saturdays are for blogging

January 21, 2012

i’ve made a promise to myself
that i must knit at least an hour every day
and i must blog at least once a week
because i love myself,
and i love my blog.

i haven’t been doing so well with the knitting every day promise
but i refuse to fail on the bloging once a week.

so i here i am,
setting aside my huge pile of work
to show you some progress.

for a long time now,
i have been admiring the work of spillyjane.
there’s something about her designs that i just love.
if i had to put my finger on it, i’d say it’s her color combinations.
i feel pretty comfortable saying they aren’t typical, and yet,
they totally work.

it’s been pretty easy for me to resist casting on one of her designs.
for one, i have a terminal case of second sock syndrome,
which can easily evolve into second mitten syndrome.
but also, while i love her designs,
i just didn’t see myself wearing any of them.
i love them and thought they’d look amazing on other people.
just not me.

that is until i saw these bad boys.

one look and i was harassing her to publish the pattern already.
(really. i emailed and tweeted her. i was pushy)

a copy found it’s way into my mailbox
and away i went.

here where they stand:
and here are my thoughts:

1) i love colorwork. i. love. it.

2) i love this pattern. i am thoroughly enchanted with the chart. more than once, i have talked to it with a kind of cutesy voice i use to show affection to mo or other adorable mammals. i am not ashamed.

3) i’m glad i went up a needle size. otherwise the mitten would not fit.

4) this does have me worried about row gauge, however. i hope they don’t end up too long. i refuse to do them math to find out.

5) i have some concerns about the thumb construction. i have very strong feeling about how mitten thumbs should be worked. however, spillyjane makes her living on mittens. i do not. i’m gonna let go and let god on this one.

6) the lighter of the contrasting colors could be little more contrasty. however, i did that on purpose. i love the fact that there’s enough contrast to tell that those are skulls without having my mitten scream, “look here! skulls on a mitten!” sometimes my plans work out.

7) i’m knitting them two at a time (on separate needles) in order to avoid second mitten syndrome. so far, it seems to be working. it has instilled in me a kind of “race” like feeling where i can’t let the other mitten get too far ahead. weird? yes. but it’s working.

8) a while ago, i wrote a post in which i listed my concerns about shelter. i decided it was high time i actually tried it out, and the fact that spillyjane used it to knit these mitts seemed like the perfect excuse. now that i’m knitting with it, i have some opinions:

a) i love how it looks. the color is impeccable and the subtle rustic heatheryness of it speaks to the old school knitter in my heard.

b) however, i’m not a big fan of it’s hand when i’m knitting with it. yes, it’s very light, and while i usually love the feel of a wooly yarn, something about this particular blend . . . well i just don’t care for it.

c) it’s also very easy to break which makes me worry about how it will hold up with wear. it didn’t actually break while i was knitting with it. i don’t cut my yarns to switch colors, i just break them. and shelter breaks with very little effort. i’m hoping the fact that the mittens are knit at a very tight gauge will help with the ware factor.

d) i do like the fabric this pattern creates with this particular yarn. it’s knit on much smaller needles than one would normally use. i think it works because the yarn is so lofty. and quite frankly, i feel like shelter would knit more accurately to a dk gauge than a worsted anyway, another reason i think this pattern/yarn combo works with such small needles.

e) i don’t know if d) can be said to be representative of how the fabric will feel for other projects knitted at the recommended gauge.

f) my hypothesis is this yarn would be great for an old school textured sweater, but i doubt i can afford it at this point. american made ain’t cheap!

g) all that being said, when i try the mittens on, they feel comfy and warm. i plan to use them as my driving mitts. i do not regret buying shelter for this project, i think they’re beautiful, and i recommend other people spend the cash to give it a go at least once. but i just don’t see myself buying it again.

9) do you think jared flood will blacklist me for this?

10) have i mentioned i love these mittens?
(i think the back is my favorite part)

i’ve also got this little lovely going:
pattern: spruce forest by nancy bush
i have a serious love hate thing going on with this shawl.
this is the story:

for about a year now, i’ve wanted to design/knit a lace shawl in marine silk sport in my absolute favorite blue moon color way, ‘spruced’. i wanted it to be a triangular shawl and i wanted it to be a kind of ‘tree’ shaped lace pattern. the fact that i am not a designer and don’t yet intuitively understand how lace works meant that i was seriously struggling to realize this dream. then along comes fucking nancy bush and designs a perfect fucking shawl. (i am not above thinking that somehow she stole the idea using some kind of psychic probe while i was in her sock class). i hate that it’s a bottom up shawl and that, because it is, all the trees will point upward exactly as they should.i hate the nupps that make it so fucking adorable and perfect that i can’t help but be delighted every time i purl 5 together on the ‘resting row’. despite the fact that they totally slow me down and are frustrating, i hate that i love them. (and hate that i would never have thought to put a nupp in shawl, even though they are clearly amazing) i hate that there is a solid garter border because i absolutely believe in a thick garter border and bam! there it is.

