Tying up Some Loose Ends

What a spectacular day this has been. Thanks to a storm that started out up by Alaska, we had cool temperatures and overcast skies – a rare occurrence in San Diego – this morning. And right about the time that the evening commute was getting ready to start, an angry and persistent mist/shower started up. No doubt the 11:00 news will tout this as the “storm of the century” (as they do every time it rains).

Max, Penny and I ventured out just before lunch to pick up some essentials, and to take advantage of the temperature change to stock up on “winter clothes” for Miss P. She made an impressive haul, and might get a chance to wear one or two of the outfits before this storm moves on and leaves us with our regular warm October weather.

Upon returning home and putting Penny down for her nap, I made good use of the nearly quiet house to finish up two projects that were recently off the needles but not quite done.

First up is Jojo’s Entrelac Scarf. I started this last December, and brought it with me for the Christmas Eve festivities at my in-law’s house. In the confusion that often accompanies leaving at the end of a party, especially one where gifts have been exchanged, I left the scarf sitting on the back of the couch. My mother-in-law, who is an impressive knitter and crocheter, was intrigued by the design and attempted to reverse engineer it. She eventually gave in, and proceeded to hold the scarf hostage until I had an opportunity to sit down with her and show her how it was done.

Needless to say it was many months before I finally got the scarf back, and I had moved on to more emergent knitting deadlines. So the scarf was placed unceremoniously into the-basket-that-holds-projects-that-I-started-but-will-likely-never-finish. And there it stayed until last week, when Alex cleaned up both our living room and our bedroom and the basket ended up sitting in the middle of the bed, begging to be dealt with.

I salvaged several of the projects, and all of the yarn, and decided it was time to finish Jojo’s scarf. And finish it I did. Look, I have proof!

Next up is the “Cardigan for Merry,” which is not for Merry, but is instead for Penny. The cables on this sweater nearly killed me, but now, looking at the finished product, they were totally worth it. I have to remove the buttons and turn them 90 degrees, because the top one hits her right under her little chin. I may also adjust the spacing a bit, but that would necessitate moving the loops as well, so that might not happen. Any way, I’m very pleased that she’ll be able to wear it tomorrow (since it will probably still be chilly).

So, now that those two are off my list, I should probably get back to the mittens…


Oh My

I’m still here, and to anyone who has visited hoping to find a new post over the past few weeks, I am truly sorry. I keep meaning to sit down and write something – anything, really – but then life (or a game on Facebook) intervenes, and I forget all about posting.

After the trauma of the first Lotus Blossom mitten, I decided to take a break from my barely started Christmas knitting to work on a project that I’d been thinking about for a while. I even started it once, but made a mistake early on and set it aside in frustration. I picked it up again a few weeks ago, and it’s been happy knitting ever since! I’m making a sweater for Penny, from the “A Cardigan for Merry” pattern from annypurls.

The front of the “Cardigan for Merry” (everything else is just flat blue pieces), knit on size 3 needles with Wool of the Andes Sport Sapphire Heather

All of the initial parts are done (fronts, back and sleeves), and the only thing left to do is knit the hood and sew the seams. This is a great pattern, but there’s one little weird thing that is bothering me, almost to the point where I’m considering frogging the 10 rows of hood I’ve finished so far so I can fix it.

The weird thing is this: the stitches left after decreasing for the armholes on the fronts and back are left live so they can be used for the hood. But the three stitches left at the top of each sleeve are bound off, only to be picked up when the hood is knit. This results in a weird little seam thing at the top of the sleeves. I’m sure it’s no big deal, but it does look strange, and it would have been easier to leave the sleeve stitches live as well.

The cables for this sweater are from Kate Gilbert’s “A Cardigan for Arwen“, and are reversible…very cool

But then again, Anny has designed many great sweaters, and maybe that little seam is there for a reason. Ok, I’m over it – it’s not bothering me any more. Back to my needles I go!

Getting back into the groove

Well, that may be my optimism peeking through. But even if I’ve not returned to my “groove,” I am at least nearing a return to normal. What with the preparations for Max’s birthday party last week, and the girls getting ready for going back to school, and my employer expecting me to show up and do work (truly, I thank him for that expectation), I’ve lost track of whether I’m coming or going. The one thing I’ve been sure of is that I’m not sitting down.

Some days, it seemed I’d never sit down again.

But I’ve made it to the final weekend of summer, Max’s party is a memory working its way toward “pleasant” as I begin to forget about how hot it was and how tired I was when it was over, and I’ve found a few minutes to sit down, have a cup of coffee, and catch up on my blog.

