January 30, 2004

Pocketa-queep!

Lately, my cardiovascular system has been acting up, more “cardio-ly” than “vascularly,” which explains why I spent the last 24 hours hooked to a mobile heart monitor.

When I had the monitor attached, I wasn’t too concerned when the cardiac nurse scoured my skin with rubbing alcohol. It was cool, cleansing, soothing even. But when she came at me with what proved to be the equivalent of sandpaper for human skin—I say, there oughta be a law. But eventually I was all wired up—three octopus suckers on my chest, two on my stomach, the monitor held on by a strap over my shoulder and across my chest, and gray wires, like miniature gray plastic intestines, dangling everywhere.

The nurse carefully explained to me how to reattach the electrodes in case they popped off the octopus suckers. I pooh-poohed this since I live a very sedentary life and couldn’t imagine moving around enough with enough vigor to cause the electrodes to fall off. That is, until an hour later when I rather emphatically adjusted my bra and, sure enough—sproink! sproink!—the two electrodes on my stomach came flying off. The electrodes are color-coded—in this case, it was the red one and green one—so, for a brief moment, as I held the disengaged electrodes in my hands, I felt like the hero in a B-grade movie who has to decide which wire to cut to stop the nuclear bomb and who has a 50/50 chance to get it right, and time’s a-wastin’. Finally, I just snapped ‘em on. Since I didn’t explode in a small mushroom cloud, I must have done it right.

It also didn’t help that I couldn’t get the “pocketa-queep” sound from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (a family favorite) out of my head. To comfort myself and get my mind off octopus suckers, human sandpaper, nuclear bombs, and strange literary noises, I comforted myself by making banana bread. If anyone breaks a tooth on an electrode, I don’t want to hear about it.

Knitting Knews
Finished the back of the Aran baby sweater last night and started one of the sleeves. Apparently I haven't quite internalized the "Must Swatch" concept since, no, I didn't swatch for the sweater and it is coming out two sizes too small. Was hoping for a size 18-month sweater, am making a size 9-month, and am having to tweak the pattern commensurately. Pooh. Still, I am in luuuuuv with the pattern. Easy to knit, and the results are really impressive. Way to go, designers! (Although I find it odd that the same book that contains this perfectly-thought-out baby sweater also contains patterns for a layette knit out of light pink cashmere. Do the designers even know how many nasty and multi-colored bodily fluids a baby is capable of producing, constantly and regularly and sometimes in projectile fashion?)

Posted by Ryan at 10:26 AM | Comments (13)

January 28, 2004

Blogger's Block!

This is a first. Apparently, I have run smack into a mid-winter blogslump. Until now, I could’ve sat down in front of my computer with nary a thought in my head and still churned out two pages of blogdrivel. But, today, when I checked in with the blog-writing center of my brain, all I heard was dry, moaning wind and all I saw was tumbleweeds blowing gently across an empty plain. Which is what makes it extra marvelous that I can reach into my grab-bag of Correspondence from Dear Readers and pull out something interesting, artistic and beautiful to share. In response to the posts about The Mysterious K’s woodworking, Dear Reader Vanessa sent me this lovely picture of Nantucket Light Baskets she made. My favorite is the one on the right. Yours?

baskets.jpg

Vanessa says, “They are called the woodworkers baskets because of all the woodworking involved. They were my passion until knitting took over my life.”

As a Class-A information junkie, I, of course, had to research the history of these beautiful baskets. Among my web hits, I found this informational site and then I found these cutie-patooties.

Thank you, Vanessa, for sending this lovely photo and saving me from my own mental wasteland.

Thursday Morning Update! In a comment, Vanessa provided this link showing more beautiful baskets which are, as she says, "the real thing."

And, speaking of woodworking, what’s going on with TMK’s woodworking and occasional visits to ManLand? Well, last week’s woodworking class was Workshop Layout, this week’s is Joinery (Part II! Part II! Part II!, as TMK keeps reminding me), and next week—the Holiest of all Holy Grails—Router Class (I swear TMK actually hears heavenly music and sees golden-winged cherubim and seraphim when she says “Router Class.”) Her actual woodworking has tapered off a bit since it’s too cold to work in her workshop and she doesn’t want to paint any of her current projects until she can have good ventilation and…okay, lies, all lies. The truth be told, she bought two new video games, Maximo and Vexx.