and god damn i hate that there’s a perfect looking slip stitch edge so that when i have to pick up stitches for the lace edging, it will be a snap.

god damn nancy bush and her perfect fucking shawl pattern!

i shake my fist at you in gratitude, bitch!

i’m knitting this shawl as a present for someone who i really like and i think deserves to have it. really, i shouldn’t be blogging about it, but shit, i need all the material i can get. i don’t have time for secret knitting!

so that’s what’s on the needles bitches.thoughts?

** ps i am thoroughly annoyed with the fact that i am unable to capture the true color of ‘spruced’. it is much greener than the photo, and has a subtle blue hue in it. my guess is it has to do with the silk and sea cell content being all reflective. any help from my photography peeps?

last night,
i cast on a project.
i knew the answer to my funk lay in a shawl,
but hours on ravelry left me feeling rather hopeless.
nothing inspired me.

then, for whatever reason,
i gave this shawl a second glance,
and bitches, i have found my mojo!
yarn – madelinetosh pashmina in the glazed pecan colorway.
pattern – baltic blossoms lace shawl.

let me tell you,
it feels good to be back!
it’s like that feeling when a cold breaks,
and you can finally take a deep breath again.

i was creatively congested!

then this morning,
i woke up to the following e-mail:

Dear Steven:

Thanks so much for your inspiring blog post. Because of you, we have received over $400 dollars in donations! Thank you for getting yourself tested, and thank you for your amazing support of Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force!

Emma McAfee
Development Associate
Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force
5913 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206

that was a great way to begin my day.
thank you to everyone who contributed,
not only to pittsburgh aids task force,
but to their local testing centers.
that $400 will pay for 10 tests.

your generosity makes me feel like maybe the effort i put into this blog isn’t a fruitless endeavor, that maybe people are listening.
so thank you.

and congratulations to faye.
the random number generator selected you,
and my skein of handspun is yours.
you better knit with it!

i actually cast on a second shawl.
i’m not sure if i’m allowed to show you it,
but better to ask forgiveness than permission, right?
it’s the beginning of a test knit from westknits book three

that’s all i’ll say.
the cashmere mafia’s listening.

more roman numerals

March 24, 2011

so in my frenzy to make my life into a list,
i forgot a couple of things that i wanted to write.
that and day two of my class should be enough for a post, right?
so let the randomness continue!

x. on friday, when i was still pretty bummed out, kristen, a.k.a. @carcosa, tweeted at me: My #FF crown this week is awarded too… @Faiche_Stiabhna for his unique combination of humor, fiber knowlege, and fierce glasses. that totally made my day. (are my glasses really fierce?)

xi. i apparently inspired one of my most loyal commenters and internet friends, miss sally of rivendale farms. or maybe more accurately, this photo of mo did. after seeing it, she went on a cowl binge. she wrote about it here.

xii. another besty from the internet, kim, is a nice person. she wants to help the people in japan. she asked me to spread the word, so do me a favor, and click here to read her post. go ahead. do the right thing. i dare you.

xiii. in my last post, i mentioned that i felt that, when you meet a knitting celebrity, maybe you should keep your cool and not act like you’re old friends reunited. this is how i try to operate. (don’t ask me about my success rate). PrincessFee left me the following comment:

You don’t know me, but I do feel as though I know you. Thank you for your humour, wit, & frankness. If we ever get to meet, I will act as though I don’t know you.

first of all, that is sweet. second, i’m so far from being a knitting celebrity that the sentiment is almost laughable. third, if you do read this blog with any kind of regularity, i imagine you’ve a certain amount of shamelessness in you. i would never expect you to show such restraint if you see me out in the real world. just don’t be disappointed if the dude you run into is actually pretty shy.

xiv. however, i find it ironic that i spent all of day one quietly sitting next to the lovely natatlie who, as it turns out, reads my blog. small world, eh? of course, she didn’t say anything until day two (class act, right?). we spent the first day like any other kids on the first day of school, making idle chit chat and nervous eye contact. but i’m totally glad she told me. it was great way to start what turn out to be a really hard day of class.

