Thanks for all your comments on my last post. Based on your enthusiasm, I am forced to conclude that topless cooking is going to be the Next Big Thing. I encourage you all to be early adopters.
So, I’m coming to you with a rare mid-week post because one of my favorite fellow knitbloggers, Emily over at Yarn Miracle, organized a pretty nifty contest with the goal of creating a new generation of Lorna’s Laces addicts (the company owes her big time — even if I lose I will probably be at the LYS this weekend loading up on this stuff). She has promised two free skeins of LL in the colorway of the winner’s choice to the person whose 20-word “essay” is chosen by the voters as the best one (her objective husband selected the three finalists). The subject of the essay? Why the author should get free Lorna’s Laces.
So, to my genuine surprise, I’m a finalist. And I’d like to send you all over to Emily’s corner of the internet to vote. But! I don’t want to just say “vote for me!” So I’m going to reproduce the three finalists here, without names attached. I want you to pick your favorite HERE, and then go vote over there without changing your answer. If you happen to pick mine, great! If not, don’t bother coming around here anymore. I mean, may the best woman win.
Okay, here we go. When you’ve decided, click here to vote.
Vera is calling.
I can’t say no; already
she has ruined me.
I’ve never even touched the fabled Shepherd Sock, and grow green with envy watching the world knit its wooly goodness.
Lorna’s Laces should be free because: Air, water, and all the OTHER things absolutely necessary for survival are free.
I actually think the best one is not mine, so I may be contributing to my own undoing, but that’s okay. The true reward has been in the competing. (Screw that. I hope you all pick mine!)
And because I hate to put up a post without photos, I’ll do some cheapy catblogging:
By the way, I’m nearly done with my legwarmers. They are a disaster. I’ll explain more later, but suffice it to say that if I ever want to go as Mr. Tumnus for Halloween, a big part of my costume is ready to go.
In which the carrot and the stick are ingeniously combined and in which I make good on my promise of a topless photo. Sort of.
I’m guessing that many of you knitters out there are familiar with the process by which you slowly work more and more knitting into your day. You may start out spending an hour or so each evening working on your project, but soon you realize that knitting is a good thing to have on the bus or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Sounds logical and totally not insane, right? Right! But before long you start to lose your grip on your perception of what’s reasonable, knitting-wise, and you’re sneaking it into shorter and shorter spare moments: knitting while you wait for the pasta water to boil, knitting at red lights, knitting between childbirth contractions (not me), knitting between batters while playing shortstop for the company softball team (not me, but it would be if I were on a company softball team). The final stage is when you find a way to knit in concert with other activities that are totally non-conducive to knitting. I am pleased to announce that I have arrived solidly at that final stage:
Isn’t it wonderful????? I used to try to use knitting as a reward to myself for going to the gym. It wasn’t a great arrangement, because it’s not like I’d punish myself by forgoing knitting if I failed to exercise. In fact, skipping the gym meant more knitting time! It was not an arrangement that was working out terribly well.
Now that we have our new Consumer Reports-recommended Schwinn 213 recumbent exercise bike, though, my workout time IS knitting time! I know that if I get on that bike, for 45 minutes I can knit away without the nagging guilt that I really ought to be doing something else, such as, you know, exercising. It’s like the two activities were designed to go together. As further evidence, note that the bike comes complete with a knitting storage compartment on the back of the seat. The instructions accidentally called it a magazine rack, but I knew what they meant.
I know this makes me mildly insane. The fact that I knit merrily away with wool and mohair clutched in my sweaty hands while working my way through the “steep hills” program bumps me up to moderately insane. But it doesn’t matter! I have successfully worked an additional three hours of knitting into my week! You may begin applauding my brilliance at any time.
(As a brief tangent, when I mentioned to my mother that I had begun incorporating knitercise into my life, she said she hoped I was planning to post a picture on my blog; I told her that I would probably get around to doing so. Then she said, “Be sure you’ve broken a good sweat. Oh, and you should wear the dork light at the same time for maximum embarrassment!” Isn’t it heartwarming when a mother revels in her daughter’s public humiliation — nay, when she seeks it?)
