Saturday, October 28, 2006

I'm Not Dead Yet

I'm gettin' better!

Actually, I haven't been sick. I just love those lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I haven't posted because there didn't seem to be much to post about.

But there really is.

I finally got the replacement needles from Brittany. I was expecting two needles. I got two new sets. That's what I call good customer service!

I've started using the Knit Picks KIPer bags. I think I like them. As msubulldog remarked, they are very black. But the purse is just what I've been looking for. It has enough credit card slots for my cards and license, a middle zippered pocket just the right size for cash, a cell phone pocket that accomodates not only the cell phone, but also its little holster and two open pockets, one on each side. The small bag is the perfect size for a notions case and one or two small projects, like socks. It has one open pocket and one zippered pocket. The medium bag is just the right size for a project that uses a skein or two of Lamb's Pride. And I haven't used the large bag yet. I'll try that out next weekend at Stitches East.

It's relatively easy to attach and detach the purse from each of the knitting bags. The only complaint that I have is that the ball bearings that the little latches roll on are a bit rusty, which makes it very difficult to move them. The medium bag doesn't have a rust problem and the latches work quite well. I'll need to break out the WD-40 for the rusty ones.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with these bags. I wouldn't carry either the purse or the knitting bags unattached, because the hardware (or lack thereof) looks a bit odd. I tend to be a leather purse kind of gal, and the vinyl does not make me cringe and the fabric on the purse is attractive. It's also rather impervious to cat claws (no, we don't have a new kitty...yet).

Stitches East
So, Stitches starts this coming Thursday and I'm signed up for a glorious 21 hour of knitting classes, including two classes with Sally Melville. What am I taking? Here's the list:

  • Slip Sliding Away (Barry Klein)

  • Superb Seams (Margaret Fisher)

  • De-mystifying Gauge (Beth Walker O'Brien)

  • Design Your Dream Sweater (Leslye Solomon)

  • Creativity (Sally Melville)

  • Learn to Love Intarsia (Sally Melville)

  • Flat to Circular and Back Again (Gwen Bortner)

I'm hoping that these classes will help fill in the gaps in my knowledge or improve my technical skills. Fortunately, Gina lives in Baltimore and I'll be staying with her. She jokes about running a flophouse for knitters, because several of us are staying there. It's going to be a great weekend!

Knitting Progress
Not much and once again, there are no pictures because I haven't had time to take any. I did get in some knitting in public. My company had an annual meeting for which attending is sort of mandatory. So I pulled out my trusty Spirit Trail sock and knit through two and half hours of presentations. I was a bit worried when one of the founders and the CEO walked past after their part of the presentation, but they didn't seem to notice. Whew! I made quite a bit of progress and am almost at the point of working the heel. I'm very excited about this sock. Alas, I have to give up knitting on it for knitting a gazillion swatches for the Stitches classes.

I did manage to relearn how to knit back backwards and let me tell you, it's quite a useful technique. A more useful technique would be for me to learn how to count to four. I miscounted the number of rows of white before the Fair Isle band started so now have to rip out once again. Sigh...

Searching for Miss Kitty
We went to the pound today to look for a cat. We must have played with about five or six cats. One was Claire, who is a bit of feral kitten. She was very sweet and liked to play but she was very wary. I think she stole my heart because of her timidness. Then we played with Phoenix, a stray kitten. She was relatively high energy, but had a bit of a gas problem (as did Jez when we got her; it's amazing how such a tiny animal can be so odiferous). We also "auditioned" a couple of older cats. Timone is a gorgeous brown tabby with the most beautiful eyes. The picture on the website doesn't do her justice. She was a bit shy and her sister was adopted recently, so she's probably a bit lonely. Lucky was probably the most confident of the cats that we looked at and the only one who rubbed against our legs. And then there were Spit and Spat, the cutest little black kittens...extremely high energy! You can see the potential kitties here. It's going to be so hard to make a decision.

Other Stuff
Tom runs the Marine Corps Marathon tomorrow. He's not going to try for a PR since it's "just" a training run for the JFK 50 in two weeks. It looks like the temperature for tomorrow is going to be perfect, but it's going to be very, very windy, which will be absolutely miserable. With any luck, the wind will blow itself out tonight and tomorrow will be calm. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Busy, Busy!

The weekend was chock-full of activities. I got home Friday night to find our street closed for the Homecoming Parade, which mightily peeved me since I had chosen to wear a skirt and heels to work and didn't particulary want to lug a heavy laptop all the way home. It would have been nice if the town had notified residents that the street was going to be closed. After I recovered from my snit, Tom and I headed down to Tuskie's to meet some friends for a drink, to be followed by pizza at Fire Works, a new pizza place in town. They have an excellent selection of beers and the pizza is very, very good. I had the Boston Meets Naples pizza, which had clams, crushed red pepper, and potatoes on it. Yum!

