Tuesday, November 21, 2006

She's salivating, folks.

My 10% discount postcard from Sheep's Clothing Knitting Supply came in the mail yesterday. Because I am a knitting guild member, I get the 10% off all year round. So - even though I can't take specific advantage of the postcard's offer, it's incentive enough to get into the car and go!
I can't help it. It's a Pavlovian response. You know - the famous experiment wherein Pavlov induced a stimulus by ringing a bell each time he fed a dog. Pretty soon, the dog salivated simply when it heard the bell. My sister used rabbits for her copycat Pavlov's experiment in grade school. She got more rabbits. I'm not quite sure which stimulus applied in that case...

For me, I'm not sure whether that salivation is due to the words "Sheep's Clothing" or simply "sale".

Monday, November 20, 2006

On the Road Again...

We had such a good adventure one rainy day last week! A couple of knitting friends and I headed south of town to Jenny Setser's Winterhaven farm in Walkerton. I'm too lazy to type all of the things Jenny carries (I did try, but gave up), so check out her web site to Jenny's entire list.

There are lots of friendly cats and a couple of dogs, too. But it was too wet and nasty outside to visit the alpacas, sheep and other critters...

I came away from Jenny's with a very good haul of needle-felting supplies. I've been wanting to try it out for a while now. Beware! I'm just in the mood to be stab-stab-stabbing needles!! (Wheek-wheek-wheek Psycho sounds here...)

From Jenny's, we stopped at at a lovely bakery in North Liberty for some lunch. We stuffed ourselves with meatball sandwiches and such, and then stuffed what room was left in the trunk with bakery goods to bring home.

Revived, we headed to Knitting in the Round. There is a sale going on here - 30% this week, if you get a chance to go - although we didn't leave you much. Knitting in the Round is moving to Rolling Prairie in a few months, so the stock is priced to move. It was too nasty to get out of the car for the shot of the building - so here's what the place looks like through a windshield.

We couldn't resist stopping by to see Eleanor Heckaman at her shop on 31. She has gorgeous yarns and kits in right now. I can't help it - I don't ever leave there without buying something. No pics - sorry - too rapt in yarn.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Looking Pretty Good...

I'm really enjoying the knitting.

I'm about halfway through the border on the Cameron. Right now, there are 720 stitches per round, so it's a bit pokey. It looks really lumpy and ratty though, doesn't it? I'll be happy when it's time to block it. That ugly-ducking-to-swan, before-and-after, sow's-ear-to-silk-purse magic thrills me (hopefully) every time.

I still haven't figured out how many stitches there are in the completed shawl. I've used nearly seven of the eleven balls called for. I generally use the "How-Many-Stitches-ARE-There-In-This-Thing" information to spur myself on in the final stretch when the twenty-some-odd feet of edging seems impossibly long.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Holiday Knitting

Clickety-Clack Ewe hesitates even to post this before Thanksgiving because the holiday retail frenzy for the season begins earlier every dang year,and there is no wish to convey that this is condoned in any way. Surely by the year 2020, if the merchants have anything to say about it, the "season" will begin by Epiphany (Jan 6)!

Clickety-Clack Ewe used to knit for the holidays, but not any more. The Christmas stockings are an exception, joyfully knit with each addition to the family.

Retailers begin their displays before Halloween, but I used to plan Christmas knitting in early the new year for a good head start. There would be an ambitious list of ambitious projects. The list grew each month, but items on the needles languished by Easter and were practically UFOs by the Fourth of July. Labor Day would jangle alarm bells, and the knitting would commence in frazzled earnest. Projects suffered as the Big Deadline loomed. Worry set in about having forgotten somebody, which turned to panic when the absent name turned up. (To be fair, the "forgotten somebody" was nearly always not forgotten at all, but somebody for whom I belatedly decided I should knit something.) I worried too, for instance, that my brother might be insulted if my sisters got cardigans and he wound up with only a scarf.

I'm a fairly speedy knitter, but I like going at my own natural pace. I do not like feeling as if my knitting were a race against the clock. I was doing less thinking of the recipient fondly during the process than these kinds of things:
  • Doing the mental math: how many seconds per stitch, how many stitches per row, how many rows, how many increases/decreases to factor in, how much time to seam and block to get the project done;
  • Planning meals with less prep work in order to knit more minutes, or ignoring housework;
  • How late to stay up through the wee hours and still get up to see DD off to school in the morning (and remember the event);
  • Thinking of Lucy and Ethyl in that famous speed-up scene at the conveyer belt at the candy factory....
Then - Light Finally Dawned on my Rocky Dome! I now knit for birthdays.
There are still deadlines, but they come at a more leisurely pace spaced throughout the year. It also feels more personal to me - and undoubtedly the recipient feels it, too. Furthermore, if I don't feel like knitting something for a birthday, nobody feels left out with a non-knitted present.

