Posts Tagged ‘knitting’

Unapologetic

I was going to go to the Y for another murderous upper body weight lifting workout when I opened my bag and realized I had not swapped out yesterday’s cold weather running gear for clean, not soaking wet, short-sleeved, indoor appropriate anything to wear.

Rather than wear soaking wet, long-sleeved, outdoor, dirty clothes to lug around heavy weights, I bagged on my workout and decided to go for a walk. I headed east on Main Street and decided since I had my camera with me that today was as good as any day for another round of Photos Around Richmond. I think I only do this in January, when the city itself is not especially pretty, and when the weather is not especially fabulous, but then I am unlikely to waste a perfectly beautiful lunch hour trundling around with the camera.

As I headed east, I decided the top of the hill on Main Street where Rte. 5 and Main St. intersect would be my destination. Being a non-native Richmonder, I am not sure whether this is actually Church Hill or it is one of the other hills (I have also seen it labeled Union Hill on a map). Either way, this is where I was going. This is the hill I run up on my hill training days.


And this is how it looks from the runner’s perspective as you are just getting started going up.

Fortunately, today I was not running up the hill, just doing the aforementioned trundling (in 3 inch high wedge boots…my feet are very unhappy with this poor planning on my part). From almost the top, looking east, you can watch the James River drift lazily by.
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Looking back west, I could visually measure the almost exactly one mile between my current spot I was standing and the building I had walked from to get there.
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This gentleman is looking out over the City from atop his very tall pedestal.
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Everything below seems very tiny from my vantage point. I feel both insignificant and very large at the same time from up here. Cars look like Matchbox toys from up here and I can see all the way to the Chesterfield Power Station that is south of my house along the James River.
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And then I took this.

It is the first picture of myself since I turned 30. Unadulterated. Unaltered.
I got to the top of the hill feeling distinctly and intensely unapologetic about who I am. I did something silly today and wore some silly peacock feather earrings I bought for $2 last week. I like peacock feathers and I liked the earrings, and I didn’t care if they were fashionable enough to wear to work. I was feeling a bit rebellious and wore them.

Even more rebellious are the little stud earrings in my upper ear cartilage. I can’t remember the last time I wore earrings in those holes at home, much less to my rather conservative workplace.

I wear glasses. I have crows feet (too many years of playing outdoors in the sun without sunscreen). I have never intentionally plucked a hair out of my eyebrows. I don’t frequently wear makeup. The smile lines around my mouth have gotten very deep since I lost 120 pounds. My eyes can’t decide if they are blue or green, or gray. I do all kinds of unfashionable things, like wear my hair almost to my backside and only bother to color it once a year or so anymore. Or wear peacock feather earrings (actually, I think that is fashionable for the 13-17 year old age group right now…). I keep my toenails painted 100% of the time, but I have worn polish on my fingernails maybe 4 or 5 times in the past decade.

I run. I knit. I cook things my family likes to eat (we are having grilled Bessie Cow tonight!). I sing badly, but sometimes I do it out loud anyway. I sew poorly, but have enough basics to keep Byram and I at least somewhat decently garbbed in the SCA. I excel at washing dishes. I can plunge a toilet like no one’s business. I am either a horribly conservative democrat or a ridiculously liberal republican, depending on what day of the week it is when you ask me. Or maybe more accurately, I am a libertarian who appreciates some law and order, but really just wants to be left alone.

And you know what? I love all of those facts about me. I even like that self-portrait, taken at an odd angle with an odd, Mona Lisa-like look on my face. I love who I am and I don’t want to apologize for that.

Speaking of love…meet Melpomene.
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I am right at the half way mark with it and my progress has slowed (so typical of me). I came up a little short on yarn because I used larger needles than the pattern called for, but it worked out just fine. The first ball ran out just as I finished the last repeat of Chart B, so I just began the decreasing charts (Chart D) next and skipped over the middle point (Chart C). There should be no change in the effect on the shape of the scarf, just shortening its overall number of repeats.
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I adore the soft, solid texture the stitches create. I love the simplicity of the garter stitch short row sections, and enjoy the not too challenging, but not mindless twisted stitch patterns as well. I find the whole thing to be very soothing on my frayed nerves these days. The rich hue of the blue helps too. It’s a shame, but I couldn’t get a good true-to-color shot of the blue. Yesterday’s late afternoon sun threw off the color, and today’s lack of sun washes it out to gray when it really is an unapologetic sapphire blue.

