Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Xmas/belated b-day to me!

Dudes. Coolest gift ever from my dad's sister's family. I'm just going to present this absolute awesomeness right now:

DUDE!! My aunt commissioned this from a lady she knows who makes bags. This chick is a knitter, and gave me all kinds of awesome little pockets inside perfect for needles and little tools, and a nice big open area for yarn and whatever I'm working on. She also actually checked out my blog for font and color ideas (thank Jebus I haven't used any Comic Sans recently.

*SWOON* I'm not the only one who likes it:

I can't believe he's not trying to put it in his mouth, honestly.

My family rocks!

Monday, December 20, 2010

On the road again (and again, and some more)

What could be more relaxing during the holidays than going on a ton of travel for work and (supposedly) play? If you answered "getting a root canal", "anything", or "are you a moron?" you are correct.

OK, I'm being a total drama queen. But for whatever reason, various national labs had openings in their schedules and my relative-in-law felt the need to get married all smack in the middle of my holly jolly holiday thank you very much (however, this was tempered by the fact that the wedding was close to some prime snow skiing). And of course, none of these places were even remotely close to each other. I occasionally work with radioactive samples, and I like to tell people that I get more radiation from flying to the labs than in doing my actual work (it's true!). The past couple of weeks, it's been a LOT more. I used to pity my copilot's incessant work travel, and somewhere along the way I became him...

But, I took it as a good sign my rental car in Maryland seemed specifically reserved for me:

Sweater yarn snafu notwithstanding, it did also give me a lot of uninterrupted knit time. I started a little something something for my mom for Xmas with a lovely piece of stash I picked up from my newly opened LYS. I bitched and moaned about the unexpected closing of said LYS a while back, and am pleased to report it's back in full force with new management and stock (hi, Lakeside Fibers!).

I was starting to get a little worried that I was going to run out of yarn to work with while on my journey. Two things happened to prevent that tragedy--first, I visited Three Bags Full, a cute little yarn shop in Vancouver, BC:

Mmmmm...sock yarn dyed by a Vancouver local.

Second, I totally fudged up the pattern I was working on for my mom, took the entire thing apart, and started over (I not only have used this pattern before, I wrote it. Ah, me). I'd like to think that I'm getting twice the fun out of the yarn, eh? Oh great, spend a couple of days in Canada and you start sounding like a nutcase. (I guess I'm not surprised. They use the metric system, stick random 'u's in words, and use weird-ass money. So close to normalcy, yet so far away...)

The first incarnation:

What weird lighting. I blame the hotel.

That one got to the decreases before I was able to stick it on my head and determine that it was totally the wrong size--due to the fact that I was not able to stick it on my head at all. Too small; I was cabling twice the amount I should have. Here's the real deal:

This is the true color...I loved it at first, but now I'm starting to suspect it's too "they're after me lucky charms"-ish.

Still unfinished. Honestly, this is one of those pieces where at the end you just want to burn it and pee on the ashes. Piss-soaked ashes make a pretty crummy Christmas gift, though.

But all was right with the world after some backcountry (sidecountry, really) skiing at Whistler, where the Cozy Cabled Hat kept me wonderfully warm while in 'touring' mode (I'm such a klutz that I always wear a helmet in 'downhill' mode):

I love putting the handknits into action.

P.S. To my folks: Muchas gracias for taking care of the beast...we know he's a handful. You guys rock!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Seriously, you guys.....

Aaaand that's the end of the yarn. That I purchased in New Zealand. Made by a company in New Zealand. Over a year ago. With a couple inches of sleeve to go.

This was my reaction:*

*Please do not watch if you're offended by cursing. But let's be honest, if you're offended by cursing, you probably don't read my blog. Completely safe for work, unless you like, work in a church or something (Hi, Dad!).

Thoughts? Keep in mind, to harvest yarn from the hems (or to change the hems at all) I have to undo all of the Kitchener. Thereby making me it's bitchener, instead of vice versa. My strategy was to keep knitting faster, as if that would somehow extend the length of the yarn. Didn't work.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Making Kitchener my bitchener

A couple of weeks ago I lamented the fact that to continue on the ol' Silken Scabbard Deux, I was going to have to do a relative ass-load of Kitchener bind-off on the hem so that I could try it on. Here's the epic task:

This doesn't look as long as it felt to me when I started pulling the tail of yarn though. But it was long. Trust me.

