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Yarn Forward, Knit


Well, I spent some of the day preparing for my move to my new home: I'm still working on getting Movable Type to do what I want it to, so it will probably still be a little while before I stop posting at my blogger space. I'm looking forward to the move though, because Blogger just doesn't always work when it should. Tonight, for instance, I can't upload a new template so that I can update my links. Not sure why.

I am still making gradual progress on several projects. Not enough to be worth using up bandwidth on pictures though. However, I do invite you to check out a little something I put together this afternoon: a pictoral guide to Yarn Forward, Knit

Midweek Report

It's been one of those knitting weeks where I spend time going from project to project to project working a little bit on each one. The result? Nothing gets finished fast.

A lovely phone conversation with a good friend whose baby was supposed to be due today got me motivated to get back to the secret thing I was making for her. I'd gotten it most of the way through and then was sure that it wasn't going to look good, so I didn't even block it. Well, after blocking it, I discovered that I shouldn't have waited so long to block it, because the blocking really did make a difference. So now I am working on the border in hopes that I can finish it and get it together before the baby is too old. Here's a pic of the border:

Border Pattern in Cashmerino

When I first started knitting this I had no idea how neat it would turn out. The more things I do by Debbie Bliss the more I really like her stuff. I learned something new with this border as well -- how to handle a yarn forward while knitting. Before this little piece, I understood the part about bring the yarn to the front, but I was sort of baffled as to where the stitch increase came from. Not any more! Thanks to another Debbie Bliss book Learning to Knit that has great pictures (I've learned several techniques from this book), I finally was able to figure how the yarn forward/knit thing works. So after I finish up a few of my current projects, I should be ready to take on Neroli again.

TV time means simple project I can knit in the dark time, so I got back to Mom's sock. Here's a picture of the progress so far:

Koigu Sock Top

I'm liking the colors in this sock better than I did when I put up the first pictures. Especially, since the more I look at it, the more I think how well it will go with my mom! The Koigu is so soft and easy to work with, too. It was hard to put the sock down so I could blog tonight.

And, last but not least, for those of you who love quizzes and have been confused about what your gender might be, I bring you the most entertainment I got from the web today:

The Super Scientific Remarkably Accurate Gender Test

Answer some questions, let the test tell you where you fall. I fell right on the middle between male and female (it thought I was male), but my husband got the right prediction. Definitely worth the 5 minutes, even if you don't get some HTML and a cute picture at the end to post on your blog!

Genomics Humor

Happy April Fool's Day to Everyone!

A Major Sequencing Center (Sanger) in the UK Released the T. rex Genome Sequence today.

Check it out at Ensembl T.rex

I've been subject to a lot of April Foolishness today, but this is the only one that got me -- probably because it would be so totally cool if it really was true. Even if you're not a biologist, it's fun to check out.

Be sure not to miss the section on Unique Dinosaur Genes. You don't have to like science to be amused by some of the entries they created.

Have fun!

Hitting the Shoulders

Not too much knitting today, but I do have a picture of the progress on the pullover for John:

Collar and Shoulders of Rubino Sweater

This is the sweater after casting on the shoulder rows. I'm really quite surprised how nice an edge this makes. Now it'll be pretty much smooth sailing down the armholes and to the bottom.

And what was I doing instead of knitting.... configuring Movable Type at my new webhost. I registered (I know, you're all heartbroken now that this domain isn't available any more) at GoDaddy for $8.95/year. I'll be at blogspot a while longer while I set up my new place but I am having a lot of fun re-decorating in my new home!

The Man Sweater Commences

I was promising myself that I would not start another project. Really I was. And then I found a lovely sweater pattern in Sally Melville's The Knit Stitch that John liked at first glance. And then I discovered that Elann had very nice prices on Austermann Rubino - a merino/acrylic blend that has a delicate look, but I think will hold up to being worn my favorite guy.

Only once I got the yarn, I discovered that in spite of it being considered "Worsted" weight by Elann, it's probably closer to a DK weight, which meant that my first guage swatch was a little too airy for the husband (even I agreed with this assessment). So I went down a few needle sizes (to 4.0 mm) and this time the fabric knit up to a better density. Well, I knit up my second swatch on my Swallow Caseins. Nice looking fabric buy way too much drag. Apparently Rubino and casein don't interact very well. So after casting on once with the Swallows and getting very annoyed very quickly with the drag issue I ripped and decided to try another pair of needles.

Since I had a 4.0 mm AddiTurbo conveniently at hand, I decided to try out the Addi. I was worried that the metal surface would over-compensate for my drag problem and give me a much looser than desired fabric, but actually, I got the exact same gauge as I did with the Swallows. Go figure. The Addis are much nicer to work with and the Rubino moves very nicely over them, so it was definitely worth the time re-swatching.

One of the neat things about this sweater is that it is a top down pattern. So I am starting with the neck and working towards the bottom. For those of us who cast on tightly, this can be something of a scary proposition. Sally, however, has a nice solution -- the crochet cast-on. For pictures of this cast on, take a look at pp. 74-75 in The Knit Stitch or check out this site. You'll have to scroll about 1/2-way down for the method and pictures. I really like this cast-on method -- it comes out nice and loose and it does provide a very nice looking edge that looks like a cast-off edge. Here's a close-up of the cast on edge from the sweater:

I just love how smooth this cast-on edge looks, and how nice and loose it is. It does take a little more time to cast-on than a long-tail cast-on, but not too much more time. It also has the extra benefit of not needing to figure out how much yarn you need for the long-tail. You just make a slip knot and cast on until you have enoug stitches, leaving whatever length tail you want. Probably the hardest thing about this cast on is making sure that you keep your tension and spacing even, otherwise you end up with areas with different tensions on the edge, which doesn't make for a very nice way to start a garment. I don't have the pictures, so you'll just have to trust me on this one.

Here's the collar, with stitch number adjusted to take into account my gauge (6 st/inch instead of 4 st/inch):

This is the perfect height collar for John, who hates things binding around his neck. The next thing to come will be figuring out the shoulder shaping. It shouldn't be too hard, but since this is one of the first times that I will have had to totally alter a pattern to do what I want with it, I am hoping that I won't miss something critical and be forced to frog back to the beginning. I think I am definitely going to put a life-line in at the base of the collar, just in case. If everything works out, I'll post my pattern modifications for anyone who might like to do this sweater in a finer gauge yarn.

I'm feeling especially motivated to work on this sweater because John has spent most of the weekend working on getting a webserver set up for me so that I can move my website to a place of unlimited disk space. It will also give me a chance to play with MovableType (which now supports PostgresSQL!)... a girl can never have too many fun computer software toys! I especially like that Moveable Type is written in Perl -- which is my current language of most expressiveness.

This is not a knitting related post. If you're looking for knitting, scroll down. This is a science geek related post.

I was browsing through our journal collection at work when I came across something that struck me as really amusing:

Singles in Science

Now you might think that I am making a not so nice jab at my unmarried counterparts looking for partners. I'm not. Really. I actually met my wonderful, awesome, incredible husband through a now defunct web-personals site (at least in the incarnation that I posted to it on): So I really have no problem with people finding people through the web! In fact, I know several friends who found themselves the software engineer of their dreams this way. No, what amused me most about this is "Singles In Science" nestled in between "Brain Histology" and instrumentation ads in the (mostly) biological news journal The Scientist. It just seems so out of place to me, and that's what made if seem so funny. One stop shopping for HPLC purified oligonucleotides, pre-owned lab equipment and spouses!

The link to Science Connection does work (click on the image to take a look for yourself).

And The Winner Is...

Okay, I know I am late for the Academy Award thing, but I finally did decide on what pair of socks to start next.

Koigu PPPM p201

This is the colorway I described as berry sundae in my previous post. Here's what it looks like cast on:

Koigu PPPM p201 Cast On

This is interesting yarn, because you would think from looking at it that the reds would stand out. Instead, it's the browns, as you can see from the little progress I have made on the cuff of the first sock (below). I am a little disappointed. The brown is nice and all, but the reds and blues are what hold my personal interest. However, I'll reserve my complete judgement until I get past the ribbing.

Koigu PPPM p201 Sock Cuff

I would have had pictures of this up earlier, but I cast the thing on about 4 times before I was happy with it. You see, I cast on very tightly. I learned a good trick from Julie for a looser edge: doing a long-tail cast-on over two needles of about the same size as the needle you plan to work on. This was the cast on I used for the 3 other paris of socks I did or still have on needles. But Sally Mellville's The Knit Stitch turned me on to the crochet cast-on. The swatches I tried with it had a lovely, much looser edge. So I decided it would also be good to try with my socks.

I cast on the first time: much too loose, sock would have been big enough for an NFL linebacker
I cast on the second time: too tight. I might have been able to get it on, but not comfortably
I cast on the thrid time: just right on one side, too tight on the other

So I went back to what Julie taught me and it was "just right". I do like the crochet cast-on, but I think it works better for me on larger needles. I'm looking forward to testing it out again when I start John's sweater. Probably I will have to re-swatch for that project again. I did a little test using the Swallow Casein needles and they really have a high drag coefficient with the Rubino -- almost like the yarn is sticking to the needle. I have a feeling I'll be fighting them the whole project, and I am not up to fighting my needles for the entirety of a man-sized sweater.

Sweater Swatches and Stitch Markers

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Tales of speedy Elann delivery times were impressively demonstrated when my Rubino arrived on Saturday morning:

13 Skeins of White Rubino

13 skeins of soft, white Austermann Rubino. It reminds me a great deall of Rowan Wool Cotton. Elann describes it as being of "Worsted Weight", but it seems a little finer than that. Of course, I couldn't resist pulling out a ball and swatching it up for John's sweater. In this case, it turned out to be a good thing that I did.

White Rubino Swatches

This picture gives you both a glimpse of my knitting journal and the two swatches I did for the sweater. I did the swatch using the stitch pattern for the sweater. The swatch on the left is done on US 8s (bamboo), the swatch on the right is done on US 6's (Swallow Casein -- as an aside, I found that the yarn was very "grabby" on these needles, I liked the bamboo feel better). Since it was John's sweater, after I did the first one, I handed him the swatch and asked his opinion. "Too open for a white sweater" was the response, "I'll have to wear a T shirt under it." Now, the first swatch was definitely smaller than recommended gauge, but even I didn't think that it would be good to go up a needle size.

Since I liked the stitch and the sweater pattern, I decided to go down to the smaller needles (incidentally, the size needle recommended on the ball). I figured that since I wasn't getting guage with the bigger needles, I was going to have to alter the pattern anyway, so what could it hurt to go down a little more?. The swatch done on 6's met with much more approval from the intended wearer. It had just one small drawback: it's exactly 1/2 the area of the original swatch. So I made a quick "trip" (sometimes I love to shop on line) back to Elann and ordered 5 more skeins -- I made this estimate based on the pattern's estimates, increase in area and the free patterns for the yarn that Elann sent along. That gives me ~2500 yards to work with (900 g!).

I managed to get all this accomplished before taking my trip out to see Julie to make stitch markers. Julie let me dig around in her wonderful collection of beads and then showed me how to play with pliers to achieve the desired results. Believe it or not, these little fellas were all made by me:

Stitch Markers

Julie is a wonderful teacher of plier arts! By the time I set off for home, I felt like I actually knew a little bit about what I was doing with the tools. The hardest part is wrapping the tail of the loop around the wire and trimming it so that it won't snag knitting. I initially wanted to make a bunch of different markers, but fell in love with the little bears and decided that I wanted to make a collection of matching markers with them. The markers in the picture are shown haning from a US 7 needle, and they could easily swing from an 8 or a 9. For anyone who is interested in a source of beads, much of Julie's stash came from Caravan Beads in Chicago.

Fraternal Twins

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Woo hoo! I finished my first pair of socks for myself using Regia 5042. They are definitely fraternal, but with this yarn, it is easier to identify that the yarn is the same than the pattern is different.

Regia 5042 Socks

Of course, the real test of a good pair of socks is how they look on the right pair of feet:

Regia 5042 Socks

After I took the picture I just couldn't take them off. They feel so soft and nice on the inside -- nicer even than I thought they would. I bet you can all guess which pair of socks I will be wearing tomorrow! I like the way they go with my jeans -- the blue comes out very well with them. I think I am definitely going to have to go in search of some more of this pattern in a different colorway... maybe 5047 and 5048.

Now I have to decide which socks to cast on next... the names next to the Koigu are my made up names to give some description to the colorway. I am currently leaning towards the Koigu, just because I really haven't knit much with it yet. Opinions anyone?

  • Grey Opal (for John)
  • Koigu PPPM p514 "John Deere" (for Dad)
  • Koigu PPPM p201 "Chocolate, Raspberry, Blueberry, Vanilla Sundae" (for Mom)
  • Koigu PPPM p500 "Ripe Vine Tomatoes" (for me, in Crusoe pattern)
  • Brown/Grey/Black/White Jacquard Regia (for John?)
  • Black Colored Stripes Regia (for me)

I'll close my post tonight with a picture of my Beezle-Weasel doing what I should really do very soon (although not in a shoebox) since I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow learning how to make stitch markers with Julie. He looks so cute you might forget for a moment that he is a bamboo knitting needle terrorist who will actually drag them out of mostly sealed containers.

