April 2008 Archives

336 Stitches

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Doesn't look like much, does it?  But it's actually the sum total of all my knitting time over the past week and a half.  I have discovered that 336 stitches around is a lot of stitches.  It seems like even more stitches when you are knitting them on 2.5 mm needles.  But, finally, the Zebra Striper dress for Ms. Z has started.  I'm making the 24 month size figuring that that will give me plenty of time to get it done.  After seeing how long it takes me to get around once (even with just basic stockinette) I think giving myself plenty of time was the best choice I could make for the project. 

This pattern starts out with a simple lace motif to make the bottom edge scalloped.  After that, it launches you into the two color work. 

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The positive side of having so many stitches in a round is that it gives you plenty of time to memorize stitch motifs and to try out different ways to handle the two color knitting. I spent a lot of time doing things with both yarns in my left hand.  But things just kept getting tangled and it was hard to keep my tension good when I used a lot more of one color on a row than the other color.  Then, suddenly, on the row where there are three green stitches followed by one red stitch repeated throughout the row, something clicked in my brain and I figured out how to knit two color with one color in my left hand and one in my right. Don't ask me what happened or how it happened, but it did (I had a similar experience learning how to use the drop spindle).   I am far from speedy and my technique could still use a lot of work but the breakthrough has been made.  Whatever barrier I had in my brain that was preventing me from doing this has been broken.  Now it's just a matter of continuing on this way and re-enforcing the neural connections involved with letting me knit with both hands at once -- which shouldn't be a problem since I still have quite a few more rounds of 336 stitches with which to practice ahead of me.

Now, hopefully I can apply this two handed stuff to the second Fiesta Foot!  That would make the instep part of the project a whole lot easier!. 

Friday Eye Candy

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This picture was taken the Friday before we came home from Florida.  John and I were walking along the beach with a sleeping baby in a Baby Bjorn.  The weather was perfect and the sun was just going down. These seabirds were enjoying the shore, looking for dinner.  A nice memory of another Friday.  And while I can't put my finger on why, I just love the bird on the right who is facing the camera while all the rest face into the wind.

Do I miss the beach, or what?  At least yesterday morning I got to sit with my coffee, my new iPhone (playing a podcast) and my second Fiesta Foot enjoying the sunshine with a short sleeved shirt.  Maybe Spring is finally beginning to show itself here in Chicago.

The Fabric Stash Grows, But Slowly

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With a baby in the house, I don't really have the space any more to be growing two stashes.  However, I am beginning to understand how addictive fabric stashing can be.  In some ways, it is easier than stashing yarn.  When I buy yarn, I really do have a good understanding of how long it takes to knit a project and I am much better than I was at knowing my limits even when a good deal or something beautiful is at hand.  With fabric, this is much harder.  When I sit down in front of the machine, all those stitches seem to happen so fast and it makes it easy to think that fabric will come in and fly out of the stash into wonderful projects. 

This project idea was "stolen" from Alison at the blue blog, who has also been bitten by the quilting bug.  Sometime back she talked about a project that involved making fabric books. And, in fact, there are all sorts of novelty fabrics out there that are geared to doing that.  Baby Z has been changing by leaps and bounds lately, and one of the things that she has taken an interest in is books.  Right now, I think the thing she likes most is flipping the pages, but it's easy to see that the books that have vivid images also grab her attention.  So I went on line and started looking for some fabrics that could be used to make into books.  I figured that not only might I end up with something sweet for Z, but I might be able to practice some machine quilting skills as well. 

These fabrics come from Hancock's of Paducah.  Z is going to get a collection of funky monkeys jumping on the bed (how could I resist counting with sock monkeys?) , an introduction to Paddington Bear and an introduction to fairy tales (I had forgotten about Rumplestiltskin and the spinning wheel!).  I love the idea that they can be washed, squished and loved in whatever way a baby wants too (right now a lot of baby love still gets demonstrated through chewing,,, which wouldn't be so bad except for three sharp little teeth). 

And this week has brought us another amazing gift from our baby -- a 9:30 bed time.  One thing I am learning about babies -- no matter what a parent says, you really can't take that much credit for your kid's sleep patterns.  Z has been a good sleeper since about 8 weeks, and while there have been 4-5 nights since that time when she's gotten us up at strange times in the night, by and large, John and I have had it pretty good, even with a baby that liked to go to bed at 11:30 at night.  Once she got mobile, though, it became almost impossible to do anything because danger baby always seemed to be headed for some disaster.  This earlier bed time comes at the perfect time and is an incredible blessing from whatever baby gods exist out there.   So now I have time to blog, and get back to doing some more crafting. 

