Monday, March 30, 2009

Gail

I cast on for Gail (aka Nightsongs) and free lace shawl pattern I found on Ravelry. I must say that it must be one of the most gorgeous patterns I have ever seen. It reminds me of peacock feathers, you know, the kind peacocks leave around the zoo and that are sold in zoo gift shops. I chose my Handmaiden Mini Maiden in the colorway Vintage because I love the colors in the skein and it reminds me of the shimmering colors you see in a peacock feather.

I am hosting the first Lace KAL in my knitting group. I wanted to help the people that think lace is hard to do. Admittedly, some of the patterns are hard; the many yarnovers are easy to lose and reading charts can be a challenge. I will also add that I had to start Gail 4 times yesterday...yes 4! I kept dropping the yarn overs (or thought I did) and the 3rd and 4th times I had to rip everything out, I still did not put in a lifeline (who knew I needed one so early??), and I was reading the wrong row on the doggone chart. Yeah, that'll mess you up...I am normally an anal counter, but like I mentioned, who knew I would run into problems so early in the game.

As you can imagine, I put in a lifeline right before my problem row on my 4th attempt. I had to focus on what I was doing around the middle of the chart, but then it got easier. I finished one full pattern and now ready to do the repeats. I am so grateful that Dorene Giordano (designer for Gail) allowed Jane Araujoto share the chart that she rewrote to make it easier to understand how the repeats were knit. While the first pattern is straightforward,it may have been frustrating to figure out how to knit the pattern repeats in the subsequent rows (looking at the reworked chart).

As with all of my projects, I am anxious for some time today to continue working on it. Probably won't be until tonight. Hopefully, my son will tak e a nap so I can work on it some more...I hope our new puppy takes naps...

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Color-Blind Bullet

Way back when, I studied genetics in high school and even thought that I may become a geneticist. Playing around with the possible matches based on the characteristics of two people was so fascinating. One of the first things I did was to see my probability of having children with color-blindness, because of my father's condition. While I don't remember why I never continued in my studies in that field, I do remember that if I had a son, he would have a 50% chance of being a carrier, but not himself be affected.

As fate would have it, my father-in-law was also color-blind. My husband is only a carrier; our future son would have had a 25% chance of having this condition. I hoped, however, that our son would be spared...I love colors. Being an artist and creative as I am, I have no idea what it would be like not to be able to see nuances of green or the beautiful variegations in a skein of yarn, nor do I want to.

My son is now almost 2 and he is so smart. He knows all the parts of the body (yes, all!), his letters and numbers, and some of his colors. His favorite is blue. When he sees my blue lace blocking mat, he likes to pull it out and announce, "Blue! Down!" while he drops it on the floor. I taught him green and yellow...and he knows those...I think. I tried to teach him red...at first I thought that maybe the word "red" is too hard to say. He has trouble with the r sound, after all. When we go to the play area in the mall, he happily points to the green lights in the rides and says the color, but doesn't pay attention to the red lights.

As obsessive as I can be, I tested him on his ability to see all colors as much as I could. I read color books to him every day and pointed out the different colors to him in his favorite alphabet books, each time hoping that he would point to a red object and say "red!".

The other day, he pulled out my lace blocking mats to play on again. He named the colors of each one as he pulled them down..."Blue! 'Lo! G(r)een!" I held my breath as he pulled on the red one..."G(r)een!"

I told my husband...What could this mean? Are my fears confirmed? Or is our smart little boy playing a trick on me? Do you think maybe he can't say Red?

We'll know when he is tested. For now, I tell myself there are worse things. He is still a healthy, active, funny little boy whom I love so much.

Information on Color-Blindness can be seen here.

Interesting but useless facts

I have a good friend David who has a really good head for remembering all sorts of information. Some is useful. As a professional for the computer industry, this serves him well. He is also an easy person to talk to because he remembers things that you tell him (he is a great date because of this, so I've heard).

