Friday, November 30, 2007

Sock Reality

I suppose it had to happen. It's happened to knitters all the world over. They've even talked about it, in front of me, but I've managed to block the reality of what they were saying. Until Wednesday, when I was sitting with my family, watching The Sopranos. (The kids were in bed, of course) I looked down, and - wah! A sock had actually gotten worn through! I'm so sad. And yet, it speaks a lot to the way blogland has changed me that I grabbed my camera and took a picture.

I've been knitting and wearing my own socks for a bit of time now, certainly over a year since I started seriously wearing only handknitted socks, and this is the first pair I've worn through. When I went to get dressed this morning, I looked at my socks very carefully, trying to decide which pair I could next spare to lose. Rats. Well, at least I have a reason to cast on again! Haha on me, when I wrote that I had enough socks.

And I've also decided that I don't like being caught up on my Bloglines. Now I'm reading your blogrolls, finding new bloggers through your comments. But that's okay, because I'm sitting at the computer knitting, anyway, and it IS fun to check out new blogs. I'm working on the felted mittens next, and hopefully buying more yarn later today. I love Christmas knitting, where I don't have to feel guilty about buying yarn! WoooT!

And because sometimes you're just too tired to take your coat off...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Stress Management

When I retire, my day will go thusly: Get up at 9:00 a.m., make coffee. Mill around and listen to coffee perk, grab a cup and sit down to read email. First, delete all spam, then read six relevant emails I've received since yesterday. Laugh at jokes, move on to Bloglines, laugh some more, commiserate a little, and think how I should be knitting more. Then get up and make brunch, think about shopping or calling a friend, then sit and read for a bit. Mmmmm. By evening, be ready for witty conversation and a glass of wine, and some knitting. On Saturdays, I'll go for a walk in the morning, just as a nod at healthy living. Until then, I have to keep plugging along at my life, which is pretty much exactly opposite from my retirement scenario. I did, however, get some knitting done last night.

And here I will say that everyone has their own method for dealing with stress. I bet, if I sat and thought about how I dealt with the prospect of running out of yarn mid-project, I'd get a pretty good insight into my own stress management. I'm not doing that, though. I might not like it. But with the boot socks for the father-in-law, I had to worry about running out of the cream color, and when I was last at the yarn store, there was only one skein left. I ordered blue yarn there weeks ago, and it's still not in, so I didn't want to have to wait for more yarn. This, by the way, is Lamb's Pride wool, superwash, one grey and one cream. So about a third of the way through the second sock, I couldn't take it anymore, and I put the cream skein in a bag. Then I knitted and knitted and didn't let myself look into the bag to see what I had left. This way, if I ran out, at least I didn't have to experience the stress of watching myself run out. It could be a surprise, and whoops! I'm out. Rats. But no advance stress, see?

But actually, instead of killing stress, I was just living with the hum of nervousness that I'm going to run out, so I knit faster and faster. I didn't put that sock down until - voila! A second sock! And a bit of yarn to spare, thanks very much to the knitting gods. I believe I may even get a small hat out of the leftovers, if I combine the two. Huzzah!

I've also finished a bit of stealth knitting, which took all morning, but - nyah nyah - I'm caught up on my blog reading! Again Huzzah! I know it won't last, but I'm dancing in the kitchen. I finished reading my bloglines list! Yes!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's all about the simple

I dislike a lot of things, more as I get older. I am more tolerant of people and mistakes. That's not what I'm talking about. One of the things I really hate is the cost of cloth napkins. And if you know anything about me, you should know that I like things simpler. I like things old fashioned. Before I bought a shower curtain or a pillow case, I'd think whether or not I could make one first. And darn it, for six bucks I can make a dozen cloth napkins, which is sometimes less than you will pay for one napkin in the store. Homespun, my friends, is the answer. It's a woven cotton cloth, which you can find at JoAnn's, usually at a reasonable price. Two yards later, and I'm cutting squares, then pulling out the outer threads. It just doesn't get any easier, and the napkins look really good when you're done. I think they'd make swell gifts, with a jar of jam or something, and who doesn't like cloth napkins? They're kinder to the environment, and I think they look better on the table, whether it's your dining room or a picnic. There. That's my quick-gift-tip for the day. (It originally came from my mom, from whom many good things come...)

