Monday, November 30, 2009

Takes 3, 4, and 5

I'm making progress on my KAL with Sarah - I've now completed 5 swatches, or parts of swatches, at least. You remember my slight mathematical misunderstanding in the beginning, I'm sure - well, I did indeed complete a suitable swatch on size 11 needles in the rosy Cascade 128 Tweed.

I wanted 11 stitches in 4 inches; after washing the swatch, I got 12 stitches in that distance. No biggie, I have size 10.5 needles around the house. However, even before I washed the swatch, I could tell this swatch fabric was too loose, too limp, too almost sleazy. I didn't think size 10.5 needles would fix that. I want this pattern to be a jacket sort of thing, not a slinky form-fitting sweater.

Thinking about jacket fabric made me think of one of my most successful knitted objects, Sally Melville's Not Your Mother's Suit Coat, knit with turquoise Lopi and Artful Yarns Shakespeare held together. It made for a very firm and warm jacket, and I wear it all fall and all spring - in fact, I wore it to work today.

So, I went poking through my stash in search of yarns to pair up with the Cascade 128 Tweed, something to fill in the gaps, so to speak, in that original swatch. I came up with all sorts of possibilities, from mohair to glitz to plain wool to hand-dyed-by-me lamb's wool-and-nylon. A deep stash is a good stash.

First, I tried the Cascade with a dark blackberry Harrisville Highland weaving yarn (I think that's what it is; the cone's unlabeled). I just happen to have a giant cone of that I bought at a weaver's yard sale. The resulting swatch was OK - here are both the original swatch on top and the Cascade plus Harrisville on the bottom.


After washing, the bottom swatch measured 11.5 stitches in 4 inches. Not bad; I'm reckless enough I'd just start in on the jacket proper on size 10.5s and check the gauge after a couple of inches. But I wasn't all that fond of the blotchy effect of the darker Harrisville against the medium-value Cascade. I swatched again, this time with some slightly glitzy Cherry Tree Hill Oceania - a variegated wool boucle.


Eww. That swatch didn't last long enough to even get a decent photo. Next!

Swatch #5: the Cascade with Harrisville Orchid Line, a lovely, but discontinued I believe, mohair, silk, and wool single. After washing, 12 stitches in 4 inches. I think I like this. This is a substantial fabric, just right for a lighter jacket. Here are all three (worthwhile) swatches, with the Orchid Line combo on the bottom.


In that photo, the red of the Orchid Line stands out more than it does in real life, so you'll have to believe me that the real effect is considerably more subtle.

I did have a panicky thought, though, while I was knitting that last swatch - I think there's only 900+ yards of the Orchid Line! And this pattern needs more than that! Ack! Luckily, I was wrong; I have 1225 yards of the Orchid Line, and I need only 1040 for the DROPS jacket.

I'm casting on tonight (with size 10.5) and I've already started perusing Etsy looking for buttons.

Also, if this works, I will have used up two sweaters' worth of yarn in one FO. I may be on to something here....

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Bit of a Hike

As I said yesterday, Sarah not only talked me into a knit-along, she talked me into agreeing to take a hike twice a month and blog about it. (This is what I get for whining on Rav about being out of shape and about not ever finishing anything. ;~)

It was perfect weather here today - sunny, about 50 degrees F, a little breeze now and then. Also, it's Sunday. This state doesn't allow hunting on Sundays, so it's possible to meander mindlessly through the woods without worry.

I wasn't meandering mindlessly, though; I was walking to Spirit Falls. I am lucky to live in a part of Massachusetts where there is considerable land protected from development. The Tully Trail
crosses many of those protected properties, and I chose a bit of it for this inaugural walk.


The short portion of the trail I walked today starts on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood-control dam, which created Tully Lake. I stood on the dam to take the photo above. Before the Tully and Birch Hill Dams were built on the Millers River and its tributary, the East Branch of the Tully River, in the 1940's, downstream towns such as Athol would experience major flooding regularly. We like these dams. They also provide great recreational opportunities. I started hiking at a canoe launch on the Tully River; despite it being late November, there were two kayakers setting out upstream.