I sat down with the understanding that I probably wouldn't get done in one sitting, it might go horribly wrong, and it was going to take a long-ass time. I think knowing that going in made it much smoother, and watching some football as I worked helped to ease the pain (not watching the Colts, though...ouch). And I owned the thing, albeit two days later with a few unraveled stitches:

Excuse the weird lighting. I was trying to be artsy (read: I'm bad at photography). I even finished the sleeve's cuff while I was at it:

I'm on fire! I'm hoping the streak doesn't mysteriously end before I get to the final cuff.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A well-loved FO

Earlier this month, I opined that the novelty of knitting was the unlimited opportunities for customization--and while I still believe that's true, a visit home for the Thanksgiving holiday (Happy Belated T-giving, American readers) reminded me of a second and equally important reason for knitting.

I come from a line of crocheters...OK, it's a short line and it's not exactly straight, but I probably draw some inspiration from there, right? My grandma was famous for her granny squares (which seemed apropos to me) and my aunt went through a period of crotchet-wear production at some point. She made a winter hat for my mom a long time ago. This hat has been around for as long as I can remember.

For some reason, I always wear this hat when I come to visit for the holidays. It doesn't matter how many hats of my own I've brought with me, or how many new hats my mom has around (I think she has a winter-wear fetish), I always wear the hat for my outdoor exploits.

Shoveling the walk for my folks last Christmas. My middle name is Helpful (just kidding, it's actually Danger).

I think I had it with me at college for a time--I remember taking a jog through the woods wearing it, with a blinking red light attached so I wouldn't be mistaken for something edible and therefore shoot-able (although as Johnny Depp reminds us, technically we are all edible, but that is called cannibalism and is illegal in most countries). Other than that stint, I've never had a desire to take it with me.

From this past holiday weekend - writing a note to Santa Claus requesting a pony, natch.

I like knowing that it's at my parents' home, waiting for me to wear again. I like knowing that my aunt made it, and that it's the only one of its kind. Another cool benefit of the fiber arts...the idea that your one of a kind piece will last a long time and be well-loved.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A familiar WIP

You may have noticed that on my little project progress bars (right side of the page, about halfway down) I have a project called the Silken Scabbard Deux. You may also have noticed that the progress on this project hasn't moved since the inception of the blog.

Last year, around this very time of year, I was finishing the original Silken Scabbard. As I mentioned during Blog Week '10, this was the first knitted item I'd ever made where I felt like I knew what the hell I was doing. And the first time I really loved the finished product:

It was a Christmas present for my momma. Isn't she adorable?

I enjoyed it so much, I decided to make one for myself. I had the perfect yarn already, purchased from Touch Yarns during my vacation in New Zealand:

Imagine this x 10!

According to its Ravelry project page, I started it on Jan. 8th, 2009. I remember working furiously on it while I was in Berkeley...until it became painfully clear that there was no way I was going to finish it before it was no longer weather appropriate. I couldn't just finish a sweater and not be able to show it off immediately; unacceptable. So I just kind of put it aside. It had basically slipped my mind that it was indeed becoming sweater weather again, until about a week ago I decided to pick it back up. Excellent timing, considering everything else I was working on spawned feelings of 'hatehatehate' every time I tried to make some progress. But I had some warm, fuzzy feelings from all of your comments of encouragement and kind words on my recent destruction (thanks, guys!). I was up to a sleeveless sweater last March:

Picking it back up was like falling into my favorite recliner, or chatting with an old friend. It has dissipated my 'hatehate' feelings on knitting for now, and I've gone from zero to almost a sleeve in just week (hey, I'm slow, OK?). But now I need to try it on to determine sleeve length, and I still haven't finished off the bottom hem because it requires the dreaded....KITCHENER'S STITCH (aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!). I think this may have been part of the reason I gave up so easily last spring....I'm not opposed to a little KS, but this was like 30 inches of it. Stay tuned...

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's Halloween! Costume? Crap.

Blogger's note: This post has been brewing in the queue for two weeks while I begged around for a photo of my costume. But rest assured! It was totally....not worth the wait. Sorry.

