August 2004 Archives

Rebooting the System

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While I was flying around on airplanes last week, one of the legs of my journey was on a commuter jet. After boarding the airplane and getting settled in, the steward announced that they were having a problem with the computer and they were going to have to reboot the aircraft. So they got some technician on board, powered down the plane (I'd never seen the emergency floor lights on before) and re-started everything. And then we were ready to go.

Late last week I was feeling kind of down and unmotivated and unconnected. It was like something just wasn't working correctly. Or to use a more computer-related term: my software seemed to have gotten into a bad state.

But how do you reboot a person?

Apparently with an overload of sleep. I went do bed around midnight Friday night and got up at almost 1 pm on Saturday. When I woke up I felt like the whole world had changed. Suddenly I was motivated to knit and I felt connected again.

Armed with too much energy I decided that it was time to do a little blog renovation. I was pleased to find out that SixApart had changed their licensing costs and terms for the newest version of Movable Type. So I bought myself a real, live license, backed up all my goodies on website and installed the new stuff.

It's still got a few rough edges, but I haven't run into any major bugs, in spite of the fact that it is version 3.01D (for developer's release). I was pleased and excited that it installed easily and had no problems with my templates and styles. But then I started playing with the commenting system. And for some reason, no matter how I changed the configurations, I couldn't get it to accept comments without going through the moderation process.

This was a major bummer. So I flipped off an email to tech support and received almost instantaneous help (as an aside, this happened on Saturday night. The helpful tech support person finished her email dialog with me at 2 am on Sunday morning. How cool is that?) Apparently the MT Blacklist version that I was running was not compatable with MT 3.01D. Disabling Blacklist completely solved the problem. But left me without the ability to control comment spam. Which is bad, because lately I've been getting quite a bit of comment spam almost every day.

Ugh. Ugh. And Ugh again.

So I had two choices: revert back to the older version of MT (which I could do, since I had backed everything up, including my databases) or persevere with the new version, but turn on comment moderation and wait for the new version of MT-Blacklist that is going to be available for MT 3.01D. (For those of you running MT 2.6 and having problems with spam, I cannot say enough about Blacklist. Go get it. Install it. Donate money to help keep the developer able to improve and grow this excellent plugin!)

For right now, I've decided that I am going to live on the edge and play with the new software. I'm a geek girl, after all, and I like trying out new toys, even if they are not quite perfect. This means that when you leave a comment, you won't see it show up on the blog immediately. I will get an email and then I will have to approve the comment. I hope this won't deter anyone from leaving comments. Please understand that the only comments I will block are SPAM comments. As soon as the new version of Blacklist is ready and installed, I will turn off all comment moderation again.

After getting all my new software toys installed, I turned my attention to the front side of my Phil Ruban top. I would post another picture, but it looks almost exactly like the one in this post. I haven't gotten to the neck shaping yet, so it doesn't make for very entralling blogging.

John and I also got to take in Venetian Night, an annual Chicago tradition sponsored by the Columbia Yacht club. There weren't as many boats as we expected, but the fireworks were awesome. I had hoped to have pictures. I even brought the camera. But digital cameras work a lot better when you remember to bring a compact flash card to store your pictures on.

Video Game Knitting

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For those of you not fortunate to share a house with your own personal geek boy, you may not be aware of the big event geek boys around the world are celebrating: the release of Doom 3. In my house, this event has been one requiring the update of video cards and other supporting hardware so that our home theatre room (a.k.a. the Den Of Great Manliness) can be transformed into the ultimate gaming location.

I am not quite geek girl enough to want to play the game myself. Long ago I gave up on ever having the hand eye co-ordination required for a career in professional gaming. But I am geek girl enough to want to see the game played, look at the new technology, see what story gets told. In fact, it's one of my odd quirks (I have many), that I would rather sit and watch John play a video game than watch a movie.

So tonight I finished off the front of the Lucky Ruban Top to the sounds of gunfire, zombies and screaming combatants on Mars. Not a bad evening for a knitting geek girl.

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Lucky Front

Like the back, there's almost no shaping at all on this top until you get to the V-neckline. I think it's just about the most simple garment I've ever knit up. All that is left to do now is to block the front, weave in the ends, do a three needle bindoff on the shoulders, and seam up the sides. I'm a bit skeptical about the lack of armhole shaping, but in the spirit of trying to understand "how things work" I decided I would give it a go.

New tank top by Wednesday? It's a real possibility if tomorrow isn't too crazy at work.

Lucky Cushions

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While the Doom 3 saga continues, I've managed to get the front of my Phil Ruban top pinned down and blocking. Tomorrow the seaming will begin.

In the meantime, I've made some progress on my Colinette cushion:

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Harvest Snakes and Ladders
Want a closeup? Just click here.

And, of course, since I'm finishing up my Lucky top, I decided that I could start another project, probably my last summer top for the year. I've cast on for the sleeveless top in ArtFibers Mousse. There's not much to show for it yet, but since I'm anticipating a nice car ride back and forth from Ann Arbor this weekend, I have a feeling that I'll have a lot to show by Monday.