I love this time of year... Even though yesterday I didn't sit down except when I was in the car, I am still managing to keep up with the blog reading. It's a great thing to do, since I can knit while pages are loading. I can read what you all are doing, and be encouraged to raise the bar in my own work. Go, crafters! I've been inspired by embroidery, sewing, quilting, and knitting. The more I learn, the more I want to make gifts for everybody. So far, there isn't anyone I love that isn't getting something handmade this year. Cool, ay?

The Biggest Loser show had a factoid that most people gain seven pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since I've gained five of those pounds already, I thought maybe a short diet might be in order. Here's how it's gone so far today... half a creme-filled Long John for breakfast, three cups of black coffee. Note: Not a whole Long John, and I'm burning calories as I sit here vibrating from caffeine. Then later I took the kids to the dentist, and we hit Taco Bell on the way home. I don't really think the Supreme Burrito should have been part of the diet, but it did have lettuce...

So perhaps I'll do better tomorrow =)

Monday, November 26, 2007

What's on the needles?

Here's a pic of the little brown socks I'm working on for my husband. I used the Yarn Harlot's most recent posted pattern, which fits exactly with what I wanted for a sock pattern. It's easy to remember, with a little visual interest that looks fancy. You just use a k2 p2 rib, then after six rows of that, jog over one stitch and do it for another six rows. I like how it looks.

I'm working on this sock because I left the boot sock at church yesterday, which was really too bad. I was on the toe and looking forward to starting the second one. At a rate of three days per pair (size 4 needles and worsted weight yarn helps) lots of people might get boot socks for the holidays =)

I Googled felted mittens for a friend of mine, which will be made with this Noro Kureyon yarn. These aren't a Christmas gift, as she bought the yarn and asked me to knit them, but I'm hoping to get a free haircut out of it =) If you have a friend who's a good hairdresser, make them mittens. That kind of karma can never go wrong.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Trials and Tribulations

Okay, so far, just trials. Here's a picture of some Christmas knitting, waiting to be transformed into the tribulations part!

Pretty, ay? Boot socks, mittens, perhaps a scarf – my list is overconfident, so I'm trying to knit fast. See that beautiful Noro? Mittens, mittens. Mmmmm. But first, the boot socks. I'm afraid that I don't have enough yarn, and it's pretty pricey, so I don't want to buy more. So my plan is to knit as quickly as possible so I'll know if I need to buy that last skein of cream, before someone else does. Because I didn't want to waste time, I was a good girl, and made a gauge! I even washed it! I've only done this once before, but now that I know a bit more about knitting, it seems like a really good idea. My gauge swatch shrunk just a wee bit (half a stitch per inch and half a row per inch), but I made my sock with this shrinkage in mind. I'm racing along in my knitting, and about 11:30 at night, my husband looked over and said, “That looks a bit big.”

Yeah, it did. Having someone else say it really pointed it out. So I frogged it, quickly, while he watched and said, “Is that really necessary?” Well, it was only a couple of hours of knitting. Best to do it quickly. I went down a few stitches and began again. Then, after I finished the ribbing, the wee bit of alcohol had worn off enough for me to remember the stitch shrinkage. Dangit. It might have turned out okay when I washed it. But I kept knitting, because it really had looked big, and wool stretches after you wear it for awhile, I think.

