Thursday, November 30, 2006

All is well

Grandma made it through the surgery fine. Well, that is, they didn't accidently amputate her leg or anything like that. We'll know more about how the hip is in a few days. I haven't talked to her yet (she didn't answer the phone when I called), but my mom is going to see her tonight so I'll be able to get second hand info.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Knitblogger something or other

I was at Norma's when I found out about this. It seems that someone is doing a study on memes and how fast they travel. And while I am a no-meme zone, since Norma is as well and she was doing it, I figured it was okay. So, the deal is this: visit the link above (this) and then say something on your blog about it and ask other people to do the same and ping technorati. I'm not even sure what that does, but you know me--lemming all the way. Besides, I'm a sucker for an experiment.

Grandma's surgery is today. I am staying in Chicago. I am trying to be a productive person but failing miserably. This does not surprise me, but at least I'm trying.

Monday, November 27, 2006


My grandmother is having hip replacement surgery.

It was supposed to be late in December.

I had not decided if I was going to go to Iowa for the surgery or not.

The surgery is now on Wed. (yes, THIS Wed.).

I don't trust hospitals.

There can't be someone there with her all day everyday.

I don't trust hospitals.

I need to go to Iowa.

I need to graduate.

Maybe I don't need to go to Iowa.

Or I do.

Or I don't.

I don't know what the hell to do.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


My husband is becoming quite the traveler. I was trying to find a time to visit him in January and here's the schedule I have to work around:

Jan 7-12: Seattle
Jan 13-22: Hawaii
Jan 31-Feb. 2: Ontario
Feb. 2-5: Chicago.

Craziness. Some of you may be wondering about the Hawaii trip. The telescope is on the top of Mauna Kea on the big island. It is cold up there. He brings a hat and gloves. It is not a vacation!

Speaking of hats, my dear husband has asked me to knit him a hat that is medium-warm. See, I knit a hat out of wool-ease that he wears when it's not too cold (the man starts wearing a hat when it getst to be 50 degrees out; he's a little thin-blooded). Last year, he requested a warmer hat. I made him a double-knit hat using KnitPicks Decadence, a bulky weight 100% alpaca yarn. It was slightly big, but it was warm enough for walking half an hour from our apt. to campus everyday during a Chicago winter (I just took the bus; this may explain why he is a stick while I am pleasantly plump). Apparently, this hat is "too warm" for Hawaii, but the wool-ease hat is "not warm enough" therefore, I need to make him a hat that is "just right" (perhaps I should start calling him Goldilocks?). Therefore, when I ordered the red scarf and Dulaan yarn from KnitPicks, I also ordered more of the Decadence to knit him a single-knit (as it were) hat. I hadn't planned on giving it to him for Christmas, but since he's going to be going to Hawaii in January, I want to get it to him before then. So that's one more project to add to the Christmas list.

Speaking further of hats, I finished the second pattern repeat for the Dulaan hat. I tried some of the techniques Eunny suggested in her recent post to even out my stitches on my colorwork with mixed success. I think I need to just keep doing colorwork projects until it becomes second nature to me. The Dulaan projects will be good for that. Anyhoo, I suspect that, with the holiday weekend approaching, I'm going to finish this hat before my red yarn shows up, so I am wondering what I'm going to do for charity knitting in the iterim. I will have some yarn leftover from the hat, but I'm not sure it will be enough to make matching mittens. I suppose I could just make small mittens. It'd be nice for a child to get a "set" but not mandatory I suppose.

You may be wondering how it is I'm getting so much knitting done these days. It's A. She knits constantly. You would too if you had six scarves and a pig to knit before Christmas. And a duck to put together. Though she has finished one scarf and is 2/3 done with a second. The first was worsted weight knit with size 8 needles and the second is bulky weight knit with size 10 needles (Brittany needles that I got her for her birthday which she loves due to their pointy tips; she's been using Clover bamboo for everything else). And they aren't very long scarves. But she is really cranking them out. So when she's home, if she's not sleeping, in the shower, or eating, she is knitting (and watching tv). This, in turn, inspires me to knit more because even when I'm dead tired and don't feel like doing anything, having her sitting there knitting her little fingers off makes me want to knit.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with good food, good friends, and knitting!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Look, pictures!

My brother-in-law's scarf:

I folded it in half prior to arranging it for its picture. It needs to be blocked so that the ends (on the right) don't look wider than the rest of the scarf. The yarn is a Borrocco wool/acrylic blend that is not only variegated in color but also in thickness. There is a faux cable rib (rows 1-3: k2,p2 rib. row 4: *k2tog keep stitches on the needle, knit through first stitch again, slip both off needle; p2*; repeat from * to * around). It's soft and warm and should go well with his dark gray coat (he's not a bright colors kind of guy).

