Friday, April 20, 2018

The right tool for the job

This most recent Sunday, my parents came over for dinner, and my mum said something that I no longer remember the exact wording on, but basically she was wanting to verify that I had a ball winder. I replied that yes, I did, and she said, Oh good, because I have a couple of skeins of yarn that need to be wound, and that would make it so much easier.

Yes, two 100 g skeins of fingering weight yarn is much easier to wind with a ball winder. I would know - I used to do it by hand, using an acrylic rod I found kicking around as a make-do nostepinne.

Now, you might think that perhaps I loaned my mother my ball winder, or that we made plans for her to come over with the yarn to do the winding. That would be wrong. See, when Mum was figuring on what the right tool for the job would be, she was figuring on her wind-happy daughter as part of the plan, and so she'd actually brought the yarn with her, with the intent of leaving it with me and retrieving two lovely wound cakes the next time she came over.

(To be perfectly honest - I will happily wind as much yarn as my mum needs me to! And I'm pretty sure she knows this, which is why her plan came together the way that it did. She is not one of those my-kids-owe-me-life-itself-and-will-therefore-do-whatever-I-want-them-to kind of mothers.)

She said there's no rush on this, but they've been staring at me for several days now, so I'm going to spend some quality time with them now.

(I was wrangling end-of-term and final exams last week and up until yesterday of this week. I should be able to be back here a bit more regularly now. Not that I have much to blog about - test prep and marking don't mesh well with knitting, sadly. Invigilating exams could, but I suspect it would be a poorly understood choice, so I've opted out of it.)

Friday, April 6, 2018

So much for that

I finished my sister's non-magical striping socks last night.

I should really step up my game with the pictures here. I took that last night once the ends were woven in, so it's terrible night time lighting on unmodeled socks. Yeesh. I took the picture in those terrible conditions because I thought my sister would take them home with her last night. She forgot, so I could totally grab them and do better right now, but that just seems like way too much effort.

I suspect the problem is that I'm not terribly pleased with how they came out. It's really the second one that's offending me - first it had the gall to not stripe the way the first one did on the leg, but I noticed that the leg of the second sort of matched the foot of the first, so that was sort of okay, but then the striping on the foot got even wider, and the sock was suddenly irredeemable in my eyes. I just wanted it done. At one point, when I noticed that the leg striping looked like the foot striping of the first sock, I wondered if perhaps the two skeins were from the same dye lot, but wound in different directions, so I'd get narrower stripes on the foot of the second to match the leg of the first, and I spent a few days swinging back and forth between liking that idea and wondering if it was truly bonkers to rip the second sock out to wind the yarn the other way so I could get closer-to-matching socks. A wait-and-see strategy actually saved me here.

Anyway. Those are done, I can move on. Which is great, because I've started this:

That is a hopefully not-too-spoilery shot of my progress on the latest SweaterFreak MKAL. The first clue went live on Sunday, and so far this one is not disappointing at all, though I did forget to twist my carried yarn with my working yarn two rows ago. I think it'll probably be fine, but there may be some tinking later today. All because I was so excited to get to another row with dropped stitches I just barreled along without thinking. I should find out pretty soon if I can live with the longer carry this one time. Well, this one time, until the next time I forget again.

We'll see if mistakes have corrective value for me.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

K'done: hot oatmeal shawl

Knit, blocked, and tucked into a gift bag ready for presentation. It can't get any more finished than that.

Pattern: hot oatmeal, by Jenny Faifel
Yarn: Sweet Georgia Yarns Party of Five Tough Love Sock Mini Skeins, in Swell
Needles: 5 mm / US 8

I am so, so happy with how this turned out. I sure hope Mister's mother likes it!

In the end I used up all but three inches of the available yarn. I kid you not - three inches. (Okay, fine, I just measured. 3.25".) I didn't get the full fourth repeat of the pattern in, so it's definitely smaller than written, but tip to tip the scarf is at least as long as I am tall, and I'm 5'3" (and a half!), so there's very decent length there for wrapping around the neck - my measuring tape maxes out at 60", and the scarf exceeds that. At its deepest point, it's 16.5" deep.

I initially thought I could maximize my yardage by omitting the picot bind off and using a straight-edge style bind off instead. This strategy did get me an extra row, but that extra row placed my endpoint at the peak of the triangle - you know, the part that is typically displayed front and centre, or fashionably off to one side, but either way it's really the focal point of the shawl when worn. Did I really want to weave an end in there? I decided that the answer was no, so I pulled back a row, and did the picot bind off instead.

Well. I did it until I realized my yarn wouldn't go the whole way, and then switched to a double chain bind off for the very last two inches or so.

I figure that's one of the ends of the scarf, so it's not super likely that anyone will ever notice the discrepancy. At first I worried it would make me nuts, but honestly, I had forgotten about it until I started writing this up, and then I remembered and had to pull the scarf back out to take a picture of it.

