Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A hat, a hero, and justice

A smörgåsbord blog post for your Boxing Day pleasure.

First of all...

A hat:

  • Yarn: Lana Grossa "Easy" 100% merino superwash, purchased at Knitting Basket
  • Color: 006 Green
  • Lot: 6206
  • Yardage: used slightly more than two 55 yard balls, so, ~120 yards, total
  • Gauge: ~2.75 stitches per inch
  • Needles: U.S. size 11 (8 mm) Denise circulars w/ 12" cable & Crystal Palace bamboo 8" DPNs
  • Pattern: cast on 56 stitches, join in the round, K2,P2 every round for ~3-4", then knit every round for 3-4", decrease & finish according to Super Simple Hat Calculator
  • Size: ~20" circumference
  • Recipient: BIL John, for Christmas

The yarn for this hat is discontinued, thus I got it on sale, and bought all four balls they had in this color. I still have almost two balls left, enough to do another hat, for sure.

I may go back and buy what they have left in the other remaining colors, because, I always seem to find myself at the last minute looking for chunky superwash wool yarn, which is hard to find, at least locally. You can't beat chunky superwash wool for a quick and easy-to-knit hat that you can give to anyone with confidence and know it might not get destroyed after the first inadvertent toss in the washer. Not that this basic hat is any great work-of-art, but I like to think that the recipient will get more than one wearing out of it.

Sure, there are plenty of chunky acrylic yarns out there, but since most of my finished objects are given away, the greatest pleasure I have with the project is doing the actual knitting, and I therefore prefer to knit with lovely, forgiving, elastic wool. If I'm hating the yarn, I'll hate the knitting, and chances are the project will get set aside for an unspecified amount of time, or, perhaps, forever. A character flaw, no doubt, but, if I'm not enjoying a hobby, and it is no longer a pleasurable activity, then the hobby itself may fall by the wayside, and I'd hate for that to happen.

Therefore: wool keeps this knitter happy and the wearer warm; superwash wool saves the hat from inevitable felting, giving the knitter peace-of-mind. Chunky yarn knits fast and keeps the knitter from getting bored. So, whatever altruistic characteristics you might attribute to this knitter should be blown out of the water. Giving away the hat is the easy part. For this knitter, it's all about the knitting, and if it doesn't keep the knitter happy, it ain't getting knit. (No doubt, another character flaw.)

So here's hoping no one notices how long it's been since this knitter last reported on a finished object. Perhaps I can distract you with the fact that this current F.O. was Christmas knitting and finished on December 21st, thankyouverymuch. Christmas knitting. Finished early. Don't I get credit for that?

[Edited later to add]:

I forgot to mention that for this project, it was my first time doing a Russian Join, and I'm now a convert. Since the yarn is superwash, a spit-splice probably wouldn't work very well, and just weaving in ends for such a bulky yarn is not acceptable, either, in my mind. So, I did a modified Russian Join, where I cut back two of the three plies on each end of yarn to be joined, and sewed the third ply, folded over the other yarn, back into the thicker 3-ply section of itself. (Hope that makes sense.) It's definitely a method I'll be using to join yarns from now on.

In other news....

A hero:

Recently, I shared with some friends and my knitting group about the son of another dear friend who was wounded two weeks ago in Iraq. J.P. has since returned stateside and is currently at Walter Reed army hospital in D.C. Last week, in addition to friends and family, he had another special visitor:

J.P. & W

There have been a lot of prayers prayed and answered this past week in regards to this young man. He's got more surgeries in his future, and a challenging road ahead. I am so grateful for his heroic service to our country, but even more thankful that he's safely back on American soil. He was able to spend Christmas with his family, which is a real blessing.

J.P. & nephew

And finally...


Arrests have been made in the recent mailbox bombings in my neighborhood. Turns out, it really was some bored teenagers. Why can't they just destroy printers like us more mature adults?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Festivus for the rest of us

Today is Festivus, the fictitious holiday for the rest-of-us.