Beezle napping in his favorite box

Mostly Elann

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Yesterday I made my first purchase from Elann -- 13 Skeins of Austermann Rubino in white -- way more than I should need, but it was so affordable, that I decided to make sure I had a little extra. I can always turn it into a nice winter scarf. I really can't get over the fact that I will get a man-sized sweater for less than $40. I think even John, who is a bargain hunter extraordinaire, was impressed.

Since I had not registered with them before, I was also pleasantly surprised to find out something else about Elann that I don't remember seeing on the blogs -- for every $500 you spend with them, you get $50 back. Not bad. Of course, with their prices, it will take me some time to get to $500, but it definitely makes me want to come back!

It is an odd time for me right now. On one hand, I am feeling very tired and lethargic because of some stressful things going on at work, so even my simple sock projects are not progressing. On the other hand, I find my creative side clawing to get out... I've been sketching sweater designs. I have one in my head and on paper that is really just a matter of finding some wonderful ribbon yarn to swatch with and then taking some measurements and going forward. I'm thinking Tagliatelli or Giotto... but need to wait a while before I do any purchasing.

So please pardon the lower than average content as I deal with other things.

The Knit Stitch

It's raining in Chi-town this morning. It's really nice that it is warm enough for precipitation not to turn into snow. I suspect we're not completely out of the woods yet, but I am really in need of Spring.

Yesterday my copy of Sally Melville's, The Knit Stitch arrived from Knit Picks. I spent the whole evening pouring over it instead of working on the next chapter of my thesis. Her instructional pictures really are good enough to learn something from and her patterns make me want to get something else started. I can imagine doing a number of projects from this book.

What made me most pleased was that I got to the last pattern in the book -- a pullover sweater that I looked at and knew it would appeal to John:

It's hard to make out the details in the picture (which I blatantly stole from KnitPicks because I am too lazy to scan it myself.) The collar and the very simple pattern stitch are the appeal. What made me even happier was showing it to John and having him raise an eyebrow and say, "Yeah, I'd definitely wear that."

Can you believe it? I finally got the right vibe.

With Spring coming, I'd like to make this sweater in a lighter weight yarn. Does anyone have any experience with Austermann Rubino or Schaffhauser Eviva? They're both at Elann and would give me the opportunity to give him a nice sweater at a reasonable price. I'm leaning toward the Rubino because I think it might be like Rowan Wool Cotton, which John loves.


Haloscan seems to be down...can't even bring up their main website. This means that my page takes ages to load trying to find Haloscan before it times out. I love my comments, but I don't love painful load times. When Haloscan seems more stable, I'll bring the comments back. It's hard to complain about free, but this is beginning to make me a little crazy since it seems to happen almost every weekend now.

I also did a little updating of my archive format. For those of you using Blogger, and would like to have a different format for your Archive links, but are not Javascript experts (I definitely fall into this category), check out the following site:

Phil Ringalda's Blogger Archive Script Generator

I don't normally advocate Javascript, but it's really the only way to get away from Blogger's formatting.

I Do Not Normally Do These Things...

But the results from this one sort of surprised me:

You're a Sapphire. You seem to be unreachable, but
deep inside, you are really a nice and warm
person. You are elegant and get along well with
people once you know them.

What Jewel Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Pretty close to home -- at least I think so. Well, maybe except for the elegant part.

We had a stunning weather day here in Chicago today -- practically tank top weather. Got me thinking about what I am going to do with the 10 skeins of Summer Tweed I have in Powder.

We took a trip down to Navy Pier today to take in the Garden Show. I didn't get a lot of garden ideas, but I did see a woman wearing a sweater that I really want to copy... it had a lovely shape and was made from a beautiful ribbon style yarn. Maybe something like Tagliatelli from Colinette. So I've been thinking about how to make this very form fitted sweater for Spring/Summer.

I even did some knitting today -- I got to the heal flap on my second Regia sock. It would be so wonderful to have these finished and be able to wear them this week! And for anyone who was worried... I did get the introduction to my master's thesis written yesterday. Tomorrow I'll move on to the main body of the document.

Regia Ringel Color 5042

My sole knitting accomplishment of the week (no pun intended) is my first sock using Regia. I picked this yarn up off eBay mostly because the striping pattern and the odd color combination really struck me. This sock was definitely a "therapy sock" this week as the Roller Coaster that is my work environment spawned another dramatic week. Something about rows and rows of pleasantly patterned stockinette is comforting for me.

Here's the whole sock:

and here's an up close shot of the pattern and the colors:

The whole sock picture was taken with flash, the detail picture without. Not sure why I like these totally funky colors. And my favorite color in the mix is the orange, which I usually won't touch with a 10-foot pole. I definitely want to find more of this yarn pattern (in a different color).

I'm hoping to cast on its partner today, but probably won't get very far since I need to spend most of the day working on my masters thesis. Ugh... I should have known better than to get myself in a position where I had to write another one of these...

As an aside, if you are looking for an interesting read about tech startup companies and the experience of owning/working in one, I highly recommend, Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure, by Jerry Kaplan, which describes the rise and fall of GO, a company that tried to create a forerunner to palm/tablet PCs. Another great read is The Billion Dollar Molecule by Barry Werth. This book details the creation of Vertex Pharmeceuticals, a company that is still here today.

Little Bag Pattern Available

For anyone who is interested, I have written up the pattern for the little felted bag and added it to my Free Patterns Index (yes, it's still a pretty small list right now).

Let me know if you have any questions or comments -- I'm happy to answer them. Suggestions for improvements in the construction or instructions are also welcome!

Knitting for Guys

So I don't have much new knitting progress to show -- I'll save the Regia socks until I have at least one of them done. Instead, I thought I would share one of the things that makes me love where I work.

John and I have had a lot of conversations about "what men like" when it comes to knititng. I have been informed in no uncertain terms that he will not accept any garment with stripes. This includes socks. Socks can only be from a very narrow range of colors: dark blue, black, dark green, maybe brown, maybe deep maroon colors (but only on rare occasions). When I knit up a little test swatch of the lovely grey Opal that Emma sent me (specifically for his extremely picky self) and asked if he would wear socks out of it, figuring it would be impossible to go wrong with a grey sock, I got the answer "probably". "Probably?" I said, "I'm not sure I want to spend a lot of time knitting you socks that you'll "probably" wear." He just shrugs and smiles. And I know that I will make him the socks and he will probably love them, but I am a little unnerved that after 4 years of marriage I still can't figure out what color socks he likes.

I didn't do much better with the sweater conversation. He's willing to widen out the color range a little bit, but more than one color in a garment is out. Too much patterning is out. It can't be itchy or too fuzzy. At one point I read him a post from Kristi's blog and he just nodded smugly. Because now I had proof that he was not unusual in his tastes.

So lately I have been asking all the men I know about their color preferences and whether or not they would wear striped socks. My brother surprised me by telling me he would wear striped socks if they colors weren't too wild. He'd even put up with a striped sweater (but he lives in Houston and I can't see knitting him a sweater...). My father loves colorful things. He'd wear a man's version of my Silk Garden Sweater and wouldn 't have a problem with any kind of socks. Well, okay, he'd probably draw the line at pink... but I really can't imagine knitting him pink socks.

Now, work is a more interesting place to ask this question because there are more European men than Americans. In particular, I have a number of Greek and Russian guys and I was curious about what their viewpoint might be. Picture, if you will, me standing in a cubicle with another manager and a software developer discussing knitted socks and acceptable sweater colors. I learned, some interesting things. For instance, apparently you can always tell American tourists in Greece because they wear extremely bright colors that don't always go together. However, both of them wouldn't mind a sweater out of my Silk Garden, and one of them had a yellow sweater that he really likes. For socks, they leaned towards black and blue, but they would probably be willing to try tasteful patterns.

But the funny part of this conversation came one the other manager looked at me and said, "You know, there is one guy here who always has great socks! All different colors, neat patterns..." and then he gets up and goes over to the guy and we all have a look at his socks to prove his point. How many of you get to do a random sock inspection at work -- and have everyone be good natured about it?

So I'm taking a poll... if you're a guy, what are your color preferences? Are stripes okay? If you like to knit for a particular guy, what restrictions has he placed on wearable projects? Stripes? Inquiring minds want to know.

And now I am back to my sock project... a sock that John wouldn't wear even if it was freezing cold outside, his shoes were wet and it was from the only clean pair of socks left in his sock drawer!

Experimental Results


One of the things you learn as a bench scientist (usually sooner rather than later) is that most experiments don't turn out quite the way you planned them. Over the weekend, I decided that I would do a little felting test. I wanted to see how certain stitches behaved with regards to size when felting and I wanted to see if it was possible to see special stitch patterns (such as cables or ribbing) after felting. I wanted to see how Cascade Quattro (Color #9434) felted. Finally, I wanted to see what thickness felting would two strands of yarn would get me, and if I would get any interesting color patterns if I felted two different strands of yarn together So before I took off with Julie on a little yarn store expedition, I started knitting up this batch of swatches using my Cascade 220, Aporto.

The top left and middle left swatches are two strands, one done in stockinette and the other in garter. There is one strand of Aporto and one strand of Quattro 9434. The bottom left swatch is the garter sticch swatch. The top middle swatch and the bottom middle swatch are 1/.2 garter stich and 1/2 K3P3 rib and 1/2 stockinette stitch, 1/2 K3P3 rib, respectively. The top right swatch is the Quattro by itself, with two knitted cables (in opposite directions), each of which is 6 stitches wide and separated by 4 stitches. The bottom right is just stockinette.

Here's a close up of the two stranded combined before and after felting:

I knew the combo was ugly together before I started and it didn't look any better after felting -- kind or reminded me of carpet padding. I also discovered that knitting too tightly does seem to hamper the felting process, as neither the stockinette or garter version of the two stranded stuff seemed to felt fully, even though there were slightly more than 3 full washer cycles on this felting process.

Here's a close up of the Quattro 9434 before and after felting:

For me, this was yarn that looked better on the skein than it did knitted up. I wanted to like it more, but was disappointed. I knew it wouldn't show the cables very well (I just wanted to see what would happen to the cables after I felted them. The answer... you see some slight bumps and the felted fabric elongates over the area where the purl stitches are. I think maybe if my cables were wider, the experiment would have been more successful. I didn't much like the colors in the felted fabric, either. I'm not showing more than a closeup, because there isn't much more to see. John described the colors as "a little too 70's".

The 1/2 garter/stockinette and 1/2 ribbing swatches were also pretty much a failure -- no stitch definition. They both had more curvature in the edge where the ribbing was, but there are easier ways to get a curved edge. So this experiment was pretty much a failure too.

Talk about reminding me of some of my bad-old days in the lab as a newbie grad student!

But the plain stockinette and garter stich pieces did give me shrinkage information... and here it is, in case it would be useful for you:

Garter stitch swatch, 1 strand, size 11 needles. 3.5 st/inch, 6 rows/inch.
Starting Dimensions: 5" w x 4-1/2" h Final dimensions: 3-1/2" w x 2-1/4" h

Stockinette stitch swatch, 1 strand, size 11 needles, 3.5 st/inch, 4.5 rows/inch.
Starting Dimensions: 4" w x 5-1/8" h Final dimensions: 3" w x 3" h

Conclusions: both stiches shrink more vertically (on a percentage of starting size) basis than horizontally. I got about 20-25% shrinkage in width for both stitch types. In height, the garter stitch felted down to 50% the original while the stockinette lost about 40% of its height.

So now I have to spend some time thinking about where to go next. I think it's time for me to start taking a good look at some more felted bag patterns for construction and thickening.

My knitting expedition with Julie was much more interesting. We checked out Wool & Company and Fine Line Creative Arts Center, both in in St. Charles, IL (note: this qualifies as being at almost the far edge of the universe for me...deepest, darkest suburbia. But St. Charles is kind of a cute place, even if they were celebrating St. Patrick's day with a parade on March 7th...)

Wool & Company is a wonderful little store. I wish they were closer to Chicago. Lots and lots of great yarn! I got to see Noro Shinano for the first time (and decided that it's a little drab for me), found some beautiful Koigu for socks (one color way in greens and yellows seemed to me like it would make a perfect pair for my dad... he has a John Deere tractor that it would go smashingly with, and one colorway in oranges, greens, browns and reds that I think could become a pair of Crusoe socks, and got to see a lot of the Cascade 220 Quattro. They also stocked AddiTurbos, so I picked up a pair of US1s and and a pair of US 0's for socks on 2 circs. This store was also populated by friendly staff. If you're out in the direction of St. Charles, it's definitely worth dropping in.

Fine Line was a little harder to find. But if you need Jo Sharp yarn or anything from Rowan or weaving and dying supplies, this is your place. I didn't buy anything here, but it was nice to see all the Summer Tweed colors up close and personal. They also carried a lot of Colinette, which I just love touching and admiring.