I was up relatively early on Saturday and made a quick run to the farmers market and grocery store to get supplies for the Fall Salad of Corn, Cherry Tomatoes, and Oven-Roasted Green Onions that I was going to make for the races. I roasted the onions, then headed out to get my hair cut; came back and finished the salad and then Tom and I drove out to the shelter to look for a cat.

There were a lot of cats and kittens and all of them were cute. But we didn't get one. We were a little pressed for time and the staff's time seemed to be taken up with helping a woman and her little daughter, who was totally captivated by a couple of the kittens. They had lost their cat two months ago and had come to the shelter to see if it was there. It wasn't, so the woman said they'd take two cats, sort of like they were going get two pairs of socks. We decided to come back in a couple of weeks, hopefully the atmosphere will be a little better.

We stopped long enough to pick up Leigh and then it was off to the races. This was the 27th running of the Morven Park Steeplechase. There were eight races, spaced out between 1:30 and 5:00. The running club had a space on the rail in the infield and we had a good view of the horses coming over the fences. A couple of horses lost their riders, but continued to run anyway. In fact, one of the riderless horses came in second place! Sadly, though, one horse took a very bad fall and had to be put down right then. We think it broke its neck. That race was a flat race, no jumps. It was very upsetting.

We dined late last night because of the homecoming dance. Apparently, the dance is now almost as big as senior prom. Who knew? Certainly not us, since we don't have kids and all of our friends' children are out of high school.

I received a very nice robe from Tom (my old robe was in tatters) and joy of joys...a new salad spinner! The old one's handle broke and we risked lacerations every time we used it.

Thanks to everyone for the fine birthday wishes!

Knitting News
There wasn't much knitting progress this weekend. I frogged the Christine sweater and started over. There was no sock progress, although the sock did get shown off. And I'll post pictures of my Mountains Colors acquisition soon.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Last Weekend--Recap

In a word...good. Very good.

This weekend was the 4th Annual PJ Party, sponsored by Bob at Hunt Country Yarns, one of the LYSs in my neck of the woods. On Friday afternoon, 35 knitters (including one man!) converged on the Clarion Hotel in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, for a weekend filled with knitting, eating, and chocolate. It was sheer heaven!

On Saturday, Bob introduced the secret guest (how he manages to keep the theme and the guest secret is beyond me). This year's guests were Leslie and Chris from Mountain Colors. Leslie (one of the founders) started the program by talking about how she and Diana started Mountain Colors and where they get their inspiration (the mountains and flora of Montana). She explained their dyeing operation, from tying the yarn to the final shipped product. She illustrated her talk not only with slides of Montana (I'm ready to go there!) and the Mountain Colors dyeworks, but also with samples that showed off their beautiful yarns.

After lunch, we reconvened for a little hands-on work. Leslie had originally wanted to have us try our hand at dyeing, but alas, the hotel wouldn't allow it (too messy). So as an exercise in color, she had us choose a picture from a magazine and analyze the colors in it, both foreground and background. It's amazing how many colors are actually in a photo, once you really look at it. The second part of that exercise was to try to create a "dye sequence" using watercolors and the colors in the photo. It's a lot harder than it seems (that makes me appreciate the Mountain Colors colorways that much more). The third exercise was to choose two skeins from the little mill end packet that they gave to each of us and try out several stitch patterns that complement handpainted yarn. This was truly an eye-opening experience for me. For example, slip stitches will move the yarn around to break up the striping or patterning.

After we finished with the "formal" part of the program, Leslie and Chris, with the help of Bob and Valerie, pulled out the trunk show. They had models of their patterns knit with (what else?) their yarn. Even better, they had a variety of their yarn for sale. See?

Need I mention that there then ensued a shopping frenzy? This Libran broke her pledge not to buy any more yarn until the very small stash was depleted. But I couldn't help myself...there were two yarns that I thought would make a great vest and highlight my eyes. It was a once in a lifetime chance! To be fair, I selected the yarn, calculated the price, then put it back. I did this about three or four times before caving. The final justification was "Happy Birthday to me!" (Leslie and I share a birthday, by the way. How cool is that?)