xv. i think that, while she doesn’t say it, stephanie doesn’t like to have her photo taken. i think this because almost every single photo i took of her is kinda terrible. she’s making a face in or blinking or possibly about to sneeze. somehow, i think this is done on purpose as a way of fucking with our heads. luckily, i snapped this one.yeah she’s a little blurry in this photo, but at least she doesn’t look like she’s in the middle of a seizure.

xvi. day one of “knitting for speed and efficiency” with stephanie pearl-mcphee was all about learning a brief history of knitting, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of english and continental knitting, and learning ways to improve our own personal styles of knitting. the most interesting concept for me was the idea that we get too comfortable with our own styles, and try to apply them to every type of knitting when altering our personal style, or using another method might make it easier for a given project. according to stephanie, we as knitters seem to resist using all the tools at our disposal to make it easier on ourselves. for instance, if you’re an english knitter (like me) why wouldn’t you use continental knitting to knit miles of stockinette in the round when it is so clearly the superior technique for that particular project? or if you’re a continental knitter, and have a project with lots of texture and decorative purl stitches why wouldn’t you use the method best suited to purling (english knitting)? it’s a good point. why not expand our personal abilities to improve ourselves as knitters? unless of course excellence doesn’t matter to you.

day two was dedicated to learning “lever knitting” (sometimes called irish cottage knitting) which is the method used by the people who knitted for their livelihood. it also happens to be the style the harlot learned from her bitch of a grandmother. rather than go into a long description of the method, here’s a video. because we all have a certain amount of knitting knowledge burned into our minds, changing our techniques is kinda hard. everyone’s hands were freaking out, fingers moving of their own accord as if our brains no longer had anything to say about what they did. natalie’s pinky finger kept trying to get involved to the point where stephanie had to immobilize itwhen stephanie asked how i was doing, i told her i sucked. the moment that followed involved a joke about my “sucking”. it must have pretty embarrassing since i can’t for the life of me remember the details (if you do, feel free to leave it in the comments. i’d like to remember that one) but whenever my face stopped being pink, i eventually got the hang of it.

even though i posted a link to the video, i wouldn’t recommend copying her technique from it; you really need to have it explained in person. it’s just too easy to think you’re doing it correctly when in fact you’re doing it very very wrong. i mean, we had an expert in the room, and each of us found a way to fuck it up to some degree. sometimes, you just need someone to hold your pinky.

am i just a creepo?

February 17, 2011

as a rule,
i don’t really believe in knitting prayer shawls.
i’m not sure why, exactly. perhaps it’s simply my inner cynic.
but, with all the many tragedies occurring in my periphery,
none has ever compelled me to knit a damn thing.

for me, knitting is about happiness,
the joy of beautiful yarn,
the mediation of repetitive motion,
the focus required to execute a high degree of difficulty.

simply put,
knitting is a selfish act.
at least for me.

and while i do give most of what i knit away to other people,
i’m only looking for that smile on their face.
it’s the best drug.

recently, though, i read a blog post that literally brought tears to my eyes. and, for whatever reason, i finally felt that need to comfort through knitting. three days later, a boneyard was born.
i decided to use the handspun tina gave me for my birthday.
she made me promise i wouldn’t treasure it;
i had to knit something with it.
this felt appropriate.

we all know that, with handspun, you have to be extremely careful.
if i ran out, i couldn’t just call tina and be like,
“whip up some more of this yarn please!
i’m making a shawl and need to bind off.”

believe me when i say i cut it close.
i was weighing that ball after repeat.
and following a sewn bind off that took me three hours to finish,
i had this much yarn left:
it’s roughly a yard and a half.
not bad, right?

the shawl went out in today’s mail,
and should arrive by saturday.

but now i’m all worried.

we’re not exactly real friends.
yes we tweet back and forth,
and occasionally comment on each other’s blog.
it’s . . . . a ravelry friendship i guess you’d say.
two people brought together in cyberspace because of our mutual love of all things knitterly.

but there’s a fine line between doing something touching, and plain old-fashioned stalking. and that line is always drawn by the other person.

is it weird to just send a knitter i’ve never met a prayer shawl?
am i just a creepo?

a pretty thing

February 14, 2011

over here.
i made a pretty thing.
just in case you wondered if i’m still into the whole knitting business.

