Friday, January 30, 2009

Steeky Situation

Sometimes, finishing a project means doing some pretty scary things. In this case, it means I get to cut up my knitting.

I've been working on my Kauni Cardigan for over a year now. I've said lots of optimistic things about having a new sweater soon, but haven't come very close to that.

Until now - here's the body of the sweater, all ready for steeking.

Um, yeah. Steeking. Cutting up my precious knitting, and hoping nothing will go wrong in the process.

Fortunately the process is very much a "measure twice, cut once" sort of thing, with lots of opportunities to notice and avoid screwups. So here the cutting line for the neck has been marked, and then I've put two lines of machine stitching on either side, in hopes of avoiding any unfortunate unraveling. This Kauni yarn is pretty sticky, so I suspect it's not too likely to unravel on its own, but one can't be too careful with sixteen months' worth of knitting (give or take a few), right?

It's also a very stinky yarn, which may be why I had such persistent offers of help with the steeks. Aaron's suitcase smelled like sheep when he brought it home, and I can feel the lanolin on my hands whenever I knit. But that's probably good for me - and I know it will soften and bloom nicely once it's washed and blocked.

It's not quite time for that yet, but I've cleared a major hurdle: My first steek, cut and ready to go. Wow.

In retrospect, a steek-sewing plan would have been in order. I tried to do most of the sewing, and then start the cutting. I should have sewn and cut the small steeks for the neckline first, then gone back and sewn and cut the front opening. Fortunately, I had the sense to sew the armholes last, and to not cut them yet. There's still some work to do (and I need some new needles) before I'm ready to work on the arms - but I've definitely made progress on the sweater. Maybe I really will have it finished while it's still cold enough to need a sweater.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Goodbye, Rat

So I didn't get to wear them much during the Year of the Rat, but at least I'll be wearing them before the year ends.

I've finished another backlogged project - my Lickety Split socks with the "Rat" kanji, started on last year's Lunar New Year to celebrate my own zodiac year, the rat. The socks are blue because I'm a water rat. And they have fish buttons, rather than rats, just because I like fish.

I'd meant for the buttons to be functional, but forgot to put buttonholes in on the second sock. That may be just as well, since they're kind of tight - I think there would be too much strain on the buttonholes.

So they're finished, and reasonably comfortable. The first rat sock got to travel quite a bit - it met the Yarn Harlot, and attended an election rally, but the second one was mostly a stay-at-home project. BUT the second one was what I worked on while watching the Inauguration. There are a lot of new beginnings to celebrate this month.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Craft Gifts

Inspired by my new friend Wyn, I'm making an offer:

The first five people to respond to this with a comment will receive a handmade gift from me.

But wait, there are details, and a catch - so you'll want to read everything!

  1. You will receive something handmade my me. It could be fiber, or fabric, or food, or glass, or anything else that strikes my fancy.
  2. It will be something I make with you in mind, but that doesn't guarantee you'll like it.
  3. You'll receive it sometime during this year. No promises when - that's more fun, right?
  4. I reserve the right to do something strange.
And the catch: If you accept this offer, you have to promise to make the same offer on your blog or in some other way, and send homemade happiness to five other people.

So there you go - if you leave a comment, please make sure it includes some way to contact you. I'm the first person to respond to Wyn's offer - let's see how intrepid my readers are!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Celebrating and Shopping

I'm home from a lovely weekend with the Knitters for Obama. The whole thing was even more fun than I'd hoped - it's amazing how well knitters click when they get together. It was a joy to get to meet my fellow KFBO moderators, and of course we'll have to do it again!

We started the day with brunch at Cafe Selmarie, where I was able to indulge my love of Eggs Benedict. Franklin became an honorary member of our group because he was graciously hosting Blackbunny, and it was a joy to have him along. It's so nice to be able to tell someone in person how much you enjoy their work.

And speaking of enjoyment, the Cafe Selmarie makes really tasty cookies. They sold out of their entire tray of Obama cookies ("cookies you can believe in") before we finished eating, but I was lucky enough to get one in the cookie assortment I brought home. All of their baked goods looked delicious, and I can report their rolls went very nicely with the pot roast Aaron had waiting for me at home.

After brunch we sent Retroknit and Franklin home, and Blackbunny to the airport, then Minjo and I returned to Loopy Yarns yet again, this time to meet up with a group of would-be tourists. Here you see CJaneKnit, seephillips, Laiane, pezwitch, knitterly, and minjo. Knitterly turned out to be a Chicago Architecture tour guide, and so she volunteered to give a tour once we revealed we didn't have formal sightseeing plans. It was a terribly cold day, but we were all wearing wool - and she gave a great tour! I was only able to stay for the first half, but with just that I was able to share a whole collection of tidbits with Aaron, sounding like a kid home from a field trip. Thank you, knitterly!

