December 27, 2004

BAD KNITTERS ARE LIKE CHRISTMAS TREES?

My Dear Brother-in-Law showed up at our house for Christmas dinner, beaming because he had this joke to tell me:

Why are Christmas trees like bad knitters?
They both drop their needles!

This, from a man who is on the brink of completing his dissertation and earning his Ph.D. With entertainment like that, you know we had a rollicking good time here at the Chateau. In-laws -- gotta love 'em.

Christmas Eve day I took time out from wrapping, baking, and housecleaning to open that big box o' yarns that came for Two Swans Yarns. Here's a peek at some of the Harris yarns:
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The Harris yarns have a whole range of grays, and then all of these lively colors, such as the Brill Pink you see in the photo at the right.

This tweedy one's called Apple:
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Scrumptious, isn't it?

Posted by Karen at 01:40 PM | Comments (1)

December 23, 2004

WHAT'S IN THE BOX?

As if the holiday season didn't have enough of the unknown in it already -- my long-awaited shipment of Harris Aran and Harris DK yarns (from Rowan) have arrived. But I've been snowed under with Christmas preparations and didn't have time to pick up the box. Nor did I have room in my car to bring home the box, so filled to gills is my car with Christmas accoutrements. The box will just have to wait till tomorrow.

Now my curiosity is working.... What's in the box?

(I ordered Harris 4-ply as well, but those won't be arriving until January.)

Postscript about Willows Lodge: Yes, the Lodge has a wonderful ambience. Our hotel room had a gas fireplace, and an oval bathtub for soaking with a cutout in the wall so that one could both soak and watch the fire or t.v. at the same time. Great halogen lighting to knit by. But the best thing about the room was the digital temperature control on the shower! I set that for 108 degrees Fahrenheit, and thoroughly enjoyed the water that flowed in a nice, even temperature.

Posted by Karen at 09:43 PM

December 21, 2004

BACK TO DIAL-UP I GO

We are still on the dial-up connection. I have gotten so spoiled by the faster service the satellite connection provides. Blogging, even e-mail correspondence, seem like a chore using the dial-up connection. Thus, my lackluster blogging performance the past week.

Scott bought a new transmitter box for the satellite connection. (This is a small box that plugs into the computer inside the house, and facilitates communication between the computer and the satellite dish outside the house.) After waiting days for it to arrive, I find it quite an impressive little number: The new transmitter box is sleek and glossy, and has aerodynamically rounded corners. (The old box was just a flat, rectangular metal box.) It has four very authoritative blue lights on it that wink and glow so brightly they are practically blinding. They certainly look like the thing is working.... After fussing with it for two hours last night, Scott gave up.

Back to dial-up I go.

I was on the subject of December weddings and anniversaries. December is such a busy month, it is a lousy time of year to get married. For the first dozen years or so, Scott and I often did nothing more than get each other a card for our anniversary. But for the past eight years, here's what we have done to celebrate: We have stayed overnight at a hotel in Seattle, checking in at mid-day, and doing marathon Christmas shopping at the marvelous stores downtown. We could shop for an hour or two, take the packages back to the hotel room, have a little pick-me-up in the hotel bar, and return to more shopping. And we've gone out for a nice dinner and breakfast. (We've had no hotel loyalty, and have stayed at various places such as the Warwick, the Sheraton, and the Mayflower Park. Last year was the W -- don't know when I have ever been in a place so trendy and chic -- all furnishings are black, white, and chrome, the prints on the walls are B&W photographs, and then bursts of intense color here and there -- for example, the Christmas tree in the lobby last year was shocking pink, a look I hadn't seen in Christmas trees since the 1960s.)

This year was a little different.

Last Christmas, Santa put in my stocking a gift certificate for one night's stay at Willows Lodge in Woodinville, including $100 toward dinner at the Barking Frog restaurant. The gift certificate had an expiration date of December 18, 2004. Somehow Scott and I thought we would use it long before our wedding anniversary, but did that happen? When the 10th of December rolled around this year, we had made no hotel reservations for our usual anniversary-Christmas-shopping event -- I remembered the Willows Lodge gift certificate.