The other stuff that he knows is no so useful...did you know that there was once a dog that died because he ate too much of a processed meat product (clue: rhymes with ham). I didn't, until Dave told me...

So when I found Mental Floss, I thought of my good friend David, someone who has a limitless thirst for knowledge and a bottomless memory bank.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gosh darn it

The first sleeve is KILLING ME! I got to the edge and bound it off, only to rip it out to 2 inches past the separation because somehow I dropped a stitch when I was binding off. It is impossible to find a dropped stitch in a seed stitch pattern. IMPOSSIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now I am just doing a gosh darn plain flared sleeve, no seed stitch (mmm maybe at the end) and I will do ANYTHING not to frog again!!!!

SOB I wanted to wear it to Knitting Night

Next week, next week...

I registered for Sock Wars today. Yay! I will have a busy couple of months. I will be doing the Lace KAL in April and Sock Wars in May...unless I am "assassinated" in the first round....maybe that won't be too bad

Monday, March 23, 2009

Knit It Like Jang

I just watched a video on using increase/decrease pairs and short rows to shape cables demonstrated by Eunny Jang. It is the coolest thing. First she explains how, by decreasing before the purl channel (she chose SSP), working across the cable, and increasing after the purl channel (using M1 on a purl stitch), you can force a cable to twist diagonally, while keeping the sides perpendicular. By doing this on every RS row, the cable slants at a 45 degree angle. However this angle can be changed by decreasing/increasing either more or less frequently.

She also showed how to curve the cable using short rows. This technique wasn't as clearly explained, as you will see if you are able to view the video. I was very disappointed because although I am familiar with short rows, and have worked them in quite a few of my projects, I have not used them with cables. I love how the cables curve in the sample vest in the video. The technique is both simple and sophisticated. I discovered that the pattern for the vest is in the famous Fall 2007 Interweave Knits issue, an issue that I coveted, stalked the destash pages for, and rewarded with. Happy Day!!

What really impressed me about the video though, is the way Eunny Jang knits! All I see is her fingers gently gliding the yarn back and forth on the tips of her needles. WOW! How does she do that?? Compared to her, my knitting style looks very clumsy indeed. Me, with my self taught continental-ish throwing with my left hand over the right needle. Some have expressed envy with the speed with which I knit, and I guess that is not something I should be ashamed of. But the grace of Eunny Jang's knitting is wondrous to watch.....sigh... Oh to knit like Jang...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Kinnearing Practice

I love that there is a name for what I have to do to get pictures of my son. He absolutely hates to have his picture taken. Hates it!

I have many pictures of the Head Turn:


the Head Shake:the Duck and Cover:

the Walk-Away (it's worse that my camera would lose to molasses in a race):and the Possessed-Boy:

When I kinnear, I actually get somewhat nice pictures (relatively speaking):


I didn't say they were perfect...Here he is when he refused my very sweet request for his picture the other day. Threats sometimes work, especially when they don't know you are using threats:

video

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lolo

My father died April 7, 2005. He and my mom spent the previous Christmas with us in our new house. He helped us move. He always liked to feel useful and never said no when I asked for help. He was a good father.

It was not always this way. When I was a child, I hated him. It pains me to admit this now, but it is true. He was mean and he believed in the belt as discipline. After he died, my mom talked about him a lot and I finally understood why he was the way he was. English was his second language. In the Philippines, English is taught as a subject in school; however, you never lose your accent or truly understand the lingo. This was the challenge my father met when he moved to the United States. He was educated and was a talented electrical engineer. Despite his color-blindness, he excelled in his line of work, often promoted to supervisor. He worked hard and gained admiration from some of his co-workers. Unfortunately, his talent made him the target of envy from his superiors, who I must add were not superior at all. In fact, they were small men and I base this criticism on my mother's account of how they treated my father. It's ironic that the man who scared me as a child was the same humble man who didn't speak up for himself at work. My father was often humiliated and laughed at because of his accent and the fact that the loud machinery took away a lot of his hearing. They would mock him when he asked them to repeat whatever they said to him. When I found these things out, I felt sorry for my father and angry that this was being done to him. I still feel sad because I did not get to see a gentler and vulnerable side of him.