Lucky Me

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Lucky Me in Cassis

I should probably avoid taking pictures of finished items late at night, but since my schedule has leaned it that direction lately, that's when the pictures get taken. Here's my second finished Phildar project: my "lucky" top in Phil Ruban, color Cassis. The top, in this picture, has a little more sheen than it has in real life (I, on the other hand, always look a little shiny).

This top looks a little more complicated than it is. In fact, there is almost no finishing. The armholes are simply the edges of the fabric curling under a bit. There isn't even any armhole shaping. Nothing is picked up at the neckline and there's nothing at the cast on edge.

I did get wild and crazy on one element: instead of casting off for the shoulder seams I decided to do short rows and follow them up with a 3-needle bindoff. HooBoy! Am I in love. The shoulder seam looks so neat and clean. I'm not sure why I thought it would be difficult, but you can bet your sweet petunias that this won't be the last time I convert a pattern to join the shoulders this way. Once again I have to say "thank you" to Sarah for talking about this technique on her blog.

This was a pretty simple pattern, so the "what did I learn" component of this post will be short:

  • Short-row shoulder shaping and three-needle bindoffs are your friend.
  • Cotton ribbons/tapes seem to be easier on my hands than regular cotton yarns. Perhaps the woven construction of the ribbon gives it just enough give.
  • Phil Ruban, while delightful, is easy to split while knitting with it, at least in my hands.

My only regret at this point is that I don't have a whole bunch of Phil Ruban stashed away for a rainy day. It knits up into a soft and lovely fabric that, unlike most cotton that I've worked with, doesn't seem to immediately feel the effects of gravity. It has the right balance of weight and loft. When blocked, it makes a lovely smooth fabric.

I was able to preserve my swatch, so the next test for me will be to dump the swatch in the wash and dryer and see how it fares. A tiny bit of shrinkage wouldn't be entirely unexpected (or undesirable) in a 100% cotton yarn.

Can you guess what I will probably wear to work tomorrow?

Clowns and Mermaids

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Mermaid Sock In Progress

Please try not to pay too much attention to my blindingly white skin or my lack of a recent pedicure. The only good way to show off the short-row heel was to put the sock on.

Lately, I;ve been taking a little knitting project to work. If the weather is nice, I take my yogurt and my iPod and go sit outside in the sunshine for lunch and nibble and knit. Today my Mermaid sock (from Lucy Neatby's recent book) went to work with me and I set up the short row shaping. Between lunch, KIP and a bit of Doom 3 observation, I managed to finish the heel. On double points, no less.

I've tried short-row heels before on 2 circular needles and haven't been impressed with the results. The double points did work better for this purpose, and might actually convince me to try them for a whole sock project. Lucy Neatby is right, 4 double points in the round is definitely better than three. Or, it could just be that a garter stitch heel is easier for me to tension correctly than a stockinette heel.

Were I to start from scratch, I would probably do the next size larger, but I suspect some loosening will occur when this superwash yarn hits the washer.

Now I am on the home stretch for the project. Or at least for the first sock. And I can't say enough nice things about this book, Cool Socks, Warm Feet. Some people have complained that she is overly-detailed and too focused on DP needles, but I think the detail level is great and her construction tips are very useful -- and it's not really all that hard to convert instructions to use 1 or 2 circs. You do have to read ahead and do a little bit more thinking than normal to get the most out of this book, but it is an excellent sock knitting reference.

Think Pink

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Pink Swatches Abound

What a wonderful weekend I had! We just got back from Ann Arbor about 15 minutes ago. I have so much to "show and tell," but since it's late and I'm a little tired, I'll kick off the week by introducing some swatches that came to life this weekend. Believe it or not, they are the better part of the knitting that I have to show for the weekend. I just wasn't inspired enough to work on either of the top projects I've got started.

The swatch on the top is Phil'Eponge in Camelia. It is the setup for this project. As with all other Phildar swatches that I've set out to make, this one took not one, not two, but three -- yes, three - swatching attempts. The pattern calls for 3.0 mm, which I started with. I ended up with mostly acceptable row gauge on 3.5 mm, but not until after testing out 3.25 mm needles as well. In truth, even with the 3.5 mm needles I am probably a hair short of perfect row gauge, but I think the jump to a 4.0 mm needle would overshoot in the other direction.

What have I learned from this and my other two Phildar experiences? I should just automatically swatch for all my Phildar projects on two needle sizes higher than recommended in the pattern rather than hoping against hope that I am suddenly going to knit loosely enough on the recommended needles. On the positive side, at least Phildar and I are consistent in our tensioning differences.

Phil'Eponge is an interesting yarn to work with. It's an elastic-y yarn with a little stretch to go with the cotton boucle texture. It's not the gentlist yarn on the fingers, but it's not dreadful either. The fabric will certainlly be nice against the skin, and the cotton acrylic blend of the yarn ensures that it can be warn that way since it is machine washable.

