Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The air is clear and so is my conscience!

Yarn conscience, that is. I don't have a huge stash, and I did already do one major stash airing, however the remaining yarn was grating on my mind. Today was the day and I bagged up or tossed most of what I didn't get rid of the first time around.

The spur in my backside is that my mom, my brother, Jamie, and his girlfriend, Yocasta, are coming to my house on Saturday to celebrate Christmas. He lives in the Bronx, New York, and he's only able to come into town for a few days. I'm trying the strategy of one area of the house at a time - and I started today with the formal living room and dining room.

To call it a formal living room is kind of a joke. There is a sofa, but I'm the only one who sits on it. My 100 year old Mason & Hamlin upright is there too. And my desk, or, the Armpit of the Room. I have a jar of buttons, a fork that a friend bent into a bug, a mug with pens, piles of work papers, a printer/fax machine, laptop, 4 boxes of contacts, and several mini DV tapes. Oh, and shhh, don't tell, but I also have Christmas gifts stashed inside the pullout front drawer. It's kind of a nightmare, but I did already clean it so that wasn't my focus.

The starting point was the corner between the piano and the wall. I have plastic tower of drawers that hold medical records, insurance documents, recipes and yarn. Next to the tower is a small cabinet that holds my piano music. On top of that is a large basket full of all my wool balls and scraps. On the floor around everything were boxes of phots (another project I haven't finished).

Once I knew what I was up against, I went out and got 3 of these cool new plastic containers that are designed to fit on wire shelving. I labeled one Feltable Wool, another Cotton and Cotton Blends, and Wool Blends. I have a plastic box under my bed already for the acrylic that I might still have a use for.

I don't know if anyone even takes yarn donations (of yarn that isn't brand new, I mean) around here, but I bagged up the Fun Fur, Lion Suede, Red Heart, Homespun, Bernat Babysoft, and some unlabeled novelty yarn put out by Walmart a couple years ago. Into the garbage bag went the remains of Mariah (a story for another day), the body parts of a bunny that was never finished, bits of projects that were started, then abandoned, and some really ugly Red Heart.

I also tossed loads of papers. Yay for me!

Now my plastic tower has room for all the music that didn't fit in the little cabinet and there is still room for some afghan squares that I crochet from time to time. The basket is empty and the whole corner looks neat and organized. I can even see the floor! The living room is totally done and I nearly got through the dining room.

My bins worked great! Luckily my stash isn't huge so it all fit just fine and now they're resting comfortably on my closet shelf. The bins are clear so I can quickly see what I have and now my memory is refreshed about what I actually have.

It's a good thing.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Seriously, what is SO wrong with buying me yarn?

or other various knitting things? Somebody has to explain this to me. They ask for ideas, they get them...shouldn't that be a hint that what I've asked for is stuff I'd really want?

I have this friend - she'll know who she is :) - who's husband bought her a quilting machine. My husband said I quilted too much. Her husband bought her the Knit Picks Options needle set. Mine says I have too many already. I'm sure her husband would buy her yarn if she told him exactly what she wanted. Mine would rather burn my stash.

Nevermind that I want to make Emerald and have been leaving the pattern lying around the house with the yarn highlighted. I have a sticky note up smack dab in front of my laptop with all my yarn options for that sweater, along with prices and where to get them. Nevermind that I really love Silver Creek Cabin yarn shop. Nevermind that I spend nearly every minute of my leisure time knitting. Hubbo buying me yarn or anything remotely related to knitting is a pipe dream of Crystal Cathedral proportions.

So I went to the next best possible provider of knitting goods...Mom. She was the same person I went to when I wanted a walking foot and bias binder for my sewing machine, so I had high hopes. My list included the Options needle set, 3 yarn choices for Emerald (specifying color and quantity), and a few books that I would love but might not buy myself. And I did all this with plenty of time for online ordering. I also asked for a gift card to Amazing Threads, since Silver Creek Cabin is too far for her.

Did she listen to me? Nope. She called Tony and asked if there were any ideas for me other than knitting, that she really wanted to get me something that I would love. What? Are you freaking kidding me? She's seen how much I knit and how much I love it - ever since I first started as a kid. I told her I could perhaps use a nice wool coat, but in the back of my mind I'm thinking "a wool coat is not going to thrill me nearly as much as 10 balls of Cadena in Peat or 12 balls of Sheep Shop Sheep 2 in G17 or F029."

When Mom told me a day later that she really wanted to buy me a coat but was worried she'd buy the wrong thing, I sent her what I hope was a convincing email saying that the yarns/books/needles I'd put in my original gift idea list REALLY were great ideas for me and I'd be thrilled with any one of them. A coat would be nice - I have been wearing the same wool coat since about 1994 (egad!) - but I don't work outside the home anymore. A nice coat would be worn only a few times each winter for church and holidays. Knitting stuff would be far more useful and fun for me.

I don't see why, when it's something I love to do and really take pleasure in, whether it's making things for myself or others, there should be any problem in buying me gifts that would add to my enjoyment? Tony gets hunting things for his birthday and Christmas. Last year he asked for and received enough Cabela's gift cards to buy a new bow. Yet when I put down yarn shops as gift card ideas, people ask where else I might want to shop.

I gotta work on these people through the next year. Friday I'll see if my mom took any of my ideas to heart or not. I know she didn't order me anything from Knit Picks though.

Oh, I should give a mention to the one person who listens to my ideas and actually goes with them...my twin brother, Jamie. I gave him some knitting books as ideas, so cross your fingers, folks. I'm optimistic because this is the guy who actually gave me a book about canning and preserving when I asked for one. Go figure, actually giving a person what they want? No way! Thanks, Jame!

I have to give a closing statement, since I'm sure all this has made me sound very ungrateful. Generally, everyone does a great job at buying me gifts. My husband always knows what he's getting me far in advance and has a knack for finding just the right gift. I do love presents, but in all honesty, I enjoy giving gifts so much that I wouldn't mind if I myself received nothing. I love shopping for people and I love getting them something I know they'll love because IT WAS ON THEIR LIST! How hard is that?

Friday, December 7, 2007

So many emotions...darn it!

I know I could, but I haven't the nerve to curse on the internet yet :)

Anyway, the emotions. Started out feeling rather good. I had both sleeves for the Drops 79-24 going like gangbusters on one circular needle...and then it hit me.

I was going to run out of yarn.

I knit like crazy in the wee hours of the a.m. in order to have a good idea of just how much more I'd need before I had to get Alicia and Lucas out the door. I would drive down to Michael's after depositing Ben at preschool and buy 2 more balls of yarn, just to be safe. I was pretty psyched about going to Michael's anyway because they had Patons Classic Wool and Shetland Chunky on sale 2 for $7. I can't pass that up, though I think I bought the Shetland Chunky for 79-24 on sale 2 for $6).

Last time I was there they had a huge endcap display of some great shades of Shetland Chunky and I was prepared with my dye lot, my sample bit of yarn, and a basket. What did I find it its place? Berella 4! A yarn I've never EVER before seen in a retail store! FISH PASTE!!!!! I broke out in to a cold sweat as I headed for the back wall. No Rich Teal Shetland Chunky. TARTAR SAUCE!!!!

I did buy 6 balls of Dark Grey Mix Patons Classic Wool. I held a ball and squished it in my hands the whole way home - kinda like a stress ball, come to think of it. I have a shopping cart ready to roll at Knitting Warehouse, but I also found a Raveler with 2 balls of the exact shade and nearly the exact dye lot in her stash. They aren't listed as for sale, but I sent her a messaged asking if she'd be willing to sell them. Really, what could she make with 2 balls anyway? Ok, not the best question, but you know what I mean.

In the meantime, the sweater pieces are in my basket. Waiting. The Hourglass Pullover that I started on a whim is keeping ol' 79-24 company. I flew through the body but now I'm stubbornly waiting for my 8" Balene II circular needles, sizes 5 and 7, to arrive from some eBay seller. I'm warily confident that I can make them work - otherwise I wouldn't have ordered them - but I'm itching to get going on those sleeves. WoTA in Sapphire Heather is GORGEOUS! I wish I'd started this earlier so I could wear it out to dinner tomorrow night.

It's hard to believe, but in 13 years of marriage, Tony and I have never been to any friends' home (together) for dinner with other adults and no children. We've been invited to his boss's place for dinner with two other couples. I'm strangely nervous! For my entire adult life, I've hung out with people older than me and have been used to being the youngest person around. Now I'm 34 and I'll be the oldest female there besides our hostess AND I'll be the only female there with children. Dang, I hate getting old! But it will be nice and I just hope I don't embarrass anyone with my wont of social skills.

Oh, and the thing that has me really excited at the moment......(drum roll on desk).......I finally figured out how to post badges on my blog! Yay, me! I'm probably the last blogger on early to "get it", but I'd like to thank Fantasyknits - at least I'm pretty sure it was on her blog that I found out about ImageShack - but anyway, I found ImageShack, a free image hosting site. Now I don't have to mooch server space from my idols until they realize it and disable my images! Yay! Another thing I like about Fantasyknits is that we have the same birthday! Yay, us!

