Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The eight day baby sweater

I've had this yarn sitting around since Christmas (it was a gift), and I've been going back and forth about how to use it. It's incredibly soft, but a bit frustrating to knit with. I experimented with a baby hat:
baby hat

And thereupon decided that it wouldn't be the most flattering yarn to use for a sweater or other big wearable item for myself. Although the colors are lovely (purpley/grey/tan), it leans to the lumpy side when knit up, even at a tight gauge.

So then I learned that my cousin is expecting a baby girl in September, and her preferred color is purple. Babies look dandy in lumpy things (since even smooth clothing gets lumpy in a hurry when you're bundled into someone's arms). It seems that I always run into this problem, though: I have the yarn, I have the general idea, but I don't have a pattern.

After much searching on-line, I was unable to find a simple, straightforward baby sweater that called for yarn at my gauge (seriously - is everyone knitting baby sweaters from fingering weight yarn??). Most patterns had cables and bobbles and buttons and ties. They have separate sleeves, hoods, and so on. Then I chanced upon this again - a very simple baby sweater with several options. It was no where near my gauge (the pattern called for 5 stitches/inch while my yarn claimed it would be about 4 stitches/inch). So I crunched the numbers and hoped for the best.

Note - I didn't actually swatch, just, you know, assumed my gauge would be in the ballpark of the yarn manufacturer's claims.

I cast on a reasonable number of stitches and knit a few inches. Then I checked my actual gauge and found I was off by about 10%. A few decreases later and I was knitting the appropriate width for the sweater bottom. Cool, I thought, a nice flared bottom to the sweater. How very 60's. I continued in this vein for the entire sweater, cutting the stitch count from the pattern by about 30% to approximate something reasonable and fitting.

The end result?
julie baby sweater
I spruced it up a bit with some embroidery while driving back for the shower - no pictures, though
It looks like a baby sweater, and it feels like something you'd like to snuggle a little one in. I think it passes the test, but we'll find out this winter when my cousin tries to shoe-horn her kid into it. And yes - the joys of knitting for babes. Eight days of little effort and I have a whole sweater to show for it.

Monday, June 18, 2007


This is the image in a May New York Times Magazine article on television.

Specifically, an article on a network that is turning 50 years old.

(don't forget, BugMeNot is great for getting around stupid logins for free content)

Away and back

Taking a get-away in the midst of household chaos couldn't have been a better idea. You know how you marry someone because you enjoy their company? Details like that tend to get lost among the gaps in the floor boards. It's wonderful to reconnect, to converse about something other than bathtub lengths, tile schematics, and plumber scheduling issues.

relaxing way to start your day - coffee on a pier

After spending a very leisurely Saturday around the house (I highly recommend starting all vacations this way - rather than the 5am rushed trip to the airport), we drove to Boston. We divided our day on Sunday between Cambridge, an antique shop, and historic parts of Boston. Too much to do in one day? Indeed. We considered it a scouting trip for our next vacation. But we did come away with these three amazing finds:

sculpted-for-your-butt desk chair. ergonomic. incredibly comfortable, fully functional. Cost: $25

the coolest yarn swift I've ever seen. spins beautifully, though I have to pay attention that it doesn't get ahead of me. Brant is pleased to be relieved of yarn-holding/yarn-untangling detail. Cost: $28.
yarn winder

bathroom medicine chest. have I mentioned that we're redoing the bathroom? rescued from the curb in the North End of Boston. Cost: $0.

From Boston we ambled down to Newport, Rhode Island. Home of madras shorts and people with too much peroxide. There was only one madras-shorts-wearer sighting, but the damn things were in every window. Also witnessed more cigar smoking than I've ever seen in a day when there weren't marriages or babies being celebrated.

Spent Monday and Tuesday wandering the town and exploring the Newport Mansions. Amazing, amazing creations. Ostentatious and offensive, too, in their opulence, but amazing nevertheless.

