sweet, sweet misery

What is it with me and socks?  Theoretically, I think they’d be tons of fun to knit and wear.  Every other knitting blog I read seems to extoll the virtues of the sock.  (And, hey, I obviously have to jump off of that bridge too.)  Theoretically, I know how to use dpns and make various forms of ribbing.  In practice, I’ve even made a mini-sock.  And I have a lot of sock yarn and very fine needles.  Why, oh why does this never materialize into sock nirvana?

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Sweet, colorful yarn.  Winsome, lithe needles.  And yet, it is the bane of my existence.  I’m not going for anything too complicated.  Just a nice ribbed sock.  But I can’t get past the first row — things go wonky, the join stretches out in a very unbecoming manner, etc. 

And is it even possible to get the same gauge, using the same yarn on size 1, 2, and 3 needles?  I didn’t think so.  But it happened somehow, probably because it was 2 a.m. and I should have been in bed, not starting a pair of socks.

Maybe I just don’t have the mental concentration necessary to start a pair of socks right now.  Dpns with tiny fine yarn (neither of which I use regularly) does not make for the mindless, automatic reading-time knitting I’ve been specializing in lately.  But is it just a lack of commitment on my part?  To just sit down, focus on one task, and not quit until it’s done?  I have the same trouble with my reading and studying … the nagging, little scratchings of suspicion that perhaps this isn’t what I want to be doing with my life.  That knitting as escape from the ├╝ber-cerebral pursuits of grad school is not enough … that I shouldn’t be constantly searching for new means of egress from my daily life.  I don’t know. 

Maybe I just need to practice making socks.

$%#*! (Or, I do not have the strength of my convictions)

It’s just been one of those days.  I wasted yesterday being tired and mopy, watching too many Inspector Lynley silly mysteries from Netflix — because since I ran out of Morse episodes, it’s all been downhill on the British mystery front — eating frozen grocery store pizza, and reading celebrity gossip sites.  Silly Katie.  No reading; precious little knitting. 

And today was going to be better. 

Nope.  Woke up at noon to overcast skies, proceeded to drink too much coffee; the cat is asleep under the bed, leaving me all to my lonesome; Mr. B left yesterday for a few days, leaving me lonlier than I imagined; I’m supposed to be working; and after finding out that my remaining yummy muffin was moldy, I couldn’t even make toast without somehow dropping all of the bread — sans bag — on the floor.  My suspect, industrially-cleaned yet still dirty-seeming floor, right in the corner of my minute kitchen, which I am becoming convinced — along with the cat — is infested with, or at least visited by, some kind of vermin.  And I’m not even dressed. 

So instead of productively starting my day like a grown-up, I’ve decided to talk to myself in cyberspace.  Because, really, why do I kid myself that anyone reads this?

On a happier note: I received a "new wool winder" and "reeling machine" in the mail the other day.  Part of a spending spree I’d rather not discuss and of which I am feeling quite embarrassed.  Tons of fun — I wound every skein I could get my hands on and rewound my messy, inexpert hand-wound balls.  Alice, of course, was there to supervise:

Dsc00136 Because nothing can be accomplished successfully without the intervention of a cat.

While ordering, I’d obviously forgotten my pledge to spend no more money.  Ah well.  Guilt was off-set (temporarily) by the pleasure in my first wound ball.  (Let’s no kid ourselves, the recriminations are already flowing freely — a wound ball of yarn can only distract you from your upcoming credit card bill for so long.)

Unless, of course, you’re a cat and don’t have credit cards. 

More yarn-meddling courtesy of Miss Alice:

Dsc00142_3 Yes, that is the Rowan flaming (pain in my arse) being inspected, (re)wound after featuring in its fourth abandoned project.  I have just enough of that stuff for it to be an annoyingly space-hogging presence in the stash, without really enough to do anything interesting.  Which is how I prefer to buy all of my yarn.

Whinge, whinge, whinge.

I promise better spirits soon.

It.

I’ve finally realized that I’m pretty much a one project gal.  Every time I attempt more than one project at a time I begin worrying about neglecting the original project or playing favorites or get so caught up in the exhilaration of starting something new that I fear nothing will ever be completed and my apartment will be swallowed up by the lonely, dusty beginnings of things. 

See, I’m working on the Halfobi and I’ve got a couple of pairs of socks I’d like to make and then there are a couple of cardigans I have my eye on … but it’s just too much.  I don’t have that much knitting time — and what time I do have right now has to be reading time as well.   So no complicated patterns, stitches, counting.  Basically, anything beyond stockinette and the simplest of rib patterns is a no-no.  Anyway, with too many projects, I get distracted from the reading (very, very bad) and start to worry about all of the unfinished, barely started but yet already neglected piles of wool around the house.  Just collecting cat hair. 

