Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Incredible Shrinking Needle

I finished this sock last Wednesday, after getting back into town. It's going to be for my friend who lives in the UP, since he never matches his socks it doesn't matter that I've only knit one. I knit it out of some Regia 6 ply Crazy Colors. It's been in my stash for a while and I felt inspired one day, so here's a sock. I also wanted to try a heel flap, since the first two pairs I did had short row heels. I think I may try a toe-up next, with the yarn from my Birthday Swap.

While I was knitting this sock I had a moment of panic. I was knitting away and then I looked down and thought: "Why am I using a size 6 needle? This is supposed to be a 2." I even pulled out a 6 to compare. I really should get a needle sizer. Turns out I was using a 2 all along. Really? It felt so big in my hands.

A year ago, I would have balked at the idea of using a needle smaller than a 5. Knitting on 5s seemed to take so long. A year before that anything below an 8 felt small and slow. I think I taught myself to knit on size 9s and used needles around that size for a good while (years). Eventually, I started exploring new techniques and making more than just simple items.

My hands have gotten used to smaller needles, and I tend to like the way a smaller-gauged fabric drapes. I don't know that I could say I have a preference, though anything above a 10.5 feels large. I have come to enjoy knitting with smaller needles. I guess the more experienced I have become, the more willing I am to spend time on one thing.

What I've learned, and what I think about working with different sized needles, is that knitting is an incredible means to creating a beautiful item. Small needles for delicate or small items, large needles for cozy and warm items: each needle has a purpose and is useful.

Now, back to lace-weight yarn and size 4 needles.

Friday, August 25, 2006

All I Ever Wanted

I have a lot of things running through my mind. I want to let you know that I've finished Witterings and just need to block and starch it (right now it looks like a bonnet) and add the ribbon to the inside. I finished it on my vacation--boy, that sewn bind off takes a very long time. I also knit two washcloths and taught a friend to knit. I'd show you a picture of him knitting, but I forgot to ask his permission.

Then, I want to tell you about everything we did in the UP. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is one miraculous place. We swam in hidden pools that formed at the bottom of waterfalls; we hiked through woods; we ate German food (potato pancakes for me, yum); we ate good food (I credit this friend for teaching me how to cook without a cookbook--before him, I could only make French Toast--my specialty--hamburgers [when I ate meat], and oatmeal. Now, I can whip up something incredible with just the five ingredients in my kitchen) and a yummy carrot cake for my birthday; and we hiked through a virgin pine forest. That's not even half of it. This has become an annual trip, but this is only the second time it's fallen on my birthday. But I think I really want to talk about how my birthday has become special to me. I apologize for the lack of knitting content, but this is important.

Both my parents are deceased. I find it difficult to remember them on their individual birthdays or the anniversaries of their deaths. I don't take the time to celebrate them then like I should, nor do I want to dwell on it like that four times a year. I think about them, and I usually cry a little, but I don't really celebrate them as my parents.

On my thirtieth birthday I was afraid that my family would forget my big day because they were on a family vacation, and because they were surely only thinking about my Babci's 90th birthday the next month (I am so proud that my grandmother is 60 years older than me, and that one of my aunts is 30 years older than me. I like the symmetry of it--it makes me feel connected to them in a special way--and that year our ages made a 30/60/90 triangle). I had also recently broken up with the person I thought was the "one." To avoid the disappointment of getting no calls on my birthday, I decided to go away. The opportunity opened to join a friend in Traverse City, then drive up to Northwoods, a camp that my alma mater operates, to meet up with another friend from Hiram.

I flew to TC a few days before my birthday, we hopped in the car and drove the 7 or so hours to Northwoods. The three of us went hiking in Pictured Rocks, hung out in the lodge, and had a wonderful carrot cake for my birthday, topped with freshly picked berries. Each of my friends gave me a bowl (it wasn't planned). It was my best birthday.

