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Archive for the ‘Knitting Philosophy’

Paradise Lost

Dear Ellen,

dscn1192.JPGIt’s easier to bear knitting disasters when in paradise…or at least with a  “Blue Hawaii” in your hand.  I suffered grim loss on our trip to Hawaii…having left the project bag with my German Stockings on the airplane when we de-planed.  (You should always take it seriously when they say look around for any personal items…I didn’t.)  I never even took a picture of it, poor stocking.  It’s not a tremendous loss of quantity of knitting…only about 6 inches on one leg…and the needles were Hiya circulars (inexpensive ones to try the socks on circs method).  But, I did lose the Wollmeise out of which I was knitting them and, as you can guess, am not having great luck replacing it.  I did leave the second skein at home…maybe a pair of regular socks will now be it’s future.

Though the alcohol definitely helped, the fact that Dale helped me find a little yarn shop to buy replacement yarn was probably more effective.  And I do still have the pattern, so when I’m over my mourning I can recommence.  I wonder what other folks do when they lose a project.  Do they try to recreate the lost project?  Do they simply mourn and move on to other projects?  These questions may be akin to that of, “When your dog dies, do you run out and get a new puppy?”  (Readers, I’d be interested in hearing about your lost projects and what you did about them…if you are as absent-minded as me, that is.)  To help the recovery, Dale has also agreed to let me get a kitten…a thought that makes me feel much better.  Maybe the real lesson about comfort is to seek out small animals.

dscn1127.JPGdscn1140.JPGI did bring a second project with me — the Clapotis that I’m making out of Handmaiden Sea Silk.  It’s coming along very well and I loved knitting it in the sunshine.  I thought it looked pretty cool spread out on my leg.  (That’s the wrong side showing.)  I have 1-2 repeats left and then the decrease section so it should be done soon.  I plan on wearing it at one of the wedding functions…not sure it goes with the dress I have planned for the wedding itself, but we’ll see.

dscn1142.JPGdscn1128.JPGOverall, the Hawaii trip was fabulous.  We only had 4 days to ourselves, but we took full advantage of them.  I did a lot of resting and we didn’t feel compelled to go anywhere or do any tourist objectives since we had been in Hawaii just 2 years ago and checked all the boxes then.  We did walk about Waikiki window shopping all the high end dscn1139.JPGdscn1167.JPGstores and what-not.  And I got my picture taken with a movie star.   One day we drove around the island and managed to score a table at sunset at Jameson’s, the best sunset viewing restaurant on the island…very romantic.  Normally you have to have reservations days ahead of time.  Our kharma must have been doing well for us to just walk up and score an outside table with a perfect view.

I don’t think I had time to say before, but we really had a good time with Jenny.  She truly impressed Uncle Dale when she ordered Guiness at the Irish Pub at which we had dinner.  jenny-visit-3-9-09-at-jack-quinns.jpgAs you can see, we did have fun.  I was thoroughly impressed with the dress she is knitting…just stunning with great yarn choices and Jenny’s amazing craftsmanship.  I hope she’ll come back for a longer visit so we can connect more.  It was nice to have her exclusively to ourselves and to have full focus on her.  I love her personality and outlook…she’s the kind of spirit that influences people to be better people.

If I’m going to have any time to work on that Clapotis, I’d better go — many, many chores on which to catch up before bedtime tonight!

Love, Jan

Post-post-edit to let you know:  Yes, I did register with the airlines lost and found…in both Denver and Honolulu.  The nice lady in Denver tried to pretend that sometimes these things do show up.

Eye of the Storm

Dear Ellen,

I’m really grateful that you sent me that sock pattern, yarn and needles while I was in Baghdad. Although I had worked on a sweater* the previous summer, it had not been truly satisfying and my commitment to knitterly pursuits was under the assault of the entropy of daily life (and in a combat zone at that). The socks gave me a puzzle to solve — having never used DPNs, and never having done any kind of open work pattern. Working on them (and frogging and reworking) for 15 or 20 minutes a night put some calm into my day by making me focus on something creative and something wholly distinct from the battles of the day. (Pun absolutely intended!) Your gift was far more than the materials for those socks…and it keeps giving today.

YFB 3YFB 4YFB 2YFB 1These memories come back right now as knitting is once again providing me a calm in the storm. Yesterday started with a million chores/errands to complete in preparation for the start of our pack out of our household goods for the move to Colorado. The day was jammed with things that had to get done. The day was also the Saturday meeting of “Yarn for Breakfast,” the knitting group I told you about a little while ago. Although I wasn’t able to make the whole meeting, I did manage to make it for about 45 minutes…45 minutes of relief from thinking about the details of the move, 45 minutes of friendly conversation and support, 45 minutes of creating in the midst of household deconstruction. It’s times like these that I value knitting the most — for the knitting, most certainly, but even more for knitters.

