Wednesday, April 30, 2008

May Gift List

Cross posted at Sally Comes Unraveled and Year Long Gift-A-Long.

Lots of stalling in April. I'm stuck in a couple of my projects.

April Wrap Up:

1. Gift Item: A lace shawl. This is my large project for the second quarter challenge.
Progress: Still no work since this pathetic swatch. I'm looking for the needles I want to use.

2. Gift Item: Finish Boogie Time (2 of them) (Rollover)
Progress: I'm still stuck. I still need a watch face that works for a boy.

3. Gift Item: Rainbow Socks (Rollover)
Progress: I haven't done any work on this since I lost the sock! (I'll find it eventually.)

4. Gift Item: Fetching (Rollover)
Progress: Finished

5. Gift Item: Mystery Crochet
Progress: I crocheted a red blood cell for my Mom's birthday. It's finished.

May Gift List:

1. Gift Item: A lace shawl. This month I want to settle on a yarn, pattern and needles, then knit a swatch, block it and cast it on. (Rollover - Again)
Recipient: Grandma
Occasion: Christmas
Deadline: June 2008, for the Second Quarter Challenge.

2. Gift Item: Finish Boogie Time (2 of them) (Rollover - Again)
Recipient: Family Friends
Occasion: last Christmas
Deadline: Overdue

3. Gift Item: finish my sister's socks (rollover - Again)
Recipient: Sister
Occasion: Birthday
Deadline: Overdue

4. Gift Item: Secret Knitting
Recipient: Friend
Occasion: Birthday
Deadline: Late May

5. Gift Item: Secret Knitting/Felting
Recipient: Top Secret!
Occasion: Birthday
Deadline: Late May

Cass has the best contests...

There are five ways to win the 555 contest at Shut Up, I'm Counting. I plan to do all five. The contest details are here.

As always, be sure to mention that Large Marge Sally Comes Unraveled sent you.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Early FO: Needle Wallet

In my efforts to declutter, I've been taking pictures of some of my crap stuff before I get rid of it. It's about holding onto the memory and not the stuff.

But not everything I took pictures of was thrown away. A couple of weeks ago I uncovered the first of what will probably be many items I made when I first learn how to knit in elementary school.

This is a needle wallet I made in my early knitting years, probably third or fourth grade.

I learned to knit from my Mom and The Workshop Book of Knitting. I was surprised to find it on Amazon. I think it's been out of print for ages. I knit many of the patterns in that book, including this one.

This is acrylic yarn from my Mom's stash. The exact brand and colorway has been lost to the ages. I'm pretty sure I used US size 9 Boye aluminum straights like these, because I used those on just about everything back then. (In fact, I'm pretty sure they were gold.)

Believe or not, back then my knitting was very tight, and I knit English. When I picked it back up later on, I loosened up and switched (unknowingly at the time) to Continental.

Some things did stay the same, however. I still love my aluminum Boye needles, and while I love natural fibers, I'm not afraid of some acrylic yarn.

I see I used a crochet chain for the ties here. I'm surprised, because the book has a tutorial on a twisted cord that was incorporated into some of the patterns. I was into the twisted cord thing for a while, but I must have switched to the chain at this point.

I didn't do the best sewing job with the inside, but it's still functional. (I found it with needles inside.) I probably end up using it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

FO: Single Skeins Scarf

On Thursday I said I hoped to finish my Single Skeins Scarf by Sunday. My plans were derailed when I left this project, along with the rest of my WIPs, at my parents' house on Saturday.

But tonight I stopped by my parents' house on the way to the The Knitting Nest and picked it up. When I arrived, I borrowed some tape measure to see how close I was to 45 inches. (My friend from church, who commissioned the scarves and provided the yarn, said 45 inches was a good length.) It turns out I had already gone a little over 45 inches. I bound off using the bind off Titianknitter taught me a couple of weeks ago. (Hopefully I'll find a tutorial later.)

I used wooden knitting needles in US size 17 and three different skeins of eyelash yarn, Jo-Ann Sensations Cello Yarn in Jewel Tone, Jo-Ann Sensations Persian in Jewel Multi and Patons Cha Cha in Salsa. I may have enough left of each skein to make another one. I'm going to have to do some math first.