Knitting Knews
Thank you to everyone for their suggestions on how to wrassle my miles of eejit-cord into submission. Here a picture of the finished pillow still without its i-cord, and a picture of the i-cord, still without its pillow. This weekend I'll sew the i-cord on. Really. Cross my heart. Scout's honor. No, really. No, really.

FinishedPillow.jpg

ICord.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 11:20 AM | Comments (8)

January 26, 2004

Why They Don't Let Me Out of the Home Much

The Mysterious K and I decided last Friday night had to be a Pizza Night, diabetes be damned, since we were both seriously in need of some comfort food. I drove to the pizza store, picked up our Hawaiian (Canadian bacon and pineapple, for you Eastcoasters, many of whom seem to think this is an insanely freakish pizza topping combination but which is, in fact, delicious, all cheesy and tomato-y and sweet and salty). As I backed out of my parking spot, I carefully checked my rearview mirror, did a headcheck to the left, headcheck to the right and was confident I was good to go—until I turned my head forward and was startled to see another car driving right at me. Didn’t I feel the total eejit when I realized it was just my headlights reflecting off the plate glass window.

Reminds me of the time I was in a department store and tried to get around a lady in a narrow aisle. I smiled at her; she smiled at me. I moved to my right and she moved to her left, putting us right back where we started. I moved to my left; she moved to her right. We smiled at each other again and laughed a little embarrassedly. I moved to my right; she moved to her left. I moved to my left; she moved to her right. That’s about when I realized I was standing in front of a mirror.

Apparently, I should never have been given a license to drive—or to walk.

Knitting Knews
Not much in the Knitting knews department, due primarily to a lack of photos. I finished the first Catalina sock, the pair of which are promised to Big Sister, finished sewing the Aran pillow together, and finished all 5 frickin'-frackin' feet of i-cord for said pillow. Question: What would be the best way to sew the i-cord to the pillow? I tried using one ply of the 4-ply Cascade 220 but it promptly shredded apart after a few trips through the knitted fabric. Then I thought I would use two plies but thought it would look ugly and chunky. Then I thought of using thread but have read that thread will actually cut through yarn, which strikes me as slightly cannibalistic, nevermind the fact that I don't want to see an Aran pillow which has taken me almost five months to finish get sliced to bits in front of my eyes. Any suggestions, Dear Readers?

Dye Garden Dyegest
There are definite stirrings in the Dye Garden department, despite the fact that it is the middle of a gray cold January (compared to a Seattle January; not compared to what folks on the East coast are going through). Here, my Japanese indigo (polygonum tinctorium) seeds from Amber. I had no idea they would be so miniscule, let alone so cheerfully green and pink!

indigoseeds.jpg

I also have some more on order from Elizabeth Merrill, a local indigo grower and dyer.

Natural dyers seem to speak of growing and dyeing with indigo with a certain amount of awe and yet also a certain amount of skepticism so I truly wonder what I’m getting myself into. The good news? You’ll get to come along on the journey as we start the seeds in peat pots and nurture them along, grow them into strong, healthy plants and then crush the crap out of them.

Further proof that we have dye garden on the mind:

seeds2004.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 10:26 AM | Comments (15)

January 23, 2004

PARTAY!!!!

Funny thing about Guild: Even though you’re surrounded by, indeed, hemmed in by chatty, gregarious people with whom you have at least one major interest in common, it’s still curiously hard to meet people, to connect. I’ve been attending for about a year and I suspect, if it weren’t for the Dear Readers I’ve met there, I would still not know anyone...and I’m not exactly a shrinking violet (no comments from the Mary and Janine Peanut Gallery). Which is why Wednesday night was such an extra-scrumpdillyishus partay for me. A dear friend from work decided to join me; a new online acquaintance and a friend of hers were there; and, last but not least, Sheila and the Soirettes were there. How great to be surrounded by so many new, ultra-new and old friends! (Even better, our speaker next month will be Vivian Hoxbro of Domino Knitting fame so I can pretty confidently plan on yet more scrumpdillyishusiousness.)

The “event” on Wednesday was mini-classes. I attended “Knitting a Lace Border” with Evelyn Clark, who you may recognize as the uber-talented designer of many of the shawls and other items sold through FiberTrends. She is a member of the Guild—the person who introduced me to Guild, in fact—and a lovely, friendly soul.