I suppose that's enough babbling for one day. I'm going to try to get some knitting done...just have to figure out what to knit that will distract me from the Giant Ombre Acrylic Monster that lives at the foot of my seat on the sofa. It's taking on a life of it's own.

Good news though. The brother will be here next weekend and we're having a mini Christmas at my house on Saturday, December 15 - or as I'm now calling it Sic-the-Giant-Ombre-Acrylic-Monster-on-my-brother-and-don't-let-him-leave-without-it-Day.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving...and a fit of consience.

Hey, how was your Thanksgiving? Once I got done with work-work, then house-work, and got down to the business of cooking-work, I had a great time. My mom came over and that was it. The turkey was perfect (thank you, Alton Brown!) and everything else was exceptionally good. See?

In a post-meal, Arbor Mist/Shiraz haze, I announced that I would not knit on anything else until I finished my brother's Ombre Acrylic Blanket from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I was really good and I'm soooooo close! However....

Progress has definitely quickened since I began using my KnitPicks needles and the 47" cable. I'm about 3" into the final band of color. I'm ridiculously close to finishing, yet yesterday afternoon, my wrists got sore.

So following the Vikings heroic victory over the Giants (Skol Vikings!), I scrapped my vow, looked to the right and saw Drops 79-24...the front is done, but the back was calling my name.

That's ok, I justified. It's such a fast moving knit, I said to myself "I'll just knit the back until this ball of yarn is done." True to my word, I stopped on the back when I finished the ball.

Then I looked to my left. There lay Drops 103-1, with just a teensy weensy bit of its ball of yarn left. Well, that would not do, so I had to knit until that ball of yarn was done. All right, maybe I did just a little bit more. Isn't the brown tweed purdy!

Now I'm at a crossroads, but I think the final decision is clear. I absolutely have got to get this monkey....er....blanket off my back. Just think of what a relief it would be to get this thing done with and shipped off to NY? This blanket is like knitting shackles right now. I must free myself from its grasp. Wanna see my dilemma?

Now, if I were truly conscientious, I might remove the tempting projects entirely. What you can't see in the shot is that a little below the frame is also a pile of books and magazines including both One Skein Wonder books, the last two IKs, Creative Knitting, and Knit n Style. As a side note, those last two magazines are ones I usually cringe at but to my surprise, Creative Knitting has several attractive projects and Knit n Style had ok projects and decent articles. I mostly bought them because I felt I deserved something for working 40 hours in 3.5 days.

So tonight I'm faced with the problem of deciding to which project I'll devote my time. Hmmmm. It's gonna be tough.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What do you do when your VPN kicks you in the head when you're trying to meet a deadline?

I don't know about you, but I.......

....cast on for Drops 103-1! Yaaaaaaaayyyyyy!

I am extremely frustrated right now, which directly translates into 1 1/2 more inches than what's shown in the photo. I really should have known better than to publicize to my professional colleagues my specific intentions regarding what exact time I wanted to send out my meeting agendas today. I've been doing this long enough to know that whenever I do such a thing, my computer decides to poop all over me and I'm left in a caffeinated mix of panic and heart failure.

Casting on was about all I could do to keep from beating my head with my stapler. What also helped goad me on was that I'd had a little Ravelry-based correspondence on the ability of Patons Shetland Chunky Tweeds to successfully translate into the Drops 103-1, plus the fact that I have a sweater's worth of the stuff in Earthy Brown, and that I had a ball, the needles, and the pattern sitting right next to me - already swatched, just calling my name.

It's so cute! I have 6 balls of the yarn, but I know I'm pretty darn sure I'll need more since I'm making size L in the 17 sts/inch gauge. Luckily I think my gauge is a little on the tighter side so it all should work out just fine.

In the meantime, while I would love to keep on knitting away into a blissful yarn stupor, I'd like us all to say a little prayer to the IT gods....WHOA! It worked! VPN is back! Gotta split and get my work done!

Oh yeah...Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sweater Issues Divert Me from Tooth Pain

I'm trying to psych myself up for Root Canal, Part Deux, but mostly I just want it over with. Yesterday I finally had a day with no pain and very little sensitivity...and then the temporary filling came out! So I'm on a hunger strike until it's all over. I'll divert my mind to sweaters~~~~~(picture a wavy movie scene fading into sweater world!)

I put on my wonderful Cabled Yoke Pullover yesterday:


I love this sweater, even more so since I discovered Sweater Soap. I always thought wool was too itchy for me. Well, I do still have sensitive skin, but this stuff peforms miracles - the sweater is as soft as a cloud. Even my sweater-phobic daughter melted when she touched my arm yesterday. However there is a problem.

Note the attractive boat neck in the photo above? Would have been nice if it stayed that way, but after blocking and one washing, the neck is now in full Flashdance mode. It's ok if I wear a t-shirt underneath, but it feels like it's going to fall off. It's hitting right at the edge of my knobby shoulder bones. I'm going in.

I've been over-thinking this for about a week and last night just went ahead and picked out my bind off (not very fun when you used size 4's!). I restarted the 1x1 ribbing, replaced markers at where I think a raglan seamline would be and at the center front and back. This probably isn't the best method of decreasing in 1x1 rib since it's a little obvious. I might still rip back and do it again with evenly spaced decreases, but I'll see how much it bothers me when I try it on again. I'd also like to add some short rows to the back neck so I can take less than a 10 minute super inspection to figure out which side is the front.

I just want to get it right since I really do love this, my first 100% wool sweater, and if the weather man is right, the snow that's been teasing us for days is going to fall in full force next week.

Now I must decide which sweater would make me feel best while my tooth is repaired...hmmmm. Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Short-Sleeve Cardigan Pix and Thoughts

You ever have something that you really need to do - like write a term paper or finish your brother's God-forsaken afghan - and suddenly you feel an obsessive need to clean the toilet?

Well, I had an obsessive need to knit this cardigan! A 2 for $6 sale on Patons Shetland Chunky at Michael's was no help. Neither was this fantastic color (dark leaf green) which matches my eyes perfectly! There was no question, it had to be done.

When I started swatching, I knew I was not going to get the recommended gauge of 14 sts/inch with the recommended size 10 needles. I got more like 15 sts/inch and ended up deciding to just go for it at the 38" size using the 10 and 8 needles called for in the pattern. I added 4 extra rows in the yoke since historically I have found the armholes in Fitted Knits patterns to be too shallow. For those extra rows, which were worked back and forth, to keep the yo's intact, I worked to two stitches before the marker, ssk, yo, sl marker, k1, yo, k2tog. You can't even tell.

I did find a couple errors that are not in the currently published errata at Glampyre Knits. I've emailed Stefanie, but I'll include them here for anyone to reference. The final set of instructions for the stockinette/reverse stockinette ridges on the body begin with a RS row and should actually begin with the directive to knit 2 rows instead of just one. This way you get the knit row on the right side to transition into the horizontal ridges and the first purl ridge.

I was happy to see that the sleeves were written in the round. I find it funny that this cardigan, whose instructions are obviously to knit back and forth, has sleeve instructions in the round. The pullovers, which are knit in the round, all have instructions to knit the sleeves flat and seam them later! I don't see the point of that so I've been doing all my sleeves in the round just like how this pattern says. However, when you get to the bordered ribbing and the "next row" instructions with the decreases, they are completely wrong in both the directions and the numbers of stitches you'd end up with. It should read NEXT RND: Knit, inc 2 (0, 2, 2, 0) sts evenly spaced - 36 (36, 40, 44, 44).

I'm very happy with my finished product. The ribbing rides up a little but that's my only complaint. The rest of it fits perfectly. At first, because I live in Minnesota, I questioned the practicality of a short-sleeved cardigan. As I wore it, however, I realized that a short-sleeved cardi is perfect for me. I often roll up my sleeves while I work and all the time when I knit. Even when I use circulars, my needles sometimes get caught up inside longer sleeves. Then there's the times when I'm trying to cook, or helping with homework, or doing laundry, blah blah blah. So for me, you see, this cardigan is ideal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Two Tone Shrug Pics

It's the Two Tone Shrug from Fitted Knits. Yay!

I love it! It took just over 1 skein of Patons Classic Wool in Brown and one skein of Lion Wool that I hand-dyed with Wilton Icing Dyes. If I'd chosen two colors of the Patons, it would have only taken two skeins, one of each color.

I followed the numbers for the 15" size but since my gauge was a little larger than the pattern called for, it ended up being about 16". I was unsure of how exactly to measure - should I measure the area between the shoulders or from the edge of one shoulder to the edge of another? Ravelry came to the rescue, as usual, because I was able to not only look at pictures of everyone's finished shrugs but also read comments on the sizing, yarns, etc. Love it!