This was a great knit - lovely easy-to-get-into-your-head pattern (so: straightforward and logical), and it seemed to work up pretty quickly, which was great since I was in a bit of a time crunch, but I got it knit in 10 days, without getting obsessive and weird about knitting on it as much as humanly possible. The gradient kit worked out fabulously, so if you've got one of these kits (or one like them) and are looking for a pattern match, this one's a great option!

Tech specs: I think I just did a long-tail cast on for the first few stitches at one end (you cast on so few it hardly matters), and used each colour in my gradient kit up completely (save the inch-ish long bits at the very beginning and end) by joining on the next colour in the sequence using a Russian join, so the colour changes aren't all at the ends of rows. I wouldn't recommend this for colour-block versions, with big changes from one colour to the next, but with gradient kits it works well.

Friday, March 23, 2018


My sister was able to arrive at a decision before I could, so I got some yarn winding done.

I've even cast on, too, but haven't gotten far enough with it to make a picture really worthwhile. The other night, I worked a couple of rows of the sweater, then didn't want to look at the pattern to get the next line of instruction, so instead transitioned to a sock I've started, and my sister sure noticed - she asked me what I had transitioned to, despite the fact that the thing is fairly obviously a sock. It's sock yarn on 2.25 mm needles with a smallish circumference - what else would it be? She's been watching me knit for over 10 years now - she should know a sock when she sees one. I just laughed. She may have been trying to point out my freewheeling yarny ways to sort of shame me into being a little more dedicated to her sweater, but too bad - I'm not her personal knitting machine. Besides, 2018's been really good to her so far - she's already gotten two pairs of socks and a shawl. That's one thing for each month, and as much as I enjoy knitting for her, I enjoy knitting for me too.

Besides, she's going to be getting yet another pair of socks pretty soon. Before the magical self-striping yarn came at Christmas, I started socks with some Knit Picks Stroll Multi. The first sock got done before the holidays.

It striped, as I hoped it would - with these variegated skeins, if the circumference is right the colour runs line up to produce somewhat wobbly stripes. It'll do. I started the second one more recently:

It's striping too, but do you see that?

They're not striping the same way - the second one is getting thicker stripes than the first one did. I'd suspect different dye lots, but I can't verify that - don't know where the ball bands go to - and even if I could, there's nothing I can do about it now, as the yarn is now discontinued, and trying to hunt down a matching ball is tricky business if I can't figure the dye lot to begin with. After the super matchy striping socks, this is a bit of a bummer. I suppose I could try playing with the colour runs - cutting and rejoining to make it work, but the runs are so short that trying to force them to my will would be a colossal pain. I'm declaring that officially not worth it.

That snarly skein of yarn is still waiting for its destiny - I'm using it in an upcoming MKAL, paired with another colourway:

That won't start until 2 April, which is also a bit of a bummer, because I initially thought it would start on 18 March and was all excited - hence the impatient winding. Now it's gotta wait for another week.

I wonder if I can get those non-matching stripy socks done before the MKAL kicks off?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I can't decide

I'm torn.

I want to start something new. The shawl for Mister's mother's birthday is done save the blocking (and possibly also the weaving in of ends - I can't remember and it's all the way upstairs), my sister's sweater cuffs have been lengthened as per her wishes. Sure, I started the second sock of another pair for her that I started before the self-striping extravaganza, and yeah there's another sweater for her around here that needs both of its sleeves, and a cardi for me that needs sleeves (I'm not super thrilled to see a pattern in that), but none of those seem right.

I want to start something new.

I've got a couple of skeins of sock yarn all wound up and ready to go. One is another batch of self-striping happiness, the other is a cushy-feeling MCN that I want to experiment with a bit - an idea for a sock design has been taking shape in my head. Trouble is - I can't pick one of these to start. I want to do both, but knitting is a two-handed activity, and I've only got two hands.

I thought maybe a new sweater might take the edge off the indecision. I snagged a copy of the ridge cardigan in a giveaway yesterday, and thought it would make a nice layering piece for me, sans buttons. I started sifting through my stash entries on Rav to pick a yarn for the project, and got nowhere fast - I have a few options available to me, but I just can't decide.

Maybe my sister will have more luck with making a decision? This happens a fair bit - whenever I get particularly flail-y about what I want to knit next, I just put the deciding power in her hands and make something for her. Makes her happy - she gets a new knitted thing. Makes me happy - I get to knit something good, and also it doesn't deplete my own stash. (Is it terrible that that matters to me?) I've wound up a couple of skeins of sweater yarn for her to look at.

Or maybe I'll dig out a different skein of sock yarn and have at it?

I just can't decide.

Monday, March 19, 2018

You again?

A couple of weeks ago, my sister brought back a sweater I'd made her last summer, with a request to lengthen the sleeves a bit.

I decided to finally get it done on Saturday. As I unpicked the bound off edge of the first sleeve, I marveled at how much previously knitted yarn looks like ramen, briefly wondered if a knitting technique could be used to get the right effect for homemade ramen, then quickly set that notion aside as way more effort than I am willing to put into culinary endeavours. New yarn was joined on using a Russian join, extra rounds of 1x1 rib were added on, and then the stitches were bound off again.