That other pink swatch (in very exotic Lion Brand Woolease) is my first attempt at a "domino" a la Vivian Hoxbro. Why the sudden interest in Domino Knitting? I'm not going to share that secret yet, but more will be revealed as the week progresses.

Mismatched Socks

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Yes, you probably thought that I was going to show off my trip to ThreadBear and the goodies I brought back. Truth be told, I thought I was going to be doing that, too. But I had a sudden burst of inspiration to finish off two socks that were only in need of toes. Or, rather, I needed a couple of projects that could be worked on in the dark while I followed John's Doom 3 progress. Thus, I polished off my Mermaid sock (I love the way she set up the toe decreases to maintain the pattern) and I ripped back and shortened the toe on John's Pinstripe Socks.

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An Unlikely Pair of Socks

John's sock now fits perfectly (I ripped back so that there was 6.5" of tube past the heel start and then did standard decreases until I got to 16 stitches at the toe instead of my usual 12). And I really think I should get bonus knitting points doing Kitchener stitch in the almost dark with black yarn.

But I couldn't sign off tonight having only talked about two mismatched, unmated socks. I just have to show a picture of something that came home with me from Michigan:

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Sheepy Magazine/Book Rack

When I saw this at my parent's house I just couldn't stop smiling. When Mom told me that she and Dad had found it while travelling through Michigan and just had to bring it home for me, my smile got even larger. How could I not love this sheep, complete with bell, that would be just perfect for holding a project or books and magazines next to my favorite reading chair? (You can't tell from the picture, but there's a nice open box between his fuzzy sides.) It's really just too wonderful!

I don't have room for a sheep in my backyard -- but now I have one in my house!

P.S. To everyone who asked me about the pattern I used for the Phil Ruban top. It's a pattern from the Phildar Ete 2003 book. I have no idea if the book is available anymore...

Adventures in Central Michigan

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After a lovely breakfast of waffles with strawberries on Saturday morning, my mother and I headed in a north-westerly direction from Ann Arbor to see what was going on in the new location Rob and Matt have selected for the new home of ThreadBear. I can't even begin to express how happy I am for them to have found a wonderful new space and to be surrounded by friends. The fact that they are now so close to one of my personal favorite staging areas is certainly an extra added bonus.

Here's a little visual tour through the new digs:

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Rob Works on Inventory and Keeps an Eye on the Front Door
from in Front of a Big Wall of Crystal Palace Yarn
Sara Peasley is Hiding Back There Somewhere Valiantly Counting and Lana Grossa Yarn


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The Biggest Wall of Cascade220 I've Ever Seen
Somehow it Seems Even Bigger than it Did in Columbus


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The View Down the Center of the Store
Featuring a Lovely Assortment of Manos del Uruguay Yarn
This Room is Just Huge!


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One of My Favorite Zones of Color:
The Lorna's Laces Collection


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View from the Back of the Store
More Sock Yarn than You Can Shake a Stick (Or a Knitting Needle) At

While it's easy to take pictures of yarn and the store, what's hard to capture are the good vibes and wonderful people who are helping Rob and Matt make the transition from Columbus to Lansing. I got to meet the very handy and well organized Sarah Peasley (if you don't read her blog already, you should! She was the inspiration for trying the short row shaped shoulders of the Lucky Top), and later on in the day, another blogger, Sharon, also dropped in to help. It's always a treat to meet knit blogging people in real life!

Although I did have a mission to do some stash enhancement (more on this tomorrow), it was hard to be completely focused on my own needs with all the store activities going on around me. Mom and I had to get in on the act too! We didn't have time to do very much, but we did help count and sticker a couple of boxes of fibery goodies. Sharon actually caught me in the act if you want proof.

Like most knitters, I have a fantasy about opening a yarn store -- but I no longer have any fantasies about it being easy! It's a lot of work to keep track of a store full of yarn. Stickering just a box full of yarn took me almost an hour. It's really hard to appreciate what it takes to keep a business up and running until you have a chance to try out yourself.

I feel like there's a lot more I should say -- Rob and Matt have wonderful plans for the store. But I think I'll leave that for them to talk about. Suffice it to say, it's going to be wonderful place that I wish was in Chicago.

Good Luck with everything, guys! I can't wait to come back and see how things have grown!

Note Added Later: For those of you who are wondering What about the Koigu? Where's the Koigu? Why no pictures of Koigu? -- have no fear! There is definitely no Koigu shortage in Lansing -- most of it was just being inventoried and shelved while I was there and it wasn't really ready for it's photo op! But a small selection of it will feature prominently in my next post...

Treasure

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As everyone probably suspected from the beginning, it would have been neigh on to impossible for me to go to see the ThreadBears without doing some stash enhancement. I don't feel too bad about this. In the past month or so I have finished the Chai top and Lucky and the Biscotti top. So I am making a dent in my stash.