I met several other hikers (and their attending dogs and children) as well.
Even with a few other hikers, this was a quiet hike. I saw no moose, no deer, no coyotes, no porcupines, not even any droppings - just one or two chickadees and kinglets. Until I got to the falls itself, this was a hike focused on the small and the underfoot.


In late November, the deciduous woods around here are bare of leaves, just shades of gray, with the occasional flash of white birch bark. On the ground, though, there are many little evergreen groundcovers.



Round-leaved pyrola. These green leaves were entirely under the fallen brown leaves; it was only the withered, upright flower stalk that gave these away to me.


Trailing arbutus:


Mosses of unknown sorts, unknown to me at least:


Christmas ferns. These indicate a richer, less basic soil than we usually have here in central Massachusetts.


A little tapestry of greens:


There's more short greenery as well, but here's something different - Indian pipes:


Indian pipes are saprophytic plants, meaning they have no chlorophyll and subsist by parasitizing soil fungi that have a symbiotic relationship with plant roots. In summer, the pipes are thickish and white; late in summer, they wither, leaving brown stems capped by the seedpods.

The trail here parallels the Tully River at a little distance. I caught glimpses of it now and then.


Across the river was a large red maple swamp, underlain by thick grasses and sedges.


A few trees had signs that Pileated Woodpeckers were working on them. This hole was about 4 inches square.


After an hour or so, I rounded a small ridge and started hearing water. Running water.


I came upon the small Spirit Falls Brook. Crossing over it, I started uphill. Straight uphill. This brook falls about 300 feet in about a quarter-mile, straight down off the long Jacob Hill ridge.

Spirit Falls itself is a long series of small and larger waterfalls. The inch of rain we had two days ago gave the Falls enough water to really splash and rumble. It was a lovely, lovely waterfall.



I stood near the top and watched the water slide off into the air.


I stood for a while, just watching the water flow. And then I turned around and walked back to my car, my face in the sun all the way.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New! Shiny!

Thank you all for your sympathy and well-wishes; I am indeed feeling much better, but I can tell I'm still weary. Just plain weary. So I'm being nice to myself.

Which, come to think of it, had nothing to do with finding out this week that I have the following in this house:
  • 13 sweaters in progress
  • 7 sweaters queued up (which for me means yarn/pattern/needles all matched up in a bag)
  • 26 sweater quantities of yarn in the stash.
That is 46 sweaters in some form of not-yet-finished around this house. (Also, it doesn't count the handspun, nor the laceweight, nor the weaving yarn, nor...well, anyway, onward.) (Are you all feeling better now about your own stashes?)

It's all Sarahw's fault, the very dear and charming Sarah from across the pond, who is asleep as I write this and thus can't stop me. Heh.

I met Sarah on Ravelry in the Abby's Yarn forum and then in real life at SOAR. She posted on Rav a day or two, asking for opinions on what sweater she should knit next, giving us several choices. I said something, I don't even remember what, and all of a sudden I find myself in a little knit-along with Sarah. (Also, there's something about walking, but that's tomorrow's post.) Sarah's very enticing and persuasive that way. Sarah's going to knit Mariah, and I'm going to knit something else, to be explained below. We'll swatch together and plug along together and whip each other (OK, mostly me) into finishing mode together, blogging all the while, of course.

Now, while figuring out this week if I had enough yarn of the right sort for a KAL of a specific sweater with another friend (details on that later) (lots of yarny chumminess going on hereabouts), I figured out two things:
  • I have 46 sweaters in progress, in the queue, etc. See above.
  • I did not have the necessary yarn (5 sts/in; 2062 yds.) for that second KAL.
Which is how I ended up at WEBS today with Marcy.

Where was I? I'm getting my sweater projects mixed up...

Oh, the KAL with Sarah. Right. So, since I had so recently inventoried the sweater stash, I was loath to go out and buy yet more yarn for another sweater (except of course that second KAL, which was actually the first, for which we're going to knit something specific that I can't tell you about yet because I have to coordinate with my second, but really first, KAL buddy) (got that?). Somehow, 46 sweaters to knit strikes me as possibly enough.

Thus, for Sarah's and my KAL I decided to pick one of the bulkier yarns from my stash, choose an appropriate pattern, and have a prayer of finishing something sooner rather than later. So, here's the yarn:


Cascade 128 Tweed, bought at a deep discount at WEBS sometime in the past 4 or 5 years.