My sister's socks:

These are made out of a sport weight sock yarn from either Cherry Tree Hill or Bearfoot Mountain Colors (lost the ball band) using size 4 needles. In trying them on, I noticed a couple imperfections I'd like to fix, but after that they will be ready to be wrapped. I used the same faux cable rib that I used on the scarf. It's a simple stitch pattern that is easy to follow, gives you more variety than plain rib, and makes a nice looking fabric (though it's difficult to tell in this picture). No, my legs have not seen the light of day for years, why do you ask (hey at least they're shaved)?

Mom's sock:

The yarn is Lorna's Laces and the pattern is Grumperina's Jaywalker. The yarn did some strange pooling around the ankle and I ended up fiddling with it so there wouldn't be a ginormous red spot on the instep. I like the striping that occured on the foot and wish it had done that for the rest of the sock, but I'm not going to be picky about it. For both this sock and my sister's socks, I used a short-row heel which I like much better than heel flaps (because I hate picking us stitches and then decreasing down). Usually I knit two socks at a time to avoid second sock syndrome, but I was having a hard time with the pattern in the beginning (first I couldn't count to seven, then I kept forgetting to knit in the front and back of the first stitch in the repeat because I had just knit in the front and back of the last stitch of the previous repeat) so I decided to do one sock at a time here. I cast on for the second one yesterday and have the cuff ribbing done and have started on the pattern (much easier the second time around). I am using 2.0mm Inox express circular needles (love, love, love these needles--much pointier than addi's).

And finally, the product of my Weekend of Charity Knitting Agony:

The fair isle pattern actually shows up very well in this picture; much better than in person. In the photo you can't see the little hairs that obscure the pattern a little. This is a very hairy/fuzzy yarn. Here's a lesson for you: take a moment to look at your colorwork pattern to see if it makes sense BEFORE you start it. The pattern is supposed to be evergreen trees and the chart was written assuming you were making a bag. Think about it for a second and you'll understand why this is a problem if you actually want to have evergreen trees. However, I like the pattern as is--it's not crucial to me that I have right-side-up evergreen trees (besides, the yarns are blue not green, although I suppose they could be blue spruce). I have finished one pattern repeat and am starting the second at the top of the chart so that the colorwork will have mirror symmetry across the horizontal axis. Once I finish the second pattern repeat, I will make the rest of the hat in the color of the brim which will eliminate the problem of decreasing in the middle of colorwork. I haven't measured the hat yet, but I think it will fit an American child 5-8 years of age. I'm not sure if Mongolian children grow at the same rate (nutrition really does make a difference for that sort of thing), but I'm sure it will fit some child. That's the nice thing about knitting for charity, you don't have to worry about the item being a particular size--it's bound to fit someone.

Right now, I'm knitting on the hat at home and Mom's sock on the go (on the bus, in seminars, in the dark room while I'm waiting for the machine to develop my film for lab [where today, btw, in the faint glow of the red safety light, was desperately looking for something I could use as a stitch marker--is it normal to wish you carried around stitch markers in your pocket?], etc.). The hat should be done by the end of the week. Hopefully my red yarn from KnitPicks will arrive by then. If not, I'll go scavenging for my wool for Dulaan projects. Along with my red superwash yarn, I am expecting some 100% Peruvian in green, yellow, blue, orange and red which I plan on knitting for the Dulaan project. I am going to make a vest. It'll be my first large garment (well, I'm not sure quite how large it will be, but you know what I mean). The vest may have to wait until after Christmas, though.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Decision-making: Not my strongest point

Norma asks: What are you knitting on THIS INSTANT?

Nothing. I'm sitting at my computer typing. Ha.ha.

With Saturday being the start of Knit Unto Others, the fact that I had a strong belief that Dulaan knitting should be done in wool because it is warm, my (erroneous) belief that I had no wool that was unspoken for, the fact that Dulaan knitting is due in July while the Red Scarf Project is due the end of January, and the fact that I still had a considerable amount of the one pound of Caron red yarn (acrylic) from last year's Red Scarf Project, this weekend I cast on for a red scarf.

Almost immediately, I regretted this decision.