Holding all three strands together, I cast on eight stitches, knit until it was the desired length and bound off.

The scarf seems to want to grow, so it's a good thing it's a little on the short side.

And while I wouldn't work with them all the time, some instant gratification knitting on giant needles is nice every now and then.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

No Amy, we aren't going to laugh at you

Sorry for the lack of meaningful knitting content recently. It seems like all my spare time is going towards decluttering, cleaning and budgeting. I plan to swatch tomorrow.

In the mean time, here's Amy Singer promoting More Big Girl Knits. When she posted this clip on her blog, she said "don't laugh at me." I think she did a good job.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


I did it again. After spending my Saturday sorting my stuff out at the storage unit, eating dinner with my parents and catching up on things, I left my knitting bag at my family's house in South Austin.

This is the knitting bag that has pretty much all of my current projects.


I guess I'll be spinning until I head south Monday for The Knitting Nest.

In other news...

... my tax refund came in today. Naturally, I was thrilled because this means I can go to the dentist and have the last of my cavities filled. (Wait a minute...)

I've been thinking about my finances and goals a lot recently. I'm enjoying The Simple Dollar. I'm contemplating the piece on how much money it takes to "walk away from it all." At the very least, I want to someday have "cold career change" money.

Also, this article from The Consumerist finally helped me understand the whole rice rationing thing. It's all about restaurants. (BTW - I am one of those people who is eating out less.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Totally Random Blog Bits

I did "Blog Bits Saturday" for a while, but that can fell by the way. But I do have some links to share, some knitting related, some not.

Well, duh!

On Mental Floss one of the writers asks what's the big deal about turning 30. Well, duh! Where have you been? (PS - If you're tuning in late, and you don't know what I'm talking about, read this.)

I have stalled on reading Facing 30. Basically, it's too depressing and emotional. But I'll go back to it when I'm ready. I'm glad I found it though. It helped me understand a lot of my feelings.

Just Plain Wrong

I came across the Obesity=Suicide campaign recently, and it's one of the most troubling things I've seen in a long time. It's actually a fake ad. But it's still troublesome. Here is why:
It trivializes the real issue of suicide. It's been said many times to many people in trouble: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The extreme feelings and situations that drive someone to "end it all" need to be taken seriously. It's a mistake you can't undo, and decisive action must be taken to prevent it.

Weight loss, on the other hand, is an ongoing battle of moderation and change. It's a marathon, not a race. This ad seems to imply that the situation is as dire as a person standing on a ledge.

Why is the woman thin? These ads are about obesity. One features a man with a prominent double chin, and another features a man's large belly. But the woman who "overdosed" on candy is thin. Why? Is having a have fat woman, even in an ad about obesity, so disgusting that it can't be shown? I don't agree with these ads, but if your going to talk about fat people, show people who are actually fat.

I won't get started on obesity in general. This is a very touchy and personally subject for me. But I will say that I believe our society's desire for thinness has some how clouded our view of obesity's actual health implications. (Recommended Reading: Losing It: False Hopes and Fat Profits in the Diet Industry)
"The biggest contest Knitty has ever had."

These are Amy Singer's words, not mine.

If you are part of the Knitty mailing list, you are already entered to win all sorts of stuff. Reading about the prizes reminded me of Oprah's infamous "famous things" shows. I felt like I should have started screaming and jumping up and down.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

WIP Time

I finally have some projects going.

True to what I said yesterday, I finally cast on my first Clapotis last night. I'm using size 4 needles from my Boye Needlemaster and SWTC Oasis in "Purplexed."

I bought this yarn all the way back at the The Knit n' Knibble in Florida. I was going to knit a lacy poncho. But something about the fat needles I was using with the relatively thin yarn, not to mention my doubts about the size and style, led me to frog it.

So it's been waiting patiently in my stash, traveling halfway across the country in the process.

A while back I found this Doppelganger Clapotis on Ravelry. It was made with the exact same yarn, color and amount that I had in my stash. I feel a little weird making a twin Clapotis, but it was just too perfect.

So far I'm enjoying it, even though I haven't gotten to drop any stitches yet. I'm realizing this yarn is closer to worsted than I thought. It would make a great summer top.

Oh, and I've been accepted to the Knit -A-Long. I'll probably be set up by this weekend.

