Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Day Without

My grandmother (Babci) came to the United States from Poland in 1930 when she was 16. She came to be with her father (her mother had been dead for some years), who had died in an accident while she was journeying to the US. She ended up living with my grandfather's family, who had also emigrated from Poland (my great-grandmother, Busia, never learned to speak English). She worked in a cigar factory to earn money. Eventually, she married my grandfather, even though he couldn't dance.

My Dziadzi was quite the entrepreneur. He had a bookstore, then they ran a diner. My dad was raised above the restaurant. They eventually retired to the suburbs (after the riots, things weren't so stable in Detroit). Dziadzi had rental homes and another diner.

My cousins knew the restaurant, but my siblings and I did not. I got to look in the window before they tore it down to expand one of the car plants, but I never knew the life. I love hearing stories about the restaurant. I was always so amazed that Babci spent so much of her days cooking and running a restaurant, all while raising a family. One of the things that always impressed me the most about the restaurant was that my grandparents helped other immigrants by giving them jobs. Some of the women they employed weren't legal, some didn't speak English.

My grandparents knew what it was like to struggle in a new land. They knew what it was like to raise a family miles and oceans away from the families that raised them. I have relatives who have emigrated from Poland within the last twenty years. I have relatives who don't speak English. Because of this, and because I believe that this country is what it is because of immigration (including the horrible parts, like the way the country and its citizens still treat Native Americans), I have decided that I will not purchase anything tomorrow in support of A Day Without and Immigrant. I am even going to wait to purchase yarn for my next project (Baby Bolero from One Skein). I don't see a way to miss work, or I would. I would even join the rally in Grant Park. Since I can't, I will do my small, small part by not purchasing anything.

Edited to Add May 1: Chicago organizers are not calling for a boycott.

Frustration: Part Two

I am knitting along, happy that the sock is moving along quickly. I'm ready to begin the short row toe. I count the stitches. I have four extra stitches. WHAT? That's a half inch. Do I frog, again? One thing I'm not is a perfectionist.

I like things to work the way they are supposed to, and I have no problem fixing things. But I have my limits. Two days + size two needles + attempt number two = one limit.

I decided to decrease four before starting the toes, on the bottom of the foot. Dan measured his foot for me last week and got the measurement for the circumference I now have. The sock looks huge to me, but I guess I won't know until Dan tries it on. The question now is: Do I make the same mistakes on purpose the second time around? I just hope the second one goes as quickly.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


I have been knitting long enough to know to do a gauge swatch before launching into a new project. So what do I do? Totally disregard that good practice and launch into Dan's socks. Oh, and they are going so fast.

My gauge is off. I thought I was knitting at nine stitches per inch. No. I'm knitting at eight stitches per inch. Eight! So 88 stitches is eight stitches too many for the socks I'm making. Which translates to an entire inch. Now, Dan's foot has a pretty wide circumfrence, but not 11 inches big. Now I have to frog the sock. I was just about to do the toe. I have been working on this for DAYS.

I guess this means these socks will go even faster, since I'll be working eight less stitches each round.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Guilt that Follows Confession

So I've been feeling guilty about my last post. I ranted a bit. Who am I to say what yarn is better than another?

Less than five inches left on the Somewhat Cowl. I intend to wear it on Wednesday to knitting night. Hopefully, someone will be able to take a picture.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Yesterday I bought three balls of novelty yarn. Nina said "those are three of the most un-Tamara yarns." It's true. I stay away from things with eyelash or fuzzy or any kind of nub. But this is for a good friend who is turning two. You have to break down and buy crazy things for two year olds.

Here is what I bought:
Berroco Softy in Black
Berroco Quest in Chambord
Habu Poly-Moire in Wakakusa Green

I plan on holding the three together to make an approximation of the "Swamp Thing Monster Hats" from New Knits on the Block. I bought some buttons that look like the hypnosis spiral to use for eyes.

Now let me clarify two things. One, when I do use fuzzy or eyelash-y yarn, I like to use Habu. There is something appealing about their yarn, even the nubby kind. I don't want to offend Kidsilk Haze devotees out there, but I think Habu's silk and mohair blend is much, much softer. It has a bigger silk to mohair ratio.

Two, I understand why people are drawn to using novelty yarns. I think this article in Spun explains the interest (and substitutions) well. I'd like to add my two cents, if I may.

When I teach, I always stress that it is important to use yarn that feels good while you knit it. In my opinion, those yarns are most often luxury yarns. They usually produce clear stitch definition and you have control of the yarn while you knit it. Novelty yarns are seductive, but disappointing in the end. The stitches are hard to see and they are either too slippery or too splitty to be knit with ease. I made many a novelty-yarn scarf during the first three years of knitting. One fell apart and another ended up in the bottom of a scarf pile . One person gave the scarf back to me because it was too much for him (it was just a variegated boucle).

