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Monday, November 29, 2010

Knitting progress - long and knitterly.

As promised, here is a post about my dress. I thought I would have gotten more done by now - I'd hoped to be finished with the sleeves and the smocked section around the ribcage, but I just never seemed able to settle down after I got home with my patient and went on nursing duty. Happily, BD is vastly improved and doesn't need me as much. Something Enormous to be Thankful for. But there were other days were great amounts of frittering took place and then there was the long stretch of trial and error knitting I had to do to customize this dress to fit me the way I want it to fit.

This is my first top-down project and there is an interesting comparison between the traditional bottom up vs top down that is worth noting.

The most important part of a garment is the area around arm holes, bust and shoulders because that's the part that frames your face - it's the part you see the most and the part others look at the most. How that fits is essential to a good looking garment and often, that's the part that needs the most adjusting. Drooping in front or back, riding up in front or back, wrong armhole shape or size, unusually small or large frontage, all these things require knitting math. Lets' face it, once you get to the underarm of a sweater it's just a straight tube down. A dress might nip in at the waist and hips might need a little extra width to fit nicely, but there's very little knitting geometry below the arms. With top down knitting you work on this tricky part first, when your enthusiasm is high. I'm finding I'm willing to rip out and try again now, while the project is small and I'm still curious about it. And - I haven't had weeks of tube knitting to worry about whether this will fit, or I'll be able to adapt it to make it fit.  I'm positive that my fit-anxiety is the biggest cause of project abandonment.

So where am I on this dress? I've added THREE inches of short rows to the bust - and I am pretty sure I'm going to need another 1/2 inch still, but I am very happy with the way it fits. I tried the dress on when it had no sleeves and the single inch of short rows looked like enough, but picking up stitches around the armohole defined it a little more rigidly and when I tried the dress on, the front rode up some more. Rather a lot more, so I added 2 more inches of short rows.

Also, I discovered that sleeveless, the armhole opening was perfect but when I picked up stitches around it to make a sleeve it made for a somewhat skimpy sleeve. I don't have big biceps but I do slip the first stitch of every row when I do flat knitting so I have half the number of pick up stitches as I have actual rows of knitting. On the long stretch from underarm shaping to shoulder top this makes for a good looking pick-up ratio but across the shoulder top I needed a few more stitches. When I knit this again, with sleeves added, I won't slip the first stitches of every row till I've knit about an inch on front and back. Then the pick-up will be easy and I'll have that little extra width right at the top of the sleeve cap.

Of course - I didn't decide this till I'd knitted about 1/3 of the left sleeve, tried on the dress and found  - oops. looks a little like knitted sausage casing. To experiment I just started picking up the stitches for the right arm sleeve, adding 6 more stitches at the very top of the sleeve cap. Much much better. Only I had run out of #6 needles, with one still in the bodice and one in the other sleeve. So I used a #5 and knit happily away, forgetting about the size difference. My Bad! Had to take that sleeve out and raid the left sleeve for it's needle. Ahh. Sweet. knitting looks happy, slightly bigger sleeve fits well.  But - once there were 2 sleeves on the dress and I tried it on ... That's when I discovered I'm going to need about 4 more short rows across the front. Funny how just that modest tension of a sleeve stuck into a bodice can make it fit differently.

So. That is where I am on this last day but one in November. My hope and goal and desire is to wear this dress to work when I go back in January so I hope my Knitting Mojo stays with me throughout the holidays.

Hope your Knitting Mojo stays with you too. Ta.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hosts of golden daffoidls

That's the plan. I want people who visit me, lonley or not, in late March and throughout April, to stumble upon hosts and hosts of golden daffodils. Golden ones, white ones, ones with pink cups or split coronas, species daffodils, narcissi, the whole range of them. I have about 1600 of them right now, though only about 900 of them are naturalized. The many others are spread about in my old flower garden. One of these days I'll dig those babies all up and remake the garden, but I haven't gotten there yet. BD asked me once, "Just how many daffodils do you need?" In a flash I answered "3,000 of them". I'm about half way there.

Yesterday I planted 50 more and, I'm glad to report, I didn't slice through a single already-planted bulb as I stepped on the shovel. That's because I made this little video clip last year while the flowers were at their height - and identified the blank spaces along the walk.

I'm proud of myself for getting them in so early - usually I'm scrambling around on New Year's Day, trying to get this year's purchases in the ground. I have even been known to plant them in February and March but those bulbs don't do too well till the following spring. I have 30 more to get in the ground today and I will go see what's still on sale at the feed store in town. Maybe I can get in another 50 before it's time to concentrate completely on Christmas.

And when I am done - I will sit down and work on knitted sleeves. A knitting report tomorrow.

