Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Brief Moment of Sun

Yesterday morning the sun came out. I don't actually know the last time that happened, but it feels like years or at least months. Anyway, when I saw it, I snatched an armful of wool and my camera and ran across the street to my Mom's sunroom.

She was great and managed to not call the police when I burst into her house yelling, "here, put this hat on QUICK", but that might be because she assumed the police were right behind me. Either way, the result was decent pictures of the items I've been discussing for the last few days.

Here's the first hat:

It's a little hard to see the chevron design, but still a pretty texture.

Rav Link

Clearly I failed to complete my knot badge in Girl Scouts.

Next up are final pictures of mara:

And, finally, my new Madelinetosh hat,  Aspen Tam  finished this morning:

The color is more accurate in the bottom picture, it is more a rust than an orange.  See that little knot of yarn?  That's what was left over after I finished the hat.  4grams, 8 yards of a 210yd skein.  I was very happy that I hadn't noticed how little was left until after I finished knitting!

This week's plan is to:
  • finish the body of my February Lady Sweater  Visualize Whirled Peas.  This should be easy, I have begun binding off while uploading these pictures. 
  • pick up the stitches and get a good start on the sleeves, and
  • do a lot of knitting on Nancy's Comfort.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Love, thy name is Madelinetosh

Last weekend I saw a cute hat pattern listed in the Free Pattern Tester group on Ravelry. My experience in knitting hats for myself was bleak -- every one had been immediately ripped out because it was huge or oddly misshapen or huge AND oddly misshapen. Now, I've made a few very nice, well fitting hats for other people, my cousin George, my Dad, Bob (heck Bob even sleeps in his.  I like to think that's because he loves it too much to take it off, but it may just be because our house is really cold), and Virginia (see A Christmas Cowl post for pics), but for me? Fagetaboutit!

Anyway, (a) the hat, Tied-Band Chevron Beret, was cute (see While Waiting for the Snow post), (b) I needed a break from a garter stitch comfort shawl, (c) I really wanted to knit with that brick red Nashua Hand Knits Focus Worsted that was burning a hole in my stash, (d) based on the 7-11 inches of snow being forecast (we got 11.8), there was clearly a lot of winter left and I don't actually own a hat that fits, and (e) being a Knitter who doesn't actually own a hat that fits is kinda embarrassing.  So I volunteered for the test.

The hat test was a resounding success, I started the hat on the 19th and finished on the 21st and it fit me very well.  Ravelry Project Link

So the very next day, when I saw another hat test, for the Aspen Tam Pattern Link  and my Project Link, I jumped at it.  This hat seemed to use the basic shape of the last one, which fit me very well, and added cool leaves and the twisted knit stitch that I loved from Bob's Unicurve Socks.  So at lunch on the 23rd, I trotted off to Monterey Yarn to find the perfect yarn.  To be perfect for this project, it had to be an interesting earthy color, be tonal enough to not distract from the pattern, and have exceptional stitch definition to make those twisted knit stitches really POP. 

I found it.  And I am so in love with this yarn!  Madelinetosh Tosh Merino (non-Ravelry link) in the Amber Trinket colorway.  For some reason, the website is not showing Amber Trinket.  I hope it isn't discontinued, but they have so many amazing colors that I know I'll find something else to love if it is. 

Tosh Merino is a worsted weight 100% merino single ply, similar to Malabrigo but with a tighter twist so it is even rounder and gives even crisper stitch definition.  And soft, as in OMG soft.  The Tosh is to Malabrigo what Malabrigo is to Manos of Uruguay. (And we know I love Malabrigo enough to have named one of my Guild Wars characters Misti Malabrigo after both Mal and Misti Alpaca Tonos, my other favorite yarn).

Okay, for non-knitters, I know that last paragraph sounded like the adults on Peanuts -- wah wah waah wah, so let me try to restate it in non-knitter terms... Remember how you thought a hamster was really soft until you felt a chinchilla for the first time?  Yeah, just like that.  Tosh is to Malabrigo is to Manos like chinchilla is to hamster is to dog.  (I could SO have a career writing SAT questions!) Now if that didn't make sense to anyone, I just have to recommend you visit either a good local yarn store or a good pet shop, either one should have what you need on hand to make this make sense.