Yikes! Dear Big Sister's birthday is the day after Epiphany....

Monday, November 13, 2006

Meeting Tomorrow Night (REVISED!)

We're trying a new meeting spot for knitters and spinners in Michiana. It will be tomorrow night (Tuesday, November 14) at the Harris Library on Elm Road from 6:30 - 8:30. We'll have refreshments, too! Hope to see you there....
Map to Harris Library (51446 Elm Rd)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

In the Middle (Cameron Shawl)

The center of the shawl is finished and flung on the rug for this quick photo. The stitches have been picked up on all four sides for the edging, which I'm going to knit in the round. Knitting in the round avoids grafting the corners, but it means I'll have to purl every other row instead of knitting it.

"Edging" seems a bit of a misnomer, don't you think? There will be 110 rows, which seems more like "middle" than "edge" to me. At a beginning number of 504 stitches per row and adding 4 more stitches each row over 110 rows - well, I just don't want to know or it will simply seem overwhelming. And then after the edging - THEN there's a border to knit.

Whew! What have I taken on here?!?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Joining lace yarn

My Cameron Shawl pattern advises that when it comes time to begin a new ball of yarn to leave long tails for weaving in later. The time has come, but I'm a bit leery of my weaving-in skills for such open work as lace. The Cameron uses about 11 balls of Jamieson's Ultra Cobweb (a single-ply yarn), and I concluded that hiding at least 22 ends would really be pushing my luck. Ever the coward, I decided on a different method. Well, two, actually.

The Shetland wool would take a simple spit-splice beautifully, but I am concerned about how that kind of join would hold up when it comes to blocking the shawl. I know for a fact that spit-splicing works just fine, but I don't want to test that theory to the max. The prospect that severe blocking will pop the joins and spill my hard-earned stitches all over the floor makes me weak in the knees. So for better or worse, I'm using a belt-and suspenders combination of Russian Join and Spit-Splice.

First, the end of the first ball is looped around the start of the new ball. A needle is threaded with one of the ends.

Next, the first end is woven back on itself, catching the yarn with itty bitty stitches. (If the join were not going to be felted together with the spit splice, I would make the weaving a bit longer.)

The end is pulled through and tightened, trapping the free end of the other ball.

The same technique is applied to the other end. Both ends are now interlinked, with the ends woven back on themselves.

The free ends are then carefully trimmed at a steep angle (not shown). With embroidery scissors, I fray them back so they can feather back into the strand.

Now for the fun "spit splice" part. I stick the woven section in my mouth and get it wet. (EWWW, you say? The shawl gets washed later!) Then I rub the section briskly between my palms for a minute or two until the join is nice and even. You can see the result here. The join is in the yarn right above the scissors, between the bird's tail and the beak. I bet a skein of sock yarn that you'll never find one of these joins in the finished shawl!

Back to knitting...

For my Lacevember Buds...Lacevember mememe

Are you a lace knitting fan? Join the Lacevember blog. These questions are in response to the contest meme there.

How long have you been knitting? Seven years.
How did you learn to knit? While on an extended stay away from home, I downloaded instructions from the internet and had needles and yarn overnighted to the hotel. I came home with a negotiated contract and two baby jackets for my sister's newborn twins.
Favorite thing about knitting? It used to be just for relaxation. Now its a full-blown addiction. I think they'd have to put me in a 30 day program to attempt to get me to stop (I'd sneak in sock needles by hiding them in the seams of my luggage and unravel my sweaters...)

How long have you been knitting lace? Serious lace - for about a year and a half. (But see bed jacket post below.)
Favorite thing about knitting lace:
At first, the math intrigued me. Now, it's like singing a song. A good lace pattern flows like music through my head, and my fingers dance. And the results-! A good sized shawl is an Accomplishment.

Favorite lace yarn? Zephyr, so far. There's lots more to try.

Variegated or solids for shawls? Solid. Or subtle.
Favorite lace color? All of 'em! Except I'm chicken to knit black.