I had hoped to start the Crusoe socks this weekend, but discovered that while my rows/inch are correct, my stitches/inch is off (too many stitches/inch). So I will have to postpone those socks until I order some size 2 Addis. I started a pair of Regia socks for myself, instead, using some Ringel Color that I bought off eBay. I figured since I ripped out all of St. Kilda today, it was okay to start on another project. St. Kilda will come back, but probably not until late summer or fall when I start to think about warm winter sweaters. This sweater was for John, but with Spring just around the corner, I would rather just let the yarn relax and put this one on the back burner in favor a lighter sweater (maybe in All Seasons Cotton, Calmer or Wool Cotton from Rowan).

Proof of Concept

Well, I managed to meet my two goals today -- I converted NFAs to DFAs for my masters project and I felted a little prototype bag. I guess I succeeded in being a multi-disciplinary geek today. Since even I don't want to look at any more Java code, I'll only post the pictures from my little felting expedition.

These are a few images before I attached the handle and the cover flap:

It's essentially square cornered at this point. I 've done only a little decreasing at the top of the sides where the strap will be. The bottom photo gives you a look at the divider (along with some of my origami boxes).

This is a detail of the side where I've "attached the internal partition to the external fabric. And finally, the finished unfelted product with strap (in garter stitch) and flap:

Before felting, the height of the bag was approximately 4" and the bottom was a 5" x 4" rectangle. The strap was 12" long and the flap was about 5-1/2" from where it started. Here's the finished product hanging from my swift: I think I used about 1/3 of the skein of leftover Cascade.

The bottom photo shows the felted partition. I'm pretty pleased with the way the partition turned out. I was worried it might distort the fabric, but it didn't seem to at all. However, next time I might make it a few stitches narrower than the base of the bag so that it will hold a flat position on the inside. I'll probably also make sure that the flap is a few stitches wider. Not a perfect project, but defiitely a good experiment. It holds two decks of playing cards comfortably. Not sure what I am going to do with it yet. It may end up in my knitting bag holding small but important things (like Altoids sours and tape measures and darning needles). It would certainly make a cute addition to a small female person's accessory collection!

Final dimensions: bottom rectangle 4" x 2.5", height 2.5", strap length 11", flap 4"

*YAWN* Now I think it's time to hit the sack... my 9:30 meeting downtown with my professor is going to seem awfully early!

Life in Minuature, Part 1

So yesterday I was trying to figure out how to test some of my ideas without knitting up something huge and then ripping it out. And then it occured to me that I could test out some of my ideas by constructing the bag in miniature! I figured if nothing else, I'll have something cute that I can put in my purse or give to my mother, who makes dolls and is always looking for doll accessories. Since I had so much Cascade 220 left over from my Flappable Handbag, I figured I could use that. I'm only using a single strand for the first test bag.

Here's a few shots of my current progress:

The top picture is the base of the bag with the center flap that will be the divider. It's upside-down. The second picture is from the side, now that I have started knitting the sides up from the bottom and the third picture is from the top down.

You will notice that I am using my dreaded double pointed needles. I do seriously dislike DPs, but my enthusiasm for this little bag overcame my distaste for DPs. I figured it also might be a good opportunity to get more comfortable with them. I think felting projects are great places to teach myself new things because errors just disappear into the felted fabric. I practiced "English Method" knitting on my Flappable Handbad in preparation for two handed color knitting.

Today I have taken a vacation day to work on my masters thesis project, but I am going to reward myself for good coding behavior with a few rounds on my little bag every now and again. So I'll be posting more pictures over the course of the day to show progress. Hopefully later on tonight I'll get the chance to do some felting!

Designing Impulses

The felted bags have really gotten me thinking lately. After finishing my "Flappable Handbag", I realized I was a little disappointed because I couldn't use the bag in my "everyday" life. Everyday life for me means toting a laptop around and my handbag, while roomy and sturdy is not roomy enough or sturdy enough to handle the dimensions or the mass of a ~5-8 lb laptop. (Yes, someday I hope for a Mac G4 PowerBook, but until that time I have to live with more conventional laptop proportions). So what's a girl to do?

Design her own, I think.

So the scan above is the result of my brainstorming. The idea here is a partitioned bag with a flap (have to protect the electronics from the elements) secured by a button or clasp. One of the partitions would hold the laptop, and that partition could be made more snug with a little strap (that I think would have to be attached to some velcro). The back of the bag would have an area like you find on many purses that could hold a few sheets of paper for easy access. The strap needs to be relatively wide and flat -- I don't think an I-cord would be the right solution, but I would like to hear people's opinions. To give it some visual interest, I think it would be a neat to have contrasting stripes about 1/3 of the way down the bag.

I think, after seeing Julie's Constant Companion bag that was done with a double thickness of Cascade 220, that I have found something that would add to the sturdiness category. I did John's hat with Lamb's Pride Bulky, which is probably thick enough without using double, but has a little more halo than I would like for this bag.My only remaining concern is static. So I might have to line the portion of the bag that contains the laptop with some nice cotton.

Now all I have got to do is take the left over Cascade 220 I have from the handbag (almost a whole skein) and start swatching and felting so I can get some idea of how big this thing needs to be in order to get to the proportions I need. I think I have a few good ideas about creating the inner partion, but I am going to play with that as part of the felting expedition before I say anything more about it.

Opinions and helpful comments are very welcome -- tonight I spend some time Googling to find out more detailed information and good guidelines for felting.

My Day Job

In case any of you want proof that I do have a day job -- and that I am actually accomplishing something at it -- I cordially invite you all to come take a look at Integrated Genomics, Inc. most recent release to the public:

Yep, just like diet beverages and low calorie food, we have a streamlined and simplified version of our main bioinformatics platform. In it, you can find 7 genomes of bacteria that we have either sequenced or annotated (or both) with public funding. We've already made the data available in a flat file ASCII format, but we thought it would be a lot more "biologist-friendly" to release the data in browsable form. This project coming together (and coming together on time was the bright light for me in an otherwise strained week. It also turned out to be a great group building thing, since many people pitched in to do the things that needed to get done. We still have a little bit to finish off (I get to write the press release tomorrow) , but otherwise, it is mission accomplished! To celebrate I am actually going to do something that I don't do very often -- cook. There'll be chocolate chip cookies all around for my Wednesday meetings. And to anyone who wants to understand any of the jargon I've used here, let me know. I love talking shop.

In case anyone was worried, I did find another stretch of the right pattern in my Opal, and I cast on the second sock. Tonight I am going to follow all the excellent advice I got and steam my handbag flap into an acceptable shape. Now I am going to have to come up with another felting project. I'm really into this idea of making a felted backpack. I keep wandering by ThreadBear to look at their Wool You Order patterns. I'm trying to decide between this one and this one and this one. And I've also been virtually touching the Koigu, trying to decide which colorway I want to do Marylin, The Knitting Curmudgeon's wonderful Crusoe sock pattern in. Its really so hard to control my yarn buying habits when there are so many fun things out there to do!

Flappable Handbag Timecourse

I am returning to my scientific roots to give you the results of my felting project -- I took pictures at 5 minute intervals so that I could demonstrate felting "kinetics". Yup. Once a geek always a geek.

This post is very picture heavy. I apologize in advance to anyone with a slow connection. I also apologize for taking the pictures with the bag on a dark green towel. I would have used lighter, but the bag turned the water in my washer nice dark blue, so I didn't want to risk any of my light colored towels (which are all pretty good) and I didn't want water getting all over everywhere. I used the hanger (my bag retrieval device) for comparison.

5 Minutes
10 Minutes
15 Minutes
20 Minutes
25 Minutes
Fabric Detail

Enormous to finished in ~25 minutes. Pretty amazing. Felting is just one of those things that blows me away. I'm definitely pleased with the results but I am wondering if any of the felting experts in the audience can offer me a suggestion for smoothing out the flap of the bag. As you can see in the second-to-last picture, the shape of the flap leaves a little to be desired. I think its a little wider than it needs to be so I am not sure that stretching it is the solution. Would steaming help me? For those of you who steam, do you use a steamer or can you get away with an iron? I'm tempted to use the iron a little bit with a damp towel between the iron and the flap.

I think this yarn felts fabulously! I included a detail of the felted fabric in the last photo so that the gorgeous green and blues are more obvious. As Rob guessed on my TagBoard, it is Cascade 4009. I've now felted BrownSheep, Noro and Cascade and I think the Cascade is my favorite -- not too fuzzy and definitely a wonderful felted texture.

If I were to do this pattern again, I would do the handle as an I-cord instead of 8 stitches mattress stitched together. I might also be tempted to make the strap a little longer. But otherwise, this was a great pattern -- easy to follow and fun to see come together.

Before I close (and try to figure out what I am going to work on next) I want to put up some photos of the other thing I finished today... my first Opal sock!

This sock turned out a little bigger than I anticipated. It fits okay on top, but is a quite a bit too big for me in the foot. You may also have noticed something a little strange going on at the's an up close look at that toe:

It's almost as if I started the toe decreases with a new ball of Opal with a different pattern but the same colors. The color intervals are quite regular. It almost looks like the Tiger pattern. Is such strangeness common for Opal? I think I will have to see for how long this stretch of oddness goes. Hopefully not for too much longer, or this poor sock won't have a mate. Looking at the exterior of the skein, it looks like it gets back to normal sometime. I will investigate further after I finish this post.

Because I do not want to rip out all the work in this sock to make it fit me, I think I will make the second the same size and give them to my wonderful father (I hope that's okay, Emma! I promise to find another skein of Brazil for myself!). Unlike my husband (who refuses to wear anything striped or multicolored on his feet) my dad is open to colorful things (he actually told me that I could make him a sweater out of the same color Silk Garden I made for myself), and will love the warm socks. He's made so many beautiful things for me (he makes beautiful handcrafted hardwood furniture) that it will be a real pleasure to give him something warm and wonderful back.

Flappable Handbag Before...

Yesterday was a good knitting day -- I finshed another to-be-felted object -- my Flappable Handbag from an excellent Wool You Order pattern. Here's the before shot:

This thing is just huge! But I did like working with the Cascade 220. You can't tell from the picture, but the yarn is actually a lovely tweedy blue green.

I can't wait to see how it felts! After all necessary showers are completed, into the washer it goes!

Calm After the Storm

This week has been a wrenching week for me at work. The decisions have been made and the words have been said. My group is now "lighter" by three people. I'm a relatively new manager where I work -- I was promoted into the position of "Project Manger" for software development in September and I inherited a group of people. My group had its issues. What group doesn't? But that doesn't make belt tightening processes any easier. I feel good that I was able to preserve the positions of several people (which, of course, they will never know) but awful about the ones that I lost. Fortunately, on this round I was not asked to let anyone go directly (I didn't hire any of them originally, so I was spared that trauma), but it was just about the hardest thing I have ever done to tell one of my guys about the new terms of his employment, and to lead a small meeting on Friday to explain what was going on to everyone.

My dad used to joke when I was little that I was "management". And because he was an engineer (all the men in my family are engineers), I always new it wasn't entirely a complement. But on the other hand, I can't help myself. I love to organize, plan, and work with people to get a job done. Getting a PhD is almost more about learning how to plan a project and lead a group of people than it is about just doing science. I grew into my position where I am and when we are not going through this kind of crisis, I love what I do. Let me tell you -- this is the hardest job I have ever loved. I've been so excited watching my group pull together and watching some of the more reticent people participate. Making milestones and delivering good stuff is a complete rush for me. So this was a big blow to me. Not from an ego perspective, but from the perspective of watching a growing happiness be shattered. I spent most of the week sort of bleeding on the inside, knowing what was coming and not having any power to stop it. I worked hard to get the best possible arrangements for my group members, and hopefully they will never know that. And I am more committed than ever to seeing that they get to do what they are good at, and making sure we never have to go through this again.

So if you work and you have a manager you like, think a few good thoughts in their direction.

On a more positive note, I''ve decided to start reviewing the growing collection of knitting books on my shelf. I've added a new link over in my side bar to Knitting Book Reviews. There's only one review so far for Jaeger Handknits Natural Fleece JB14 but now that I have all my html templates and things in order (I love Dreamweaver! -- I have an old version, ut is still takes some of the pain out of dealing with HTML) I should be able to get them out much faster. I believe my next review will probably be one of my Alice Starmore books, but if you see anything on the list that you are curious about, let me know and I'll do that one next. I also have a collection of individual patterns that I will probably review as well, so stay tuned!

Okay... time to get back to my "Flappable Handbag". I got a second wind to work on it last night while going through the blogring and now I think I might be able to get it finished over the weekend!

Knit Picks

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My knitting efforts have been a little slow this week. Like indigirl I am finding that stress in my life is making it difficult for me to work well on my knitting projects... I just keep making mistakes and getting frustrated. So I've decided not to tackle too much that I would just have to frog later.

But I do want to tell you about my experiences with KnitPicks -- good experiences.