The whole project breezed along wonderfully and I've worn it 3 times now. The only thing that I notice as a slight problem is that I neglected to knit one round in the contrast color before beginning the ribbing on the sleeves. Thus, there is a color blip that I could do without. I'm still trying to decide if it bothers me enough to redo it or if I'll just make another. My daughter even said how cute it was, but of course when I asked her if she'd like one, she promptly said no, thank you. Kinda sad, because I love to knit for other people...but I also love to knit for myself so I'm doing quite well.

My contrasting color was a skein of Lion Wool that I'd hand-painted with Wilton Icing Dyes. I wound it around my kitchen island, tied it in several places, and laid it in a 13x9 pan with a little water in the bottom. I mixed my colors in squirty bottles - kinda like those picnic ketchup bottles - and dotted it around the pan. I was originally going for more of a brown mixture, but it ended up a beautiful autumn-y mix of oranges, pinks and light browns and beiges.

After painting the yarn, I cooked it in the microwave until the dye had exhausted, then hung it outside on my planter hangers to dry. My daughter really loves this when her bus goes right by our house and yarn is draped all over the place! I wound it up and stared at it for about a month and a half before the idea came to me to use it in the shrug.

I'd seen the pattern in the book, obviously, but never considered making it because I didn't know how to fit it. Then after seeing it on Ravelry, I was convinced. I held the brown Patons wool from my stash against my hand-dye and it was perfect. This is a great pattern for stash crashing!

The yarn really does talk, you sometimes just have to wait until it has something to say!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Happy Birthday to ME!

Yep, Saturday was my birthday. Now I'm 34. My husband had been calling me 34 for months, saying that it was "close enough", but I wasn't willing to concede until the last possible moment. So as of 4:38 p.m. on Saturday, November 10, I am 34.

What did I get for my birthday, you ask? The kids gave me Brain Age 2 (I need all the help I can get), my dad and step mom gave me money (promptly used for Mason-Dixon Knitting), my mom gave me the Minnesota North Stars history book, and Tony is holding out until Christmas (presumably because the gift idea he has is too huge for birthday alone). But there was another, far better gift than I could have ever imagined...

A root canal!!!!

Aren't you jealous? When I first described my sudden tooth sensitivity to my mother, she gleefully exclaimed "I wonder if you need a root canal! I was about your age when I needed my first!" She said it in a way that made it sound like some sort of an accomplishment. In that case, I did it. Yay me! After this Friday, I hope I never have to experience it again.

The root canal did, however, afford me some excellent guilt-free knitting time. I got a free ticket out of Alicia's basketball tournament on Saturday so I spent all day working on the Short-Sleeved Cardigan from Fitted Knits. This sweater kind of snuck up on me. I bought the yarn (Patons Shetland Chunky, Dark Leaf Green) last week when it was on sale for something like $3 a ball at Michael's. I couldn't resist immediately swatching and casting on. Even though I've found several errors (in addition to the already published errata), they were easy enough to spot and remedy so I got through it ok. I made the 38" size, but I wish I'd made the 40". Because my gauge is a little tighter than called for, even though I followed the 38" numbers, it's actually a little smaller than that. It will be wearable, for sure, but we'll see if I feel self-conscious about wearing something so fitted.

I had a little trouble figuring out exactly how to pick up the button bands. Every time I counted I got way more stitches than I was supposed to. I eventually did get it right though and all that remains is to find the right buttons. I'll look at Walmart, but if I don't find anything there (highly likely), I'll hit Joann's on Wednesday.

I'll take some pictures tomorrow when the daylight is fresh again, but I wanted to get this post out now while all is still in my head. Have a great evening!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Coffee and Pop Tarts

I'm sure I'll be in a sugar-induced stupor soon, but that's what the coffee is for. Plus, I'd forgotten just how good those evil things are! I bought them yesterday - or rather Walmart's generic version - because Ben was being exceedingly cute and I was feeling equally generous. I am now convinced that though they are, of course, still abundantly evil, there are not many taste sensations that could pair with a cup of coffee so ideally. I needed it this morning.

It hasn't been a bad morning. Last night, I finished the Two-Tone Shrug from Fitted Knits and I'm wearing it now. It rocks! Even Alicia said "ooooohhhh, that's cuuuueeeettttte" in her 11-year-old way. Alas, no pictures yet because the camera is up north waiting patiently for someone to shoot a deer. They have shot 3, but last year by this time in the week, I think they'd had 7 or 8. The camera will be back tomorrow though and pics will be taken.

This morning Lucas had an appointment to see Dr. Thomas Sult at Williams Integracare Clinic in Sartell, MN. When I first looked up DAN! doctors 3 years ago, I quickly saw that in my area, there were no MD's. There were chiropracters, optometrists and accupuncturists. I wanted an MD not only for the medical school piece of mind it would offer, but then perhaps I'd have a prayer of my insurance company covering something. Dr. Sult fits the bill perfectly. He's a family practitioner who supports every mode of autism treatment that our regular pediatrician scoffed at. We've used a combination of vitamin/mineral supplementation and chelation with great results. He rocks too!

The appointment was at 8:15 a.m. The boys had to wake up at 6:30 and we left at 7:30. Alicia stayed home and got off to school on her own. The goal of this visit was to get all the test kits and instructions, and from there we will reevaluate Luke's current condition and his treatment plan. There are 3 tests. The first test is an organic acids test. This test looks for the byproducts of yeast, fungi, and even bacteria in the intestinal tract. It's the easiest sample to collect because you only need a small amount of first morning urine. However, it's $284 if you pay out of pocket up front, $474 to submit it to insurance.

The second test is the Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis with Parasitology (Random) - wheeee! (CDSA for short). This one involves 3 stool collections, taken 3 consecutive days. This one doesn't scare me either. It's another biggie: $370 up front, $475 for insurance.

The third is the Toxic Element Clearance Profile which tests for heavy metal contamination. Last time we did it, it showed high levels of both lead and mercury. For the test, Luke will take 8 capsules of a chelating agent (DMSA - nasty stinky stuff), then we will collect all his urine for 6 hours. Definitely a weekend project. The last time we did this, we emptied the capsules into pop and though it stunk to high heaven, he drank it and didn't seem to notice. His senses are a little more refined now, though, than they were 3 years ago so we'll see how it goes. I might have to try to teach him to swallow pills. Beyond that, the collection part shouldn't be that bad. Last time we did it, he was not potty trained and I left him naked and followed him around the house for 6 hours with a small jar. The redeeming quality of this test is that it's the least expensive of the 3 tests: $58 up front, $118 for insurance.

My project for the next few days is to go over the shipping rules and limitations and strategize exactly when and how we will do this. Then I'll also need to investigate our insurance policy. I am hopeful that my insurance company will cover these tests. We are fortunate enough to have a policy written out of Indiana, a state which has a law mandating insurance coverage for those with a pervasive developmental disorder (such as Asperger's or autism) and they may not be denied coverage for services rendered necessary for their condition. I hope they will cover these tests. Unless I get a definitive answer soon, I'll be paying the discounted up front cost, then submitting the tests to insurance later. I'd hate to rely on my insurance, then get stuck with $1000 of test costs.

For those who would like to know more about these tests, you could check out William Shaw, Ph.D's book Biological Treatments for Autism and PDD. It's intensely scientific, but it was right up my alley and has been a good reference book. There are more user friendly books that give the same kind of information though. If you're considering the GFCF diet, Special Diets for Special Kids by Lisa Lewis has, in addition to a great selection of recipes, a comprehensive section that focuses on the science of the diet and other popular biomedical treatments for autism spectrum disorders.

Well now that I've written a novel, I think I'll take a knit break to calm my caffeine/sugar charged brain before getting back to the work-grind. I'm swatching for the Short-Sleeved Bulky Cardi, or more accurately, whatever I can make with Patons Shetland Chunky after I've determined a fabric density I like. Whatever will that be?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Breezy Cables has Blown Away........

Did I ever show you Breezy Cables?

It's a Kathy Zimmerman pattern from the Spring 2006 IK. I began this in Fall 2006. The pics are a little dark, but as you can see, it's heavy on the cables and texture. I love love love the finished pattern.

I hate hate hate that I have to pay so much attention to knitting it though! It's ridiculous! The 4 most hateful words to me when I'm looking at a pattern are "at the same time." Yeah, I think you know what I mean.

The back went along fairly easily actually. I love cables and texture and having to follow a repeating pattern helped make it progress quickly. I also learned how to cable without a cable needle which was great. I made a zillion copies of the chart and marked each in sequence and noted where all the shaping happened. Then came the fronts.

As you can see, I've never even finished the first front. I got through the "at the same time" crap and needed to come up for air. I've never gone back to it. It did all work out fine, but it was so tedious to have to keep two separate sets of notes and keep the pattern straight and stop the pattern here and start it up again there that it quickly lost its appeal. Not to mention that at age 33 (for 4 more days), I felt like I needed a magnifying glass to read that darned magazine and I'm not ready for that yet.

A couple months ago I tried starting a sleeve, but at this point, nothing was drawing me to this project anymore. Not the yarn, not the pattern, not the work I'd already done, not even the finished product. I had chosen to make this in TLC Essentials in Robin Egg. I'm cheap and I'm learning that this is not always a virtue. Great for afghans, not even mildly acceptable for an aran cardigan.