In keeping with my extended family's traditionally non-traditional observation of holidays on days other than the correct date, we held our Christmas celebration yesterday, at my parents' house. It might easily have been confused with a Festivus celebration. There was no traditional festivus pole, but we did have the airing of grievances, and the feats of strength.

Two weeks ago, we celebrated my dad's birthday and gave him a new printer to replace his troublesome old one, (a grievance aired), and yesterday, the old printer met its final reward, (via feats of strength):

Dad got the first whack

After a few more clubbings...

...and kicks...

...and punches...

the carcass

the carnage

my souvenir

And here's a little video:

(Feedblitz email subscribers go here to see video.)

This event not only satisfied any Festivus celebration requirements, but was also our little homage to the movie Office Space, and specifically the amusing printer scene, (which can be viewed here; I should mention that the soundtrack's rap lyrics are not for delicate ears).

That was definitely fun. And now, the only question remaining is, can Dad's new printer handle printing cover sheets for his TPS reports? (Another slightly obscure Office Space reference.)

After that silliness, we did enjoy more traditional Christmas activities, including eating yummy treats:

the frenzied gift opening by the grandkids:

the annual look-how-much-they've-grown photo of the grandkids:

and the traditional nephew beat-down:

arms held by his loving father

What? That's not one of your family traditions? Hmmm....

Seriously, though -- no one sustained any injuries this Christmas, thank God, unlike a previous Christmas gathering in recent history. It's definitely more fun when no one is carted off in an ambulance.

May your Christmas celebration be wonderful, warm and safe.

And Happy Festivus!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesday Night Knitters get ready for Christmas!

Another fun gathering of the Tuesday Night Knitters, and everyone was busy working on some great projects.

Here, Deb is knitting a scarf on U.S. size 35 (19 mm) needles (!) and holding seven different strands of yarn together:

(I believe she was inspired by Gina Bonomo's recent creation, a 45-minute scarf made with size 50 needles, knit while holding together 15 strands of yarn! Fast, but, ouch!)

Here's Katie, who's got two of her finished shawls on the table in front of her while she works on a third:

The purple-y one on the left, and the orange-y one she's currently knitting are her own pattern -- knit lengthwise, using various bits of stash/scrap yarn, K5, P5, and then drop every fifth stitch while binding off. It reminds me of a cross between an Ab-Fab throw and a Clapotis. Very pretty, very easy, and a stash-buster, to boot. Can't beat that!

The purple shawl on the right is a Delta shawl, and has a lovely shape, I think, (more easily seen if you follow that link, scroll down and click on "Delta Shawl" to see a picture of it.)

Renny wins the mother-of-the-year award for agreeing to knit a cotton afghan for her daughter:

Cotton! Afghan-sized! I'm so spoiled by wool, I can barely knit a dishcloth anymore without my hands aching. It is definitely pretty, and what a wonderful keepsake.

Sheddy, Grace and Sherry worked on various projects down at their end of the table:

Grace has discovered that Burly Spun also knits up fast and goes far!

Jon has been quite the busy knitter. Here's the log cabin blanket he knit for his mother for Christmas:

-- which included ruffles, bobbles, and rosettes along the edges. Another stash-buster project.

Jon has also graciously agreed to answer a request our group received from a friendly Barnes & Noble employee, who asked us to knit him a scarf in Hokie colors:

Reminds me of a Harry Potter scarf -- is there a maroon and orange house, by chance? (I've not read any of the books...).

And last night was my first time seeing Jon's Skully sweater:

I believe he won a ribbon at the Chesterfield County Fair for that. Ain't it great? The man definitely has some mad knitting skillz.

Linda is knitting a very pretty pair of Melinda mittens, using Berocco Memoirs yarn in colors that I'm loving:

The cool thing about these mittens is that they're knit flat and seamed up the inside of the thumb and the outside of the mitten. Good for those who may not like using double points or knitting in the round....

Check out these earrings that Linda was wearing:

Yep, that's Santa in his all-together, with what I believe may be a strategically-placed stocking. Reminds me of a certain, naughty yet humorous Christmas video that's gained some popularity. (There's also an uncensored version, if you dare...).