(this knit is mo approved)

a quickie

June 19, 2010

i’m pretty beat so i’ll make this quick.
i blocked my juneberry triangle, and it turned out lovely.

i was a bit nervous about blocking this puppy,
since i’d never done it before.

i mean, we all understand the basic principles:
soak, then pin in place. (threading blocking wires through the edges is optional really, but holy god do i recommend them)

but trust me, if you’ve never blocked lace, there’s a bit of a gap between theory and practice. no one tells you through which stitches exactly one is supposed thread the blocking wires, or how ‘hard’ to stretch the lace. no one tells you precisely how to use the pins to hold the wires in place (fyi, pin at a sharp angle to hold them down). nor does anyone mention how uncomfortable it is to lie on the floor at 1 a.m. repositioning pins again and again to get that sucker into just the right shape, especially if your dog decides that is the perfect time to take an interest in your tush. (dog people, you understand. the rest of you, don’t ask)

i swear, we don’t give bitches enough credit for good blocking.
(maybe i should start a blocking business to supplement my habit)

it’s been a day

May 14, 2010

this post was supposed to go out yesterday.
but my family lives in the land of dial up.
things take time here.

it’s been day.

or two really.

i wasn’t sure if this was the proper place to write about it,
or if it’s even appropriate to share this kind of thing with the world.
but life isn’t just amusing anecdotes and knitterly antics.

my grandma is ill.
her body and mind have mostly given up the fight, and my mom is her last line of defense. she went into the hospital two weeks ago and it became clear that, while she may get well enough to the leave the hospital, she’d never be able to go home again. my mom found a great nursing home (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms. she assured me that is passed my requirement that it didn’t smell like death) where people seem to care and can handle residents with dementia. only a couple of days after she was settled into her new home, a fever spiked, and i got an early morning wake up call from home.

switched shifts.

cap and gown unclaimed.

diploma in the mail.

5 highways and i’m back in the great lakes state.

there were many hugs exchanged back at the homestead, reunited with parents and pup under midnight clouds. but a good night sleep in my childhood bed did little to prepare me to see my grandma this morning.

i came with the sole intention of supporting my mom; i wasn’t thinking about how i’d react. i definitely ate my tears to make it through the day.

the change from the last time i saw her is stark.
it’s hard to see in this frail, confused woman the grandma who played “farm stand” and “kick the sponge” with me when i was a toe-headed boy.

she may have forgotten,

but i haven’t.

and i’ll gladly remind her of what day it is, what time it is, where she put her purse, and any other question whose answer she’ll forget the moment i give it.

it’s the least i owe the woman.

while all this is going on, i get some crazy awesome news:
i got into the yarn harlot/knot hysteria’s silk retreat

(stolen from the harlot's blog)

i received the email confirmation yesterday,
and a call from stephanie pearl-mcphee today to go over the details.
(i promptly saved the number in my cell and did a gleeful jig)

i absolutely cannot afford to go to this retreat.
(and will unashamedly accept any donations you’re willing to give)
but why have I worked for ten years to build an excellent credit score if i can’t throw caution to the wind and melt my visa card every once in a while?

i don’t think it’s healthy having this level of emotional stimulation coming from two very different places.

or fair for that matter.

all I can do is form a plan of attack;
a strategy for coping so to speak.
so far, the list includes an obscene amount of diet coke, thai food, spindling, and casting on with impunity.

i cast on this sock:

and this february lady sweater without a second thought.

i’ve got a long weekend in front of me.
i’ll see you in pittsburgh on monday.

lessons learned

May 10, 2010

the great thing about working at a knitting store?
you learn something new everyday.

for instance,
one day, when everyone was singing praises at the alter of elizabeth zimmerman, i impudently remarked,
“she’s not that big a deal.”

a yarn over immediately jumped off my needle.
lesson learned.

while working on this beauty,

i thought to myself,
“gee, i’m doing really well! i’ll wait to put in a lifeline.”

a number of stitches popped off the needles and fell down several rows.


apparently, arrogant thinking is a sin in the eyes of the knitting gods.

now, it looks like this:

i’ve dropped down.
i’ll attempt to re-knit the rows.
i’ve done it before, though never with knitted lace.
i’ll burn some incense and maybe do a little chant prior to the attempt.

lesson learned.


May 7, 2010

i’m in a state of recovery.
from my trip to maryland,
and my (second) masters program.

that’s right bitches, i’m graduating.

fatigue, aphasia, loss of time, peeling scalp,
and my room smells like sheep.

course of action?
milk shakes, knitting, find my watch, head and shoulders,
and stay out of my room.

i’m actually doing quite well, and enjoying finding all the pictures of me and my gams floating around the internet.

you can find them on:
linda’s facebook,
kim’s flickr,
anna’s blog,
karen’s photostream,
and elsewhere. i know more people stopped me and asked for my photo than i’ve been able to track down. even with yvonne creating a ravelry thread about them.

but my favorite by far was taken by cristi:

because she kinneared me, and i love her for it.

in knitting news . . .
let’s keep in mind that i’m a relatively new knitter (less than two years),
but there is evidence mounting that my i’m maturing.
for instance, i now have a small stash.
and i have a project that is coming up on its one year anniversary:

my shetland tea shawl.

