Triangular Cap 2

The first Triangular Cap was fun but worked out to be a bit large. In the process of knitting it, however, one of my classmates expressed an interest, so I began work on its successor: Triangular Cap 2, knit from the top down, rather than the bottom up. In knitting from the top down I was able to more accurately gauge the right size (none of that knitting up a gauge swatch for this knitter).

So, huzzah!, a finished object! Next up, the same type of cap, but for a newborn.

Knit in Reynolds Mandalay 100% silk, color 36, lot 21. Knit on Addi Turbo US4 DPN’s

Stitching Ourselves Into A Corner

“You shouldn’t be so shy about your knitting,” D. tells me.

Hah. That’s got to be a lot like Mary Cassatt telling her family not to be so shy about those paint-by-number kits.

If you live with someone who can whip out – just within the last year or so – six scarves, eight hats, half a cardigan, two massive shawls, and a gorgeous matched baby cardigan and hat set — all the while holding down a full-time consulting job and/or attending University full-time, it makes one a bit leery of saying anything at all about one’s struggles to remember how to purl instead of just knit, of how to count stitches and one’s embarrassing inability to actually stick to one project at at time. (I’d like to be able to ascribe that to some fluke, but it even affects how I work; I literally write three novels at a time. Attention span issues, anyone?)

Add to that, some women’s tendency to INSIST that of course the female in the group has completed all of the fabulicious knitting projects, not the male, and you kind of begin to understand my reticence to say a word.

The tall boy with the hair? He’s the knitter. Just goin’ on record AGAIN to say: D. knits. I… am learning.

But during the seamless Deep of the Dark (aka “winter”), I have in fact put my hand to a few knitting projects. One was, of course, my joyful leap into my Crayola hat – that – was – going – to – be – a – bag, which was Jen, the Barmy Baker’s color-suffused corriedale, her first Kool Aid dyed yarn, and her first spinning, too. Though the corriedale makes me sneeze and wheeze, which is why I haven’t finished the project yet (not sure if it’s the natural fibers or if Jen has a cat), I LOVE IT and cannot WAIT TO WEAR it (once it’s blocked – it looks a bit as if I’ve knitted a head vise). The irregularities in the yarn just make it that much more unique and charming, and though my bamboo needles are …stained Kool Aid Strawberry pink, I’m pretty sure it’ll all sort out in the wash.

(BTW, beware Jenn’s Moonlight Baker Etsy site, people. It’s habit forming, and the colors of her yarn are EDIBLE. Yum. AND her Zero-Calorie Greetings cards will make you, inexplicably, want blueberry pancakes… )

My second work in progress is a scarf on Louisa Harding sari ribbon, using the 2 skeins (66 yards each, 90% nylon, 10% metallic) of ribbon purchased from the last great yarn sale [email protected] Knits told us about before we left the U.S. I’ve been saving the yarn until it was closer to Spring (but thought, “Ah, what the hey,” and just started…), and have only done the first few rows of what is going to be a pretty, bright ribbon of juicy orange sparkle, using Jackie’s pattern. Everything about saris and sari ribbon makes me feel floaty, delicate, and girly. (This, of course, pairs well with my combat boots.)

D’s red scarf is coming along; he’s knitting it tightly, to see if he can recreate the effect that he’s getting in his experimental stitch looming project, which is moving forward in zigs and zags. The intermittent work is mainly because it’s harder to lug even a lightweight plastic loom into a classroom, and it’s just a bit less than subtle wrestling with the yarn pick during a lecture, but now he’s motivated to finish the scarf, and soon. Both of us are trying to hurry our stitches just a bit. Reason being, we’ve received a gift of new needles from our friend Sarah… and they’re flat out gorgeous. Rosewood tipped, palm-wood bodies, these satiny-smooth, Vietnamese made, arrow-straight beauties called out to her artistic soul in the store, and are available to use by… (drumroll)

… the first person who completes a project.

Since one of us is sitting mock exams this next week and finishing term papers, I’m thinking that person should be ME.

Fair’s fair, right?

Hmm. Must go. Suddenly a project is calling…

"Sweet ‘Baby’ Cap" … for An Adult

So, somewhere, somehow, I happened across a pattern for Sweet Baby Cap … and it looked perfect for winter in Glasgow! So, by simply using a heavier weight yarn & using slightly larger needles (addi turbo 4mm, I think), I’m doing this up for one of us (well, OK, for me). Notice the handy yarn markers? They were a gift from Jackie over at One Thread Two Thread!

