January 2003 Archives

So Many Goodies... So Little

So Many Goodies... So Little Time

I still have some nifty knitting things to discuss, but I have to digress into being a techie for just one post. Geek girls like myself (what else do you call an immunologist turned software developer?) should always marry geek guys. My absolutely adorable, wonderful husband (also a software developer) got me the greatest thing for Christmas -- and no, it's not jewelery (although he's pretty good at picking out that kind of stuff too!) -- it's even better!! It's an:

iPod!!!

This thing is a wonderful toy (mine has 10 Gig of drive space so it can carry tons of music!) and just perfect for carrying around. It's smaller than my cell phone! And best of all, it works with my PC!

For more info on a toy that any geek you know would rave about (and they do on Slashdot.org, bastion of all things wonderful and geekful), check out the iPod on Apple's Website.

Big Sweater for John Completed

Big Sweater for John Completed and the Furz Scarf

I finally get to show off two of my very favorite things: my husband and a handknitted sweater! The sweater is done in Jaeger Natural Fleece, Coal. The pattern is from Jaeger Handknits JB14, its called "Deacon".

This is meant to be a big, loose, comfy, casual sweater -- its pretty easy to knit up and it is definitely warm. This is the first sweater John let me knit for him -- I finally got smart and let him pick a pattern and the yarn so it is in a style and color range that he likes. I modified a few things to make the pattern work better. You can check out my modifications for this sweater in my Gallery section. I don't think I like set in sleeves very much. But because this yarn is so dark, it is sort of hard to tell where the sleeves start, anyway. I didn't block this one, but I do plan to give it a bath and shape it up a little.

Over Christmas, I also completed my simple Furz scarf. Here's a picture of me and the scarf.

The backdrop to the furz scarf is the second ever sweater I knitted -- an Alice Starmore cardigan from her Stillwater pattern book called "Grapevine". It was on this sweater that I learned how potentially disasterous it could be not to check gauge correctly -- it turned out rather more oversized than I intended and I had to run around at the last minute and find an extra skein of Brown Sheep Worsted that matched the original batch so that I could finish it. Still, the aran-work in the sweater turned out better than I could have imagined for taking the project on so early in my knitting career.

This is a close up of the scarf and the sweater:

Berroco Furz is a fun yarn to work with. It is soft and smooth and just slips over your fingers when you knit. It's the kind of yarn that just begs to be knit up and then knits up easily. I love wearing the scarf, too, but it is a little itchy without a collar.

While out to brunch with John this morning, I actually got asked if I might want to make the scarves for a shop... so this yarn really does get people's attention!

To find out more about the scarf, and the pattern that goes with it, check out Furz Scarf in my Gallery.

Warm Fuzzy Feelings for the

Warm Fuzzy Feelings for the Day

Some days my hobbies make me feel good. A long time ago when I decided I was going to go to graduate school, I made the decision because I wanted to help "save the world". I figured the best way to do it was at the bench, trying to figure out how to make the human immune system better at fighting off disease. Many years later, I am not at the bench, having discovered that there is a lot more to saving the world in that way than I anticipated. I don't think I will ever stop loving the feeling of having made a new discovery, but in the end, the bad politics indentured servitude part of the system chased me out.

It was at that point that I went back to school in computer science. I figured if I couldn't save the world I could at least make some money. My wonderful husband just smiled and encouraged me and never complained once about more tuition bills. I have a great job now and I am happy (even though I am still working on that degree) but I still feel the absence of that making the world a better place thing.

Except for my knitting.

Over the past couple of months my mom has seen me knitting and I finally encouraged her to start her own project. She's always been "crafty" and has made some beautiful fabric dolls. She knew how to knit, but wasn't inspired by it. And then she started watching some of my projects grown and decided she wanted to try something again. While in Traverse City, I helped her pick out a lovely boucle yarn in variagated blues and magentas and purples and a co-ordinating magenta merino yarn. With a nice big set of needles she knitted a beautiful and simple scarf. Before Christmas, she also found time to turn a wonderful bright red eyelash yarn into a great scarf for my aunt. And while I was home at Christmas we spent time visiting yarn shops and talking about designing things. It was really neat to feel like I had inspired someone to get back into knitting.