Now that we’ve fully established my knitting obsession cred, I hope you’ll allow me to describe a non-knitting activity from this weekend. I go off-topic on this blog only occasionally, but this activity was just so much fun that it warrants the deviation. The fact is, sometimes you have to be open to creating something out of materials other than yarn and needles, and for Matt and me this weekend, that something was marshmallows.
Yes, homemade marshmallows! From scratch! We followed this recipe and quickly found ourselves with a giant bowl of fluffy, gooey, delicious marshmallow on our hands. Literally. The stuff was so sticky that we could not get it off our hands, spoons, or any other implement or appendage we tried to wield. This became apparent at the same moment that we realized we had only a minute or two before the marshmallow cooled so far that we would be unable to wrestle it into any sort of submission at all. Adrenaline was running high. We were rising to the challenge. Victory was so close we could taste it (and did, periodically and generously, throughout the process). So what did I do when I realized that I was wearing my beloved Tubey, was wrist-deep in marshmallow fluff, and didn’t have time to go change clothes because my god there were only a few seconds between us and defeat at the hands of a vat of marshmallow?
I took Tubey off, of course, and flung it out of the kitchen without missing a beat. What would YOU have done? Of course, this set a rather different tone for the documentation photos that Matt and I usually take when we embark on a cooking project (Matt’s blog has a recurring cooking theme). It resulted in some rather family-unfriendly pictures. But the important thing is that we got the marshmallow spread into the pan, we allowed it to set overnight, we cut it into shapes that were square in theory but far more mathematically advanced in reality, we went to town with some melted chocolate, and we were rewarded with four dozen delectable homemade marshmallows, suitable for hot chocolate or eating straight out of their container when you think your spouse isn’t watching.
Lest you all think this rather silly anecdote was just a little too racy for your delicate sensibilities, be assured that I was wearing appropriate supportive undergarments befitting a lady of good breeding. And I will admit that while I used the promise of topless photos to try to lure a new demographic of blog reader, I don’t think I’ll stick with it. I just don’t see knitting porn taking off. I hope my more conservative readers will forgive me this brief foray into the seedy underbelly of the knitblog world.
In other knitting news, I knit a swatch for Starsky that looks like it was done by someone who does not, technically, know how to knit; I completed the first Gryffindor sock and — not to be constrained by the tradition of wearing two socks at once — have been wearing it around the house; and I am nearly done with my hidden legwarmers. See you next weekend.
Thanks to my readers’ glowing comments about the adorability of the penguin in my previous post, his ego has gotten so swollen that he has become impossible to live with. He glides around the house calling people “dahling” and chatting on his cell phone with his publicist. Not only that, he constantly makes passive aggressive comments about the unfair advantage I have taken of him and has been attempting to unionize the rest of the stuffed animals. I’m not sure allowing him to appear on my blog was such a good idea.
Onward and upward, though. Behold my first finished pair of socks in six years and my first non-ludicrous pair of socks ever. These are made with Knitpicks Simple Stripes yarn in Storm, which I originally bought planning to make a baby sweater. I lost some enthusiasm for the project when I received the yarn, though, because it really is too scratchy for a baby’s skin. (It did soften up after washing, but not enough for me to recommend it for baby garments.)
Anyway, when I was gifted the amazing Gryffindor Stripe yarn by my once-secret pal, I was eager to make socks but worried that I would do a terrible job, thus wasting the beautiful, hard-to-find yarn. (At our knitting get-together this week Theresa was eyeing my Harry Potter yarn longingly. If I can garner the envy of the reigning New England Sock Queen, who has knit 92 pairs of socks in the past handful of years, I know I have a hot commodity. I did not want to ruin it.)
In a flash of inspiration, I remembered the stashed Simple Stripes yarn and knew that I should make a practice pair of socks. This is the result. They are toe up with short-row toes and heels. I picked toe up because my greatest sock-knitting fear is knitting top down and running out of yarn mid-foot. I’m sure experienced sock knitters can judge how many yards of yarn a sock really takes, but as a newbie I don’t have any good way of estimating that. I didn’t want to run the risk of having to tell people that I meant to make toeless socks so that I could, you know, wear them with my flipflops or something. Because that would be so awesome.