He was just getting into the role of grandfather when he died. My daughter was 3 and he adored her. He gave her the love and attention that I never felt when I was young. Whenever we would visit them, he would suggest going to Toys R Us. When she couldn't choose what toy she wanted, he would buy her everything she pointed to. Everything. Crazy! He was not the same man from when I was a child. He bought and built her first bicycle that last Christmas; the last picture I have of him is when he watched her ride her bike in the back yard of our house. He didn't go outside but he did watch from the porch door. I caught him as I took pictures of my daughter riding around on her new Little Pony bicycle, happy as can be.

He would have loved my son. I am sad that my father did not live long enough to meet him. I feel sad that my children will be deprived of the joy of having a grandfather that dotes on them as my father would have. Mostly, I feel sad that I will never meet the man that my father really was: a giving, hardworking, and intelligent man wanting to share his knowledge of the world with a younger generation.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

And she scores!

I was on the internet, and stalking the Wollmeise website until about 2:30. I promised my kids that I would take them to the playpark. I refreshed the page one more time before I got ready. Still grey.

Just as we were about to leave, I clicked refresh one more time and HOLY COW there they were! Fresh Wollmeise skeins out for the buying. What could I do but go to my account, find the right shopping list of the colors that I wanted and click checkout...Oops! forgot skeins for Cheryl, so I had to go back and find some for her. It wasn't as easy as I wanted, given the stress of knowing that other people were hurriedly buying up the stock and that the colors that I had in my list for Cheryl were in weights that the Wollmeise did not have in stock. My list was mostly for Twin and Superwash. A lot of her skeins were Fluffy. However, I found 2 skeins in Fluffy in colors that Cheryl likes. I figured I would give Cheryl the choice of one. I know that I will want to keep one for myself, because I don't have that weight yet.

WOW! What a rush. You would think that after that, I would be done with watching her website. I think I am...for at least a month...

Is it worth it?

I am sitting here on a lovely Saturday morning stalking the Wollmeise website hoping to catch an update. I actually dreamt about scoring some Wollmeise last night (or early this morning as the case may be). Ugly colors, though, but in my dream, I rationalized that if I didn't like them, someone will, and buy them from me. I woke up this morning, turned on the computer, and lo and behold, there was a grey screen at the Wollmeise website! My mind screamed "An update is coming!!!" I ran to get the phone to call Cheryl to tell her. I opened the Wollmeise Group on Ravelry to see what others are saying about this grey screen. Prior posts have indicated that a grey screen is always a precursor to an update to her online shop. Apparently, however, her website has been like this for hours since 2 in the morning. But wait! My logic says that she (Claudia) wouldn't have checked for problems on her website unless she had to update it for some reason...what other reason would be have but to add her stock?!

This was my logic about 1 and half hours ago.

Dare I stay and continue watching? I probably will, as long as I can stand it anyway. Is it worth it? Is it?? I am sure that when I get on the website and actually get some of her yarn, my answer will be a very happy yes....But I hope it happens soon......

Friday, March 13, 2009

Knitting Math

I am so proud of myself. I was actually able to modify the Katje pattern (CocoKnits) from the gauge used in the written pattern, which is 4 sts to one inch to my own personal gauge, which is 5 sts per inch. It took a while, but I am determined to use the Madeline Tosh Worsted yarn that I bought at Stitches for this hoodie. I even bought an extra skein from WEBS just to make sure I have enough.

I used a combination of the Calc-O-Knit, a tape measure, simple division and multiplication, and a handy dandy handwritten chart. Besides measuring my stitch gauge, I measured out my row gauge to be 7 rows per inch. It's good that I checked this because if I hadn't, the hoodie would have been much too short.