I got a great email from mom today. She wanted something fun and small to knit on her Carribean cruise. I pointed her to the Vegan Fox pattern in the last issue of Knitty. She loved it and decided to go to her LYS (a wonderful place in Ann Arbor called Knit A Round) for help finding the yarn.

While she was there she not only got the chance to meet the people there, but she got to share a wonderful pattern and turn more people on to Knitty! The people in the store got the URL and copied the pattern so that they could enjoy it, too.

So today I am feeling good. Even if I can't save the world through science, at least I can make the world a better place by inspiring people to knit!

On another very cool note, I can't wait to see Shetha's scarf using Noro Hashigo. Its always amazing to me how a different fiber or yarn can make a pattern look so different, even though everything is still the same but the yarn.

Random Connections in the Universe

Random Connections in the Universe

Sometimes I am amazed by how seemingly random events can have interesting effects on one's life. For instance, I married a man who responded to a personal I posted on the Internet. This man would have grown up in Poland and I would never have met him if his grandmother hadn't come to Chicago -- and then had a stroke -- while he was young (his dad came to see to his mother and decided he wanted to move the family here).

Sometimes random events happen that aren't so profound, but you get something very cool out of. My most recent one was inspired by my Furz Scarf. John and I were having breakfast (well, very late brunch at 2 pm) last Sunday at a wonderful little restaurant we found out about not too long ago called Flo -- breakfast and lunch food with a Mexican kick. And I was talking about knitting. Out of the blue, the guy next to us starts asking about my scarf -- like, would I be willing to make them for his store Poster Plus -- where he's a buyer!

While I passed on this opportunity for myself (I have a full time job that keeps me busy more than full time, even though I think knitting for profit would be awesome), we did have a great time talking and I learned about a great website that features very cool Chicago stores (we also shared tips about good Chicago breakfast places).

The website is UrbanStyle.com -- they actually host for a wide variety of interesting stores. But one place that is definitely worth checking out is .

I haven't had a chance to check out their actual real world store yet, but they make custom crafted handbags designed by the people who order them! You can go in, pick a design and then the fabrics and other good things that go with them. Apparently they have design consultants to help. The things on their website look very cool if you can't run down to N. Halsted and make something on your own.

And it's things like this that make me sooooo happy that we moved back into the city. I can't imagine this happening to me in Addison, IL!

The Book Stash Increases

It was a lovely but cold day here in Chicago today. Perfect for sitting on the futon couch in my upstairs office and enjoying the sunshine filtering into the room. I made progress on a few projects, but mostly I continued to fall in love with a book I picked up last weekend. And it occurred to me that now might be a good time to share my thoughts about the new books I added to my knitting library over the holidays. I took advantage of my vacation time to do a lot of shopping for knitting gear, I have a bunch of great new mags and patterns, but there are definitely two standouts.

Most of you have probably already dug into Maggie Righetti's books, but for me they were a new and accidental find that I just can't put down. If you haven't checked them out, I can definitely recommend:


Lately I've been thinking that I would love to design a special knitted garment for my father. He's the one who got almost everyone in the family inspired to slim down and feel better about ourselves. Now that he looks so good, almost none of his clothes fit -- it seems like an opportunity to create something for him. But since I had some ideas but no idea how to translate them into something wearable, I started looking for books that might help me out.

Sweater Design in Plain English is fabulous to read. I've only read through the first 1/3rd of the book, but almost everything she has to say is helpful and thoughtful. I was thinking that a garter stitch sweater with a striping yarn might be lovely for Dad, but her discussion on garter stitch makes it clear that garter stitch on it's own won't be a good thing. The whole book is full of good things to think about, and it is written in a way that is un-intimidating and inviting. She definitely inspires me to want to go out and design my own sweater!

Knitting in Plain English has the same quality that the design book does: lots of good advice and a sense of humor. I find some of the technique pictures a little hard to follow because they are hand drawn, but I thought her discussion of blocking was excellent -- it was the reason that I decided not to block John's new sweater until after I had assembled it and had a sense of how it fit on him. I think this book will be a great reference book!

The Yarn Stash Increases

You'd think after living in Chicago for over 10 years and being a native midwesterner (I grew up in Michigan) that I would be used to the fact that it is cold in January. I can live with garden variety cold weather, but as we dive down into the low 20s and the wind starts to pick up and the snow flurries start to show themselves, I just start to feel cold all over and then can't get warm. Very inspirational for knitting heavy woolen things, but I'd prefer a few more degrees Fahrenheit!