I knitted like crazy yesterday, trying to get a sock done in a day, but I didn't get to the toe until this morning. I think when you're knitting like that, trying to get a whole lot done, you don't maybe try things on along the way, like you normally would. But I tried it on this morning to see if I should decrease for the toe, and the sock is really loose along my foot. REALLY loose. So loose that I'm thinking I might have fat calves, since it's fitting along my leg. I've never heard of anyone having to decrease for their foot, after the ribbing, so I stop and look at it, really hard. Yup, pretty loose along the foot. It might shrink in the wash, though, like the swatch. Then my subconscious stepped up and whispered I might want to count the stitches. So I did, and I found that after the heel gusset, I had decreased only to my original number of stitches, which was too loose, remember? I should have decreased more to get my second time around number of cast-on stitches. Grr. I quickly frogged again, then thought, “Oh, rats, I should have taken a picture.” Sorry, but you can imagine.

So I'm reknitting again today, and telling myself I am now a process knitter, since I enjoy knitting so dang much. But really, coming up on December, I turn into a product knitter, and I need stuff done. I need mittens done, and socks, and maybe a scarf. Yikes!

And by the way, it's really no good being a good girl and knitting your swatch, washing your swatch, measuring your swatch, if you are going to thereafter ignore your swatch.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Got socks?

Yesterday was a pretty good day. I was actually not feeling well, so I sat in front of the computer and read blogs. It was nice to give myself permission to do that, even if it did take a headache and a bit of nausea to make it happen. (Plus, it was a fun party) So I'm feeling pretty caught up on the blogs, and just for fun (??) I counted how many sites on my blog roll I would need to read to be completely caught up - 51!!!!! Yikes! Time to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I love me a sense of completion.

Speaking of a sense of completion, I really have to share this photo. It's from at least a month ago, and I should have posted it before now, but here 'tis. I walked into my mom's house, and apparently it was sock washing day. She washes her socks when she's worn every single handknit pair but one, and so has to wash for more. Look at all these socks!!!! And that's not even all of them. We had to take three pictures to capture all of the socks hung around her house. Too cool.

They look even better when they're strung all over her balcony drying in the air, like a more recent incident, but the batteries were dead in the camera, darn it. But how cool is this? I have six pair of handknit socks, and really felt my feet were well covered. Knitting isn't a competition, but I do feel free now to knit extra socks and just enjoy having them. It would definitely make for less sock washing days, too. Go, Mom!

And a bunny update: Mr. Testosterone came out for a bit yesterday morning. I gave him toys to play with, and brushed him verrrry little.

He liked the toys, but got pissed off when I brushed him. *sigh* Like I needed another kid...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tuesdays are for Drama

As in, I can't find anything, because I've been cleaning my house so people can come over. Why doesn't it look like other people's pretty houses yet?

Oh, and some drama because one of my bunnies thinks he's tougher than me.... right now he's right. Poor little furry thing gets right under my guard, and you can't force him to submit to the brush, cuz that would be wrong, wrong, wrong. But it's all very frustrating. I do believe he's grown up and gotten his own personality, darn it.

And what in the world do you feed the kids when you don't want to fill the fridge up with leftovers before Thanksgiving???

And why can't I have the yarn I ordered from the store?!? I refuse to cast anything on, because I know I'm about to dive into a big project, so I just keep walking around working on the husband's socks. He'll be happy soon, though, cuz with nothing else on the needles, these babies should fly. The yarn I ordered is for a sweater for my second child, and she wants to design it. Now that I think of it, second grade was when my first daughter wanted to design her own sweater. Perhaps I should be discussing this with their teacher....

Oh, and of course Tuesday is for drama club, where 21 kids and *ahem* me, try to sort out what we're doing in two weeks for the Christmas program. Actually, my husband is there, too, but I'm meaner and yellier - is that a word? - so I feel like it's me and 21 kids debating for who gets to talk. He stays out of the way and calmly watches until I turn on him like a cat and hiss, "Do something!" Then he calmly gets their attention. *sigh* I had to have missed a class on communication somewhere along the way.

