Thursday, March 30, 2006

Craziness, yo.

I know that the first rule of blogging is to make people want to come back, which is why I feel dreadful that anyone coming back to my undecorated corner of the universe hasn't been rewarded with new content.

Things have been crazy at Chez Madam. I recently received word that in two weeks I have to whisk off to do something which has pretty much been a life goal for as long as I could remember, and yet it's something I can only do once. So I'm sitting here thinking, "Geez. I am SO not ready for this." Trying to prepare for it is probably not helping much, but I suppose it gets me in the right frame of mind. Bottom line, though, is that it means I can't knit as much as I want to. Oh... wait... I suppose I could, really, but I'd have to take it more places. I suppose I'll have to mull that over.

Today's musing comes to you courtesy of the knitting_snark community on LJ. I didn't know it existed, but I thought, "Hey, it'd probably be a nice release from the junk in Knitting." I'm one of eight mods over there. I don't know why, since I've only been knitting for two years and still have a lot of questions I ask in there myself, but the others magically bestowed it upon me after I volunteered to write the "knitting on airplanes" entry for the memories.

Of course, I had to search through it to see if I'd been snarked in recent memory. Wouldn't you know, I had -- instantly recognizable without even linking because the poster points me out as a mod. (Not going to link it because it's locked.)

Eh... I had a longer entry here, but I edited it. I probably could have googled, you know, but Knitting's fricken huge and it's dreadfully difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff even by googling.

I guess my problem is that I'm in that awkward stage where the only thing that truly intimidates me are prices and care requirements. I'm prety sensitive when people snark about that; despite having a cushy government job, my name is not Wendy D. Johnson. Being on the larger end of average, the yarn for a "regular" sweater could easily cost me between $60 and $100, and because I want to keep it and show it off I have to be tremendously picky. That's the price of a couch in my world!

So having a place to ask questions is what I really need, since I can't go to the LYS every day. I just don't know how I could successfully ignore Knitting and still know I wasn't being an idiot when I asked something there. (Because, as we know, everything in the world can be solved by just f'ing googling it.)


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Auntie... Meme?

Man, Blogger sure is biting my ass as I try to figure it out. Yesterday I got all excited about putting in pictures in various and sundry locations until I realized that a) it only wanted to put one up at the very top of the post, and b) when I tried to undo my work and add it again because I wanted to see if I could work the text wrap better, it gave up on the text wrap entirely and decided never again to confirm the addition of any pictures. Ever. So I had to manually code in the image. (That's a laugh, eh?) Now today I notice that my links don't work to Jacquilynne's LJ and Puzzle Pirates site because, despite coding them the way in which they should be coded, it wants to insert "" before the URL I put in. Which, of course, leads nowhere, because why would anyone make a page called ""?


Perhaps later on I will post another picture from the archives -- that of the late, lamented Space Invaders hat. Le sigh. But for now, I think I'll start in on actual non-kvetchy content by introducing "Auntie Meme" (har har) from those nutty Knotty Girls Jen and La, whose idea I found through Carrieoke. Think I'm done with the namedropping yet? Hardly! They decided to start this one because "most of them, in our opinion, suck ass." For now, I'll just post it here while I muse on its little challenge, but if anyone wants to join me, I'd love to see what you come up with. I'll post my results when I come up with 'em.


HA. YOU’RE TAGGED AGAIN. Yes, you. This time we are sending you on a Knit Blog Scavenger Hunt.

-Your finds must come from knit blogs.
-You may not use a blog for more than one item-all items must come from different sources.
-Finds can come from current entries or archives.
-You must post your answers with the title of the blogs they were found on and a link to the blog/item (permalinks where appropriate) on your blog. If no permalink is available, give us the post date.
-Do not steal anyone’s bandwidth-which means you should not hotlink pictures.
-You need to comment and let us know when you have completed this meme.