Today I received my last major yarn stash increase for a while. In addition to adding to my book collection, I also added significantly to my yarn stash over the holidays.

  1. 10 skeins of Noro Silk Garden (colorway #8)
  2. 10 skeins of Noro Cotton Iroha, Color #110
  3. 10 skeins Jaeger Chamonix, Color Limoges
  4. 3 skeins Muench Touch Me, Color 3603
  5. 3 skeins Lana Gatto Parigi, Color 2689
  6. 2 skeins Lamb's Pride Bulky in Ponderosa Pine
  7. ~1400 yds silk/rayon blend dyed in variegated white, ecru, pale yellow, taupe

Here are a few representative skeins (I'm too lazy to take pictures of them individually...)

And here's the inspection being made by the Beezle -- he's quite the yarn connoisseur -- he only discombobulates knitting projects made out of the nicest stuff!

I am in love with almost all this stuff for different reasons. The Chamonix is incredibly soft! The "Touch Me" is the most incredible chenille I've ever encountered. The Silk Garden is almost luminescent close up, and the Lana Gatto is supposed to strip like the Noro, but is a much bulkier yarn. With so much potential in my stash right now, I have almost no idea what I am going to start next...Both the Chamonix and Silk Garden are really calling my name....

And Now For Something Completely Different...

My knitting projects are all going forward smoothly right now, but they are all mid-project so there is not too much to say about them. I am trying to get myself motivated to get finished with my masters thesis... I am on to the section of the language where I put the type checker together. If you are a software person, I would like to pass on a link to an interesting site:

Joel on Software

Lots of commentary on everything from software engineering to running a software development company. I do not agree with everything he says, but I do find what he has to say thought-provoking. Even if you are not a software developer or managing software developers or running a company that sells software, I find that what he has to say can be applied to other aspects of life and the business world and is usually worth a look. If I am learning anything about managing its that I need to constantly be thinking: about how to make things better for my team, about where we are planning to go with our product, about how to help people be more productive, about how to stop problems before they start... this site definitely gets you to think. Be sure to check out his Archive which has links to some of his full scale articles on a variety of business process and software engineering topics.

And just because I am feeling scientific today, I have also added links to two genomics news sources to my genomics links:

Genome News Network: Mostly Biotech business news related to genomics, updated daily.

Genome Web: Mostly news related the science of genomics and breakthrough sequencing projects, updated monthly. It also has links to several articles explaing genomics and sequencing that don't require a Ph.d. to understand.

Felted Up!

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What a fun weekend! I started it off with the arrival of confirmation of my Rowan subscription, complete with a wonderful little weekend handbag project in All Seasons Cotton. I've been wondering what it is like to knit with cotton, so this seems like it will be a great chance to find out!

Right after the mail carrier arrived, I set off on a yarn store excursion with Julie. We spent a lot of time at Tangled Web (177 S. Oak Park Ave, Oak Park, 708-445-8335) where I got a couple of skeins of Noro Kuryeon Color 75 -- just to play with. I wanted to get it just to see hot it feels and how it knits up. We also made a pilgrimage to Knitting Workshop (2218 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL). I picked up the Debbie Bliss Noro one book that has the two patterns I am trying to decide between for my Silk Garden, and a little more Kureyon (two different colors) so that I could try my hand at making the stuffed bear and rabbit in the Debbie Bliss book (they each only take one skein). I also acquired a few balls of Austermann Candy Color, a microfiber yarn that feels like polar fleece...I do not really need another scarf, but this stuff definitely wanted to go home with me.

We were fortunate in that we got to talk to the woman who will be teaching the Fair Isle knitting class that we are going to take there starting in February. It sounds like it is going to be great fun and a chance to learn two-handed knitting, steeking and other things that I have been too timid to try on my own yet. Even better, I will be taking it with Julie! It is always more fun to do these things when you have someone to share notes with.