Here's the first pile of goodies:

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Bamboo DPs, A Sheepy Tape Measure, 40" and 52" Denise Cords and Some New Library Books

It might surprise everyone to know, especially after I have complained so many times about double pointed needles, that I got the size 0 and 1 set specifically for the purpose of trying to make socks on them. After my success with Lucy Neatby's garter-stitch short row heel, I've decided that I need to give them another try. I've tried short-rows before on two circulars and they just didnt't turn out as well as they did with the DPs. So now I am actually feeling bold enough to take on a pair of socks on a set of DPs. Watch out! The world may stop turning on its axis.

I have a zillion tape measures, but it was hard to resist this sheepy tape that comes from Mango Moon. Just pull on the sheep's tail and away you go.

I didn't actually get the Debbie New book from the Bears (it came from my Mom's LYS, Knit A Round), but since it showed up in the same weekend, I thought I would show it off. Talk about an inspiring book! I can't imagine making almost anything in the book, but it's hard not to look through it and be in awe of the clever things inside

Domino Knitting has been around for a while. It's one of those books that I had thought about buying many times before, but just didn't have a reason to. Matt helped find a reason for me (see below) and so it came home with me to. The Book of Sweater Patterns is Anne Budd's newest offering. Another great template book with lots of tips and tricks. I think it will likely be useful when I try to decide what to do with this:

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11 Skeins of Cash Iroha and Some Manly Sock Yarn

Rob and Matt don't have too much Noro left (lots of chenille, some Silk Garden odds and ends -- probably enough for Karen Baumer's scarf, in a few colors). I consider it a real find to have gotten my hands on 11 skeins of Cash Iroha in a color that I can actually wear. I've been hankering for some of this stuff for a long time, its an incredibly soft yarn. I'm not completely sure what it will become (there's only 1200 yards, so it will have to be something relatively simple) but I can't wait to knit it up. It really is just that luscious.

You can guess who the grey sock yarn is for (according to Rob they stock Trekking in part because of the good manly colorways). The green brown combination may be for him or for me. It depends on how "radical" it looks after being knit up -- the fact that I could even get him to consider it is a pretty amazing step in a new direction for my sock-color challeneged husband!

But none of that was what I actually had in mind when I headed to Lansing on Saturday. This was what I really went for:

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A Koigu Rainbow

I've been thinking for quite some time that I wanted another project using some Koigu. The Keepsake shawls I've been seeing were particularly inspiring, but I really don't wear Charlotte enough to justify another shawl. I thought, instead, that a throw might be a better option -- one that would give me a chance to indulge in a lot of color, but that could also be modular and portable and not terribly difficult knitting.

Initially when I started out, I had mostly happy blue tones. But then I discovered the third skein from the right (you can see a closeup in the third strip below). Matt worked some of his incredible color magic and helped me come up with some thing almost, but not completely, unlike my original vision. But his vision was so much more dynamic and insipiring than my original one that I couldn't believe I had ever wanted the original one in the first place.

Matt also suggested that Domino knitting might provide an excellent means for creating a reversible throw that could go together in smaller pieces. Now that I've tried my first domino square, I'm inclined to agree. I want to play with the Domino technique a little bit more before I commit completely, but I am already 95% of the way to convincing myself that its the right way to go.

Since the picture above is a little small, I thought a closer view was in order:

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p831, p121, p128, p113, p121
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p432, p615, p513, p527, p201
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p203, p858, p144, p609

I lovely the purples, blues, greens and pops of yellow that run through the skeins. It reminds me of the best of spring and fall, my two favorite seasons. The order of the skeins is still in the air. I have one recommendation from Matt, but I will likely play with them myself. I think it's good for me to challenge my own color sense to see how different colors work together.

And that about wraps up my little weekend trip to Michigan. I'm putting myself back on my yarn diet again for a little while. I've got to get at least three more projects finished before I consider any more stash advancement. Good thing I've got a lot of good things to choose from right now.

I'm hoping that August will see the completion of my ArtFiber's Mousse top, at least one pair of socks and my Snakes and Ladders cushion. We're having some unseasonably cool weather in Chicago, and I'm already feeling the pull of fall knitting. I keep reaching over to pet my Phil'Eponge swatch. Wanna take bets on what my next sweater project will be?

Blueberry Mousse

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After all the good stuff from my weekend, posting about an actual knitting project almost seems anti-climactic. But I do have my last summery top on the needles now, which I am calling "Blueberry Mousse".

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The Back of Blueberry Mousse

This is my third project from the yarn I bought at ArtFibers in June. Mousse is a Linen/Cotton/Nylon blend ribbon yarn that appears to be a much daintier cousin to Rowan's Cotton Braid. This particular colorway is just perfect for me: faded denimy blue with a touch of green.

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A Few Strands of Mousse

But what makes Mousse really special is it's knitted texture. It's boucle qualities mean that it is very hard to see individual stitch definition. As a result, the fabric almost appears not to be a knitted fabric. I think the texture is very classy and sophisticated. I thought the recommended gauge was a little loose when I knitted it in the store, so I dropped down two needle sizes. My gauge is almost exactly the same as it was on the US 8's, but when I switched to the US 6's, the fabric became denser. Denser, but still light and drapey. So it will be work appropriate as well as play-appropriate.

