Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Not the Same Socks

When I listed my works in progress yesterday you may have noted my blip about the socks. Plain ol' socks. And that I had a bit of a fit problem. Well, I had the opportunity to photograph the project this morning.

I envisioned a simple pair of socks because these are destined to be worn by a man with straightforward tastes. And the yarn was stripy, no need for any fiddle faddle here.

These are socks knit in Classic Elite Alpaca Sox. It's luscious yarn, made of 60% Merino / 20% Alpaca / 20% Nylon. The suggested gauge is 8 stitches per inch on Size 2 needles. I cast on 76 stitches and got exact gauge for the first sock.

But can you see the difference? The entire time I was knitting, the little voice in my head was saying "these are too big!!" But the fiendish knitting hands could not stop and at one point there was actually a mid-knit fitting. Seemed okay, but didn't at the same time. It definitely nagged at me the entire time I knit sock #1.

When I finished it boy, was it huge. We tried it and and well, while it did "fit", it was not "snug". It seemed like it would slide around. But they stayed up, they didn't sag. I went to bed that night with a nagging feeling. It wasn't perfect.

So back to Ravelry for a bit more research. I learned other knitters lamented not knitting this yarn at a tighter than called for gauge. They found that the yarn felted just through friction and wear. Hmmm.

It made me realize I could go down a needle size and not change anything else I'd have a snugger fitting sock -- one that might not felt as quickly.

You can really see the difference here, can't you? This exercise really taught me the needle/yarn/gauge lesson. Not that I didn't know it already, but it's nice when you have a tangible object for comparison.

The first sock is 8 stitches per inch. The second is about 9.5 to 10 stitches per inch. What a difference!
It fits much better, it will be more pleasing and hopefully there will be few excuses why they are not worn!

Here, I experimented. If I was going to have to reknit the first sock anyway, why not see what it looks like when I have a 2x2 rib vs a 1x1 rib?!

I haven't decided completely, but I might actually prefer the look of the 2x2 cuff. What do you guys think? Which do you prefer?

Now that I've documented this effort, I will rrrrrrip out sock #1 for a redo.

What was supposed to be a simple, fast project has just become a much longer one. I wanted to move on but instead face another week of subway sock knitting. Oh well, there are worse things...

Torment Ended

Even back then, as small children playing, she was tormented by herself. Unsure, insecure, always afraid of being misunderstood. Filled with doubt, unhappy. An outcast in her family. She manifested her psychic pain in countless maladies. In and out of the hospital, a constant plea for attention, repair, correcting some terrible wrong. Her father had no patience for her insecurity. He would shout at her to "cut it out, Marion!" She couldn't, she didn't know how.

She sought a career in the medical world. Seeking solace through caregivers. But they gave her no peace. They ripped her apart, wrecked her body, inflicted pain. Butchers. Each cut of their knife another step toward endless decline. Still she remained loyal to their profession, despite the insult to her body and soul.

At one point, she tried to reach out to her family, to explain herself. Her attempts were met with derision, disgust. She withdrew. More neurosis - trying to backtrack on the attempt. Reverse the course. It was confusing to her, confusing to friends and family. And her personal torment continued unabated.

In 2001 her Mother died. A tragic turn for this daughter, so fragile and unsure. She could not consider the option of living without Mother. Completely distraught, she could just not let go. For months, she was mired in depression and angst. Family tried to coax her into the sunshine. But she preferred to replay recordings of her Mother's voice on her answering machine. Her last connection, her consolation for a lost and desperate soul.
It just could not be.

And then today, such tragic news, she took her life. She simply could not go on. A shock to all, but upon reflection, maybe not so shocking after all. Her torment is over, she is finally once and for all at peace. Her pain is over. The family's pain continues. So many unanswered questions.

Upon hearing the news this morning, I was immediately whisked back to those days we all played together in more innocent times. Cousins all close in age, spending countless hours at the Briarcliff pool, or watching Bonanza in the family room. Playing in the basement, drawing pictures on giant sheets of newsprint. And always, little Marion was unhappy, insecure, miserable, fearful, tentative, misunderstood, confused, tormented. Poor Marion, she never fit into this world.