Then the color - a mild blue with a hint of green (duh, robin egg). I do still like the color, but I've come to realize that I'm not going to wear a robin egg cardigan because it isn't going to remotely go with anything I own. Even though I'll admit that what I have already knit is excellently done, it doesn't even look attractive to me anymore through the gross sheen of the acrylic. It's not squishy or cuddly. It wouldn't keep me warm and darn it, I want to be warm when I put on a sweater!

So even though I have not frogged my work yet, Breezy Cables will go the way of the whispering winds as soon as I run out of the rest of the unused yarn. From one extreme to another, I've cast on for the Uma Sweater in The Natural Knitter (BTW, can I live in this book, please?). Could there be anything more opposite? It's a U-neck garter stitch - ALL garter stitch - pullover. It would be delicious in a lofty merino, but I'll make it out of the robin egg acrylic and wear it over my long sleeve T's. I'm cheap, and all that yarn has to go to some kind of use.

If I get sick of garter stitch, I can always make the pieces of the sweater into some kind of out of proportion Log Cabin blanket.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Tough Weekend

I got my Knit Picks order today. The needles are fabulous and the yarn (WotA Sapphire Heather) is as beautiful as the glittering night sky. The Knitter's Book of Yarn is wonderful. It's huge, easy to read, extremely informative about all fibers, and the patterns are exquisite. Louder than Words is compelling and easy to read, heartbreaking and hopeful all at once. It gives me a little more impetus to continue pursuing a book of my own, however, because her son's story began quite differently than mine. Autism is what I want to talk about tonight.

Yesterday, Tony and Alicia left to go hunting, leaving me alone with the two boys until Sunday and without Tony until probably next Friday. I love my boys dearly and we often have a great time together, but I always have a little dread about being alone with them because they are true partners in crime and I don't have a lot of faith in how well I can handle the naughty things they do. Mostly I'm a patient mother, but there are days when everything rubs me the wrong way. We've had a few of those days.

We have 3 ice cream buckets full of Halloween candy - one of all the stuff Luke can have and two full of everything which before eating, he needs to take enzymes to help his body process the gluten and/or casein. Thursday we picked up fundraiser products, of which we also ordered candy. Luke really loves mint and we'd bought some little minty chocolate covered cat's paws candy. Those also fall into the must-have-enzymes-first category.

I don't know how he did it, but Friday evening I walked by the kitchen table and noticed that the package of the cat's paws was empty. Ben told me that "Woo-cas ate all of them." At that point, enzymes were futile. Ever since yesterday night, Luke has been a frenzied mess of stimming - obsessively playing with his stuffed animals acting out the same scenes from Backyardigans over and over, babbling constantly, spinning, and picking at invisible things in the air. I hate it. I hate it because I don't know how my boy is feeling and I can't do anything to help him. His body just has to work it all out.

Frenzied might not be the best word to describe it. Lucas was still alert enough to always respond correctly to me and he talked to me quite normally, except whenever he wasn't actively engaged by me or his brother, he went right back into his stimming behaviors. It was like an unseen force compelled him to keep up that movement.

I heard a racket upstairs and when I went to check it out, found their room a complete mess. It shouldn't have gotten me as upset as I was - they are two boys, 7 and 5, sharing a room - but I was upset. I tipped Luke's mattress up and spent 30 minutes pulling handfulls of garbage out from under his captain's bed. I was furious and I made them leave until I had it all under control. 3 garbage bags and 1 give-away pile later.

The boys alternately fought and played their way through dinner. Then Luke went to the bathroom and somehow ended up getting #2 all over the toilet seat and himself. I got mad at him. I'm so ashamed of it. It wasn't his fault. When his diet gets messed up, his poop gets messed up. The poor kid was even cleaning it up when I got in there and I still got mad.

Then later when I held him and told him it was all ok, wasn't his fault, I wasn't mad, and that I was sorry for yelling, the little angel looked into my teary eyes with teary eyes of his own and said "it's ok Mom...are you sad?"

That boy is something indescribably special. He's amazing, not for one thing, but for everything he is and has all wrapped up in his 7 year old self. You can't meet him and not love him. God has gifted that boy with incredible knowledge and insight. He'll do amazing things one day.

Once, a relative said to me "it must be hard to have to lower your expecations for him after getting a diagnosis like that." I angrily replied back that I haven't lowered my expectations at all. I don't expect any of my children to go into any particular field of study or profession, but I have the highest expectations that they will use their talents to the best of their abilities and throw their entire beings into whatever they choose, whether it's a neurosurgeon or a night-shift custodian.

It's late and I'm tired, but I have a lot of laundry to fold. Tomorrow we'll have a good 5 hours in the car, trekking to Pequot Lakes and back to get Alicia, so I'd better get some shut eye tonight.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Holiday Knitting...I've got the blues (but it's okay because I have presents too!)

And not for the reason you might think. Am I overwhelmed with projects and don't know how I'm going to finish them? Am I staring at the ceiling each night wondering what the heck to make everybody on my list? Am I worried I won't please anybody with their gift?

Nope. Not me.

Last November I crocheted a sweater for my mom and this year I'm making the Ombre Acrylic Nightmare - er, Blanket - for my brother, but I haven't done any holiday gift knitting since the Scarf and Hat Extravaganza of 2005. That year I made 9 hats and 15 scarves. It was craziness!

That was a little much, so I'd hoped not to do that much again, but I didn't expect that I wouldn't be doing any gift knitting. I'm kind of sad. Here's the deal....

The Husband sees the idea of a sweater/hat/scarf/socks or anything knit for him and expected to be worn by him as torture and a threat. He gets nothing and likes it.

The Girl, as I've said many times before, said to me "Mom, I don't like knitted things." She gets nothing and likes it. Well she does want a striped rib hat to match her new winter jacket, but that's all she wants.

Bigger Boy loves anything I make. He doesn't specifically ask for anything, but he'll take anything I make.

Smaller Big Boy loves anything I make. He's begging me to finish his blue sweater.

Everybody else already has a scarf or hat, my mom has a sweater, and my brother will eventually have this beast of a blanket. What more could they want? The other attitude prevailing in my household is that a handmade gift isn't enough. Nevermind that the yarn for my mom's birthday sweater last year cost $50 and hours and hours to crochet, Tony didn't think it was good enough to give that on its own and we bought another gift to go with it.

It's not that I don't know my family well enough to decide what to make for each of them. On the contrary, I think I know them well enough to understand that they don't want anything and I'm not about to force anything knitted upon them. Plus, everybody at my house but me sweats year round so they don't need any wool in their lives. I pity them. More for me. My hands are cold.

On one hand, I'd love to be the person who is constantly asked to make things for others, but then again, I wouldn't have as much time to knit for myself. Which brings me to my presents!

The first half - the package from Amazon - came yesterday. I started reading Jenny McCarthy's book and it's pretty good. Her son's story is vastly different from my son's but I'll save all those details for a review when I've finished it. I haven't looked at the Knitter's Book of Yarn much yet, but I can tell you that I'm DYING to sit by the fire and read until I fall over! It's huge! I'm so psyched and so ready to soak up some knowledge about yarn. This book is jam packed with info. I'll review that too once we've gotten to know each other.

My Knit Picks package should be arriving tomorrow. Package tracking said it was only 25 miles from my house at 3 a.m. this morning. I was hopeful for today, but certainly it will be tomorrow. Yeeee! Of course that does mean I'll have to work on that blanket...

I'll let you know if I survive.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The yarn is talking again...and Sam contributes to my progress.

Ahhhh, it's November and now we can all come down from the Halloween sugar-high. After a cold blustery day yesterday, the winds died down and it wasn't all that bad last night. I love a nice cool October, but it's never fun for the kids when they have to cover their costumes in winter gear for the sake of a little candy. Correction...a LOT of candy. Luke made me take a picture of his bag after we'd been down one side of the block. There was a ton in the end!

The candy was checked and sorted into either the GFCF bucket or the regular bucket and now comes the challenge of rationing until Christmas. We can do it.

On Tuesday, the yarn started talking to me again. This time is was the 9 or so balls of Lion Brand Landscapes in Autumn Trails. This yarn started out life as the Indulge Yourself cashmere pullover from the Yarn Girls' Guide to Beyond the Basics. It's a cowl neck A-line swingy looking pullover that of course I could not dream of doing in cashmere (somewhere between ouch and boing!!!), so I chose Landscapes. It was going along well, but I lost my stride somewhere along a sleeve and just didn't think it was going to work out. Off to the frog pond it went.
I made one Cabled Wedding Hat from the same Yarn Girls' book, but that didn't take up nearly enough yarn. It is my favorite hat though, soft and warm and gorgeous.

The rest of the yarn sat in hand-wound balls until I bought a winder, then it sat in nicely wound cakes. Forever. Then I bought Stefanie Japel's Fitted Knits and spied the Alexandra Ballet Neck Pullover. It was a great idea, but of course, I incorrectly calculated gauge - or rather I incorrectly compensated for my lack of gauge. It was too big.

