Holiday Knitting: Take 2

I finished a practical present. I knew my oldest brother wouldn’t want a giant owl. He’s a fairly sensible sort, and if I gifted him with a Giant, Stuffed Owl, he would probably think I’d gone mad in a big bad way.

I wanted a simple, utilitarian watch cap, with a little something to keep me from getting bored in the completion. Yards of unbroken ribbing take me forever due to the “time to make the donuts” factor. If the knitting starts to seem like an odious task, it takes way longer to complete. This is an interesting fact. The simpler a knit, the slower it grows. There is nothing better than a little something to produce the “Ta Da” effect every four rows or so.

I really wanted to make him the Knotty But Nice hat. Actually, I’ve been tempted to knit it for a few years, but the men I knit for tend to think hats like that fall into the “flitty” category. They like steady-eddy warm and rugged; if it could be considered hip it is verboten.

So I cast on for The South End Knitter’s hat. I used to be a knitter in the South End, so I thought it was appropriate, plus it’s a free Ravelry download. This is a nifty watch cap, with a cabled brim and an interesting decrease at the top. This is my year of size struggles though. My first attempt was giant, so I started again, casting on for the smallest size. I also noted that several project pages complained about the hat being too short to properly cover the ears (not practical), so I compared the pattern to another I’ve used for Watch-Caps, and determined that the decreases should start at 9 inches.

Now, the hat is great, but really, a bit bigger than it should be. My hotty husband modeled it for me, and the fact is confirmed. It’s nice, but I probably should have started those decreases at 8 inches. I would frog it back, but it’s had a lovely soak, and it’s been blocked, and it’s had a stroll through the yard, so it is ready for wrapping.

Plus, I really need to get back to work on my special holiday knitting:
Did I say before that I love this pattern? I mean, really? This is one of those patterns that make me admire designers so. How do they figure these things out? It’s genius. The part that really kills me on this baby is the nose.You pick up stitches along the eyes (after you’ve sewn them on) and then work on two double pointed needles, up one side, down the other, back and forth, and then … you … graft the two sides together. Ta Da! Brilliant. Now, how did they figure that out?

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Holiday Knitting: Take 1

This year I actually thought I wouldn’t do any crazy holiday knitting. I would do some purchasing and some marmalade making and some baking and call it a wrap. But I think that there is just something in my biological clock that tells me Christmas is coming and it’s time to get into Santa’s workshop mode. And the part of my brain that controls reason, and the understanding of time, and how much time it takes to actually knit something goes into hibernation until perhaps Christmas Eve when it is time to either wrap up balls of yarn ( I have done this), or hit a store or two.

This is all to say that yes, I am doing some crazy Holiday Knitting, and yes, I did go to WEBS and make a large purchase of yarn for that purpose, and yes, I have begun some crazy projects. And yes, I know that people that really do this Holiday Knitting stuff well have actually already finished their projects, but they are of an entirely  different class of knitter than me. I admire them, but I knit to my own drummer. A little off beat.

This year, however, I think holiday knitting has taken on a whole new meaning because the project I’ve taken on is so much fun and has made me laugh so much. I’ve laughed at the directions, and I’ve laughed at my children’s guesses about what it might possibly be. I am driving them mad. 
They have both begged me to tell them what it is. Probably because I am knitting something that has already been stuffed, and has been sitting in my lap like some strange cocoon. I keep telling them that it is Holiday Knitting, so Nellie guessed that it was an Easter Egg. An Easter egg? Really? She thinks I’m capable of knitting a giant gray Easter Egg? They must truly believe that I have entirely lost my mind.

Actually, I think it’s safe to tell you that it is not an Easter Egg. My kids never read this blog, so I will share with you a sneak peak:
Of course. It’s a Big Owl. Right at the top of everyone’s wish list, right? But, this baby is going to the top of my list of finished Holiday Projects of all time. It’s not as practical as slippers, but it is every bit as cute, and the knitting itself was a blast. It brings a whole new meaning to Holiday Knitting. The creation of this guy was a holiday in itself. A holiday from the stupid vest I’m knitting for my husband.