Welcome, Yule!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Suddenly I'm Alone

After 2 weeks of never being alone, busily playing NurseBess, HostessTheQueen, SpongeBessMama and GoodDaughter, soaking up and giving to peoplepeoplepeople - here I am on a sunny Saturday morning with a clean house and nobody in it but me. I feel completely disoriented. Do I eat that last piece of blueberry pie? do I go take a long hot soaky bath? Do I plant daffodils? Knit? Watch chick flicks or Christmas movies? Read magazines?

I really can't seem to settle down to Anything. Weird feeling.

We sat down 12 to a splendifferous Thanksgiving dinner, including friends and family. LD and I had turkey casserole after we got back from visiting my parents last night and we might get one more meal out of what's left. Anything left after that wouldn't even be worth making soup out of - it will go to the dogs.

BD departed for a 2 day sail down the bay and up the Potomac with 2 of our guests, after the feast. BH will be joining them today at the three quarters point to take in her old stomping grounds but viewed from the river. They'll end up sailing right past Old Town Alexandria, where she used to work. I was invited as was LD, but when he said he wanted to spend his time at home I declined. This was good since it allowed us to visit my parents in Richmond - even though both of us were groggy and could have easily spent the day napping. We know there are only a few of these visits left - we don't brush them off.

Grandson and Granddad
Mama and me see eye to eye
And so .. here I am with this whole day to spend any way I want. And as I fritter away time on the computer, Freecell competing with Facebook - well - hrm. Seems a little wasteful. 


So what do I want today to have held?

A little luxury
Some productivity
Some sunny outdoor indulgence

Okay - that sounds like daffodil planting, a brisk walk, some baking (we sorely need fresh bread in this house) and a bubble bath - with knitting in front of a chick flick to follow. 

Yup. Sounds like I've got a plan. Just as soon as I watch that daffodil video clip from last spring. 


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Turkey Day

May yours be filled with love and thankfulness and, maybe a wee bit of knitting.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The story of Pokey - a Thanksgiving Tale

I've often told the Tale of Topsy but I've never written much about her brother Pokey. He was born here on the farm, one of Tru's second littler (that's pronounced True, btw)  I had never intended to have 3 dogs but I had promised LD he could have his very own pick of the litter and he chose Topsy. Pokey, though, chose me. Whenever we had to corral  the dogs Pokey would hide between my legs. A trip to the vets and he wouldn't leave my side. 8 weeks of this much devotion will tie the bonds of possession around anybody's heart. Before they had passed, Pokey was Not For Sale.

In time, he really became more BD's dog, and even more LD's dog as you can see in these pictures. He got his name because when we'd take them for a walk he whined to be carried home. He was the last one for everything till he grew up and then - as an enormous male dog he was first.

When Grandma came to live with us he developed such bad habits. At the dinner table she'd look at him, say "Hello, Black-O." and then every so slowly she'd pick up her dinner plate and set it down on the floor. You don't have to do that too often for a dog to figure out the routine. From then on she ate most of her meals with a dog head on each knee - for Topsy was quick to follow Pokey's lead.

But the best story about Pokey is a Thanksgiving story that took place in 1998. That year we knew he had cancer and wasn't going to be with us much longer. But he was still having fun, eating, taking walks. The big difference about him now was how clinging he was. Especially to me. He wanted to be near me, touching me, at my side, lying with his head on my feet - all the time. It was a tender time for Pokey and me.

That fall, LD was commissioned into the Navy down in Pensacola and we went to the ceremonies. The trip was in November and we left immediately after voting, on election day. It was a long drive through the southern Appalachian Mts. and on into the Florida panhandle. We took our time, proudly watched our suddenly all grown up son in all his military activities, and caravaned back to Virginia with him by way of Charleston, his next home port. We were gone about 10 days and got home just a day or two before Thanksgiving, to which we had invited Grandparents, Cousins and dear friends.

On the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving I baked pumpkin pies and as I was walking through the house I noticed a bad smell. I couldn't find it - it was faint - elusive - and gone quickly so I just shrugged my shoulders. Now, you must remember, I live on a farm, and in early November, the soy beans get harvested. All around the countryside hundreds of acres of little mouse homes get torn up by huge thrashing machines and millions of little mice are in the mouse real estate market. I always have to buy new mouse traps in November. I can remind you of this now, but I had totally forgotten about it then.

On Thanksgiving day, at 7 a.m., when the turkey went into the oven, that dreadful smell came back. Downstairs I didn't smell it but about 8 o'clock, LD came downstairs complaining that there was an awful odor upstairs. I went upstairs and oh god. I knew that scent and it was the smell of dead and rotten mouse. And that was a mystery too since I'd just given the house a tremendous great clean. We hunted high and low for the source of the stench and eventually decided it was coming from the kitchen and even worse! from the stove.  Yet when we opened the oven there was nothing but the delicious scent of turkey roasting. I checked the oven again. and again, and once again but I couldn't find anything that resembled ... buzzard fare. Finally, sniffing hard all around the stove, I lifted the lid from the stovetop and there was our evidence. Insulation had been pulled out of the side of the stove, between the oven box and the outside wall. Something had crawled down into that fiberglass nest and died. And now it was getting baked.