As part of the lesson, Evelyn gave us a printout of a pattern to practice. I immediately felt a slight nagging nervousness, since you never know which pattern is going to be your Waterloo, and this lace border pattern had Waterloo written all over it since it—gasp!—self-scalloped. Surely it would require great mental and physical and knitial contortions to execute! When I found out that the pattern requires all of a two-row repeat, one of which was a lace row and one of which was super-simple knit/purl “gimme” row, you can imagine how quickly I went from feeling nervous to feeling stupid for having felt nervous to happily churning out inch upon inch of razor shell lace.

Knitting Knews
Here is a picture of the beginning of my latest project, a baby sweater from “Knitting for Baby.” Since this will only be worn for a short time, and since the baby can pretty much be guaranteed to smear all sorts of unspeakable things all over it, I’m knitting it out of Red Heart crapyarn. But I’m surprisingly happy with the results. The stitches and cables are clear, firm and clean and the color is a bright, happy, saturated red.

redsweater.jpg

And here a picture of the front of the Aran pillow comforting the finished back of the Aran pillow as it is being tortured on the stretching rack. This pillow will probably be finished this weekend.

pillowbackfront.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 11:44 AM | Comments (4)

January 21, 2004

Cheap Laughs

Still on the subject of Christmas gifts, in the box of Yuletide treasures sent to me by my sister was a “Jokelopedia.” I put the book in the bathroom for the amusement of those who are compelled to read while answering the call of nature. At first, the book proved to be only mildly amusing—but that’s because I didn’t know The Secret to Reading a Joke Book. The trick is, you have to get someone else to sit on the toilet and shout the jokes at you through the closed door. Then, the jokes become eye-wipingly, side-splittingly funny. Try it. Here’s a joke or two for you to practice with. Get a loved one to go into the bathroom, drop trou, sit on the porcelain throne and shout this through the door.

What do you get when you cross a serial killer with a pair of pants?
Jack the Zipper.

Or try:

If you crossed a chicken with a cow, what would the offspring say:
Cock-a-doodle-moo.

Or my favorite:

What do you get when you cross a SWAT team with an octopus?
A bomb squid.

See?

Knitting Knews
Quick! Run outside and see if the moon is full! It’s not, you say? No! No! It must be since that’s the only possible explanation for this:

KsLovelySwatch.jpg

Yes, this, Dear Readers, is The Mysterious K’s very own swatch, done with some leftover Cascade 220 and size, oh, about 15 needles. I tell you, the process was not pretty. By the time she was done with this, we were both sweaty, exhausted, wild-eyed, and a little twitchy. Nope, I need fear no knitting competition from that quarter. But, you say, what about the smaller, more-regular stitches on the left? Doesn’t that mean she was improving? Shouldn’t I have given her the benefit of the doubt? No, Dear Readers, those were the stitches I knit to get her started.

But, in the interest of family harmony, here is a picture of her finished bookstand, sanded, oiled and proudly holding her DVDs, which fit poifectly. A beauty, non, especially for a first woodworking project? Rumor has it her next project will be a set of three nesting tables. Sounds rather grand until you hear TMK’s more exact description which is: One table, which may or may not be followed by a smaller one, which may or may not be followed by an even smaller one, depending on how everything goes. I say, chicken!

BookstandCutout.jpg


Posted by Ryan at 08:43 AM | Comments (14)

January 16, 2004

Can Ya' FEEL the Love?

(Woo-hoo! Managed to rustle this entry up during my lunch hour yesterday! The blog liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiives!! But, still, no entry Monday what with the holiday 'n' all.)

One of the benefits of writing your own blog is you willy-nilly get your own personal forum to do with as you wish. And today, I declare, as I wrap my toga more securely about my person and then wave my arms grandly in the air, I will use it to send a nod to my sister and her fambly.