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Because who else could be my faithful knitting companion, if not Miss Alice P.?  And although she is many things, she is above all else shedding

She supervised — and blessed with drifts of fuzzy tortie hair — today’s Halfobi progress and reading.  I finally sucked it up and knit on the necessary 75 stitches (adjusted for gauge) for the other front of the body — I’d been putting it off out of sheer laziness and unwillingness to devote non-reading time to the task.  Instead, I knit gauge swatches for socks, began socks that were destined only to be frogged, etc.  Obviously, a much better use of my time.  But today a good couple of inches of progress:

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The color is funky, but it’s dark and that’s the best I could do.  I’m not much of a photographer.  But progress!  I’m looking forward to wearing this when the weather will again tolerate wool. 

And in other news, I think I might have found IT.  You know, that special dissertation-worthy topic that just might be worth devoting a couple of years of your life (nay, your best years) to.  We’ll see.  Too early to tell.  Or to awaken the wrath of the dissertation Gods.

Patience.

I tried …

I really did.  I tried to make la madre’s house socks with acrylic yarn.  I even swatched the Red Heart soft yarn.   A nice big swatch.  But I just couldn’t do it.  It’s so shiny and slippery and weird.  So I packed it up and put it away with the rest of the cheap-o yarn that I hide around the house.  (Well, okay, in a closet.)  This disheartening setback totally interrupted my new sock-yarn-swatch project. 

And then this came today:

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Yay!  My very first purchase from elann.com.  Which was followed very promptly by my second order from elann.com when I realized I didn’t buy enough of the sonata.  And at $1.98 how could I not make up the difference immediately?  Anyway, two shades of sonata (sweaters for la madre), four shades of esprit (two solids, two prints) for socks. 

I have to say, the esprit seems great.  I’ve never knit with an elasticized yarn; it took me a couple of rows to figure out tension — I was way too tight at first — but once that was straightened out, it was smooth swatch sailing.

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The yarn has great give and knit up nicely on #2 needles: 7 spi.   Grumperina was right, though, the needles do need to be slippery (Addi turbo were fine), the elastic is very grabby.  Should make for a nice pair of socks — glad I didn’t waste any more time with that Red Heart.  It was not making me happy.

And since today was a day of much exciting mail (including the new Rebecca and a couple of the German back issues), I’ll share one of my first academic purchases of the coming school year:

Dsc00132Brand new!  And I didn’t have to order it from Germany!  Anyway, it’s a nice anthology of texts, which are, if not exactly hard, then challenging, to find.  Nice to save on the shipping and photocopying.   

progress!

Yep, I’ve gotten some knitting done.  Nothing fancy, just plain ol’ stockinette — which, of course, is rather exciting for me now that I’ve learned how to knit correctly — with some very lovely (i.e., non-funky) 3 x 3 ribbing.  Mr. Halfobi is around 1/2 done, I’d guess.  I’m working on the back section now — I really like how the Noro is striping. 

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The knitting itself is pretty mindless, but to tell the truth, I’m liking that aspect of the project right now.  I’m not at all excited about my reading, but since I can knit this as I read, it gives me a reason to stick with whatever book happens to be in front of me.  Progress on the knitting, progress on the reading — everyone is happy.  Especially me. 

It’s just so relaxing to keep the fingers busy while your mind is engaged elsewhere.  Sometimes I feel like I spend my whole day thinking about … whatever.  And worrying about everything.  So a project that demands nothing more than a small set of memorized physical movements is a wonderful, wonderful thing.  I just meditate. 

I understand what the Yarn Harlot is saying, though.  Sometimes you do want a challenging, interesting pattern that makes you sit up and pay attention to what’s going on down there with the needles and the yarn and everything.  Right now, I think the specials exam and fellowships and project proposals and C.V.s are just about all the challenges I can take.

Not to mention the up-coming semester.  In which I will be teaching third-semester German.  Wow.  The lovely L. (coolest person in the world, or at least the German Department) gave me all of the materials — folders and folders and files upon files of materials.  For that, I’m going to make her a pair of socks.  And someone of her coolness definitely requires truly groovy sock yarn.  Hence:

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I really like this yarn — so colorful and stripy.  La L. prefers knee socks — or so I hear — but I don’t have enough yarn for that.  So I’m thinking simple ribbed socks, calf-length or so.  The yarn is so bright and busy on its own that any kind of pattern might be too overwhelming.  And I don’t have that much yarn. 

(Beware the lurking coffee monster.)