12 in 2012

I have a goal to knit 12 projects in 2012 from my queue on Ravelry and from yarn in my current stash (which, I confess, was recently expanded between Christmas and Birthday gifts).

This month, I am knitting a recent addition to my queue, on yarn not so recently purchased, and if I had remembered the stupid camera (this is day 3 in which I have forgotten it again), I could show you some progress. Even if I had the camera, I have no decent light with which to take a photo anyway. Maybe tomorrow. In the meantime, I will show you a photo from the designer.
Copyright - Romi Hill
(Copyright- Romi Hill)

This is Melpomene by Romi Hill, from her 7 Small Shawls E-book that I got for my birthday last week. I am using Knit Picks Stroll sock yarn, in colorway Sapphire Heather and knitting on 4mm needles (US6).

It was the perfect birthday gift because it will keep giving. Only 2 of the 7 patterns are out, and the remaining 5 will post sometime between now and July if she is able to meet her challenge.

I almost cast on Kleio first because it has been on my list longer and I have the perfect yarns for it, but something about the description for Melpomene appealed to me.

Also in current progress is a pair of socks for my mother in law’s upcoming birthday. One is done and I have a toe done on the second, but it was hard to carry on a plain vanilla sock with the beautiful texture of Melpomene calling to me. When I get weary of twisted stitches and garter, I will go back to the Mother In Law Socks.

I haven’t yet decided what February’s project of the month will be. Rather than pre-schedule myself a monthly project like I did last year, and then ran into the problem of being uninspired by the project when it came time to knit it, I am going to go with the flow and pick up what I feel like doing each month. I had planned to knit a cowl this month and that changed when I got my Muses subscription.

Next month might be Percy which has been in my queue forever and looks challenging but fun, or it might be Saroyan, which I just ordered and received the intended yarn for last week if I happen to be in the mood for yet another crescent shaped blue scarf (in other words, doubtful, but when I get on a roll, sometimes it carries me for a while). Or, maybe I will get the gumption up to learn intarsia and knit these peacock themed armwarmers. I should have sufficient colors and yarn left over from the Corrie vest to tackle them.

Who can say what will wind up on the needles?

12 Goals for 2012

(I swear I didn’t specifically aim for 12 goals. When I counted them before making this post, I was pleasantly surprised by the symmetry though.)

– Knit 12 projects (1 per month) from yarn already in my stash and patterns in my queue or favorites list on Ravelry. I will get a post up about this soon.

– Run the Instant Classic Half Marathon on March 17th. The goal is 2:30, but being a trail race, I will accept any time between 2:30 and 2:45.

– Sew several new pieces of garb over the Spring and Summer, for all of the family. We all need new garb to get us through Pennsic, but especially Grace.

– Pre-plan monthly menus. That system works too well and takes nothing more than me applying some brain power to it. Saves us a ton of money and headaches when I keep it up.

– Find some way, some how, to find the funds to join a CSA (I want Victory Farms if they keep their system the same as the old owners). I will continue to fantasize about having the money to get a cow share from Faith Farms for milk.

– Run the 5 mile Dauber Dash on June 17th.

– Expand my cooking chops and learn new and amazing ways to eat unfamiliar vegetables. (See the CSA goal above).

– Work with Grace to continue to help her with her goal of learning to run along with Mommie.

– Run Warrior Dash on September 29th and earn a PR for that race (would like to do it in 50 minutes or less).

– Run the Richmond Half Marathon in 2:30 or less on November 10th.

Tighten up my nutrition to improve my performance in the races I have planned. I am shooting myself in the feet with my diet. I could do so much better if I was even more careful about what I put in my mouth.

– Present the family with beautiful handknit Christmas gifts that will keep them wrapped in warm wooly love.