Being that it was my thirtieth, I was thinking about where I was and how I'd gotten there. For as long as I could remember, our family vacations were almost always in the UP. We'd camp every year at the same park that had amazing cliffs and black sand. Even though we lived in the city and later the suburbs, my parents treated us to nature as much as they could, whether it be picking wild berries and mushrooms or traveling into Canada to bird watch. Spending time in the UP got me reminiscing about our yearly trips to that campground. None of us (my siblings or me) are sure where it is, though we all have our opinions.

It was then I decided that I would spend my birthday celebrating my parents by doing something they would have enjoyed. After all, they made me, both by giving life to me and by raising me. I couldn't be more thankful for that. So this is how I celebrated my birthday weekend this year:

By the way: EVERYone remembered my thirtieth birthday that year.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Just a quick post, so I can flaunt all my beautiful things from my birthday swap pal. Two skeins of Wool in the Woods Cherub:

It's beautiful! I want to work with it right now. Oooh, I can wind it at least!

I also got two skeins of sock yarn. She may bring out my inner knitter yet. Sockotta in a nice green with some blues, and Opal sock yarn in what I'm assuming is a fair isle style pattern. We'll see when I knit it up.

Included in the package were some lovely stitch markers. They remind me of tension rings used for piercings, which delights me. I can't wait to use them on the shawl that I will (I will!) start tomorrow.

Finally, there was a pad of paper and a pad of sticky notes in a fun pattern. I was just thinking I needed some sticky notes by the computer. She must have read my mind.

Thanks, Carie. My package was beautiful. It was great to come home from my vacation to a box full of yarn.

I'll post pictures and details about my trip, with knitting news, tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My Birthday Comes Early This Year

Yesterday I got a card from a friend I haven't seen in a long, long time. That was my first birthday wish. Then I got a birthday wish from Abigail, which was my first blog-related birthday wish. Then . . .

The above is yarn I wound today. How? Well, I got this in the mail today!

And this!

From Dan. What a guy.

Definitely two of the best gifts I have ever gotten (and I have some great friends who give great gifts). When I walked into my building there were two packages under the mailboxes. I said to Aimee (who was with me), "I hope they are for me. I'm sure they are not, but I hope they are." They were! From Knitting-Warehouse? Hm. What could it be? Then, "Could they be what I think they are? No. Are they from Dan? No. I bet they are. I can't believe he'd do this. No. Yeah, I bet they are." Aimee just kept saying, "They must be--open them," even though she had no idea what I thought they were. I opened the winder first, then the swift. Of course, I set them up and wound the cashmere/yak I got at Stitches. Dan said the 1200 yards of lace-weight yarn I hand-wound were what solidified his decision to get these marvelous tools for me. If he hadn't moved to New York, I'd show my appreciation for weeks on end. Instead, I get to be very happy winding the 600 yards of alpaca I got at Stitches Midwest. What a great start to my birthday!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

One of These Days

I tried taking pictures of my Stitches Midwest bounty with my phone, but they just aren't good. I guess I will have to tell you what I bought.

First, I got a couple things for my August Birthday Swap pal, Aurora. I'll wait to describe that.

Second, I got some incredibly luscious alpaca. 600 yards for $21.50. I have no idea what I'll do with it, but I couldn't pass up the price (which appears to be the Stitches price).

Third, I got a skein of a beautiful cashmere yak blend (not as cheap as the above) in a cream color. Again, I have no plans for it, but it was so heavenly to touch.

Fourth, Webs was there. Score! I snatched four balls of Jo Sharp SoHo Summer; two balls of Oyster and two of Umber. I also got four balls of Plassard Coton Lin; two balls of a brown and two of a blue. I couldn't decide which I would use for Witterings, but I just started with the Jo Sharp. It is so soft. I may have to order more for a matching tank or something. I'm sure they'll sell out soon, though. If I can, I'd like to have this project done so I can wear it on my trip to the UP this weekend.