A while back I posted about my mom trying to get me a ball winder and swift for Christmas. I got the swift shortly after I won the eBay auction and was waiting patiently to get the ball winder. And waiting, and waiting.... In the mean time, I did get something else I had ordered from them -- my SpaceBoard (these take longer because I think they are made at a table pad company and have to be shipped separately). So I didn't think about the ball winder too much. Until about 2 weeks after the order was placed. And then I called them to ask them if they could track the package.

I got a friendly operator who looked at what was happening and immediately set up a new shipment for me (it looks like their shipping company had a hard time delivering my package to the Chicago post office... I know how hard that can be, Chicago is such a *small* town, LOL), without questions. So this week I was looking forward to my ball winder, but got another surprise first -- another SpaceBoard. Now, I suspect I could have found a good home for this board, but I didn't feel good doing that. Once again, they took care of the mistake immediately and someone will be picking up that board next week, at no cost to me.

Now, you might be thinking "how could those be good experiences? KnitPicks just screwed up." And yes, they did. What made it a good experience was

1) Two very friendly operators who did their best to help me and never accused me of anything.
2) A company that took steps to resolve the problems immediately.

I don't mind mistakes -- it's a hazard of doing business. What I do mind is when a company doesn't give me satisfactory explanations, or doesn't try to make good, or treats me as if the problem was my fault and I should have to deal with it. They didn't do any of these things. They acted professionally and treated me with respect.

And I got my ball winder last night.... introduced it to the swift... they're a happy couple now and have already had the pleasure of bonding over a hank of Rowan Summer Tweed and a hank of Cascade 220. I just love knitting toys!


Well, after a spectacularly disturbing day at work, I was looking forward to the reward of meeting a milestone on one of my projects -- the secret project with the Debbie Bliss Baby Casmerino. After what seemed like an infinite progression of garter stitch, I finally got to bind off.

And then I noticed something disturbing... the top of the piece is wider than the bottom of the piece. I had noticed this a little bit while I was knitting, but thought it was just the way things were stretching on my circulars when I was trying to measure. But last night, the reality of the situation became obvious. It's a little under 21-1/2" at the bottom and a little under 22" at the top. What's sort of funny about this is that this radical expansion didn't occur evenly... it started about 2/3 of the way through.

On the positive side, I think this means that I have gotten a lot more comfortable in my use of the Continental technique (I used to work the yarn with my left hand, but not in a very efficient way) and have "loosened up".

On the negative side, I have no idea whether or not something that is meant to be machine washed will respond to blocking to get it into a shape that will be roughly square. Has anyone out there blocked a Baby Cashmerino project?

So now I am trying to decide whether or not to chalk this one up to "experience" or not. There's still time for me to replace this gift with something else, not made by hand, or something made by hand but much smaller... so now I will have to do some thinking.

Dark Socks Don't Photograph Well

Not entirely on purpose, I stayed up last night until I finished the second of John's socks. For the record, yes, I did stay up until 3 am finishing up a pair of socks. Why? I really hadn't meant to. But I got to a certain point... and then I just had to finish. I don't know if there is anyone else with that bit of obsessive compulsive disorder, but once I get to a point that I consider myself withing "striking distance" of the end of the project, I just can't sleep or switch gears until I get it finished.

And, of course, it also got really cold yesterday, so I wanted John to have some nice warm socks, since he always complains about having cold feet. So without further ado, here are the finished socks (my first pair of finished socks!) as modeled by John's feet:

Some discoveries I made along the way:

1) Mission Falls 1824 Wool is nice and soft but untwists easily and you can snag it without even noticing it.
2) K2P2 ribbing has a better "rhythm" that K1P1 ribbing
3) Mistakes don't show up on dark socks (nothing shows up on dark socks!)
4) Knitting into the back of the stitches after picking up stitches after making the gusset really makes for a much firmer seam.
5) Its hard for me to get that corner area stich nice and tight
6) I want to try short row heels... (in hopes of dealing better with discovery #5)
7) I can knit and read blogs at the same time

Overall I am pleased -- and John seems to like them. I made him promise to wear them right after I finished them, so today he is going to test drive them. He isn't sure about one of the "seams" on the inside where the stitches got picked up, so he asked me if he could wear them inside out. I told him "whatever makes him happy" since, after all, they are his socks!

One more thing before I head to work....

Happy Birthday, Julie!

(I couldn't ask for a better knitting buddy -- she's creative and free-thinking and a great friend! If you have a few minutes, drop by her blog and wish her a good day!)

Thoughts with Coffee

No pictures today. I don't think there's much interesting about a half-finished navy blue sock and I've decided that I am not going to take pictures of something I am going to rip. I did have one successful project finishing, but it's unveiling will have to wait until later in the week. I spent a lot of time working on some HTML for my web pages. I'm hoping to do book reviews of my growing collection of knitting books.

I did decide a few things last night:

1) I am going to rip out the little bit of progress I had made on Nettle (my Chamonix sweater) and work on Neroli instead. Why? I am not sure exactly, but I wasn't feeling interested or inspired by Nettle at all last week, and that is usally a sign (especially since I had just started the sweater) that its not something I want to do. It's a lovely sweater but I guess I am just not in an Aran mood right now .

2) I am going to rip my fingerless Fair Isle glove (the thing I decided not to take a picture of) back to the cuff and start over. Why? Well, lets just say that when I break a circular needle, it's a sign that I am knitting too tightly. The pattern calls for 0's, I was knitting on 1's and my gauge still wasn't right. Now that wouldn't normally bother me except that the fabric has a stiff, almost board-like quality. So tonight it comes out. I might actually do the re-work on DPs (like the pattern suggests) because the last couple of rows I did after I broke the circular were on DPs and they feel a little looser. I also have to say that I really feel like I was fighting this project the whole way and I really didn't enjoy the process very much. So maybe ripping this one is a means for me to give this project (and it's process) another shot. After all, I didn't enjoy knitting Continental "the right way" until I did it for a while on a few projects and got used to it. Now I love it. I want to give Fair Isle knitting the same chance.

I also took a trip around the blog ring... something I haven't done in a while.... amazing how large it is and how many people are doing neat things. I think my daily reads list will be growing.

Okay, now I am going to go work on a sock -- I must say, knitting socks has a very therapeautic quality for me.

Happy Monday to everyone!

Socks (and Gloves)

So what did I do with my week? Well, not much that would be considered exciting. I'll spare everyone the details of my exploits trying to convert Non Deterministic Finite State Automatas (try saying that 10 times fast) to Deterministic Finite State Automata in Java and go straight to a much more fun topic: my first completed sock (done on two circulars)!

John's First Navy Blue Sock

There's not too much to write home about with this sock. It's done in dark blue Mission Falls 1824 Superwash Wool. The leg portion is in K2P2 ribbing. And he likes it a lot. His comment: "It seems like a lot of work -- but it does feel nice and warm!" So I guess he likes it. I'll probably start the next one today. Maybe by next week sometime he'll actually have a pair! This sock is not the thing of beauty that I would like it to be -- in particular, after picking up stitches after making the gusset, but only on one side, there is an area where there's a little more airspace than I would like. Anyone have good suggestions to make sure that the little corner area doesn't come out like a hole? I can always use a little yarn to fill it in (it won't be noticeable at all on this sock because of the color) but I would like to know how to do it the right way.

I also have an update on a much more interesting sock project (at least to me) -- my Opal (from Emma) sock:

First Opal Brasil Sock

I just love this yarn and working on the small needles (size 2s). I keep trying this one on while I am working on it and I can't wait to have a pair.

One surprise that came out of the whole sock measuring process is that either I have big feet or John has small feet. His foot length is ~10-1/2" and mine is not quite 10"! Seemed really strange to think that he and I have feet so similar in size. After I measured mine, I actually had to go and put mine next to his to see if it was really so close!

I am thinking that I would like to try a short row heel on John's next pair of socks (with that lovely grey Opal from Emma). Anyone have any suggestions for good patterns/instructions?

Finally, here's the start on what is my first Fair Isle project (for my class) -- Fingerless Gloves from Carol Rasmussen Noble's Knitting Fair Isle Mittens and Gloves. I'm going to be knitting up the fingerless gloves with the Snowflake pattern -- only three colors so it seemed like a good one to start with. For once I decided not to get too far in over my head and stick to something simple. I've decided to try to do them on two circulars instead of on double points. These are being done on size 1 needles with Jamieson's 2-Ply Shetland. I've never knitted with Shetland yarn before, and I find it quite different from the wool I've worked with in the past. Very neat to see how it grabs onto itself and holds on! Makes it much more obvious how steeks would stay together after working with this yarn.

Fair Isle Glove Cuff

I'm (obviously) not up to the Fair Isle part yet. I'm hoping to get to the color work this weekend, but I have another special project that needs to be finished up for someone's very upcoming birthday.

More Noro

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Today was a much better day than yesterday. Yesterday was one of those days when I couldn't believe that some of the people I work with could really be behaving so badly. By 11:30 I was ready to go home. When I got home, I turned to some knitting therapy to help even out my extremely ugly mood. I found knitting up my Opal sock to be very therapeutic. I never though I would like working in such a tiny gauge, but I do.

I got some wonderful things in the mail today. First thing this morning I made a stop at the post office to pick up a delivery from Amazon: Knitting Fair Isle Mittens and Gloves. Perfect timing, since I needed to pick out a project for my Fair Isle class. I am going to work on a pair of fingerless gloves. When I got home before my class, my order from ThreadBear was waiting for me! Here's a shot of the Beezle making sure that the Silk Garden is up to his standards (he's very picky!)

As it turns out, the Beez very much likes Noro Silk Garden #71 and thinks it would be okay if I do my next sweater with it. Here's a closeup of it (it has very rich purples and greens) with a special treat that Matt and Rob threw in.

I wish I could have gotten a better shot of the stitch marker -- it's absolutely beautiful. I will certainly be putting it to work soon! I have to say also, that it was a real pleasure to purchase from the guys at ThreadBear. I got help with color selection along with a lot of friendly emails. Its good to know that there is at least one other 2nd/3rd generation Lithuanian in my knitting "community" here on the Internet. I can't wait until I need more yarn for my next felting project or for socks or more Noro...

Julie and I went to our second Fair Isle class today. I think my practicing was worth it, because the two handed knitting thing didn't seem so bad tonight. I need to learn to pay better attention to my charts, but I don't think that will be a problem when I don't have great company like Julie to spend my knitting time with. I decided that I am going to try to apply my socks on two circs knowledge to my fingerless gloves -- I will go to almost any length to avoid double points (especially tiny size 1 double points). So now I am looking forward to getting the wrist ribbing out of the way so that I can get to the good part! There is always some new fun knitting thing to learn!

End to A Busy Weekend

It's about time for bed. I am particularly proud of myself because I am over halfway done with the first of John's (boring) navy blue socks. No pictures, because everyone has seen half-finished K2P2 rib socks before. John has been an active participant in the process and seems surpised that ribbing stretches. He wants me to put "extra yarn" in the toes of the socks to keep his toes extra warm. The yarn is already worsted weight, however, so I don't think I am going to add anything or he won't be able to get the socks in his shoes!

Seems like I can't finish one sweater without starting another. I broke out my eBay purchased Jaeger Chamonix this afternoon and started "Nettle" from the Jaeger Chamonix book. Given that it has 12 rows of a hard (for me) to remember pattern, I don't think this will go quite as fast as my Silk Garden sweater. The yarn is wonderful and soft, but not as elastic as I might have expected. The fabric is soft and drapey. To help myself deal with the repeating patterns, I decided to try a suggestion from Maggie Righetti's Knitting in Plain English an put a stich marker between each major pattern section.

It was a nice weekend. It started with a wonderful Valentine's Day dinner at Ambria arranged by my husband, was punctuated by a short visit by my parents and the completion of Gormley. Saturday night we had dinner out with friends in Elmhurst at another old favorite restaurant from when we were in the burbs, Francesca's Amici. Today, with no obligations to deal with, we got up late, had breakfast at one of our favorite local breakfast places, Munch and then just did whatever we felt like... which for me included Nettle and a sock and practicing my "English" method (which I am still having a hard time getting used to) in preparation for my Fair Isle class on Tuesday. And for John, it meant calibrating his projector, paying our taxes and looking for good deals on the Internet.

I hope everyone else had a peaceful weekend, too!


I can't believe that I have completed three sweaters in less than 3 months. Granted, 2 of them were in big wool, but it still feels like an accomplishment to me. Here is the newest addition to my wardrobe: Gormley from the Jaeger Natural Fleece book. Gormley is a fitted sweater using Jaeger Natural Fleece. It has set-in bell sleeves and uses three colors: Peat, Cowrie and Cameo. Here is the sweater right after finishing:

Here's the sweater on a real person

I like the feel of the Natural Fleece -- it has a very nice, soft touch, but I think I am done with big wool for a while. I probably should have made this sweater in a slightly smaller size. I think then it would have a better fit. On the overall, I was disappointed with this pattern -- too many things that make the overall product look and feel better were omitted due to what seems like a fear of "scaring off" novice knitters. I don't really like dumbed down patterms, especially when it's not really necessary. The Natural Fleece has a somewhat sheepy smell now that I have wet it to block it -- not bad, just a little like wet wool. On the positive side, I discovered that mattress stitch could easily be used to attach set-in sleeves, and this sweater will definitely keep me warm!