Just in the nick of time. The Lodge was able to fit us in, before the expiration date. (This coincided with Jennie's return from her college dorm, so that she could stay home and babysit her little sister.)
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Our waitress at the Barking Frog sensed it was a special occasion -- everyone else in the place seemed to be having business dinners. At the end of the meal, she brought us this, compliments of the pastry chef:
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(That smudge you see on the word "anniversary" happened when Scott put his thumb on the plate.)

Of course, the Willows Lodge is out in Woodinville, not near any shops. So the Christmas shopping has had to be taken care of in separate trips, this year. I think I am coming to the end of the list....

For last night's Ferals meeting, I was determined to have progress to show on the Alba sweater. So over the weekend I knitted 8 more rows, moving the foreground sequence from a natural color, through a couple of pale greens, into some turquoise colors. But evaluating it last night, the green colors just did not enhance the turquoises. The looked like sickly, hospital greens. So as I am writing this, and waiting for the dial-up connection to load the pages, I am simultaneously performing a little surgery on Alba, and tinking back to remove those greens.


Posted by Karen at 11:57 AM | Comments (3)

December 14, 2004

DECEMBER 14

MAIL CALL

A canary yellow envelope arrived in our mailbox. The return address read: "Darling Daughter #1," and her college dorm room address.

Inside, was this:

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That's a toaster! Inside, the card reads: "A toast to the happy couple!"

Oh, how my little DD has grown! This is a first, to receive an anniversary card from her. She was thinking of us. Scott and I have been married 21 years, today. Whew!

December is such a busy month, it is a crazy month to get married. The doctor I had at the time (21 years ago) had herself been married in December, and she tried to talk me out of a December wedding. Scott and I are so busy today, we won't celebrate until the 16th. So, DD#1 -- and any other singles out there reading this -- take this piece of advice: Get married at some slow time of year, like March.

LACY KNITTERS GUILD REPORT

I wore the Karis poncho to the Lacy Knitters Guild on Sunday, and it was duly admired. The collar does not fold over quite as nicely as it should. I explained that the pattern calls for you to twist together some lengths of yarn and thread them through the faggoting where the collar joins the body, but I felt that the drawstring was just too much. (The pattern calls for pompons on the ends of the drawstring! I'm just not a pompon kind of gal.) But the experts there at the Guild explained how lacing a string of some sort through the faggoting would give a wee bit of pleating to the body and a nice place for the collar to roll over. I must try that.

The Lacy Knitters is a small guild that meets in Bellevue, and a chapter of the national Lacy Knitters Guild. My friend Kit came to the meeting with me, and she was quite the life of the party, rubbing everyone's knitting between her fingers and ooh-ing and aah-ing over its softness. Sunday was the holiday party of the Guild, including a white elephant gift exchange. I put in a bit of Marmalade (bright orange) Kidsilk Haze, and received in return 9 balls of mint green crochet thread. Oh, what to do, what to do....

RIVER GRASS GANSEY

I wanted to have an example of gansey knitting for the Two Swans store. So Friday afternoon I cruised through my books, looking at gansey patterns. I found the River Grass Gansey sweater in Jamieson's Shetland Knitting Book #2. I know people have made this sweater; I know I've seen photos of it -- but I never paid the pattern the least bit of attention. It never appealed to me before. But Friday afternoon I was drawn to it. There was nothing for it but to begin knitting that very evening.

So I whipped this up, finishing last night:

RiverGrass 002.jpg

Did I have you going? Bless you, Dear Reader, if you think I knitted the entire sweater in four days!

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Jamieson's DK in the color Clyde Blue, knitted on size US 5 needles.

I've got a swatch that's about 6 inches tall and 9 inches wide. Every stitch of this was a pleasure. The tension on this is the most even I have ever done on cable knitting. So now I can't stop thinking about making the sweater.

But there's this gauge issue. The sweater pattern comes in sizes 36, 48, and 54 inches. 36 is too small and 48 is too large. The recommended gauge is 22 stitches to 4 inches, but I am a tight knitter and have 26 stitches. I used a size 5 needle, and I think that is perfect for this yarn. (This is the same needle size I used for the Basketweave vest, also from the same Jamieson's book.)