Halloween is one of the best holidays. It signals that fall has definitely arrived and brings with it carved pumpkins (with their delicious baked seeds), apple cider (rum optional) and enjoyable scares. I'll never forget the Halloween that a neighbor came after my mom with a chainsaw. Turns out it was a prank and he'd removed the chain, but I'm pretty sure she had to change her underwear nevertheless.

It's also an excuse to wear a costume, which is simultaneously an opportunity for fun and creativity and a hideously daunting task. My perpetual goal is to spend as little money as absolutely possible without looking like the kid in gradeschool who's mom was too cheap to buy a costume but also couldn't sew. You know, he'd be wearing a garbage bag with armholes cut into it and claim to be a 'raincloud' or some shit.

As per usual, I'd made no plans for what to do and Halloween was only a couple of days away. I wandered the house trying to glean inspiration from household items. Women have an immediate costume advantage in the sense that they can take an every day occupational uniform, and simply make it slutty. It's the sexy 'blank' concept, as in sexy nurse, sexy fireman, or sexy garbageman (hey, maybe that garbage bag could work after all!). After brief consideration, I determined that a) I haven't been a college undergraduate in quite some time, and b) it's too damn cold in WI to be skanky for Halloween. I needed maximum coverage.

Where does one turn for trivial ideas and information? To the internets! I found myself on the 'Family Fun' website, which had a lot of cute ideas for kids costumes (in an attempt to avoid the 'sexy' moniker, I was reduced to looking at ideas directed at children). The option of jellyfish cried out to me the loudest for two reasons: it allowed me to wear warm clothing and I already had all of the materials.

I was especially excited to incorporate some yarn that had previously been languishing for almost a year with no prospects. Some of my relatives bought me this big-ass skein of yarn (or BASOY for short) for Christmas last year, and while I think it rocks...I'm not entirely sure what to do with it.

Figure of person added for scale.

Totally tentacles, right? The whole shebang took about 15 minutes to put together, I was warm and happy that night, and the BASOY finally started to find a home. Happy (extremely belated) Halloween!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Knitting in peace

I worked over the weekend. I know. I know. I can barely bring myself to work a regular work-week as it is, what gives? I've been trying to schedule time on a particular microscope at Oak Ridge National Lab for a few months now, and they couldn't accommodate me for months unless I was willing to work over the weekend.

I like to bitch and moan, and this was prime B & M-ing material (not to be confused with BM material, which, ew), but truth be told I was pleased to get out of the apartment for a while and to be able to knit in peace. No waiting for Sammy to pass out at 10 PM so I can get a little bit of knit on without anyone trying to consume my yarn and/or knitted object.

Turns out, the instrument operator understood many things in addition to how to make kick ass samples, 1) Making samples using this particular technique is incredibly boring, 2) One should combat this boredom by multitasking, and most importantly 3) It's the freakin' weekend so multitasking can include knitting. I finished a respectable piece of Mystery Wedding Project (which technically is no longer a mystery, considering the wedding has occurred and I've also informed the couple what they can hope to receive at some point).

Usually when I knit for a long period of time with non-knitters, I get a few questions about the logistics, the materials, the point. No such luck in this case, and for the entirety of Saturday I never succeeded in even steering the conversation away from microscopes. Sunday, I managed to slip in some football and housing market chit-chat, so, baby steps I guess.

I didn't have a camera to document my awesome garter stitch, but the microscope we used to make the sample did have a, geeks read on (and non-geeks, electron microscope photos can be very pretty):

Bulk sample is cut from the surface by a beam of atoms

Bulk sample is 'glued' to a tip and lifted out

Bulk sample is 'glued' to a grid

The bulk sample is thinned with a beam of atoms to the final, ridiculously thin end product (the areas that look 'broken' are the sweetest thin area)

It's so thin that electrons can pass all the way through you and image kind of like an X-ray photo on a much much tinier area

I was also accused of being a little old lady by another instrument operator. Maybe so, dork-wad, maybe so.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lofty Ambitions: or How I Think I'm Much Awesomer Than I Really Am

I always drop the ball (of yarn...ha! Ehhhhh.) when it comes to knitted Xmas gifts. Such lofty ambitions...but ask yourself, why would a person who has never done a two-color stranded knitting project decide to write her own pattern because she didn't like any of the ones that she looked through? The result was inevitable:

How did I not see this coming? And when I'm on the mighty Xmas deadline with more bitten off than I can chew as it is. Note to self: YOU ARE NOT AS AWESOME AS YOU SEEM TO THINK YOU ARE.