Some otherworldly force led me to Loop-d-Loop by Teva Durham. I love looking through this book and one design that has always spoken loudly to me is the Assymetrical Mock Cable Vest. The unexplained Force also drove me to the pile of Landscapes, which really wasn't hard since Alexandra hadn't been frogged yet and sat right before me on the table. I swatched on size 11 straights and had gauge...first try even! Alas, no size 11 circulars. How does that happen when I seem to have multiples of every other size needle? Walmart's needles stopped at 10 1/2 and I neither wanted to drive to Maple Grove for $6 needles nor Buffalo for $20 needles. So I compromised and cast on for the largest size on my size 10 1/2 circulars.

Turns out this yarn is absolutely fabulous in this pattern! Each stitch shows the yarn off in a different way. The reverse stockinette is muted, the stockinette is the highlight, and the Irish Moss glows as it peeks out from the centers of the "cables". The larger portion of moss stitch in the back is going to be indescribably beautiful.

I started this on Tuesday. I arrogantly thought I could finish it to wear out trick-or-treating with the kids last night. Early Wednesday morning, Sam inadvertently fed my arrogance by waking me up at 3 a.m. puking and pooping. I didn't feel comfortable turning out the lights again once he'd relieved himself sufficiently from each end so we turned on the fire. He slept and I knit. I really thought I could do it, but I only got mostly through the upper front. I wasn't too bothered by that. I wore my Unisex Tweed Pullover instead. One Teva for another.

I finished the knitting on the vest this morning and wove in ends and crocheted the edging during my lunch break. I might have 1 full ball leftover, but it's in 5 separate mini balls, so I think it will go bye-bye. What a fantastic stash busting project this was! It fit the available quantity of yarn to a tee. The vest is washed and blocked and waiting to dry. I chose to wash, then block because this vest really needs blocking to make the patterns all behave and I didn't think the spray bottle was going to cut it. The moss stitch inside the stockinette "cables" wants to pucker, but that's how it looks in the book too so I'm not worried about it. I'm hoping that in the end, this will fit me a little loose, like it does the model in the book.
I already know that it fits me because I tried it on pre-washing. I also know that I'll wear this no matter how it fits. What's not to love about a soft, warm vest that goes with everything?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sam strikes again

Last night, I almost had to murder my dog, Sam....again.

He looks innocent enough, but really, he can be the devil. He already destroyed the first wearable sweater I'd made - Funky Funnel Neck Fun from the Yarn Girls Guide to Simple Knits - but I did forgive him for that because I had bound off the neckline too tightly and it was a little annoying. However, I happen to love - no, LUFF - the Teva Durham Unisex Knock-Around Cashmere...er, Patons Shetland Chunky Tweed...Pullover. It has peanut butter on the front and sleeves but I still managed to wear it for about 23 of its first 24 hours of completed existence. Yesterday afternoon, after shooting off a few photos, I decided it was ready for the laundry pile.

Ok, so it isn't the wisest choice to have a laundry pile that lives on the floor of my bedroom when I have a slightly less than 1 year old Golden Retriever who loves to sleep on dirty laundry - but that's beside the point. I threw the sweater in that pile and the next time I saw it, there was a loop of yarn that had been pulled out about 10 inches sticking out of the dead center front of this sweater!


I'm sure he didn't mean it, and that's why I took no retaliation (at least I meant not to until I knew the exact fate of this sweater). I think his claw snagged one stitch in the front and somehow he pulled it until the entire row across the front had been tightened to where it wasn't even visible and all the yarn was coming out the front.

To poor Sammy's credit, he did not chew, slobber, or otherwise maim any other part of the sweater. I spent about 30 minutes wheedling the yarn back through all the stitches to bring that row back into the world. It worked. Yay! Sammy's life is spared again.

Once the yarn was successfully and evenly woven back into a knit row, I went to work on fixing the problem of the curl at the bottom and cuff edges. I unknit the reverse stockinette border on the front and reknit it as 6 garter stitch rows (3 ridges). Garter stitch matches the rest of the garment perfectly and hopefully should solve the curl problem that could not be blocked out since my yarn is 75/25 acrylic/wool. I did the same to the back except I did 8 garter stitch rows. I used a crochet hook for the bind off - a method I adore - and then I crochet-seamed the lower panels together at the edge slip stitches so that it was a little less of a slit at the sides.

I picked up stitches around the cuffs and added 6 rows of garter stitch there as well. My bind off there might be considered slightly less flexible than it should be for garter stitch, but the cuffs are quite wide and they are not tight at all. The garter border and bind off should help to keep them a little more under control. Plus the roll was making the sleeves feel too short.

It's now bathing in Sweater Soap and I'm confident all will be wine and roses from here on out.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Universe is Conspiring Against Me

This is a severe crisis. I placed an order with Knit Picks last week. I placed an order with Amazon this morning. The Knit Picks catalog came in the mail. Ravelry is too irresistable to ignore. The knitting that's on my needles is too irresistable to ignore (excepting the Ombre Blanket - until the Knit Picks order comes in).

There are patterns and books and yarns and needles and and and....ARRRRRGGGGHHHH!

This is truly a crisis of epic proportions. I should be working, but I'm not. Instead I'm drooling over the catalog and dreaming of yarn.

Deep breaths. Must regain composure in time to pick up Alicia from basketball. I can listen to more Stash and Burn in the van. Yeah...that's it!

Oh, and Lucas made it through the day without incident...Yay!!!!

I have presents coming!

I'm treating myself to some knitting goodies this week. The way I see it, if my darling husband and daughter are going to leave me with the boys to go deer hunting, I need something to keep my sanity in check. With the Teva Durham sweater (from Weekend Knitting) complete, I've made a resolution to kick it into high gear on the Ombre Blanket...though that may have to wait for my goodie box from Knit Picks to arrive.

I ordered a 47" cable and size 7, 9, 13, and 15 needle tips from the Knit Picks Options line. I currently own two 24" cables and tips in sizes 4, 5, and 6 and though I love them down to my toes - the slickness of the finish, the point of the tips - even with the little key, I still have a little trouble keeping one end of one cable tightened while knitting. Must be that particular cable.

The size 15 tips are for the neverending Ombre Blanket. I've been suffering through the project thus far using a 36" plastic circular needle; it's a wonder I've made it as far as I have. The plastic tips are sticky and the overall cable length is too short so I'm having to rebunch and position the entire thing every 10 stitches or so. My hands get terribly sore from having to fight with this stupid needle. Thus, I am more than willing to suck it up and deal with a little retightening here and there if I can make the process even a teensy weensy bit more enjoyable. I like the pattern, I like the colors, and I love how it's turning out, but the process is a real turn off. I briefly considered the 60" cable, but then thought I didn't quite need one that was nearly as long as I am tall. The 47" cable should do quite nicely. My latest knitting fantasy is dreaming of how quickly I'll be able to complete the blanket and get it safely off to my brother.

After I finish that blanket, I'll use the 9's and 13's to make some more Fluffy Lap Blankets (more Weekend Knitting). I need to give one to Luke's old occupational therapist - he saw her for 4 years until school started this year and her schedule couldn't accommodate him anymore - so she deserves one. A few months ago, Smiley's had Red Heart Symphony on sale for $1 a ball and I couldn't resist. I bought a lot and have enough to make at least 8 blankets. They really are the perfect teacher gift and they knit up in a flash. I'm hoping these needles will help me keep the yarn doubled and not pick only one strand. I only did that one time, on one blanket, where I didn't first catch it and I felt horrible, but it I knew it wasn't going to unravel so all was well.

Lastly, the size 7 tips will be for the...CRAP, I can't remember the name but it's the really cute portrait neckline pullover from Last Minute Knitted Gifts...Hourglass Pullover...that's it! I also bought what I hope will be enough Wool of the Andes worsted in Sapphire Heather to make that. I'm a little cautious about this one. I've never used WotA before and I'm worried it will be too itchy, but another Raveler said that it got considerably softer after a dip in Eucalan. It was such a purdy color that I went for it. There were actually several colors I would have gladly purchased, but I'm sticking to my resolve and only purchasing yarn for a project already in mind or committed to. It's really not that hard and I'm finishing a lot more stuff.

My last present will be from Amazon. I finally bit and ordered Jenny McCarthy's book "Louder than Words" even though I probably won't learn anything knew, I'd like to take a look and be able to give some sort of review to people. It's next to impossible for me to buy just one book from Amazon so I gave in to gentle evil twin arm twisting and also ordered Clara Parks' book The Knitters Book of Yarn. I'm so excited about this one! I've wanted to buy Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan for some time until the other day I realized that one of my favorite patterns required size 3 needles. I'm sorry, but there ain't no way I'm gonna knit a sweater in size 3 needles! Then the Berocco KnitBits newsletter came out last Friday and showed one of Norah's patterns from the Book of Yarn. Ahhhh! I went to Knit Picks to see pictures of the projects and I was hooked! I put it in my Amazon shopping cart intending for it to be how I would achieve free shipping, but I want it so badly I decided what's $5 anyway?