I didn't take a lot of pictures as we toured, but here's something neat - these banners are up all over Chicago. I think they're pretty excited about the local boy making good - or else the Mayor is happy to have another excuse to put his name on things.

And now, the fruits of my trip - since Loopy Yarns was so kind about hosting us, it seemed only polite to buy a few things.

Like Blackbunny's book, of course! I probably would've bought it just because it's hers, but looking through it I'm really glad I did. She explains all the quirks of hand-dyed sock yarn, and then offers some solutions for avoiding the nasty stripes that so many of those yarns seem to get. So now, I hope, I'll be able to have socks that look as nice as the skein of yarn does.

She autographed it, of course, with a message that was naughty but not terribly obscene.

I'd promised myself I could buy Franklin's yarn on this trip, but they were sold out of the Shepherd Sport, and Shepherd Sock just has too much nylon to be properly warm. So I got this pretty yarn from Fleece Artist instead - Nova. We don't get Fleece Artist yarn at home, and I just love their colors. Choosing just one was really difficult.

If you buy yarn at Loopy Yarns, you get to take your goodies home in a tote bag designed by Franklin. And he autographed it for me! So I left my book at home, and I didn't get my yarn, but I finally had something for him to sign.

It was a great weekend, and I can't wait to go back. But maybe I'll wait until some of the snow goes away - even knitwear can only do so much for keeping warm in the Windy City.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Knitting with the Knitters for Obama

The Bad Dogs are in Bloomington, and I'm in Chicago, celebrating Inauguration weekend with a whole bunch of Knitters for Barack Obama.

I came up Friday night and first met Minjo and her shovel - she had to dig me out after we established that I am not good at city parking in the snow. I'm pleased to report that she lives in a very friendly neighborhood - two total strangers stopped to help push my car off the snowdrift. I really hate parallel parking.

Together, we headed back down to Loopy Yarns, where we hooked up with Retroknit and Blackbunny, bringing together four of the five Knitters for Obama moderators. Jazzypom couldn't come, which is perfectly reasonable since she's British, but we missed her terribly. We're all grateful for her doing so much to help the group, when she could have easily spent the past years saying "you didn't like our George, so we don't really care that you're stuck with this one now!"

Blackbunny signed copies of her new book, and we posed for lots of group pictures of the four moderators - here I give you Blackbunny, Minjo, Retroknit, and me.

And here is where I reveal just how much of a geek I am, because I am so excited to report that Franklin took the above picture.

Today I was very good and very bad. I finished another project - my Wavy Gravy III hat.

But I also started another one....

...Wavy Gravy V, from some leftover Patons Shetland Chunky.

I'd feel more guilty about starting a new project, but I finished it the same day. Both hats are destined for cancer patients at the University of Chicago, as part of the Knitters for Obama chemo cap collection, so I've done a good deed by being a bad and impulsive knitter.

These are the hats they'll be joining - 200 of them, ready to go for Monday. The story even made USA Today!

Tonight was a lovely dinner with Minjo, Blackbunny, and Franklin, and tomorrow we'll be sightseeing and maybe yarn shopping. It's so much fun to meet my fellow Obama knitters!

Monday, January 12, 2009


Yesterday the sockday club got together for a fabulous brunch hosted by Sam and her fabulous wife Lisa, and we began make fibery plans for 2009, following a Fiber-A-Long path laid out by Debbie (who is blogless).

First, according to Debbie, we all had to take the Fiber-A-Long Pledge:

I promise to support my fellow sockday fiberists. I will support them in all things fiberly, and probably non-fiberly, too. That support includes, but is not limited to, stash enhancement, stash reduction if absolutely necessary, sympathy when frogging is the only answer, encouragement when new and maybe outside the comfort zone projects are tackled, an anti-intervention if our families feel that a fiber intervention is in order, support in completing a fiberly goal…or giving it up…whichever we want at the time, and willingness to make the sick day call to work as someone’s mother in order to give you a mental health day to knit.

That was the easy part - then there was homework!

We had five questions to cover - as with real homework, I didn't to a great job of being fully prepared. So since I didn't have written answers at the brunch, I'll share them here:

1. Do you have any project or skill regrets from 2008?

I wish one or more of my attempts at competitive knitting had gone better. I especially wish I'd made it past Round Two in Sock Madness.

2. Do you have any patterns that you have found to be addicting? Please bring the patterns to show if possible.

I think we all know the answer to this one - the Wavy Gravy Hat! So far I've finished three, and cast on a fourth. Thanks to Debbie's destashing I have another ball of Kureyon - so do I cast on another hat, or see if there's anything else this yarn wants to be?

3. Do you have any WIPs that you are motivated to finish up? Any that you would rather just frog, but would feel better if we do the frogging for you? If so, bring it along!