When I think of the gauge as 5.5 stitches to the inch (pattern) versus the 6.5 stitches to the inch that I'm getting, I think my garment will come out to 84 percent of the original size. 84 percent of 48 inches is about 40 inches, which would be perfect.

When I think of the sweater as being the size of the panel (swatch) that I made (which is 9 inches), plus two more sections of little cables to rope cables on each side (each of these sections would total 7 inches on either side of the 9 inches), then the sweater would work out to about 46 inches, which might be somewhat larger than I want.

So my question to you, Dear Reader, is: What is the best way to estimate gauge in cable knitting? Should I be thinking of gauge as being so much percent, or should I be thinking of knitting sections?

A note to the very efficient Anne, who uses the Elizabeth Zimmerman method of knitting a sleeve for her gauge swatch: The only way this swatch could have been larger was if it had been a sleeve!

Posted by Karen at 11:14 AM | Comments (2)

December 12, 2004

MERCURY IN RETROGRADE

It's been a busy week that has included a few strange technical glitches.

Monday last, the Ferals met. This was an exciting meeting because Janine, who was our original Den Mother until she moved away to California, was up here for a visit. I knew that it would be a meeting worth documenting, and so I very carefully recharged the battery in my digital camera. Driving to Seattle for the meeting, though, I realized I'd left the camera at home, still plugged into the charger. Luckily, at the meeting Andrea had a digital camera that, of all things, takes the pictures right onto a floppy disk. So she and I were able to take photos of the grand occasion, after all. Then -- through the wonders of this technology -- I was able to take the photos home with me.

It was great to see Janine and her most recent Fair Isle projects: a baby sweater, a sweater for herself (both of which had very sophisticated shoulder shaping!), and a hat. Here's Janine (seated), modeling the hat:
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That's Linda "K" at left, Mary, Janine, and Katie standing next to Janine. Katie's wearing a Fair Isle vest of her own design. Someday I hope to be as accomplished in designing my own Fair Isle works as Janine and Katie already are.

"Mercury's in retrograde," my fellow Seattle Knitter's Guild board member announced, when she brought in the boxload of printed Guild newsletters. "Only half of the newsletters were ready, and then print shop's folding equipment broke down, so the rest of the newsletters are being trucked to the print shop's Everett plant to be finished tomorrow." (I edit the Guild newsletter, which is to say that I prepare it for printing, which sometimes involves asking some of those dedicated Feral-ers (like Mary, Ryan, and Norma) to write articles. My fellow board member, Diana, gets the printed newsletters and prepares them for mailing (among other of the tasks she does for Guild).)

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Left to right: Me, Diana, and Norma, applying mailing labels to the newsletters.

"Mercury's in retrograde? Is that what it is?" I asked. I know next-to-nothing about astrology. Diana assured me that when Mercury's in retrograde, it's a time when things can go awry.

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Janine coaches Devorah through chooosing foreground and background colors. In the far background, June and Ryan.

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Left to right: Norma, Susan, Beth, and -- a certain camera-shy Someone whose name I shouldn't reveal.

Let me give due credit to Norma for bringing baked goodies: 4 perfect shortbread rounds, 2 regular and 2 peanut butter! These were delicious, and so in keeping with our Fair Isle fanaticism.

So, if Mercury was in retrograde, might that explain why my satellite connection to the internet was totally nonfunctional for two days this past week? (It does sometimes happen that I can't get a connection to the satellite because of heavy cloud cover or because of "acceleration equipment" problems (whatever that means). But in those instances, you can see that the transmitter's little light is flashing and it is trying mightily to connect to that satellite. For the two days this week, the transmitter wasn't even pretending to connect.) I resorted to the old dial-up connection, but it was very slow.

Now I'm off to Lacy Knitters Guild this afternoon.

Posted by Karen at 10:53 AM | Comments (1)

December 06, 2004

IT'S A HORSE'S LIFE

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It's a horse's life, getting new shoes every six weeks. We all should be so lucky. Here's Mugsy, holding still while he gets his hooves trimmed (he looks like he's about to fall asleep).
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After the new shoe is nailed on, Mugsy waits to have his hoof filed. That's Ron, the farrier, at Mugsy's side.