And with that, I bid you all a very knitty Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tuesday Night Knitters Celebrate Robin's Birthday!

Last Tuesday, (yes, this post is a week late -- what of it?), many folks from our knitting group got together to help Robin H. celebrate a momentous birthday. We had a wonderful dinner at Carraba's, (I had surf & turf -- the "surf" being shrimp & scallops -- can't beat that with a stick!), and a good time was had by all:
* Patsy, Cathy, birthday girl, Lou

Rita & Issy show off their Sursa shawls

After dinner, we proceeded to Barnes & Noble to knit for a couple of hours. Amy came and brought her adorable new daughter Zeva, and I had to envy Patsy who had the sweet baby asleep on her shoulder:

Patsy & Zeva -- what a head of hair!

Alice brought an array of finished objects, including three hats and this fantastic E.Z. Pi shawl being modeled by Issy:

Alice, Pi shawl & Issy

Lots more knitting and gabbing and socializing and general merriment occurred during the evening, but since much of that was not captured on camera for posterity, you'll just have to imagine the good time.

And now it's Tuesday again, time for another knit night. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I have always depended on the kindness of bloggers....

(Here's hoping you read the title of this post and heard a very southern, Blanche Dubois drawl in your head. Otherwise, my feeble attempt at being clever has failed.)


Yesterday was a good day to be a fiber enthusiast and have friends with similar interests. A good day to be me, that is.

But before I dive into why I'm feeling particularly blessed, let me give a tiny bit of history.

As a regular reader of the very humorous Crazy Aunt Purl knitting blog, written by the talented Laurie Perry, I have discovered that her readers' comments that follow each post are often as entertaining and informative as her original article. And so I regularly read those comments, and if a reader identifies themselves as a Virginian, I will sometimes start reading that person's blog regularly, too, because I just enjoy "meeting" local knitters. You can never have too many friends, after all.

And that's how I started reading the blog of Liz R., a local knitter. We've been reading and commenting on each others' blogs for probably close to a year now, and yesterday, we finally decided to meet at one of our local yarn shops:

While there, Liz very generously gave me my very first pair of hand-knit socks, all for my very own! She's been cranking out socks all year, (you can see all of them here and here), and had a pair that didn't fit anyone she knew, so, guess who was the lucky recipient??

The yarn is KnitPicks "Bare" that she dyed with Wilton food coloring in a gorgeous blue that I can't help but adore. The pattern is Cookie A.'s Monkey, from Knitty.

I still can't believe these are mine. Monkey socks are the #1 sock pattern on Ravelry right now, (2,885 finished or works-in-progress, and in 1,692 queues). It thrills me to no end that I can now be one of the cool kids and own a pair of these (even if I didn't knit them myself). (And no one but you and I needs to know that, so -- shhhhhhh!) ;-)

Aren't they beautiful?

Liz -- they fit perfectly, and they feel wonderful! I can't wait to wear them for a "special" occasion! ("Special", meaning, it's cold enough outside to wear wool socks!) ;-)

While at the Knitting Basket, we did our part to stimulate the Christmas economy, and some 30%-off Noro Cash Iroha in a gorgeous jade green came home with me, along with some fatigue-green superwash chunky merino for a Christmas gift hat for my brother-in-law. Liz selected some beautiful Claudia's Hand Painted sock yarn in a pretty purpley colorway, and we both left the shop as very happy girls. We walked two blocks down Grove Ave. and had a yummy Chinese lunch at Peking, and then hugged, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, happy to have each made a new friend. Thanks again for a lovely day, Liz!

I think we shop at the same optician! ;-)

When I got home from our lovely little outing, there was a package on my doorstep, and in it contained a pound of this gorgeous merino/tencel top:

My benefactress was another dear knitting-spinning friend, also met via blogging - the lovely Queen Bess. Since I'm now a beginner spinner, she had the urge to destash this fiber to me, and who am I to deny her that pleasure? ;-)

Isn't it gorgeous? It is one of those slick fibers that will require my gaining more experience before I can do it justice. There's enough of it to practice with, so every now and then I can pull off a staple length and see if I'm good enough yet to spin that fiber. Maybe tomorrow, if I can get around to plying what's on my Golding spindle, I can free it up and give this fiber another go.