I will close this post by saying that I think I am developing a new addiction: socks on two circular needles! Julie and Emma have been encouraging me to take the plunge int the world of sock knitting. Double points made me miserable (Sorry Julie -- and everyone else who loves DPs) but circulars feel so natural and easy to use. I promised Emma that she would get regular updates on the socks made with the lovely Opal she sent me. So here is my first entry into my sock knitting picture collection (the Opal is from the Brasil collection).

I can't believe I am actually knitting on size 2 needles. I am definitely enjoying watching the sock develop. I'm going to re-start John's Mission Falls socks on DPs tonight (my Mom came to visit and brought me a set of AddiTurbos in the right size, can't wait to try out my first set of Addi's) and I told Mom if she brought me some Koigu, she'd get a pair of socks, too. She picked out a beautiful colorway. As soon as I get my ball winder and some size 3 circs, I'll probably cast hers on too -- the Koigu is just so wonderful to touch!


One of my mother's Christmas presents to me (ordered last weekend from an eBay seller because the order she placed in December to Patternworks was still backordered) arrived last night -- from Sweden! This is amazing because it was only shipped on Monday. Sometimes I think things from Europe get here faster than things shipped from within the US (I am still waiting for my ball winder from KnitPicks that I ordered at exactly the same time -- it's still in transit).

Isn't it beautiful? (It is shown modelling another eBay auction purchase -- a skein of Rowan Summer Tweed in the Powder color. My messy desk is show in the background, too...). I can't wait to use it with my in-transit ball winder. I am also going to use it for a little frogging expedition -- 1/2 of the back of an Aran sweater I was working on for John that I started before I firmed up my Continental skills.

After a wonderful dinner out with John (Wednesday is our "date night") I came back and got Gormley blocking! Tonight I hope to put on the little bit of collar that it has and get it seamed up. I also cast on the first of two socks on two circular needles using that lovely green patterned Opal that Emma sent me. Now onto the second one! The cast on took me a long time because the yarn is so lovely and delicate and I kept losing count of the stitches I had put on!

Special Gifts

This evening was the first night of my Fair Isle class -- I love the teacher because she doesn't emphasize form over function. Style is only important in terms of how comfortably it helps you get th job done. I never thought it would be so hard for me to knit English! But once I've trained myself to do something one way, I usually find it very difficult to do it a different way -- especially if I think the old was is more efficient. By the end of a couple of hours I felt like I had some basics I could practice with, but it's going to take a lot more effort to be comfortable with it. I think I am going to pick a small project -- maybe mittens? I've seen a book with folk mitten patterns in it out there somewhere. Usually I am more ambitious, but I have to admit that I am feeling a little intimidated by the prospect of knitting with two hands. Guess I'll be doing some practicing!

The best part of the evening were the beautiful birthday surprises from Julie: a needle case and the sweetest little felted sheep!

And here's a closeup of the sheep because he is just so wonderful!

Julie is a constant source of knitting and crafting inspiration for me -- I can't imagine a more perfect knitting buddy! I love the fabric she picked out for the needle case -- I have a vest that my mother made me when I was in high school made of almost exactly the same stuff (and I still love it and wear it with the scrunchie that goes with it). And I was just thinking that I needed another case for my straight needles. I also want to point out the card in the top picture -- hand stamped by Julie! These gifts were an extraordinary birthday surprise! Thanks again, Julie! (Repeat that phrase about 100 times for the right effect).

I also got to see Julie's Constant Companion bag up close -- so incredible! What is it about felting wool that makes it so irresistable?

I also picked up 2 size 2 circular needles tonight... can socks be far away? I think I am going to take the online CyberSocks class at SockKnitters. Last night after posting I suddenly needed to work on my sweater sleeve -- I'm about halfway done with it now. Maybe I'll get to do some blocking tomorrow night!

Frog City

You would think it would be really, really, really hard to mess up something done almost entirely in garter stitch. But I have one project that, for whatever reason, seems completely error prone -- and I never notice the errors until I'm several rows beyond where the mistakes were made. Nothing to do but rip.

So I ripped. The problem with ripping is that while I know it is the right thing to do, it always leaves me feeling a little disappointed and it kills whatever momentum I had going. Tonight is a pretty low-accomplishment level night. And knowing that my other goal was to start on that second sleeve of Gormley wasn't very much more motivational. I accomplished a little bit, but couldn't keep myself motivated.

However, I do have the latest copy of Interweave Knits -- which is really incredible! There are two or three things that I can imagine making. I must have the Corset Pullover and I am fascinated by the Raccoon Jacket. So I think tonight will be a good night for doing a little reading and letting the needles have a rest. Tomorrow Julie and I start our Fair Isle and Intarsia class at Knitting Workship, and I am sure that will be the inspirational kick I need to get myself moving in the right direction again.

Finished Felted Fuzzy Feet

Another excellent weekend has come to a close. My parents were here for a visit this weekend (my mother is doing some consulting work for my company since she knows more about contract and grant managment than we do) and I got to help mom a little bit with her Vegan Fox. We took a mandatory trip to Knitting Workshop "because how do you know what you want if you don't know what is out there". Of course, I found another skein of Silk Garden that needed to come home with me. Colorway #74 -- which I think I will try in the Bow Scarf pattern that Emma has used several times with great success. I am trying to decide what colors I want to use for the cardie on the front of Noro 1. I am leaning towards #73, but when I found this skein of 74 it made me want to take it for a spin to see what it looked like.

I also found a depressingly dull color for "man" Fuzzy Feet for John (Lamb's Pride Loden) -- which he of course loved. And speaking of Fuzzy Feet, here is the before and after of my first pair:


The yarn is Noro Kureyon, #78. They came out more fulled than completely felted because if I had let them go any longer they would have gotten too short for me to wear. I love the way the striping turned out. I thought the felting would make some of the lovely blending colors disappear, but I think it actually enhances them a little bit. This was a very fun project that I am definitely looking forward to doing again -- for John and for my Dad -- who promises me that he will have no problem with brightly colored Fuzzy Feet if I want more interesting yarn to play with after I make John's.

This was a great project because it helped me learn some sock architechture without the complication of being frustrated by double pointed needles. However, having said that, I may do the next set on double points all the way through because I didn't like the way the fabric stretched on the circulars. This project really got me itching to get started with the lovely sock yarn that Emma gave me!

So what comes next? Well, I think I am going to try to finish the last sleeve on my Jaeger Natural Fleece sweater. There must be some strange property of physics associated with the second sweater sleeve, because I always lose momentum right before I cast it on. I hope that I can get the sleeve finished and the completed pieces blocked before the weekend. Then I think my "Flappable Handbag" will probably need some attention. Yum yum! So many fun projects and so little time!

Completed Silk Garden Sweater

It's done! Last night I completed the collar, today I did all the remaining finishing work. I am now a mattress stitch believer! It makes a difference both on the visible and wrong side of the garment.

Here's the sweater just after I finished it (before I tried it on).

And here's the sweater being modelled by yours truly:

I'm very pleased with the results! This sweater is fitted right and for once I didn't spend the whole time worrying about whether or not I was going to run out of yarn. The pattern (Debbie Bliss, Noro 1, Raglan Sweater with Cable Detail) is well written and easy to follow.

I know I've been gushing about this yarn, but it was wonderful to work with and I can't wait to start my next project with some (another pattern out of the same book -- the cardigan on the cover). It's a touch scratchy on the inside, but since I usually wear something under my sweaters, it's not much of a problem for me. The sweater is fitted, but there is definitely room for a long-sleeved T-shirt underneath. The colorway really changes how it looks under different light. In natural light, it has a much bluer tone to it than it does in the picture.

Now it's time to finish those Fuzzy Feet! More Noro pictures on the way soon!

Learning Things the Hard Way

Last night was not a knitting night. It was an eating night. In honor of my birthday, John took me to The Dining Room at the Ritz Carleton Hotel in Chicago. Definitely an awesome dinner! It reminded me of the wonderful food I had while I was in Paris in early December. Truly a night to remember, especially since I got to share it with someone who goes well beyond making my life a better place to be.

Tonight, however, was a knitting night. My Noro sweater was practically crying to me from one of our spare bedrooms where it was blocking. And who could blame it? All pinned down, blocked and ready to go.

When I unpinned it, I almost expected it to go back to its original posture. Instead, it held its new ground and just felt gorgeous. The drape is much different now that it is blocked. I can't believe I've avoided something that produces such wonderful results for so long. Blocking is definitely now going to be a part of my knitting religion.

I also wanted to try out another new thing: mattress stitching the seams. Mattress seams were something that I just had some kind of inability to do before. I'd read the instructions, try, fail and go back to my faithful old backstitch. But I after going through the same routine on the first raglan seam on this sweater, I decided I was going to do it until I got it right.

My perserverence paid off this time -- I now know a new technique and my sweater has much nicer seams than it would have otherwise. The colors didn't match up quite as evenly as I would have liked, but I still think it looks pretty good.

Tomorrow night, the collar and the finish seaming. The next pictures will definitely be the real thing!

Small Steps

Yesterday was one of those days at work that always seemed like I was going one step forward and two steps back. The net result: by the time I went home I felt exhausted and like I hadn't accomplished anything. Not a very satisfying combination. Hopefully today will be better. I have a couple of little coding projects that I can work on and probably complete. Writing a good piece of code is almost as satisfying as completing a knitting project -- code isn't as tangible, but the recipient is usually pretty happy to get it!

A lot of people don't see it the way I do, but I find coding to be a wonderful, therapeutic process: you solve a problem and then you send your solution out into the world to be enjoyed by other people Good code, like good patterns, gets adopted by a lot of people. But I can be happy just creating a little tool to help one of our scientists get at our data better. And I should get to put together a couple of those little pieces today. Writing code for me today is also a form of avoidance. We have a big grant proposal that I am supposed to be working on...

Last night on the knitting front, I spent some time blocking my sweater. It actually felt pretty good, stretching it out, watching it come out exactly the way the pattern said it was supposed to size-wise. I don't have the nifty blocking board that I ordered from KnitPicks yet, so I improvised with one of our futon couches and some plastic trashbags and a spray bottle from some body splash. Talk about being an urban yuppy knitter! It felt very strange to spray down my work, but now that it is dry, everything feels so soft and looks so smooth. I will probably leave it tacked down until I get the time to sew up the raglan sleeves and put on the collar. Next adventure: learning how to do mattress stitch!

One thing that may not have already become clear about me is that I am a PDA junkie. And not just any PDA, I will only use Palm devices -- yes, I've tried PocketPC devices and I just don't like them. They don't feel natural and I keep expecting them to be full-blown Windows, which they are not. Anyway, it never really occurred to me to use my Palm (its not a true Palm, its a Samsung I-300 Palm Phone -- last year's techie Christmas present from John -- this link is to the newest incarnation of my phone) for anything related to knitting. It does hold my Knitting Needle database, but that't about it. Then I discovered this little program:

CountAble 1.1

This little program made it very easy for me to keep track of row increases and cable decreases and everything else as I worked on my sweater. Much better than conventional row counters -- I can keep a lot of information going at once, there are no little pegs to lose, and my cat does not try to run off with them! It's a simple little program (the kind I could probably write for myself if I just put my mind to it), but very handy, and definitely worth the $6 given how many row counters I have been found by my cats and then never heard from again. Even better, it is customizable so that if you have a bunch of different repeating patterns in your aran sweater, you can keep track of them all -- and you can keep track of mutiple projects.

Started my Fuzzy Feet last night after I got the sweater into blocking mode. I discovered that I knit too tightly for felting (this was also true of the "Unflappable Handbag" project on my WIP list) and I had to move up to size 11 needles (good thing I already had the 16" circ and the DPs I needed!). Having never really done a sock before, I foud the heel turning process to be pretty cool. And I am pretty pleased with the way the Kureyon is striping. I think I may end up making a pair of these for John. He's not so sure about the striping, but he's very annoyed that the temperature dropped again last night and he can't stand to have cold feet! Actually, he sort of surprised me last night by wanting to go in and see my sweater blocking. I think he likes seeing how my projects progress -- in the same way I like to see the new improvements that he has made to his home theatre.

The Home Stretch

I finished the sleeves on my sweater! I must say, I am very pleased with the way they came out! I got the striping to be roughly the same for both sleeves. Here's a look at the sleeves by themselves:

The flash makes the colors a little hot in this picture, but otherwise it is a pretty good likeness. I also decided to take a look at the pieces together and got a really lovely surprise:

The stripes on the top half of the sweater pretty much match all the way around! How cool is that. It was pretty much serendipity at work, however, because it wasn't until I started the sleeves that it occurred to me that I should be picking my starting skeins carefully.