And I had 9 guests coming for dinner.

Now - these were the right kind of guests. These were people who would love to hear a story like this. Maybe not as they were eating the food that had just been cooked in that oven - but they would think it was funny. I mean - it was my mom for goodness sake. She would love me under any circumstances. Not just love but approve. And BH, my beloved cousin? I knew she wouldn't care. She grew up in the country.

It was balmy weather. I threw open all the windows and doors and even turned the ceiling fan on in the kitchen and went on cooking dinner. Everyone got there by 1 or so and visited while all the last minute preparations were finalized. As typical in country settings, all the guys were outdoors and all the women were in the kitchen, along with clinging, needy Pokey, who couldn't be parted from his mama. At one point I stumbled over him in the kitchen and as these special women looked on l said "Oh Pokey - if you weren't dying I'd make you go outside with the boys."

And BH replied "Yeah, you can really smell him, can't you?"

And that was the last great act of love Pokey committed for me. He took the blame for the rotten mouse smell in my house that Thanksgiving of 1998. I didn't tell my guests the truth till a few months later - when, as I'd predicted, every one of them hooted and howled with laughter. We bid Pokey goodbye that Christmas on a sleeting December afternoon. He's buried in Pokey's Place, right by the front walk and I sense his memory often, when I walk in and out of the house.  This Thanksgiving - I'm remembering him and sending thanks out into the universe for a world that has such good dogs.

Pokey and Topsy with LD Thanksgiving 1998

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Got the ENFP Blues

Do you know what ENFP means? I've certainly blabbed enough about it over the years. That is where I fall out on the Meyers/Briggs Personality Test. I'm an Extroverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceptive sort of person. I solve my problems with others, not by myself, I grasp issues in a flash rather than come to a conclusion, I feel things long before I have the facts to back them up, and I'm constantly seeing through the layers to some core motivation. ENFP's  are process people and seldom take pleasure in accomplishments. It takes time for them to react to conclusion because they're so busy in the now - it takes them a while to stop and look at where they've been. This is true for successes and creations and productions. Evidently it is also true for the down side stuff.

Ever since BD's good eye (meaning, with out it, he's blind) began giving him trouble I've been dealing with it, intuiting the best moves to make, perceiving the right things to say, opening myself to the best way to be so that he can concentrate on getting as better as he can. Today, I woke up suddenly realizing that if he doesn't get better ... we will have to make enormous changes. It means these good times will be over. My brain assures me that we can make these changes and find new good times, but my heart doesn't feel very happy about them. Today I've got the Blues.

Today I feel out of sorts with the world. Today, other people seem alien to me. Today I don't feel confident about where the next step should go. Today is hard. Today it would be easy to spiral down into a self feeding depression.

Guess I need more exercise. And there is always housework. I believe I will clean my refrigerator.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sleeve Caps and More Short Rows.

 Working on the sleeves of this Soho Smocked Dress - but first I had to put in another inch of short rows. Since shoulders, sleeves and bust darts require so many short rows I may have to call this the Short Row Soho Smocked Dress in future. Or maybe the ShRoHo dress. Nah - just kidding. But after trying on the bodice I realized that I needed another inch of angled knitting to make it fit nicely over my frontage. Most sweaters I make are boxy enough that I only need a little shaping in the front but this dress very quickly becomes slightly fitted around the ribcage and I really don't want that textured midsection riding up in the front. Not a pretty look.

But once I finished that bit of extra knitting I began picking up for the sleeves.  I slip the first stitch of each row when I do flat knitting which gives you that nice long chain stitch along the edge. It tends to roll in towards the purl side but it's easy enough to pinch it back up straight and then I pick up my stitches by knitting under each chain. And No. I don't usually wear nail polish to match my knitting projects. This was just a color fluke.

Though I'd marked the folding line when I picked up stitches to knit down the fronts (as the pattern thoughtfully reminds one to do) it turns out I probably didn't have to. When you knit from both ends of a stitch, they never quite line up. The stitches are always 1/2 a stitch off - so there is a little change at the center top in the way the picked up stitches look. Sweet, hmmm?

Once the stitches are picked up you begin making the sleeve cap - which is like knitting a turned heel. You knit 2/3 of the stitches, making sure to count how many stitches past the top center stitch (that shoulder turn place) then wrap and turn, purl back till you're the same number or stitches on the other side of the top center stitch and wrap and turn again. Then when you knit back you pick up the wrapped stitch and wrap and turn the next stitch. Then ... you got it - purl back, pick up the wrapped stitch and W&T the next.