First, this arrived in the mail this week, with no explanation, but needing none. In case you can’t read it, it says “Michael E. Dear Auntie Ryan You Are My Best Aunt I Love You.” It rendered me quite misty-eyed! I do, however, have to take his declaration with a grain of salt since, you see, I’m his only aunt. I take comfort in knowing I could be Bloody Mary, Lizzy Borden, or Attila the Hunette and I would still be The Best Aunt.

michaelpicture.jpg

Secondly, one of the Christmas gifts I received from sister and fambly was a wacky Origami Fold-Of-The-Day calendar. The calendar consists of 365 loose (no, not morally loose, just unbound), square sheets of paper. One side of each sheet is printed with instructions for an origami project; the other side is printed in fancy, colorful origami patterns. The idea is you use the previous day’s sheet of paper to fold the current day’s project. So, for you, dear sister, a bilious penguin curiously covered in fish scales. (Hmmmm. Looking at this, I think I better keep my day job.)

origami.jpg

Knitting Knews
Since I'm currently working on the back of the sage green aran pillow, which consists of mile upon mile of k3, p3 checkerboard, I won't bore you with a picture of it. (New readers, see this entry for a picture of the finished front of the pillow.) So instead, how about a knitting-related Kooky Kraft?

My long-time Dear Readers will remember this link to the site of a fiber artist who gets her knitting inspiration from fractals. Apparently this Eleanor Kent also knits and crochets necklaces using electro-luminescent wire, as the following links show.

Link 1

Link 2 Scroll to about the middle of the page to see Ms. Kent wearing one of the necklaces.

Link 3 Would that we could all knit something out of a mere 45 or 50 yards of some kind of fibery or wire-y material and sell the result for $300!

Posted by Ryan at 08:36 AM | Comments (6)

January 14, 2004

Good News, Bad News

The Good News: I got a promotion at work to Manager of Web and Documentation Services (which sounds all very foo-foo until I ‘llow as how I’ll be supervising all of two people. Ooooooo. And I spent my first day as Manager wearing a big coffee stain on my sweater. Way to make a good impression!). The Bad News: This may have a deleterious effect on the blog. It may be shorter, it may be more infrequent, it may be lacking altogether. Big Sad Face. However, since TMK graciously lent me her Mac laptop last year on a semi-permanent basis for my moonlighting work as an at-home transcriptionist (hey, it keeps me in yarn!), perhaps I can write my entries at home at night on Le Petite Laptoppe and just quickly post them in the morning before my managerial duties do a kawabunga on me. Either way, I’ll do my best to keep posting, since the blog and the Mossy Cottage Community have become a very bright spot in my life.

Obviously, I have time for at least this entry, so let’s talk knitting while we can, shall we? What better way to wile away an evening than watching the finals of “Celebrity Poker” while finishing Sock Numero Uno of the Catalina Socks, as I did last night. Why “Celebrity Poker,” which sounds B-grade and hokey on a good day? Well, TMK and I occasionally indulge in “poker nights” with friends. The games are always ultra-friendly, the kind where the players constantly and arbitrarily hand chips around to make sure no one runs out. Or failing that, Life Partner A makes a sad puppy face at Life Partner B, and Life Partner B immediately hands over a large stack of chips. And Life Partner A makes a grateful, kiss-kiss moue at Life Partner B and somehow, in a weird way, it becomes a relationship-bonding moment. Anyhoo, ultra-friendly poker or not, I suck at it (sort of the way you suck at playing golf, Big Sister. Smirk.). I am The Folding Queen. Dealer deals. I look at my cards. I fold. The other players have a big laugh at my expense. Repeat. The problem is, if I hold onto my cards for even one go-round, everyone knows I must have a passably good hand, so they all fold—and I win bupkus. Which, therefore, in a twisted way, for me at least, makes “Celebrity Poker” educational TV. (Now, lest you pity me for my lack of poker playing skills, I can whup anyone’s behind in cribbage, which I have played since I was, oh, what, five? Come on. Try me. I dare ya’!)

Here, a photo of the almost-finished Catalina sock being tried on for fit, followed by an unflattering photo of my little piggies which TMK just had to take and insisted I had to post:

catalinafit.jpg

catalinatoe.jpg

On the Woodworking Front, here is TMK’s lastest offering, a custom-made shadow box for her wood type collection. It is destined to be painted a rich, bright yellow (she says white, but what does she know) and to decorate the wall of her office.

shadowbox.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 08:52 AM | Comments (14)

January 12, 2004

ManLand - Part II

I hesitated about posting about my opinions about ManLand lest My Dear Readers think I was going to wax all political and “battle of the sexes” on them but, based on the comments I received, ManLand is a place familiar to many Dear Readers! Brave Debra says she used to work there, Straight but Sassy Anne says she gets a kick out of "butching it up" when she goes to ManLand just to unsettle the men, Smart Vanessa reaffirms that what you wear into ManLand is supremely important and that open-toed sandals, loose clothing and dangly jewelry are an invitation to a snubbing, and Poor Fran is on the verge of having to make a long trip into ManLand to get her property surveyed. Good luck, and Bon Voyage, Fran! Send a postcard!