I want to focus 2012 on food, fitness, and family, and improving the connections and relationships I have with each of those things.

Another Wash, Rinse, Repeat Post

Knit. Run. Play with Grace. Run. Knit. Play with Grace. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Throw in some stupid internet games and my salaried job (where a lot of the Knit. Run. Knit. Run. part happens…) and that is pretty much the sum total of my life. I spent a week run down by a cold, but am mostly recovered now, and thankful it hit before Thanksgiving, rather than next week.

I am working on a poncho with a deadline. That is going mostly well, and at least faster now that I am to the interesting part of the poncho.

I have several Christmas gifts set aside, but not everyone’s yet and time is winding down. Trying not to panic here.

Next week is Thanksgiving and my menu is mostly planned. Care to see? Things with a * next to them denote that the dish is as local as I can make it.

*Empress Farm Heritage Turkey w/ gravy
*Kim’s Mushroom Stuffing
Savory Toasted Cheese (blatantly non-local!)
*Steamed Broccoli (to appease the Girl Child who loves the ‘little green trees’)
Green Beans
*Roasted Autumn Veggies (very flexible depending on what is at the farmers market tomorrow)
*Mashed Potatoes
*Sweet Potato Casserole w/ meringue topping

Those are my contributions to the table. The rest of the menu is as follows:

*Fresh baked rolls (Ama makes them and gets the flour from the mill in Ashland)
Green Glop (yummy pineapple and lime jello salad brought by Greatma)
Deviled Eggs (contributed by Nana)
Can of Cranberry Jelly (I can’t help it, I just love this stuff so I put it on the table)
Pumpkin Pie (Greatma)
*Apple Pie (Ama)

Some of the dishes might vary based on what I find tomorrow at the market. The mushroom stuffing might get to be a local dish if the guy who sells the mushrooms is at South of the James tomorrow, or it might not. If I were making the pumpkin pie, it could count as local since all our pumpkins this year came from the Chesterfield Berry Farm and we stowed the pumpkin goodness in the freezer, but this is another way for my grandma can contribute. I might make a pumpkin pie of my own over the long weekend though, or more of the pumpkin bread I made last weekend that was so delicious.

Wherever everything ends up coming from, our little band will eat well. Looks to be only 8 of us now, technically 7 if you count Grace and I as one normal serving.

Tomorrow, I will be two weeks away from my 5K Jingle Bell Race at Stony Point Fashion Mall. I am not feeling as confident about my sub-30 minute goal as I was, but I am not as unhappy about that as I thought I would be. I have not yet been able to maintain the 9:30 min/mile pace I would need for the sub-30 minute 5K, but I still believe I will run a solid race and hopefully make a faster time than my 31:52 in April.

That being said, I finally signed up for my first half marathon. I am running the Instant Classic Half Marathon Trail Race on March 17, 2012. I plan to train for it with Kitty’s team who will simultaneously be training for the Shamrock Half being held in VaBeach the same day. They start their training on 12/3, the same morning as my 5K run, so I will be coming in a week late to the show. Hopefully her team won’t mind.

And that’s it in a nutshell. I have lots of stuff going on, but nothing that has been much worth blogging about. Like I said, it figured to be a quiet month. I hope to have more to share leading up to or right after Thanksgiving.

A Week Or So In Stitches

I have had precious little to say, or rather, precious little to say that anyone is lining up to hear. Cheyenne left us on Saturday, October 8th. I had the following week off so my Mom was able to stay in Suffolk and grieve in private. I was able to stay home and do the same.

I worked through it in yarn mostly (and some beer, I don’t deny it), and I talked about memories of her as a puppy and found old photos of her playing with me in the big snowstorm of 2000. I am mostly better now. No more crying jags. I still catch myself turning in the computer chair to look behind me where her bed used to be to check on her. I was looking for the gate to the backyard to be closed when we pulled in the driveway after work yesterday. I keep catching myself thinking “I wonder if I need to let Cheyenne out” from time to time.