All well and good BUT ... when do you stop wrapping and turning. do you do this all the way to underarm seam? Stop at 8% a la Elizabeth Zimmermann? Just how do you decide? Well - after puzzling over the instructions I tracked down Kristy Mcgowan on Facebook ( yeah, nothing like being a knitting groupie) and emailed her and she got back in touch with me with the answer - which is organic just like the center top of the sleeve cap. Where you began increasing on the sides to create the  underarm curve is where you STOP wrapping and turning and just knit up the underarm stitches plain. At that point you're ready to knit inches and inches of plain sleeve stitches. And - that's exactly what the book tells you to do - so don't worry if you're planning on making this dress in the future. I just didn't grasp it when I first read it. Apologies for the dim photo of that spot on my dress where I quit W&Ting.

And here is the nicely shaped sleeve cap and a little bit of sleeve. The plan is to knit 2 inches of sleeve and then decrease 2 stitches every additional inch of sleeve till I'm at 32 stitches - then do 4 rounds of the smocked pattern as a sleeve cuff treatment. 

Today's MondayMonday photo is to remind me that Practice Makes Perfect.

As for the Life-0-TheQueen, I am still on vacation and it feels weird. It would be different if we were all healthy and active - though BD is doing very very well, my friends, and thank you for your kind wishes. It's just that - it's not the vacation I thought I'd be having and it's not as vacationey feeling. It's hard for me to wrap my brain around what I ought to be doing next - or could be doing - or am allowed to do. The old parental scold, buried deep in my psyche little soul is saying things like "why don't you wash off all the picture frames. They look a little dingy. You have guests. You need to vacuum beneath the refrigerator which also ought to be cleaned before guests look inside. You're here, you lazy thing. you need to werkwerkwerk."

Alas. TheQueen don't do lazy too good. It will be interesting to see how this day unfolds - but for sure - sleeves will be knit!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Technical Talk for Knitters -- Warning - long post.

   I own shelves of knitting patterns and magazines and I love them all. Each designer offers me something to think about, admire, even desire. But I almost never knit other designers' patterns. Partly because I am seldom one of the sizes a pattern is designed for and partly because I have doubts about my ability to decipher the pattern instructions correctly. And believe me - I know how difficult it is to write clear patterns. I've written some. One worries that she's left something important out or given such detailed instructions she's confused the knitter. When I write sock patterns I'm SO tempted to just say "Cast on in your preferred manner, on your favorite needles, enough stitches to fit around your ankle. Knit your favorite ribbing as deep as you like. Increase or decrease stitches till you have a multiple of x then begin following this chart." For some knitters that's enough instruction. For many others .... well, I think they'd feel they'd been cheated of the price of the pattern.

Anyway, long intro to a post about knitting instructions, because yesterday I got to the part in my Soho Smocked Dress where you join the back to the front at the sides and I was left in a quandary. Having already chatted with Kristy McGowan, I knew she was only one of the writers who put her design into pattern form and I also learned she is a strong proponent of the "knit in gauge in prescribed stitch pattern the number of repeats to fit around you" school taught by those greats of knitting, Barbara Walker, Meg Swansen and Elizabeth Zimmermann. I don't know if it was my inability to decipher the instructions or not but here's what happened and here's what I did.

The pattern works like this: you do a provisional cast on at the shoulder line and knit "down" the back, increasing a little on the sides, down to the underarm. Then you expose the loops from the provisional cast on, load them on your needle and knit "down" both fronts separately, increasing on the sides and in the center to form a V neckline, down to the underarm. You end with the last row - a purl or WS row - of both shoulder fronts with the two pieces on the right  needle with the working yarn hanging off the left edges of each piece: one by the tip of the right needle and one hanging in the middle of the needle, between the two pieces. That is because the instructions have you knit BOTH pieces on the same needle at the same time.

Now - turn that fabric around to knit back - and you have the working yarns hanging off the right edge of both pieces - again, one right there at the tip of your needle and the other hanging between the two pieces of knitting. 

Hope you can see this in your mind's eye. 
Schematic of bodice back and front at the moment of joining sides

Now it's time to join the back to the fronts just at the underarms ... because there are still about 5 more increases needed at the center front. This means there are still a few more rows of flat knitting to do, starting at the center front, joining the back on both sides and finishing at the center front again. Only you've got both pieces of the front on the same dang needle and you need to start your knitting at the center front. Ack!

The instructions say to load the back stitches onto the right needle but I couldn't see how that would work. No matter what needle you loaded your back stitches on, you still wouldn't be able to begin knitting at the center front of the bodice. Maybe it was my thick skull or maybe it was an error in pattern editing, but it seems to me you have to separate those two front pieces ... and if that's so ....
Jack thinks knitting 2 pieces on the same needle is stupid

why the heck can't you just knit each piece separately and load up all the stitches when you're done? hmm? 