Have I mentioned that the vest is giving me a hard time? I did a proper gauge swatch. I did a lot of math to make my gauge and the pattern’s match, and then I cast on happily. Two skeins later the vest was huge, and I decided to take it off the needle and check the size on my husband. I was knitting him a bleeding kilt. A kilt? Really? Yes. Damn. My gauge had grown amazingly. I’ve dropped a needle size, done another proper gauge swatch, and a pile more of math. (I hate math). I’ve restarted the vest, the lovely vest he really needs, but I’ve got an attitude about the stupid thing and would rather knit giant, useless owls. I think I’ll cast on for another. They will be really fun to open on the big day.

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Talking Turkey

These are my neighbors. I call them the Bully Boys. These two pretty much stick together, terrorizing the neighborhood. I see kids swinging their backpacks at them on their way to school and grown ups throwing stones at them on their way to the Commuter Rail. Did I say stones? I meant rocks. One Saturday morning I heard a kerfuffle in the street and looked out to see a man crazily whipping his belt at them. He was red in the face, sweating profusely, and fighting for his life. I ran outside in my slippers to calm everyone down. It took longer to asuage the man than the turkeys. He kept telling me they were attacking him. He was terrified.

The thing about the Bully boys is this: aggression doesn’t work. If you throw a rock at them they’ll come after you. If you swing a stick at them and yell, they’ll fan out their tails and make that crazy noise they make. And they don’t “gobble”, it sounds more like they have some sort of turkey waddle-thing inside their throats which they gargle with. It’s a very peculiar sound.

The poor man with the belt asked me where they live. He said he sees them all the time, they try to get him when he gets in his car. He said he was going to get a BB gun. I told him it wouldn’t work. I said that squirt guns are very effective and he should get one. I showed him the one my son uses to protect all the kids on our street. He said he couldn’t walk around with a child’s toy. I guess he thought the BB gun was more mature. Even though he sees them everyday he didn’t believe me when I told them they live here. This is where they live. This is their neighborhood too.

I get a huge kick out of them. They are hilarious. They are funny looking and sounding and their behavior is perverse. There is something prehistoric about them which charms the pants off me. I like to see the beasts fly up onto our roofs and into our trees. I think we have fewer grubs in our lawns and I don’t mind cleaning up a little gravely turkey poo. I think it’s a riot that I am constantly yelling at the kids, “Don’t tease The turkeys!” (teasing doesn’t work). But I am definitely in the minority. Even my outdoorsy husband would like to see them move on.  I don’t think that’s very likely. The Bully boys have quite a lovely flock of hens to choose from. Although I can’t imagine how the girls could really think those weird dangling things hanging from their chests are really sexy.

We urban dwellers are just going to have to adapt to our new environment. Maybe the turkeys like the schools and parks and library too.

In knitting news, I got to test knit Susan Ashcroft’s Hogwarts Express. This is a great little shawl/scarf, lots of relaxing fun to knit, and I love Owls even more than I love turkeys.

I enjoyed knitting in the beads, which I’ve never done before, and I want to make another, slightly bigger, one soon. After all my Holiday knitting (oh yeah, baby) is done.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Don’t let the turkeys get you down.

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A Happy Ending

Sometimes things work out in the end.

You may remember that about a month or so ago I had a discouraging encounter with a pattern and a favorite skein of yarn. The pattern was coming out nicely, and the yarn was knitting splendidly, until a nasty convergence happened and I ended up with the dreaded pooling.

Now, many people like pooling, and some friends thought I was crazy to riiiiip that sucker out, but I really loved that skein of yarn, and I wanted it to have an incarnation as something really great.

That’s when I discovered TGV on Ravelry. (I know I knit before Ravelry existed, but I can’t fathom how I ever managed.) The TGV is a crescent shaped shawl/shawlette that Susan Ashcroft designed, and named after the high speed train in France (Train Grande Vitesse). This is a clever name, as Susan points out, because TGV also stands for Tricot Grande Vitesse (high speed knitting). Susan also points out that the pattern works well with hand painted and self striping yarns. So, with some reservations, I cast on.