I've dubbed this the Single Skeins Scarf. Yes, skeins is plural. This is for the same friend from church who asked me to knit the fun fur scarves. She gave me several skeins of yarn and asked me to knit scarves until it was gone. I only had single skeins of the remaining yarn, so I'm holding all three strands together with US size 17 needles.

Hopefully I can finish this scarf before Sunday.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fun with Priorities

I was surfing around and discovered The Prioritizer this evening. It was designed for prioritizing your expenses, but really it can be used to prioritize any list of 15 items or less.

I've been looking for something else to cast on. So I put in 15 pattern I could start tonight, and decided to see which one I wanted to do the most. Here were my results:

1. Mabel's Scarf 100
2. Clapotis 86.9
3. Wavy 84.5
4. Pro Bono 79.8
5. Rainy Day Scarf 77.4
6. Calorimetry 64.3
7. Scrunchable Scarf 57.1
8. Knitted Bunny 50
9. Entwined 42.9
10. tie Binary Cable Hat 30.4
Drop Stitch Scarf
13. Coronet 14.3
14. Spirogyra 7.1
15. Palette 0

Of course, afterwards I realize Mabel's Scarf costs money to download. While I'm sure someday I will download it, tonight. I will go for the free option. I'm finally going to knit my Clapotis.

I hope the Knit-A-Long is still open.

Monday, April 21, 2008

FO: Red Blood Cell

Cross posted at Sally Comes Unraveled and Year Long Gift-A-Long.

My mother has had serious problems with anemia in the past year or so. She's adopted the phrase "Don't take your hemoglobin for granted" as her new motto. (It was on a pamphlet at the doctor's office.)

A while back I sent her a link to this picture. She replied "I hope mine are that pretty."

So it seemed fitting to crochet her a red blood cell for her birthday.

Of course, now that I compare the finished product with the photo that inspired it, I realize just how far off I was.

If I had kept trying, I may have gotten closer to the "biconcave disc shape." I realize now I should have focused more on making a dent in the middle and less on creating a ridge around the outside. (Basically, I should have listened to Lyndsey, but I had this all figured out in my mind.)

There isn't really a ridge to speak of, just a puckery edge:

The other thing I could have tried was sewing a strip around the edge and filling it with stuffing.

And yes, that is a zipper you see. This red blood cell is also a coin purse. Or a make up bag. Or something.

Mainly, I wanted Mom to be able to see the "hemoglobin" inside. I used curling ribbon, which I decided was close enough for a red blood cell with 10mm
"Googly Eyes" sewn on it. (I probably should have used bigger eyes.)

Everything is better with Googly Eyes. I'm convinced this red blood cell talks like Insanity Prawn Boy from On The Moon.

Here is a look of the haphazard way I sewed in the zipper. (I know it's hard to see with the red on red.) I think it's a running stitch. I used the same yarn and a fairly sharp tapestry needle. I used a six inch zipper, so I didn't have to trim it.

I also used a US H aluminum crochet hook and some Pop'n Yarn that only seems to exist on eBay and at the Goodwill. I found mine at Goodwill. (I keep old acrylic yarn like this around for occasions like this.) I used color 218 Flame Red. I think I used about half of a 3.5 ounce skein.

At some point, I might write this pattern out, or try to make it better. We shall see.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Toughest Yarn?

I plan to do some more research on my own, but I wanted to start with other people's opinions.

What's the toughest yarn out there?

I'm not just talking about what's machine washable. I'd like to knit a cardigan that can:
1. End up under the wheels of my chair at work.
2. Stay wadded up on the floor of my car.
3. Get wet in the rain.
4. Act as a pillow on a plane.
5. Stand in for a picnic blanket at the park.
6. Be a toy and/or blanket for the bunny.
7. Be stepped on by me.
8. Have food spilled on it.
9. Go through the washing machine without any special treatment.
...and still be OK.

I'll even settle for stuff that has to be hand washed if it can hold up to everything else I listed. (Although I doubt something that isn't machine washable would be that tough.)

I'm hoping to also fine a yarn that's "nice." I put nice in quotes because different people have different ideas of nice. I'm not too picky, but I don't want Red Heart.