Okay. done with the ranting part - because really I'm not ranting, I'm teasing. And what I did was to separate those two pieces, putting the first front section onto the needle that the back stitches were being stored on, knit the other front piece from the center to the edge, and knit all the rest of the stitches off of the holding needle.  And voila!

Slip stitch to working needle
What you may not be able to see in that picture is that I've added 8 short rows to create a bust dart because if you are more than a B cup you really need that extra length in the front of your knitted tops. So. On the very row where I finally joined the two center front pieces I knit to within 5 stitches from the side seam marker and did a wrap and turn. Then I purled back to within 5 stitches of the other side seam marker and made a purl wrap and turn. I did this 4 times on both knit and purl rows to make 8 short rows, each one shorter than the previous one.
Wrap yarn around stitch and replace on left needle

After that I knit all the way around the garment, hiding the wraps behind each stitch as I came to it. The knit wraps are easier to pick up and hide than the purl wraps but if you wiggle and jiggle the fabric a little you can almost hide them and they'll disappear in the final wet blocking.

So. Lots and lots of talk about how I'm knitting this lovely dress. I'm happy to report that I tried on this shoulder section of the bodice before I joined the center front and it's going to be a good fit. I may have to do some adjusting here and there and I'm sure to take you along on that journey too.

Yesterday was the surgery for BD and today we went back for the early morning check-up - with good news. He's still a little slow but each hour he gets better and at least he can see to get around the house. We're reading Robert Graves' old novel from the 1970's:  Hercules, My Shipmate. BD read the outward voyage to me and I am now reading the return voyage to him. Of course, this is Graves, trying to write like Ovid, so it's almost impossible to remember in chapter 11 what happened in chapter 10 - but it is fun. And besides, who cares. We all know that Jason ditches Media and they are all dead by the time of the Trojan War.

Read one more chapter, Mama
Jack says he likes to listen to stories too.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jack Helps Out

Jack offers to help
  Inches of Adobe colored knitting were added to the project yesterday but there is nothing that will convey the shape of this dress as yet. Jack offered to help but we all know the dangers of letting someone else knit on your project - and they all have to do with gauge, don't they? Yes.

Jack finds stockinette so boring
Besides, he soon found stockinette just too too utterly boring. "If I can't knit cables I'd just as soon nap" he complained.

Fortunately, I don't find it boring - it's fun. And the fabric that's developing is yummy to the touch. Just the right bouncy feeling but with a stability to it I really like. I could imagine knitting something else out of this very nice yarn ... so long as I can keep getting it at this very nice price.

Hmm. Feeling strangely unchatty today - but I am sure that won't last. Look for photos of dress bodice this weekend.  Ta.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ganging aft agley - those plans of mine

I am officially on vacation. I don't have to go back to work till the 29th of November, which seems like a long time from now. Considering I was only in the office a day and a half this week, I have almost the feeling of a 2 week-er about this vacation. But this is not the vacation I was expecting to take - which was an extended weekend in NYC with special friends that included - along with delicious meals, thrumming urban sightseeing, and Real Shopping - two evenings at the opera. Instead, I will be spending quality knitting time here, in their waiting room, while BD has More Eye Surgery. 

Ah well, the best laid plans of mice and men, hmmm? And even agley plans can have their silver linings. I mean - there will be quality knitting time. There will be other operas and other trips. But there are only these eyes and the prospect of better health for a big darling. All in all - I'd say it's a fair swap. 

Besides - I am never sorry to spend time at my house with my dogs and my toys. Right now I'm moving slowly down the bodice front of my Soho Dress. The directions are for you to knit the two pieces at the same time - these shoulder fronts, both right and left. Using 2 separate balls of yarn, I might add. Now. I know there are eager super efficient types who do this all the time. I have a friend who always knits 2 socks on 2 circulars, gleefully exclaiming that this way she never suffers from second sock syndrome. I tried that once. It was horrible! Theoretically you're supposed to get through things faster this way - it's so efficient. 

What nobody tells you is that the 2 balls of yarn are always getting twisted around the cable and around each other. You pull on the yarn and suddenly your garment is strangled. Nothing flows. Nothing moves till you painstakingly weave balls of yarn back the way they were twisted. Where is the time saving when you are constantly stopping to untwist the mess?  And for that matter,if you're going to knit 2 socks at a time, why not 4 or 6 or 20? Well. Here's why. 

The Reality
The Dream
And as for Second Sock Syndrome (for non knitters it means you finish one sock but can't bring yourself to knit the same durn thing all over again so you end up with .... yup. Just one sock) -  my solution is to just wear a sock once it's finished.  Who's looking beneath your trouser cuffs? And miss matched socks are stylish - in a youthful funky way. 