People tend to call tearing apart your knitting 'frogging'. I feel that this is an unfair characterization. Frogs are really pretty cute, when you think about it:

Awww, look at that little punum.

And think of the great frogs throughout history:

Come on. I propose a new word defining the torture that is tearing apart a project, one that truly captures the pain, one that's not so fucking cutesy. Go ponder, I'm thinking of something along the lines of 'searing gas pain-ing', 'UTI-ing', or 'shards of glass-ing' Those might be a little too cumbersome, but you get the idea.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

One, two, three, knock on the wall

Can we talk horror movies for a moment? The first scary movie I remember seeing is the original Halloween. It was the TV version, so no explicit violence or tits, and it still scared the pants off of me. A later unedited viewing revealed that it doesn't actually have much explicit violence, which truly makes it scarier--not knowing exactly what happened means that your imagination runs wild. Plenty of boobs, though.

I caught part of the 2007 remake of Halloween a couple of days ago, again a TV edited viewing experience. It hour or so of my life I can't get back. There were some fun homages to the original film, but all in all it was the same movie with less character development and suspense, more tits, and much much more gore. Le sigh. I don't want to start in on a 'these kids today' kind of rant, but the only thing that kept me engaged at all was a sweater nouveau-Laurie Strode was sporting:

No, not the Queen of Sheba outfit, the navy sweater with the big white flowers. It was appealingly kitschy and cozy looking. I pondered whether it would be worth trying to knit, but the embarrassment of the inspiration source might be too much to bear. When Michael Myers ripped it off during a by-the-numbers chase scene, I gave up and changed the channel.

Short story long, I'm disappointed that practically every 'scary' movie just ends up being kind of gross. Guts =/= suspense. So I was dubious when Netflix recommended El Orfanato (The Orphanage) as a scary movie I would like. A foreign film. "What do you take me for, Netflix??" But I gave it a shot, seeing as how watching a flick with subtitles would boost my hipster cred. And then I sat on the edge of the couch for the next two hours with my mouth hanging half open. It was an actual story, with real characters, and suspense. Perfect Halloween scares, in the sense that they were from tension and apprehension instead of from disgusting/disturbing/torture-porn-esque shit going on. Netflix--I should not doubt thee. Let's never fight again.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hat blocking - mostly win, slightly fail

All in all, the hat blocking escapade was a success. The always flattering self portrait:

I call this one...Blue Steel.

Look, it's a good picture of the hat. Please ignore the human part of the photo entirely.


Pattern - Brattleboro Hat, Interweave Knits Fall 2010

Yarn - Malabrigo Merino Worsted, Emerald, from Blog Hub Swap

Modifications - Added an extra repeat of the body rows (+4 rows) so that it would cover my ears. Because if it doesn't cover your ears, what's the freaking point?

Assessment - Booyah

This update comes a little later than expected, because while Operation Block Hat on Pumpkin was a success, Operation Pull Hat Off Pumpkin and Tear Off the Buttons and Eat One was a success for Sammy. Operation Wait For Button to Appear in Bowel Movement was a failure in the sense that when it did appear, it was in about 4 chewed up pieces. Apparently it's gross that I was even considering reusing the button, but it was part of a matched pair! It's one of the 3 R's people, reuse. I was going to wash it.

[Sidebar: We sound like terrible dog parents, but he's recovering from a surgery + broken leg and isn't allowed to even go on walks for more than 5 min a couple times a day. Convalescing dog = bored dog = naughty dog. Two more weeks until the fixator comes off...he's not that bad, I promise. Hey, quit laughing!]

I'm planning on blocking a couple of older hats, if the pumpkin doesn't mysteriously transform into pie before I get around to it.

Ever go to work and give a research presentation, only to later discover that you have a gaping hole in your sweater?