Bess -- thank you so much for such a wonderful gift!

I think the day I learned how to knit, and the day I decided to blog about it -- those two days became pivotal moments that ultimately brought wonderful people into my life. There's something to be said for this seemingly humble little hobby of ours....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Spindle Collecting


Regular readers may recall that I took some spinning classes back in October, both wheel and spindle-spinning. I don't yet own a wheel, and am not going to get one for awhile -- I'm purposely not bringing a wheel into my house until there's actually room for one. And that might actually require moving. (I say that only half in jest.)

In the meantime, I'm enjoying spinning on drop spindles, and I've acquired several over the past few weeks, all from various internet sources.

Let me introduce you to them....

First, there are those in the pretty dark woods:

Clockwise from top:
  • Bosworth midi-spindle in paduak wood
  • Greensleeves "Ethan Jakob" in redwood burl & purpleheart
  • Greensleeves "Vixen" in paduak wood

Next are the ones with stone whorls:

All made by ButterflyGirlDesigns
(clockwise from top):
  • Turquoise Howlite
  • Dalmation Jasper, 1.5" whorl
  • Dalmation Jasper, 2" whorl
  • Jadeite

These are my bigger, heavier spindles, which I'm told are good for plying:

Clockwise from top:
  • Louet student spindle - my first!
  • Cascade "Mt. Pilchuck" in maple
  • Kundert "Squiggle" in walnut, cherry & maple

And these last two, (not shown in the first grouping), are my current favorites:

Left: Lily spindle in holly, black walnut & olive woods
Golding spindle in walnut, with vintage turquoise ring


Those two are my favorites not only because they're prettiest, but also because they spin the absolute best of all of them. Isn't it nice how it worked out that way?

What I really love about the Lily is that the flower design provides a built-in notch between each "petal", making the spinning process all the more mindless. It also spins and spins for me with just a flick of my fingers -- no thigh-roll required.

resting on Crown Mountain Farm pencil roving in Plane of Bliss

The Golding spindle has very quickly become my heart and joy, and working with Tom Golding to design it was a lovely process. I knew I wanted one with a vintage turquoise ring, and he sent me the following two photos so that I might choose my own:

It was hard decision, but I do like my final choice:

And bowing to my Irish heritage and love of dark woods, I had him carve some pretty celtic knots into a walnut whorl:

resting on CMF pencil roving in "As Above, So Below"

This spindle, like the Lily, also spins and spins and spins with just a flick of my fingers, and keeps on spinning even as it's about to hit the ground. It helps that Tom cuts notches in the shaft -- that allows for traction that gives a little jump-start to the spin. Heavenly. I could spin with it all day, and I have, almost. It's been wonderful to sit at my desk while on a conference call and spin. I'm building up the copp to be fairly large, and yet it continues to spin well for me, and fairly finely, at that.

Now I just need to decide how I want to ply everything I've spun thus far. Maybe I'll work on that this weekend.

Oh, and don't let me forget to show you some more pretty fiber I've acquired recently:

Those batts are blends of merino, alpaca & angora from Poppy Flower Fibers in "Garden Song" and "Earth & Sky" colorways. Verrrry soft. Can't wait to try spinning them. I just need to free up those favorite spindles of mine!

The package containing these batts was what was in my mailbox Monday night when all the commotion took place. I would have been more than a little peeved if they'd been blown up, that's for sure!

One more bit of fiber acquired recently is 4 oz. of Romney roving from Spunky Eclectic in her "Green Gables" colorway:

Three of my spindles also came from her shop, and with each one ordered she sends a little sampling of her roving so you can start spinning right away -- in my case, some Blue-Faced Leicester in her Rocky Mountain High colorway. Those little samples of BFL are my first exposure to spinning with this particular fiber, and it is soooo incredibly soft and wonderful to spin. I will definitely be getting more.

So, with twelve spindles and several kinds of lovely fiber, I should be a happy spindler for awhile. I just need to find me a niddy noddy!