Finally, I bought an Inox size 4 circular to start the Print o' the Waves Stole. There was a stole on display at the Knitter's Universe booth. It was beautiful. I am nervous about starting the stole, though. There's something so delicate and fragile about a lace project. I have worked with lace-weight yarn, and I have worked lace patterns, but never together. I keep starting other projects (like socks I don't even want to make) to avoid making this lace stole. Back to knitting, so I can finish this sock--I'm only making one, since I don't know why I started it in the first place--and the hat, and move on to the stole.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ups and Downs

There's very little knitting in this post, but there are a few pictures.

Today is Jen's birthday. We've been friends for 20 years. No one knows me like Jen. When she had her first baby, I was as happy as if it had been my sister's. Now that she's had another, I feel like my family has gotten bigger by another little one. It's incredible to me to think that I've wished her a happy birthday for at least 19 years (I don't remember what month we really became friends, but I know it was after the car accident where I broke the car's window with my 12-year-old head. That was summer, so I may have wished her a happy birthday that year, too).

My brother was only 6 months old the August I turned 12. He is 20 now and shipping off to Iraq. He called me from North Carolina just as I was heading to the el. I'm so glad I left work a little late today. I did feel a little embarrassed for crying in the train station, but he's my little brother and worth a bit of embarrassment. [That's my Papa in the background.]

Today is my other brother's birthday. I was wishing him a happy birthday when Andrew called so I had to let Stef get to his birthday dinner (including ice-cream cake with mint-chocolate-chip ice cream and chocolate cake--my favorite. I'm so jealous) to talk to Andrew. We're all in this picture at Andrew's graduation from basic training. Of course, I have my frog-face on for the photo.

Three years ago today my mother passed away (it was Stef's 21st birthday). I've been missing her lately. I really wanted to tell her about the festival. Funny how your parents' pride is so different from any one else's, and how their support is more important, even when you're an adult.

Dan's in town, though, and I'm excited to see him. (If you're in the Chicago area, the Baldwin Brothers are playing at the Double Door and you should go see them. They are so good.)

So you see, today has been a bit up and down.

I got my lace yarn yesterday only to realize I don't have any size 4 circular needles. I'll pick some up tomorrow, I think. I spent last night winding 1260 yards into a center-pull ball. It took about 2 1/2 hours. I had sore thumbs.

I've been doing little projects just to fill the time until I got the yarn. I'm trying to think of something I make to send to Andrew, and I want to make a toy for Renée. Stefan wants a sweater that I should start on. I still want to make a summer hat before summer is over. I need yarn for those projects. I'm projectless and feel antsy. Well, I don't have anything I want to work on. There's a difference.

This weekend is Stitches Midwest. I may have to go alone, but I have to go because I'm planning on shopping for my birthday pal there. Who knows what fun things I may find. I'd better take a list, only cash, and a big bag. I should also leave my debit card at home.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

This is what I (Should) Do

I will be away for a few days. I will be knitting, but only at night and in a hotel room in Kewanee, Illinois. I will be at the Midwest Folk Festival. I curated this festival and feel proud to have some world-renowned artists performing. I am also proud to present folk artists at this festival. Besides wishing that the rain and excessive heat stay away, at least until 4:00 on Sunday, my only hope is that all of the visitors to the festival make some connection with and learn something from an artist. Now if I could only figure out a way to make this a larger part of my job (that, or find a way to knit all the time), I would be satisfied--at least job-satisified.

I'm working on the Garterlac Dishcloth (see previous post). I had to rip out a bit because I made a square too many, but I'm having fun with it. I think I might take a sock pattern with me (what?) for some hotel room knitting. I might try toe-up. Any pattern recommendations? Might be too hot for wool, though. Maybe I'll start a tank for me. That'll be the day. I should just ask Jen what she'd like and make that. Perhaps a bag. Oh, I'll probably take sock yarn, yarn for a tank top, and yarn for a bag. I might even take some extra, just in case.