Sunday, June 27, 2010

Leaf Yoke Top

So I decided to start yet another project: Leaf Yoke Top from one of the Knit.1 magazines from last year. I am using Malabrigo cotton in indigo. The first thing to note, especially for this lace pattern, is to NOT start it when you are half asleep. The yarn overs coupled with the knit-through-back-loops, and double decreases, were enough to make this knitter crazy. I've decided to change the S2KP (double decrease) to S1K2togP (double decrease but slipping only 1 stitch, and passing it over the K2together). Also, I divided the stitches into 4 blocks, to help me keep track of my place in my pattern.

I frogged it 3 times, and the first row was just too loose for me. Normally, I double my needles while casting on, to ensure that it was loose enough to knit into. However, the cotton does not bounce back and I found that the first row looked sloppy. The remedy this, I used a needle a few sizes bigger than I needed (in my case a size 8) for casting on, and then used my size 6 needle (the needle I am using for the pattern) to knit into the first row. It worked like a charm. This and the fact that I was awake helped me get a hang of the pattern and now I am enjoying it. I am hoping to get it finished by next week, so I can enjoy it during the summer. Last year, I finished my summer top in September. Boo for me.

Now it is late and having learned my lesson from yesterday...err...early this morning, or yesterday morning, as the case may be, I am taking a break from it and will continue tomorrow. I hope the kids and dogs let me.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

June 25, 2010

My little brother was ordained as a priest yesterday. He started his long journey just after my daughter was born. I mean journey in a figurative and literal sense. He has become very well traveled - he is fluent in Spanish, acted as a missionary in Guatemala, attended school in Washington D.C., was part of the Newman Center at Arizona State University, and lived in Alaska for several months. He visited all of these places and more as part of his training as a holy man. It's ironic that he is so religious...and I am not, but that is what it is. Our relatives from the Philippines, Washington D.C., and all over California came to see his ordination in San Francisco, CA. It was a beautiful ceremony. I was able to take a video of his procession with his classmates after they took their final vows:

Afterwards, my extended family went to visit Fort Point underneath the Golden Gate bridge. I must mention that my immediate family and I missed a turn and were forced to pay another toll to get back into SF. Word to the wise, don't ever ever get lost in SF. You will pay for it if you do - in more ways than one! Well, we found our way back to the fort and found my relatives. It was freezing. I was glad that I wore my sweater and that I brought warm clothing for both of my children. They had a wonderful time playing with my cousins' kids, most of them their age. My husband was not so lucky. All he had on was a short sleeve polo shirt and jeans. However, he found a way to survive the freezing wind, partly by mind over matter, and partly by convincing me and our children to go into the fort to check out the rooms. I have to say that I am very glad that I did - I have never been in a fort before, much less one that is as old as Fort Point. The downstairs rooms were dark, and I felt claustrophobic. It was neat to see cannonballs just sitting in a pile on the floor or barrels that carried gun powder.

I was amused by the sign describing the wages received by the soldiers living at Fort Point in the 1800s:

The stairs intrigued my daughter who wondered why they were arranged in a spiral. The upstairs rooms were sparse and very cold! I mentioned that I would have hated to live there - there were wind tunnels at every turn, and even if you could find shelter in your room, it was bound to be drafty. We reconnected with my relatives on the top of the fort. Boy it was windy there! Nevertheless, we were able to take some pictures.

Here is a picture of my cousin, Miriam, and I. We used to play together when we were babies in the Philippines, before my father moved my mother and I to Pennsylvania.

We left the site to return to Oakland for the reception. I forgot that it was a Friday; traffic was crazy and we were stuck at the bridge for a good hour. We finally got to St. Albert's Priory and went into the garden area for the reception. Tables were set up around the main area and my family sat with my mom and my dad's cousin's family. It was nice to sit down and mingle with that side of my family. My children, however, were getting antsy, and I noticed the area behind where we were sitting. I decided to explore it with my children, figuring it would keep them occupied. I was surprised at how beautiful it was. There were bridges, a creek, beautiful flowers and trees. It reminded me of the enchanted forests that I read about in the Lord of the Rings; it would have been easy to imagine fairies and gnomes scampering about. I would not have been surprised to see a deer drinking from the brook. My brother is now a Father. My husband, not being very literate in these things, asked my brother what we should call him now. My brother, not missing a beat, said "Father". Ha! I have 5 years on him. He will always be (Uncle) Mark to me.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Elvira: Take 2