I'm trying to finish all my WIPs. I want to finish my Year of the Rat socks by the Chinese New Year, so that's my first deadline. I'd also really, really like to finish my Kauni cardigan, and have the satisfaction of wearing something I made. I think I still have the remains of a mystery shawl to frog, and sooner or later I'll have to suck it up and either frog the Lana Grossa cardigan or wear a corset.

4. Did Christmas this year bring up any ideas for projects for 2009?

No ideas from Christmas, or at least none that I'm going to indulge. I think Kerry's basket of hats idea was pretty cool, but I really shouldn't go that route for my huge family. I have some ideas from the post-Christmas math conference, though - I can't wait to start on a hexaflexagon!

5. Name two or three projects that you would like to have periodic encouragement to complete this year.

I really need to start and finish my wedding shawl. Some cheering along in Sock Madness 3 would be nice, too. And if everyone make sure I don't get a chance to see and be distracted by any new yarns or new projects, that would be really helpful.

So far, I'm still making good progress on the finishing-things binge. This is the latest, a Calorimetry headband. It's hard to photograph when it's not on a person, but it's also hard to take pictures of oneself wearing a headband.

My Calorimetry is made with Patons Shetland Chunky, and I cast on just 90 stitches. It's a slight bit small, but it's stretchy enough that I think it will be ok. This one is a gift for my mail carrier, so now I just have to figure out how to get it to her. Once I'm starting projects on a whim again, I may have to make one for me.

And last, here's the promised picture of the buttons for my Versatility scarf. Mine came from Jo-Ann's, but I've seen this collection at Wal-Mart before. I'm really glad I chose to do the removable buttons, because I think it makes the scarf more comfortable, and I use fewer buttons this way. Since I bought all they had and still didn't have enough to run the length of the scarf, that's really helpful.

So now I'm starting to run out of quickie projects to finish. I think the dogs' sweaters are next - we're expecting a run of below-zero days soon. That's definitely motivation to knit.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The End of the Moebius Band

Get it? A Moebius strip doesn't have any ends! Ha!

Has it rubbed off on me? I don't know how many coffee cup/doughnut jokes I heard this week, but it's enough that I haven't been tempted to go looking for a bakery.

We're back from our travels, I'm re-settled in at home, and Aaron is in Illinois. All's right with the world, or as right as it can be with that "Aaron in Illinois" part.

I spent yesterday and today trying to finish my Moebius scarf - hoping Aaron would get a chance to see the finished thing and embrace its geekiness, but I wasn't able to knit fast enough. The attached i-cord bind off is great, but takes some time. So here it finally is, in all its one-sided glory.

This is the Moebius Blob, in all the glory it can manage. I've finished knitting the strip, and am ready to start binding the edge. I've been carrying this around all week telling the mathematicians, "I'm knitting a Moebius strip." I'm not sure if they believed me.

Here it is a bit over halfway through the binding off. The circular needle and the yarn are still twisted up in funky ways, but since I only need to work with four stitches at a time, that really doesn't matter.

And here's the finished object. One Moebius Strip scarf, ready (and long enough!) to wear. You can't really block a Moebius band, so I don't have to feel guilty about not blocking it. I'm going to have to drag out my black coat, so I can wear this and show it off.

The next challenge is figuring out what to do with the bit of leftover yarn. Morgana's handspun is far too lovely to neglect.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Fibery Math

I've spent the past two days playing tourist, which shows that I am not as smart as the mathematicians who've spent the days locked up in a cozy hotel ballroom. It's cold, it's raining, and my feet are blue - although my Mountain Colors socks are more to blame for that than the cold.

I tried to take a look at the Capitol building, to see the Inaugural preparations. But this was as close as I wanted to get, walking through the rain, and as clear a view as I could get through the rain.

Even with the rain, this is the best view of the White House I've ever had. I think the cold left me absent-minded - I decided to walk from the wonderful Founding Farmers restaurant at 20th and Pennsylvania, to the Obama souvenir store at 15th and Pennsylvania, not realizing I'd pass anything interesting along the way until I stumbled across 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I must be the most absent-minted tourist in Washington.

Once there, I did clue in and realize something was going on - in part because this blocked my way. If I lived in this cold and rainy town, I'd be rather envious of the President-Elect's enclosed seating for the Inaugural Parade. I think it's a good measure of just how cold and wet I was that the "wow, this is cool" took a long time to sink in. But at least I had the presence of mind to get pictures.

It was much cozier inside the museums. I finally got to see the National Archives, which was incredible. Then I dropped by the newly-remodeled Museum of American History, to see the changes. Some things are the same, like the Nearly Naked George statue, when neoclassicism goes terribly wrong.

And there are some new things, like the Stephen Colbert portrait. I suspect the National Portrait Gallery's display was nicer, and I don't just say that because my friend works there. But I'm sure he helped make it nicer.