Time, prayer, and knitting can do a lot for one’s soul.
Arroyo
I started with Arroyo.
Yarn: KnitPicks Chroma (New England colorway) (one ball and I had some leftover)
Needles: 5mm (US8)
No modifications. This knit up very fast and I loved the short row shaping. I especially love how the colors turned out. However, that said, I had real problems with that Chroma ball. 4 rows into the scarf, the yarn was broken. Not knotted, completely broken. Then there were 3 more places in the ball where the yarn had been knotted to a new yarn, and they didn’t even try to keep the colors together. Fortunately, the abrupt shifts in color were less noticeable in the finished product than I feared they would be. The colors were fabulous, but I gave the yarn only 2 stars on Ravelry because of the issues I had with this ball.
Arroyo
It was a very quick knit, but I was highly focused on it as well. Cast on on Friday morning and cast off Sunday night.

After that, still being hung up on half-moon scarflettes, I immediately cast on Annis.
Annis
(Check out my model! She had been playing dress up just before.) Sadly, I have no decent pictures yet. I only have photos from blocking, and it was shockingly difficult to get any light on the shawl.
Annis
I blocked it on my yoga mats over a thick carpet. That worked okay, but I really need to look into getting some of those interlocking foam floor pads like they use in kids’ playrooms.
Annis
Yarn: Malabrigo Lace (Lettuce colorway) (also did not use the whole ball)
Needles: 6mm (cast on only) and 5mm
The only modification was I used the Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off since that had worked so well on Arroyo, but I think now I sort of regret it. I think a less stretchy bind off might have allowed for more curve. Or it might not have. It was very difficult to block it in the shape I wanted. I think I would be more in love with it except that it rolls up really badly. The curl did not block out. Stockinette is known for its tendency to curl and one of the things I loved about Arroyo was the garter stitch body, which patently does not curl. I almost modified the body of Annis with garter instead of stockinette stitch, but I thought it would look more elegant in stockinette.

It does, but curling is definitely not elegant. It is still very pretty, very light weight, and the yarn developed a nice halo that compliments the pattern nicely.
Annis
I hope to get some pretty, natural light photos soon.

I am pretty much half-moon scarfed out for a while. I was going to knit this third one for me (note, the blog is mostly in Russian, but there is an English translation of the pattern on Ravelry) with some recently finished handspun fingering weight wool, but I have a lot of Christmas knitting to catch up on. Probably by the time that is all finished, I will be ready for another scarflette. I really like the feather stitch pattern and in the peacock teal handspun, it will be a striking project, I think.

I have another project to cast on tonight though. Pictures soon, I hope.

The Story of Corrie

So, my Corrie Vest kit arrived back around September 13th. Only a couple of weeks before Coronation and before the Warrior Dash and Montpelier Fiber Festival weekend. I dove straight into knitting it, just going with it.

For whatever reason, stranded knitting goes extremely fast for me. I think it has more to do with keeping highly focused and the frequency with which the pattern changes, and less to do with the actual technique. I am much more likely to set a plain knitting project down for just about anything than I am to set down a fair isle project because I don’t want to get lost where I am in the pattern. Also, I am more likely to say “Just keep going until you change that left hand yarn.”

Closing in on Coronation, I was knitting a couple of hours per night, but the weekend of the event itself, I was barely able to knit at all. In the back of my mind was this fleeting fantasy that maybe the sweater could be done in time for me to wear it to Montpelier, but you have to understand that it seemed impossible at that point. I had steeks and short row shaping, and purling in pattern and 3 needle bind offs in my future, most of which I was completely unfamiliar with.

But I didn’t let go of the little idea in the back of my head.

So I knit. And knit. And knit. Fiendishly knit.

Tuesday night last week, another knitter looked at it and agreed with my assessment that completion by Sunday was exceedingly unlikely. But I kept knitting.

By Thursday, I had completed the body of the sweater and it was time to steek. I found my sharpest sewing scissors, my silk sewing thread, which I then quadrupled, and started backstitching along each side of my cuts. That took a good long while. Then, after pacing around, wringing my hands, forcing back a nervous tear or two, and 3 or 4 false starts, I made the very first snip. The world didn’t end. The sweater didn’t instantly unravel or turn to dust in my hands. So, I kept going.