Happy Mother’s Day!
Love, Jan

Sad First Sweater*The “why the h@ll did I put eyelash yarn on the neckline and cuffs??” and “why the h@ll did I make it 4 sizes too large??” and the “why the h@ll did I think this pattern would flatter me??” sweater.

Dear Jan,

25.jpgThe fascination continues. No second wristlet syndrome here – I picked up my Bohus yarns every chance I got. Here is the set. They are going to be fun peaking out from under my shirts, and I think I’ll really appreciate them this summer when air conditioning is excessive.

16.jpg13.jpgIt is one of those quirks of knitting that something on size 0 needles zipped by, while my sleeves on size 3’s are taking longer than forever. I am comparing tonight’s picture to one from a while ago, just to confirm that I have made progress, and the sad thing is it doesn’t look like I have. I know I have knit on these, I’m sure of it. (But don’t you dig those crescent moons that appeared in both sleeves – despite starting randomly in the middle of one skein?)

Other than a mixed bag of knitting, it has been a so-so week. Both of us got a touch of something – maybe the flu vaccine worked and we only got a tiny case of the flu, but it has sent us to bed early and even sent me home from work early one day. Wilson is such a stoic, he’d have to be bleeding from a major artery to miss work, but even he hasn’t been staying up playing chess on the internet. Fortunately we seem to be recovering for the weekend.

Judit is stretching our patience, too. We are having more accidents. She is spending more days penned in the basement bathroom, and I’m afraid we need to do it at night, too. I am hoping it doesn’t mean whining and barking. I’m pretty sure that would set us back.

On a positive note, Pearl is doing quite well. We’ve backed off doing the subcutaneous fluids to about every 3 days and he seems pretty peppy. It is clear he is an old kitty, though. But he still enjoys his catnip, and he still finds his litter box.

I hope they can say that about me when I’m almost 18 in cat years.

You, too. Love,


A knitting sandwich with TGIF for the meat

Hi, Jan,

Sure wish you could have been with Kathy and me last night. We were front and center (well, 2nd and 3rd row, kind of off to the right) at the Yarn Harlot event in St. Paul. I’m hoping you’ll be able to spot us when she posts about the event. It looks like Kathy was banished to the 3rd row, but really the woman next to us was saving spots for friends…who never came. But hey, we were close enough to grin at each other (over and over – S P-M was so funny), and as Kathy said aftewards, if we’d been next to each other we would have egged each other on way too much and probably would have been insufferable to the rest of the audience.

14.jpgThe Yarnery did an excellent job. They had a translator for the hearing impaired – it was so fun watching her sign all the emotions of the audience. 23.jpgThey had the Yarnery Family Singers (my favorite song was “My Favorite Things” – with the very funny interlude of “when the yarn splits, when the stitch drops, when I’m out of wine…”). 71.jpgThey had door prizes and knitting bags. They had the words to “O, Canada” printed out for a group sing.

And of course, they had the Harlot. She was, no surprise, funny, but what delighted both Kathy and I was her incredible comic timing and deadpan delivery. It will make reading her books so much more fun even than they already are to hear her lovely Canadian accent in my mind’s ear.

I’m sure I made an impression on her (HAH! – maybe as a slobbering idiot!). 41.jpgHere we are discussing the perils of raising teenagers and I am reassuring her they turn out to be really excellent human beings. 61.jpgAnd here she holds my socks and I get the honor of holding hers. Socks in my case because I brought size 0’s to work with a yarn that really needed 2’s. Kathy the Enabler pointed out that I’d be way happier if I just went out to the lobby and bought new needles as I was all abother about how dense the sock was working up to be. (Yes, the Yarnery also brought the store.) 51.jpgI am not sure why Kathy took pictures of the sock yarn and Hershey’s kisses, but in case it was important I include it here, too.

And then there were the other knitters. Fabulous stuff, and I really should have been kinnearing like crazy to capture the wonderful Kaunis and miters and Fair Isles and Arans. 32.jpgThe only shot I took was surely the coolest piece of the night – Mome-Rath’s Fair Isle knit broadside. Read all about her art on her blog. She explains the intent of the piece and its sisters far better than I could.

I think this was what is going to linger – some new connections, memories of a hoot with Kathy, the feeling of power in that room of close to a thousand knitters.