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Mousse Up Close: Stockinette and Some Lace for Good Measure

I hope this gives a better impression of the fabric and the colors than the top shot does. I started the base of the top with 4 rows of garter stitch followed by 8 rows of the basic faggoting stitch as described by Barbara Walker. I'm hoping that a little blocking will help to open up the lace at the bottom a bit. The rest of the top will just be stockinette, unless I get motivated to add more lace somewhere else. But I think it will be more striking if I don't over do it.

P.S. To Anyone Interested in my Koigu from Yesterday... I've added the color numbers beneath the closeup shots...

Lacy Interlude

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Don't You Think I've Waited Long Enough for a Front Right Panel?

I am not a morning person, generally speaking. Under most circumstances, if it is before 9 AM, I would usually prefer to be asleep. This is not to say that my world works this way, just that it's my favorite modus operandi. But sometimes my body plays tricks on me and gets me up at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. Normally I would be deeply annoyed with myself (especially since my yarn terrorists decided to "help" me unwind a ball of Lorna's Laces sock yarn), but this Saturday, with the sun shining and a nice breeze blowing through my window, all seemed right with the world.

Not only did I not mind being awake, but I even felt like cleaning off my desk (partially inspired by the fact that the yarn terrorists would not have been able to mount their attack if my desk space wasn't covered with tempting targets). It was during this cleanup that I unearthed the lace diagram for my Filigree Lace Jacket and remembered that the second sleeve cap was just two repeats from completion.

So putting aside my original intention to work on Blueberry Mousse, I finished the sleeve cap for the lace jacket. And realizing that I needed to take drastic measures to ensure that I get this lovely project completed someday (it's sad how long it's been on my "In Progress" list) I actually even took the radical step of casting on for the front right panel and doing the first lace interval.

In yet another attempt to motivate myself to get this project finished, I also took the picture you see above. It looks so close to the finish line all laid out like that! Almost makes me forget about the very significant amount of finishing work that will be required after all the pieces are in place.

Koigu Blanket Dreams

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It's really hard to sit with a fabulous bag of of Koigu Painters Palette Merino next to your desk and not want to do something with it. It's doubly hard when you know that you have purchased that yarn with the intention of trying out something new and fun and you have the hope that the combination of color and new technique will lead to something both creative and beautiful.

After getting my desk cleaned up on Saturday afternoon, I still had some daylight time to consider my Koigu throw. I didn't want to use up any of the new stuff that I had, so I went back through my yarn remnants and pulled out some KPPPM that I had left over from my Charlotte's Web Shawl. This turned out to be an ideal starting point, since my leftovers were colors I used next to each other in the shawl.

Initially I was thinking that I would just try to find a good needle size to get the right drapey blanket texture that I wanted to achieve. But after I made the first square, I decided that I just wanted to play with joining squares together. The 4 squares below are the result.

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1. Solid garter stitch square in KPPPM 602; 2) Garter stitch square alternating KPPPM 602 and KPPPM 334; 3) Alternating garter and stockinette stitch square with KPPPM 502 and KPPPM 334; 4) Solid garter stitch square in KPPPM 334

My general idea for the blanket is to have a strip of squares in a "solid" (if you can ever call a KPPPM colorway a "solid") followed by a strip of squares that alternated colors in some fashion, followed by a strip of squares in the second "solid" color.

In the above swatch, the squares labelled 1 and 4 are solid colors, while the squares labelled 2 and three alternate every two rows using the two solid colors. Square 2 alternates color but uses garter stitch all the way through. Square 3 alternates both color and stitch pattern, switching between garter stitch and stockinette.

I need to loosen up a little bit carrying the alternating yarns up the sides of the squares, but other than that, I consider the experiment a success. I even think the gauge is about right. Each of the dominos is 12 stitches and 2.5" on a side (4-3/4 stitches/inch), which seems to create the right amount of drape in the fabric. So I guess I'll be sticking with my 4.25 mm bamboo double points for this project (Clover DPs, for some reason, don't use the standard 4.0 mm sizing for US size 6 needles).

I was going to knit a few more squares to get a better idea of how this would look on a larger piece, when I realized that through the miracle of digital photography and PhotoShop I could make my small swatch grow into something much larger and more interesting.

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PhotoShopping a Throw

No one will ever be able to confuse me with someone who really knows how to use PhotoShop, but I am pretty pleased with the overall impression I was able to create. I definitely like the striping effect that I was thinking about. Now I need to decide how I want to alternate the color. So it's time to take an opinion poll. Do you like the solid garter stitch with the alternating colors (a la square 2) or do you prefer the garter stitch alternated with the stockinette (a la square 3)? Or do you think I should head back to the drawing board and try something else? All opinions will be gratefully accepted.

I'll kick the voting off with my dear, sweet husband's pick: alternating the garter and stockinette, which he likes because of the texture it creates.