Based on all of my calculations, I charted all of my increases (and later, decreases) out. I don't know if I ready to read through Barbara Walker's or Elizabeth Zimmerman's books yet though. The numbers in the CocoKnits pattern helped me with the calculations. At the moment, I am not confident enough to just use my own personal measurements to design a sweater. Probably someday...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not so hip to be square

I started using the square circular needles from Kollage a couple of days ago, hoping they would help decrease my hand and wrist pain. I had high hopes for them; the cables do not kink (very fluid), the metal that the needle tips are made from are almost warm to the touch and very comfortable to hold. The needle tips put less stress on my fingers; I knit in a way that puts lots of stress on my right ring finger - very uncomfortable. I've noticed that I don't feel pressure on my ring finger with the flat surface of the square needles at all, so in this way, they are nice to work with. However, there are some major problems with the needles.

To put it simply, they are a major PITA to use, and they make my knitting slower. I am using Madeline Tosh Worsted for my current project. If anyone has used this yarn, you will agree (I hope) that this is one of the best yarns ever. Very soft, not splitty...and absolute dream to use (not to mention the deep, rich colors, that truly are eye candy--yum yum yum). I do not have any trouble using this yarn with my Addis or my Knitpicks Harmonies. None at all. I can knit pretty quickly with these needles and apart from the minor annoyance with the cables sometimes curling up if I choose one that is too long for my project, they are great to use. The yarn moves easily from cable to needle, but not too easily that I drop stitches.

In total contrast, I have a ton of trouble knitting this yarn with the Kollage Square Needles. The major irritation comes from the TERRIBLE transition between the cable and the needles. Let me put it this way, the yarn always gets stuck at the join. Always. Okay, I'm being nice - it DOESN'T TRANSITION!! And it's not me; I don't knit tight. I knit loose. The yarn just gets stuck! Could it be because the yarn is so soft and is superwash merino that the fibers stick to the cable?? Sorry that is not a good enough reason to start knitting with acrylic that will slip better! Could it just be the needles that I bought??? But they all have the same join, same cable. How could that be??

I have to give this needle a C+. Despite the great needle tips and the fact that they are easier on my hands, they are not easy to use. I switched my project back to my Harmonies, and it's the difference between driving in traffic during rush hour, and a nice Sunday drive to the neighborhood park.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ambidextrous Knitting

I have to learn how to knit different ways. East European, English, Portuguese, Combination, Under my arm, with a Knitting Sheath...all of it. Huh, you say? Alright, I'll start from the beginning.

My right hand is giving me problems. Perhaps the beginnings of carpal tunnel caused from too much knitting?? I don't know. All I do know for sure is that it is really putting a cramp in my knitting style. I noticed it about a week ago. Not too bad, but I noticed that when I woke up in the morning, my right hand was numb. I didn't worry too much about it since the sensation went away after a few hours. I was working on my sweater and I will admit that I worked on it obsessively because I really wanted it done. I started worrying more when the numbness interfered with picking up my son. He is almost 2 and likes me to carry him at various times throughout the day, usually when he is tired. I tried to make the sensation go away by taking a break from knitting by doing more housework, moving my hand/wrist in a circle throughout the day, and resting my hand. That helped some, but not enough to stop me from worrying. My FLYS is now selling the square circular needles and I've read that they are better for your hands, yada yada, so I went yesterday to buy a pair (any reason to visit, right?). The owner also let me try on the special gloves that are supposed to help hand and wrist pain as well. They cost about the same, so I figured if the needles didn't do anything, I would buy the gloves. I started knitting with the needles, and they are nice to knit with. One thing I noticed is that they don't put as much pressure on my fingers as the regular circulars do. The flat surface sits more uniformly on my joints. However, I still have some numbness in my hand. More on the square needles later...