That's not a sock checking out the portrait; it's my Bellini Lace Shawl. It's been my first choice for on-the-go knitting in Washington, both because of its sentimental associations, and because I hope the wooden needles will slip past security checkpoints. So far, so good.

Meanwhile, back at the conference, there was knitting. Mathematical knitting. And crochet, and cross-stitch, and all sorts of other goodies. They had a whole special session on "Mathematics and the Fiber Arts" - how cool is that? Very cool, I assure you. didn't get it. The math, anyway - the whole knitting thing made perfect sense. It was probably the only time "i-cord" was the punchline of a math talk, so I got that part. And a lot of the things were cool.

They had a small display of mathematical fiber arts. I recognized some things from Ravelry, like the Celestine star. I'm not so sure about the other things here, but they're nifty. (I believe the things with the wiggly eyes are knots, sort of like the one that was running for President in Monday's debate.)

Other things led me to Ravelry pretty quickly, like Daina Taimina's crocheted Hyperbolic Plane, which I think is a teaching tool. She gave a talk about folding things to produce other things - so you can fold a two-holed torus (donut, for you non-math types) from an octagon, provided your octagon is made with 90-degree angles. Since they aren't usually like that, you have to crochet one. Makes perfect sense, right? No one would ever know that I'm about to marry a mathematician, would they?

The brightly-colored thing is a hexaflexacube, which was loads of fun to play with. It's based on a hexaflexagon, so there's nothing too weird there. Something mathematical that made perfect sense, and you can play with it. It's already earned a spot on my Ravelry queue.

I'm still working on my Moebius scarf, whenever I don't have to worry about having my metal needles confiscated. I can't wait to see what it looks like - and to make sure it's long enough to wear. I should have it finished in time for the Inauguration, which will be nice - and it will also be nice to not be standing out in this cold rain to watch it!

Monday, January 05, 2009

5,500 Mathematicians

I'm in Washington D.C., surrounded by 5,500 mathematicians. Aaron has a conference to attend, and I came along for the ride. So did a lot of knitting.

I finished the "Versatility" shawl just in time, and stayed up late Friday night trying to block it. It's still not as wide as I'd like it to be, but I think it will get me through this trip. Later on, I'll get Aaron to take some pictures while I model it, and I'll show the nifty buttons I found.

After getting in late last night, we spent much of the day getting settled in, and sending Aaron over to take in the conference. I have a guest pass, but I don't know how much I'll be attending - although there's a talk on Mathematics and Fiber Arts coming up, so that may be fun to check out.

We had some time for a bit of sightseeing. I arranged a Capitol tour through My Favorite Senator's office, and we were lucky enough to have a pleasantly warm day for walking through the city. So we got to see the new Visitor's Center, and to tour the Capitol, but we didn't run into the President-Elect or the newly appointed Senator from Illinois - although we noticed a lot of commotion in front of the Senate chambers.

This is probably as close as we'll get to any inaugural activities - the newly-installed President will leave the Capitol via this stairwell when he heads back to the White House. You might notice that this sock isn't on the needles. The Capitol specifically lists knitting needles on their list of Prohibited Pointy Objects, so I had to bind off the sock before it could come. But I'm calling it a work in progress, because I haven't woven in the ends yet.

And here's a better look at the sock with its new friend at Union Station. It's the Year of the Rat sock I started back in February, coming out again to help with my project-finishing plan. Tomorrow I'll start on its counterpart, and go visit some more of the city, I hope.

Would you believe that I spent tonight at a Mathematical Dramatic Presentation? It was more comedy than drama, if that's any more believable - a Presidential debate between the Figure Eight Knot and the Euclidean Algorithm. I don't know if I'm relieved or disappointed that I didn't get most of the jokes.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year Knitting

Last night's New Year's party wasn't meant to be a knitting party, but somehow things happen whenever two or more knitters get together. So I made some nice progress on my Moebius Scarf, and decided to keep going since I still have a lot of yarn left. No pictures, since right now it looks like a fuzzy blob of knitting. I look forward to casting off and seeing what I've made.

Today I cast on my first new project since before Christmas, and the only one that doesn't count in my 2-for-1 deal. This is the very beginning of the Bellini Lace Shawl from Morehouse Farms. This kit was a gift during the election, so it seems appropriate to cast on for this new year of a new administration. It's going to be a very simple project, so it's likely that this one will travel with me.

I really hope this project will travel too, but as a finished object. Since we're leaving for Washington, D.C. this weekend, I'm not sure that the finished "Versatility" shawl will get to go with me, but I intend to keep trying. So the newly cast-on project was mostly symbolic - I'm going to knit Versatility today and tomorrow, hoping to block tomorrow night and be ready to go on Saturday.