You might be thinking why would I buy these things for myself when Christmas and my birthday are around the corner? Well, Tony refuses to buy me anything remotely related to knitting and for the past 5 years, nobody has ever given me anything that I've asked for related to knitting. So, I'm treating myself. And I can't wait! I can't wait for the flurry of productivity that will inevitably follow and and for the many happy hours I'll have to spend with the activity I love so much!

And with Tony and Alicia out of the house, I'm gonna need all the fun I can grasp if I'm gonna keep from going loony with these goofy boys!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Whoa...what a weekend!

Actually it started a little early. I was in quite a state of ecstacy for finishing the Unisex Knock-Around Pullover - I think it was a new record, even with having to rip back a couple times and fudge my way through the math. It was my first time messing around with the math of a sweater and to my utter amazement, it all worked. The sweater is the exact size it should be and it's incredibly comfy. Because it's not 100% wool, the lower edge and cuffs didn't uncurl so I might add some garter stitch, but it is still great. Love it! But I digress...

So Friday morning was it's usual hectic self...Alicia needing to be ready early to go to school early for crossing guard duty, Lucas needing his lunch and "high-5's" (a vitamin/mineral cocktail we give him every day per his DAN! doc's directive), and Ben needing to eat and be ready for preschool shortly after the other two leave. Alicia, Lucas, and I triple teamed packing his lunch and everybody was ready in time. Alicia left and we waited for Luke's bus.

Now Lucas loves school. So much so that each day he runs down the concrete steps from the house and across the grass and a sidewalk to get to the bus. The busdriver and I have been warning him for the past two months that one day he'd fall down and on Friday, it happened. One more step and he would have hit the grass, but unfortunately he fell onto his face. He was bleeding at the gumline of his front teeth and scraped above and below his right eye. So I told the busdriver to continue and I'd take him to school when he recovered.

That is one thing about the autism that is difficult - or perhaps it's just because he's a stubborn child who comes from stubborn parents. Lucas is doing great and understands a lot, but when he is hell bent on something, he's so stubborn it's difficult to change the course he takes. Thus, it's been impossible to get him to slow down and walk to the bus. Today even I had to continuously remind him to walk. He got irritated with me when I tried to slow him down - he was walking fast - and said "C'mon Mom, I'm trying to walk!" He made it though and I warned him to walk carefully at school today.

We cleaned him up and by the time Ben went to preschool, Luke was good to go. I got him safely to his class and the day proceeded as normal.

Then about 1 p.m., right when I take my Knitty Gritty/A Haunting break from work, the phone rings. Caller ID said "unknown caller". That's never good because during the school day, that always means it's school. Lucas tripped entering his classroom after recess and cut his head on a chair. Ben and I packed up and got the poor kid. The cut had stopped bleeding but I decided to take him to the ER to have it looked at just in case. It wasn't very deep so they ended up just glueing it and now all is well.

Oh, I almost forgot the icing on the cake! Luke's para, who was with him in the nurse's office asked me "did you know you packed a raw egg in his lunchbox today?" My jaw dropped! I couldn't believe it! I'd had two hard boiled eggs sitting right on the shelf in the fridge, but somehow, between the 3 of us packing his lunch, he got a hold of a raw egg. I even helped pack it in a baggie. I'd even asked him if he wanted me to crack it at home for him, but he said no, he wanted to crack it at school. Geez! I hope this is enough weirdness to take us at least through the end of the year.

Saturday was just busy. The Monticello Soccer Club had a rec soccer Jamboree. In an effort to become more involved in the community, Tony is on the soccer Board and I am in charge of apparel sales. Alicia's traveling team signed on to sell concessions as a fundraiser for their team. So the 5 of us were at the fields all day. Tony cooked brats and hot dogs, Alicia assembled hot dogs and caramel apple slices, and I sold apparel in tandem with refereeing the boys. It was fun, and we sold a lot of stuff, but it was cold and long. At the end of the afternoon, as if to signal it was time to get out of dodge, a gust of wind lifted the tent right off its poles and it flew off and the poles went flying. One pole hit my niece in the back of her head, but she was fine and luckily the little kids were off in the fields picking up garbage.

Here they are...Alicia is in the gray hoodie with the black hat, Tony is in back turned facing her, and my two nieces are in the blue and yellow coats. They were an enormous help! Thanks girls!

Sunday was mercifully calm. Tony and my dad went to the gun club to sight in their rifles and now they are all ready for the whitetail firearms season to open this Saturday. We watched the Vikings lose in grand fashion, then switched over to see a similar fate fall upon our beloved Wild. The discovery of "A Haunting" marathon on Discovery saved the day, however, and we watched until that was over. Then when Tony went up to get clothes ready, I turned on Jane Eyre again. I'll have to discuss that in another post...I think I'm in love with Toby Stephens. Ahhhhh!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

If someone compliments your sweater, then asks if you made it, is it still a compliment?

I'm gonna say yes. I wore the Cable Yoke Sweater today for the second time, but it was the first time out in the actual public eye (the neighbors don't count). At the neighbors' house last Friday, nothing was said at all about my sweater. I took that as a compliment in itself - that hopefully it wasn't too obvious that it was handmade.

I'm wearing it today with a cute coral-colored tank underneath - to both deter itch and hide bra straps - and Ben's preschool teacher first said how beautiful it was...then asked me if someone made it for me. She continued to be so sincerely complimentary, though, that I won't take it as a bad thing that she recognized that it was handmade. She did say that she, too, is a knitter so it stands to reason that she would recognize a handmade sweater.

So I'm good.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Airing of all things Stash...and a Shooting Star!!

I saw a shooting star! 4:40 a.m., clear black sky, and 36 degrees will do that, I s'pose. Sammy and I made our wishes and no, I'm not gonna tell you!

Speaking of 36 degrees, it must be the cool crisp air of a Minnesota October that gets me in the mood to air all things Stash, yarn or otherwise. I don't get into spring cleaning half as much as I get into fall cleaning. Realizing that the house is going to be shut up for the next 6 months will do that, I s'pose.

The airing of the yarn stash happened last Friday. Though I've been a knitter/crocheter for many years, I've been cheap for my entire life and until recently had a hard time purchasing anything other than Red Heart Super Saver. Then a couple of years ago when I bought a Knifty Knitter, I also bought a lot of novelty yarn (have I ever mentioned the Scarf/Hat Extravaganza of 2005?) I pulled out my underbed plastic boxes and found a horrendously large number of hideous partial balls of acrylic and glittery disgusting boucle/furry novelty yarns.

I have no plans to partake in another Scarf/Hat Extravaganza and I know no one, charity cases included, who would benefit from a scratchy acrylic hat that turns into a wet snowball come December. There are better acrylics out there and heck, there are inexpensive wool blends - so what was stopping me?

Nothing! I went through all the boxes, consolidated what I wanted and tossed what I never planned to touch again. This led to the cleaning of my closet (shudder) and the decision to frog Breezy Cables . I had a little heart palpitation there...but I think it's something that has to be done. The back is done, one front side is almost done, and one sleeve is about a third done, but I really have a hard time thinking I'll ever get back into it. Firstly, it's acrylic (TLC Essentials). Secondly, it's robin's egg blue acrylic. After having knit a few things with 100% merino, I look at this project and frown. It's just not working. There, I've said it. I took the remaining two new balls and cast on for the Uma Sweater from The Natural Knitter and I'll use those up before I commence frogging. I'm sure I'll be ready by then. Talk about going from one extreme to the other: all over cables and box stitch to garter stitch. Couldn't we all use a little truly mindless knitting?

Back to airing. Stash airing led to closet cleaning, which led to bedroom and hallway cleaning. Then I had to look at the guest room that my darling Ben has turned into Star Wars Playstation Annihilation Central - sprinkled with plastic faceted beads and puzzle pieces with a few outgrown clothes thrown in - so I hit that one too. I vacuumed the stairs even! Downstairs wasn't nearly as bad, just had to remove the top layer of Golden Retriever fur and everything looked bright and shiny again.

Another stash I set out to air yesterday was my plastic food storage container and bakeware collection. We all have them, don't try to hide cuz I can see you - you right there behind the cooling racks! My plastics reside in a black hole-like upper corner cabinet, are never nested properly by other members of my household, and invariably go on the attack whenever the cupboard is opened. My bakeware is much the same except it lives in my island. I emptied both cupboard and island, wiped down the insides, and tossed everything that I hadn't touched in the last week. That might seem extreme, but I was nearing mutinous levels of take n' toss plastic containers, gallon ice cream bucket lids (where the heck did the buckets go?), and one cake pan with the nonstick coating flaking off. I don't need that in my life, so I tossed it all! Now I have at least two bright and shiny cabinets! The spice cabinet is whispering it's taunts...

Fruit flies led to my thorough disinfection of the entire kitchen (I told Tony not to buy the bananas!) which wasn't complete until I'd baking soda and vinegar'd the drains. Bleeeeaaaahhh! All better now.