Rest in peace, Marion.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Knitter's update - no pictures

I wanted to show you some shots of finished stuff, but nothing is finished! And the variable light this past weekend conspired against my feeble photo efforts.

I have four projects on the needles and have to fight hard the urge to cast on a few more. I am bursting with knitting energy - the starting kind, not the finishing kind.

So. Here's a quick inventory of things I am working on, in various stages of completion:

1. Flutter Sleeve Cardigan. A cute little short sleeved sweater from Spring 2008 Interweave Knits. The pattern called for yarn I already had in my stash, so I just needed to knit this up! Call it stashbusting in a big way, since I had 10 balls of Classic Elite Classic Silk and this pattern uses about 9 of them. I'm finished knitting all the big pieces, and am working on the seed stitch band that runs up the fronts.

2. Flow. A very very simple little tank top designed by one of the great knitting goddesses of all time, Norah Gaughan. What makes this project so great is the yarn, something called Seduce by Berroco. And yes, being a complete yarn slut, I was very easily seduced...I chose the Verdigris colorway. Anyway. I got stalled over the weekend with a small technical glitch, but it should be humming along nicely this week. My goal is to finish this one before the upcoming weekend in the Mountains.

3. Socks. Simple plain ol' socks. In a gorgeous Alpaca blend - Alpaca Sox from Classic Elite; slightly stripey in shades of grey. For the man in your life, or mine. Two weeks into this one, I have two socks finished. Except the first one is HUGE, and I have to reknit. A learning experience. My gut told me all along it was too big, but I didn't LISTEN to my Inner Knitter voice. The second one came out perfect. So back to the drawing board with the first one. Harumph. Next time I will listen to that little voice telling me the truth.

4. Raglan sleeve cardigan for Mom. This one has been on the mind awhile. I have the yarn, the pattern and did the measurements. It's worked from the top down, and so far so good. I have over half the yoke finished and I only cast on Sunday morning.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Don't you want to be Kanye?

I know this is way off knitting topic, but I saw this on the subway the other day and just could not resist grabbing the shot. This may be one of the most bizarre things I've seen in awhile. And it really made me laugh!

Apologies for the poor quality, I used my Blackberry. When I asked out loud "Is this for real?" I got an unexpected response from a fellow passenger who commented he wasn't sure, but he'd seen this poster once before on the subways. Yo Kanye, got ego??!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Two Worlds

I straddle two worlds and have done so for a very long time. One world is corporate, the other more creative/artistic. The corporate world has provided me with decent income, good savings, decent benefits, some rewards and excellent training opportunities. The artistic world is one I've lived vicariously through friends and people I associate with.

It's been a struggle for years to decide if I should stop straddling and make a decision to join one world or the other.

So it was on Thursday night when I attended an incredible performance by Jerry Douglas at the Prospect Park Bandshell. Sitting there listening to him and his amazing band, I pondered the notion of how lucky some people are to live completely in the creative world and be successful. To me, they are the embodiment of "living the dream". They get to live their passions completely. When I am in the corporate world, I rarely see that same passion. I see lots of people like me getting through the day. I seriously doubt they have the kind of passion I witnessed in Jerry Douglas and his band.

I wondered how a person knows the path to choose when starting out. How do you know? Because I didn't that's for sure. I wanted to chase film, architecture, design. I was discouraged from all these by concerned parents. I needed more of a backbone, more survival instinct. Instead their appeals for security resonated somehow. Maybe all the moving around, the unsettled feelings in childhood left their mark.

People who know me would be surprised to hear me say I need a backbone.. They think I am strong willed. But the truth is, I've made agreements when taking a stand and voicing my desires would have served me better. I let their fears become mine.