No knitting to show but a sad little brown sock... and this blue hat, which is too big. But I have accepted the challenge, thrown down the gauntlet, become a more determined individual. I will make this hat submit, since it isn't little and furry and doesn't have feelings. I will win. (It fits me great, but it's not meant for me, is it?)

That's enough drama for now =)

Monday, November 19, 2007

My new yarn security system

Last minute, my daughters had a friend over today. They had some kind of fun, acting like I always did with my friends when I was little. It was fun just watching them sing and dance to our High School Musical cd, which is THE thing for preteens right now. Then they decided to install "lasers" all around the living room, to trip people up. I had to get out to take the girl home, and I can testify that it was no easy feat. Cool. Another use for yarn.

The birthday party was swell the other day. Here's the youngest, who gets more joy out of a birthday party than I've ever seen anyone get. Just standing next to the cake sends her into throes of euphoria. See how she smiles, and one eye shuts tighter than the other? All of my kids' eyes do that. I think it must be a sign of genius. Makes for interesting school pictures, though...

And here's a picture of the birthday lady, 84 and in better shape than I am, I suspect. She can pop up off the floor from doing puzzles with a grandkid, and I'd be heaving up onto one leg, trying to get good leverage. *sigh* But Happy Birthday to her, and I'm really happy, because she likes handmade things just as much as I do =)

And yes, I have been knittin'! I think I figured out the hat pattern, and so have been forging on. Let's hope when I get done it isn't a smidge too tight or vastly too big. If it's too big, I can fix it with elastic. If it's too small, it's back to frogville. And here's a pic of a pair of mittens I spit out this weekend, watching silly sitcom t.v., because I just couldn't stomach the Bionic Woman. I've never seen straight lines delivered so poorly. Couldn't watch it. I tried, though, so I can honestly say that I can't overcome the memory of Lindsay Wagner, and the way the bionic woman used to be....

Friday, November 16, 2007

A few things off the list...

The thrummed mittens are done! And they were nicely well received, which even from a three-year-old was very gratifying. Here's a pic of them with the sun shining, which was a nice surprise today, and another picture from yesterday showing the inside, but no sunshine.

The wool came from a tan bunny and a blue-ish bunny, so the roving is two different colors. I decided not to care for my first pair, but it does look a little odd when you turn them inside out. Anyway, I don't have to worry about her little fingers being cold this winter!

I've also been working on a hat for my nine-year-old, to match her blue mittens. I started in the center top and kept increasing, thinking it was too small, and increasing some more. Finally, I strung it on some dental floss and placed it on her head. I'm glad I didn't just continue on knitting, because clearly this is too much. Why is it that I can't gauge my kids' sizes??? I kiss these little heads and hold these little hands every day, and still I'm constantly frogging. Very weird.

And finally here's Grandma's gift. I made a soap sock, several times, but the one in this picture was the keeper. Apparently, if you make your soap sock with too small of needles, it's hard to get the soap out. Goes quicker with the bigger needles, too, which was a nice side benefit at the eleventh hour. I also made three dishcloths, and included a bookmark my mom made. She gifted me with many, many, to give as I saw fit or keep 'em all, I suppose. Anyway, Gram will love it, as she does all handmade things, but also because it is really really pretty. Thanks, mom! I made two hand towels from some pretty Mary Engelbreit material, and threw in some soap gel from Bath and Body Works, and I call it done.

Now on to Thanksgiving! I'm having the family here, and feel a strong need to wash walls and stuff, which is a good idea at any time in this house. I know I don't see what goes on in anyone else's home, but does anyone else have the need to wash their walls every other week like I do? Seriously, you'd think the kids knew how to walk on the walls in their bare feet. Anyhoo, on to the holidays! Anyone else feeling any pressure?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Adventures with the Learning Curve

Nice title, eh? Well, let me tell ya: I have decided to make some thrummed mittens. I want to make them for Christmas. I have access to roving (Angora, no less), and yarn, of course, and I've never made this gift before, so people will be excited (in my happy world) to receive them. So I decided to make a pair for the three year old, just as a tester, to see if I was doing it right. Now, I was going to write a blog entry about how spoiled my three-year-old was, getting thrummed mittens. That would have been cute. Instead, I'm going to write about jumping into a project without doing proper research. (Darn it.)