1. A blog which you think people have not discovered.
2. A blog whose author lives close to you physically. Just get as close as you can, it’s all relative.
3. An unusual or weird animal picture.
4. An entry that made you laugh and got you strange looks from family or co-workers.
5. An idea you wish you’d thought of.
6. Something you’d like to knit.
7. A picture of something you consider beautiful
8. A blog whose author you’d like to one day meet in person
9. A blog of someone you have already met in person.

Now, be sure to leave a comment so we (and others) know to go check out your finds! Happy hunting!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Babies! Yarnage! Pictures in glorious >>>Blog-O-Vision(tm)<<<

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This is my pal Benjamin, aka Baby Nemo. He models a dashing chapeau resplendent in shades of scarlet and eggshell, accented by a boldly patterned blankie with... uh... swords on it.

See, in Y!PP we've got this swordfighting puzzle that's vaguely Tetris-esque. Blocks have different colors with different types of swords on them. So some friends and I got together and decided to each make patterned color blocks that looked like those in the game. The simple variation between knit and purl stitches proved more than adequate for patterning, and we decided on mercerized cotton for its washability and brightness. Jacquilynne (in Toronto) did the finishing and the blue and yellow, also creating the patterns in Excel, while Lemur (in St. Paul) took the green and I took the red. I also included the baby stripey cap seen here. In the game, particular patterns of colors score in different ways based on what sword you use, so we picked a pattern and arranged the color blocks accordingly. Then Jacquilynne finished it all off with a cabled gold binding made to look like rope. (More detailed pictures of its construction can be found here -- trust me when I say that's actually blue, not purple.)

I'm sure that some people would have been a bit mystified by the patterns, but how awesome to be able to take something that Benjamin's dad had a hand in and make it into a bright, snuggly gift. We couldn't have been happier with the end result, and as you can see we had a very happy baby (and mom and dad!) as well.

Okay -- it's official.

I'm sure anyone with a vested interest knows this already, but thanks to my intrepid pal, the 5'3" Alana, we may now certify that Clapotis is, in fact, too short. It isn't just 5'7" me and my linebacker shoulders/long torso. Validation... but oh, the cost.

The problem is, of course, compounded by the fact that unlike many other stole or scarf patterns, it isn't so easy to just tack another couple of repeats on the end. Because it's knit on the bias, the long row repeats end ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT gradually decreasing rows before the end. That's a goodly amount of work for a near-slowbie like me to rip out, add to, and knit again. Alana tried to cut 'em off at the pass and planned ahead to add an extra six rows, but alas -- to no avail. The shaping means that it's not even that easy to estimate the triangular end piece from the increased section at the beginning.

Over the course of our discussion, she asked if I'd considered using it as a scarf instead of a stole. I did, but since I made it from the marvelously fuzzy Malabrigo, a rather lofty worsted, it bulks up way too much for my taste. Too short as well (whoda thunk?). I mentioned that I'd be trying to block it to within an inch of its life in an attempt to wrangle a little extra length out of it, but she brought up an interesting point. Seems she really likes the extra nubbliness and waves of texture that the lack of blocking brings, and I can't say that I'd disagree. So maybe I'll mull it over for a little while longer before I make my final decision.

Design matters...
Miss A. and I moved on to more pressing concerns after that, bemoaning the relative lack of truly original piratical designs out there. Certainly, we loves us some Hello Yarn, but even with the advent of the Knit Like A Pirate community on LiveJournal it's always the same. "Ooh, I put a skull on a hat!" "Ooh, I put a skull on some wristwarmers!" (Okay, so Snowball's Chance in Hell was actually pretty flippin' sweet.) I'm sure y'all know what I mean, though, especially since I know for a fact that piratical knitting is right up there on many of your lists. (All, uh, seven of you :P)

So here's my question: what patterns (graphic) or patterns (garment/whimsy shapes and features) could we come up with to make a dent in the rather low-key oeuvre that's out there right now? Certainly we could at least refine a stripey cap, or provide a few more options for ye olde skull pattern, but maybe we can branch out into full-fledged wench tops and sashes.