20080407_ZHitsThePark.jpgSince it's been a little while since a Z picture appeared on the blog, here she is, all 8 and a half months of her, on her first time out in a swing.  She absolutely loved it!  The higher she got pushed, the bigger her smiles got.  She does all sorts of wonderful things now.  She waves bye bye (which is sweet and heartbreaking at the same time when I have to go to work), she babbles in all sorts of syllables, she can crawl like the wind and can manage crawling upstairs.  She pulls up on everything and is beginning to cruise.  She can handle big pieces of apple all on her own and likes to try new foods.  She is fascinated by my iPhone -- both the shiny images and the fact that she can hear Daddy's voice when Daddy is not around.  Clearly for Z, the world around her is a wonderful place -- at least when it isn't reaching up to smack her on the forehead!


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This picture, taken after dark, courtesy of my daughter who didn't do anything predictably today.  Some days, being a mom is a blast.  Other days, I know it's a good thing, but it just wears me down.  And on those days, not only do I feel worn down, but I then make myself feel guilty about not giving the baby the happy attentive mom she should have and I worry that my inability to smile at her through my funk is scarring her for life.  We're scaling back the nursing (read: I've gotten to the point where I can no longer take all the crazy baby behavior in this arena and I would like to have my body back) and I think that's wreaking a little bit of havoc with my hormones.  And that, when combined with the grey weather, makes me a not so upbeat mommy.

Anyway, when she finally settled in for an afternoon nap, the sun was out and it was warm enough to sit out on my balcony.  I had been thinking about knitting, but then I noticed these two lonely bobbins sitting on my bookcase --  I finished those up in September with the idea that the plied product would be a gift for a friend.  I haven't had a chance to use my wheel since!  Remembering how centered spinning always makes me feel, I grabbed my wheel and my lazy kate and those two bobbins and sat out in the sunshine for an hour and a half and plied those singles into a real live 2 ply sock yarn. 

20080409_LimeolaPliedClose.jpgI know there is good luck and something special about this sock yarn because when I finished plying, the singles ran out at the exact same time -- that's never happened to me before, in spite of all the weighing out of fiber that I do.  I'm looking forward to hanking it up on my niddy-noddy and giving it a good bath so that it can relax and I can feel the real final product -- both the colors (there's a lot of great green hiding a layer under) and the hand.  Since these singles have been sitting for so long, the twist was completely dormant.  It made for easy plying, but it also means that the final yarn is going to be different than what I see on my bobbin. 

Working with my wheel was excellent therapy for the afternoon.  It didn't chase all the weird energy away, but it did help me get a little of my mommy equillibrium back.

Paper Piecing

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When Spring rolls around, I always get the urge to get out of the house and learn something new or meet some new people.  Since I don't think I'm going to get to MS&W this year (I'm going to try to shoot for Rhinebeck again) I thought it would be fun to treat myself to another quilting class.   I enrolled in the Paper Piecing workshop at Quiltology and the first evening was just a big scrappy hoot!

There was a big pile of scraps to work from and we all got to try out the templates for a couple of simple blocks.  I was amazed at how fast I got these together!  I probably had both of them done in about an hour, and there is nothing cooler than having these wonderfully perfectly square blocks!  The stripey one is probably the one I like best, because I just grabbed scraps as I went and sewed them on.  I didn't think too much and I am pleased with the result.  It had never occurred to me before this class to think about keeping scraps of fabric, but this class has changed the way I look at those left over bits of fabric from my projects.

As part of the class, I am going to work on a very small quilt project based on the stripey square    It's going to be 4 blocks by 4 blocks and that featured fabrics are going to be purples and yellows.  I spent some time playing with Electric Quilt 5 to get a pattern I really like that isn't something you'd entirely expect -- I say that because it was something that just sort of popped out at me as I messed around with the tools, and I definitely wasn't expecting it either. 

Time to get cutting and sewing!