----------------------------------------------

This weekend I learned that you can draw amazing parallels between woodworking and knitting. First, just as each knitter has an LYS (Local Yarn Shop), TMK now has a LWS (Local Woodworking Store). Notice the subtle difference: Yarn is sold in a “shop” or even “shoppe;” wood and mantools are sold in a “store”—something you need to know if you're going to go to ManLand.

Secondly, after just a week or two of dabbling, The Mysterious K already has a stash, consisting of some MDF (“yarnspeak” translation: 100% acrylic, chunky weight), thin pieces of poplar (translation: 50% acrylic, 50% wool, fingering weight), hemlock (translation: 75% merino, 25% cashmere, worsted weight), and molding (translation: self-striping sock yarn).

Thirdly, TMK already has three UFO’s: her bookholder (translation: knitted tote), a shadow box for her antique wooden typesetting letters (translation: chunky weight lace scarf) and the molding in her bedroom (translation: a long, skinny stockinette scarf). In TMKs defense (and because she was curiously miffed when I teased her about having UFOs, even though, in KnittingWorld, they are a badge of honor), she has concrete plans for getting all of these finished in the next few days.

And here, a picture of the bookstand, TMK's first woodworking effort!

bookstand.jpg

Knitting Knews
This weekend I continued working on the Catalina sock. This is my second pair of Fixation socks, and this time around I noticed how “sticky” Fixation is. In fact, I found myself developing quite the bulging biceps (and potty mouth) trying to slide it up and down my bamboo dpns. The solution? Metal dpns. Aaaaahhhh….. Smoooooth…..

Here is a picture of the sock, three-quarters done. (Little did TMK know her new $900 recliner was actually going to be a $900 leather backdrop for my knitting projects.)

catalinasock.jpg

A closeup of the lace effect of the stockinette ladder stitch and how it would look when worn:

catalinaholes.jpg

Dye Garden Dyegest
I’m reactivating Dye Garden Dyegest just for this entry since there has been some mild activity in this area.

Since I had some coreopsis smelling up my freezer (all my frozen foods now taste like slightly old, moldy flower petals), I thought I would do a little mid-winter dyeing. My Dear Readers may remember this picture of coreopsis-dyed yarn with an ammonia afterbath that turned the yarn a beautiful spicy carrot color:

coreopsisorange.jpg

Here is the new swatch of coreopsis-dyed yarn without the ammonia afterbath. It’s a beautiful gold color, perhaps not quite as bright as the picture shows, but close. Really lovely!

calendulaswatch.jpg

TMK and I also spent some time this weekend cleaning up the old dye garden in preparation for next year. And, thanks to advice from the natural dyeing Yahoo group I belong to, I now have a source for my indigo and the Hopi Sunflowers we may decide to grow next year. Time to go online!

Posted by Ryan at 11:58 AM | Comments (7)

January 09, 2004

A Trip to ManLand

The Mysterious K’s new hobby, woodworking, is percolating right along. On Wednesday night, she went to a joinery class at a local woodworking shop. This was A Big Deal because it meant she had to enter ManLand, an event which can be fraught with emotional peril, your sexual orientation be damned. Trust me; you can be the straightest, most man-worshipping woman on earth and still find ManLand a scary place.

saw.gifLet me tell you a little story about one trip to ManLand. Many years ago I bought a custom-made window screen for my upstairs window from an, as they say, “large home improvement warehouse store.” When I got home I discovered that both the frame and the screen material were wrong (which is curious since a screen only consists of (a) the frame and (b) the screen material, which means the large home improvement warehouse store had the dubious honor of having gotten the screen 100% wrong). Anyway, TMK and I procured our requisite temporary Manland visas, went back to the store, and marched up to the immense table where they do the screen cutting and assembling. We stood thisclose to Screen Guy, who was busy with something at the time, and did everything socially acceptable, short of slapping him upside the head, to make certainsure he knew we were there and needed service. When Screen Man was finished with what he was doing, he turned his back on us, walked entirely around the immense table and proceeded to serve a man who had arrived fifteen minutes after we had. Ta-da! Welcome to Manland!