Each single marker is marking a double-decrease (sl1, k2-tog-tbl, psso) and each pair of markers (the ones at noon, 4:00, 8:00 in the picture) are marking a paired increase (yo, k1, yo). I’m finally figuring out how to use yarn markers, as well, which is very cool – every time I’ve used them before I’ve ended up placing them incorrectly, such that my increase, rather than staying put, has crept around the pattern. So … I’m being a bit more mindful of the things, and have actually managed to keep them in line with the numbers for a couple of repeats of the pattern.

After the monstrous scarf, this hat is a nice, short project! I may finish it up this evening!

Mindless Scarf

I began this scarf on the Amtrak, coming from California to New York. I didn’t get much done at that time, but have been working on it several hours a week now since I started classes. I haven’t been working furiously, nor particularly steadily, as I sometimes stop to ask questions or to take notes, and I only knit during my seminars … so it’s taken me until now to finish the silly thing. Five months! Five months of knitting 20 stitches wide, back & forth, with an occasional variation thrown in!

The yarn is bamboo, and has a great feel to it. I knit it on bamboo circulars, as well, just to get the whole bamboo thing really going. The pattern is mostly

Sl1, K1, K16, K2
Sl1, K1, P16, K2

but also has an occasional interruption thrown in of

Sl1, K1, K2Tog * 8, K2
Sl1, K1, K F&B * 8, K2

to give it the rows of interest. All told, stretched out, it’s about 12 feet long – at least, doubled over, I can hold an end in each hand and spread my arms wide, and I’m over 6 feet tall, so 12 feet should be a pretty good guess.

I’ll be working next on this hat, though in an adult size (using size 5 needles instead of 2.5). I like the looks of it, and the fact that it’ll cover my ears. 🙂

Works In Progress

Looking back over the past four months shows us a world of change. We managed to move from California to Scotland, and have had all manner of upheaval simply due to that. T’s work reviewing young adult and children’s books (the books pictured are for the Science-Fiction / Fantasy category of the Cybils Award) combined with her writing combined with my schoolwork and telecommuting project for a company back in California — well, we’ve been kept fairly busy.

In what spare time she has (and when she remembers that she has something other than loom knitting to work on), T’s been working on this ribbon scarf. Since it’s for her own use it’s been languishing in its project bag (thank you once again for the bags, Jackie). It will probably be finished up when we’ve had some vacation time to work on it, as it’s really a great travel project or church project, since it’s on circular needles & isn’t very large. The ribbon yarn doesn’t hold out much hope of warmth, though, which is another reason why this project is just a work in progress rather than a finished piece. Nothing says “Spring” like narrow, colorful ribbon.

More of the “in progress” category of our lives comes from the rearrangement of the furniture here in our flat. It’s such an odd space, this one multi-purpose living room / dining room / kitchen / office … but we think that we’ve finally gotten a handle on how it should be arranged, so as to get the use out of most of the space. (There’s still a great gaping emptiness in the kitchen area, but there’s probably nothing we can do about that. We could turn the dining room table in the other direction again … but we’ll wait on that for a bit, to see how this works out.) It’s just a matter of finally settling in, really, and having the time to do things like rearrange the furniture.

Not that we really have the time … but not having to slog to the University every day has given me an uninterrupted period of time to actually look at things here, and to consider where they should be. We’re still not completely unpacked – our mirrors & pictures are still in their box, wrapped and well padded – but we’ve decided that we’re not going to unpack all the way, here in this flat, because we’re going to leave the city within the next four or five months, no matter what happens. Whether or not I end up staying at Glasgow Uni, we’ll want to move: further out towards the west coast if we stay. While I will still be able to cycle in if I want to, we can spend half as much on rent, or can spend the same amount & have some space to garden, and maybe have some connection to our neighbors. Life here in this flat is just a bit isolated, and disconnected, ‘though the neighbors we have met are nice enough. Wherever we end up for my PhD will mean staying in place for several years, and wherever we live needs to be right.

As far as knitting projects are going for me, the piece I take with me to all classes & meetings & church is this same, poor, bamboo yarn scarf. I started it on the train from California to New York, way back in August, and have been knitting a few inches on it as I can. Most of the time that amounts to only a few hours per week, and some of that time I actually have to stop to concentrate on what’s being said, so it’s not gotten very far at all. It’s a shame, as the yarn is truly lovely – bamboo is very silky, surprisingly, and not rough at all. But this piece will be finished sometime next year, at the current rate of progress!