i find the signs disturbing.
so i’ve decided to fight these manifestations of conventional knitterdom,
and knit the shit out of this before it turns 1.

first step in attaining my goal?
casting on 449 stitches for the stora dimun knit along

(note my yarn ramekin and the perfect alpaca silk soufflé)

what can i say?
i’m a sheep.

well folks, i’m home and well.

and tired.

and a little crispy.

the weather in maryland was exceptionally sunny and hot.
the result? my fair skin is a bit brown in some places,
pink in many others.

as with many of my big life events, i’m finding it difficult to accurately describe the weekend. (i need to start carrying a dictaphone with me or something)

plus i have two final papers to finish this week so i kinda need to conserve some of my writing mojo. but as always, i’ll do my best.
here goes:

it’s the middle of the night and i can’t sleep.
i’m totally stoked for tomorrow and my mind won’t shut up.
so of course, i edited my “i’m with hotpants” blog post, and did a mini photo shoot.

after which i questioned my sanity, put late night vegas poker on the tv, spread out in my king sized bed, and hugged all six of my downy pillows.

sleep came soon after.

later that same morning . . .

we started out early and beat the traffic.

i left my friends at the fold/socks that rock line, making a bee line for. . .

the fleeces!

now, i’m not a spinner.
but as this was my first fiber festival,
i had this romantic notion that i would own the grand champion fleece.
so i waited in my own line, and put in a stupidly aggressive bid.

i also had what i feel is a pretty realistic fear that i actually wouldn’t win, so i purchased “ike’s” fleece, a border leicester/lincoln/corriedale mix ram from shepherd’s hey farm in comus, maryland.
it’s beautiful and would easily make my black sweater dreams come true.

i then braved the heat, saw some baby sheeps,

and proceeded to buy some lovelies.
not too many though.
i had to be sure i could pay for my fleece if i won.

by noon we were all pooped.

(note the custom “i’m with hotpants” tees made by annette)

unfortunately, i had to wait around ’till 3 to see if i won the silent auction.
so i wandered around some more,

saw some more sheepy things,
drank my weight in lemonade and root beer floats,
and headed to the “big barn” at 2:40 ish.

when i arrived, the gossip amongst the volunteers was that a mysterious man was lurking. last year, he swooped in a bought all the winning fleeces at the last minute.

i was obviously concerned.

when he moseyed into view, the ladies quietly pointed him out.
his wife clearly wanted my fleece,
what with it being an uncoated black merino that won best in show.

the volunteers galvanized their power behind me,
handing me a pen to write in a last minute bid if i needed,
and heckled the couple, warning them of my ire should they try to outbid me.

i gave the interlopers my absolute best evil eye.
those who have met it’s gaze can testify to it’s sauron-like power.
(the few that have survived that is)

with two minutes two go,
it was reported to me that the wife said,
“if he wants to pay that much for it, he can have it.”
my stupidly aggressive bid did the trick, and i walked away with my grand champion fleece. by christmas, expect to see me in gorgeous black sweater of my own making.

i then headed back to the hotel to crash, and sooth sunburned scalp.
after a beautiful thai dinner,
and my first lesson in spindle spinning,
i proceeded to the maryland sheep and wool after party which was conveniently held in my hotel.

when i found out that the epic pakistani wedding also being held in our hotel bumped the after party outside into the parking lot, i should have taken it as a sign that things wouldn’t end well.

here’s the good of it:
there were crazy good prizes,
and i was with my friends.

(anna apparently got some good gossip)

but there were some serious issues:
there were not enough chairs,
or enough light to knit or drool over peoples hand knits.
so we were left to wait,

and wait,

and wait,

and wait some more for the raffle.

and guido, bless him, had pretty much no skills as an emcee
beyond mad geeky enthusiasm
which may have worked against him really.

and of course they did the raffle in two parts meaning,
(god help me)
we had to wait another hour to see if we’d paid for more than and evening of sitting in the dark with our friends with only the hope of a coconut shrimp and fruit skewer to warm out spirits.

of course i didn’t win.
but two of my friends did.
i took my bitter, pouting, sunburn to bed.

the next day,
after a leisurely breakfast in bed,
we made our way back at a more respectable hour to make sure we hadn’t overlooked anything we had to have.

i resisted the cashmere,
but left with a gorgeous golding spindle

i don’t spin.

with that crazy purchase, i knew i needed to head home.

and here i am, back in pittsburgh with a pretty impressive haul.

(excuse the unnatural light please in this photo)

did i mention i got some sun?