Paper Piecing Blocks

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So here is my idea for my paper pieced quilt project and the 5 fat quarters I picked up for the project.  Due to an indoor shot with flash, the purples look a lot more blue than they are and the far left fabric is not quite as orange as all that.  Yellow and purple are color wheel opposites, so they tend to go well together.  Which is good rationalization now for the blog.  When I was at the store picking them out, they were in the sale bin and I just happened to like them -- and I knew that for the quilt I was going to make, a big floral wouldn't end up looking all that big or floral when cut into strips.

The design for the quilt was made with the help of Electric Quilt 5.  It's a rough approximation of the colors I have.  I didn't feel like scanning the fabrics in, so I just used the closest things I could find that were already in the program's fabric library.  The individual blocks are pretty close to the same as the striped block in my previous post, although I made a few small modifications to make some lines match up better.  I spent a while rotating blocks to see what interesting designs I could get with those stripes.  When I happened up on this one, I knew it was the project I wanted to work on.

20080412_PaperPieceBlock.jpgThen I had to spend some time figuring out if I had enough fabric (just barely when it comes to the two darkest colors) and what I needed to cut and measure to get the pieces I needed to start with.  Both some measuring and some math was done to make this determination.  One thing that is nice about this style of block formation: I didn't need to be too rigid about cutting.  The cutting of strips was more about making sure I had enough fabric than anything else. 

I like the strips and how they go together after laying them out the way they will be arranged in the square.  Now it's just a matter of getting to the business of sewing them together so that I can start playing with orientation.  If my in class experience is any example, it shouldn't take me too long to get 16 6" x 6" blocks made up.  Having all the strips pre-cut and being able to chain piece the sewing should make the block construction a breeze.




Fiesta Feet Finale

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Project: Lucy Neatby's Fiesta Feet
Yarn: Shelridge Farm Soft Touch Fingering Weight, 1 skein hand paint, 2 skeins white
Needles: Knit Picks Harmony Double Points, 2.5 mm

The Fiesta Feet, they are finished!  Not quite two months to get one pair of socks finished would make you think that these socks were very challenging to make.  In fact, they are actually not so bad to make and very hard to get bored with since what you are doing changes all the time.  I enjoyed working on them, it's just been my lack of free time since they got started that kept me from getting them finished sooner.

I won't go into all the mistakes, er, design elements in them.  Suffice it to say that I got distracted in a couple of places and since these things happened on the sole of one sock, I decided that no one but me would ever see them and I could live with them.  Life is short, ripping takes time!

20080420_FiestaFeetInstepPa.jpgWhile this sock looks like it might be a complicated, challenging two-color extravaganza, in fact, the only true two color per row knitting is found in the instep and sole of the sock.  Up until that point, the two colors are used on alternate rows.   While I wouldn't say that this sock is the perfect two-color learning project, it isn't all that hard, either.  I did the first sock with both colors in my left hand (I knit continental style) and the second sock carrying one color in each hand because I had a lot of issues with tangling with the first sock.  This is one of the few sock projects where I probably could have made my life easier if I had knit the instep and sole with two circs or using the magic loop method instead of knitting on double points -- I think it's just easier to deal with keeping the rhythm going when you don't have to mess around with so many needles. 

20080420_FiestaFeetSolePatt.jpgThe sole of the sock was very simple -- just alternating colors and every other row was just the main base color, so you even get a little break from two color knitting.  Even though I don't consider myself very good at the whole two color knitting process, it just never felt like the repeats took that long -- probably because I had something to think about while I was working on them, and because I enjoyed watching the color progression. 

20080420_FiestaFeetHeelDesi.jpgBut probably my very favorite design element for these socks was the heel.  I've become a pretty dedicated short-row heel sock knitter, so I don't see myself using this idea on may own any time in the future, but this heel sure is lovely.  And, leave it to Lucy Neatby to come up with a simple heel construction that doesn't gap at the corners.  I could see using this lattice work patterning on special baby sweater -- with bigger yarn, of course!  I really like the "looking though the window lattice" that this pattern creates while at the same time creating a more durable surface for the heel of the sock.

While it's rare for me to ever want to knit a pattern a second time, I could absolutely imagine making a second pair of these (maybe with a dark background color and a variegated colorway that falls closer to my "color favorites").  Even the bobbles didn't bother me all that much -- though I would have probably gotten rid of them if there had been more than one row. 

Probably the only downside to these socks is that I was never able to score any of those see-through plastic Regia rain boots.  They'd be perfect for this time of year in Chicago and for showing off my fabulous new socks!