Leave your comments and let me know. I'm especially interested if you have an FO in the yarn and can speak from experience.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

FO: Another Fun Fur Scarf

Tonight was movie night at Gauge. Somewhere along the way, I heard the movie was Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. It turned out to be Harold and Maude, which was a very different movie. But it was a movie I wanted to see anyway, so it was all good. (BTW - If you've seen the movie, what does the ending mean?)

I also got to finish another fun fur scarf while I watched the movie. Yes, the scarf is just like this one. It's a good thing I cleaned my mirror, because two Poncho Pig shots would have been confusing.

Like the first scarf, this scarf was knit using two skeins of Lion Brand Fun Fur Stripes in "Mexicana" and US size 9 plastic needles. It's basic garter stitch. This time I cast on 18 stitches. (Or at least that's how many I ended up with.)

I cut it very close. I barely had enough yarn to finishing binding off. I probably should of unraveled a row, but I didn't.

Normally I just let self-striping yarn do it's thing. This time I did a little more screwing with the stripes than I normally would. The specific stripe pattern is pretty noticeable, and since both the scarves are going to my friend's grand kids, I didn't want to screw up the stripes on one scarf and not the other. I clipped off some of the red at the beginning of the second skein, then reattached it at the end to preserve the pattern. I had to rewind the second skien anyway, so I knew where in the stripe pattern the skein would begin and end.

More details and tips for knitting with fun fur are in last blog entry.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some tips on knitting with Fun Fur

Yes, I'm making another Fun Fur scarf, and yes, it's exactly the same as the last one. My friend from church wanted another one, and I had two more skeins left in the same color.

Of course, the picture above is what it looks like tonight. This is what it looked like when I started it on Saturday:

Yeah, I has some technical difficulties with the yarn. There are two skeins in there, and one of them fell completely apart in my knitting bag.

In the little craft shows I do, I've spoken with a lot of people who have tried to knit with furry yarn, but had problems with it and eventually gave up. I have some tips on knitting with eyelash yarn that I thought I'd share with any beginners out there.

Ironically, my first tip is Fun Fur is not for beginners - Fun Fur and similar eyelash yarns are often marketed toward beginners along with a free pattern for a garter stitch scarf. It doesn't take a lot of experience to knit with eyelash yarn. However if you're planning to cast on for the first time with Fun Fur, you're setting yourself up for failure. Start learning with some basic yarn instead.

It's all about feel - The "eyelashes" come off of the main yarn. It took me some time, but eventually I learned to feel where the main strand of yarn was with my thumb. That's why I can knit fun fur in the dark. Once you find the yarn itself, try your best to ignore the eyelashes.

Try stranding - Holding your eyelash yarn together with another yarn will make it easier to knit with. Some yarns like this one are already stranded.

You'll probably use bigger needles than you would expect - Fun Fur is pretty thin, but Lion Brand classifies it as bulky/chunky. Furry yarn is typically knit at a large gauge. US size 10.5 needles are recommended by Lion Brand. I use US size 9 needles (and as I mentioned before, I have a very large gauge.)

Mistakes are hidden - This may go without saying, but if you end up with an extra stitch, just knit two together. Losing a stitch is a little different. If you find yourself a stitch short, I would at least attempt to see if a stitch has been dropped to prevent ladders.

You can crochet with Fun Fur, but it's really hard - I've done it once. Unless you are doing just one row or one round for a furry trim, I don't recommend it. Finding the stitches is really hard.

Oh, and take better care of your yarn than I did.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Swatching Sunday: Kathmandu Aran

As promised, here is my Sunday Swatch, a day late. I knit the big swatch yesterday, but did the little one today at work.

I went to the Knitting Nest on Saturday for their Lucky 7 Sale. A roll of the dice determined my discount. I only got the minimum 15% off (not that I'm complaining about getting 15% off.)

I exercised some restraint. I bought some dpns, a lavender sachet, some roving and a single ball of Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran for swatching. It was my chance to do the "GKY" thing (get to know your yarn) they talk about in No Sheep for You.

Kathmandu is a tweedy 85% merino/10% silk/5% cashmere blend in two plies. It's a bit uneven, rustic and fuzzy. There is a little bit of vegetable matter in it. While it's not too weak, I was able to pull it apart with a little force. I bought color 158 "Petrol."