What's that? You say you have the presence of mind to check on such things before you go out in public and you'd never be such a slovenly loser? ....Yeah, me too. Those people are losers.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Baldwin Knits

This isn't an incredibly timely Baldwin status report, given that the live 30 Rock episode aired almost two weeks ago. I caught it last night; I enjoyed the novelty of the 'live' sitcom, despite it not actually being as such for me.

Alec B.'s character was trying to quit drinking to support his newly pregnant girlfriend, and took up knitting to distract him from the painful boredom of sobriety. I may have giggled with glee and clapped my hands like a seal when he produced a poncho in the course of about 5 min:

Oh, Jackie D. I think he's pulling it off.

He also managed to go through and learn all the tricks in a magic 'how-to' book at the same time. I think this is more ammunition for my sexy-men-are-knitters campaign.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finished object(s) of the glove kind

My copilots gloves = done! They took a little extra time because someone, not mentioning any names, neglected to mention that the pinkie finger was too short until they were both done. So it had to be torn out and redone, with me trying to remember that a perfect fit is one of the many perks of knitting.

Sleeping Beauty was trying to nap (which is important, don't get me wrong here) but was cognizant enough to slip on the gloves for a photo shoot.

Penguin Murray is essential for a quality napping experience.

Assessment of the knitting quality.


Pattern - Sock-it-to-Me Gloves

Yarn - Alpaca Yarn Co.: Paca-Peds, from Lake Tahoe Yarn Co., Truckee, CA

Assessment - Me likey

Madison's getting pretty chilly, so I'm sure they'll be up for a test run soon.

ETA: My copilot would like to assure everyone that he is in fact much older than 12, and that I am not a child molester. He gets asked if he's old enough to sit in the exit row on flights for work every now and have to be 15 to sit in the exit row. Pros: when he's 50, he'll look like he's 30.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Escapades in hat blocking

I've never blocked a hat before. It never seems to be urgently necessary; I mean, your head kind of serves to stretch and even things out, eh? But it is a bit disheartening to take it off and see it scrunch back into it's shrunken fetus-esque 'natural' shape. Maybe that's just me.

I've been brainstorming on the best way to proceed with hat blocking. I know some people have those decapitated mannequin heads, some of which are faceless and totally creepy. Some do try and replicate human facial features, and are also totally creepy.

Always smiling, watching, judging.

I'm not getting one of those. We don't seem to have any balls in the house...wait, my husband might disagree. (He has a tube of tennis balls...what were you thinking?) No appropriately sized ball, shall we say.

Then something at the market caught my eye:

Mmmmm. Pie pumpkin/potential hat blocker.

That's about the size of my head, right?

Aww, it looks just like me!

Time will tell how this bright idea pans out.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A new sheep enters the fold

One of my co-workers and I have been conspiring for about a year now to get him some knitting learnin', so he can knit his special lady friend a cozy hat for an Xmas present. Last year we started far too late, as seems to be the case with all of my intended Xmas knitting projects (one of my friends got her pair of socks last August...sorry).

A work trip to UNLV was just the 4 hours of solid airplane boredom we needed. Check out my protege's practice work:

Only one accidental yarn over! I am totally impressed; the stitches are pretty even. This is only his second practice swatch (the last one being December of last year). I think he's ready for the big leagues, i.e. it's hat time, baby.

I keep telling the men in my life that dudes with knitting knowledge are totally sexy. Listen up guys, well done handknits = panties dropping. Trust me.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Confession time

Crap. Damn it, crap, crap balls crap!! Effffffff. I love it. I tried to act all dismissive about it; the fact is, after starting the body of the hat, I did kind of pee my pants just a little bit with excitement (metaphorically speaking, of course). This Malabrigo worsted wool is so....something. Droolingly soft is the only descriptor that comes to mind. I'm not even done and I can't wait to wear it:

You know what? This doesn't even begin to express my excitement level. I've gotta Michael Bay-ify it (thank you AV Club):

You know, Michael Bay? The guy who makes increasingly-less-tolerable over-the-top action movies? My enjoyment pretty much stopped after The Rock, buddy, and that was probably because Sean Connery was there to class up the joint. Most recently we've been blessed with the Transformers movies, which I understand are about close-ups of CGI-robot-shit moving and spinning incomprehensibly. Also, Megan Fox's breasts.