I've decided to knit another Elvira, All Grown Up. I am using Brown Sheep Cotton Fine, a cotton and wool blend. I am hoping that the wool in it won't bother me too much (I think I may be allergic to animal fiber, which totally sucks because I have tons of animal fiber yarn - boohoo for me). I am probably still in denial, but whatever... I chose this yarn because it is VERY affordable, in the weight that I need and it has high cotton content. I was looking at Rowan 4-Ply Cotton as well, but all things considered, I thought the Cotton Fine was a better choice: richer color, better yardage, lower price. I chose a nice royal blue. So far, I am enjoying knitting with the yarn. I think the wool content keeps the splittiness to a minimum.

I didn't take many notes the first time around with this project, so I thought that I would keep track of any changes that I made in the pattern or any useful tips that make knitting it easier. The very first thing that I noticed at the beginning of the pattern is that it was a pain decreasing using K2tog. Instead, I employed SSK to make the stitches easier to work. I figured that the fact that one is right leaning (K2tog) and the other left leaning (SSK) didn't matter too much, as it is a simple eyelet pattern. I made this substitute throughout the yoke. When I got to the fronts and back, I used K2tog, as the bigger needle made this decrease just as easy as SSK. I can't see any difference between the 2 decreases thus far.

When I reached the dividing portion of the pattern, I found that it was necessary to place removable stitchmarkers at each point (first front, second front, back, and shoulders). For me, it wasn't enough to count the stitches; I just got lost (and the instructions were a bit confusing at this part). I had to tink back the row because I wound up with 4 extra stitches when I reached the end of this row - UGH.

What I did was count the amount of stitches that I needed for each part and placed markers between them. Be careful when you count stitches for the bind off sections - you need 2 stitches to bind off that last stitch. For instance, I am following the directions for size small. The directions tell me to bind off 40 stitches in the middle of the row. I had to mark off 41 stitches so that I could bind off that last stitch, before I could continue with the pattern. It is a pain, but better to figure out the numbers before you start knitting. Otherwise, it can be frustrating to wind up with the wrong number of stitches at the end and have to tink back your fingering weight yarn.

That's it for now. I am almost finished with the 2 fronts. I made an oops when I broke the yarn prematurely in the first front. I forgot that I didn't finish it and started the second front. Blame it on a crazy day with the kids. Hopefully tomorrow, they will let me finish the first front and I can start on the back.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Me? Allergic?

I like wearing my cotton Lacey Tee shirt. It's soft and feels good against my skin. I also don't notice that I am wearing it until someone makes a nice comment about it (especially at my FLYS, where people notice such things). This is a great thing.

Whenever I wore my Margo sweater, I knew I was wearing it...especially around my neck. The Ultra Alpaca that I used itches. Really. It's awful. Scratch scratch. At least I only notice it on my neck, because if I felt it on my arms, then I would feel the compulsion to cut off the arms. This would be horrible because I haven't learned how to steek yet. I don't really want to learn on sleeves. I mean, really, who makes steeks on sleeves??

Could this mean that I am allergic to alpaca? Now that I think about it, I am aware of the fabric when I wear my wool sweaters - both mixed and alone. I NOTICE the wool when I wear it, especially around my neck.

What could this mean? Am I fated to only wear wool on my feet, and cotton on my body? Are shawls the only things that I can make from animal fibers that I can let touch my body, as long as I keep them away from my neck? Will I eventually start getting hives if I continue to wear animal fibers on my body?

This sucks.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Quick and Dirty Knitter's Lingo

I joined Facebook last year. Prior to that, my only internet social network was Ravelry, a virtual knitting and crochet community. Imagine meeting thousands of fiber artists all over the world with the same interests in you (yarn, wool, knitting, crochet, you name it) on one site. They all know what frogging, swatching, and getting gauge mean, and totally get your utter disappointment on *just* missing an "update".

As an obsessed knitter, I often mention my knitting and current projects on Facebook (which incidentally, I LOVE because I am not tempted by anyone else's stash on the destash forum - my knitting friends, I know that you know what I mean). I throw out words, like frog and skein and stitchmarker. I neglect to explain because I figure that if the non-knitters don't know what I am talking about, and actually want to know, they will ask.