I'm a little amazed by how bright this sweater is! I don't think I would normally pick these kinds of colors for myself. Now that I have got it though, I can't wait to get it blocked and sewn up.

That's right. I did use the word "blocked" before the phrase "sewn up". I am going to try to block it tomorrow night (while I start my Fuzzy Feet) . Then I am going to do something even more radical -- I am going to try to seam it up with mattress stitch instead of my usual backstitch.

One of my personal goals in picking this pattern was to pick something simple and try hard to work on my technique. I knitted a gauge swatch, I cast on using larger needles so I could avoid any tightness at the bottom of the sweater, I checked my gauge while I was knitting, I made sure the side stitches were pulled a little extra to give a neat edge. So far I am pleased with the results of my efforts. I did knit pretty much to gauge (and I have used about the amount of yarn suggested by the pattern -- normally I go over). I feel like my tensioning skills are much better, too.

Silk Garden is terribly addicting stuff. I find myself constantly cruising eBay and online yarn stores looking for deals and trying to decide what color I want to work with next -- I still want to tackle the little cardigan in the same pattern book as this sweater comes from. Noro must lace this stuff with the yarn equivalent of heroin.... which for me would be silk...

Weekend Progress

First off, a picture of my husband and our "mountain lion", Syd:

Syd loves being up high and will perch in the strangest places (like the back of a moving computer chair). He is also especially attached to John.

I took another little trip out to Tangled Web in Oak Park after I discovered not only did I need yarn for the Fuzzy Feet, but I also needed needles because I didn't have the right sized circs or double points. Actual exchage before the trip:

Me: "Hmmm... looks like I need more knitting needles."
John: "How can you possibly need more knitting needles?" (He's seen my needle collection grow exponentially lately)
Me: "I don't haave the right size for a project. With knitting needles, size matters."
John: "Heh. That's pretty funny."

This trip to Tangled Web completed my first "Frequent Buyer Card" -- now I've got $20 off on my next visit (I think you have to spend $200 there to get your card completed... and Mom helped me last time she was here by buying some lovely Rowan Polar). They have so many wonderful yarns at Tangled Web it will be hard to decide what to use it on. Aside from the needles I picked up, here's the yarn I decided on for my Fuzzy Feet:

Noro Kureyon Color #78

These are not normally colors I would go for (and the colors in the pictures are very true to the colors in the skein) but as I kept looking at them, they started to grow on me. I figured that I needed darker colors for something that I was going to wear around the house without shoes (and didn't want to have to wash every 15 minutes). Now I am excited about knitting them up. One thing I have learned the Hard Way from my current Noro sweater project is that you have to pay attention to the color of the skeins if you want the stripes to match a little bit (even if you do, I discovered that the color runs of the same color are not the same lengths from skein to skein, so it is kind of a losing battle to try to do this). So, two of the skeins have pretty much the same starting and ending colors (the one on it's side andthe one on the left in the right hand picture) and I will use those to start each of the "Feet". The other is in case I need more to finish either of the socks off since Kureyon only comes in 100 m skeins. I was tempted to find some matching eyelash... but decided that the stripes would probably be decoration enough for my first shot.

Last, but not least, I finished the front of my Silk Garden sweater:

I'm almost done with the sleeves (hopefully tonight). I decided that I would do both sleeves at the same time so that I could match the stripes and because I have such a hard time casting on the second sleeve after I am done with the first one on most sweater projects. (My poor "Gormley" is sitting in my basket just waiting for another sleeve...). I don't usually do it because I am totally cheap when it comes to using yarn (I don't like to leave long ends or have two half-used skeins). I discovered with the Silk Garden, however, that in order to make it come out looking nice I had to put my cheap attitudes aside. More on this later tonight, hopefully!

A Moment of Silence

I just woke up to the news that the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded coming in for a a landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

CNN Story.

As someone who can remember standing getting up to watch the first flight of Columbia and many subsequent flights, as someone who continues to be amazed at these machines and their crews and their ability to cross international boundaries... as someone who passionately believes in technology and is horrified when it fails... this is such a tragedy.

I remember watching the Challenger explosion when I was in high school... and I remember the feelings. Please take a few moments to remember -- the astronauts and their families, who will suffer this loss so deeply.

Columbia, 1981-2003

It doesn't really seem like a good day to talk about knitting.

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!

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

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"!

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!

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.

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...).


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:


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.

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.

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....

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!

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 -- 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!

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.

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.

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:


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, bastion of all things wonderful and geekful), check out the iPod on Apple's Website.

Litany of Secret Creations, Part

Litany of Secret Creations, Part 3

This is the last of my Christmas gift scarf pictures. This was the one that was the simplest and went together the most quickly. However, it is probably the one I am most proud of because it combined two things:

  • I learned how drop stitches work
  • I "designed" the scarf all by myself

I wanted Mom to have a Carribean cruise scarf, but I didn't have enough time for an EROS style scarf, so I used some Stacy Charles Rondo, color 610. This is what the scarf looked like:

And here is a close up detail of the "stitch pattern" that I used:

The "pattern" is very simple. It can be almost any width that you want it to be, for size 15 needles, somewhere between 12-15 stitches cast on would be good. Then:

  • Knit 4 rows
  • (K1 YO2 ) for as many stitches as you have
  • Knit 6th row, dropping YOs as you go
  • Continue until scarf is desired length, end with 4 knit rows

Mom liked it, and it did come out light and airy!

Litany of Secret Creations, Part

Litany of Secret Creations, Part 2

Scarves were the focus of my Christmas knitting this year. During the spring of last year my knitting buddy, Julie and I were touring Chicago knitting stores. We wandered into Knitter's Niche late in the afternoon and I discovered EROS -- metallic nifty ladder yarn. The store also had some model scarves made up of the stuff, which I assumed would be hard to make. The pattern I got is the same pattern that Bonnie Marie posted in her BLOG on December 8th.

I made the first one for myself (cursing that ladder yarn the whole time because it is not the easiest stuff to work with and its really tough to fix problems with it), and swore that was it. Until, of course, I got some complements on it. Then I went on to make one for Julie and my monther-in-law. Of course, those drew nice comments, too, so I decided to make them for my sister-in-laws-to-be for Christmas.

I made my brothers wife-to-be this one out of
Trendsetter Binario Colo Rio Red (103)
-- I loved it because it was so vibrant and because the ladder edge cords were red instead of black like they are with EROS. I knit it on size 13 needs to make it a little wider than the first ones I did.

I made John's brother's wife one with a more business oriented color palette -- black and silver and a little yellow -- EROS#3246 The colors don't come out quite as distinctly as I would like, but it looks great on a cream colored shirt or with a black jacket.

Now that I've done a number of these scarves in a number of different ladder yarns (Julie's scarf was out of Kitty, and my MIL's scarf was out of Schachenmeyer) and I am starting another using Madil Film, I have to say that I think the best one is Trendsetter Binario -- the colors are luminous and it knits up a little easier than the others. Big warning here -- this stuff requires a lot of attention when you are knitting it so that you don't stich into the ladders iinstead of your loops. But if you have a little patience, these make lovely gifts -- especially for yourself!

Litany of Secret Creations, Part

Litany of Secret Creations, Part 1

Well, Christmas was an excellent time for me! I have a bunch of things that I want to post and talk about. I got some lovely gifts, added to my stash (of both books and yarn), made some progress on some existing projects and started some new ones.

I want to start with the first Christmas gift project that I completed. The design comes from a pamphlet called "Designs by Judith, Scarves and Stoles, D513" -- its the Quilted Lattice Scarf. This is a scarf using Manos del Uruguay -- I think the colourway is called "Wildflowers".

Unfortunately the large photo doesn't do the colors justice. I love the detail on this scarf -- just enough to make it interesting, but not so complex that it competes with the coloration of the yarn. Here's a detail snap that gives a better idea of the colors and the texture.

I probably should have blocked this scarf, but I decided that a little more rustic look was more fitting to both the yarn and the use -- a nice comfy winter scarf. The scarf was definitely a hit with Mom -- my dad liked it too, so I may have to make one for him in a more dark and manly colourway.

SOCKS!!!! Yesterday was quite the


Yesterday was quite the day! I had planned a trip to visit my friend Julie for a lesson in sock knitting and double pointed needle usage that nearly got upset by something I needed to take care of at work. As a result of both projects I now know how to map sequencing reads to our genomes with BLAST (not earthshatteringly difficult) and I have the start of a beautiful sock for my husband!

I always learn better when I learn from someone. Sitting down with Julie to learn a few tricks about dealing with socks and double pointed needles made all the difference in the world. I know have about 1.5" of sock for John. It probably won't be fast going for me, but I don't think I have as much fear of socks as I used to.

John also did me a big favor last night by taking pictures of all my knit gifts. I should be able to get those up before the first of the year! Digital cameras are wonderful!

I am not sure if I will get to post anything else before the holidays commence and my trip to Ann Arbor commences along with them. Soo....

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Successful Rush Job Well, last

Successful Rush Job

Well, last night I decided that I would take on one more secret Christmas present. It was my first stab at designing something on my own. It is very simple, but I think it worked out well. I used Stacy Charles Rondo in Color 610 I had picked up a couple of balls of this ribbon yarn over the summer and had no idea what to do with it. My secret project is meant to complement a Carribean cruise, so I wanted something lightweight, airy and with light-tropical colors.

This was one of the first times that my stash came to my rescue. Normally I know exactly what I am going to do with all the yarn I buy.

I have to say, sometimes I absolutely ADORE big needles. On size 15s, my project came together in 4-5 hours. I'll put up the picture (and the pattern) after the holidays.

In "honor" of my record knitting time for a project, I decided to take stock of my WIPs and post them at the top of my BLOG. I really need to get to work on my Arans!

Christmas Gifts Completed Well, I

Christmas Gifts Completed

Well, I just finished my last "top secret" gift. To be honest, I only had three of them this year, and all three were pretty simple to complete. Pictures will come after Christmas -- after the recipients have had a chance to comment on them!

My Furz scarf is now 2/3 of the way completed. I think I should have made it a little narrower so that it could have been a little longer. I've only got one of the 3 balls left and it's only 36". I have a feeling it's only going to end up about 54" long -- but it will still be warm and toasty.

Now I have to decide to see if I can "rush" one final top secret gift project or if I am just going to go back to a few of the things I am working on for myself and John...

Home Again I am back

Home Again

I am back from my journies in France. Paris is an incredible city to visit -- so many interesting slices of history. I got a chance to visit a wonderful store (La Drogherie) while I was in Paris. It had yarn by weight for sale and some adorable children's outfit kits along with the most incredible collection of buttons and ribbons and beads that I have ever seen. Since my current stash is already quite large, I decided to look without buying anything. But they did have some bulky chenille that I was very tempted to take home with me!

I was struck by how different Paris is from American cities (in terms of age and stores and types of food) but I was also struck by how similar it is as well. Very strange to see McDonalds and the Gap next to traditional French cheese shops! I really only had Saturday to look around at Paris (the rest was spent in Palaiseau where I was on business) -- someday I hope to go back with my husband and spend more time walking around and eating.

I was lucky to be able to stay in the home of a French colleague while I was there. She introduced me to some incredible cheese, fois gras and escargot. I never thought I would ever eat escargot, but they turned out to be quite good. I will add a little Christmas shopping to my list for her children who were beautiful and a pleasure to be with. Her oldest daughter is learning English and she spent some time teaching me French words while I read to her a little in English (she's 8).

I worked on the Furz scarf on the way to Paris, but stowed it in my checked luggage on my way back because I was worried the circular needle might not make it through the security check. I do like working with Furz, and I am getting much better at tensioning continental style and going back and forth between knit and purl stitches. I think I am almost ready for my sock lesson from Julie.

Calm After a Pleasant Storm

Calm After a Pleasant Storm

Our Holiday party was last night and I think it was a success. We had way way too much food and now we have a house full of cookies from our cookie exchange. Guess who will be taking left over Polish food to work on Monday?

Now I am trying to relax and trying to get ready for my trip to Paris. Fortunately, I can dress pretty casually when I am there. Does anyone know any good yarn stores in Paris? I am going to have Saturday to myself to shop. I am looking forward to seeing the City of Lights before Christmas, but I must admit to being a little nervous about the whole trip. My French stops at:

Ou le taxi, si'l vous plait?


Je ne parle pas bien francais. Est-que vous parlez anglais?

I don't think I am going to get any time to edit my BLOG, but I will be taking the Furz scarf with me. I've got 16 hours of airplane time, so maybe I'll make some reasonable progress since I only have 2-4 hours of laptop time. It's gotten pretty cold here in Chicago so I could really use the scarf about now! When I get back, my amazing sock knitting friend, Julie has promised me a hands on sock knitting lesson. Hopefully by then my tensioning skills will have gotten a little better.

Julie also just delivered my beautiful Longaberger baskets. Two small ones I ordered are going to go along with two of my "top-secret" Christmas knitting projects. The other basket is going to be a "small project" travelling basket for my knitting.