I am fairly happy with how they came out (I even got them to match!), but the one thing I wanted to do better in the Gryffindor socks was make neater “seams” on the heels and toes. I knew that the key to this would be in the handling the double-wrapped stitches (sorry, non-knitting readers of my blog), and a fairly exhaustive web search turned up this technique over at Nothin’ But Knit. I implemented it when I began my Harry Potter socks and was delighted by the results. Since I had to search pretty hard to find it, I wanted to draw attention to it here and recommend it to other short-row sock knitters. (Thanks, Ashley!)
I think you can see sort of see the difference here, even though it is rather like comparing apples to oranges — different yarn, different gauge (the practice socks were knit on size two needles, and the HP socks on size ones). If you can’t, just take my word for it. Would I steer you wrong?
In other knitting news, I am forcing myself to finish my legwarmers, which I started just after Christmas when I was anticipating a bitterly cold January. I didn’t want them as a fashion statement; I wanted them for the purely practical purpose of staving off frostbite between my knees and ankles. The longer the temperature stayed up, though, the more my motivation for this project went down. But since I really can’t bear the thought of a long-term unfinished object, I picked them back up on the first day of spring (a day colder than most of January) and am determined to finish them just so I can take them off the WIP list in the sidebar. Plus I’m sure they’ll actually come in handy in a future winter.
This was sort of a boring post. Stick around my blog, though; there’s a chance that tomorrow I may post a photo of myself topless. (More likely you’ll just get a tame photo and an explanation of what prompted that comment, but you never know!)
Thank you all for your wonderfully flattering comments about the Reversible Rib Shawl and your generously supportive comments reassuring me that I am not an egomaniac for modeling it. Both types really meant a lot to me. However, after last week’s post about my modeling neuroses, I was somewhat relieved that this garment couldn’t really be modeled (at least not by anyone in my household) and that I would have to photograph it on the floor like normal people, thus proving that I am not always about snotty “photo shoots” with my FOs. In fact, I considered not photographing this for the blog at all, since I finished the identical sweater in the same size and yarn a few months ago.
But when this stuffed penguin presented himself wearing my recently finished Child’s Placket Neck Pullover from Last Minute Knitted Gifts and demanding that we go outside for some photos, he was too cute to resist.
While he gets all artsy and dramatic here with his posing, I’ll tell you that this sweater has become my default baby sweater; in fact, I already have another one planned. In the newborn size it takes under two balls of Knitpicks Crayon, which is the perfect soft yarn for a baby’s skin (and machine wash and dryable!), thereby costing all of $4 to make (plus the cost of buttons). It knits up very quickly and requires minimal finishing. It’s not the most impressive baby sweater you could ever make, but it’s perfect for a coworker for whose baby you feel somewhat obligated to produce a handknit sweater. (Warning to baby-knitting enthusiasts: before you start promising knitted baby clothes to a coworker as an outlet for your baby-knitting cravings (starkly different from baby cravings themselves), remember that you will be creating expectations amongst your other coworkers that you might not later feel like living up to. Do not fall into the same trap I did.)
Oh, excuse me, the penguin is ready for his close-up now.
The only concrete tip I have for other knitters of this sweater is, if you’re going to knit the sleeves on DPNs (as opposed to magic loop), don’t even bother with aluminum needles. Doing small-diameter circular seed stitch on aluminum DPNs is an exercise in frustration. That’s how I did the first sleeve, and I refused to start the second until I had obtained wooden ones. It made a world of difference. It amazes me that so many people, myself included, who learn to knit on aluminum needles (because they’re cheap and readily available at craft stores) ever stick with it. I can barely handle them now, so I have no idea how I did it then. New knitters: If you actually want to enjoy your new hobby, save up a few more dollars and buy wooden.
After we finished the “shoot,” the penguin looked at me expectantly, as though somehow believing that I would hand over a fee for his services. When I laughed and indicated that as a stuffed animal he was obliged to do whatever I wanted at any time — and do it graciously, because I could give him away to a toothy, drooly two-year-old — he looked affronted and stalked off. Geesh, the egos in the modeling industry are something to behold.