For those of you who aren't familiar with one of my other hobbies, I am involved with an MMORPG called Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates. Mister Husband and I have lifetime subscriptions, as we were alpha testers over three years ago, and we've gotten to be friends with some of the people who make the game. In particular, the current lead arrrrtist did some custom non-game art for us a couple years ago, and I returned the favor in part by helping to knit some happy little nummies when he and his wife had their first kid.

As i mentioned earlier, I figure there's no better way to start posting pictures in here than to introduce Baby Nemo and some of his swag. But for some reason the picture integration in Blogger isn't really letting me put the picture where I want it, so I'll have to start a new post. Excessive, yes, but nothing too good for display of my collaborative handiwork. Or something.

Onward, and keep those comments a-comin'.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Putting the L in LYS

A little shout out to blog visitor Alexandra, commenter and designer of such fine patterns as Coronet and That One Pretty Kinda Argyley Sweater I'll Probably Get Around To When I'm Richer, who inquired about Lakeside and its friendliness. I'll discuss some of the relative merits of the locals, but if you'll permit me to digress briefly into a description of Vegas knittery...

It's always so interesting to vary my usual orbit a little. Last week we stopped in a place in Vegas which branched out into roving and starched knit/crochet wall art. Kind of an odd combination, but I liked seeing how they varied the supply based on climate and preferences. I think they probably had a lot of newer knitters, based on the people knitting in the back and the particular variety of patterns. The roving was kind of a surprise, then. I only bought stitch markers :P Two other hardcore knitters in the house, and... well, the result of that can be found in the "booooooo" section below. Such is life.

In Madison, for so long I stuck solely with Lakeside Fibers; they were the closest, the most well-stocked and the most friendly. Of course, much of that comes from the utter slogging necessary to find and purchase something at the Knitting Tree, the second-closest store. How I ever shopped there, I'll never know -- they had the shortest hours, which limited my time over there to the occasional Saturday jaunt resulting in getting stuck between a Lady who Lunches, a poodle and a teetering display of unpriced cashmere. (Because really, if you hahhhve to ahhhsk...) One night I went over there and couldn't get out the door because the (now-former) owner was blocking the doorway from outside as she yakked on the cordless. She was originally from New York and designed sweaters which usually required a) ample supply of Colinette, b) feathers or c) both. I remarked to friends that I now knew what it looked like when a peacock threw up.

The most galling thing, to me, involved a chance stop over my lunch hour one day. I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd see if they had some long #2s so I could play with Magic Loop. (I'll readily admit that I still haven't found my sock comfort zone :P) So I ask the chick behind the counter -- not the woman-from-indeterminate European-country-who-always-dresses-like-she's-going-to-a-ball, but some rather ditzy type who didn't strike me as being very well informed. She's standing right in front of the needles; I can see that she's got 36" circs and 2s, and the 36" ones are in the teeny sizes, but I don't see exactly what I want. So I ask.

"Oh, do they even make those?" she says. "Because I don't think they exist."

She's got three different needle manufacturers, and she doesn't even bother turning around to check. Of course the needles were all on the wrong hooks anyways, so why would she know? I pressed on, considering the possibility of a different project:"Okay... how about Denise [interchangeable needle] kits? Do you have those?"

The counter lady shuddered and lowered her voice. "Ohhhhh noooooo. Melissa [owner] thinks they're just the most horrible thing. We will NEVER carry those. UGH!"

So it's not enough to deny the mere existence of what I'm looking for... you're going to insult something else I want? Granted, I've since decided that i don't want to get the Denise set for a variety of reasons, but that doesn't change the fact that some people (people who don't knit on their morning treadmill run and don't already own full sets of Addis in aluminum and bamboo, natch) choose to buy the set to save a little money instead of getting individual circs or straights... how rude! How completely unwelcoming!

Lakeside has never been less than helpful to me. It's true that they'd probably have reason to get a little exasperated with me, given my just-silly-enough questions. I like to hope that my enthusiasm and willingness to experiment outweighs anything eye-rollable... especially when I, like, buy stuff. I shopped there maybe once every couple months or so and didn't realize that my hour of wander-and-paw had made any impact until a customer was eyeing the last copy of a pattern I'd just looked at (that Lush leaflet, in fact) and the manager called out, "If [Madam] doesn't want it go ahead." In baseball terms, I'm probably about a Double-A knitter, so I was pleased and surprised that she considered me a regular. (It's always nice when you realize that, isn't it?)