Cushion Cover Update

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Midway Through Snakes and Ladders

I've hit the roughly half-way point on this project. I try to work on a little bit of it every night while I am catching up on the evening news via the NPR news streams. The colors are a little more gold and a little less orange, but otherwise are well represented.

I'm making slow but steady progress on the front of my lace jacket. Four out of 11-1/2 intervals are now complete

In other, completely un-knitting related news, Jay Allen has provided an emergency release of MT-Blacklist for those of us who have upgraded our MovableType software to v3.01D. I am close to spam free once again and I no longer have to moderate comments. Hip! Hip! Hooray! If you are a Movable Type user suffering from spam attacks, Blacklist is well worth the time to install and use. It's donation-sponsored software for those not running commercial sites, so you can try before you buy/support Jay's efforts to help keep our blogs comment-spam free.

Yarn Orphan

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Do you remember this (ahem) little purchase?

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11 Skeins of Cash Iroha and Some Manly Sock Yarn

Well, apparently I didn't dig through that box of Noro well enough. Look what mailed itself to me and arrived in my post box today...

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SGS In Search of Like-Minded Group

I can't believe I separated this poor little skein of Cash Iroha from his 11 best buddies. How insensitive and cruel of me to orphan Cash like that! Yarn abandonment at it's worst. I am sure that this will go on my permanent record!

Fortunatelty, this story does have a happy ending! Cash has been re-united with his band of fibery brothers, and seems none the worse for wear. Cash and company are already discussing the nuances of fall sweater design. And I've been smiling since I brought in the mail.

Thanks guys! There's no better way to end the day than getting a smile from special friends.

P.S. The lace jacket front marches on! 5 lace repeats down, 6-1/2 to go...

Something Purple This Way Comes

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The cool weather we've been having in Chicago has got me thinking about fall knitting and long sleeve wooly garments. In the spring, I ordered some Muench Bergamo in a nice purply color to make Salt Peanuts, a Veronik Avery sweater from the Spring 2004 issue of Interweave Knits.

Of course, by the time I had the yarn and had the time to make the sweater, it was time to get into the swing of warm weather knitting. So the Bergamo got stashed.

And then Doom3 arrived on the shelves.

Now, you might be wondering what a first-person shooter could have to do with Salt Peanuts. Well, the answer is simple. I've be watching my favorite guy play Doom 3 in our home theatre room. A dark room makes for the best gaming, but not for the best knitting. I needed something simple and mostly stockinette that could keep my hands busy while I watched John make progress on Mars.

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All Swatched Up: Muench Bergamo for Salt Peanuts
Click Here for a Closeup

Pretty, no? I just love the heathery quality.

One little surprise for me: this lovely swatch was knit on US size 10-1/2 needles and is 17 stitches x 25 rows to 4" square. For whatever reason, when I looked at the sweater in IK, it just didn't look like a sweater on the slightly bulky side. But I definitely got gauge on the recommended needles and I got a very nice, dense fabric. It reminds me a little bit of sweatshirt material from a density and comfiness perspective.

Relatively large needles and just a bit bigger than aran weight yarn also makes for very fast knitting. Here's the results of a couple of gaming sessions:

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Starting from the End of the Pattern: The First Sleeve

It's the little lacy detail in the ribbing that separates this sweater from just another cardigan done on big yarn and big needles:

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Salt Peanuts Lace Rib Detail

I ordered the recommended amount of yarn, but I am already worried that maybe I should have ordered an extra skein. This sleeve took just about 3 skeins. I was thinking about trying to get both sleeves out of the way first, but now I think I am going to tackle the back next, just in case I have to be creative towards the end...

Piecing Things Together

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Sleeves and Edging, Please

I got some momentum going on Saturday with regards to my Filigree Lace Jacket and completed the last piece. It always seems like once I start to have the finish line in sight, it's almost impossible for me to stop short of my goal. Of course, I couldn't resist attaching the right front to the back and seeing how the three main pieces looked together.

Pretty nifty, I think.

Acts of Kindness

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The world knitting community is a remarkable place. Not long after I joined the blog ring, I got a special surprise in the mail from Emma, my very kind and encouraging blog neighbor. (It is one of those amazing and special magicks of the ring that Emma and I still have adjoining blogs even almost two years after joining the ring. She has blog number 178 and I'm 179.) You just don't expect people across the ocean that you have never met to send you something to encourage you to try something new, like sock knitting. Yet one day, in January of 2003, I found myself surprised by just such an experience. And to be honest with you, even though I know knit bloggers, and knitters in general, to be kind, generous souls, I never figured that the same wonderful thing would happen to me again.

But yet it did.