I looked up the Yarn Harlot's thrummed mittens, just to get a feel for what they looked like. I remembered enough of what she said to do back when I read the entry, enough to get started anyway. I did look up the thrummed mitten pattern, which suggested I could thrum anything, if I figured out a way to make space for the roving. So I went up a needle size and started knitting. Mmmm, Angora is soft.... This is a neat technique, where you take a bit of roving/wool, twist it in the middle and knit it along with your stitch. The inside of this mitten was so soft I wanted one for myself. Then, about halfway up the mitten, I ran out of roving, and had to get another baggie of it. I started to get a bit concerned. I have four sandwich baggies of wool from the bunnies, and I thought that would be enough for this project and at least one other. Plus, since the bunnies kindly keep making wool, I wasn't concerned. But this was a mitten project for a three-year-old, I hadn't even finished one mitten, and I was moving fast through the fluffy stuff.

I went back and peeked at the thrummed mitten pattern to see how much wool/roving they suggested for the child's size mitten, but to be honest, I never got that far. Instead I saw, and I quote, “Read This BEFORE Beginning the Thumb Gusset.” Rats. That had to be at least six rows ago. Apparently, they had a technique that was going to work easier than knitting the mitten, then the thumb. Oh, well. That's adventurous knitting for you, right? I went back to my mitten and knit on.

The little darling had gone to bed, but she has little bitty hands, so I started the decreases. Really, thrumming takes some time. It isn't smooth knitting. But it is fun, and very satisfying to stop and keep feeling the inside of your mitten. I must say though, this morning, when she tried it on and smiled at the softness of it, her fingers were sticking up through the top. Rats. I have to tink back and add some more rows for her freakishly long fingers. Now, I'm not losing my happy thoughts or anything, but tinking back thrummed mittens ain't all the fun you'd imagine it is. I can't stop now, though, because she really would hate normal mittens now that she's felt the inside of these. So I'm adding enough rows so she can wear them next year, too.

Here's a pic before anything bad happened, when I was considering the smug little blog entry I would write.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A little moment of peace

I was having a bad morning this a.m., what with a creditor implying I hadn't paid my bill (yeah, I did), and time pressures and a to do list and a three-year-old in the testing phase (No! No! No! - that's her, not me). So I did what any sane person would do. I went and stuck my face in a handful of roving. I breathed very deeply, and did not think about going to the bank or washing my walls or anything necessary. I thought about the alpaca, and how sweet that animal is, and how this roving came from a very living, breathing, running around animal. It calmed me down quite a bit. Then I thought about how I would spin it, probably a single ply, as it's got lumps of pretty colors in it, and I want to keep those with the yarn. Probably relative chunky, just for something new, but maybe not so chunky that it couldn't go into a hat. I could wear this animal around on my head, and have this good earthy smell pretty close to my nostrils, for breathing in calm farm moments. And I actually felt better. I should write a magazine article, since there are so many about how to manage stress. Then I sent up a quick prayer, but I didn't feel like it was being received, since I only expect help from a higher source when it's something really serious. Anything else I'm probably expected to handle. Still, for good luck, I sent up a prayer and went and played Pirate Map with my daughter. This game involves whapping my leg with the “map” she's drawn, and saying, “Arrrr! Let's go, matey!” Good stuff. But I'm keeping my roving by me for occasional breathing, because it really has helped.

Speaking of good stuff, here's a pic of my kids throwing pizza pies last night. We had an unexpected night home, due to the sitter getting sick, and I didn't have a dinner plan. (Sitter was grandma, who was in charge of dinner, which is a good deal, if you can work it out) So with no real plan, we pulled out some sauce, pepperoni and a little flour and yeast, and I taught the kids how to make pizza. It was so fun, and I feel like I rarely get fun mommy moments now that they're in school. There aren't whole days to work around what needs to be done, so you can do crafts or go to the library. It was a very good time.