On a completely unrelated note: Berroco!  How have I not known about this wonderful, wonderful stuff?!  Probably has something to do with this.  And this.  But no matter.  That is all forgotten.  Wonderful free patterns!  Yummy yarns!  And did I mention the free patterns?  I know Norah Gaughan is some kind of head honcho over there, so it makes sense that their stuff is lovely … I’d just never given the matter the attention it so obviously deserves.  Problem solved.  Injustice rectified.  Prejudice erased.  I’ve got so many patterns I don’t know what to do with myself. 

I also bought a load of elann.com cotton for my mom, she who cannot tolerate wool.  Esprit for socks (plain and print) and Sonata for some cardigans (plain and print).  She mentioned that it’s difficult to find non-wooly sweaters, so I made it my mission to help her out.  Berroco had some great stuff that looks to be my mom’s style; e.g., Pamela, March Basic, and Hibito.  Nice simple sweaters.  We’ll see what actually gets done. 

don’t you sometimes wish

that everything was just, I don’t know, different?  In a non-specific, if-you’re-not-part-of-the-solution-you’re-part-of-the-problem kind of way?  I mean, I don’t have a concrete idea of how I would like things to be, just not as they are now.  Studying is going badly, knitting is going slowly, my mom wants a pair of acrylic house socks …

Anyway.  This is my cat, Alice.  She’s the love of my life. 

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I adopted her last September from a local shelter.  We’ve been living happily together ever since; she doesn’t care about my studying or my knitting — as long as I keep breakfast and dinner time regular, she’s happy as can be.  Simple pleasures.

kool

Don’t I feel clever …

Dsc00118 yep, it’s Kool-Aid dyed yarn.  So much fun!  I didn’t think it would work, that I would rinse the yarn and watch the color slide down the drain, but so far the color is holding.  Amazing what 6 minutes in the microwave will do.  Did I mention how much fun it was?

I used 2 balls of Patons merino in natural; since I don’t have a nifty skein doodad (what’s it called?) I just used a piece of cardboard.  Kind of messy, but it worked.  Then I carefully selected my Kool-Aid colors (provided by Wegman’s 8/$2.00).

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Arctic Green Apple, Pink Lemonade, and Grape.  I just followed the knitty instructions … voila!  Almost instant candy colors.

My mini-porch has never been put to better use.  Here’s skein #2:
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I’ll admit I didn’t do a great job getting the yarn fully coated; there are some "natural" spots, especially at the top where I tied my "skeins".  And the grape got a bit out of hand — I wanted more green.  But it was still great fun. 

And in other news: my first non-twisted stitch project has been begun.  It’s the Halfobi pattern at chiagu.com in Noro Kureyon.

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This is the right arm and the very first few rows of the body.  So far, not twisted.  The stitches really do look much nicer.  And I feel so proud every time I look down and see my finger wrapping counterclockwise. 

doh!

I feel stupid.  Really, really stupid.  Tonight, for the first time since I began knitting again six months ago, I realized that I’ve been knitting incorrectly.  Yep.  The most basic stitch, nay, the foundation of all other stitches I have been doing incorrectly.

It’s embarrassing.

I have all of this yarn, these aspirations to knitting nirvana, and I can’t even knit

Yesterday when I picked up the damp and cast on for the Magnolia sweater in KnitScene I thought my 2 x 2 ribbing looked pretty darn funky.  And not in a good way.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my ribbing *always* looks a bit funky. 

See for yourself:

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The color is totally off (no flash for more definition of funkiness) but you get the idea.  Gappy ribbing. 

I investigated, using The Knitting Answer Book.  And there it was on page 60: a picture of twisted stitches.  Stitches that strangely resembled my stitches.

Witness:
Dsc00116 Twisted stitches, every other row.  No wonder things look funky.  I thought I must be purling wrong — that’s hard, right, purling?  So I flipped to Chapter 2: The Basics.  And what did I find?  When knitting in the English method (which is how I knit) the yarn is wrapped around the needle counterclockwise

All this time.  I’ve been wrapping the yarn clockwise.  I feel a fool.

I mean, there is an explanation.  My grandma taught me to knit when I was 8 or so, but I quickly forgot.  Every once in a while I would break out the needles and the Red Heart and go to town until I’d figured out how to make a stitch that looked vaguely correct.  When I started up again 17 years later, I used the same method.

Now, I’ve never been good with directions like clockwise, counterclockwise.  Diagrams and written instructions are useless to me; I need to see someone do it.  Probably more than once.  So I couldn’t figure out the diagrams, and the go-to-town method had worked well enough before, I just decided I actually knew how to knit because — hey — my stitches looked okay.  To my unpracticed eye, being the key condition of this decision.  And yes, wrapping clockwise (incorrectly) does produce a fabric that approximates stockinette stitch when alternated with correct purling.  But it’s still kind of funky.