The generous and very warm hearted author of Modern Top-down Knitting wrote and told me Not To Worry - that she didn't knit 2 shoulder pieces at a time either - never had done and didn't write the directions that way either. Evidently a pattern editor or perhaps a publishing director, had decreed that 2 pieces at a time was their policy for knitting patterns. Since no less a knitting designer than Elizabet Zimmermann struggled with this same editorial policy - I'd say Ms. McGowan is in good company. EZ tells the story of how her first seamless circular fair isle yoke sweater pattern ended up being printed as a flat knitting design with the yoke sewn on after the body was assembled!! I mean - what were they thinking?!? Why would a pattern publisher want to torture so many knitters? Getting revenge for childhood sufferings? sheesh!

Anyway - I have nothing but More Adobe Colored Knitting to display right now and I am sure, it's Tangled Adobe Colored Knitting. Even though every stitch of this dress is interesting for TheQueen to look at, I will spare my viewers till I have a little more geometry to display. Instead I close with yet another beautiful autumn view of TheCastle's back yard. Since I am on vacation, it just might be a good day for a picnic, hmm?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Short Row Shoulder Shaping

With lots of time in doctors waiting rooms the past 2 days I've been able to make some real progress on this dress. You do a provisional cast-on along the back shoulder line and then do some short rows working from the center towards the sides to make the line slope downwards ... just like your shoulders do. I did a crocheted provisional cast on and learned an IMPORTANT lesson. Do NOT use a fuzzy yarn to make your chain. I was in a hurry, grabbed the first contrasting colored yarn in a similar weight I could put my hand on - which turned out to be some of that yellow Brown Sheep Lambs Pride that I used to knit the sample hat a few weeks ago. It's a fuzzy yarn with a little mohair spun in and that mohair tangled within the crocheted chain and with the Camelino. The chain should have just zipped out of the dress stitches - just the way it's supposed to zip out of dog food bags. I can never get those chains to work either! Instead I had to pick each dang stitch out one at a time. 

Happily they all did come out and loaded nicely onto the knitting needle so I could knit the two front shoulders in the opposite direction. You have to do this part using 2 balls of yarn on a single circular needle - something I never manage tidily. Like the zipping crocheted chain, it should be a simple process - just turn your knitting around to the left when knitting and then turn it around to the right when purling. Or vice versa. Only .. who remembers? After a few rows I have a royal tangle. So isn't it nice this all happens at the beginning - when one is still full of enthusiasm for a New Project? By the time I'm heartily sick of untangling 2 balls of yarn, I'll be joining the front to the back at the underarm and can return to contented circular knitting.

I will, though, at that point, add some short row bust darts and then cast on the sleeves. I don't want to be knitting skinny tubes on the edges of an enormous great dress that I have to flop around in my lap every couple of stitches, so I had better add these sleeves while it's still a relatively small piece of knitting. This also means that ... when I cast off at the skirt hem I will be done knitting. 

And because I can't resist showing off another gorgeous autumn photo - here is a hickory tree in my back yard. I think that bench is particularly inviting. It sits in a bed of day lilies like some fairy queen's throne. I wonder what I'd see if I snuck out at midnight some mid-summer.

A Happy Hump Day to you all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Picture proof (of completion)

It's hard to get a display-worthy photo of myself - because no matter how good the garment looks, no matter how beautifully executed, well fitting, or stylishly embellished, if Somebody takes a photo that makes me look fat, or too old to live, or that displays unsightly body parts I am not going to post it. Whence this dimly lit photograph taken in the bathroom mirror, revealing all the clutter in the background. (What is that stuff on top of my washing machine?) Nevertheless - it is me wearing a completed collarless shawl collared vest. Proof of completion. I'm sure there will be another better photo and I'll share it then, but for now? Ah. For now I am knitting a clay colored dress. Ta.

Monday, November 15, 2010

From Greedy to Gracious in 9 sentences - plus a 99% Finished Object

I-cord bind off
  And so I am at the 99% done stage on that Shawl Collared Vest I began last August. I had only inches more garter stitch to knit but I had forgotten all the little fiddly bits that come after all the knitting is done. The weaving in of ends. The tacking down of facings. The buttonholes. Finding buttons, for that matter. Ha! That task took an hour! Happily, buttons were found and ends are woven in and all that is left is to finish of 3 buttonholes, sew on 5 buttons and wetblock this baby and I can wear it later this week. Because I've tried it on and I know it fits! Yippee!

So close - and yet so far away
what 99% finished looks like

This yarn is from my stash and there is a LOT more left - in assorted colors. As I've worked on this vest I've pondered other things I might make from it. I'm a greedy puss when it comes to knitting. Almost everything I make is for myself. Of course, it isn't just greed. There's something extremely intimate about knitting, especially when you are a process knitter like me. And it is a slow process - it involves lots of thought, both of a practical nature, while planning a project, and of a more introspective, even fanciful nature during the long hours spent quietly moving stitches from one needle to the next. I couldn't possibly spend 300 hours doing something unless I took great pleasure in - at every stage. That pretty much means I have to be knitting to my taste - and I don't expect anybody else to share my taste. I knit socks for my guys and every now and then I make something cashmere-ily luxurious for a close friend. But I am far too polite to foist my taste onto somebody else.  