To help those who wonder and don't want to ask, or those that do ask and I haven't responded, here is a quick list of the words that I often mention on Facebook. By the way, if I've confused you, I apologize. I hope that you have figured out by now that when I write about "yummy yarn", you know that I mean this figuratively (I really do not eat my yarn) or that when I sadly post about having to "frog" my current project, all I mean is that I messed up in one way or other. Normally, frogging isn't a big deal...although I have been known to frog almost completed projects, which may sound crazy, even to my lovely knitting friends...

Without further ado:

Knitting: creating fabric using 2 pointy sticks and yarn

Crocheting: creating fabric using one hook and yarn

Gauge: the amount of stitches per inch

Swatching: knitting (or crocheting) a 4 to 10 inch square to see what your gauge is. Most often, this is done to make sure that your gauge matches the gauge of the pattern you are trying to make.

Elizabeth Zimmerman: One of the most well-known (if not THE most well-known) knitter in the English speaking world. Of course, this is my opinion, which seems appropriate, because she was very opinionated.

Top-Down Seamless Garments: Garments knit in the round, on circular needles, so that you don't have to seam the pieces together.

Circular needles: Needles connected by a cable, ranging in length from 12 inches to 60. There may be longer ones, but to use them would require a certain amount of patience...and insanity.

Skein: Yarn that is not wound into a cake. Most REALLY NICE yarns are in skeins. Therefore, you will not find any skeins of yarn at the big box stores...not that there is anything wrong with those yarns...

Cake: The form of nice yarn that is wound using a swift and ball winder. I guess the latter is called a ball winder because cakes really should be called balls. I just figured this one out...Anyway, after they are wound, they look like miniature sized cakes.

Swift: A contraption that looks like an umbrella minus the fabric that keeps you dry in the rain. When used properly, it helps the knitter (or crocheter) wind her (or his) yarn from the skein.

Ball Winder: No, this is not something you use when you are mad at your male significant other. It is something you use in conjuction with the swift to help you make those yarn cakes.

Stitchmarker: Circular devices that help you keep track of your place while you are knitting (or crocheting). These are made of bone, plastic, silver, stone, yarn. They don't have to be pretty, but it is more fun to knit (or crochet) if they are. Most knitters consider them little pieces of bling.

Friday, June 11, 2010

About the Turtle

I finished knitting the turtle (and almost done with the square) last night. It turned out really cute!

I frogged it (pun intended) for the last time last night. I CO 35 stitches, took out my post-it notes and methodically used it help my eyes follow the correct row. I also made mental notes every row to remember that: PURL sides are the RIGHT SIDES, right sides are read right to left on the chart, KNIT sides are the WRONG sides and these are read left to right on the chart. It took me about 3 hours to complete. Once I got past the first few rows of the body, where you need to knit 3 consecutive double increases within 6 rows, I found my groove. The pattern became more symmetrical. In hindsight, the tail really screwed me up when I was misreading the pattern, because it curves to the right on the right side. By the time I reached Mr. Turtle's arms, I knew I was home free.

By the way, I found a great tutorial on YouTube on how to do the Central Double Increase. Also, one of my friends mentioned that she likes to place a safety pin on the right side of her work to help her remember - thanks Tamara!

I wonder if I can adapt this to a ladybug for my daughter?

Of Turtles, the Crab, and Sun

Yesterday, we went to the mall for the Kids' Club. My kids made hats (and we even won 2 raffles - woohoo!). The hat kits came with foam stickers in the shape of things from the beach: whales, sand castles, etc. One of the stickers was a crab, which my son didn't like - "The crab is creepy". Another set of stickers was of a sun, which wore sunglasses that you had to glue on he face, above his mouth. Well, my son decided that the sunglasses weren't enough. He thought that the sun needed proper eyes, so he used a brown rectangle with punched out holes (the leftovers from the coconuts for the coconut tree) for the eyes. We placed this on top of the sun, and glued the sunglasses on top of this.

When he was done decorating his hat, I offered to place it on his head. He said, "No, it's for daddy!" Oh, how sweet, I thought. However, when he saw his sister enjoying hers, he decided that he wanted to wear it...I guess my husband is going to have to share the hat!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

First Square: Turtle

I am starting an afghan for my son. I found the CUTEST turtle motif on Ravelry, adapted from B. Walker's Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns (on a side note, I didn't think publishing this particular square pattern on a public site followed copyright rules, because it is only found in that book; I happen to have this book, so I don't feel like I am breaking any laws...) Anyway, I wanted to use a greenish yarn. Well, I didn't have the right weight (wanting worsted) but I do have a chunky weight in a nice heather green color. I cast on last night and I must have been having a really off night because I just could not get the pattern right.