Repeat for sleeve #2.

After I took that picture, I smooshed and stretched the ribbing around to even it out some - not too sure why I didn't take a picture after I'd done that. Most likely an issue relating to the disappearance of light. Either way, can't do anything about it now, since the sweater has once again gone home with my sister.

Returning to a previously finished knit takes some mental fortitude. Much like a second sleeve or second sock, but to a greater degree - here sits a completed knit in your hands, and you work to return it to an unfinished state. I'm glad it's done. It feels a bit like I have put in my time as penance for this:

Um. Yeah. That's a skein of Fleece Artist Nyoni that I was winding to prepare for an upcoming MKAL. It's a giant skein - 250 g - and probably more than my ballwinder can handle, but I made it work, since the only alternate option available to me was to wind it by hand, which I was unwilling to do. I got most of the way through the skein before that thing happened, where the remaining yarn's gravity is overcome, and yarn no longer pulls off nicely but drags a loop or two along with it, and eventually leads to snarling. (The yarn becoming snarled, not me snarling - that comes a bit later.) I slow down, and try to pause to deal with the snarls as they develop, but somewhere along the way I lose patience, typically in the very last stretch of the skein, but this skein is rather bigger than a typical 100 g skein, so my patience ran out too early, and the snarls were pretty bad a fair bit before the yarn was all wound. What you see in that image is the result of me having decided to try for a 'gravity assist' and toss the remaining yarn on the floor - as if I could knock the snarls out or something. It totally didn't work. (I didn't really think it would, but I was hoping for a miracle.) It took me a full hour to figure that mess out, working from the other end of the yarn so I could pass the yarn through various loops in the untangling effort.

I'd say I've learned my lesson, but I know me. It's totally going to happen again. I actually think I'm probably okay with that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Maybe a little unreasonable

This morning, I was late for work.

Not hugely late - about five minutes late. Still, when your job is to teach, the general expectation is that you will be there when class starts. So, as I was walking from my car to my office - I wasn't about to try to run for it, since that would make me all sweaty and I'm not fast enough to really gain enough time by running to make it worthwhile - I thought a bit about what I was going to say to my students when I finally made it into the classroom.

I realize that makes it sound as though I was trying to put together a plausible fib to encourage them to forgive my lateness, but that's not it. I'm a terrible liar, I have no poker face whatsoever, so my default is to just be honest and tell the truth all the time. Today's truth was this: I was five minutes late because it took me five minutes longer than it should have to get ready. The delay was due to the presence of a spider in my bathroom this morning - I spent too much time staring down the spider in order to move efficiently through my regular routine.

I've never considered myself to be someone with arachnophobia, and I still don't - I don't freak right out when I see a spider, I won't refuse to be in a room with one, I don't run screaming when I see one. They do, however, make me deeply uncomfortable, and while this would be perfectly warranted if I lived somewhere where spiders posed a real threat because they could potentially END you, I live in a place where there aren't any seriously risky spiders. This morning, when I saw the spider crawling along where the wall met the ceiling, I knew that it was a harmless-to-me spider. And yet, I watched it, unwilling to move much lest it detect my presence. (I'm not sure why a spider being aware of me would be problematic.) If it had been within reach, I would have killed it - smashed it with some toilet paper and flushed it away. But, it was too far up, and it stayed up there - as if it knew of my murderous intent - and I tried to proceed as usual, but my eyes kept straying back to the spider's path. I was only able to really get back to business once it found the space between the shower stall and the trim around the bathroom door and slipped in there, out of my line of sight. From there it probably continued on into the wall space, which admittedly does not make me happy, but there's nothing I can do to chase after it without getting wildly and expensively destructive, so I was able to get back to business as usual once it had moved on.

I've been thinking about this a bit all day - I guess I haven't really let it go - and wondering if this is actually a reasonable response to a spider. I tell myself it is normal to fear things that have the potential to pose a risk, but there really was no risk in this situation at all - and I knew it. I knew that it was a harmless little spider that found its way into the house because it is warm in here, and outside is cold, particularly at night. In fact, that spider might have been living happily in our basement for months, which might have something to do with my general avoidance of the basement too. My feelings about spiders clearly aren't completely debilitating, but I must admit, they don't seem entirely rational either.

Then again, my students seem to consider this to be within the bounds of acceptable behaviour - there were some sympathetic chuckles and smiles, and no one got a look on their face like they thought I was out of my mind with insane paranoia, so maybe I'm just overthinking things a bit.

Hey look! The shawl's bigger!

Nearly through colour #4, nowhere near through a complete repeat #4, so definitely not getting that fifth repeat in there. I'm even getting a bit nervous about getting the complete fourth repeat in there. The urge to drop everything and just knit away on this is strong - I wanna see how it works out!

I also may have some waiting room time tomorrow - not sure yet - and this piece is now big enough that I don't think I should be dragging around all over hither and yon. I may be forced into the sock decision.