And today I got to remind myself that it was Friday and tomorrow is the MN Knitting Guild Yarnover. I’m taking a class on Bohus knitting from Susanna Hansson. I’m going to try to participate in the 1,000 Knitters project. I’m going to be blissfully uncaring that Mother Nature is once again gracing Minnesota with several inches of slush.

Now how good is that, eh?



P.S.  And don’t think for a moment that I didn’t think of you during the event.  Watch the mail – birthday might come early this year.

Experimental Socks

Hi Ellen!

I’m working on a new pair of socks. You would think that instead I would take the time to do the finishing on my lace tunic since the knitting is complete. You would think wrong. Evidently, I must allow completed pieces to marinate together in a zip lock bag for several weeks to allow the flavors to meld before I can actually join them. I’ll get to the tunic in a week or two.

Trekking SockThe socks are based on the Little Capitals stitch pattern and worked from a magic cast-on toe with only two pattern repeats going up the instep. There are a few stockinette stitches on each side to fill out the width of the instep and the sole is done in reverse stockinette. This is to make the interior of the sole nice and smooth. My delicate feet actually feel the purl bumps after wearing hand knit socks all day, especially if I do a lot of walking in them…like through airports…and I thought I’d try putting the smooth side towards my feet. I started the heel flap a little late — have very little gussett here, but I think it’s going to work because the stitch pattern is so stretchy. The yarn is Trekking XL — I think. Ruby chewed up the ball band and I can’t find it right now. I think she wants me to knit her a sweater.

I may have big news on a career move in a few days…I don’t want to jinx it though, so I’ll keep you guessing for now. I will say that if it happens, flights to Minnesota will be shorter.

Love, Jan

Knitting Connects Us

Dear Ellen,

I’m so glad you had a chance to reconnect with Jeanne and that you posted some pictures from the trip. I know she enjoyed seeing you and it looks like the food was both tasty and fun! We do look a lot alike, don’t we?! As Jeanne looks pretty good for her years, that hopefully bodes well for us.

The last few weeks have really highlighted for me how truly important are the connections between family and friends. I feel like our knitting and this web site have helped us draw our connection closer and for that I’m very grateful. I’m also finding that when I knit for friends and family I feel more connected to them in the process. Knitting the shawl for Marie’s wedding was a labor of love and gave me lots of time to explore my feelings and hopes for her as she builds her life with Heidi. I was pleased to see Karen’s coverage of it at White Coat Knitter.

These links between us and the others about whom we care has certainly made it easier for me to deal with everything that has happened lately and has made me feel incredibly blessed with what I’ve been given — in terms of those I love and who love me, spiritually and even materially. Your thoughts about Joy mirrored mine — and are amplified as I think about the 19 year old Sailor we lost two weeks ago to meningitis and especially as I work through Laura Mae my god daughter Laura Mae’s death. The fact that we four (you, me, Marie and Karen) were able to toast her at Kramerbooks and then commit to finding all the joy we could possibly find in the wedding the next day did make it easier for me. I was able to make it to Massachusett’s to be there for Cheryl for the viewing and the funeral — so very sad, but such an enormous outpouring of sympathy and love from the community. She would have been 16 in a few weeks.

Scarf for CherylCloud KnittingI am knitting a scarf and hat to warm Cheryl’s body and soul in one of the colors of Laura’s brilliant blue eyes. As I used Marie’s shawl to meditate on the joys of her future, am using this knitting to meditate on Laura Mae and what she gave us while she was part of this world. The yarn is “Kid Seta” by Madil and it is easy to imagine one is knitting a cloud. Cheryl is Catholic, I hope it will make her think of the heavens and give her some warmth.

Lace Tunic FrontLace Tunic DetailFrom the funeral I headed out to Colorado Springs and due to many weather and operational delays had loads of airport knitting time. I finished the front of the Classic Silk Lace Top from the May-July 2007 issue of Cast On. It’s in Elann Callista, a very nice cotton, linen, viscose blend. I had previously finished the back, so now we just have to see how long it takes me to do the finishing.

If you look closely, you might make out the doggie prints from where Max immediately Dogs Sunning assumed I was spreading out a blanket on which he could sunbathe. I wouldn’t allow him to do that, so he and Ruby decided they would curl up in the mulch. I snuck this picture from a window after I went inside — had I gone outside to try to get a better angle they would have started bounding around the yard expecting me to throw something for them.

Single CamelliaSpring has definitely made inroads into the Tidewater — my camellia is blooming beautifully, though it’s kind of wet and the flowers are browning quickly. Even so, they’re beautiful and they help me remember that all things renew in their own way.