What A Day! Usually the

What A Day!

Usually the worst day of the week is Monday, but this week, I think the dubious honor will go to Tuesday. One little disaster after another at work from data problems, to customer problems, to internal server problems to critical bugs to people problems and back to server problems.

I gave up on my socks last night (just temporarily) because after my third cast on and a couple of rows I wasn't happy about what I was seeing. It seemed like I was having problem getting good tension between the stitches that were on separate needles. I was also having great difficulty holding all the needles and tensioning correctly. I started using a K1P1 rib, but I am wondering if K2P2 would have been a better approach? I think maybe I am trying to do too much learning at once.

I was also cursing the EROS (ladder yarn) that I am knitting a top secret Christmas present with. I dropped a stitch and the stuff is nearly impossible to go back and correct errors in without major ripping. Nearly thought I was going to have to start the whole thing over, but I did manage to only have to rip out just before where the drop ended. I think after this project I will be done with ladder yarn for a while. I love the way it looks, but the stuff just requires too much concentration for "quick" projects.

To soothe my nerves from socks and EROS I switched to something totally for me and totally comforting -- a scarf knitted out of Berroco Furz -- black center strand with nice soft white fuzzies (shade 3811) . I picked up this yarn when I was up in Traverse City, MI about a month ago. The woman who was working in the yarn store also gave me a very simple pattern for making a scarf with it. Since it is so simple, I don't think it would be a problem for me to pass it on. I've got a couple of inches so far and I am very happy with how it looks.

Simple Furz Scarf Pattern
(courtesy of very nice people at Lost Art Yarn Shoppe in Traverse City, MI)

  1. Cast on 30 stitches
  2. Knit 12 rows
  3. Row 1 Knit
  4. Row 2 K1, P1
  5. Repeat steps 3,4 until desired length
  6. Knit 12 rows
  7. Bind off

The gauge for Furz is based on size 10 needles (but I am doing mine on size 10.5 because they are the only circulars I have free right at the moment). I think 3 balls of Furz are required to complete a scarf of reasonable length.

I'm thinking this might be a good "airplane project" for me. I am travelling to Paris on business next week and wanted to have a project I could take with me. Everything else besides the socks that I have going is on pretty large straight needles or just is a big project.

The Furz feels very nice to work with. It's lovely and soft and slips over my fingers and needles well. Since it has a K1, P1 row, it is giving me a good work out using tensioning that doesn't involve throwing. I hope by the time I am finished I will be comfortable enough switching back and forth with K and P stitches that the socks will be no problem at all.

I hope everyone on this

I hope everyone on this side of the Atlantic had a good Thanksgiving and that everyone else had a good week. John and I just saw my parents and my brother and his fiance on their respective ways back home. We had a lovely Thanksgiving with a house full of people.

I got my first trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art here in Chicago and we also took a trip down to the Science and Industry Museum in my old stomping ground of Hyde Park. Mom and I also found time to try out one new knitting store -- Tangled Web in Oak Park. This store packs so many good things into a small space and has very friendly people inside. Their selection is incredible -- in terms of both yarns and colors.

I was pretty restrained on this trip, but I did manange to find worsted weight "manly" dark colored soft superwash yarn and a pattern for making socks. I'm going to set off on a new knitting adventure: double pointed needles. Any good suggestions for working with them? I must admit to being a little bit intimidated by them.

Probably the only "bad news" of the week/weekend is that I ripped out my felted bag and am going to start over. It just seemed like it was coming out too tight and I was worried that it wasn't going to felt well. Since I was playing around with "correct continental knitting style" I made more mistakes than I think I should have. I know it will be felted, but it was driving me crazy.

I bought a bigger pair of circular needles from Tangled Web and am going to start tackling that operation again tonight!

I wish I had something

I wish I had something exciting to report or some great new pictures to post, but it has been a pretty long seven days since I last posted. Work is crazy because I am working on writing a grant that needs to be submitted next Monday, my brother-in-law got married over the weekend, my parents came in for that and are staying through Thanksgiving and John and I are hosting the big Thanksgiving dinner.

Needless to say, my knitting needles (and all my other craft apparati) have been abandoned for a little while. Good thing I only have one more top-secret knitting project to finish before Christmas.

Yesterday John and I spent

Yesterday John and I spent a lovely evening with friends of ours from Boston. Sue and I both post-doc'ed in the same lab in Chicago before it moved to Harvard. She's here for a conference so we got a chance to catch up over a lovely dinner at Red Light -- one of our favorite Asian restaurants. "Asian" is really the only way to describe Red Light since it combines Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and other Asian styles of cooking. It's also one of the few Asian places that we know of that has a tasting menu!

Unlike me, Sue is a PhD sticking it out at the bench -- she's got much better "hands" for molecular biology than I ever did. Sue and Martin are also expecting a baby girl in April! Hmmm.... I feel another knitting project coming on....

Over the weekend I also reached my "weight goal" of 124 lbs! I am so pleased with myself over this whole weight loss thing. It's so nice to feel good about the way I look. I treated myself to a pair of wonderful black leather pants from Banana Republic. Should be fun to wear at our Holiday Party!

I also got a little bit more knitting done on my felted bag. It's going slowly because I am trying to knit with the correct "style". One thing I am finding about holding my yarn "the right way" is that the edges of my fabric seem to be coming out much neater. I am still struggling a little bit with keeping it from getting too tight and with keeping the yarn moving around my pinky, but even that is getting a little easier.

I think this is just what I needed to get better tension on my Debbie Bliss project, but I am going to keep working on the bag for a while before I cast that project back on, just so I can be sure I've gotten the hang of things.

Snow! Has come to Chicago


Has come to Chicago -- at least for a little while. We saw flurries last night, but didn't think it would be cold enough to stick. But it did! And we even go some accumulation. Nice sunny day today, though, so it probably won't last. It's been a while since I've seen real snow this early in the year though.

Today I've been hearing "She's

Today I've been hearing "She's Crafty" from the Beastie Boys going on in my head. And it has been a pretty crafty day. I spent some time working on three different knitting projects, I created the "Keyboard Biologist" banner for the BLOG (which was an adventure in using PhotoShop) and I finished the drop spine box kit that I picked up from the Paper Source when I took my little box of books class.

In addition to knitting, I also have been getting into paper-based arts lately. I have always been a nut for neat boxes, too. Something about interesting boxes always gets my attention even if I don't know what I am going to do with them. I started doing some unit origami just to make boxes.

Here's some pictures of my box project:

Happy 30th Birthday Little Brother!

Happy 30th Birthday Little Brother!

It's been a pretty quiet day for me today. Kind of grey and cloudy and back to being what I expect November weather in Chicago to be like. Basically the kind of day that makes me want to come home and pick up my knitting. I've spent most of the evening working on the sweater for my husband -- it's called "Deacon" from Jaeger Handknits JB14.

I've heard and read a number of people talking about how English wool feels different and is nicer to work with but I was a little skeptical -- after all sheep are sheep, I figured. But the Natural Fleece does feel very different to me -- warmer and softer and with a touch of lanolin that I haven't felt in a yarn before. Hard to describe. Just very different than the Brown Sheep that I am used to using.

There's nothing quite like wearing

There's nothing quite like wearing one of my creations to work and getting nice comments about it. Today I wore the cropped sweater for the first time. Not only was it lovely and warm, but it got nice comments where-ever I went. One of my management types was pretty surprised to find out that I knit. That's what happens when you're a science geek, though, no one believes you would possibly enjoy dipping into arts and crafts!

Tonight is a computer science sort of night however. Time for me to dig into that masters project again. Hopefully I will have a little time to play with that natural fleece and one of my Christmas projects.

Since I spent most of

Since I spent most of the evening out on my weekly "date" with my husband, I thought I would spend a little time introducing my knitting history and posting pictures of some of my "in progress" projects.

I started knitting about 7 or 8 years ago when I was in graduate school. A good friend of mine, Judy, who was in the same lab with me showed me how to get started. She inspired me because she was always knitting these lovely and colorful FairIsle sweaters. I was particularly amazed by this incredible Kaffe Fassett sweater that she did.

She patiently taught me the basics -- she's where I picked up my Continental tendencies -- and proceeded to get me hooked on Alice Starmore patterns. (She also gave me some books that I am forever in her debt for, because you just can't get them anymore). I loved the colors of FairIsle, but came to the conclusion that I liked texture more than I liked different colors. Suddenly I wanted to cable everything! My first major sweater accomplishment (probably only my 3rd project) was "Grapevine" from Stillwater. It turned out a little bigger than I expected, but it is the perfect rainy day sweater.

From there, I jumped into another Starmore sweater pattern, this one from In the Hebrides called Malin. This is the back of the sweater (which I started with and am still working on).

I love this sweater, but I can only work about one section of the main pattern before going completely crazy and putting it down again for months. Of course, that didn't stop me from trying to do another big cabled sweater for my husband. This one is called "St. Kilda" and is from the same pattern book. Once again, I have started on the back, and this is what it looks like so far:

It was these two sweaters that sent me in search of simpler projects that I could actually complete in a reasonable amount of time. Judy had always told me that I should try out chunky yarn because I could knit up a sweater with it in no time, but this was the first year that I actually decided to take her advice and try it. It was a great thing to get a sweater accomplished in so short a time -- proof that you should always listen to your knitting guru!

Well, the Natural Fleece won

Well, the Natural Fleece won the project battle last night (although I did work a little on the remaining project I need to finish before Christmas). I decided that this would be a good project to work out my Continental yarn handling skills, but discovered that it makes my tension much too tight. So I went back to my yarn throwing "technique" (if you can call it a technique), and that made the tension come out perfectly. I guess I will have to try better yarn handling with my Debbie Bliss project where I needed a much tighter gauge than I was generating.

The Natural Fleece is very pleaseant to work with so far. I thought I would end up catching my needle points in it a lot, but it slides well and the fine thread that winds around it doesn't get caught at all. I love "slubby" yarns because they add interesting texture without special stitching.

I think I finally figured

I think I finally figured out how to use our digital camera and how to get stuff up on to my webspace at ATT. So here is my first shot at displaying some of my work.

This is my first project using chunky yarn -- Cleckheaton's Gusto 10. It's design #11 from Cleckheaton's book number 905. Not a bad pattern, it was definitely easy to knit, but their yarn estimates were not good at all. I needed one more ball of the contrast color and one less ball of the main color. It is a fun little sweater.

Here's a shot of the full sweater:

And here's a more detailed shot of the button, which I have to include just because I love this button so much.

Some days bring great surprises.

Some days bring great surprises. Today's surprise was so pleasant that I am going to put another link in my knitting links section to Colourway an online knitting shop located in the UK. I placed my order with them on the 8th and my yarn is already here! I've had things take longer to get Chicago to Ann Arbor. Here's the latest addition to my stash! The charcoal colored stuff is for a sweater for my husband. He actually picked it up a skein and went "Ooooh, soft! I could actually wear this against my skin!" This is the first time he's ever raided a yarn purchase, so it must have looked inviting.

I almost have too many things to do tonight! I have all this beautiful Jaeger Natural Fleece from Colourway just begging me to cast it on and get started on a sweater for my husband. I also have several "secret" holiday projects and a handbag calling my name. Not to mention my programming project and the Palm database I am working with so that I can catalog all my needles, yarn, and projects.

For anyone who likes to keep their knitting information on hand in their Palm, check out HanDBase 3.0. Very easy to use and fully relational, too!.

New morning, new look! I

New morning, new look!

I was having a lot of problems with the old template that I was using so I decided to try and switch to a different one. So far, so good. None of my content has changed, just the look and organization. I think this template is a little cleaner than the old one anyway.

I hope to bring the tagboard back tonight!

Kind of a slow day

Kind of a slow day today. I think I found a few cold viruses somewhere and now they don't want to go back where they came from. IG has done a number of things to make my life better. One of them is giving me a connection to our computer system that allows me to work from home. So I nursed my cold at home today while still getting some work accomplished.

After discovering that my Debbie Bliss project was a little bigger than it should have been, I ripped it all out and decided to go and spend some more time really learning how to knit Continental, and develop some good tensioning skills I looked at the English instructions but I just couldn't wrap my brain around them.

So now I've started yet another project so that I can practice knitting without throwing my yarn -- a felted handbag made out of Cascade 220 -- the "Hold-it-All" Handbag from Wool You Order. I figured this would be a good project because it requires a looser tension, and the felting will probably cover up some of my tensioning problems. So far, so good, although I am still having difficulty making the yarn move over my left hand well. I guess this will just take time.

It was a great weekend

It was a great weekend for project accomplishment!

I found:

  1. The button I needed to finished my cropped sweater (pictures soon!)
  2. I finished my mom's Christmas Scarf (which I can't post pictures of until after the holidays)
  3. I finished another "unidentifiable" Christmas project

I also got a nice trip into Jefferson Stitches in Naperville, IL with Julie. I wish they had a website, because I would link to it! Suffice it to say that they are a wonderful store with very helpful people and they are totally worth the long trip out to the burbs. I got yarn for two new projects, a felted bag and another project that must go nameless! Then Julie and I spent some time doing our own version of "Stich n' Bitch" at her house. Nothing like knitting with good company!