I really haven't done enough of the hat to see the pattern yet, but look at that stitch definition!  The color is more accurate in the first picture. 

It has been 2 days since I bought the yarn, and Bob has already taken to saying "yes, we got it, you love this yarn" a lot, so I guess maybe I'm obsessing a little bit (just maybe). I mentioned to Bob at lunch that I totally understood now why the Madelinetosh Lovers group in Ravelry has almost 3,000 members, but he kinda got hung up on the fact that a yarn could have a fan club, which was not the response I was looking for, so I moved on conversationally.

But I definitely see a sweater in this yarn in the future, maybe this one:  Renaissance (non-Ravelry link).    Yes, I know, NOT until I finish my February Lady Sweater (which is almost done) and Bob's sweater (which is not quite as almost done).  Then again, those will go faster now that I'm so motivated.  Until then, I might have to make myself a Hamsterbean with any leftover yarn from the hat.  A cute little knit hamster will probably be more socially acceptable than carrying around a little ball of leftover yarn to pet and admire.  Or maybe not...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Meet Flitwick

I'd like to take a moment to introduce my favorite new toy, a birthday gift from my wonderful husband:

Okay, I for one am totally stunned that I am excited to get a scale as a present, seeing as how I normally avoid scales like the plague. But THIS is a YARN scale and not just any old yarn scale, but a Knit Picks Yarn Scale, guaranteed accurate to 0.5 grams. Trust me, that's impressive; check the ones at the kitchen store or Target, they are mostly guaranteed to 5 grams. So who cares? ME, and I'll tell you why so you can care too!

That gorgeous yarn on the scale is what remains of my Claudia Hand Painted Yarns fingering weight skein (colorway: Copper Pennies) after finishing one Fair Isle Fox Mitten Test Mitten.

The skein originally weighed 50 grams. Those magical numbers on my new scale read 28.0g. Since 28.0 is greater than 25.0, and is well within a 0.5g margin of error but not within a 5.0g margin of error, I now know that I have enough yarn to finish the second mitten!

AND, since I know that the original skein had 175 yards in that 50 grams, I now also know that I used 77 yards for the first mitten and have a whopping 21 yards more than I need for the second mitten. Who knew I could rattle off math like that? If only elementary school math class had used practical scenarios like this one, my school years would have been far more pleasant and productive!

See? Magic! I think I'm going to call my yarn scale "Flitwick", since it is small, magical, and completely charming.
BTW, that Claudia Hand Painted Yarn is as wonderful to knit with as it is pretty, love the beaded texture and the color.
And, for you very observant types, yes, I really do have ridiculously short toes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

While Waiting For The Snow

Note: after many hours of cussing and snarling, I finally got blogger to post my pictures. I'm not sure if it was a glitch or an editorial comment by blogger, because the pics really are awful. My humble apologies. At some point, the weather will brighten up and I will be home during those bright hours to retake most of these pictures. Until then, I apologize, but hope that lousy pictures are at least a little better than none.
A lot has actually been going on, so a Random Sunday seemed in order to catch it all up.

1. Since there might be someone out there who (a) lives in a cave without internet, and (b) actually cares about the Packers, I will end the football portion of this blog with a very few words (and I swear this is the last football reference!): "nail biter", "Yikes", "wow that was close". Okay, done, back to knitting!

2. During the game, I cast on a Newborn Packer Charity Hat:

Ravelry Project Link and Pattern Link Knit with Berocco Comfort in Dark Green and Gold.

I think this hat is rather acorn shaped, but apparently so are newborn heads. Who knew?

I have more of this yarn left and hope to do another hat or matching booties before the challenge ends at the end of the month. As it was cast on during the game, I expect this to be a very lucky hat! (oops, did I mention a game? game? what game?)

3. The reason I cast on the hat is because I also cast off mara. After an illness delay, mara is currently drying on the pins and should be all done later today.

I am really pleased with the size and shape while blocking. I used just over 2 balls of Cascade 220 tweed, 521 yards and it is 25" down the spine. I would have made it a little bigger for myself, but Cindy is small and I think it will be just right for her.

The only real modification I made was to do the border increases every row instead of every other row as written. That changed the shape from a basic V to this elongated wing shape that enfolds the wearer -- like a bear hug. Or, technically, a sheep hug, since it is 100% merino wool.