Love, Jan

The Miracle of Wet Blocking

Hi Ellen!

Lo this many a year I have resisted wet blocking. Too much hassle when you can just steam block, right? How can I afford the time to let it dry? Surely it doesn’t make that much difference, does it? Okay, I am so very wrong.

Entrelac BlockedI realized I had no choice but to wet block Marie’s shawl…it had to be done that way. And it wasn’t so terribly traumatic. I also was a little surprised (naively so, I suppose) at how much it stretched out. With this in mind I considered that short entrelac scarf that I finished last week. It needed to be longer. So, it sat on the edge of the bathtub till yesterday just waiting for me to see if the stretch factor only applied to lace, or if it would also work on stockinette — and yesterday, it took a soak and then a stretch. Now it is of completely satisfactory length and I am quite pleased. The entrelac blocks are a bit more diamond-like, but with a nice aesthetic.

Sweater and ScarfWhen I saw how much the wet blocking did for the length of the scarf, I pulled out the “Sally’s Favorite Sweater” that I knit over the summer that had somehow ended up wider than it was long. (As it was supposed to be a tunic, this was not good.) I broke the side stitching to allow the pieces to stretch and gave it a soak too. Amazing…it is now longer than wide and may possibly be wearable! The sleeves look kind of skinny, but I don’t like wide sleeves, so I think I’m good with them.  Once it’s dry, I’ll try it on again and let you know.

Lily of the Valley ScarfI’ve started a new scarf based on the Lily of the Valley stitch pattern. Frankly, it’s kicking my butt a bit. I need to chart the lace pattern as the pattern book I have has it written out and I keep losing my place. Also, I’m using a Donegal yarn that is surprisingly unpleasant to knit. Little give and lots of scratch. I had planned this for the Red Scarf Project in the first place. I won’t miss it when I give it away.

Love, Jan

Oh, weekend, why do you go so fast?

Hi, Jan,

The weekend has been so satisfying. Well, except that it hasn’t. If it were truly satisfying, I’d be ready to go back to work, and I surely am not. I’ve accomplished a lot, which feels good, but I guess is only on the way to satisfying.

I spent yesterday accumulating a store of smug-osity by cleaning up my office – all of those piles of magazines, catalogs, junk mail, non-junk mail, even the crate of crud we moved out of the minivan when we donated it – all of them, gone (or at least neatly relegated to baskets, files, periphery of the office instead of covering the carpet in a continuous mulch). I am not sharing a picture of this wonder, as I don’t care to put my definition of “clean office” to be put up for public scrutiny. Still, you can walk around and access the bookshelves.

42.jpgI then got up and went to church this morning. There are many good reasons to be Unitarian Universalist, but the one that hit me today was that knitting is not just allowed, it is almost expected during the sermon. Perhaps this isn’t true at other UU churches, but at least ours has established this as a rule. The woman in front of me was working on a super Aran sweater, there was yarn coming out of a purse a few pews further up (it is not yet considered acceptable to rove about the sanctuary during service to admire works in progress so I’m not sure what was going on there), and I worked on my Fair Isle mitts. I got another cuff done.

112.jpgI came home and went into a fit of vegetable chopping – aromatics with which to cook some beans, more aromatics and cauliflower for cauliflower brie soup, and bunches more of everything for Greek salad makings . The soup was a fabulous lunch, the beans and salad will be dinner, and we’ll eat off the leftovers for the week.

At this point, my self smug-o-meter was red-lining.

I took myself down a peg by demonstrating total lack of will power. I was going to The Yarnery, a yarn store over in St. Paul, to pick up tickets to the Yarn Harlot event (April 10). 51.jpgThat’s all I was doing, picking up tickets. And maybe buying a new sweater defuzzer (depiller?), which wasn’t in stock anyway. So how did I come out with this?

At least they complimented a sweater I’d knit several years ago, from Meg Swanson Knitting. The pattern is called Faroese Sweater Variations because Meg has you use 3 different motifs – one for the front, one for the back, and one for the sleeves. I like the way you can see all three in the first photo. The second photo is me smiling at a star in my hand, apparently. The yarn, (from Coldwater Collaborative) is great to knit – Harrisville Designs Soft Spun, 80% wool and 20% flax. It is barely spun and you almost felt like you were knitting roving.36.jpg212.jpg

The sweater compliment alone would have restored my smugness, but then I missed my exit on the way home, an exit I’ve taken dozens, probably hundreds of times. I’m still a weenie, I guess.

But a weenie with a lot of nice yarn.