Which brings me to the knitting. It grabbed me two years ago. Hard. It hasn't let go one bit since. It consumes my thoughts most days. Knitting has opened up the world of possibilities. That maybe I won't have to straddle much longer. Maybe I can find a path through the knitting that will fuse the passion to the daily living.

I've learned I am more fearless than I believed. I was called a shaolin master by a friend, and I appreciated that. I learn by doing, I learn from mistakes. Each project brings on new challenges, new things to learn. In that way, my knitting is fearless. So why not the rest of my world?

And now I also know that someday I want to be as good a knitter as Jerry Douglas is at Dobro. Now that's aspiring to the highest level! And why not!?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rudy Patrols the Hood

My Rudy is a cheerful little man. With good reason! He has a great life, very comfortable, full of variety, low stress, he is the commander of his Universe.

He's also a little macho man. Maybe it's his low rider stature, or maybe it's that he's really a BIG dog, just extremely short. When he takes to the streets, he owns them. Rudy is determined, steadfast, in charge, confident. He trots along, checking things out, making sure the all the cats and squirrels know their place. He has everything under control. In fact, as the name implies, Rudy is the Mayor of Park Slope.

snobby rudy
Originally uploaded by knithound brooklyn
So last night when he happened across one of his own, a tribe member so to speak, you'd think he would be happy to commune. Maybe take a few moments to compare notes. Discuss local politics, or gossip a bit.

But perhaps the other dog told him some unsettling news. Whatever it was, Rudy didn't take the news well. No Siree, he was quite displeased.

Are the polls moving in the wrong direction? Is this dog complaining that the Mayor has more work to do around these parts? Whatever it was, Rudy decided he wanted no more and told the other guy to "Get Lost!"


Moments later, all was forgotten and Rudy went back to scanning the latest news, inspecting his turf and reassuring himself that he still commands these streets with his good natured cheerful determination.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

DLP Scarf

DLP scarf 006
Originally uploaded by knithound brooklyn
Design: Here & There Cables, by Norah Gaughn (Ravelry)
Source: Scarf Style, Interweave Press
Yarn: Reynolds Odyssey, Granite mix, 6 skeins
Needle: US #8
Started: March 1, 2008
Finished: June 1, 2008

My friend and former neighbor DLP celebrated one of those huge milestone birthdays back in January. I attended his little gathering on a cold Sunday evening, at one of my favorite restaurants in my old neighborhood.

It was so great to see him surrounded by people who really love and care for him. DLP is a survivor. A 4-time survivor. I marvel at his determination and willpower every time I see him. I know we've all been rooting for him and wow, just wow.

So after the little party I offered up a knitted gift and asked him what did he favor? Why, a scarf of course! Now at the time, I had no pattern in mind, but one thing I did know, I wanted something that would somehow represent the twists and turns one's life can take. Lord knows, DLP has had a few of those.

DLP scarf 007
Originally uploaded by knithound brooklyn
Technically speaking, I wanted a reversible scarf. So off I went to my little library of knit books, and also a very thorough search on Ravely. I came up with this scarf, which of course was designed by one of my favorite knit designers, Norah Gaughn.

Well. That settled it. This is the one. I ordered the yarn and cast on. Way back in March. But. Then I realized I was kinda burnt out on cables, having come off another couple of projects. My brain was tired or something. I needed a break from cables.

So it went back in the bag for awhile. And when I pulled it out to resume, my cable mojo was back big time. I finished it off in about 3 days, knitting on the subway, during local Knit Meet Ups and well into some evenings when I surely needed to be in bed.

doug scarf 005
Originally uploaded by knithound brooklyn
Just as I finished, well wouldn't you know the biggest heat wave of the summer (so far) came along and busy NYers that we all are, tonite! finally. I guess he has another six months now to contemplate how the cables, like little rivers of wool cross over themselves endlessly from beginning to end.

It's a good pattern, it did keep my interest, and the yarn is terrific to work. I made another gift using the remainders, you can read about that one here. Hats off to Norah, she remains one of my heroines.