You can rest easy that I’m not going to write a post tomorrow fretting about people thinking that I started this blog as an excuse to post photos of my stuffed penguin on the internet. However, if the following photo causes people to suspect me of using my blog as a vehicle to post pictures of my kitties, I offer no comment.
Willow could not be persuaded not to be in this picture — my house is just full of prima donnas! — so there she is with the 11 skeins of Sierra that arrived yesterday and are destined to become Starsky. I know it is incredibly boring that I am using not only the exact yarn but also the exact color called for in the pattern, but after some consideration I realized that the natural color is the one I’d get the most use out of. (Sorry — out of which I will get the most use. My professional copy editor parents read this blog.) Anyway, you know what a pile of unwound skeins means, don’t you? Ball winder time!
The yarn is pretty soft for a bulky wool — the 30 percent alpaca helps with that. The bad thing is that every single ball had one or two knots in it. I’m not sure whether to complain — that many knots seems pretty excessive to me, but it is an inexpensive yarn. We’ll see how high my frustation level gets while knitting.
On a final note, yesterday was my first blogiversary. I actually spent the past month idly thinking about what kind of contest or celebration I should have in honor of the occasion, but I couldn’t come up with anything I liked enough. So I adhered to my cardinal rule of blogging (which I just made up yesterday): if you don’t have anything interesting to blog, don’t blog anything at all.
So, every time I post photos of finished objects to my blog, I wind up feeling conflicted about it. On the one hand, I want the FO to look great and to be shown off to its best effect. Since photography is a minor hobby of mine, with Matt also having a good eye behind the lens, I like doing “photo shoots” with my FOs to see if I can get some fun pictures that make the thing I knit look good. I do this partly for myself, because I like to have a pleasing record of what I knit (especially if it’s going to be given away) and partly for others, because I really love seeing great-quality photos of others’ knitting on their blogs. (I fault no one for taking self-in-the-mirror FO pictures, because some people want to spend their time knitting, not documenting their knitting, and I get that.) Anyway, photographing (or making Matt photograph) my knitting is a part of the process that I really enjoy. I don’t consider something “finished” until I’ve taken several pictures and blogged them.
On the other hand, I always agonize over the possibility that others might see different motives in my blog pictures. Given the nature of the things I knit, and the fact that gift recipients typically reside mailing-distance away, the job of “modeling” the knitting typically falls to me (Matt is a sport about taking the pictures, but he draws the line at flitting around in lace shawls while I snap away with the camera). My first priority in choosing which photos go on the blog is finding ones that make the knitting look good; secondary considerations include a) is it a cool photo, and b) do I not look like a goon? But even eliminating pictures based on those criteria usually leaves me with more than I need, so I always wind up posting more pictures than is probably strictly necessary. I’m afraid people will come to my blog and look at, say, my previous post about the RRS and think, “Wow, that girl really loves pictures of herself.” They might think I started this blog in the hopes that people will think I look good, not just my knitting. (This is why, whenever someone very kindly says something nice about how I look, as opposed sticking strictly to the topic of my knitting, I cringe a little inside.) To lessen this impression I often post photos of me without my face showing, but sometimes a picture just looks better when it’s not cut off at the neck.
I’m really a very modest person, and I don’t like to dress to show off or make people look at me. If a shirt exposes my collarbone I think it’s too provocative. If a dress provides any hint at the shape of my body, I worry that people at whatever party we’re attending will think I am the hired stripper. Seriously, ask Matt. So it bugs me to think that blog readers might think I’m all about me me me lookit me closeup on my prettiness (major prize to anyone who can identify that incredibly obscure reference). I will continue to try to get good photos of my knitting, and I will continue to model them as appropriate, but I just wanted to clarify for my readers that I have no motives aside from getting you to think that my knitting is pretty.
Disclaimer over. Expect me to provide a link to this in every FO post from now on.
P.S. I did not post this so everyone would say, “I never thought that!” or “Wow, you haven’t done a very good job of weeding out the photos where you look like goon,” or whatever, so don’t feel the need to comment. This is an informational post only.