Here are the gauges I got on the long swatch:

US size 7 = about 8 stitches and 12 rows per 2 inches
US size 6 = about 8.5 stitches and 13 rows per 2 inches
US size 5 = about 9 stitches and 13.5 rows per 2 inches
US size 4 = about 9.5 stitches per 2 inches

This swatch was knit using aluminum needles from my Boye Needlemaster. This swatch is unblocked and unwashed.

The little swatch was knit with US size 5 with the same needles in the same needle. I intend to wash and block it as soon as I can track down some Soak or some Eucalan

Expect more swatches to come. I want to see how this stuff looks in knits and purls and cables.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

All I bought were T-Pins, I promise

I did swatch today. I also bound off Strangling Vines. But I will blog about those later.

I stopped by Gauge today in search of blocking advice, T-Pins and either Eucalan or Soak. I found everything except the wool wash.

Gauge has in Noro Taiyo. Here is hat knit out of it. I took a picture of the skeins they had available, but the picture didn't come out.

Taiyo is what so many of us have been waiting for. It's a cotton blend, so it's softer than Kureyon, but still has the same beautiful colors.

I took a picture of this sample scarf in the shop for inspiration. I like the way two different weights of yarn were used together. It worked out well.

Cheva was there selling her hats. I wish I had gotten to take more pictures, but my batteries died.

One of these things is not like the other...

Remember the Battle of the Bamboo Silks? Gauge has in a couple of skeins of Ella Rae Bamboo Silk. It was a great chance to compare it with Vickie Howell's SWTC Love.

Here are the labels. The yellow one is SWTC Love and the green one is Ella Rae. The yarns basically have the same stats, just worded differently. More details here.

There are minor differences. Love is a little thinner and has a little more sheen. Ella Rae is a little thicker and more matte (Although it still feels "silky.") It's not much of a difference, but there is a difference.

Hopefully I can buy some of this great yarn soon. My next Gauge purchase is 25% off.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

WIP: Strangling Vines Scarf (and some spinning)

Are we there yet?

I think it may be time to bind off Strangling Vines scarf. I don't want to make the classic mistake of binding off too soon because I'm anxious to finish. However, it's about 60 inches as is, and will probably grow when blocked. (Keep in mind, it will also be less puckery after blocking.)

My "method" for measuring scarves is to hold them near the top of my head and see how far they are from the ground. I'm about five feet tall, and 60 inches seems to be a good length most of the time.

Being so close to finishing seems almost too good to be true. And I have a lot of Sea Silk leftover. I'm already scanning patterns on Ravelry, but I'm envisioning something simple, lacy and beaded. I think I can do that without a pattern.

Blocking is always a road block for me (no pun intended. Or maybe I should intend it.) And I've never blocked lace before. I'd really like a Knitter's Block and some lace blocking wires. I want to do this right, but all I have for now are T-Pins and old towels.

Spinning Update

In a recent comment, Titianknitter asked about getting together to working on spinning the merino. Actually, it's going pretty well:

I'm getting the hang of it, and I'm almost done with the periwinkle and ready to move to the indigo. The real test will be seeing how it plies.

The yarn is starting to stack up on my Mom's Niddy Noddy. I need to process some of this yarn soon:

Thoughts on Outsourcing

A little while ago I got a call from the third party company that was recently hired by my job to handle some of my job's benefits stuff. It was survey. They wanted my opinion on the ease of the insurance enrollment process. I found myself struggling to remember what parts actually had to do with this company, and what parts had to do with other companies. Because this is how it works (I think):
1) My company has this third party company handling benefits.
2) That company works with other third party companies to provide benefits.
3) The company that does my 401K has another company that's handling the management-it-for-you option.
4) The company that provides the debit card that I can use for my FSA is different than the main company that handles my FSA.
5) The person who called with the survey was probably with another third party company.
6) Keep in mind, my company is a third party company that does lead generation for other companies.
When we think of outsourcing, we imagine Americans losing their jobs, but outsourcing doesn't always mean jobs going overseas. It's confusing, but in this case, outsourcing is allowing my (relatively small) company to offer FSAs and other benefits we wouldn't normally have. On the other hand, half the time I don't know who I'm supposed to talk to when I need something.