Suffice to say, I needed more information. Since I am a knitter, I read through Ravelry through some threads where people discussed similar problems. I had contemplated going to my doctor. I've done so before and have gotten treatment; however, I want to know how to prevent it, not just make the pain go away. Most posts I've read suggested resting the hand, doing "waving" exercises to bring circulation to the affected hand, etc. I've noticed that the symptoms are similar to carpal tunnel, in which numbness is caused by constant repetitive motion. This led me to the conclusion that if I learned how to knit different ways, then the movement in my hand won't be as repetitive. I am also very interested in learning how to knit with a knitting sheath. This used to be the norm, but it seems that it fell out of favor in the last century. Very unfortunate because it sounds like a good way to keep stress out of the hands from constant knitting.

I'm off now to research this almost ancient way of knitting. I just hope that it doesn't mean I have to spend extra money on tools that I would rather spend on yarn...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mail Santa

I enjoy getting fun things in the mail. Today 2 packages came for me. The first was the T-shirt and tote bag that I ordered from City Knitting this past Monday. Cheryl has the shirt and wore it to Stitches. It really is a cute shirt, perfect for a knitting enthusiast like me. It has the words Know Your Cuts of Lamb above a sheep divided by perforated lines. Within each part of the lamb, words like sweater, scarf, and purse (items you can make with wool). Very clever. The tote bag has the same design. What pushed me to buy it though was the great price ($15 for the shirt and $12 for the tote). I do not find screen printed shirts like this for less than $20, so this was an awesome deal in my opinion.

The second package came from New Zealand. I swapped my Second Treasury of Magical Knitting with yarn from a nice gal from there. She gave me a full skein of Vintage Purls yarn, plus a few extras. I haven't heard of this dyer before (and to be quite honest, I just realized that yarn from New Zealand must be spectacular because they have tons of sheep!) but now want more of her yarn. The colors are deep and rich (can you say gorgeous??) and sooooo soft. She must be one of those little known but fabulous dyers out there who are eclipsed by Wollmeise and Sundara. I am now very excited for the other skein on my way, from the three-way swap with Melissa.

Will I miss the book that I swapped? Nope. When I received it, I was looking forward to knitting the bags and wraps that I've been seeing on Ravelry. I just thought the way the projects looked were so cool. However, the CO is awkward for me and I felt clumsy...After a few tries, I decided that this type of knitting would not work for me. Besides, I can make tons of other garments and bags, and if I want them to twist, I can twist them afterwards and just seam them with the kitchener stitch. The frustration at the beginning of each project was not worth it for me. I gave it a shot; now I can chalk up to experience. I'm truly glad that I was able to give it to someone who really loves the technique; besides that I can say that I have a knitting friend on the other side of the world, and look, I have wonderful yarn from her too!

Friday, March 6, 2009

So far so good

I am enjoying knitting with the Madelinetosh Worsted. The color variations are beautiful. I hope that the one skein that I ordered from WEBS matches what I have; otherwise, I will probably have to knit it at the same time I am knitting from the ones I have to keep the colors blended. I got past the PCO for the hood and now it totally makes sense. I actually think it is really cool, the way the increases (KRL and KLL) make the corner of the hood curve in ever so slightly. The row that I started knitting even looks a little loose, so I am hoping it blocks out. I am pretty happy with the way it's turning out, though and very glad that I modified the stitch counts.

The rest of the pattern looks pretty straight forward. Of the 13 projects for this pattern that I found on Ravelry, none of them mention any mistakes in the pattern. A few mention how PITA the provisional cast on is, though. This part did bother me. Not wanting to use waste yarn, I wound up using the crochet cast on, using nylon crochet thread. Now, this was a Godsend and I wonder why I didn't think to use this before. Waste yarn always gets caught when I knit into the crochet bumps. The nylon thread is PERFECT for the purpose because it is stiff; the bumps are easy to find and knit into them. For this particular project, the stiffness of the crochet chain helped when I had to knit into the provisional cast on. Also, when I pulled on it to unravel, nothing caught. It was like pulling on a zipper - how perfect is that? Add the fact that I can easily reuse the thread and there you go. Favorite PCO implement.