Of course, all of this was a week ago, what with other things getting in the way of posting, but we're still feeling the afterglow of well-spent time off.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
- Bible, Proverbs (ch. XVI, v. 18)

Dear Mother Nature,
I owe you an apology. I was proud and haughty as I went forth last weekend to work in my yard. I wisely arose before the sun was too high, I worked hard but briefly, and I tamed the many-years neglected sideyard. I pulled knee-high weeds, removed errant vines, relieved the suffering of one straggly aged rose bush that was well past its prime. I battled the ubiquitous poison ivy which long ago decided to take over. I was feeling pretty good about things.

how am I supposed to get that out of there?PICT0002

I have to ask you, Ma, how do you really feel about that three-leafed menace? Is it the wild, defiant child you shake your head about? Does its sheer tenacity make you proud despite yourself? Or are you out somewhere in the proverbial ether, smacking your forehead because we stupid humans are missing something really important about this plant? Is it the cure for cancer or something? Because, honestly, I think we were doing just fine with all the other ivies you put out for display. Couldn't we have done without this one?

tenacious bugger; roots have grown into the retaining wallPICT0001

I'm in day five of the infestation. The pride of days zero and one are gone - really, I'm sorry. I always touted how resistant I was to poison ivy, but that was before I spent a morning really wrestling with it, pulling it out from under bushes, between rocks, around a rose bush... And yea, the short sleeves. How could you help but smack me down for that one? I mean, gloves only do so much, I knew that.

I have to say - good show. The swollen scales on my arm, the scattered reminders everywhere else...unlike sending me to my room or taking away my allowance, this punishment really fits the offense. As a mother-to-be I hope to learn something from this, though I don't think child abuse is permitted in this plane of existence. Rules are a bit looser among the gods, eh?

I get it now, and I'm sorry. Can we work something out, and maybe let this all blow over this weekend? I promise - long sleeves from now on.

Your daughter

PS - I totally noticed the bump on my forehead. Warning noted. Thanks for not making it go any further.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Knitting a Shawl

Approaching the home stretch, I almost feel like I could see myself knitting another shawl one day soon. I know, I know: I asked for input on wedding shawl suggestions some time ago - I'm sure that implied that I was ready to knit one for myself. But right in the middle of this mystery shawl the idea of starting another one was the furthest thing from my mind. Hopefully I've learned a few things that will help me as I think about the next one.

Shawls are big. I haven't much experience with big knitting; a couple modest sweaters, some big footed socks, but that's about it. What I've learned about myself is that I need little accomplishments with big knitting. With sweaters there are so many milestones: I finished a sleeve! I finished a back! With shawls...not so much. There's the "I finished row 137!" milestone, but it isn't very exciting, since it looks a lot like row 135. Therefore - knitting shawls from the long edge to the tip are the only way to go for me. Miles and miles of a square/rectangular shawl, or (horrors) knitting from the point up are just not going to do it for me. And keeping a spreadsheet to update my progress? Loving it. (I've completed 82.7% so far)

Needles matter. I bought some nice slippery needles from KnitPicks for this project. They have a very smooth join, making it easy to slip the hundreds (and hundreds) of stitches along, but I have two complaints: 1) they are not nearly sharp enough. I'm constantly splitting stitches and fighting to get the needle between multiple K2togs. I almost quit in disgust in row 9 when I had to knit 13 stitches together. 2) slippery, slppery, slippery. I'm not thrilled with how tight the stitches are between the design. I'd love to see tighter stitches, but I think my knitting was really loose due to how slippery the needles are. When I'm ready, I'm definitely investing in special lace needles.

Guage matters. Since this isn't meant to fit anyone, it's only qualification is that it be big. Result? No guage checking. As I near the end, I'm a bit disappointed in my decision (seriously, passing up knitting a 20 minute swatch before commencing knitting on a project that will take 60-80 hours??). Had I swatched, I would almost definitely have gone down a needle size. I know blocking will help things, but it's still going to be more airy than I'd envisioned.
Shawls aren't as pointless as I'd thought. As this shawl unfolds across my lap, I realize how lovely it would be to have one of my own...or to wrap one around my mother...or my babe. The gauzy lacy goodness feels delicate and wonderful. Bunched up it will make a wonderful winter scarf, spread out it will make for a dressy wardrobe addition, and just thrown across the shoulders it will keep a chill away. I'm not quite a convert, but I'm starting to understand the appeal.