Have a great week.


P.S. I hope you caught that I get to see the Yarn Harlot in about 2 months. Maybe if you are nice to me I’ll let you touch my sleeve.

P.P.S. And in March I get to see Alton Brown speak and maybe even take him to dinner. I may have to rescind the sleeve offer.

P.P.P.S.  This just in – I left the computer to check the beans to find they had started to burn.  I hope Wilson likes beans and weenie, as that is what he is getting for dinner.

Knitting as Therapy

Hi Ellen,

Hard to believe the weekend is already over. I did my best to spend it in “down time.” As I mentioned by e-mail, my FMS is flared up and I have been in energy preservation mode. Fortunately, knitting has a lot going for it when I’m feeling like this — it soothes my need to feel like I’m accomplishing something, it distracts me from the pain levels, it limbers up my hands and I can do it quietly in a warm chair listening to soothing music. So, I got a lot done.

The border of the wedding shawl is 75% complete, so I’d say that puts me easily at 95%. I did the rough math and the shawl will have approximately 45,000 stitches in it…easily add another 5,000 for the ones I’ve frogged. I’m feeling very accomplished that it will have been completed in roughly 3 months…of course it’s not yet done and the level of accomplishment will really be determined when I see the post-blocking results and the look on Marie’s face.

I took a break from the lace to knock out the last steps of a UFO that’s been sitting around since last summer. I made and felted the body of this handbag last June, but just never got to sewing on the handles or making and adding the embellishments. Engelbreit BagI’m calling it my Engelbreit Bag because the roses remind me of Mary Engelbreit’s artwork. Once again I am ruing that I did not keep pattern notes as I freestyled it. It’s been so long since I knitted it that I haven’t a clue regards stitch counts or number of rows, but I do remember the basic instruction set. Maybe I could write it up as a freestyle pattern letting users choose how long and deep they wanted it. It’s mostly out of bargain basement yarn I bought at a crafts store going out of business sale. I think I paid $0.50 for the Lion Brand Bolero “Very Berry” bulky wool multicolor yarn. The roses and the trim are both in Lion Brand basic wool — my preference for fun felting as it’s cheap and I get a pretty consistent felting rate out of it. It’s worsted weight. Rose DetailI doubled it for the trim to match the fabric weight of the bag, but the roses and leaves are single stranded. The pattern for the roses and leaves are adapted from Nicky Epstein’s, Knitting Never Felt Better.

I’m really very pleased with it. It will be a fun bag to carry when on casual outings…and I deliberately made it long enough for knitting needles!

I have a long week ahead of me…Time to head off to bed!

Happy Knitting Dreams! Love, Jan

Silver Linings for Head Cold Weekends

On the one hand the weekend was kinda lousy — I was dealing with chills and fever most of the day Friday and a crushing headache both Friday and Saturday. On the other hand, that’s a perfect excuse to stay in and knit. And it let me finish the guild knit-along vest that we’re supposed to show off tomorrow night.

Knitalong Vest I’m reasonably happy with it. It is too loose…as usual I am too fearful of negative ease, but this time also because the measurements to which I worked were last year’s measurements. Yes, I’ve lost some inches — and I think I’ve learned the negative ease thing, so if I were making it now it would have narrower stripes of the various stitches. It would also be longer as I could use more yarn on length than I did on width in this version. Will I remake it? No…just not a pattern I’d choose for myself, but it will be fun to wear to guild events like knit outs and such…or at least to take along to show the Vest Sitch Varietyvariety of stitches.

I also started to design a shrug to wear to Marie’s wedding. I’m going for very simple — rectangle stitched up on each end for sleeves with ribbing around the opening and the cuffs. Looking for it to hit elbow length with slack. The object is to cover the upper arms in the MOB dress with something a bit fun, but classy. I’ve fooled around with swatches and settled on Shrug Swatchthis combination of lace weight yarn and stitch providing when I do the math it doesn’t equate to a one hundred hour project. The swatch took just under an hour, so I think I’ll be okay.

Speaking of the wedding, the shawl center panel is very nearly finished…hope to be working on border next weekend and I’ll have lots of car time as we’ll be driving to DC for two parties — one is Marie’s bridal shower. I didn’t think to invite you as I was focused on people in DC. If by some stroke of luck you’ll be in DC on the 13th, let me know. I’ve got to write Karen and let her know the same thing. So, I should be able to nearly finish the shawl by mid-month. Then on to finish Heidi’s socks — a perfect travel project for the trip I’ll be on that week, and then the remaining 5 weeks to crank out my shrug.