hammer.gifBefore the class, TMK was nervous, partly, I suspect, because she felt she was walking into Screen Man Territory again. Would she come out of the class feeling inspired and excited, or would she come out of the class feeling belittled and cut off at the knees? (As an aside, men don’t seem to realize the effort it takes to venture into ManLand. For example, TMK and I spent a lot of time discussing what she should wear. It’s hard to hide the fact that she’s a butch girl, but, still, there are many degrees of butch. Do you wear every piece of jewelry you own plus a squirt from your one bottle of perfume in order to seem more feminine and less threatening, do you go completely butched up and swagger in so the men know you know your sh_t, or is there a happy medium? Or do you not worry about it at all and hope you have enough backbone not to care how the men treat you? Long story short, she picked the happy medium, clean, tailored but not trying to be something she’s not.) Happily, she reports that she had a marvelous time, that the teacher was informational, funny, supportive, and respectful, and, most importantly, of the one woman (herself) and six men in the class, she was the only one who owned a nail gun. I smirkfully take full credit for that. The Gift of the Magi just keeps on giving!

Some unsolicited relationship advice: If your husband, partner or SO starts a new hobby, get your hands on the reference book he or she is using and read the glossary. The day after Christmas, TMK went out for a while, so I spent the time studying the 6-page glossary of her new woodworking book since I knew gobbledygook would soon be spewing out of her mouth. As predicted, within a day or two, she was talking about rabbets (yes, with an “e”), biscuits, s2s, s4s, MDF, bows, warps, dados, jigs, dovetails, miters, tenons, mortises, and who knows what’all but the ½-hour I had spent reading the glossary thoroughly paid off—I kept right up with her (although I suspect eventually she tired of my bouncing up and down, waving my hands in the air like a kid in school who desperately wants to be picked, and saying, "Oo! Oo! Oo! I know what that means! I know what means!"). In return, when I declared that I was going to use larger needles for the Goldilocks Mittens, she was able to toss off breezily, “Oh, are you going to use the size 4s?” I know just enough about woodworking; she knows just enough about knitting. All is right with the world.

(Newsflash: TMK called to report that she was making a jig*, and managed to nail the entire length of the jig to her workbench with, oh, a good 50 nails. This does not bode well.)

*Jig: "A device used to make special cuts, guide a tool, or aid in woodworking operations." Definition from here.

Knitting Knews
Started the Catalina Socks using white Fixation and the Stockinette Ladder stitch from Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns. If I may say so myself, this is turning into one beaut of a pair of socks, short, cottony, airy, just what I had in mind. Photo next week.

Finished the latest incarnation of the Goldilocks Mittens. Again, photo next week!

Posted by Ryan at 08:45 AM

January 07, 2004

Funny Bunny

Over the last two years I have had the extreme pleasure of watching my personal knitting universe grow from one that consisted in its entirety of one ball of yarn, two straight knitting needles, and a knowledge of stockinette and garter stitches, to one that contains at least an awareness of double-pointed needles, circular needles, lace, cables, fair isle, intarsia, a multitude of knitting stitches, spinning, dyeing, pattern design, and exotic yarns ranging from eyelash to Australian possum to quiviut. Now, however, I can die a happy woman because my knitting universe includes These.

Upon first glimpse of the first photo, I laughed so hard I snorted Cherry Coke through my nose—and there’s nothing more painful than forcing a highly carbonated beverage through your sinuses. Once I had wiped the Coke off my keyboard, my next reaction was, “Must…Have…One!” But, sigh, there are two obstacles to this. First, I am forbidden by The Mysterious K to own any small rodent-like or rabbit-like pets. In the early stages of our relationship, I owned a couple of different hamsters at different times and grieved as mightily at their passing as I did when my precious cats died. And TMK can tell you some interesting stories about driving many miles late at night with an hysterical Ryan and a sick hamster in search of the only veterinary clinic open at night that handled rodents. A few trips of this type and a few days of comforting an inconsolable me, and TMK, who is usually more generous in spirit, finally said “no more!”