I am still hoping to get better pictures, of the shawl off the pins. Stay tuned, I'm pretty sure the sun will come out eventually...

4. I have started a new comfort shawl for Nancy, whose dear husband, Jim, died very suddenly of a heart attack at age 64 last week. When I set a private goal of knitting 11 shawls in 2011, I really did NOT mean comfort shawls for grieving friends.

More about this later. Suffice it to say that objects are larger than they appear in the picture. Admit it, how many of you immediately pictured an enormous eyeball filling a rear view mirror when you read that?

5. After 5 days above freezing, the ground is covered by dead grass, dead leaves, and grey, icy, dirty, dead snow. My eyes and brain are so starved for color stimulation that I have started fantasizing about red. I found a dark raspberry long-sleeved cotton Tee for $3.99 at Shopko on Friday and almost wept as I threw it into my basket. I think I managed to not actually snarl and hunch over the basket as I looked around for potential competitors to my shirt, but it was close.

6. Last night I signed up for a hat pattern test and cast on within minutes of receiving the pattern. I'm using brick red Nashua Handknits Focus Worsted left over from Arlene's Braided Cowl. I don't want to put it down. I keep looking at it while I type. It's helping.

I should call this project "a not grey dead hat", but that would probably confuse anyone who hasn't read this post. Instead, it is called Tied-Band Chevron Beret Test. And here's a Ravelry link:

In answer to the obvious questions, no, I do not have measles, and no, I don't know why the picture makes me look like I have measles. Yes, it is a totally crappy picture taken by someone who got caught up in the moment and forgot that the object of the picture was supposed to be the hat.

The picture is also pre-blocking. Post blocking the hat is much smoother at the top but still has the three "wrinkles" or folds at the bottom, which I like a lot. If the knitting goddess smiles, I will get decent pics of this as well tomorrow during daylight hours.

7. For the last 30 years (at least), I have had a standing request for snow on my birthday. It's a day early, but it looks like it the universe is coming through in a big way this year - they are predicting 7-11 inches today and tonight. Nice job. That will help cover the disgusting mess that is Green Bay right now (see #5 above).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Five Rows

I solemnly promise that tomorrow we will return to our normally scheduled KNITTING blog, after a few brief weeks of Packer and illness related interruptions.  But until then, I hope you enjoy this.  And, in case you don't, here's a picture of pretty yarn to tide you over: 

Remember being a kid in school and how the best kind of illness was the kind where you were too sick to go to school but not too sick to enjoy your day watching "I Love Lucy" and all the game shows on TV between naps? 

Okay, statistically speaking, your "perfect" sickday as a kid probably involved watching cartoons, but I disliked cartoons and loved a good quiz.  This brought great pleasure to my Grandmother also, since (1) I was always the kid most likely to be home sick, and (2) she disliked cartoons as well.  I have many pleasant memories of debating the answer to $10,000 Pyramid (yes, I did just date myself, it is probably the $10 Million Pyramid now) with Grandma while she ironed through Lucy's antics,  made me Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup and a Tuna Sandwich for lunch, and took my temperature.  Good times.

Of course, as I have grown up, my "perfect" sickday has changed.  It would now be too sick to go to work but not too sick to spend the day wrapped in a blanket on the sofa with my Nook and my knitting in between naps.

How I spent my time between my fever striking out of the blue on Thursday Feb 10 and my return to work on Tuesday Feb 15 can best be summed up by my knitting accomplishments during those 5 days of illness -- 5 rows.  Yeah, about as "imperfect" an illness as you could find.

On the Nook:

I did get a ton of reading done during that time, however.  Last year on Jane Auten's birthday, Barnes and Nobles offered all of her books and many related books for free download.  I've been alternating between Jane Austen books, pseudo Austen books (modern sequels to Austen), and urban paranormal books.

The actual Austen books (I've read Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and about 1/3 of Persuasion), are really great.  If you haven't read her in a while, you might want to give her a try.  Her vivid characterizations of different types of people is well worth the time.

As you would expect, the pseudo Austen books are a mixed bag, some seem to capture Jane's essence better than others.  My favorite so far has been Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife BN link here.  It is a bawdy sequal to Pride and Prejudice, and the author's attempts to keep the writing, language, and situations true to period, result in a quite funny and enjoyable read.  The book was much better than I had expected, if a bit long through the last 150 pages.