Why, yes, I have been knitting! I'll take pictures if we ever see the sun again, which won't be today, sadly. But I've been working on the gift basket for my grandma, and her party has been rescheduled to Monday (poor ill woman), so I have a few more days. So really, now that I've blogged all this down, things aren't so bad. They're pretty good, actually. Roving - I knew there was something magic about it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Y'all are so nice!

I have been getting more and more frustrated these last couple of weeks, as I type in search phrase after search phrase, trying to figure out how to wash the bunny wool after I've gathered it off the bunnies. Finally, I decided to bug someone who had no reason to help me. Every time I'm driven to this point, I cringe because I'm worried I'm about to annoy someone, but I don't know what else to do. I found the site of a lady who has many German Angora bunnies, and she seems to really know her stuff. (Hi, Leslie!) She lets them play outside and breeds them and shears them, even. So I emailed her and prayed she didn't mind giving me a little information, even though I am nowhere near Virginia, where she lives, and I can't possibly frequent her store for wool. And she emailed me back within hours, and was very encouraging! Every time (so far) I've had to rely on the kindness of strangers, I haven't been disappointed. It gives you a warm glow to think people will just help people, and there are so many more nice people out there than rotten ones. I gotta get out more, because the news has warped my sense of my fellow man. This woman also sent me a link to a very helpful English Angora site that had come up on none of my search phrases. Very weird. When in desperation you ask Google, “What do I do with my English Angora roving?”, you ought to get a couple of sites about English Angoras and their roving. Come to find out, it's actually called wool, when it's right off the rabbits, and guess what else? There's no washing involved! Heehee. You can spin it right away, or dye it, or whatever, because it's very clean when it comes off the bunnies. And there's different grades of wool, depending on which part of the rabbit it came from. The finest is from the back and sides, where the hair is the longest. The second best is from the bib and belly, as it's a bit shorter. (My, but it's soft, though) And the worst, and most unclean, comes from the back of the bunny, and is good for bird nest liners, not for spinning at all. Yay! So I promised myself I would blog about this, and put in my Google search phrase, in case someone else is desperate enough to type in “What do I do” in regards to Angora bunnies.

I guess it's going to snow here this week, and it's late enough in the year that it's probably going to be serious about it. So I need to make my oldest a hat to go with her mittens, and quit fooling around with trying to knit a pattern into the hat. It needs to get done! And I need to come up with some kind of gift for my grandmother, since we're celebrating her birthday this Friday, a week early! I never know what to get her, so I'm thinking a gift basket with dishcloths, soaps, something, something. I would welcome any thoughts anyone has on good gift ideas to make when you're down to the last few days.

One of the final participants in the shawl KAL has finished! Liz has made a beautiful shawl called Cozy, and it looks just so great. If you get a chance, pop over to her blog and tell her. I'm going to call the Summer Knitalong officially done, and I'm very sorry if you didn't finish yours and you were playing. It's just time to admit summer is over. I am so glad that everyone wanted to play, and we got such beautiful shawls out of this fun event! This definitely won't be my last blog contest or game or fiber drawing, or however you want to categorize it that gets you excited. With my busy schedule as a stay-at-home mom, even though I'm always running, this blog gives me a connection with other people that I'm usually too busy to make with the folks I see every day. Here I can sit and concentrate on what you all say, what your thoughts are, how you like something. I think about blogs I've read while I do the dishes or read Pooh one more time. I have a lot of fun with this on-line talking and reading.

Now that we're getting only a month or so from the big holiday, Christmas, I'm wishing I had taken more time over the summer to keep up with the Christmas knitting. I got two hats completed. There's so much that I want to make, and there's no way I can do it by the holidays. Maybe I'll hit the candle store and make it easy on myself =)