And I checked: everything I’ve knitted in the last six months alternates rows of twisted / non-twisted stitches.

I’m embarrassed.

usps

So just when I was feeling spiffy about sending my sister the Mountain Mohair in day lilly and coral bell (she crochets) for her birthday, what should arrive in the mail?  Dsc00112
That’s right.  My bi-costal stash from home.  A whole box of yarn.  Filled with a lot of Lion Brand crappola that I bought at Michael’s for no good reason — except for that it was near the Starbuck’s where I did all of my "academic" work. 

It also included some photo-worthy goodies:

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The Rowan yorkshire tweed chunky in damp.  I bought it to go along with the "flaming" color in some kind of unholy sweater striping extravaganza … but now I think it would be nice on its own.  In what incarnation I haven’t decided.

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The bane of my existence: the wrap sweater with eyelets from Rebecca #29 in ggh soft kid (some kind of lilac color).  I have knit and re-knit and frogged and re-knit and started over countless times, yet the eyelet pattern refuses to come out correctly.  Perhaps I can’t count.  Anyway, I’ve promised the sweater to my sister and I will not give up.

I’ve cast on again and gotten through the first 4 rows of the pattern without disaster.  Only 15 more to go.  And is it just me and my inexperience or are Rebecca patterns unnecessarily obscure?   

I don’t have the strength to discuss the work I’m actually supposed to be doing.  This knitting stuff has taken it out of me.

Lady Stash-a-lot

Yay!  I finished my first "garment" of the sweater type last night.  Behold, the Matador bolero from KnitScene:

Dsc00100 I was so hypnotized by the beautiful Naturwolle (#3 Kunterbunt) that I couldn’t be bothered to knit a swatch; I just went for it, knitting a slightly larger size to be on the safe side.   I don’t usually wear stuff like this, but it’s so lovely … a dream to knit, always a new color to look forward to.  Perhaps a full sweater or cardigan is in the future …

Anyway, I’m quite excited about my first FO in quite a while.  As you might have noticed, I have trouble 1) committing to a pattern  2) starting once committed (before changing my mind once again), and 3) finishing the pattern once I’m started.  I guess I get easily distracted by every new pattern that comes my way; it doesn’t help that I love the instant gratification — which isn’t always forthcoming in knitting (or graduate school).  Kind of makes you wonder why I do either.  I like knitting — the process at least, if not pattern selection and commitment — but grad school … not so sure.

So, I’m back at step 1: I just can’t decide what to start next.

Speaking of which, I am in stash overload:

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6 skeins of Green Mountain Spinnery Mountain Mohair in spice.  It should be enough for a mini-sweater.  I hope.

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more Mountain Mohair: 2 skeins day lilly, 1 coral bell for socks.

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2 skeins Spinnery hand-paint.  Socks.

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more sock yarn.  Yes, I know, I’ve not yet completed a real pair of socks.

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Rowan biggy print: 2 skeins each of tickle (hot pink) and joker (multi), destined for Kim Hargreaves’ Huddle scarf from The Next Big Thing book.

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3 skeins Araucania Nature Wool in variegated greens.  Clapotis?

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6 skeins Noro Kureyon (color #88): bolero / cropped cardigan / shrug?

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more Rowan, this time handknit cotton: 12 skeins chime, 1 skein gooseberry for the Jenny cardigan by Sarah Dallas in Rowan 37.  Top-down sweater plans (i.e. bad penny) have been discontinued.

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Rowan yet again: unknown quantity of yorkshire tweed chunky in damp (not pictured), flaming, pecan, and olive oil.  Apparently discontinued.  I have no idea what I’m going to do with this stuff. 

We won’t go in to the Michael’s yarn: Lion Brand wool-ease, Patons wool, etc.  Or the books I’m supposed to be reading.  Or the number of times I had to re-edit this post to get the pictures in the right places.  (That can’t be right, I just don’t know what I’m doing.)

What’s wrong with me!?  No wonder I don’t have any money.  Looking at it like this — not to mention photographing it all — has made me realize that my yarn buying is a bit out of control.  The problem is, I get worried about work, fantasize about how lovely and wonderful and stress-free my life would be if only I could wear [place new pattern name here].  I immediately fixate, rush out and buy almost enough yarn (I don’t want to spend too much, you see), and then do nothing with it.  Because I have too much real work to really be able to sit around all day and knit.  But since I’m worrying about how much I’ve spent and how I won’t have time to actually get around to knitting it until 2010, I don’t get any work done either.  A vicious, expensive cycle.

No more!  I am cut off.  No more books, patterns, magazines — and especially, no more yarn until what I have is gone, gone, gone. 

And specials are over.  I *do* want my masters, after all. 

I think.