I did some swatching because I wanted to modify a pattern from a Vogue knitting Scarves book (the pattern called for sport weight yarn and I was using worsted). I tried size 10 needles and hated the look of the resulting fabric (I guess I'm too used to making tight-knit socks these days). I switched to size 8 needles. This was better, but I wasn't enjoying the yarn so much. Undaunted, I figured out the modifications of the pattern that I needed, ripped out the swatch, cast on, and completed about a foot of scarf.

I hated it.

The pattern had horizontal ribbing along the bottom edge and vertical ribbing along the sides. This created a look of concentric rectangles in the finished scarf which was very nice. But the vertical ribbing pulled in the sides too much, making the bottom look weird. And this being acrylic I wasn't confident I could block the problem away. I ripped it out.

By this time, I had really started to dislike the yarn. It was stiff and unwieldy. It didn't help that A was sitting next to me knitting a scarf out of KnitPicks Andean Silk, an oh-so-soft alpaca, silk, and merino blend. I pondered what I should do next. I looked at various pattern books. I couldn't come to a decision. I sat and watched tv and mised out on prime knitting time. I went to bed.

The next morning, sitting in front of my lightbox, I cast on for another red scarf, this time a basketweave pattern with a seed stitch border. I thought that maybe part of the reason I found the yarn unwieldy was that I was using bamboo needles and the yarn wasn't sliding off the needles as easily as I am used to with my Inox express and my addi Turbo needles when I knit socks. But, I didn't have size 8 metal needles, so I went back to using 10's. I wasn't sure I liked it, but I kept on trucking. I put my knitting down to wash some dishes, then went to my room to listen to my audiobook and do some serious knitting. I still didn't like it. After knitting about a foot and a half of scarf, I decided to take a nap.

When I woke up from my nap, I ripped the damn thing out again.

I hated the scarf.

I didn't like how it looked, I didn't like how it felt, I didn't like the fact that my hands hurt after so little knitting when they normally didn't hurt at all even when I knit for a long time. About the only thing I did like about it was that it seemed to be knitting up quickly and thus would blessedly be over soon. I thought about how much I usually like knitting and how it is a peaceful experience for me. How it is a welcome respite from the lab which I hate and resent every minute I am stuck there trying to finish this damn PhD. I thought about the kind of karma I was imposing on this scarf as I sat there and resentfully and painfully knit it. It was like the opposite of a prayer shawl--one of those shawls infused with prayer as you knit it that you give to someone who is needful of comfort. I thought about what a dreadful thing it would be to give a scarf with such gloom associated with it to some poor college student who had enough problems without wearing The Sinister Scarf of Depression and Anxiety. I thought about how much more I would enjoy this project if I had a softer yarn to work with and how much more the student would enjoy wearing a soft scarf next to the delicate skin of the neck. I decided to buy some red superwash wool yarn.

In the meantime, I needed something to knit. I dug through the box of yarn that I had with me. Much of my stash had been sent to California. But, I found two balls of Cascade Pastaza (I have lost the ball bands, but I think they may be numbers 28 and 85) which I had originally intended to use to make a bag from the Handknit Holidays book. I started the project but had abandoned it on the needles when I realized that no matter how small my needles were I was just not going to get gauge and the bag would take up much more yarn than I had. I cast on for a hat for the Dulaan project.

I wanted the hat to be plenty warm, so after about an inch and a half of two by two ribbing, I started the evergreen tree fair isle pattern that was in the original bag pattern. For the bag, I had planned on using the flower pattern, but that repeat was a little wider than I thought I could keep track of while watching tv. I got less than 10 rows done before it was time for bed.

I looked at the hat. The fuzziness of the yarn obscured the colorwork somewhat and my floats were not as even as I would like them to be. I had alternated between holding both yarns in one hand and holding one in each hand to see which felt better (the verdict: neither; but I'm going to keep trying the two-handed technique). The hat, though, was stretchy enough to go with the ribbing, that is, the fair isle part didn't become obscenely constricted as it had other times I have tried fair isle which meant I wasn't pulling my floats too tight which I think had been my problem in the past.

I'm going to keep working on this hat. It is not perfect, but have wanted a chance to practice stranded colorwork and this seems like a good opportunity to do so. Also, I remember Norma had once said that she liked the Dulaan knitting because it let her try new things and if there was some imperfection in the finished piece, that was okay because a slightly imperfect vest or hat or scarf or mittens was better than not having anything at all and that's what would happen if she didn't send the item in. I think it is quite a nice hat, really. You can tell that there is a pattern there, even if it isn't crisp as in traditional fair isle, and the stranding on the inside will act as another layer against the cold. I would probably not use the yarn for a garment for an American to be worn against the skin as it is a little itchy when you put it against your face, but I do not think this will be a problem for the Mongolian children who do not have the same luxury of having wussy, pampered skin as we do.

