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.

so, so hot

Yep.  It’s hot here on the east coast.  I’m not from here — I just study here — so I’m not used to these awful humid summers.  But, let’s face it, the weather is the least of my worries.  What else is grad school for, but to give you that thing that’s "always something worse"? 

The worst part of it is, I like the stuff I’m reading.  I do.  It’s just attaching a test to the whole business of reading and thinking that gets me down.  And makes me crazy.  I just can’t sit down and concentrate like those other people diligently sitting in the library … I can’t even get up in the morning.  To do what?  Read some more books?  It’s not enough somehow. 

Which is why I started a quick, easy, sure-to-please, and fun-to-knit no-brainer of a project:

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The yarn is so chunky!  The needles are humongous!  I did this much in no time at all … talk about instant gratification.  The bright pink is cheering, as well. 

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Close up you can see the lovely open texture (just knitting!) and the ridiculous chunkiness of the work-in-progress.  This really made my evening.  Too bad biggy print is something like $16 a ball.  Not much a girl on a budget can do with that.  But a scarf will be good come winter. 

And in other news: my class sock!
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It is now stuffed and ready for its next life as a cat toy.  I think it turned out okay, despite the mistakes — I mean, it looks like a sock, which is a good step.  I also got Cat Bordhi’s book yesterday and am itching to try the two circulars method; I just didn’t have it in me this evening to attempt anything so complex as casting on more than 10 stitches.


socks!

So this sock business is pretty fun.  I turned the heel on the "class sock" last night and, I have to say, the feeling of accomplishment that goes along with a successful turn is out of all proportion to its actual difficulty.  Here’s the mini-sock monster:
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I’m really quite pleased with the whole process; no wonder people knit so many socks and enjoy it so much.  I have to admit that this phenomenon of the many-socks always kind of baffled me.  38 pairs?!  How could one knit so many socks?  Now I get it …

And, even better, I’ve found a use for all of that Patons yarn I bought a while back.  It’s not sock yarn, but it seems quite workable on #2 needles.

I’m still waiting for Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles

What is that behind the sock monster?
Oh yes, it is another cup of coffee …

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but just one.  I even used the small pot to avoid possible multipile-cup mishaps.  And I’m going to eat something.  It really was just the comibination of empty stomach + 3 cups of coffee + heat + exams anxiety + LYS time-wasting that caused the problems.  I’m sure of it. 

You don’t want to know about the book.  Trust me.  It’s called Discourse Networks 1800 / 1900.  That should be enough.

socks and coffee

do not go well together.  Especially when it is 90 degrees or so outside.  I spent a fruitless  couple of hours in my not-so-favorite LYS thumbing through pattern books and fondling the yummy yarn — I obviously can’t afford the 35 or so skeins necessary to make actual garments.   Eventually I left with some needles and nothing else … such restraint. 

In an attempt to calm down from all that coffee, I started the "class sock" from Sensational Socks.  So far, so good.  The cheap-o Patons yarn from Michael’s is working out surprisingly well.  I bought some #0 circulars and ordered Cat Bordhi’s book to attempt the two circulars sock method, but figured I should try to get through a practice sock first. 

I’m in such a panic about my impending exams that I’ll do just about anything to avoid my reading.  Hence the unnecessary trip to the store … which got me near, but not actually on, campus.   I just daydream over Rowan and Rebecca, imagining the life photographed so flawlessly and promised with each completed sweater.  I mean, I know that finishing a sweater isn’t going to make me a better person or that as soon as I put on said sweater, my troubles will not magically disappear.  But I keep on dreaming.  If only everything could be so perfect …

Bild_2_1I bet they don’t have to take special topic exams.

Or buy cheap yarn.