I finished the first of the evil, stubborn, wicked, but still beautiful blue and white mittens* yesterday. Then I took some photos of it with my new camera (I’ll tell that story later). Enjoy. And after you’ve basked in her glory, I’ll fill you in on the nightmare of her creation.

Lotus Mittens (ravelry link) by Heather Desserud, knit (eventually) with size one needles using classic elite one fifty yarn

This mitten…not “this pair of mittens,” but this one, single mitten, was started two weeks ago. It’s for someone cool, who I think is wonderful, and therefore I felt – even more than usual – that it should be perfect and lovely.

The first time, I cast on with the size needles requested by the pattern, and after about 15 rows, it was sloppy and horrible. So I pulled it out.

The second time, I cast on with smaller needles. It was still sloppy and horrible. So I pulled it out.

The third time, I cast on again with the smaller needles, but paid extra-close attention to my tension. Finally, my stitches were lovely. I knit and knit and knit, and when I got to the beginning of the third little lotus blossom, I put it on. And it was claustrophobically small. (Oh, deja vu… I think I’ve already told this story. Eh. I’ve already re-typed it, and you’ve probably already read it, so I’m just going to leave it, OK?) So I pulled it out.

I went back to the original needles, and paid close attention to my tension, and the stitches looked nice and neat. So that’s four times that I’d started this mitten. Of course, the adventure wasn’t over yet. Throughout the final iteration of this mitten I repeatedly made errors that required ripping out four or six rows and reknitting them, or tinking back half a row of stranded color work on DPNs to correct a spot where I’d done blue-blue-white rather than blue-white-white. By yesterday morning I had only half of the thumb left to knit, and it was only my anger and frustration with this poor little mitten that got it done.

But now that it is done, I think it’s lovely and I may have a hard time parting with it.

* I should mention that ALL of the issues that I had with this mitten were my own fault. The pattern is written without error, and the chart is perfect as well.

Oh baby, it’s hot outside!

This year we here in southern California have been particularly fortunate where our weather is concerned. During the winter and spring, we got rain – not too much, not none at all, but enough to make our lawns green and flowers bloom. And May, June, July, and even the first part of August came with warm days and cool, comfortable nights.

But we all (at least the people in my house) knew deep down what was coming.

Four years ago at this time I was pregnant with Max. He was working toward being two weeks late, and as the temperature crept toward its apex, I got more and more anxious to meet him. What I didn’t realize at the time was that having him during the worst heat of the year would have an immediate, positive effect on my comfort it would mean that, for the next 18 years (ok, at least the next 10 or so) I would be holding a birthday party during…yep, you guessed it…the worst heat of the year.

Yesterday, we celebrated Max’s 4th year of hanging out with us. And, true to form, the temperature hit 100 degrees, after climbing steadily all week from last Saturday’s high of 80-ish. We were joined by our entire California family in addition to some friends and people we don’t see very often (William, on leave from the Marines, and Sara (a friend from Clever Knits) and her sons Bennet and Jude).

We rented a Bounce Castle – the best birthday party investment EVER – and Max and his guests (including some of the adults) bounced until they were sweaty and red in the face, then came out to have a drink and went right back in. For the six hours we had it, it may have been empty for about 20 minutes.

Besides the bounce castle, the other request Max had for his party was a piñata. We’d arranged to have the party at Kit Carson Park, which has a very specific rule regarding piñatas – they must NOT be hung from the trees. So although Aunt Crissy procured both the piñata and the candy, we still had to come up with a safe way to suspend it so the kids could whack the heck out of it. My lovely husband came up with a solution – stringing it between two 10 foot 2 x 4s, and having the posts held by, and I quote, “two big guys.” For the most part this worked perfectly, the only exception being when my brother-in-law Brett nearly got pulled over. Luckily for Brett this was one of the few moments not captured on video (oh, and he recovered valiantly with no injury done to him, the child whose turn it was, nor the piñata itself).

I made Max’s birtday cake (he requested a tank cake), but because we were at a park, without ample refrigeration, by the time we cut it, it was totally melty and falling apart. Although it looked pretty icky, it still tasted good.

So tomorrow, Max will officially be four. He’s turning out to be quite an entertaining little person, and we all love him to bits. He’s a perfect little brother, generous with both his demands and hugs; an admirable big brother, playing with Penny more and more as she becomes more interactive; and a wonderful son, never hesitating to tell us how much we love to do whatever it is he wants to do. He’s funny and charming and I don’t know how we got along without him.