But the man does know how to jazz up a knitting photo.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Infinite Cabled Hat

It was Mahatma Gandhi who once said, "Sometimes you just have to crap or get off the toilet." (OK, maybe that wasn't Gandhi.) I've had this hat pattern on my hands for too long, and it's time to release it into the wild and see if someone can wring some joy from it. Without further ado,

Infinite Cabled Hat - click for free PDF

"The Infinite Cabled Hat is a fabulous project for those who are familiar with cabling, and want to make something that looks complex without actually straining the brain too much! Two needle sizes are used to account for the tension change between the brim and the body (where the cables are introduced). The cables put a twist on the conventional roll-brim by ruffling the edges, nicely framing your face. A clever decreasing scheme keeps the cables going all the way to the top."


Monday, October 4, 2010

Adventures in Malabrigo and new stash

I can occasionally be a just a teensy bit contrary. Whoa, I just heard my mother snort in derisive laughter from 350 miles away. Whether consciously or not, I tend to be wary of anything that 'everyone' seems to enjoy. Seriously, have you ever seen any of the Twilight movies? NOTHING HAPPENS IT'S SO BORING. Or read a Nicholas Sparks book? Those things read like MadLibs for masochists. "The widow/widower/young teen girl/little brother has cancer/a boating accident/a tour in Iraq/an incident with a mudslide and tragically dies. And yet people eat this shit up. And Oprah? I'm sorry, don't even get me started. Are people still collecting Precious Moments figurines? Or really, figurines of any kind? I don't get it.

The point, and I promise there is one, is that I've been dubious of the heaps of praise thrown at Malabrigo yarns. Ergo, I've never made it a point to acquire any. As fate would have it, I received some in my parcel from the Blog Hub Swap. I started the brim for a hat a couple of nights ago:

The verdict: while I didn't urinate on myself per say, I do like it. I was extremely dubious when I found that it was un-plied (or single-ply, I've heard people use both descriptions). My last experience with un-plied yarn ended with me swearing that I'd never use it again, at least that particular ridiculously overpriced brand, which shall remain nameless (Tilli Tomas Silk - mmmm oops, did I say that aloud??). My fears were baseless in this case; it holds up well when you work with it on the needles and doesn't make the stitches appear sloppy, even though the yarn thickness does vary some. It is very soft and I'm looking forward to wearing the finished product.

On a semi-related note, I'm really enjoying designs right now that, like the aforementioned hat, make use of a brim or collar that is worked sideways (i.e. the stitches are perpendicular to the main body of work). If that doesn't make sense, the finished hat will be an example.

We were out of syrup and I had a feenin'* for some cheese curds over the weekend--where else could we solve both issues but the Madison Farmer's Market? It's fun to go just to see the spectacle every Saturday morning; vendors have booths that stretch all the way around the capitol building. I was feeling perfectly satisfied by a pumpkin crepe when I ran across a vendor that I haven't seen for almost a year. She's a sheep farmer, and spins yarn for a living. I sort of want to be her. The last time I saw her I asked if I could come by and learn how to spin, she said to stop by the farm sometime, and I have since totally chickened out. I did turn a skein of her yarn into the original Cozy Cabled Hat, however:

She was busy this time, no chit-chat, but I snagged a little bit of awesome:

These babies are going to be turned into some two color mitts for a friend.

*Is this a widely accepted term or rural Indiana vernacular? In case from context it isn't clear, feenin' = an extreme craving.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I've got mail: Day 6 & 7

I've caught that cold that everyone else in the tri-state area seems to have, so I've fallen behind on my swap blogging duties. My copilot was kind enough to snap some photos for me while I languish on the couch. I present Day 6 and 7 combined:

Mmmm delicious Tar Heel coffee....

I was perplexed by these at first...then I realized they were handmade magnets. Very clever!

And some buttons. I LOVE buttons. Probably unhealthily so. It's my cross to bear.

And so concludes my coverage of the Blog Hub Swap. Another big thanks to Sara for an awesome parcel! If you'd like to check out the reaction of the gal who received my package, you can find her here. She is graciously pretending to like the crap that I sent her.