As I headed into the final ribbing section I noticed that the long repeats of color were pooling again. This time, however, I actually liked it. It stopped looking like nasty splats following even stripes, as the earlier project had, and looked to me like interesting polka dots of purple.
Of course, this could all be in my imagination. The first project pooled, and I hated the way it looked, and the second project pooled too, but after the point of no return. Plus, I really like the shape of the TGV. It’s getting chilly here in New England, and we haven’t turned on the heat. The TGV sits nicely around my shoulders. It just stays where I put it. And it really helps to keep me warm. I love it. So does Nellie.
And I’m sorry to say, girlfriend,  this one is mine.

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Floofy On Parade

We had a girls’ weekend. The boys went to Maine, and we stayed back to man the fort. This is something different for us, but truly fun. The best part was hitting Boston for Saturday afternoon and evening. And the floofy skirt had its first outing.

We visited the Athenaeum, a magical place I would love to curl up in. We got yummy burritos. We did some window shopping. And some bargain hunting. And because I am the mother of a fifteen year old woman, some of this shopping involved sitting in a dressing room on a pink chaise lounge while she tried on a contraption I am not exactly comfortable with. In a moment of pure mother madness I pulled out my credit card to actually purchase the aforementioned thingy. As I gulped at this ludicrous expense on a dubious, counter feminist device, Nellie whispered that my mother was probably laughing, wherever she is now;  somehow this put the purchase into perspective, and I was able to giggle. At all three of us.

We stumbled on a movie set where there had been quite a dust up.We couldn’t get anywhere near the stars, but we had a lovely time poking around in the demolition. Then we went to the North End for cappuccino and cannoli, my favorite finale. This is the best shot of the day:
If I had tried to make this happen it never would have worked. It just shows: sometimes it’s best to just press the button.
The floofy is a hit. (It was even recognized and appreciated on the street by another knitter that was working on one of her own.) This one was made with one skein of Noro Aya, and several yummy tidbits from Hilltop Handspun. Nellie loves it. I think I will have to make one for me. Only, much longer.

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Indian Summer

We had the most glorious Columbus Day weekend. The weather was warm and dry and sunny. We went to Maine. We roamed the Fryeburg Fair. We hit the trail.And I wore my recently completed Soay.
I love this sweater, and finishing it felt like a good dose of lightening the load. It had been stuck in a bag kicked into the corner for most of the summer. Other projects were begun and completed, and this poor thing just lay there waiting for me to pull it out and finish her up. Why? I honestly think it was because I’ve never done an icord bind off, and I was too busy to bother to figure it out. That, and I really didn’t need this sweater then. Now, however, is the perfect time for just a little, soft, sweet, wool. Soaking this baby felt like washing away the neglect and grime of a long and fun summer. And I have a pretty neat layer to button up. Phew.

Now I’m onto something new. I’m swatching for Veronik Avery’s Zipped Vest. And I have another challenge ahead. I’m going to try to turn a zipper into a knitable object. Hmmmmn. What a concept! I think I’m up for the challenge.

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Baffled Again

On Saturday the Ladies Of The Knit were all together for a taping of our podcast. We had delicious red velvet cupcakes that Susan made, and iced coffee and new patterns and books to look at. It was fun. And then, while we were taping, Kris took out her knitting, and I almost grabbed it out of her hands. She was working on an Autumn Scarf by Annie Lee. I needed to start that baby immediately. I had a skein of yarn burning a hole in my stash and I cast on the second they left my house.

And I was really flying on this thing. I mean, this was crack for knitters. I loved it, loved it, loved it. I kept holding it up and ooohing over it, and holding next to different colors and swooning about how great it looked.

We went for a long car ride on Sunday to climb Mt. Cardigan in New Hampshire, and I was thrilled because the whole way up, and the whole way back, I knit knit knit. (in the middle we had a wonderful hike. Insert random hike photos here:)

But, Monday morning the bloom was off the rose, so to speak. the gorgeous hand-dyed yarn began to -gasp- pool.