My infernal job has been getting in the way of my knitting...silly office had to go and move...AGAIN...so I'm stuck with the job of changing every phone number and address everywhere it occurs in documents, database, and on the website. Icky. I needed a break, hence this post.

Now I'd better get back to it. There's no preschool today, thus no reason to leave the house, so I'd better be able to get in some knitting time. That is if the 6 baskets of clean laundry waiting to be folded would SHUT UP ALREADY!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

So what's your point?

All right, I admit it...I succumbed to the peer pressure put unto me by the Cable Yoke Sweater. (there's something really wrong with that statement - I just put myself on the same level as knitted animal fiber).

Wrong though it may seem, knitting really does talk. So does yarn. In the same way the Ombre Acrylic Blanket is taunting me on a daily basis, so did the Cable Yoke Sweater strongly urge me to keep knitting until I was done. And I am done! It's pinned to the floor drying as we speak and I really love it. Another note in my defense, I did sit down and knit on the blanket for an hour this morning before the urchins awoke.

The sweater was very easy to knit and moved quickly, however it was not without its issues. There were no errors in the pattern, so everything was fine that way. I love the yarn; Patons Classic Merino in Natural Mix is exactly what I love - a rustic tonal natural shade and it was perfect. I happen to really love feminine designs done in rougher hues.

The body went perfectly. I added a couple short rows to the back and sailed along until the armholes. I stuck with the pattern direction to bind off 10 stitches for each armhole (rather than put them on a holder and graft them at the end). It didn't much matter to me. The arms came together just as well as the body. I used 2 circulars until I had enough to fit onto a 16" circular.
Ready for the yoke!

I was totally pumped! The cable pattern was easy to follow, but I did have to knit back on a couple of rows because I'd lost my place. It was quick to knit though and there was no raglan shaping involved. All shaping was done by changing the needle size. The body/yoke up until about 1" past the completion of the cables were done with size 8's, then size 6's were used until the point of the neck ribbing, which was done in size 4 needles.

So I'm knitting along perfectly happy and I completed the yoke and neck ribbing per the pattern instructions. I bound off then tried it on. I was not happy.

First an explanation. After I had my kids, I could not wear turtlenecks anymore. I have no idea why. I used to love turtlenecks and I lived in turtlenecks in the winter months. However now, for some reason, any time fabric is touching my neck, I feel as though I'm being choked. That's what this sweater did. The crewneck was just barely touching my neck, but that was enough and I knew I wouldn't wear it, even though I loved the rest of the sweater, if I didn't fix this.

When I knit a sweater, I pretty much follow the pattern to the letter. Yeah, I can add short rows to a back but even if I'm using the Sweater Workshop formulas, I still follow it all to a T. I stood in front of the mirror for a while, trying to figure out what to do. My first thought was a v-neck. I sought The Sweater Workshop for guidance, but that persuaded me not to do the v-neck. I wasn't interested in performing math calculations on 1x1 rib. So I ripped.

What's ironic is the point at which I stopped ripping is right about where I took the picture above. I stopped about 1 1/2" above the end of the cables. I stuck the caps on my Knit Picks Options cables and threaded half the stitches on one, half on another. I tried it on again. This was it! The neckline was in a sort of boatneck or wide-but-shallow scoopneck shape and it was perfect! Next, I put markers at each raglan seamline and at the center front and center back. I decreased on either side of each marker all the way around (decreased 12 sts), then bound off in 1x1 rib. I didn't try it on again, but it looked good to me so I sure hope I didn't biff that neckline.
So the sweater is laying on a towel in my living room, pinned, damp, and drying. I can't wait to wear it!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A moment to breathe...

What day is it today? Oh yeah, Thursday. They all run together lately. For some strange reason, I thought that school starting would bring a sort of respite to my world, that I'd be able to fall back into a nice easy schedule and things would be all wine and roses.


Last night, fueled by a PMS storm of emotion and a post-flu lethargy guilt trip, I got angry about the state of my side of the Little Mountain. My daily life has been a frenzied mess of running kids here and there, running the dog out and in, running to and from cabinets trying to satiate my son, The Bottomless Pit, and all the while bobbing along in a sea of laundry and blowing aside the dust bunnies. It really is everywhere.

On top of all that, I actually have a job. I'm an administrative assistant in the electric industry. I've done this work for many years now and I've been lucky enough to work from home since my middle son was diagnosed with autism. It's a blessing to be working from home since it means I can contribute something to the household while still being able to take him to the therapies he needs. It's also a curse.

When I worked full time, we got up very early and the kids went to daycare and I went to work. I came home and had lots of housework, but comparatively less than now because when you work outside the home, typically nobody is left at home to make a mess! Now that I work from home, there's always some other living thing here with me doing something to add to the sum total of my work. Then there's the annoying fact that my husband and I discussed and actually agreed that since I'm home and he works, I'd be responsible for all housework. Could I really be THAT stupid?

So as I sat knitting this morning at 5:11 a.m., I decided I needed a schedule. Here's what it looks like:
  • 4:40-6:30 a.m. - Walk on treadmill, knit/read/listen to podcasts or audiobook
  • 6:30-7:00 a.m. - Shower/dress
  • 7:00-8:20 a.m. - Get kids all ready, clean up kitchen/pick up house/run laundry
  • 8:20-9:15 a.m. - Get kids off to school (which means put Luke on his bus to the school across town, get Alicia off to her bus or drive Alicia to school when she's on crossing guard duty, take Ben to preschool when he has it)
  • 9:15-11:15 a.m. - Work (or volunteer at schools when I'm scheduled)
  • 11:15-11:45 a.m. - Pick Ben up from preschool/blog/clean up/laundry
  • 11:45-1:30 p.m. - Lunch/laundry/clean up/knit/watch Knitty Gritty
  • 1:30-3:30 p.m. - Work
  • 3:30-4:00 p.m. - Clean up/await the arrival of Luke and Alicia
  • 4:00 p.m. - Pick Alicia up at school when she's on crossing guard duty/leave for Buffalo (on Thursdays when Luke has occupational and speech therapy)
  • 4:00-5:45 p.m. - On Thursdays, sit in the van and knit or read while Luke is at therapy (otherwise known as trying very hard to resist the temptation to fondle yarn at Silver Creek Cabin); on every other day, figure out what to feed the herd/clean up/laundry
  • 5:45-7:00 p.m. - Clean up after dinner/dishes/homework/pick up/laundry
  • 7:00-bedtime - Sit like a lump in my spot on the sectional (the chaise part!) with a pillow behind my back and knitting on my lap.

I'm really going to try to stick to this. The one thing I know is that I need my little bit of alone time each morning and my time in the evening to stay intact. I have to knit. It's like breathing and it keeps me somewhat sane, although that isn't likely to happen until I get a handle on the disarray of my home.

Anyway, knitting-wise, I realized yesterday that I was one month away from the second deadline I've given myself for completing the Ombre Alpaca (Acrylic) Blanket. November 10 is my brother's birthday and I am gunning for having it in his condo in the Bronx by that date. I'm 3" from joining sleeves and body to begin the yoke of the Cable Yoke Pullover. It is going to take an extraordinary amount of restraint on my part to set the pullover aside and finish the blanket. It would take next to no time to finish that sleeve and get going on the yoke, but I know that if I did that now, I would never be able to put it down until it was finished. I need something subliminal, chanting the words "Blanket first, the Pullover will wait". Here's where I am now:

I have two colors of yarn left and I cannot miss my second deadline for this blanket! Ahhhhhh, help me!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Yay, the weekend!

I have quite a productive and pleasant weekend before me. The Beastmaster and my daughter are off to Pequot Lakes to ready the deer stands for hunting in a few weeks and they'll be gone until Sunday afternoon. During Ben's preschool yesterday, I went over to Silver Creek Cabin in Buffalo, my nearest LYS. With the prospect of a weekend of unhindered knitting, I felt it incumbent upon me to buy something that would make good use of my alone time. I purchased both the child and adult Felted Clog patterns from Fiber Trends and enough Lamb's Pride Bulky to make clogs for my two sons.

I've heard much about this pattern. People seem to think they are just about the best item of footwear in the world - yet, the same people say they are a dog to knit. I've chosen this weekend because I'm making great progress on my Cable Yoke Sweater (body is done and sleeves are 3/4 done) and best of all, there's no husband to make me turn out the lights at night after the kids go to bed. So I'll have some nice time to knit without anything distracting me.

Another highlight of my weekend will be happening shortly. Anyone familiar with Minnesota hockey knows of the North Stars and Lou Nanne. Well Lou has done a book called Minnesota North Stars: History and Memories with Lou Nanne. Lou is going to be at Barnes & Noble in Maple Grove this afternoon to sign the book so I'm there, dude! I bought the book for my dad for Christmas and he'll have a fit when he sees that it's signed. Heck, I'd like the book! It's great and probably the only thing that I would willingly let break up my weekend of wreckless knitting.