Every evening after I get home from work, the first stop I make is the mailbox. Lately I've been hoping that the latest Rowan would show up (has anyone in the US with a subscription received their copy yet?). But what I found on Friday was much nicer than any Rowan mag:

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A Special Gift from Karen

This lovely sock yarn (Lang Jawoll Color) in harvest berry and pumpkin colors with just a little bit of sparkle, came from Karin, one of the participants in the Audrey Knit-Along (you can see her lovely finished sweater here). She sent it along because she enjoyed her Audrey experience. I am really very touched! The yarn is an immigrant from Switzerland. I will definitely try to show it a good time here in the US. It's wonderfully soft and will certainly knit up into a wonderful pair of socks! Thank you so much, Karin! You brightened up the end of my week. I've had a great deal of fun hosting the Knit-Along. It makes me feel good to know that others have enjoyed participating.

Picot Problems

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Is their anything worse than being inches away from a neat finished item but being thwarted by a technique that you just can't seem to figure out? While I have no illusions about my knitting knowledge, I like to think that with good reference material and a willingness to dig in, I can figure out most anything.

But the picot edging/cast off for my Filigree Lace sweater is eluding me. I present exhibit A:

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The Ugliest Picot Bind Off Ever
Can't get enough? Just click here

This picot edging distorts the fabric, is too holey curvy. And it just looks like it's been smacked with the ugly stick one too many times.

Most of this was done using the instructions for the Picot Cast Off in the big Vogue Knitting reference book. Cast off two stiches, cast on two stitches using a cable cast on, bind off all the stitches so that only one remains on the right needle. Cast off two more stitches.

Some of it was done using the instructions from the sweater pattern:

*K2Tog, using cable cast on method, cast on 3 stitches (4 sts on needle), bind off 3 stitches k next 2 stitches together; on right hand needle, sl 2nd st over first. Repeat from * to end.

Both Vogue Knitting and the pattern show nice neat edging that doesn't distort the fabric and without prominent holes where the edging makes a nice scallop. I'm not seeing that here.

I've made several test swatches trying to figure out what I am not doing correctly, but have been stunningly unsuccessful. I'd show more of my misery off, but they don't look radically different from the ugly swatch above, so I decided not to waste the electrons.

I have spent a great deal of time combing the web for visual assistance. I did find some additional help in Alison's archives and in one of Stephanie's patterns as part of my Google expeditions, but something isn't quite clicking with me.

Can anyone out there help? If you know of a site with good visual instructions, or you live in Chicago and would be willing to trade your knowledge of this technique in person for a latte and my undying gratitude or you can tell by looking at my ugly swatch what I am not doing correctly, let me know. I don't even want to think of dealing with this in Kidsilk Haze* until I know I can make it work correctly on a simple swatch with unsticky yarn...

*yes, I did launch into my first attempt at this with one of my lacy sleeves and a double strand of KSH...it looked terrible, which is what lead me to the swatching. It was a b***h to rip out, and I don't think I could face doing it again without some hope of success

Picot Progress

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As the Beatles were fond of singing...

I get by with a little help from my friends...

And that's definitely the truth today. Thank you very much to everyone who posted suggestions yesterday. I tried most of them and ended up discovering what I had been doing wrong -- and coming up with something that was not entirely unlike the instructions for the project.

What was I doing wrong? Well needle size was a factor on my test swatches. I knit the swatch on 5 mm needles and tried to do the edging on 4 mm. When I dropped down to 3.75 mm the distortion disappeared a bit more. I suspect that 3.5 mm would have mostly eliminated it.

But actually I was missing something far more critical, that was made more clear to me by looking at the discussion of the picot cast off in Nancie Weisman's book The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques -- a slim but very useful volume that I had forgotten to look in.

The critical part of these picots is casting on extra stitches and binding them off. Well, for some bizarre reason, I cast the stitches on, and then bound them off without knitting into the stitches (i.e. just by slipping the cast on stitches over each other). If I had done a real cast off, I would have been a lot more successful. I also think there is an error in the picot edge instructions and ended up modifying them to what worked, rather than how they read:

CO 2 stitches, **Cast On 3 stitches on the left needle. Cast off 4 stitches, K2Tog, slip first stitch over K2Tog stitch, repeat from ** until all stitches are exhausted.

It worked so well on my test swatches that I actually got daring enough to try it out on my sleeves:

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Happy Picot Sleeve Edging

And a close-up that really proves the point:

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Picot Up Close and Personal

Those sleeve edges are the easy part... The next involves picking up and adding the picot edge to the back and front edges and neckline -- it's going to be a challenge just to find a needle that I can get all the stitches onto, because you literally pick up all the edge stitches in one go. But now that I've made it past the mental hurdle, the physical knitting part should go much more smoothly!

Knitting Towards the Weekend

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Shapely Salt Peanuts

The warm and humid weather we are experiencing here in Chicago right now is wreaking havoc on my ability to make much progress on most of my projects. Most of my serious knitting has happened in accompaniment to Doom 3 gunfire and demon bashing because it involves the cool and friendly basement that surrounds our home theatre (John is playing Doom 3 on his home theatre computer which is connected to a nice projector and a 8' x 6' movie screen so it's a fairly cinematic experience).