But I think the big deal of the weekend for me is completing my first felting project! It's not my handbag project. I got started on a Fiber Trends Winter Cap with Earflaps for John using Lamb's Pride Bulky in Ponderosa Pine. I did not expect to go very far with it, but once I got started, it just soared! Amazing how a well written pattern is not only a joy to work through but just seems to sing on the needles. I did not even mind the part that required the double pointed needles. I started it, finished it and felted it all today! What a blast! The only hard part was trying to persuade John to try on the hat while it was still a little damp (he wasn't too excited about taking the "before" pictures either...).

Before

John thinks he looks like a Polish terrorist, but I think it gives you an idea of how big the hat was before it went into the washer. I am glad this was my first felted piece -- small and a nice preparation for when I get my handbag finished. I still cannot believe I threw a wool knitted garment in hot water in the washer. But here's the result:

After

John refused to take pictures wearing a wet wool hat, so these are the best until it dries (this is probably the closest to blocking a knitted piece I've ever gotten..). There is also a chin strap that can be used to hold up the earflaps...I'll have to find some suitably manly buttons for that. The pictures really don't do the hat justice! It's just so much niftier in person. And it was so much fun to do! Definitely inspiration for getting my handbag done! I love how the mohair in the Lamb's Pride gives the hat a nice soft fuzzy look without being too feminine. Of course, the real test will be getting John to wear it. But given how cold it is in Chicago right now, I don't think that will be too difficult.

Knitting and Computer Humor

I have a pretty comfortable, regular morning routine. Get up, get a cup of coffee, sit down in front of my computer and read my email. This became a lot more fun when I realized that I could have daily comics delivered into my inbox. I don't think I should link directly to the image, but if you follow this link:

Natural Selection, January 14

you'll find a little sample of what showed up in my box this morning. If you were offended by the Staples ads, then you'll probably want to leave this one alone, but I found it kind of amusing given that I am both a computer geek and a knitting geek.

Little Treasures

Kind of a quiet week for me. Most of my knitting is "in progress" and the cold kept me from venturing too far from work or home. John and I did have a lovely dinner at a little neighborhood Irish bar, the name of which I can't remember at the moment. Unfortunate, because they had wonderful winter comfort food and a fire place and I know we'll be heading back there again.

I do have one WIP that is interesting for me, at least from the yarn perspective. While at Knitting Workshop over the weekend I picked up 3 balls of Austermann Candy Color. I've always wondered if there were any yarns out there that would feel like Polar Fleece when knit up. This one definitely does. After knitting a swatch and thinking about it, I decided that I don't yet have a good winter hat, so I would try out the Anne Norling Spiral Rib Hat pattern that I picked up while in Ann Arbor. Here's a snap of the work in progress:

It certainly isn't ribbing in quite the way the pattern meant it to, but I like it so far, even though it has been one frogging experience after another -- it's easy to split with the needles, it catches on everything and I have an incredible ability to lose track of K2P2 ribbing for some reason. I think the colors are what is keeping me going -- and the thought of wearing it!

It's been a good week for mail order goodies for me. It started with part of my KnitPicks order arriving -- a ball of artful yarns portrait that I just ordered on a whim when I ordered my blocking board. It looked like it had neat colors and at $3.98 it seemed like a cheap way to find out what it would be like knitting with a mohair yarn blend. The colors in the photo on the website don't do the stuff justice! It is much more vivid and interesting. I was so inspired by it that even before I knit it up I ordered three more skeins for a surprise present for someone I know who needs a shawl. I also got my order from Levenger a wonderful place that sells all sorts of things that you will like if you are a writing instrument and little box junkie like me. I've ordered from them several times and have been pleased with the results on all occasions. Here's one of the sets of goodies that I ordered:

I thought the little leather pouches would be wonderful for knitting accessories. (And yes, this is what my desk looks like...packed with origami boxes, knitting gear, body lotions and consumer electronics.)

In the bottom right corner is one of my new favorite tech toys, a Logitech MX700 Cordless Optical Mouse. I am a mouse fanatic and this one is a real treat -- it feels nice in my hand and it is geared for browsing. The two buttons near the thumb are set to direct the browser to go forward and backward pages. I hardly have to move the mouse pointer to do anything. Hard to imagine that I could be too lazy to move a mouse pointer to the back arrow of a browser... but I am!

Now, back to my hat!