The Ferals meet tonight, and we expect a California visitor: Janine, who founded our group. Can't wait to see her and the other Ferals!

Thanks to everyone who offered ideas of things we could do for our riding instructor. I'm taking her a get well card, and enclosing a gift certificate to the grocery store and a little cash. I'll start a chemo cap for her in the next day or two.

Posted by Karen at 02:34 PM | Comments (1)

December 03, 2004

DETAILS AND DEADLINES

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A detail of the edging of the Karis poncho, during the blocking phase. I ran out of pins! I still have to get that center back seam sewn up before the party tonight, and the clock is ticking....

Sometimes I wonder if I would ever get anything done, if it weren't for deadlines.

Posted by Karen at 11:25 AM | Comments (2)

December 02, 2004

THE WEEK IN REVIEW

I've been feeling kind of bummed this week. Last Sunday, my girls were not able to have their riding lesson, as usual. It was because their riding instructor had gone into the hospital (on Thanksgiving, no less!), diagnosed with cancer. Now this woman, our riding instructor, was the third instructor we'd tried this year. She has been friendly and funny in teaching my kids. My teenaged daughter Jennie, for example, has had years of lessons in the past, so she needed a teacher who could meet her at her level and help her to grow in experience. One of those teachers we tried earlier would teach only group lessons; Jennie would be in an okay mood when her lesson would start, but would be grouchy and irritable by the time the group ended -- because Jennie didn't feel she was getting enough individual attention from that instructor. With our current instructor, though, Jennie is always happy and looks forward to her lesson, and is always optimistic afterward.

I just can't say enough good about this woman: Her teaching methods are positive, and she can really jolly my kids along. She has few material wants or needs -- drives an old Toyota Corolla, earns room and board by living and working at a nearby horse stable, earns pocket money by giving riding lessons. She's just a salt-of-the-earth type; if she were a character, she would be one of those wise peasants in a Tolstoi novel. Needless to say, she doesn't have health insurance.

Our instructor is home from the hospital, now. But she's on heavy-duty radiation treatments, and will start chemo next week, too.

This turn of events has me arguing with the universe: Why do bad things happen to good people? Really, it has cast a cloud over my whole week.

So here's just the briefest of recaps of knitting news:

Monday night, Ferals meeting: I made only negative progress, taking back about 6 rows of the gusset on Jennie's sock and also ripping out a bunch of rows on the Alba sweater. Why -- other than for the sake of my own perfectionism?

The problem with the sock was that I'd used lifted increases in the gusset. As you know, Dear Reader, you can only lift an increase every other row. But somehow, in one spot, I had managed to lift increases in two consecutive rows -- what a laugh! There is nothing to lift, if you try to do this in two consecutive rows! And, sure enough, there in the gusset at that place of mistaken increases, was the nothing -- a hole! Now that I've done the ripping, I am back on track.

With the Alba sweater, you'll remember that I'm using an AS pattern from Celtic Collection, but choosing my own colors for it. You'll recall also that this is a Fair Isle sweater. There were a couple of rows where I felt my color choices for foreground and background were much too similar in value. I felt that the stitch design was lost. So I chose to rip.

Fortunately, the Feral Knitters are good company to be in, whether one is knitting or ripping.

Today, I've blocked out the Karis poncho. Where else?, but on the dining room rug. I plan to wear it tomorrow night, at Scott's company party -- the first holiday part of the season.

This evening, I took Allegra to the local branch of the county library. And there, on display at the front shelf, shining like an orange, glossy beacon of hope, I found Stitch 'n Bitch Nation! I checked it out immediately. I didn't even know the book was available yet. (Allegra says, "Eww. There's a dude on the cover.")

You'll remember that I was such a fan of the first Stitch 'n Bitch, I reviewed it for the Seattle Guild's newsletter, and I bought three copies: one for myself, one for my 20-something niece, and one for my daughter Allegra. (As an aside, my blog hostess Becky has a sweater pattern I've admired in the first Stitch 'n Bitch, too.)

I'll peruse the pages of Stitch 'n Bitch Nation while taking a hot bath tonight, and that's sure to improve my mood.

Photos of Karis tomorrow, I promise.

Posted by Karen at 09:32 PM | Comments (5)