First, I didn't know that I was knitting with a chunky yarn (I know, duh, I should have read the ball band). This meant that I had to find the correct size needles. Ugh.

Then I wasn't reading the chart correctly. In charted patterns, like all of the patterns in B. Walker's third treasury, need to be read back and forth. It was easier for me to read the odd rows as the wrong rows, which I read from left to right, and the even rows as the right rows, which I read from right to left.

Then, I had to keep reminding myself that the right side has a PURL background and consequently, the wrong side has the knit background. Being that I started this project at 9:00 last night, I realize now that I probably should have started with an easier square. But dag nabbit, I really wanted to knit this darn turtle! It's so cute.

So anyway, if you are knitting the turtle from B. Walker's third treasury, this is what I would suggest: Start knitting the turtle on the right side (which is on a purl background) and remember that it will be on an even row, count your stitches because most rows have different stitch counts, and FROG if you are off. I am serious about the Frogging part. It's not worth refiguring the stitch counts. Believe me, I tried.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Little Farmer

I had a bit of a surprise the other day. A few weeks ago, my daughter went to Fog Willow Farm where she received a pumpkin seed. The farmer encouraged her to plant it in some soil and a small Dixie cup, which they provided. She brought it home, watered it a bit and I placed it in our bay window in the kitchen. Once in a while, she remembered to water it; she used to get seeds for these "experiments" all the time, and the seeds never sprouted. To be honest, neither of us thought anything would come out of this seed. It would have been cool, but not a big deal.

Well, I glanced over at the cup the other day and lo and behold, the little seed sprouted. At first, it looked like just a leaf, and I thought that maybe one of my kids put it in there for whatever reason. I didn't mention it to my daughter. But yesterday, when it was clear that the plant was growing out of the soil, I showed my little girl. I told her that soon, we will have to transplant it outside, so that when the pumpkin is ready to grow, it will have room. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly, knowing her) she was against this. Her reasoning? She doesn't want bugs to eat her pumpkin. After explaining that there is not way that a pumpkin can grow in a Dixie cup, she acquiesced...although she is still convinced that monster bugs are going to eat up her pumpkin.

We bought some cherries this weekend at the Farmer's Market. After eating them, she washed a seed and planted it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this one...

Sunday, June 6, 2010


It is 5:43 on a Sunday morning. I have been awake since 4:00. I woke up thinking about the Elizabeth Zimmerman/Meg Swansen pattern that I just purchased yesterday called Box-the-Compass Yoke Sweater. It was a fairly expensive single pattern (considering that I usually buy magazines with at least 20 patterns) but I really really really like the way the yoke is designed, plus, being a Meg Swansen/EZ pattern, it probably has minimal finishing. There is something about the geometry of the design that catches my eye. Plus, the gauge listed on it is 5 stitches to the inch, which the worsted weight fabric that I really like.

I also appreciated the fact that the pattern itself is striped...and my mind wandered to the fact that I have a ton of partial skeins that I need to use in something, and since all of them are wool and wool blends, I couldn't use them in the dishcloth/towel project that I am involved in.

This musing led to the afghan that I want to make for my son and one later for my daughter. I thought of all the colors that I currently have in my stash and realized that my affinity towards dark and bold colors lead me to buy a lot of "boy" colors, rather than the pinks and purples that my daughter likes. Even the soft Lorna's Laces that I bought last year for a blanket for my mom (which, never materialized when I decided that I didn't like granny squares) were boyish in hue - greens, purples, dark reds, blues, and greys. I had originally intended to purchase a bunch of DK weight yarn, so that I could double up the yarn and make something like the Illusion Cube Blanket by Kirsten Hipsky. Ya gotta admit - cool illusion blanket. I came to my senses when I remembered that I promised myself never to double up yarn. I guess you can say that I am too much of a perfectionist and I have been known to frog entire projects when I see a glaring immperfection (see Lacey Tee project). At times, I change my mind and decide to use the yarn for an entirely different (undoubled yarn) project...When either of these happen, those two strands of yarn get tangled and I wind up cursing myself for such a stupid idea as double stranding. Then I got to thinking (in my half asleep state) that I really need to use up all of the worsted weight yarn that I have in my stash. My idea now is to to make squares from all of those partial skeins and seam them together. Yes SEAM them together. How hard, and time consuming, can that be? Ha! We'll see.