I've got about 4 more inches before I come to the shoulder shaping for the back of Salt Peanuts. Can I just say that I love the way this project is designed and shaped? Not just for the curvy quality of the sweater (which is not completely obvious from the pictures that accompany the pattern), but also for the details that just make a sweater easier to finish -- like selvedge stitches in the lacy ribbing to make seaming a much more pleasant process, and some clever looking double decreases that are both useful and decorative.

I'm still a little nervous about yardage from the Bergamo, but I have two more balls on the way from Elann, hopefully that will give me enough to get to the finish line without too much worry.

Speaking of things that come in the mail. I just have to show off some of the non-knitting goodies that I have ordered from Levenger recently:

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Hand and Tote Bag Happiness

My current favorite is the blue suede bag (The 7 Day Tote) that I picked up for $19.95. This is a totally awesome bag that can easily do double duty going to work or going out to play. I'm in love! The orange bag (The Newport Tote) also comes with a cell phone holder and extra little inside bag to hold goodies and is also a steal at $19.95. (Sorry if this sounds too much like an advertisement, but I am enjoying my recent haul. And, Levenger is really a nice company to do business with. Whenever I have needed to take advantage of their customer service, they've been friendly and helpful).

Perfecting Picots

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It's been a two steps forward, one step back weekend for me and the Filigree Lace Jacket. I thought after I picked up a bazillion stitches, I'd be on my way to picot-ed perfection, but bad pattern writing or bad picot instruction interpretation have put up a few roadblocks for me.

But to get started, here's what I did accomplish:

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Picot Edging on the Filigree Lace Jacket

The edging on this jacket is done by picking up stithches along the entire opening (i.e across the bottom of the front, up one side, around the neck, down the otherside, across the bottom of the second front and around the back). What you see above is the picot edging on the back and the bottom of the first front piece. I would have gone farther, except for an instruction which I know is not quite right... it asked me to pick up every 4th stitch on the neck edge.

Of course, you all know even before I tell you that this means that the edging is going to cause a puckering in the fabric. I, on the other hand, had to figure it out the hard way, by making the mistake with the very unyielding Kidsilk Haze. I think they actually meant that I should pick up three out of every four stitches on the neck edge (or skip every 4th stitch), which will be the next thing I try. The only positive aspect to this mistake was that because I picked up stitches along the entire edge, I could just rip that region out without worrying about dropped stitches or damaged yarn. Even so, I found the ripping experience frustrating enough that I had to set the jacket aside in my knitting room for a while and do some therapeutic knitting on another project.

Before the Filigree Lace Jacket and I reached this unpleasant impasse, however, I did learn something else: I was making my picots wrong on the sleeves. You can see the difference below:

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Happy Picots on the Left, Sad Picots on the Right

The picots on the right are like the ones on the sleeves. There's nothing dreadfully bad about them, but I thought they looked a little flat. The picots on the left are much closer to what I think picots are supposed to be. Interestingly enough, there's only one small difference in picot construction between the two... slipping the last bound off stitch after you finish a picot interval back to the left-hand needle. (I know, this doesn't make much sense without pictures to accompany... the picot will be the subject of my next TechKnit pictoral... I would have done it already, but Kid Silk Haze is not the ideal demonstration yarn.)

Because I am so taken with the new and improved version of the picot, I just had to post an extreme closeup:

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Picot Profile

I won't be ripping out the picots on the sleeve edges -- I'm going to call it a "design element" and let it go before this sweater gives me a pre-mature case of high blood pressure. If I wasn't working in KSH, I might make a different decision, but I am, so I'm not.

In non-knitting news, John and I saw a falcon perched on the railing of the back deck of the apartment building next door to us. We had to do a double take, because you just don't see birds that big very often around here. Very cool, although I think we'll keep the cats off the balcony for a while. Who says there's no wildlife in the city?!

Why does finishing have to be a big pain in the arse? I'm pondering a weirdo Rowan finishing instruction this very moment.

This comment from Claudia pretty much sums up my sentiments with regards to this project. Whenever I get to the point where I have finished knitting the body of the sweater, I always get this happy rush of accomplishment. It seems like the project should be all downhill from there. And then the pattern author throws a monkey wrench into the situation by making me think hard. I think it is dreadfully unfair of the designer to make me actually use my neurons on what I think should be the easy part.

Ah well. As my mother and father have always told me, life is not always fair. However, persistance does have its rewards.

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All Picoted Up, Is There Somewhere to Go?

I can finally see the structure of this little jacket beginning to take shape. I love how edging and seaming does that. The picots need to be blocked into a more flattened position relative to the garment, but even without blocking, it is gratifying to see that I learned something from my original mistake and made the right decision when I picked up three out of every 4 stitches around the neck and front opening.

Since I pretty much spent the entire evening tonight picking up stitches and making picots, I figure a second, close up picture is justified.

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Just Can't Get Enough Picots

With any luck I'll get the sleeves attached tomorrow and then the real party can begin!

P.S. To everyone who wants a cat but doesn't want the hassle of dealing with an actual live animal... new goodies from Japan it takes a little while to load up... so you may have to be patient

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