We had a lovely visit, punctuated with news, family talk, some giggles and a nice cold beer. It was odd to be back in my old building. The trees we planted so many years ago completely canopy the entry. Neat! That neighborhood is so pleasant during the week but an absolute touristy nightmare on the weekends.

It's always great to catch up with D&M, and I wish we could do it more often.

doug scarf 010
Originally uploaded by knithound brooklyn
M was so surprised I've "become a knitter". She's not the only one. But then again, maybe it's not so surprising. I like repetitive tasks - they don't bore me, I get into a zen like rhythm and then my mind starts to riff on all kinds of stuff. While knitting this scarf the riff was all about illness, recovery, pressing onward, never giving up.

lap dog topiary
Originally uploaded by knithound brooklyn
Oh. And as I headed off to the subway, I couldn't help noticing our block has taken on airs. Well well well.

Uplifting News

Carroll Street Bridge
Originally uploaded by josegaytan82
We received great news here at Chez Knithound. DH's photography proposal to the Brooklyn Public Library was accepted and they awarded him a SOLO show in the Grand Lobby in 2009! We are completely thrilled!! And nervously excited. The project chronicles the rapid transition of the Gowanus area in Brooklyn.

Now, DH has been a photographer a very long time. It's really cool he is getting a chance to share the work to a wider audience.

Well! We are happy happy happy. Time is of the essence. So much to do. Racing against a very big deadline.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

VERY Belated Birthday Vest

Design: Professor Vest, by Elizabeth Morrison
Yarn: Black Water Abbey, 2 ply worsted, Chestnut
Needle: US #7
Started: March 25, 2008
Finished: May 16, 2008

Belated Professor Vest

There's a story behind why this is such a belated birthday gift. I actually started a different vest last year. Same pattern, same yarn, different color. A gorgeous sea green color. After laboring over that one for months, it turned out to be too big. In fact, it was so big it actually fits DH instead. Not that he's worn it more than once, but that's for another blog entry.

So, fortunately I had the Chestnut color of this wool. Which by the way, I love. Let me get back to the subject of the yarn later. For now, here's a shot of the first vest I made last year. Pretty color - Moss. For this version I used some vintage leather buttons I happened to have in my sewing basket. Very professorial if I do say so. I did make a teensy error on this version. For some reason the buttons are on the 'wrong' side for a man's version of the vest. It's one of those things that I really need to go back and correct. Because I would like to see this garment worn.

Professor Vest

Anyway, having made the vest once before, the second time was a cinch. The only reason it took as long as it did was all the other projects I was working at the same time. I finished knitting this up back in May. And then it sat around till last week when I finally hit M&J Trimming to pick up the right buttons. I found some natural horn buttons. They work perfectly with the Chestnut colorway.

Belated Professor Vest

RCP came by the house today to pick up the vest and it gave me the opportunity to take a few shots with him modeling the final product. He's really happy with it and I am, too.

The stitch pattern is called Broken Rib. It's very easy, and the result is quite manly. It should also be quite warm, with all those little yarn cells to keep the heat in.

Knitting for men is a real challenge. Most of them are pretty conservative and that can mean a bit boring. Fortunately, RCP takes pride in his clothes. He comes from Texas - his mother was a seamstress, his father a jeweler. He likes fine clothes. I am a bit surprised he actually likes this vest as it's a bit more "country rustic" than his usual style.

Belated Professor Vest

I love the color of this yarn. If you get it outside in natural light you can see red, gold, green all reflected in the main chestnut color. This stuff is fantastic. I think that's why RCP likes it. The yarn has depth. Character. It's made in Ireland. The color card I got when I ordered the yarn shows some gorgeous selections.

Belated Professor Vest

It may not feel the softest off the skein, but wool like this doesn't bother me too much, and it's not designed to be worn directly against the skin anyway. It's crisp, crunchy yarn with a good twist. Made in Ireland. It looks like it's made there! This is the yarn for a really sturdy Aran sweater. And someday, that's just what it will be. There are a few designs out there worth a try, like Na Craga, or anything else by Alice Starmore.