Pattern: Lily Chin’s Reversible Rib Shawl from Vogue Knitting: American Collection
Yarn: Knit One Crochet Too’s Douceur et Soie in Deep Garnet — 65 percent baby mohair, 33 percent silk, 2 percent cat hair (my own addition)
Needles: Lantern Moon straights
Finished dimensions: 70″ x 20″ — just under 18 pattern repeats
Notes: Well, I finished it. The easy, arduous, beautiful, hateful Reversible Rib Shawl. One of my favorite things I’ve knit but one of my least favorite things to knit. I’ve spent many months whining about this project and now that it’s finished, if asked if it was worth it, I would answer unequivocally: yes. It is stunning. It is warm. It is elegant. It is now very well-photographed. (Speaking of which, Matt thinks some of these pictures make it look like we live in a vacant lot. We don’t.)
One year and one day ago (hey, wow!), when I was very new to the knit blog world — before Lickety Knit was even born — I stumbled upon Laura’s finished RRS and experienced my very first blog-based knitting inspiration. It was visceral. I needed to have one of my very own. I thought it was gorgeous. I thought it was the height of elegance. I recall thinking that it looked like an angel’s beach towel, which is kind of weird. Point is, rarely before or since have I been so struck by something on someone else’s blog. I am hopeful that my RRS will inspire others as well. My candid assessment for anyone considering this pattern: While it wasn’t great to make, it was great to have made, know what I mean? (It’s like how I don’t like going to the gym, but I like having gone to the gym.) It’s also easy, so don’t let that stop you.
(Please excuse my expression in the photo to the left. Matt says it looks like an advertisement for “ME, a new fragrance by me.”)
Anyway, I bought the yarn in June when Amylovie mentioned her plan to make this pattern and I talked her into a mini-knitalong (along with her secret pal Suzanne, who finished approximately one bazillion years earlier than I did). I decided to make it for my mother’s January 30 birthday. We cast on in September. I eagerly knit about 8 rows. Based on my progress, I calculated that I would indeed finish right around my mother’s birthday — in 2087.
Okay, so it was slow going. And I had to put it aside for a couple months to finish my Christmas knitting. But I really picked up steam in January, devoting nearly all my time to this one project. During one of my thoughtless blog rants about the deep psychological pain I was suffering from knitting this shawl, my mother mandated a new finish date: March 20. I scoffed. I was sure I’d finish waaaaaay before that. But then the Knitting Olympics came along and, well, let’s just say this shawl should arrive in my mother’s mailbox on March 15. Come on, that’s tons of time to spare!
Mom, I hope you like your shawl and get lots of use out of it. I expect that my demands to see you wearing it during my visits and hear you go on and on about how much you just love it will eventually die down about six years from now. It’ll make a great cape for your Supermom costume, and if you send a picture (as promised) of it being worn in that manner, I will post it so everyone will know that you are, indeed, Supermom. I love you! Happy, err…Ides of March?
Here she is, all finished and folded and waiting to be blocked: Lily Chin’s Reversible Rib Shaw. This photo does not in any way represent the ethereal loveliness of this shawl, but that’s intentional — I don’t want to lessen the earth-shattering impact of next weekend’s finished object post (if you simply can’t wait, here’s one that does it a bit more justice). I’m just putting it up here to let y’all know that it’s finished and you will not have to listen to me whine about this project anymore (including you, Mom — I know there’s probably nothing more rewarding for a mother than to listen to her daughter publicly gripe and moan about the agony her mother’s birthday present is inflicting upon her).
Because the non-photo of the shawl does not seem to be enough to justify a blog post, I’ll add this photo that I received from a coworker last week: his twins modeling the sweetheart pullovers I made for him/them last fall. I never get over how gratifying it is to see my knitted gifts — particularly baby duds– in use. Not that it’s not worth it anyway, but a photo like this makes it even moreso. My receipt of the picture was well timed, as I was feeling a bit disgruntled about the baby sweater promised to another co-worker for which I am about to cast on. This photo provides a little shot of motivation.
With the Knitting Olympics and the Reversible Rib Shawl more or less behind me and only a handful of small projects in front of me, I’m in the market for my Next Big Project. The frontrunners are a sweater for Matt and Starsky from Knitty. Viewers everywhere want to know: What will Rachel choose? Stay tuned for the next all-new episode of Lickety Knit.