Then there’s this alarmingly long page listing all the things you would need to know in order to care for one of these alien creatures, including how to “read” their droppings (!); prevent them from ingesting any of their own wool or, if they have ingested wool, feed them enzymes with a syringe; protect them from predators, electrocution from chewing on wires, heat, drafts, wetness, diarrhea and, lovely of lovelies, maggots; and prevent anything from sticking in their fur or, in the alternative, pick chimpanzee-like at every inch of their fur to remove whatever has stuck in there. I now know an Angora rabbit is not for me, and that I will have to be satisfied with using one of the photos as the "desktop" picture on my PC, but shall we just let TMK go on thinking she wears the pants in the family, at least where small pets are concerned?

Knitting Knews
Some friends of ours recently asked me to knit mittens for their 4-month-old so off I went to the Internet to find a pattern and found what I thought would be the perfect one here. I dutifully knit up a mitten using the designer’s specs, size 3 dpns, double-stranded DK yarn, and 16 stitches. The end result:

fingermitten.jpg

As you can see, this mitten is Too Small and barely fits on my index finger, let alone the hand and wrist of a very healthy, very chubby baby. Either the pattern designer is an extremely loose knitter or I need to start taking major doses of Prozac. So I frogged, doubled the number of stitches to 32, and knit it again. This version was Too Big. So I split the difference and knit the next pair using 24 stitches. Here the more successful 24-stitch pair next to the original 16-stitch mitten.

3mittens.jpg

To compound things further, TMK got all excited about the mittens and wanted to take them to our friends Immediately…which would have been all well and fine except I had completed only one successful mitten by the time she got all fired up. So then nothing would do but we had to see exactly how quickly I could churn out the second one of these puppies. I think the final tally was 1 hour and 10 minutes, give or take a few minutes for the weaving in of ends. I cast-on at 11:45am and I think we were on our friends’ doorstep, finished mittens in hand, at 1:30pm.

I’d like to be able to say that the Goldilocks Mittens story had a happy ending but, upon delivery, the 24-stitch pair still proved to be a tiny bit small so now I’m doing a different version using 24 stitches and size 4 needles. Hopefully these will prove to be Just Right. For anyone who wants it, here is my version of the pattern (which I have my fingers crossed qualifies as being "new" and "original" given that it is about 90% different from the first pattern).

Goldilocks Mittens

Materials:
Size 4 dpns
Baby Ull yarn, double-stranded (I used one strand of yellow and one of blue for the "tweedy" look of the mittens in the photos. For the mittens I'm knitting now, I'm using double-stranded yellow and double-stranded blue and am knitting them in stripes. The striped version looks much better. I'll post a photo as soon as I have one.)
Thin ribbon
Tapestry needle

Abbreviations:
K=knit
Kfkb=knit in the front and the back of the stitch to increase your stitch count
by 1
K2tog=knit two stitches together to decrease your stitch count by 1
P=purl
Yo=yarnover

Pattern:
Cast on 24 stitches.
Redistribute stitches so you have 8 on each needle.
Row 1: Join and k1, p1 around.
Row 2-9: K1, p1 around.
Row 10: K around.
Row 11: To make eyelets, *k2tog, yo, repeat from * around.
Row 12: *K3, kfkb of the yo, repeat from * around. You will now have 30 stitches.
Row 13-28. Knit 16 rounds or to desired length.
Row 29: K2tog all the way around. You will now have 15 stitches.
Row 30: K around.
Row 31: K2tog all the way around to last stitch, k1. You will now have 8 stitches.
Row 32: K around.
Row 33: K2tog all the way around. You will now have 4 stitches.
Cut the yarn leaving a tail for snugging up and weaving in.
Use the tapestry needle to run the yarn tail through the stitches, removing the needles as you go.
Pull on the yarn tail to snug up the tip of the mitten.
Weave in the yarn tail and the cast-on tail.
Using the tapestry needle, run a ribbon through the eyelets, snug it up and tie a bow. (I used yarn but I think a ribbon would look infinitely better.)

Posted by Ryan at 12:38 PM | Comments (10)

January 05, 2004

Sew Clumsy

needle.gifSometimes I think crafts, craft-type materials and I were not meant to exist in the same universe. Case in point: A few days ago, when I walked to my car, I felt a curious, light tugging entirely around the circumference of my upper calves (of the leg, not the moo-cow, variety). I walked a few more steps and there it was, the weird tugging. Walk, tug; walk, tug. I finally looked down and realized that I had somehow—don’t ask me how—snagged some thread onto my pants and, again, somehow, had spun around enough times to encircle my legs with it, and had then walked out my front door, locked said door, and walked the not inconsiderable distance to my car, all the while festooning myself and my yard with white thread. Naturally, I defestooned myself and yard—I literally had to wind the thread up around my fingers and into a ball, there was so much of it—and headed off to work.