I'm going to order red superwash yarn from KnitPicks today to use for the Red Scarf Project. I still think the best thing for a college student is something that can be tossed in the washing machine. I have a sample card of that yarn and it seems quite soft. I have some other yarn to order from them anyway (like more wool for the Dulaan Project among other things).

So that's it. That's how I decided what to knit for the Knit Unto Others knit-along. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but it finally got done. Lord, am I worn out from the experience!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

You knew it was coming

With the plethora of posts about charity knitting floating around in Knitblogland, it was inevitable that such a post would show up here, as well. I like the idea of knitting for charity as we approach the holiday season with its growing commercialism and excess of shopping, so I have joined the Knit Unto Others knitalong (see button in sidebar). The idea is to knit at least one charity item in the next two weeks starting Saturday. And while this seems completely doable, I am feeling overwhelmed with the choices of charities to chose from. Do a I knit a scarf for the orphaned college student? Do I knit a hat or mittens or scarf for a child in Mongolia? Do I knit a hat, mittens, or scarf for someone in Afghanistan? Do I knit a hat for a child in Oklahoma? Do I knit a baby cap for Save the Children? Every charity I see seems worthy and none of them speaks to my heart of hearts more than any of the others so I feel like a deer caught in the headlights--rooted to the spot, caught in indecision. Honestly, everytime I think about starting a charity project, I get so overwhelmed with the possibilities I just stare at the yarn and needles for awhile, then pick up one of the many gift knitting projects that I have going right now and work on that. There is such a thing as too many choices.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Meet Dr. Eugene Losev, Ph.D.

Eugene was in my entering class for the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology and we joined the same lab. Last Monday, he successfully defended his thesis and has earned the title of Doctor. Hooray!

Tomorrow is Roommie's birthday. Since today it got pretty cold, I decided to give him his hat and mittens.

They fit quite well which is a relief. I tried making him a hat several years ago when I first started knitting and it was ENORMOUS. This time, I secretly measured his hat and mittens that were in the closet and went by those measurements. It worked!

And here we have the Sister-In-Law votives:

These were knit with 24 gauge wire using glass beads both from Michael's. The bead size is a little confusing and I didn't quite understand what it meant. The beads were variously referred to as 6/0 and 3mm. I followed the guidelines from Handknit Holidays. Since Kristen has asked, I will give you more details as to how I did it as soon as I can take some demonstration pictures. It's really not that hard and it goes pretty fast. I did each of these in one evening while watching tv.

This weekend promises to be pretty quiet. Roommie is going out with his boyfriend tonight and tomorrow night for his birthday. E, temporary roommate A's husband, is in town and they are staying at a hotel for the weekend. So, it's just me and my knitting. Maybe I'll watch my beloved Pride and Prejudice this evening while knitting and drinking hot chocolate. chocolate. On Saturday, I am going to afternoon tea at the Four Seasons with my good friend, B (who's Roommie's boyfriend). Afternoon tea is my favorite indulgence. I don't go for manicures or pedicures, I go to posh hotels and sip finely brewed tea in china cups and savor delicate little finger sandwiches and scones with lemon curd and devonshire cream. Holly Golightly may have thought that nothing bad could ever happen to you at Tiffany's but it's my firm belief that nothing bad can ever happen to you while at Tea.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I'm awake

Really. I am. I keep telling myself this even though there is evidence to the contrary. Just an hour and a half ago I had so much caffeine in my system, my hands were shaking and now I feel like I wanna take a nap. Damn that switch from Daylight Savings Time. Yesterday I needed 20 minutes in front of my light box, a cup of tea, a half an hour nap (yes, a nap when I had only been awake for an hour!), and some ibuprofen so I could feel awake enough to leave the apt. Ahh, the joys of seasonal affective disorder.

But, enough of that. I've been knittin' up a storm.

Presents for Roommie:Made with Karabella Aurora 8. The multicolored yarn is actually a blend of the brown on the cuffs plus cream and green. I think they will go well with his green coat. Or any other coat he is likely to buy in the future. The pattern is just a basic hat and mitten pattern I made up off the top of my head with help from Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns. (Confession: the mittens are actually done, but I don't have a picture of the finished set, yet).