Ooo. How do you like that reasoning process? From greedy to gracious in 9 sentences!

In other Knitting News - TheQueen has cast on her Soho Smocked Dress! In fact, she has dubbed this a New Beginnings Project - a sort of Knit A-Long sponsored by Clara Parkes for her Retreat attendees. I am not an attendee, though I have been in past years. She has kindly invited Others to participate. The intention behind the New Beginnings Project is to knit something for yourself that pushes you a little out of your comfort zone and this knitted dress certainly does that for me.

It's the first dress and the biggest project, I have ever attempted and I want to finish it by January - preferably by the time I go back to work after my long Christmas vacation. I love the dress - I think it will look good on me - I seriously love the yarn but my goodness. 3,000 yards of yarn is a LOT of knitting. I am going to need all the help I can get to finish this. It was an extreme extravagance to buy MoreYarn and put it in TheCastle. I don't want to hear any tsk-tsking even from my inner Virgo scolding self. For this project I will be a joiner.

My MondayMonday photo is completely untouched by digital paint. This is really what it looked like yesterday - and I am not ready to move away from such a beautiful day. Rain is due tomorrow - I'll be glad to look on this the rest of the week. I hope you enjoy it too. And so I bid you all a happy Monday. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Perceptions of time and space

clean house ready for knitting in
  Ever since I was a small child, Saturday was House Cleaning Day. We weren't a large family by baby boomer standards: 4 girls and 2 parents. And our house wasn't any sort of mansion, though it did have 4 bathrooms. I haven't any real idea of how they wanted to run that house, because after I grew up and watched how they lived, uncluttered by children, I realized my mom was the tidy one and dad was an absolute pack rat slob. My mother never seemed do be doing any housework, though the house was always company clean. And I assumed, at the time, that it was because every Saturday, accompanied by lots of shouting and bustle and threats, we had to Clean House.

There was no playing till everything was done, which, mostly was each of us cleaning our own rooms. Each of us also had to take on one of the major tasks, like bathrooms or ironing (remember, this was before permanent press cotton and everything had to be starched! ask me how I know.) or vacuuming. Since I was required to practice my violin 3 hours every non-school day, it was often pretty late in the day before I got to do whatever I wanted to do. Yeah - pushy parents. I often think that I didn't get to be a kid till I grew up.

But that is just another one of those skewed perceptions, because of course I did play and of course I was a kid and in fact, once I had a house of my own to take care of I realized that Mama was doing housework all the time. She just didn't make a big deal out of it. And she never put off cleaning up a mess until it became a Mess. or even a DISASTER.

I never mastered Mama's way with staying on top of housework and I never lost the scolding holler of Dad about Cleaning This *%$(&^% House lying deep in my psyche. This means I can never sit down to play on a Saturday unless the house is clean and it's usually a Big Deal to clean it. In the summertime it's a lesser task because the door to the porch is open, the house is much bigger, there is no firewood spitting crumbs and sawdust onto the floor. There are screens in the windows that blur the grime on the glass. Come cold weather and we shut ourselves into a smaller space with the lowering sun slanting through multi-paned windows - and believe me - those panes had better be clean because otherwise the place has the look and feel of a slum.

Still and all, there is nothing that makes one feel quite so spacious and expansive as a Clean House and today I have one. I even spent some time tidying up my knitting bookshelves, winnowing out a few I no longer want to make room for the birthday books. I still haven't taken the time to sit down and read Katherine Cobey's Diagonal Knitting. Of course, today is a sunny brilliantly beautiful Autumn day and along with feeling like I Must Clean House on Saturdays, I also brought with me, from childhood, the nagging sensation of: If the sun is shining I Must Be Out Doors. Indoor play is ONLY for rainy days.

Honestly, some of the crap we bring with us from childhood is so stupid - and to still feel this way after ... ahem ... many many decades ... is stupider still. Ah well, there you have it. At least my house is clean and by gum - I am going to knit today even if it is another tourist worthy golden autumn day. I have about 5 more rounds of button band to knit on that alpaca vest and then I may cast on my Soho dress. I believe I shall put an opera on the CD player and slip away into wooly yarny paradise.

Happy Sunday to you - and may you be free of any nagging ghosts from childhood.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

27 Balls of Yarn

This is what 27 balls of yarn looks like. 2 bags of 10 and another bag of 7. A bit daunting, but exciting. Mostly, though, I am disciplining myself to Finish my Now to be collar-less shawl collared vest without sleeves. There are only a few more rows to do on the button band and it will be done. I am not 100% happy with how the button band looks ... it's a little loose. I will block it - and wear it - and if I am still not happy I'll rip out that band and reknit it more tightly. 