There was also a fair amount of horse yarn trading of our mill ends. Here are a couple of attendees quite engrossed in choosing the perfect combination of yarns:

And here are Leslie and Chris, getting in some precious knitting time:

If having Mountain Colors there wasn't good enough, there were also door prizes galore, donated by various vendors. I was the lucky recipient two balls of Fortissima Socka, color 1026, which is a light grey wth a thin strand of orange and black. It will make a perfect pair of socks for Tom. After dinner, we knit far into the night.

Sunday dawned clear and bright. We had a good breakfast (I particularly liked the hash browns) and then repaired to the room next door for the final knitting session of the day. Everyone was more relaxed and it was sad to see our numbers slowly dwindle as people made their way home. I'll definitely go back next year.

Cool Knitting Tricks
One of the highlights of the weekend was learning different knitting techniques from the various attendees. The best thing I learned was knitting two sleeves at the same time. Not only is that cool, it's brilliant! You don't have to keep track of the rows and both sleeves will be knit with the same tension. The next time I swatch knit sleeves for a sweater, I'll use that technique!

In other knitting progress, the Spirit Trail sock is coming along. This is a sock of my own design (gasp!) and I'm very pleased with it at this point. I haven't decided on a heel or toe style, but I'm leaning toward a short row heel. That will be challenging. I'll post pictures later.

On the Christine sweater, I've decided to suck it up and knit back backwards. I think that's the only way that I'm going to knit the Fair Isle bands correctly. I also think I found that error that was causing the pink row to be off.

Next up: the Knit Picks KIPer bags arrived and I'm giving them a test run. Look for a product "review" soon!

Weekend Preview
This weekend is going to be chock-full of activities. In addition to a haircut in an attempt to tame my unruly locks, we'll also be looking for a new cat or kitten, attending the Morven Park races, possibly attending the Fall into the Arts festival, and celebrating someone's birthday. And that's just Saturday!

I'm getting tired just thinking about it!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

My Mojo's Done Gone

The streak of bad knitting luck continues. I thought I'd start knitting the Debbie Bliss Shawl-Collared Jacket wth Fair Isle Bands for Christine (Jenna's older sister). It's simple stockinette with some stranded color work. How hard could it be? After all, I knit a Norwegian type mitten for the Knitting Olympics and found the colorwork to be fairly easy. This should be a walk in the park.

The sleeve is whuppin' my butt.

The first Fair Isle band lulled me into a false sense of security, making me think that it was going to be a piece of cake. The second Fair Isle band looked easy, too. But for some reason I can't get the single pink stitch to be centered in the trio of pale blue stitches in the previous row. I've got the correct number of stitches on the needle. I've got the correct sequence of pink and blue going. But it still refuses to come out right. Arrgh! Note to self: it's far easier to knit Fair Isle in the round.

To soothe my aggravated soul, I pulled out a skein of luscious hand-painted Merino sock yarn in warm autumn colors and started working on designing a pair of socks. The yarn is from Spirit Trail and I acquired it at Maryland Sheep and Wool this past May.'s so yummy and the colors are gorgeous! I'm swatching several different stitch patterns to see what works best with the color sequencing. I was knitting on it today at work and wouldn't you know it? I snapped another needle (a 2.0mm this time). What's goin' on with my knitting mojo?

And then I did something I swore I'd never do. I ordered from Knit Picks. I ordered two sets of metal DPNs. I've heard good things about their needles. And given the recent run of bad luck with my wood DPNs, I thought I'd give metal a try. I have several misgivings, though. The first is that I like knitting with 5-inch needles. Knit Picks DPNs are six inches. The other is their sizing. Their size US 0 is 2.0mm, which seems to be standard. Their size US 1 is 2.50mm whereas the Brittany size 1s are 2.25mm. This is going to be a bit of a problem because the Leaves of Grass sock is knit on 2.25mm needles. So much for using the Knit Picks needles for knitting those tight k2tog.

I also ordered the KIP bag set. I'm in the market for a new purse and a workable knitting bag (or bags). I'm as picky about how a purse "fits" me as I am with clothes. It has to hold all my stuff (which I try to keep to a minimum) and keep it organized. I'm forever losing things in the bottom. If this can solve my problem, I'll be ecstatic. But I'm skeptical. Stay tuned for a product review.

Is it just me or is the world really going to hell in a handbasket? The current scandal on the Hill, the recent school killings, the situation in Iraq, North Korea's nuclear weapons test announcement, Iran, Aghanistan... It's all extremely discouraging.

All of the above would be easier to handle if I had a cat to pet. And one might be coming sooner than later. Tom actually went to the county animal shelter on Monday to look at a kitten that was advertised in the Loudoun section. It had already been adopted, but they had lots of cats and kittens. We might have a furry addition to the family in a couple of weeks!

And that will go a long way to make the world right again.