The finished pair is Grandma's socks which look surprisingly big in this photo. I made them loose because she has poor circulation and socks normally cut into her legs. The one at the top is first of Mom's Jaywalkers in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock (btw, I cannot count to seven; this may explain my problem with math). The pair on the left is for my sister for Christmas and they are Baby Cable Rib from Sensational Knitted socks in either Cherry Tree Hill or Bearfoot Mountain Fibers (I lost the ball band).

Also on the needles, a scarf for my brother-in-law using a Berrocco wool/acrylic novelty yarn and a similar baby cable rib. The yarn changes from light grey to black with a stop at charcoal grey in between. I like it, but I confess I'm a little concerned about sending it to him. The yarn also changes from thin to bulky weight and back again and is spun quite loose (wait, why did I buy the yarn? that's exactly what my homespun looks like!) and this makes the stitches look uneven. On the one hand, I think that's part of its charm. On the other hand, I'm afraid John's grandmother will see it and think I'm not very good at knitting (she's a retired knitter--retired because her arthritis is too bad for her to be able to knit anymore). We have this knitting bonding thing going and I don't want her to think I'm inept. Yes, I know I have Issues.

Moving on. I have completed two beaded knitted wire votive sleeves ala Handknit Holidays for Wife of Brother-in-Law (Christmas is coming you know). They knit up very fast and look great so I think I'm going to make more for other people. Pictures will be up sometime soon(-ish).

In other news, John was here over the weekend and it was wonderful right up to the moment he left when it TOTALLY SUCKED. I was so happy, then it all came crashing down at once and suddenly, I felt worse than I did a week ago before I had seen him. You know, it's like the wound had scabbed over and then the scab got ripped off and I was bleeding all over again. (Lovely visual, I know.) I just keep telling myself, "This is only temporary." It helps that A is living with me right now and she is in the same boat. We commiserate and eat chocolate and watch Law and Order and knit and that helps a lot.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I have Ebola

When I was in college, in the early to mid 1990's, the general public was just becoming aware of the hemorrhagic fever viruses like Ebola. The book The Hot Zone had come out, the movie Outbreak was released, and one of the evening news magazine shows had done a feature on all of those scary new infectious diseases and had talked to people at places like the CDC and USAMRIID. Among my acquaintances, it became the norm--when one was ill with a cold or the flu--to claim to have Ebola (I think this was partly due to the fact that Ebola starts off with flu-like symptoms). It was obviously untrue (where the hell would the average Bostonian college student come in contact with Ebola?) but it was amusing and indicated how miserable you were (ie that you had contracted a horrible disease and wanted to die). After I left college, I read the book The Coming Plague and realized that one did not need to claim to have Ebola when one had the flu because the flu could be bad enough (just look up the 1918 flu pandemic). I suppose nowadays it's more fashionable to claim you have bird flu if you want to be melodramatic, but I think it's not quite the same because sooner or later someone in the US is going to have bird flu and it's going to be bad.

All of this to say: I have a sinus infection. Again.

I went to dinner at a friend's house Friday evening and he had a sinus infection. And while the food was wonderful and I love the friend dearly, frankly, I would have rather he cancelled because then I wouldn't be sick. And normally I wouldn't let this faze me but John is coming tomorrow and I haven't seen him in a month and I really wish I wasn't a giant bag of mucous. (Ewwww)

I've gotten quite a bit of knitting done here and there, though. I started some socks for my sister for Christmas. I started and finished a hat for Roommie for his birthday. I started a pair of mittens for Roommie for Christmas, but I think I may have them done by his birthday and now I am torn whether I should give him both the hat and mittens for his birthday and do something else for Christmas or try to wait to give him the mittens. I'm not good at waiting.

Temporary roommate, A, was practicing knitting with waste yarn until our Knitpicks yarn came in, but the wait was too long (not overly long, less than a week, but still she was getting bored) and so she started a penguin stuffed animal for one of her nephews. She has all of the pieces knit up and the body is stuffed she just has to attach the feet and beak and stitch eyes. Then, she's making a duck for a different nephew. And then she's making six scarves with the Knitpicks yarn. I am not kidding.

I am concentrating on socks for Christmas. Grandma, Mom, and sis are all getting socks. I am making John a scarf to go with the double knit hat I made him last year but I'm not sure if it will be his Christmas present or not (in case you're wondering why a man living in southern CA would need a scarf and a double-knit hat, when he goes to the telescope on top of the mountain in Hawaii it is very cold--cold enough for snow). I'm making some washcloths for John's mom to go with the handmade soap I bought her. I'm hoping I'm keeping my holiday goals reasonable, but I guess you never really know that until it's about a week before Christmas.

Now, if you will excuse me, it is time for some sudafed.