Blocking does take care of a multitude of defects.

But this box of yarn is beckoning me, and its siren song is quite a bit louder than the mewling plaints of the almost finished Christmas Socks for BD and that ball of yarn for making LD's Christmas Socks that is somewhere in this house. I am going to have some long stretches of down time in the next week or so - waiting times that are good for filling up with knitting. I will do my dooty by those Christmas Socks, including digging up the missing yarn while cleaning the house today, but for the most part I am going to concentrate on this box of brick colored goodness. 

 I stepped outside early this morning, before the sun had peeped over the treeline. This is a view looking south  along the east end of the farm and you can see the gegenschein towards the west. I often catch this in the evening, especially in summertime, when the pink of sunset glow actually forms a rim around the whole farm.

Just bring that view in a little closer and you can see the vivid colors of autumn, still rich and delicious even as we roll through November towards Thanksgiving. The long drought, late rains and warm temperatures have prolonged our colorful display - but yesterday we got our first frost. Today there was another one. These colors won't last long and soon the trees will stand skeletal against the winter skies. 

I couldn't resist taking a few more shots - I never tire of autumn and I smugly believe I live in the prettiest place in the whole world - even if we don't have ocean waves or mountain backdrops. Who else has a house peeping out from behind a forest fringe?

Or a back yard that glows?

Of course - what I am really doing is postponing the monumental Heap-0-Housework I need to do today if I want to be able to enjoy the rest of the weekend. Alas. Now that I have confessed I am unable to linger in play. So. Off I go - reminding myself that caressing my possessions, even if it is with a dust cloth,  is a privilege, not an obligation. Right?  Yeah. Right.

Friday, November 12, 2010

We are Family

I popped on over to the Big City yesterday and visited with both mama and daddy. They are very old now - and our visits have that brief tender hazy feeling of a dream, more than an actual visit. Conversation is slow and drifty but that's all the more reason for making sure I get over there on a regular basis - because one day there won't even be any conversation.

And doesn't my mama have pretty hands - even at this late stage in her life, that gesture of hers reminds me of so many times she did something with her hands that was beautiful or tender.

The reward for being a good daughter was that I got to visit Cousins! I have the biggest crush on some Richmond Cousins - and almost shiver to think that they trust me enough to host their beautiful children at Bess' Girls (and Boys) Camp. That is an enormous compliment - one of those bars that reminds me that I must live up to the standards I believe in - not just give lip service to them. I'm still rather glowing for having spent an hour and a half with these precious people.

And as an added fillip, late in the evening I got a phone call from Another Favorite Cousin and we caught up on a year's worth of stuff. We chatted and loved and loved more and then loved mostest for a long time and I hung up the phone with the a huge smile on my face.

Yesterday was the stuff of sweet dreams. And today ... well. Today had better be the stuff of packages full of yarn. Happy happy happy happy Friday.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank You

 Thank you Daddy
Thank you Pop

Thank you everyone who has been willing to die so I can live my life in safety. Thank you. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hats Off

 The needles, that is. Here is a photo of that hat I was trying on the other day. The cabled part came from the book Hats On by Charlene Schurch, of the more recent and perhaps, more well known book Sensational Knitted Socks.  I love the hats in this book. They are clever and attractive and the techniques are truly well explained. But they always turn out very big. I am not sure what is wrong with the gauge numbers - or with the knitter - but they end up being huge hats. I used the Size Small hat stitch count and it turned out perfectly, but I knew I was using a much heavier yarn than called for. It's a perfect fit. The visible part of the brim is seed stitch but underneath it is a couple of inches of 2x2 ribbing. A couple of knit rows on the wrong side help the brim turn up nicely and it's bound off with i-cord.

Here is a photo that does more justice to the cable stitches though the color is a little dark. This was another UFO that I'm glad to finish since we all know I am expecting a package in the mail today. I'll call the post office at lunch, because I may have to make a mad dash up the road to pick it up in person if the package was too big for my mailbox. I definitely don't want to wait 2 days to get my Soho Dress Yarn.

And yes - the vest is almost done. Only a few more button band rows, some ends to darn in and a nice wet block. I will finish it this week - but I may also cast on some Camelino first. We'll just have to see.

In the mean time - Happy Hump Day to you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Not a Perfectionist - a Pragmatist with high standards

 2 dropped stitches. Would you rip or would you darn? Well - the title of this post should tell you my choice. Darn it.

I'm working on the button band now and not feeling the love for that shawl collar. I live in the south, you know. I want to be able to wear this without sweating buckets. We shall just have to see as I knit along - but I am thinking this vest is almost done. In time to wear at Thanksgiving time. Sweet. Because the USPS says this:  Expected Delivery Date: November 10, 2010 
and we all know what THAT is, don't we?