The other two shops I've been to around here are Stitcher's Crossing and the Sow's Ear. Stitcher's Crossing is, I think, more of an embroidery and quilting store, but they have a fair selection of yarns in the back. I recall quite a bit of various Plymouths (including quite a bit of novelty instead of a larger supply of basics, unfortunately), some gorgeous Manos and a surprising amount of more nontraditional yarns like soy silk and bamboo. They may also have longer hours than some of the other shops, but I'm not quite sure as I've only been there a couple of times.

The Sow's Ear is the one that most of the older, Knitting Guild-type knitters I know frequent --rather, gush about lovingly. I really couldn't say much about it, since the only time I'd been there was in search of some Berroco Chinchilla for my first project. (Chemo hat. I had a reason!) I do know that they were the first in the area to offer a coffee shop atmosphere (and hours! open at 6 AM!) to go along with the yarn. Unfortunately, it's in Verona and I am carless.

Back to Lakeside, though... perhaps it's a fact of becoming more familiar with different techniques and styles of knitting requiring truly different things, but I'm actually glad to branch out a bit and check out other places. After the Knitting Tree changed hands, the atmosphere calmed down a lot. I was pretty pleased to see the change, and quite plainly I wasn't the only one. So if I need a little Encore or some Rowan yarns, I know I can go over there and not have to deal with the crazy elitist harpies anymore. We'll see if my preferences shift substantially within the next year or so.


I suppose that I should encourage positivity by starting with the YAY part.

YAY for my dear sweet LYS, the ever-lovely Lakeside Fibers, for finally starting to carry Cascade 220 Superwash. I know, I know... I should really just grow up and learn how to care for regular wool garments. Which shouldn't actually be too hard, given that Mister Husband washes everything in cold. Still, I don't trust our combined brains enough to watch out all the time. Witness, for example, the Celtic Cable Hat, my pride and joy, getting turned into a near-yarmulke last month because it was just a leeeetle too close to the basket at wash time. (I suppose, though, it does provide me with a reason to make myself another awesome hat... no! STOP IT! There is nothing good about shrinking stuff in a non-purposeful fashion! Don't even think about it!)

So I've waited for ages to figure out just what to use for my lacey cardigan (Classic Elite leaflet #9001, specifically the purple one on the right here). It's supposed to be made in Lush, which is 50/50 angora/wool, but that would never happen. Even without the washing concerns, the angora would shed like mad. Plus it was like 9 bucks a skein at 124 yds/skein, which would have easily run me between $80-$100. I think, though, that even though the C220 Superwash won't bloom as nicely as the Lush, that it'll work quite well. It should only take me about six skeins, so if I buy a whole bag I'm sure I'll have something else I could do with it.

I won't be making it in that lavender, though. The store model was in kind of a dark celery color, which I thought looked quite nice, especially with spring finally here. It was one of the things I kept seeing that made me go bonkers wanting to knit something light and fresh instead of yet another cabled or fair isle hat suitable only for matching with a giant parka. Lakeside only had four colors in, none of which particularly struck my fancy (they were sort of Lands End-y colors -- just a little TOO bright in coral, or butter-yellow). However, I did get to check out the color cards. I think the most suitable would be 841, which resembles the celery I liked in the model. I also liked... umm... 803, which is a deep plum that doesn't come out very well on my current monitor. 811 is akin to one of my favorite regular C220 shades as well. However, for the springy look and the ability to go well with jeans, I think the green's the way to go. (I need to branch out from my 80-shades-of-brick-red look.)

The BOO this round goes to my friggin-fraggin-grmph!in Print o' the Wave Stole by Eunny Jang. This would be my second attempt at lace knitting, and my first with an actual decent pattern. (I tried the Mystery Stole-along, but -- forgetting for a second that nobody's made this thing before, and nobody knows what any of it looks like -- the pattern was written in a fairly confusing manner, and even after I rewrote it to suit my brain I had terrible counting issues.)