By contrast, I started this candy cane scarf on the loom sometime during Christmas holiday television watching, and it’s coming right along. It’s not so mind-numbing as other loom projects (we’re definitely learning they don’t have to be), and requires a fair bit of concentration, but it certainly goes quickly! It’s also turning out to be a really very thick double-knitted piece, and will be probably five feet long, if I’m guessing right. It’s quite stiff, probably because of the interchanging of the two colors. It’s also got an interesting little pocket kind of thing along the edge, which I suppose I could address by twining the two yarns at each end before starting back on that row … but I think that, since it’s already begun, and since I don’t want to go back to fix it, it’ll just have an opening on the side. Maybe I’ll run back over it & crochet it closed with a different color or something.

Also started fairly recently – probably around when we realized that the temperatures were hovering just around freezing for days at a time – is this scarf. I started it out on US size 6 (4.25mm) needles and then switched to US 10.5 (7mm) needles when I changed patterns. I’d gone far enough with the paired increase / decrease and determined that it was just taking too long, so I increased at the pattern change, to make it harder to tell that I’d changed needles. It’s going much faster now, and should give a nice warm scarf. I’m holding out for the candy cane scarf, though, for being the thickest and warmest, because this one will only be a single layer. Perhaps it’ll be a spring scarf.

Lastly for our works in progress … it’ll be the new year soon, so it’s time for us to make a concerted effort to get back into the mindset of eating properly. One of the largest adjustments for us in coming to Scotland has been the food. It’s not that we can’t get things, it’s that the things that we want to eat are simply not that common. Take tofu, for instance. In California, we’d simply pop by any grocery store & pick some up when we were running low. Here, picking it up from the corner store or the green grocer’s simply isn’t possible in our area – we must get it from either a specialty Asian market or must order it from a major supermarket. Another difference is that with our vegetable boxes in California we’d always have a good selection of green leafy veggies, even in the dead of winter, but here the boxes have defaulted to mostly root veggies … which invariably consist, dietarily, of not much in the way of fiber and plenty of starch. So, we’re lacking protein while making up for that, calorie-wise, with the addition of carbohydrate. When you figure in that we’ve also been baking for the holidays … well, you get the picture. So, the new year will find us thinking a bit more about what we’re eating, and focusing in on the addition of high-quality protein and green leafies.

As with everything, though, it’s a work in progress.

Sewing: 110V vs 260V

So, the one piece of technology we determined that we could bring with us on this journey was the old sewing machine, because it’s merely electric rather than electronic (i.e. it doesn’t have a computer in it). We figured this should work out fine, provided we got an adapter for the plug. What could happen? Hah!

Sewing here … is much more of a challenge, much more stimulating. You see, this little sewing machine was running wonderfully on 110V current. Now we’re feeding it 260V current. The slightest touch of the pedal and the machine leaps ahead, going full-out, consuming fabric as fast as it can. It’s … frightening. We expected something like this, but still, we weren’t quite prepared. Nor were we prepared to burn out its little light-bulb. Too much juice, do you think?

Fortunately we’d already done most of our tailoring on the other side of the ocean, but we’d left a few things aside because we couldn’t find the appropriate color of thread (I have 2 orange shirts) or because we simply forgot (as in the coat in the pictures).

After the one coat, we’ll be leaving the sewing machine alone for a while, to concentrate on knitting up a few more warm things. The current experiment is with using 2 colors of yarn on the same loom. It’s turning out to be interesting, if a bit more tedious than simply one color, and it certainly has you paying attention a bit more. We’ll see how long this scarf takes – we’ve a feeling we’re going to need it!

It’s a BOY!… thing…

Okay, so I am not as cool as Kansas, who has made at least sixty crafting projects a day, nor am I as awe-inspiring as Is, who vanishes, then reappears with like ten completed knitting projects plus a full-on sweater, and casually notes that she plays that Brain Game everyone plays here as a break. No, we know who the master knitter, baker, gardener, artist and holder of the Philosopher’s Stone is in this house. However, I am, if nothing else tenacious. All modesty aside, I think we can truly say I don’t quite know when to quit.