On a sad note, I likely will not be able to go to the MN Knitters' Guild Knit Out. I've had my eye on this event all year, but there's nobody here to keep the boys out of my hair. Even though they have expressed far more interest in knitting and knitted things than my daughter, they would be bored to tears by the prospect of an entire afternoon of knitted bliss. Rats! I'll have to wait until next year.

The felted clogs will keep me company.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Frustration averted!

I began a post this morning saying how frustrated I was that my inner designer was being cruelly denied by a heartless eBay seller, but 'lo - I'm back in the saddle!

I know that I'm a creative person - I can draw, paint, arrange furniture, quilt, sew, decorate tastefully for Christmas, and I'd like to think I can knit or crochet anything I want. However when it comes to designing, I just don't have the tools. No Barbara Walker. No Alice Starmore. No Vogue Stitchionary. I do have Nicky Epstein (Knitting Over the Edge), who has been quite helpful and inspirational, yet not particularly in the direction to which I want to travel. The main thing I learned from Nicky's book is that I really really like color photos of swatches where I can actually see the edges. This is probably why I have no Barbara Walker in my life (though I'm earnestly thinking of "losing" my library copy of her 1st Treasury and forking over the fine).

So I wandered over to eBay and found a Vogue Stitchionary Vol. 1 Knit & Purl. I knew if I strategized correctly I could get it at a good price. Luck bent my way and I scored a copy for $16.00. That was last Wednesday.

Now I know that was a week ago, but for pepperoni's sake, I paid immediately and I wanted my book! The Cast-On podcast has got my brain whirling at Muzzy Broadhead speed and I simply cannot be kept waiting lest my zeal go flying off into the first buck to roam in front of my window!! (um, can you tell what the talk has been around my house lately?)

Well, my "patience" was rewarded today by good ol' Ms. Postman - she brought me my book!!! I like it! I'll probably be looking at it all night. Ok, so here's what's prompted my zest for designing:

They are just balls of Lion Wool, purchased on clearance last spring at Walmart, but I hand dyed them with Wilton icing dyes (bottom two) and tea and Kool-Aid (top). I especially love the yarn on the lower right. Yummy! Looks like fall so I thought it best to photograph them with my trees in the background. My first thoughts are a hat or neckwarmer, but the yarn is mute and I'm content for now to simply watch.

So anyways, the yarn and I are looking at stitch patterns and I'm trying my best to be patient while I wait for the yarn to tell me what it wants to be. For someone who has never experienced the profound event of yarn speaking, that may sound unutterably corny, but I know you know what I mean.

Yarn really does talk.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I'm in!!!

I'm in Ravelry!!! I just got my invitation! You'll find me there as JRoKnits. It's gonna take me a little bit of time to get myself established - I'm currently populating my bookshelf - bit it's gonna be so much fun! Just had to share!

Ok, this thing is going to keep me up at night! It was a very bad idea indeed for me to get started on Ravelry during the middle of my workday. It's sooooo cool! It is SOOOOO worth the wait to get that invitation. If you're still waiting, take a few minutes each day to jot down notes about your projects, your stash, take pictures of your projects, etc. Once you get started fiddling with Ravelry, you won't want to stop until you've catalogued your entire stash and projects. It's great!

Something new and finished even!

Ugly sock has been frogged...or at least is on it's way to being frogged. Let's face it, sometimes looks really do matter. I am not in mourning. I am moving on.

On to bigger and better things. I finished another Clapotis! This one is what I wanted from the start. I made my first last spring and loved well enough, but it had it's drawbacks. I used Patons SWS in Natural Earth. I thought the yarn felt nice and soft in the ball, but it ended up itching my neck every time I wore it. It was a bit heavy as well, got a bit too fuzzy - what with the yarn being spun in singles and all. Lastly, it proved to me that while I adore autumn, the colors of the season do not suit me well. I am a cool person. Oh yeah, dig it.

So a couple weeks ago I made the 25-mile pilgrimage to JoAnn and bought 4 balls of Patons Decor in Secret Garden (purple, black, green, gray/blue). (This by the way is also my effort to confining yarn purchases to already decided upon projects.) The name of the colorway alone was enough to grab me, but it's absolutely my colors to a tee! I don't think my pictures will do it justice, but here they are:

I love it! It's lightweight, easy care, and just warm enough with the 75/25 acrylic/wool blend. I wasn't sure how well it would block because of it being a blend, but I was pleasantly surprised. There still is a little curl at the points, but that's ok. It's drapey and fantastic! My only modifications from the pattern as written were that I did one extra set of increase rows, one extra set of straight rows, and of course one extra set of decrease rows. It's the perfect shawl size yet because it's lightweight, I think I'd have no problem bunching it up into a scarf. Well, that is if I didn't have a freakish fear of things being around my neck, but that's another story.

There's another sweater on my needles! Oh shut up, I know very well that I have two other sweaters languishing in the basket upstairs, but I don't care. I bought some Patons Classic Wool in Natural Mix intending it to be made into the Placed Cable Aran pullover in Knits Fall '07 but alas, I could not get it to knit to gauge. It seems the yarn is just not chunky enough. Second in line to that sweater was the Tangled Yoke Cardigan. I love the combination of natural rustic looking yarn and feminine details or even lace. However, the yarn was too chunky for this sweater. A bit consternated, I grabbed my copy of "100 Knitting Projects" - not the best, but always good for an inspiration or pattern in a pinch. Well lo and behold was my perfect sweater for the Natural Mix yarn! #50 - The Cable Yoke Pullover.

It's gonna be great! Even if it itches like hell, I can wear a T-shirt underneath. I'm using the rustic colored yarn I love, working in the round, and I'll have my feminine cables in the yoke, much like both the Placed Cable Aran and Tangled Yoke Cardigan. I'm excited! This is 3 evenings of knitting and I'm over half way done with the body. I added one set of short rows to the back and I think that will be fine. I'm itching (no pun intended) to get through the body so I can start the sleeves. I'm gonna do them two at a time on two circulars so they should go quite speedily. Oh, to get to that point!

It's times like this, when I have a fantastic sweater on the needles, that I find my job is really irksome. I love working from home, but here I'm surrounded by all the things that I love and distract me most. Oh well, duty calls, knitting beckons. Brenda Dayne is waiting for me on my iPod and she will help me through my sentence of work-time.

The Ombre Blanket is taunting me again from the other room. Shut up already....before I make the dog sit on you!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's not fair!!!

My Thursday Yarn Fondling Frolic has been foiled!

Didn't I tell you about the Fondling Frolic? Good grief, where've I been?

I sought and found a local yarn shop, Silver Creek Cabin, in Buffalo, Minnesota. As luck would have it, I have 1 1/2 hours to kill in Buffalo each week because The Follower has occupational and speech therapy at Buffalo Hospital each week. Weekly yarn fondling! What luck, huh? During the summer, therapy was on Mondays. Once I'd finally found this place (Buffalo is a little bit oddly laid out, let's just say), I practically ran to the door only to find that they are CLOSED on Mondays!

I kinda go into heart failure upon entering real live yarn shops, so for me to finally get to this store and be prepared to go in, only to find that it was closed, was a blow my poor ticker was not prepared for. So Mondays were spent moping around Wal-mart.

Now that school has started, therapy was moved to Thursday late afternoons. Chance paid me another kindness in the knowledge that the store, which usually closes at 5:oo, is open until 7:00 p.m. on Thursdays, sometimes later if they have classes! I wish I knew how to type the sound I made when I saw the sign. I fondled several skeins of sock yarn for 30 minutes - now that I've overcome my initial fear of socks, then SSS (you know what that is) - I've managed to make several socks and I want MORE. Because socks are infinitely practical, I think I could buy a ball of sock yarn without having an anxiety attack.

I was ready to do so tonight. Go buy sock yarn, then go buy chili powder, coffee, and pop.

Here's the not fair part. Follower's darling occupational therapist is sick today! Only 45 minutes to kill now. This would be fine if I knew exactly what I wanted...but I don't. It might even be fine if Buffalo was an easily navigable gridlike town with no road construction currently taking place...but it's not. The detour combined with the maze of roads - not to mention that if I don't come home bearing more caffeine I might be forced to hurt myself - is sadly going to delay my sock yarn fondling/buying another week.

My sock binge has produced 4 complete pairs of socks, with another waiting for its mate. I located enough only slightly crappy and still sock-worthy yarn in my stash to make at least a couple more pairs. I'll be ok. I just gotta take deep breaths.

If all else fails, I still have my 2nd Clapotis to keep me company (Patons Decor in Secret Garden - breathtaking colorway, at least to me, and not itchy, at least to me), plus the I-cord for the Pennant Pleated Malagaiter, the chenille cowl, the Cozy V-Neck Pullover from Fitted Knits, and the Breezy Cables Cardigan from Knits, Spring 2006.

Oh yeah. And the Ombre Acrylic Blanket from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. It was supposed to be a housewarming gift for my brother back in May. I'm now shooting for a birthday gift in November. It's taunting me.

Happy Thursday!