Sometimes, it’s best to admit defeat

I’ve spent this past week working on a new pair of mittens. During lunch on Monday, I went to “The Needleworks,” a small yarn store in Mission Valley and bought some lovely classic one fifty yarn, by Classic Elite Yarns – one ball of dark blue and one ball of white. When I got home I went straight to Ravelry and picked out a pattern, then dove right in. The pattern calls for fingering weight yarn and size one needles, but classic one fifty is sport weight. This, I decided, would not be a problem because I want to add a liner, a la “Fiddle Head,” and having the mittens turn out a little big would be great. The pattern, likewise, recommended a gauge of 10 stitches per inch. After casting on and knitting a few rows, I was getting about 7 stitches per inch, and the color work was looking a bit sloppy.

It was getting late anyway, so I put the mitten away and went to bed.

Tuesday at lunch, I cast on again, using the next smaller size needles that I had access to – size 00. After a few rows, I found my gauge had only improved to 7.5 stitches per inch, and my color work still looked crappy. Fine. Lunch was over anyway.

When I got home I unravelled the uncooperative mitten and cast on once again, still using the size 00 needles, but increasing my tension a fair bit. A few rows in, I measured my gauge and found it was at 9.25 stitches per inch – exactly what I was going for. And, as a bonus, the little white stitches were showing up perfectly against the dark blue background rather than being pulled so tightly they disappeared into the fabric, or knit so loosely that they stuck out like Frankenstein’s monster at a cotillion.

And so, I knit on.

I knit on for several days (until this morning, in fact), the sides of my lovely little mitten rising up straight and even. Then I decided to try it on, to ensure I wasn’t knitting mittens that would fit the aforementioned monster.

As I mushed my hand in I swore silently, as the mitten was really quite tight. When I got it on all the way I found myself getting a little claustrophobic. And as I eased it off my hand, my swearing gained volume until, at the moment I was finally freed from its woolly snare, my face was nearly blue from cursing. I took a deep breath, then unravelled 5 days worth of knitting, put all the yarn and the needles back into the bag, and walked into my bedroom to tell my husband about how the mitten had vanquished me.

When I entered, I noticed “Girasole” sitting demurely on top of my yarn chest, where she’d been put last night because we were too tired to return her to her home inside the trunk where she’s lived for the past year waiting patiently for me to weave in the ends before giving her a bath stretching her out to dry. Right then, I knew the reason for the mittens’ attitude.

I needed to finish Girasole.

And so, without further ado (or whining – I promise to stop whining too), here she is, in all her sunflowery glory.

This is where it all started – just a few little stitches

The Mittens Won, Hands Down

I really do love my twined sock but I think I might have been knitting it a bit too tight, because when I switched projects – to the second of my aunt’s mittens, by the way – my hands felt almost noodle-y. The baby alpaca yarn that I’m using is so much softer than the Mora wool (which is what the sock is knit from), and even though I’m using smaller needles – size 0 instead of size 3 – the stitches are nice and relaxed.

The second sock will get finished. Soon. I promise. But not for another two snowflakes. Oh yeah, and two thumbs. I have to remember to knit the thumbs.

I only have how long?

This morning my co-worker walked into my office and said, “Can you believe it’s only____months until Christmas?”

My heart beat sped up, and I could feel my head getting lighter as my fingers started to tingle.

“Never,” I admonished him, “mention to a knitter how little time there is left before Christmas.

Note: only click the link above if you are: a) not a knitter; or b) a masochistic knitter.

I’ve been so busy with work (oi! work!), chauffeuring my lovely children about, and Sock Summit stuff that I really haven’t started on my Christmas knitting. Not only have I not started, I’ve barely thought about it. Last year I started in July, and didn’t finish until late January/early February.

People, it’s already the middle of August. I am SO behind schedule. I need to make a list… wait. First I have to figure out where I wrote the names of the people we have for the gift exchange this year.

Phew! I didn’t find the list, but I used the amazing powers of my memory to recall them. This time, though, I wrote them down (they’re in the Moleskine graph paper notebook, the one with the thumb gusset designs for Letty’s mittens…this is a note to myself so the next time I can’t remember the names, I’ll at least know where to look).

OMG, I just fell down the Ravelry Rabbit Hole while looking for “manly hat” patterns. “Habitat Hat” is on my list twice already, and I need to mix it up a little. I found quite a lot of lovely patterns, but then got distracted by a scarf, which led me to the designer’s page, which allowed me to view a whole bunch of her other patterns.

I got distracted again! How is my list – not to mention the actual knitting of stuff on my list – ever going to get done? I’m going to go take a little walk, and come back to this later.