Thus we have the glory that is the six foot scarf. Mac took one look at it, and dubbed it “The Man Wrap.” Yes, it’s a boy thing. (*And now he can match with some others who have Man Bags. Ahem.) It is rather generously sized, but the thing is, a man who is six foot three has to have a scarf that can take up that kind of proportion and not look ridiculous.

Recently, Cheryl @ A Simple Yarn also blogged about her experience using a wooden loom. She was, in a word, unimpressed. I agree with her that loom knitting isn’t exactly mentally challenging (I tend to do it while watching movies — I don’t have to look or count or do much but repeat the same movement), but mostly what intrigues me is how different our projects look. A narrower gauge of yarn, thinner pegs or a looser weave can all combine to create completely different scarves hats and wrist-warmers. There’s a lot of flexibility and variety to loom knitting, once you find the time to get past the basics. If you’re interested, check out the newest Loom Knitter Circle ezine. Their chevron scarf looks quite interesting, and there are bags and socks and more. I’m always astounded by what loom knitters can do with something so mind-numbingly simple.

So: The Man Wrap. It’s a foot wide, and six feet long, and the idea is that Mac can fold it in half and just wear it as an extra layer beneath a coat, or he can actually cover his face and look like a mafia man with the black fedora tilted over his brow. Since some people already think he’s part of the mafia here — a cab driver actually told us this, but I’m just a bit skeptical! — we may as well go whole hog and be purposefully sinister. Actually, we don’t much care anymore what we look like when we go out. The last three days it has hovered between 0° and -3°, and the calender does not yet admit winter — we have another three days ’til then. We have begun to dress for what is yet to come.

Last but not least: People have asked whether or not looming is faster than needle-knitting. Now that I am fairly proficient in both, I say not necessarily — but if you can equate mindlessness with speed, you might be able to whip through something fairly painlessly during the course of a weekend and still be good company. See, I’m still enough of a needle knitting novice that if I’m doing anything more complex than a garter stitch, it takes me a while to form coherent sentences… can’t talk and knit, which makes my attendance at group things a bit embarrassing. Still, I’m getting there… one wobbly, lumpy knitted project at a time…

Knitting Slipping?

I began this post on October 16… and a bit of water has snaked under the bridge since then…

Thanks to another link I saw for a quirky breast cancer dishtowel, I found Knitting in a Happy Camper’s blog, and I looked at all of her work in progress… and felt a little sick. Would you look at the CUTENESS overload that is the Noah’s Ark set at Simply Knitting? Would you look at all the hats and scarves and mitts and dish towels… and stuff that she and bloggers like her are completing? Would you think that maybe the iron would enter my soul, and I would be able to forge ahead and perhaps FINISH MY SCARF which I started months ago? No? Me neither. And I’m not sure what’s wrong with me.

Update: I now believe I know exactly what’s wrong with me — it apparently wasn’t yet cold enough for that ‘iron’ to enter my soul.

I’m knitting now like a mad dog — if mad dogs knit, that is. Both Mac and I have two projects each going great guns, and do you know why? Because a.) we’ve figured out that wool scarves, or ‘mufflers,’ of the type Mac has are maybe stylish looking, but they’re wicked scratchy, and b.) it was 28° F at six p.m. the other day — and dropping rapidly. c.) the sun begins to go down at 3:30, and the cold mist almost hisses up from the icy ground directly afterward.

Here’s the thing: It’s too cold to be stylish. It’s too cold to be worried about being mistaken for someone with terrorist ideologies in mind. It’s just TOO COLD. Out come the black silk balaclavas, the lumpy Tad’s-first-project hats, and the fleece lined mittens. We may look like the Pod People or like homeless folks, but we’re warm.

Oddly, knitting is not a craze with the twenties-thirties crowd here in the Auld Isle of Gaels. I don’t know about the rest of the UK, but I have not seen ONE PERSON (Okay, one person other than India, and with that girl, I believe it’s pathological) knitting anything — and granted, I don’t get out much, but I have looked at train stations, hospital waiting rooms and on buses. Nobody seems to knit, and certainly no one under the age of sixty seems familiar with the craft. Thus me plying my needles during the four hours to and from St. Andrews the other day got no end of sidelong looks.