The nameless project will be worked using Debbie Bliss Baby Casmerino. I've already cast it on because the stuff has such an incredible feel and texture I couldn't wait.

I also invested in a lovely pattern book called Comforts of Home by Erika Knight (published by Fiber Studio Press). This book has all sorts of lovely contemporary home furnishings type patterns, including baskets made out of hardware store string!

Finally, I've decided that I need to spend some time developing better knitting form. I spent sometime last night trying to knit "Continental" the correct way. I already hold my yarn in my left hand (this is the way I learned from my knitting guru Judy) but I never really learned how to use the yarn efficiently. I think I could eventually get the hang of the knit stitch, but perling is going to be tough going!

I seem to have gotten

I seem to have gotten the HaloScan comments to work (for the moment). To leave me a message about something I've written, just click the "Comments" link under the message.

It's Election Day! Go Vote!

It's Election Day! Go Vote!

Well, I was going to

Well, I was going to make an attempt to upload some pictures tonight, but AT&T broadband is thwarting my best efforts. You'd think it would be easy to establish an FTP connection. I'll try again tomorrow night.

I was hoping to post pictures of the drop spine box that I am trying to make. It's a Paper Source kit that I bought after the class I took on Saturday. So far my personal foray into glue and board and paper is going well and I have the base of the box covered.

One final note: John and I finally picked a date for our annual Holiday Party: December 7th. Anyone in Chicago at the time is welcome to come! It should be quite the big to-do this year since it will be combined with my company holiday party.

What a great day! I

What a great day! I spent almost all of it in a class designed to teach different styles of book making called "A Box of Miniature Books". This class was run by Paper Source a wonderful paper arts store with origins in Chicago, but now spread to numerous places.

I took the class with my friend Julie, and in spite of the glue we got all over our hands and the fact that we weren't able to visit a yarn store we've been dying to check out, it was a great time. We had taken a previous course in making photo albums, but this one was even more fun. Unfortunately, while I was shopping afterward, I left my little box of books on the counter, so now I have to go back to Oak Park to pick them up. I left something there when I took the last class, too, so these folks are going to think that I am losing my mind!

I found out about a

I found out about a neat distributed computing project last night by watching my husband surf his favorite home theatre message board site. It combines both biology and computing and it's a good cause, so I thought today I would throw the link out.

The project is called Screensaver Lifesaver and it is run by Oxford University. The idea is to use unused computer cycles all over the world to screen small molecules for their ability to combat cancer. This project is similar to the SETI at home project. The only downside is that the software only works under Windows.

I actually got back to

I actually got back to my mission to take a look at more good links related to my fields of interest. That is one of the joys of bioinformatics -- I am a geek in not one, but two fields. Today's links represent both today.

  • Slashdot If you use Linux or other open source software in your day to day life you ought to know about Slashdot. Even if you don't you can check them out to get geek-worthy news and interesting insights into the hacker personality. I look at this site everyday. Sometimes twice.
  • GenomeWeb is one of those websites that most of our scientists go to for bioinformatics industry information.
  • News about bioinformatics and open source sofware, combined. Also lots of links to software tools. Definitely worth checking out.

I moved the TagBoard up a little bit to make it more visible. I'm trying to include the ability to leave comments for particular posts, but until then, if you have something to say, shout it on the Tag Board.

Today was one of those

Today was one of those days when I didn't even get to sit down and take care of outstanding email until 4 pm. We had a big company meeting to discuss how things are going. The future is optimistic, but we are struggling right now. I did enjoy telling everyone about how much fun I had on our trip and how exciting it is going to be working with our new customer.

One thing that I think is true about making the move from academic to "industrial" science is what it means to "do science". Once you are part of a service industry, a lot of people who might hire you just hire you to do a job. You're a contractor, not someone who is meant to be creative for them. I still get a lot of pleasure working on our software, but it is really exhilirating to get to work with a customer who wants to collaborate and give us room to be creative and innovative for them.

I engaged in another theft

I engaged in another theft of ideas from Julie's blog -- the Tag Board on left side and down. You can use it to leave short messages. I should also mention that my friend Julie is an extremely "crafty" person and she runs her own online store for rubber stamping. She is constantly inspiring me to indulge my creative side.

You can check out all the cool things she sells at Stamping Online.

Over the summer John and

Over the summer John and I got on a weight loss kick, inspired by my father who joined Weight Watchers and trimmed down. John and I are actually close to our own target weights now, too. John's younger brother is getting married in a few weeks, so I promised myself a decent dress for the event, and treated myself to a shopping trip today to celebrate a good installation in Montana and weighing in at 127! I got an unexpected but extremely pleasant surprise when I discovered that I could actually fit -- and fit well -- into size 6 clothing! The highlight of the trip? The lovely stretch velvet, form fitting sleeveless dress I bought for the wedding and an awesome pair of jeans from Guess. I bought some other goodies too, but being able to feel good in the Guess dressing room was one of the highlights of the shopping trip!

I spent the last two

I spent the last two days installing one of my company bioinformatics systems out in the Big Sky country of Montana. The place is beautiful in the extreme.

Ugh! The button I bought

Ugh! The button I bought is not quite right. I guess I will just have to wait until this weekend when I can head to Tender Buttons here in Chicago. How disappointing!

I had an excellent trip

I had an excellent trip to Traverse City, Michigan over the weekend. The fall colors were beautiful even though we also got a lot of rain. We capped off the weekend with a trip on the Grand Traverse Dinner Train, which was absolutely wonderful. It turned out to be a very "crafty" weekend for me. I got close to completing a wool scarf project I am working on for my mother. I also am now over half-way through with the Binario scarf. And I started a winter scarf for myself using Berrocco Chinchilla and Glace and a pattern from the Vogue Knitting Scarf book.

While we were driving up to Traverse City I got my mom convinced that she needed to start a knitting project of her own. So we had to search out a knitting store in Traverse City. We found one called "Lost Art Yarn Shop" and mom found the mohair boucle yarn of her dreams (this stuff really is fabulous, in magenta, purple, and blue) and I succumbed to my first Furz purchase. My friend Julie has been saying good things about it for a while, so I thought I would check it out. The one I purchased has a black core with white fur! I can't wait to see how it knits up. I also found button for my cropped jacket. As soon as I sew it on I will have officially completed my first knitting project of the fall!!!

My husband and I are

My husband and I are off to Ann Arbor, Michigan tonight to take a fall color tour with my parents in Traverse City. I am hoping all the driving will be a good excuse to get some of my knitting projects moving forward. Northern Michigan is just stunning in the fall and we're going to add to the fun by getting on a train to tool around northern Michigan!

Just added a link to

Just added a link to

Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN)

No keyboard biologist's repertoire would be complete without knowing a little about the Perl programming language. CPAN contains Perl source code as well as modules that support Perl functionality.

I have to admit, that while I like the strong typing of a lanaguage like Java, that I can prototype anything much more quickly in Perl.

Just added a link to

Just added a link to


EMBL (The European Molecular Biology Laboratory) hosts a collection of very well known and important protein databases, including SWISSPROT. They are also the parent site of ENSEMBL. In addition the also run a BLAST server for the European biological research community.

I'm moving on to the

I'm moving on to the next phase of my master's thesis project. Converting a SAX-based XML parser interface from a "push" based interface to a "pull" based interface. (Roughly, this means that I have an interface that will give me the next piece of data on demand rather than sending it to me whether or not I want it.).

This is turning out to be neater than I was expecting because it will also likely be multi-threaded. My compiled programs will grab info from a shared memory space and the SAX parser interface will be placing them there. I didn't think my Concurrent Programming class would be so useful so soon. Always nice to be able to put stuff I've learned into practice.

I'm still trying to find

I'm still trying to find a place to store my knitting pictures so that I can display them here. I think we have some space with AT&T Broadband (can there be any better connection than cable, short of having one's own T1 line) but I have to figure out how to use it.

In the mean time, I am trying to add good links to other things that are interesting. Right now I am filling out the "Genomics" section. I'm going to try to add something new every day in hopes of broadening my own knowledge base. Here's what's up right now:

  • Integrated Genomics is the company I work for. We sell an awesome genome analysis suite called ERGO. ERGO is one of my primary responsibilities. Check us out!
  • GOLD is the Genomes Online Database, a database of all the genome projects ongoing that is maintained by a co-worker of mine. He's gotten all sorts of citations for the quality of his site.
  • NCBI is the National Center for Biotechnology Information and is essentially the central US clearinghouse for most things genomic.
  • Ensembl is supported by EBI and the Wellcome Trust (involved in the Human Genome Sequencing Project) and is a great source of information (data and predicitions) for several of the large eukaryotic genome projects (including human and mouse).

Woohoo! I finished my sweater.

Woohoo! I finished my sweater. Now all I need to find is an interesting button. The project worked out well, but the yarn required for the pattern wasn't correct. Will post a picture soon!

I just can't believe that I accomplished something so quickly!

I got all the knitting

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I got all the knitting done on my cropped cardigan bulky sweater project on the way back from my Uncle's wedding in Michigan (Congratulations, Uncle Gary!). I'm now in the process of sewing up the seams so I can work the collar!

You've just got to love

You've just got to love a knitting store open until 8pm! Even I can manage to get there. I retrieved that last skein of bulky yarn that I need for my sweater. Hooray! I also treated myself to a pair of size 13 Brittney needles. Very nice. Inspiration for my next project -- a sweater for my husband.

Unfortunately, no knitting can occur tonight until I finish up some things with my thesis project.

And just what is project that would make me put aside knitting?

Well, last Spring, just when I should have been thinking about which class would be the last one I was going to take before I graduated, I took a class about XML and really got excited about it. You see, there are countless large sources of biological data and almost every source has it's own unique format to parse. Which means that you can spend your life as a bioinformatician just writing parsers.

But XML is nice because you can use the same parsing tools over and over, you just write slightly different scripts to handle grabbing data out of different data sources.

Now, there are two means of doing this. One is based on a DOM (the Document Object Model) the other is based on SAX (Simple API for XML). The long and short of it is that DOM is easy to use from an intuitive sense, but slow and not very good for working with big files. SAX is great for speed and big files, but not very intuitive to use.

At the same time as this happened, I also had come to the conclusion that I wanted to know more about how to design programming languages and compilers. So after talking to a professor who is interested in both, I am working on a project that is meant to take a simple language and convert it into Java code that uses the SAX API to parse XML. This is meant to give you the speed of SAX with the intuitiveness of something like XSLT.

At this point I am just in the early phases of the project. We are still designing the language. Allowing that language to include snips of Java code (so that databases can be talked to and other more complex operations, that are outside the scope of my small language, can be performed) is where I am now. And what I need to finish before I meet with the prof in the morning.

Just wanted to make a

Just wanted to make a quick post today to say nice things about the folks at Arcadia Knitting Arcadia Knitting.

My bulky sweater project (Design 11 in the Cleckheaton Gusto 10 leaflet #905) doesn't seem to have the right amount of yarn listed for the contrasting color on the sweater. Not only did they answer my email and set a skein aside for me to pick up when I can, they were also concerned about the pattern's specs. (The sweater is knitting to exactly the gauge and size described in the pattern so I was a little surprised to get midway through the project and realize that there wasn't going to be enough of the contrasting color).

I haven't yet adopted a Chicago knitting store as my "favorite" yet, but after getting a lot of help last Saturday picking out yarns and colors and getting a good intro to Bulky yarns, Arcadia is rapidly moving into that role.

Hmmmm...I guess I should get back to working on my master's thesis project....will write more about it later. Suffice it to say that it is a challenge to convince myself to write code when I have a sweater that I am dying to finish!

It is finally starting to

It is finally starting to get cooler here in Chicago. Cooler weather always inspires me to get out my knitting needles and start things that I know it will take me years to finish. This year I am trying to be reasonable, however, and focus on small projects I can accomplish or big projects with big wool. I also have a "knitting buddy" this year, and she is also helping to keep me motivated.

I have just discovered bulky yarn and the speed with which it knits up. I got the better part of a sweater knit up over the weekend (the sweater is done with Cleckheaton Gusto 10, which knits up beautifully!) I also just got started on another ladder yarn scarf -- this time using Trendsetter Binario (color 103 -- reds). So far the color is vivid and incredible. I don't think pictures will do it justice, but I will try to take one and post it when I get further along.

Greetings! Here I am, inspired


Here I am, inspired by a friend, to try out something new! Hopefully this will be a neat way to keep people posted on what I am doing when I can't keep up to date with my email.

Not exactly sure what to say... I've spent most of the day in front of my computer working on a project that has to be out the door in less than a week. Doesn't make for very exciting news. It's been a wonderful day here in Chicago -- mostly blue skies and pleasant temperatures. Almost hard to believe that it is still August.

I suppose I should get back to my programming tasks. More tomorrow (assuming I come up with something inspiring to say!)