So a couple of weeks back I got into it on the bus and plane while headed to my Vegas shindig, and got about five rows in before losing a stitch near the end of the row. No matter how I counted and looked, the row seemed to be okay but the stitch was suspiciously GONE. So I said, "Eh, I'll live," and added one on the end in an inconspicuous manner. Everything went well until I got back up to row 11 and realized that I had the same problem again. Moreover, I found that my k2togs now bookended my stitch markers, which got me all in a tizzy worrying that I'd missed another couple of stitches elsewhere and had shifted all of my stitches down. Which, with an 80-stitch row and lots of weird tinkings, would have been a picky, niggling little nightmare to frog back.

After a little question-and-answer session with Eunny herself on LJ, I was satisfied that the stitch marker issue was just a figment of my imagination. However, this missing stitch thing, and the fact that I had added the stitch markers AFTER my row-five issue, made me go back and start over again. So I did. Got to row five, realized what I probably did wrong (spot with regular knit instead of k2tog -- the only row where this occurred), plowed through, got to row 11... missing a stitch. Counted again and again and again. Threw up hands and added another stitch at the end. Looked fine. Started in on repeat number two of the 12 rows... it looks like crap. The zigzagging effect looks like it's totally off, even though it shouldn't be, and suddenly I find that the stitch markers are causing more trouble than the problems were meant to solve.

So I've had it. I think this lovely greenish laceweight will just have to take a time out in the corner, because while it is obviously eager to be something, this ain't it. (Neither is a teeny tiny Clapotis, but that's another story entirely.) I'm still wondering if I'm cut out for anything that delicate anyways. I like my stuff sturdy and strong, whether it's the color or texture or yarn. Even in airier things I tend to go for denser, all-over patterns in repeats.

Furthermore, while I must stress repeatedly that Eunny herself couldn't be friendlier or more patient, I need only point you here or here to demonstrate that she is fond of projects that are, how you say, gorgeous but crazy. The girl makes up brocade in size 1 for fun. MIND-NUMBINGLY TINY fun, even -- that Frost Flowers shawl was meant to be on 6s but she did it on 0s just 'cuz. Ouch.

To sum up, this has added to my already long string of rather... unsuccessful projects. My Clapotis was nummy but too short, my We Call Them Pirates hat was too tiny... For cripes' sake, one of these days I need to do a project for myself which not only fits but is easy to fix if it doesn't. Grr.

On the needles:
I have three office baby projects coming up within the next few months. One's due mid-April and will be receiving a baby bath blanket in cotton chenille, a free pattern from Lakeside. The secoond is my husband's assistant, who is due May 6th (I think). The third is another person in my department, but she's actually due later in the summer, I think. I don't know what I'll do for the latter two, and I kind of forgot which needles I was using on the first one since I pulled them out last month for Clapotis. Tee hee. I guess we'll figure that out when I start it up again and it looks DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT. (Maybe the baby won't notice. Yay for developing eyeballs.)

In the meantime, I really need to get going on that cardigan. Really really.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Family tree

In the process of starting this blog, I played around with some different names and headers. I figure I'll continue to do so until I build up some more posts and features to get a sense of what the blog will actually feel like. What I started out with and what I have right now reflect some facets of myself, of course -- anyone who's been around me knows that I have a fondness for, uh, tangents -- while also serving as shoutouts to various members of my family.