A Weekend With New Friends and Old Friends

I so look forward to weekends lately. I can sit up in my office and just devote myself to whichever project is calling my name. This weekend, at least 4 different projects spoke to me the loudest. Two I can talk about, two will have to remain nameless until a gifting experience occurs.

Saturday I finished my Candy Color Twisted Rib hat.

The colors are much more vivid and true in this picture. The hat itself turned out to be a big, soft, loose thing -- perfect for me because I am always catching my hair ties and barrettes in the tight and clingy kind. This Candy Color yarn is definitely not very elastic, so if I were to do it again I would probably do a few less stitches than I did. At first I thought it was a waste of time ribbing this stuff, now I sort of like the subtle effect the ribbing has. I am working on a scarf design now that will complement the hat because I like the feel of the yarn. This stuff is definitely not the most fun stuff in the world to work with, but it is so soft that it's worth the frustration of being neat when working with it. John kept coming up and feeling it. For the first time ever he asked me if I would make him a pullover -- out of this stuff. While I was flattered by the request, I don't think I could make a whole sweater with it -- especially not a whole man-sized sweater. But now I am going to keep my eye out for something that feels as nice!

I also fell in love with Noro Silk Garden Yarn. What a treat to work with! The yarn almost glows. With the beginning of February fast approaching I decided that if I was going to get another sweater finished in time to enjoy this year, I had better get it started. The sweater is the Raglan Sweater with Cable Detail out of the Debbie Bliss Noro #1 book.

The colorway is #7 -- I think the picture actually does do the colors justice, although you can't see the subtle, luminous quality of the yarn very well. It was much more exciting for me to watch how the colors came out in the yarn than the football game. If you want to see the "cable detail" here it is:

But the football game was a good time, too!. The husband is totally into his home theatre (which I refer to as "the Den of Great Manliness") -- and he was particularly excited about this game because a) it was being broadcast in HD and b) he just got his brand-new DILA projector (he had one before this but it wasn't as bright and the optics weren't quite as good). Because the projector is so much brighter, we could actually have a lot of ambient light in the room -- so I could see to knit and everyone else could watch the game. John also got to show off his brand-new theatre-style popcorn popper (a small version of what you used to be able to find at the movie theatre) and his Hot Diggity Dogger -- you haven't lived until you''ve had a hot dog made in your own "hot dog popper"!

Under the Weather but Ready to Felt

Its always great to spend the day at home, but not when you're sharing the day with stomach flu. Ugh! I knew that I would eventually get the nasty stuff going around work, but I didn't expect it to hit me this morning. Fortunately, I am set up to work from home -- so, from a work perspective the whole day is not lost.

Have you heard about the International Fuzzy Feet Felt Along? If you haven't there's still lots of time to get on board and try out felting with a bunch of other knitters and knitting bloggers. Kate is hosting the festivities and has generously agreed to host all the pictures of the finished products! If you want to get in on the action (or just see who else is in), check out:

The festivities don't start until February 4th so you have plenty of time to run out and get some yarn that will make your feet (or someone else's feet) happy. I think mine want to be wrapped in felted Noro Kureyon -- I will use almost any excuse to by Noro yarn these days.

You can find Theresa's Fuzzy Feet pattern at Knitty

Wonderful Treats from Emma!

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Today has been a pretty good day -- good meeting with my computer science prof about my masters thesis project, pretty decent day at work, and the anticipation of adding some Noro to my stash for my Fuzzy Feet and getting my Silk Garden sweater closer to completion. But I got a wonderful treat in the mail from my blog-ring neighbor Emma! Emma had kindly offered to send me some information about knitting lace shawls -- but I got an incredible surprise along with it:

Total inspiration to go out and knit socks!!! The grey yarn is for my husband (who is not terribly bright color tolerant). The green yarn is for me and is supposed to knit up in a jacquard pattern. They are both lovely and soft to the touch. I just bought a set of size 2 (2.75mm) because I wanted to try making Theresa's Lace Arrow Sachet, but now I think they might have to go towards into starting socks!

Thank you sooooo much, Emma! My birthday is next week and this is a wonderful, unexpected, early treat! This gives me lots of incentive to overcome my fear of double pointed needles!

When I started blogging I didn't have any idea how many wonderful, friendly, helpful people I would come across. The socks out of this yarn will be so much warmer than out of any yarn I could have bought for myself!

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