And I thought I'd knit that popular DROPS jacket. There are only 1,040 yards or so between me and one of those mythical FOs. I am being smart - knitting from stash, knitting with bulky yarn, and knitting a pattern that many people think is great.

I started swatching, because I am a Good Girl and was brought up a Puritan and All That.

Then I realized that if I want to make a swatch that's about 4 inches wide, plus a little garter stitch on either side, I didn't need to cast on 50 stitches for a yarn with a suggested gauge of 11 stitches in 4 inches. I kept looking at this row and a half, thinking to myself, "Why is this swatch turning out to be 15, 20 inches wide? Maybe I better drop down 3 needle sizes...."


No, I needed to cast on only 20 stitches. Basic math had eluded me. How many years of high education and blah, blah, blah.

Take Two:


If this jacket continues in this way...well, that may explain why I have so few finished sweaters in this house.

P.S.: Does it strike you as odd I don't have 2000 yards of ordinary 5 sts/inch yarn in my stash? I may need to go shopping.

P.P.S: That being brought up Puritan? Well, let me tell you - back when my mother knit, when I was in high school or thereabouts, she didn't really care about gauge and swatching and all that. I think she knit to relax (5 kids in 9 years, ahem). She always figured that with 5 kids, a sweater would fit someone. However, I suspect she wants me to aspire to be a better person than she is - do as I say, not as I do and all that. Thus, I swatch (that's the Puritan part).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


It's been one of those days, and I'm going to vent here in detail, perhaps in such detail that those of you with delicate sensibilities may wish to go on to someone more refined in your blogroll.

So, last night I decided, yes, this really is a low-level bladder infection I'm dealing with, and I called my doctor's office. They're open till 8 PM most nights and I called about 6:30, maybe 7 PM. Got an appointment for 8:30 this morning. Okaaaaaayyyy - I'm used to a quicker response during normal business hours, like come pee in a cup now, yep you have an infection, here's your antibiotic prescription. Particularly since I now have only one functional kidney, courtesy of past doctor-induced "accidents."

But I'm not in pain, I can cope till the morning. So I do.

I show up at the office at 8:30 AM. Five, maybe ten-minute wait to be called into an exam room. Fine. The nurse comes and takes my blood pressure and temperature. Fine.

She gives me the sterile cup and sterile wipes and shows me to a bathroom. A small bathroom, with no sink and no shelf for putting down things like sterile cups. I manage to produce a small amount of the required liquid, getting half of it on my hand in the process and cursing the whole bathroom arrangement as I go. You'll be happy to know there was a sink immediately outside the bathroom. Fine.

I go back to the exam and await events. The doctor comes in somewhat later, apologizes for keeping me waiting - apparently, the server for the electronic records system went down, holding things up. Fine. She takes my history and symptoms, and prods and pounds my back (no pain - yay!) and my bladder (a little discomfort, hmm). Fine. She goes away to await the lab results on the required liquid. I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

The doctor comes back, apologizing again for the server being down, which apparently is holding up all medical progress for 50 yards around.

I wait some more. I read the WebMD magazine and the large-print Readers Digest in the exam room, but I skip the Scholastic Parent and Child magazine. I am thoroughly bored. I wish I had brought my knitting.

The doctor returns, asking if the lab results had been brought. They have not been. She goes off again and returns 10 minutes later with the results, apologizing yet again, as apparently the non-functioning server screwed up communications with the lab. This is not a big hospital we're talking about here; it's a small-town clinic. Whatever. Fine, dammit. (I like this doctor, whom I haven't met before; she looks very sweet and nice, but quite obviously has no tolerance for nonsense like this. Her steely eyes give her away.)

And why, yes, I DO indeed have a bladder infection. Fancy that. The prescription will be called into the local CVS; however, since I am already 90 minutes late for work - yes, that was NINETY minutes I waited around that exam room - and since I know CVS won't get around to filling the prescription immediately, I go to work.

Whereupon I find our computers at work are screwed up and we have no internet access, which means we have no email, and oh, by the way, we can't access most of the drives, either. I think it's all a big conspiracy to get me to file all the papers on my desk, seriously.