At first I thought I could perhaps live with it. And I then I thought it was maybe a little glitch with that small portion of the skein, and it would only add visual interest. But it kept pooling away, so I went to The Knitter’s Guide To Hand-Dyed and Variegated Yarn, which I’ve read before. And it couldn’t be more clear. It shows very clearly in the first pages of the book that yarn dyed in this manner WILL pool. Why didn’t I think of that?

This is such a beautiful skein of yarn. It will make a nifty pair of socks. But, if anyone knows of a fun shawlette pattern that has a stitch pattern that highlights variegated colors, send it my way. Preferably semi-circular. Or crescent shaped.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll be frogging.

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Where I spent Hurricane Irene

This is where I spent Hurricane Irene:

And, just in case I haven’t tempted you enough:

Not too shabby, eh? It’s not everyone that gets to evacuate a log cabin in the woods by a beautiful lake because of tornado warnings, and finds shelter in a Yarn Shop. And not just any Yarn Shop, a gorgeous, natural, delicious, toasty, unique Yarn Shop. Hilltop Handspun, in Lovell, Maine. Lucy Rogers is my sister-in-law, but I wouldn’t need to be related to love her yarn.

And what came out of my day in the torrential rain and a subsequent long car ride to Baxter State Park?

What is it?

It’s a Floofy skirt by Jill Stover (ravelry link). This was the funnest project. Kind of mindless knitting, but with the added fun of switching colors at random and irregular intervals. And I think it looks great. More photos to come on the appropriate, teenage model. This might take a while though, as she is way too busy settling into High School.

Here is a picture of my brood on Tuesday morning:

but this one really tells the story:

One child is thrilled to be starting High School, one child is despondent about starting Middle School. Too bad you can’t blend your offspring the way Lucy blends her yarn dyes, then we could magically have the perfect balance of enthusiasm and trepidation.

Oh well, I’ll just have to start another project and knit my way through the emotional upheaval around my house. What is it they say? Keep Calm And Knit ON. That about sums it up.

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Knitting on Mountaintops

When I told Cam about Knit In Public Day, which was actually a week this year, he reminded me that last year I Knit in Public on the top of Mt. Adams and in the dining room of the Madison Hut . He said,”Mom, I think you need to do a series of Knitting On Mountaintops.” And so, it begins:

A week ago We set out on our fourth annual Fathers’ Day trip to a High Hut in the White Mountains, and I had a handy project tucked into my pack. As you can see, the weather on the summit of Mt. Webster was interesting and the black flies were insistent, but the knitting was accompanied by the most lovely view.

We also had the most entertaining snack. The kids gave me a freeze dried Ice Cream Sandwich for Mother’s day, 
and we sampled the delicacy quickly before fleeing the flies:

We had fewer flies and better lichen on Mt. Jackson

but the wild flowers distracted me from knitting.
Near the end of the day’s trek we walked through a high bog between Mt. Jackson and Mt. Pierce (Clinton), which was more like a wild flower meadow, something I’ve never seen before.

We spent the night in the Mizpah Spring Hut. It was grand; we had the annual tasty turkey dinner, and slept amid fewer snorers and sleep talkers than in years past. Fathers’ Day morning was bright and cool and glorious.

and we rambled on to Mt. Pierce (Formerly known as Clinton) 
I have taken a page from Kate Davies and abandoned fleece in favor of faithful wool. Mark gave me the hiking sweater I’m wearing in the picture; I love how warm, windproof, packable, and handsome it is. Kate is surely right when she says fleece is “an insult to sheep”. No more insulting sheep from me.
And now I have come to the sad part of this entry. I suppose it is inevitable that all parents reach a point where they can no longer keep up with their children.

Sadly, we have reached this point.

The top of Mt. Eisenhower was amazing, breathtaking and exhilarating. However, there was no knitting to be had. sometimes practicality has to win out over passion.
Our stumble down the Edmands’ Path was rather smooth, and at least we have loads of bright images to carry with us
back to reality.

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181 Days

There are 181 days left in 2011. This is what I want to knit:

Oh yeah, and probably a few assorted Christmas presents I better get going on right now. (more on this in December)

What do you want to knit in the second half of this year?

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