I can get used to it. Heck, people used to wear much worse stuff back in the day. I'm really surprised at how nicely the Lambs Pride blocked out. I only knit this on size 8 needles; I would have expected to use larger. But it blocked out fine. I love lace blocking. Love it. And this one was one of the easiest projects for blocking, due to the points on two sides and eyelets on the straight edge. I just stuck my blocking wires through the eyelets and through the tips of the points, and voila! Lace!

I'm also including a few pics of hats I've made for Kyle's Operation Gratitude Handmade drive. It's not too late to jump on the wagon, you knitters out there!