But the computers eventually return to their normal semi-functional state and I can finish an email conversation with the guy I'm seeing, who would like to spend all 4 days of Thanksgiving weekend with me, and because I am just a little stressed and weary and worn down and FINE, DAMMIT, I would like two of those days to myself. Alone. Quiet. Me time. We're dating, not living together, dear.

The work day ends and I drive the hour home to my local CVS to pick up the antibiotic before I dash home to grab something to eat before the Planning Board meeting tonight.

The prescription hasn't been filled yet. They just got it from the doctor's office, some - let me count - eight hours after my office visit concluded. I politely say I'll be back at 8:30 PM to pick it up. I go home, gobble dinner, and go to the Planning Board meeting at 7 PM.

It's short and sweet and we're out of there by 7:20 PM. Which means I might as well go home for an hour before I go back to CVS to pick up the prescription. Which means I have plenty of time to vent here to my very dear and patient blog-readers.


In other news, we have half a sleeve. If I had taken my knitting to the doctor's, to work, to CVS, I'd have a whole sleeve by now.


And how was your day?

ETA: You guessed it - I should have taken my knitting to CVS this second time, too. Will I never learn?

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Small Victory


Sweet Fern mitts, in Ashland Bay merino I spun three years ago. A fun knit, if you remember to check the errata beforehand, and they fit. Even more importantly, they're finished!

Next up: the Cottage Garden Pullover. I put this down when I needed something more portable to knit at SOAR, and its time has come again. First goal-along-the-way: The body below the yoke - only about three inches of plain stockinette, round and round, to go.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lesson #2B

Lesson #2B from SOAR: Finish things.

I'm sitting here at home, still sick with the flu I caught at SOAR, mulling over what I learned, what I experienced, what I felt. You'll know I'm well again when I quit posting!

I believe it was Monday night that we were all treated to a lecture by Sara Lamb. Sara has a wonderful new book out, by the way; all of you with any leanings towards weaving should get it. It's beautiful and inspirational. In the lecture, Sara showed us through her years of work, with a bit of emphasis on what didn't work, and why she finished those projects anyway. Her take-home message: Finish things.

For some reason (see the last post), that rings a piercing bell for me. I went up to Sara after the lecture and asked about all those projects one starts, and then sees within a few inches or hours or whatever that it just isn't going to work at all - do I have to finish those? Sara laughed (Sara is so completely sane) and said, no, those are called "samples" and you don't have to finish them.

I'm thinking of all my unfinished projects now, and there are some I can easily state are samples. The stripy thing part-way down this post? A sample, clearly. Overall, the idea is quite good, but as I said in that post, the sample I made showed the size stripe I chose to be too wide (even accounting for eventual felting). I did not finish this, but one of these days I'd still like to work on this idea some more.

On the other hand, there are many UFOs around here that are well worth finishing - they're proven patterns, in good yarn, in a style and color and size that should flatter me, if only I could finish the blasted things. Dear readers, help me here: How do I learn to persevere? How do I keep from flitting fruitlessly from project to project, acquiring and starting wonderful, inspiring, lovely new projects, but hardly ever creating something in its entirety?

Lesson #2

Lesson #2 from SOAR 2009: Acquisition is not creation.

I'm very good at acquisition. I do it well and easily and fast. Give me a Rhinebeck or a SOAR market or Mass Sheep & Wool and I can pick out my favorites like nobody's business. I have the stash to prove it, too. The shepherds of the world are very fond of me.

But I do not have the finished objects to match. First of all, I give away many of the projects I do finish, and second, I don't finish much of what is supposed to be for me. I think this needs to change. I think I need to become selfish, in many parts of my life. I think I need to reserve some energy for me, so that I'm not exhausted when I arrive at SOAR and even more exhausted when I leave, so that I'm not doing 3.5 jobs at work in the time allotted for one, and so I have some pretty FOs for me.

I started the lovely, simple Sweet Fern Mitts from Clara Parkes' new book, The Knitter's Book of Wool, just before I left for SOAR, so I'd have something to knit in the airport and on the plane, wherever. They are for me. Me, me, me. I'm knitting them out of some badly spun (but more than adequate for this task), 2-ply, Ashland Bay merino I spun in September of 2006. It's soft, it's a lovely heathered rose-pink, and I did a good enough job spinning the fiber that it's not very pilly. Wanna see what the mitts look like now, after a week at SOAR?