Circs or straights? Circs all the way. Inox for lace.
Favorite lace knitting trick?
Unvented a way to handle that hippo-on-ice skates circular start: Cast on required stitches on just three bamboo needles three sizes smaller than your chosen needle size. Use a different number of stitches on each needle, so you can tell which comes next. (You can rearrange in a couple of rows.) Go up a needle size per round until you get to your regular needle size. This technique squelches the fumbling, and you don't twist the work. Plus it looks nicer.
Nope! They get in my way.
If so with what? I
used to use dental floss, but I didn't like the smell of minty lace !
Fancy blocking wires, or just sewing pins stuck in your carpet?
Fancy blocking wires, AND T-Pins, AND sewing pins stuck in the carpet (and in an occasional foot). I take "block severely" to heart.
Pattern, or can you follow directions?
I can actually follow directions. I haven't messed with altering existing lace patterns, but I've designed a few of my own, too.
Shawls or lacey items?
Both, but I enjoy shawls the most.
Triangle, rectangle, or circular shawls?
I haven't tried a circle yet, or I'd say I all of 'em.
Charts or printed instructions?
Favorite lace you've knit? Frost Flowers and Leaves.
Pacific Northwest was also fun.
Favorite lace you want to knit? Niebling's Lyra, if I could get my hands on it.

Favorite jelly belly flavor? The flavor you get when you cram a handful of them in your mouth at once. (weird that I like solid colors for lace knitting, huh?)
Tell me everything you know about Eric the Red..... Is that a new Lorna's Laces colorway?
Coke, classic or with lime? Plain ole, but rarely touch the stuff.
Holiday carols, sing along, or wish they would be banned from all public airwaves? Banned from all airways before Thanksgiving, then 24/7 on ONE station through Christmas, sung with nostalgia and fervor.
What is the definition of irony? This involves my Rowenta (named Wyvern), knitted bits, pins, and a blocking board.
How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop? Who licks?
Why is my cat always puking in front of my son's bedroom door? It's the gym socks. (Uh-oh! It's not the hand-knit ones, is it?)

What is your superhero power? I can untangle anything.
If the laundry is 9 foot by 11 foot (just dreaming, that's a big laundry room), and the walls are 8 feet tall, and you are going to tile the entire room in tiles that are 3 inches by 5 inches, what color should those tiles be? Light taupe! It makes the whites look whiter, which also means you don't feel obliged to clean the machines as often. (or ever...)

What's for dinner tonight? Dinner? D'ya mind I finish this row first?
What is clogging my children's bathtub drain? Well, you bought a five-pound raw fleece and you have three pounds to spin...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cameron Shawl Begun

The center panel for the Cameron shawl is coming right along. Here is the first repeat of 52 rows. There will be four and 2/3 repeats for the center square, comprised of a motif of Madiera and Diamonds.

This is the easy part - the 110 round border is going to take a bit more concentration. Can't wait!

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Bed Jacket

Mambocat's blog entry about a sweater for her mother invoked a wistful trip down memory lane for Clickety-Clack Ewe.
When my mother became ill late in the fall of 1999, I felt compelled to knit her a bed jacket. It was knit entirely of an intense longing to provide some comfort for my mother and an effort to banish the helplessness I felt by not being able to provide her a cure for her cancer.
There was not a whit of skill involved - only determination, as I only had been knitting for about nine weeks. The pattern was a free internet download from Yarnforward, a frothy lace number I attempted from Lion Brand mohair. I had no idea what some of the instructions meant. I had to look up how to make a yarn-over. I did not have a reference that explained "k 2 tog tbl" for instance, so I made up a version of what I thought it might mean. I plunged ahead with my interpretation of the pattern, determined to finish it before my mother left the planet.

I quickly found out that I was sensitive to the mohair. The upside to the sneezy, eye-watering fiber was that it concealed the fact that there was no identifiable pattern in the lace. It took an entire box of Sudafed to knit the project.

When I presented this creation to my mother, I explained that there were more lacy holes than was intended in the pattern, but every hole was filled with love to surround her. She accepted it gracefully, not inspecting it for the mistakes I assured her were rampant. Like Mambocat's mom, my mother wore that bed jacket in my presence when she was able, and otherwise kept it at the foot of her bed. My mother showed her appreciation until she died a few weeks after she received it.

After her death, her best friend requested to keep the bed jacket. I gratefully sent it along to her, with the hope that the holes, filled with love, gave her peace as well.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Holes in One

Clickety-Clack Ewe finally decided on the new project. It will be the Cameron Lace Shawl from Heirloom Knitting.

The Jamieson Cobweb Ultra Shetland yarn isn't the thinnest in the CCE stash, but still, it seems as it it might break if breathed upon. We'll see what happens....