RCP looks quite handsome in his new vest. It fits perfectly! I am very pleased with the outcome of this belated gift. Some things are worth waiting for! The irony is, his birthday is just around the corner again, leaving me with a bit of a dilemma for what to knit for this year's gift!

Belated Professor Vest

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lizard Ridge

Lizard Ridge
Originally uploaded by knithound brooklyn
Design: Lizard Ridge Afghan, by Laura Naylor
Yarn: Noro Kureyon; 24 skeins various colors; 30 squares in all plus one skein Cascade 220 Garnet for seaming and edging
Needle: US #8
Started: February, 2008
Finished: June, 2008

This is a wedding gift for my friends S&S. They were married in secret over a year ago. Got hitched at City Hall and then took off on a cruise to the Galapagos Islands. Smart kids. They have a beautiful oasis of calm in the mountains upstate. This will look gorgeous in their little cabin. I can't wait to give it to them.

I can picture them sitting on the deck overlooking the lake with this blanket to keep the morning chill off.

The colors in this blanket are gorgeous. Even the reverse side is nice. The seaming was easy; I'm proud of the neatness. The I Cord Binding worked out, though it was slow going. The corners were important and took a few attempts to get the right proportion of added rows to make the turn. Worked out okay, don't you think?

The Lizard Ridge Afghan, folded and close up of the I Cord Binding around the entire edge. I used Cascade 220, garnet, 1 skein to seam all the squares and to do the edging. A nice compliment to all the colors in the project!

I am supremely pleased with the results of this project. I learned short row shaping. While knitting the 30 squares I riffed on so many future ideas, variations on this theme. The color combinations were endlessly fascinating, and in the cases where I pieced various skeins together to economize, it was really fun to combine yarns to come up with unique variations.

This blanket will be made again. My sister expressed interest.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Baby Surprise Jacket

I blogged about this project about a week ago and since then I've finished all the knitting and bought the buttons. I still need to seam up the top. The buttons came from M&J Trimming, that button mecca in the Garment District.

I did the entire project in a little over a week. This is a process knit not a project knit. By that I mean, I did this simply to learn the process and I have no recipient in mind.
It led me to think about why I knit the things I do. In almost all the projects, I learn a new technique or stitch. There is some challenge that I want to take on with every project. There are process knitters and there are project knitters.
I would say I am a little of both, and I'm happy with that. It's a good balance overall.

You see, it's all knit in one piece. As you're going along, you're thinking "what the heck?"
But just as her pattern urges, "Press on". I am really tuned into the notion of "press on" these days. By breaking down a task, whatever it is - knitting, woodwork refinishing, selling telecomms, getting the house ready to sell, navigating my future life, whatever it is, just break it down into steps and focus on the step itself. Stay focused, and do your best before moving to the next step.

This is helping me be fearless. Because while I am focused on the task at hand, I become more comfortable with it and as I realize there's nothing to fear.

That blob turns into a sweater by simply folding the sides in. The only seam runs across the top! Here's the back of the sweater.

The yarn is diVe Zenith. I bought a ton of this stuff on sale at Webs. I have 11 different bright colors, 3 or 4 balls of each. The idea was to have a simple superwash worsted on hand for baby gifts. This is the first use of the diVe. It's okay, good stitch definition, sometimes a bit splitty but nothing I can't deal with.

This is a close-up of the garter stitch across the back. The stripes were added at random when I felt like it. You can also see the increases that are evenly spaced across the back, part of the pattern. When I do this sweater again, and I WILL do it again, I will use a different increase method. For this one, I did M1. I think it would be better to do a backward cast on.

What an amazing pattern. Now I GET it. What all the fuss is when it comes to Elizabeth Zimmerman. I'd been a bit intimidated by her knitting because her patterns are a bit open ended. I have a lot of respect for EZ, having finished this little project. And I can't wait to do another EZ project!