As a gift knitter, I also think about the recipient of my knitted item. Will they use it? Is it their style? Eyelash scarves make my nose itch. Of course I've given gifts that I don't ever expect will be used. I gave Jen a tank top out of Rowan Cotton Tape (which I love) that is probably too bulky for her. I also gave her a sweater out of Rowan Polar that is 100% a color she loves and a style that looks great, but sheds like there's no tomorrow. I don't expect her to wear either of those things. I do know that Joseph loves his cable sweater. Jen loves it, too. I know it because it is made of a yarn that feels good and it has a million cables all over it.

So here's my advice. Get a smooth yarn--something with a high merino content--and make a cabled scarf. Or a scarf with some yarnovers. It will go much more smoothly and be worn more often. Cables are a lot easier than one might think, too. If you're not ready for cables, get a pretty variegated and textured yarn like Malabrigo.

I am glad to see people knitting. I worry that if they only use novelty yarns, that the novelty is going to wear off and they will never feel the pleasure of making something out of cashmere, alpaca, silk, merino, or even a really nice cotton blend.

Let the stone-throwing commence. I am getting off my high-horse now.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Round and Round

This post marks the beginning of photo-less posts. Sure, I may post one or two taken with a camera phone, but they won't be as clear or snazzy as the pictures taken by Dan (he went to art school, you know).

Dan leaves today. I've taken the day off to help him load his Penske. I also thought being at work while Dan was packing up to leave, possibly forever, would not be a fun work day. I am trying really hard to avoid being sad until he's gone. He's so excited to go home to his family and to experience living in New York. Me, I love Chicago. I'm staying put.

Dan won't give me a picture of himself, or I'd post it. Check out photographs he's taken by following the link in the sidebar.

In knitting news, I've got about 18 inches of the Somewhat Cowl completed. It just goes 'round and 'round. The ribbing will be killer, I'm sure. In spite of that, though, I still love it. I want to knit myself into circles all the time. It's gotten too big to take on the el, so I'm going to have to start something new. Maybe the socks for Dan. I've been putting off starting his socks because I haven't decided on a pattern and I only have Addi Turbos.

While I was knitting on the bus the other day, the girl who was sitting in front of me moved to a seat across the aisle. I think the tinkling of the Addi Turbos was bugging her. It bugs me. I can't find circular needles I like. Scratch that--I don't own circular needles I like. The Bryspuns are good and sharp. I'd say I like them, but I've had two different pairs break while I was knitting with them. The needle detached from the cord. UGH! My LYS only carries Addis, Crystal Palace, and Clover, I think. Addis are too noisy and too blunt. And don't get me started on bamboo. I mean, the joins are bad, the tips are blunt, they are too grippy, and they feel splintery while I knit (I scrape the tip of my right needle against the left needle as I pull it through the stitch). If I can find some Lantern Moons, maybe I'll try those. The straights are pretty pointy and the wood is usually smooth.

For now, I'll just go 'round and 'round.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ta Da!

I said I'd post pictures, I'm posting pictures. I made these for one of Dan's friends. I've met her only twice now, but these were quick and she lost or damaged hers right after I met her. Dan adores her so much, I thought a pair of fingerless gloves would be a nice gesture.

They are made from some Louisa Harding Kashmir Aran I had in my stash. This is a great yarn to work with. I hadn't yet worked with a cabled yarn. I like the way it knit up very much. I still have a bunch of the purple. Not enough for another pair, but maybe a hat.

You'll notice in the second picture that the cables don't quite match. I meant for the cable to be centered, but since I was making the pattern up as I went, it ended up a bit off. When I tried to correct for the right glove, it was even more off-centered. Oh no. Sometimes I get stubborn; I didn't fix it. I rather like the way the right glove works, though. The cable lines up with the first finger, which looks nice. More interesting than a cable up the middle.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Here We Go Again

So. I've been knitting. I haven't been blogging. I have started two new projects: Clapotis (yes, I know I'm late joining that bandwagon) out of some Blue Heron yarn and the Somewhat Cowl out of All Seasons Cotton (Madil, not Rowan). The Blue Heron yarn isn't really suited to the project, but it was calling to me, saying "use me for Clapotis, Clapotis, Clapotis." So I listened. I like it, but I have a tendency to scrunch the yarn onto my 10 inch bryspun, which is making my hands hurt.

The Somewhat Cowl on the other hand . . . I love it. It is moving surprisingly fast. I think I'm becoming more comfortable on needles that are smaller than, say, seven than on those eight and up. I like the way the finer yarns knit up. There's a certain crispness to the fabric that appeals to me.

I still haven't done the cat or sewn up the pillow. It used to be that I didn't mind finishing. Now, it isn't so much that I mind except that it takes away from actual knitting time. I think this top-down sweater thing may be the way to go. Ask me again when I've completed it.

As soon as Dan moves some pictures from his camera to my computer, I'll post pictures.

Saturday, April 01, 2006