Snip, snip, snip. One stitch at a time, one float at a time. Snip. Snip. Snip.
Steeked
When it was totally cut, I had a beer and didn’t look at it again until morning.

Friday was a desperately slow day at work, and I knew I was 90% of the way to home plate. With the race on Saturday morning and going to the State Fair on Saturday night, I knew Friday was my do-or-die day to finish the vest if I wanted to wear it to Montpelier on Sunday morning.

I picked up and knit the first armscye with my longest 2.75mm circular needle was which just too long and uncomfortable to knit with. The shorter, 24″ one was holding the live stitches on the neck line, so rather than go on to the second armscye like the instructions said, I went ahead and picked up and knit the neckline with the longer needle, freeing up the shorter one for the second armscye. Worked like a charm. I left work about half way done with the second armscye, and, probably to my family’s dismay, proceeded to knit through our lovely dinner at the Mexican restaurant, knit in the quickly darkening backseat, and cast off while we were waiting at the pharmacy for some medicines.

I broke the yarn in the dark in the car, and we came home from our evening out and I displayed my now finished sweater vest.

When I pulled it over my head and it fit perfectly, I could have cried.
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I wove in some ends while Grace was in the bath and while Byram was putting her in bed. The whole body is woven in, but I still have a lot of loose ends around the upper left armscye and the back of the neck. That was fine. I could wear it like that.

And I did. I wore it to the State Fair on Saturday night.
Its Under There
I wore it around the house.
Bemused
(Grace took the photo which partially accounts for my completely amused expression.)

And best of all, I wore it to Montpelier on Sunday morning.
Montpelier
One of the highest compliments I think a knitter can receive is to go to a fiber-centric festival and have people look at the knits you are wearing and then be shocked when you tell them that yes, indeed, you did handknit that vest. When seasoned knitters gasp with delight, you know you have done good work.

I wore it to work yesterday along with my Warrior Dash finisher’s medal. Almost no one at my office understood the importance or the pride I took in each of my hard-won accessories, but I knew.

This past weekend will go down as the most insane and wonderful weekends in my memory. In fact, the whole month of September 2011, will be firmly stuck in my memory as one of the most extreme months of my life, between beginning with an extended power outage, a wonderful family BBQ over Labor Day weekend, fun in the mud at Coronation, fun in the mud this past weekend, and lots of ups and downs in between. Onward now into October, my favorite month of the year usually, and I am particularly looking forward to a week off from work next week. I opted for a “stay-cation” to get my house in order and hopefully some personal time to recover from the insane summer and get my head and heart ready for the holidays to come.

Steek, Steek, It Rhymes With EEK!

A steek or steeking is a knitting technique originating from somewhere along the North Sea; the Fair Isles of Scotland or Norway depending on who you ask. I can see each region independently coming to the same conclusion given their tastes for beautiful stranded colorwork knits.

My definition of steek sounds like this: the process by which one tests the health of her heart against wool and sharpened steel.

Stranded or colorwork knitting is dramatically faster to knit for most knitters (me being chief among them) if you never have to purl. The only way to achieve this is to knit your garment completely in the round, and then go back later and make openings for the neck and armscyes. There is only one way to make an opening in knitted fabric.

That’s where the sharpened steel comes in. You have to cut your knitted tube of fabric.

(This is the part where all the knitters take a deep breath and brace themselves at the very thought of it, whether they have done it or not…)

Some of the most seasoned knitters (I always imagine them as hardened old ladies wearing 18th century style garb from Scotland) go forth and snip without any reinforcement; they have total faith in the power of sticky wool.

Most use some method to reinforce the stitches around the point where the cut will be made. I will be going with a hardcore zigzag stitch from my handy sewing machine. I am reading every article I can find about steeks to get myself ready.

I believe in the power of Eunny Jang and Wendy Johnson.

That is the 5-stitch steek insert for the neckline of the Corrie vest. That is one of three places I will soon be slicing through with scissors. The thought gives me a little frisson…

What’s my motto these days? Aut viam inveniam aut faciam.

I will find a way or I will make one.

Seems quite literal in the case of steeking.