What concerns me is that if I hadn’t been able to feel the thread, say, if it had snagged itself to the outside of my thick down coat instead of my much-thinner blue jeans, how many miles do you suppose I would have driven, trailing white thread behind me? And what do you suppose would have happened to the spool of thread which remained chez moi? Do you suppose it would have gone bouncing and ricocheting around my house, breaking everything in its path, as it unwound at 60 miles per hour?

Knitting Knews

Over the holidays I finished the Annoyingly Identical Opal Brazil socks.

The finished socks:

stripedsocks.jpg

Proof of their thoroughly unintended yet mind-blowing sameness:

matchedsocks.jpg

On a different subject, my last entry about my Denise needles prompted a few comments. I was particularly intrigued by Debra's comment that she's had trouble with her size 13s, the same size of needle I'm using. However, I switched to a never-before-used cord and the never-before-used size 13s just before the The Great Troubles began so I'm not sure if it's the cord or the needles. I suspect it's the cord because it looks as if one of the two "nubbies" that are supposed to lock into the needle seems smooshed. (I'm sure my adrenalin-fueled attempts at grinding the two pieces together so they would stick hasn't helped...) Let the record show, however, that I still swear by my Denise's! When you live your life "bi-houseally," as I do, it's great to be able to grab the small book-sized kit on your way out the door and know you have with you every size of needle from 5 to 15. It certainly helps with spur-of-the-moment swatching, and you don't find yourself constantly running to the LYS to buy "just one more" set of needles!

Posted by Ryan at 11:00 AM | Comments (6)

January 02, 2004

Ice? What Ice?

The annoying vagaries of Seattle weather: Early this morning the skies were gray and threatening, the temperature was below freezing, and the roads were so icy and slick I had to cut my commute short and head home after a scant mile of driving. Two hours later, the skies were bright with joyful sunshine, the temperature was in the mid-forties and the roads were dry and bare. Yes, Mother Nature is blowing us a large cosmic raspberry here in the Great Northwest.

So, I am indeed at work but since I got here late, just a quick post.

Over the holidays I continued working on The World’s Largest Sweater. Thanks to some technical advice and nudging from Kit at the last Soiree, I was able to figure out the number of stitches for the neck for the back, finish same, and get it off the needles. (Thanks, Kit! Smooches!) Then I moved right on to the first sleeve and decided to throw in a 6-stitch cable fer grins. However, about a quarter of the way through the sleeve, my Denise cable and needles became fiercely uncooperative and started coming apart once, if not twice, nay, thrice, every row, despite the emergency application of tiny pieces of double-sided tape to the connector area. It finally got to the point where I was spending more time putting the stitches back on the needles and reconnecting the needle and cable than I was knitting. (On the bright side, with such bulky yarn, if any of your stitches do make a break for freedom, there’s none of that fussing and fighting with a crochet hook. You just haul up the current loop, cram both your thumb and index finger through the middle, and yank the errant loop back where it belongs. Repeat as needed.) Although I know I can easily order a new Denise cable, I was too excited about finishing the sleeve to wait, so I bought a new Crystal Palace circular needle. Why the excitement? Because the impossible has happened—I’m knitting to gauge and to size! Despite my inexperience and despite my fiddling endlessly with the pattern by throwing in the cable, adding some stitches for size and then arbitrarily adding a few more to compensate for the pulling in of the cable, I am the proud mama of an 18” wide sleeve, just as the pattern requires!

Here, a picture of the sleeve about half-way through the increases. I’m lovin’ the cable since it looks casual but tailored. I’m toying with the idea of putting a cable down the front as well because the thought of all of that plain stockinette yardage bores me stupid but I’m not sure about the large-boob-bulky-cable look. (Note to self: Try draping sleeve over frontage to see effect. Keep laughing to a minimum or effect will be lost due to massive and irregular frontage movement.)

sweatersleeve.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 01:55 PM | Comments (5)