Originally I picked "You Can't Go Wrong With Navy Blue." It bit the dust due to my chosen templates being green :P My maternal grandma was the great knitter in my family, the one who taught me when I was eight (before I knit a one-inch scarf and abandoned it for eighteen years). However, she was also the paragon of all other domestic skills and etiquette. "You can't go wrong with navy blue" became a mantra for all situations, sometimes completed with "...and a nice strand of pearls and some pumps." (The number two spot would probably go to her admonition to my mother before her high school choir trip, during which she would stay in someone's home: "Don't use more than two inches of bathwater.") When I started knitting, I didn't have a very good memory of my grandma's projects, aside from the pile of baby blankets she always had next to her chair. She'd died about a year and a half before I started, and she hadn't knit for a while due to Alzheimer's. I remember seeing the pieces of a very old and very intricate traditional aran on a table at her funeral and asking if I could have them. My aunts and uncles told me no; they treated the knitting as if it were art. At this point in my knitting career, I certainly don't have her speed or her innate knowledge, but I've done a fair amount of cabling and know I'm capable of just about anything if I follow a pattern. Still, it'll take me years to work up that level of finesse, but I'm really excited to have that connection.

The "but anyways" part does reflect my typical manner of speaking. You've probably noticed that already, between the parentheses and the ellipses. I do tend to use the phrase "but anyways" fairly often. However, this phrase also has family significance. I'd say it runs through my great-uncle Verne, Grandma's brother.

Verne's a fairly well-known sculptor. I suppose that working with giant sheets of metal and an oxyacetylene torch isn't exactly akin to knitting, but I've always felt more of a kinship with 3D forms than most others. Verne and I share the habit of telling stories, though I wish mine were half as interesting.

But anyways... but anyways, he says that you can tell what branch of the Shaffer family we're from because of the Split. Somewhere between Princeton, IL and New Wilmington, PA there's an imaginary line clearly delineating the usage of this phrase. To the west, it's "but anyways" and to the east it's "but anyhow." I can't say it their way, and they probably can't say it mine. Go figure.

A travesty. Two, in fact.

First, the knitting-related.

Finished my Hello Yarn "We Call them Pirates" fair isle hat today. Yeah, it's too small. As Lemur says, quoting Abby at Borealis (I think), "the hat IS the swatch." Guess I'll be making another "swatch" of some sort... I intend to offer it up to one of my smaller-headed fellow pirates.

The second... well, I picked up the premiere issue of a magazine about arts and crafts homes. My parents have a lovely 1917 Craftsman, and because they have 1974563053 things on their plates and I live in a two-room box, I live my renovation fantasies vicariously through them. (Yes, the dishwasher we bought two years ago IS still sitting on the back porch in the box. No, they don't have a working dishwasher, unless you consider my dad.)


Flipping through it, I was particularly struck by photos of extensive built-ins in a previously gutted house. Gorgeous three-part butler's sideboard, powder rooms inspired by those on a luxury ocean liner, window seats flanking a small desk all the way along the wall of a sunroom... breathtaking. What had originally caught my eye the most involved what I assumed to be the main staircase. Several staggered longer shelves ran along the inner wall of the stairs, while the space under the stairs included multiple doors and drawers of different sizes resembling a tansu chest (something I've had my eye on for several years). The overall effect really showcased a great sense of space usage and a bit of contemporary design within the traditional.

So I kept reading through the article to find out more. Turns out the house had been neglected for many years before this renovation, and within the remodeling process the owner had decided to add on to reach a total of 6,000 square feet. That should have been a red flag right away, but I kept reading. The same owner who decided to increase the square footage then decided before occupancy that the house would be too big, and put the house on the market following the renovation's completion. It sold.

The person who bought the property, however, was more interested in the land than the house and proceeded to GUT IT AGAIN. All that's left of the brand-new woodwork? The pictures.
Jaw, meet floor.

Friday, March 03, 2006

I'm here.

I kept getting jealous of everyone with the knitting blogs, and the yarn porn, and the hula hoops, and the short pants, and the Trapper Keepers, and the listening to the No Doubts...

So here I am.

More interesting posts will be dependent upon getting a better digital camera, and actually getting around to cataloging my finished objects. I haven't actually taken pictures of most of them, but I have several lying around the house and could probably rustle some up. Meanwhile, I could certainly start with the pictures of Kniterati Project One, aka the Baby Nemo blankie. Because, really, who couldn't use a picture of a perfectly joyous little snugglebun?

Anyways. I'm workin' on it. Any suggestions for things you'd like to see, or stupid features that you KNOW nobody else is dorky enough to do... I'm your gal.