“If I brrrring ye up a skein of wool, will you knit me a kilt?” a bespectacled and brogue-d gentleman asked me, peering at my scarf with his bifocals. (I’m going to admit right here: people in Scotland over a certain age I can barely understand. This is LOOSELY translated; he said something about knitting him a kilt, and I was too gobsmacked to hear the rest, so don’t quote me.) He folded his white cane. (Which was a sure sign to me as to why he was thinking I could knit a kilt — obviously the dear old gent couldn’t really SEE that scarf…)

“Oh, sure, if you’ve got ages,” I retorted. I love my $2 fancy clearance yarn, but ribbon yarn on bamboo needles in a moving vehicle can be a real pain, and I was a mite tetchy — as well as a little unnerved at the idea of a.) the plaid, b.) the length that would go into knitting a kilt. (Oy, and the felting!).

“Haven’t seen a young lass with the needles for many a year now,” the man went on reminiscing and I simply smiled at him, sure I was going to hear something about The War or The Depression (or didn’t they call it that here?) and went back to wrestling my scarf into submission. It was the second time I’d had (close to — minus the kilt thing, obviously) that same conversation that day.

Coming back from St. Andrews during commute hours when we had to run to a whole different track since they changed our train at the last minute due to a failure with the points — it wouldn’t switch or something — (grumble, grump, First Scot Rail!), I have to admit that my knitting smoothed the way whenever I sat down. Silver-haired passengers beamed at me and made room as I had to wedge down amongst them. It was as if God was in His heaven and all was right with the world since a proper lass — well, proper for being so dark and forrreign — wasn’t sitting with her hands idle.

People nearer my age to their mid-forties, however, were unimpressed. And Mac’s knitting… um. Freaked people the heck out. It’s just not the same when a fresh-faced boy with long hair and silver hoops in his ears plunks into the seat next to you and pulls out his bamboo yarn. Dunno why people are leery of that, but the looks were as bad as if he’d grown an extra arm.

Oh well. When it snows, as we’ve been eagerly assured that it will do, we will be READY — with weather reinforced scarves and neat and consistently cable-knitted soft mufflers.

Theoretically, anyway.

I’m reading blogs of people working on Christmas projects, and realize with a dawning amusement that we’ve not started on Christmas yet. No, I don’t mean Scotland hasn’t — St. George’s Square is lit up like a carnival — and they have a carousel — but I mean we haven’t started on Thanksgiving. Because British television mostly does not appeal to us, we don’t watch television almost at all, thus are missing the first harbingers of any shopping frenzy: commercials. We don’t have the stunningly creepy Celine Dion lying on the floor singing at us. We don’t have toys upon toys upon kitchen items and things flashing at us screaming “Buy! Buy! Buy!” We have instead two papers due, a mountain of books to read and review and deadlines looming. We have a major rehearsal and a three hour concert looming. Maybe in a week or so we’ll be able to think about Christmas, but just now, we’re not in the buying frenzy, and not yet in the not-going-home depression, thus hopefully in a few weeks we’ll be able to wish you joy with some sort of sincerity.

After a major move and with school fees, we’re definitely not moneyed this season. What are you other broke people doing for Christmas?

Knit Away!

Posted (fortunately before the postal worker strike) back to the U.S. after having been carried cross country, worked on in over a dozen U.S. states and in two countries, I knit up this little hat to go along with the Baby Surprise Sweater. I’m told that it’s a wee bit large for the little fellow’s head, but that it’s certain he’ll grow into it, or at least his hair will fill it in somewhat. It’s, of course, knitted with no pre-written pattern, but I could tell you what went into it, if you were really interested. You can probably make out that there were some YO increases, a row or two of purl stitches, a row of K2TOG & KF&B, and somewhere down in there is a row of Herringbone. It was all simply “by ear,” and all the more fun because of it.

Shown to the right are several knitting project bags given to me by Jackie before we left. They are proving to be wonderful for carrying my current project to lectures (it’s hidden in there, but all you’re allowed to see is the bamboo yarn – yes, bamboo yarn!). Since the project is small as of yet, it’s currently living in the small, brown bag, but I suspect that it’ll graduate to the dark blue one in a few weeks. Thank you once again, Jackie!

Strangely enough, nobody has asked me about knitting during lectures. I’m wondering if it’s simply an acceptable thing, or if they chalk it up to my being a “crazy Californian.” We may never know, but I suspect that it’s possibly a little of both, along with, perhaps, a cultural resistance to asking someone crazy about what they’re doing. 🙂