Twitter With Me

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I suspect I am one of the last people on the planet to have discovered Twitter.  Twitter is a bit like a combination of blog, instant messenger/text messenger and social networking experience*.   Instead of  a full scale blogging experience, all Twitter "posts" are 140 characters long and once you upload them, anyone who is following your feed can see what you're doing.  It doesn't replace blogging (no images, for instance), but it does allow you to post bits and bobs when you don't have time for a large post to your blog or you just want to mention something cool or give your friends a quick update on what you're doing without sending out an email blast.  And, of course, you can follow your friends feeds and get similar information.

As someone who used to have time to share more on her blog, and who still has lots of stuff to share, just not enough time to type it, I thought I would try it out.  In my sidebar, I've added a "Watch Me Twitter" section where my most recent twitterings will be. And if you're on Twitter, you can find me here -- and my user name is KeybrdBiologist.

* I am also on Facebook but don't show up there very often.  So many webby things to play with, so little time.

Limeola!

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Limeola sock yarn, anyone?

This is the final result of my Bonkers Superwash Merino in "Limeola" spinning project.  Two plies of tightly spun singles happily twisted together and enjoying a little time in the sun after a bath and a rest.  Now they are soft, squishy and delicious! I've got just about 4 ounces and just about 400 yards.  Just perfect for a pair of socks.

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There will be much stripeyness in this yarn, which is exactly what I wanted.  As I plied, it was clear that there would be relatively long sections of stripeyness, which is the way I like my stripes!

20080426_LimeolaClose2.jpgA happy Limeola rainbow, or perhaps water fall.  This shot made me think of water flowing over mossy rocks, and captures well the true colors in the skein.

Finishing up this yarn makes me really feel bad about how little use my wheel is getting right now.  I love to spin, but time is short, and the time it takes to complete even a small project would take me several days worth of nap times.  I should have done more spinning when a certain small person was less mobile!  Ah well.  I have no doubt that my wheel will wait patiently until I can eke out a bit more spinning time. 

Random Wednesday, Featuring Ms. Z

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A few random things, related to my daughter:

  • Z will eat almost anything, except, perhaps, tomatoes.  The baby food I tried to give her today (spaghetti with sauce and cheese) was rejected whole-heartedly.  Would it surprise you to know that neither of her parents like tomatoes?  But we both do love spaghetti sauce!
  • Z likes almost anything soft and acrylic.  Mr. Ducky (above) came home with us from Whole Foods because he made her giggle like crazy and she couldn't put him down after we gave him to her.
  • Cruising, cruising, cruising! It's all about going places and exploring things.
  • Given a choice, Ms. Z will pull out shoes (mine in particular) from our shoe rack by the back door and pull my purse off of any place she can find it.  She seems to like shoes and purses more than her own toys sometimes! My keys come in a close second to shoes and purses.  At the same time, you can't keep her away from laptops and iPhones when they are around.  Are we creating a girly-girl geek? 
  • Her favorite book right now is Go, Dogs, Go.  She will pick this book out specifically and likes it read to her multiple times in a row.  She also likes the books that she has that have tactile components. 
A few random things, related to me:
  • Some women nest while they are pregnant, I feel like I am nesting now.  I have this intense desire to go throughout my house and purge and organize things.  You might just think "spring cleaning" but this is probably the first spring where I've really been bitten by this bug.
  • I can't get enough of Rachael's "Relax" Vanilla Chai yogurt.  All organic, completely yummy, good probiotics and some omega oils for good measure. 
  • If you watch House, apparently Amber and I have the same taste in handbags.  In the scene where House and Amber negotiate "Wilson Rights" with Cuddy, Amber is sporting the same purse John got me for Christmas.
  • iPhones can get you into all sorts of trouble.  Just this afternoon I purchased "Splish, Splash" and (earwig alert!) "Safety Dance" -- Ms. Z likes to bop to both of them.
  • I'm reading an excellent book, The Eighth Day of Creation, by Horace Freeland Judson.  In spite of what the title may seem to imply, the book has nothing to do with Intelligent Design or any other religious debate going on now.  It's a history of the rise of molecular biology and biochemistry, in particular DNA, RNA and proteins and the people who were formative in developing molecular biology as a major part of the biological sciences.  Because it talks about the personalities and not just the science, it's a great read, even though it's dense.  If you like history of science books, this one shouldn't be missed.

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