The first KRL increase was a little confusing..."lift up the stitch right under the stitch that you are going to knit into, place on left needle and knit into it..." Huh?? I just found the best stitch that fit the description and continued knitting; same with the KLL. But as I mentioned, as I kept knitting, it became easier to find the correct stitches. And you can't really tell, unless of course, I say anything...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Playdoh

So my son played with playdoh yesterday. It would have been no big deal, besides the fact that I must be the only mother on earth who does not like it. Playing with clay has never appealed to me, since the semester I spent in college ceramics class, where I was the only student who could not control the wheel and make a simple cup with even sides. My teacher told me, "See? (insert classmate's name here) can do it. That means you are not far behind." She was very wrong. I was light years away from that student and not in the right direction.

My husband enjoys playing with it, as does my daughter. I, as I mentioned, do not.

However, yesterday proved to be a different kind of day. It was the first time my son pointed to the designated arts and crafts box in our closet and pulled out the small tubs of color. Once I pulled them out for him and showed him how to make a ball out of them (Ball! Ball!) he was fixed. I flattened the balls out for them and he pulled different colored pieces and put them on top - his version of a pizza. I showed him how to put some of the clay in the molds and how they came out looking like food - blue bananas and pink pears. He "fed" some to me and I "fed" some to him. He somehow understood that it wasn't real food, but he pretended to eat a meal with his Playdoh snacks. I showed him how to flatten the balls with his hands; he didn't like this and motioned that he wanted his balls back. I made him his balls, and made more molded green and purple bananas, and "ate" his yellow and blue apples. He liked to play with the blue and purple colored ones the best (boo! pupple!) and was very precise in where he placed the pieces, so his playdoh looked just right. He apparently didn't like the butterfly mold that I made because he used the plastic knife to cut it apart (cut! cut!).

We spent an hour playing with playdoh. It was time well spent, and to my surprise, I had fun! I had wondered what kinds of things I could do to keep this little guy busy. I feel relieved that he can decide this for himself.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

They grow up so fast

I took my daughter to the park yesterday. I brought my knitting and noticing that there were not any comfortable places to sit, I sat in my car so that I could knit in relative comfort. It's a small park, so I parked close enough so that I could watch her.

Weekly trips to the park used to be rewards for me, after a long week away from my baby. I worked all week and needed to be a mommy. I enjoyed my time with her. I loved watching her grow from a little toddler who could barely climb up the baby slide to a little girl whose face lit up every time she was able to reach the step that she couldn't reach the week before. Her growth always amazed me...I thought she was the smartest and cutest little girl in the world.

We stopped making our weekly trips to the park a few years ago. It just became really difficult to take both of my children to the park; she still wanted me to watch her play, but I often could not (and felt guilty about it) because I had to watch her little brother. I still make efforts to have mom/daughter days with her, but being a stay at home mom is a full time job with lots and lots of overtime, and sometimes after a really exhausting week, all I want to do is to take all of the accumulated breaks that I didn't get to take during the week.

When I watched her play yesterday, making friends, running around, climbing the slide, sliding down the firefighter pole, I remembered that little toddler that struggled to climb up a step only a foot high...and missed the feeling I had when the weekends came and I could finally spend time with my little girl. It just occurred to me that maybe she misses those too.

I traded in my job away from my children to be a stay at home mom. Do I regret it? Never, and I would do it again. I can't take breaks like I used to in the office, I can't take vacations, I can never say "That is not in the scope of my position" and refer my children to someone else. They are my full responsibility...and I love it. It is a challenging position, ripe with growth opportunities and rewards. They give me endless reasons to knit (needs socks? okay, let's go buy some yarn!) , play games, sing silly songs, make funny faces and noises, and meet other parents with children. Best of all, I get free daycare, and I know that my children are getting the best care that I can provide for them.