There's also the frogged and re-washed skein hanging in the basement from mitt #1. Sigh...

I knew after an inch or two that the chart in the book was wrong, so that the cable pattern is upside-down, but I could live with that quite happily. I tried on the mitt several times as I went along to make sure it fit, and it did, beautifully. Once I got past the stitches reserved for the eventual thumb, I did think it odd that the cable seemed to line up with my index finger, not my middle finger, the way the photo in the book showed, but I thought it was because I was trying on the mitt with the three dpns still in it. Also, there was that oddly placed k2, p1 column, when most of the mitt is k2, p2, but hey, who am I to argue with a designer?

Lesson #2A: Always check the errata. (Here, for this pattern.)

Once mitt #1 was finished except for the thumb, it was clear the off-center cable was not acceptable to my symmetrical mind, and the mitt was frogged. Now I begin again, more mindfully, let us hope.

It would be very, very easy to put this project aside - it's only for me, after all, and it's only a pair of fingerless mitts that don't match any of my coats, after all, and it's only a little project, after all, when I have so many other, bigger projects in progress I should turn my attention to. At most it'll use up just one ball of yarn in my stash.

But none of those other projects are for other people and none of them have deadlines. I am going to finish these pretty pink mitts, in yarn I spun myself, and I'm going to finish them for me. Because I'm worth a little pink pair of handspun, cabled mitts.

Lesson #1

Lesson #1 from SOAR: Learning new skills is HARD.

A confession: I cried in Stephenie Gaustad's workshop the first day when she was teaching us how to spin cotton on a wheel. Not as hard as I cried in Maggie Casey's retreat on long draw a few days later, when Maggie had us switch from spinning wool on a wheel via long draw to spinning cotton on the wheel. That time I had to leave the class, I was crying so hard. I think I was very exhausted by then.

Basically, I couldn't do it. I couldn't spin cotton on a wheel. I could spin cotton on a tahkli and a charkha and a great wheel, but a basic flyer wheel? No.

I don't normally cry all that much. Remember when I broke my ankle badly a few years ago? (No, I am not posting the link to the photo of my ankle in its external fixator and, yes, you should be very grateful I'm not. It wasn't pretty.) I did not cry when I broke it, I did not cry when the emergency orthopedic surgeon reduced the fracture (translation: squooshed the bones back together without anesthetic), I did not cry ever. At all.

So it was a big deal to cry in Stephenie's and Maggie's classes. (I really hope I didn't bother anyone who was in those classes.)

There are actually two lessons to be learned here. Lesson #1A: Exhaustion is not good. Sleep more, eat better, say no to more requests from anyone. I think most reasonably intelligent, properly socialized, sane people learn this in their twenties or thirties; I'm just a little slow.

Lesson #1B: Learning new skills that involve one's hands (both of them) and feet and eyes and brain and alllllll the leetle nerves among all those parts is HARD. And it's OK to fail, to suck more, to be miserable at the new skill. Where character prevails is in the afterward, in the persevering beyond the tears.

I've let a few days go by. I've slept a lot. I'm mostly over the flu I caught at SOAR. I'll probably go back to work tomorrow.

Yesterday afternoon I felt well enough to spin a little. I pulled out the fleece I was working on in September, a lovely pale gray Corriedale x Border Leicester roving I was spinning on my antique Canadian Production Wheel. Apparently, I can still spin; I filled about a quarter of the bobbin in no time flat, before collapsing into bed again. Here's the proof:


Today I got out a little of the cotton sliver Stephenie gave us in class, and I tried spinning it using long draw on the CPW. Bingo.


It's not perfect, but it's yarn. Cotton yarn, spun long draw. Only a few yards, but more than I produced in 6 hours in Stephenie's class. A few months of practice, and it'll be good yarn.

Character-building, indeed.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


I have the SOAR virus, so this post will have photos (a few) but only a few words.

Something about brain surgeons and Monty Python...

Roomie #1:
Roomie #2:

Stephenie Gaustad teaching cotton spinning:

My wonderful classmates in the cotton class, with Honorary Roomie #3 smack in the center:

OK, I'm going back to bed now, I've used up my quota of energy for today.