But by far the most diverting and enjoyable book I read during my illness was Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen  BN link here.  In which a troubled couple in Seattle journey to their weekly pointless session with their marriage counselor only to be distracted from their own marital problems by the realization that they are in ground zero of the zombie apocalypse.  The book is part marital self-help manual, part zombie apocalypse survival manual and overall great fun.  To give you an idea, here is the Chapter heading from Chapter 12: "Build mutual friendships.  Just be ready to end them when your friends start trying to eat you."  Well worth the $2.99 price, in fact I'm very tempted to order the newly released sequal for full price.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

There's a Kind of Hush...

10 hours till "the big game" and the mood in Green Bay appears to be changing.  The euphoria of the last few weeks  with its constant Packer talk and Packer post season analysis has become more solemn and measured.  Will they?  Won't they?  Most analysis comes down to this, if the Packers display the same focus and skill they showed in the last two games, they should win.  If they get sloppy, either because they are cocky or nervous, they won't. 

Lest you think this solemnity and measured response to the upcoming game is putting too much of a damper on the festivities, I should point out that the reports from Dallas make Mardi Gras sound like a wake and many GB tailgate parties started at 8 or 9 this morning.  The majority of die-hard football fans like a good party, it would seem.

While I waited, I did what I do best, learn new things and knit (and knit and knit). 

I learned all about the first Super Bowl game:

1967: The first Super Bowl happens spontaneously when a bus carrying the AFL-champion Kansas City Chiefs crashes into a bus carrying the NFL-champion Green Bay Packers. Instead of swapping insurance information, the two teams play a full-contact game to determine who will pay the damages. Today, the surviving members of both teams meet every year to recreate their famous bus crash.

Maybe wasn't the most authoritative source of Super Bowl history.
I have finished two projects for the Packers-Steelers Charity Challenge:

Ravelry project link:  Cowl'd and Frosty Charity Cowl  made with Green and Gold Berroco Vintage Chunky.  Can't decide if I like this yarn.  It is 50% acrylic, 40% wool, 10% nylon.  I chose it for price, colors, and, especially wear and washability, but it has an unusual feel to it.  So far, I prefer either my usual 100% merino favorites (Cascade 220, Malabrigo, etc.) or a very good 100% synthetic, like Berroco Comfort, which is 50/50 superfine nylon/superfine acrylic but has a wonderful texture and feel to it and great stitch definition due to its cabled construction.  I'm usually strongly biased towards natural fibers, but the Comfort is a lovely example of how far synthetic fibers have come from the acrylics that squeaked when you knit with them and felt like repurposed grocery bags.  There are some wonderful microfibers out there now as well!

The pattern is Ravelry Link to Cowl'd and Frosty Morning  by Kelly Without A Net Kelly's website (a non Ravelry link!).  Super easy free pattern that I modified a bit for this challenge but would knit again (as written!) for myself.  Mods:  used a 6.5mm needle instead of 6mm, did 1 row knit, 3 rows purl instead of 4 rows seed/moss stitch, did 10 rows stockinette per section instead of 11, eliminated one repeat to make shorter, and added Packer theme stripes even though the pattern looks better not striped.
Also finished one pair of kids Packer mittens Project Linky.  Pattern is a basic mitten pattern I improvised with a Packer stripe added.  These were quick, fun, and adorable.  They are made with Berroco Comfort (see above). 

As of this morning, the Steelers fans are ahead, with 22 FOs tagged as Steelersxlv vs 16 FOs tagged Packersxlv, however one of the packer projects actually contains 11 hats made by the super fast knitter Proudrn, so I count that as 22-27 with the Packers ahead.  It is early days yet though, so we need to keep up the good work!  The deadline is February 28, so I hope to have several more finished objects to show in the next few weeks.

But first up is finishing Cindy's Mara.  I began binding off last night while watching Transformers with Mom (I know, I'm the last person on the planet to see that movie.  It was embarrassing to have my 68 year old mother quoting dialog while I asked "but is he a good guy or a bad guy?"), but it will take a few hours to complete, with well over 500 stitches to BO, and needs its bath before final pictures.  So hopefully I will have finished pictures by Wednesday!

I leave you with Noel showing her support for both the Pack and the people who will be helped by the charity challenge.  Good kitty!