Friday, April 28, 2006

This Blog Post is Brought to You By . . .

So, yeah, there's a reason I haven't been posting so much in the past couple of days. Apparently Boston is the third most "challenging" place to deal with seasonal allergies this year (what "challenging" means, I have no idea--all I can tell is that every single plant in the area is blooming at the moment and shooting its pollen in my general direction). The upshot? When my eyes started watering and my nose started running and I started sneezing uncontrollably on Wednesday, I took two of those happy little pink capsules, put down my knitting (those label warnings about heavy machinery also apply to pointy sticks) and went to bed at 9 p.m. Needless to say, I wasn't about to blog while under the influence--who knows what crazy ramblings I'd come out with in my drug-influenced state?

Things are under control now, fortunately, and I've got those nasty histamines subdued with a daily dose of the non-coma-inducing Claritin. And I've got some serious knitting to do, apparently! Shireen, who's just finished her lovely Tivoli, has posted about it on her new blog, and is urging me to hurry up already with the Picovoli. All right, all right . . . I've got five (non-knitting) deadlines today, but after that, it's all Picovoli all weekend.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I Know You Can't See This Sock, But . . .

When I was younger, our family had a running joke. We'd see someone decked out in camouflage at, say, the supermarket (this was the '80's, remember). One of us would say, "Hey, do you see that guy?" and the other one would pretend not to be able to see said individual because, well, they were wearing camouflage and therefore blended into their surroundings.

Well, I'm now working on a sock in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport, colorway "camouflage." Just to help you along, I put the sock on an off-white rug before photographing it.

Check out that crazy pooling action--at first it was really bugging me, but it's starting to grow on me, since it actually does resemble the color changes on real camouflage.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Provisional Cast-On + Circular Knitting = Frustration

So I've started some new projects, as I wrote last week. Meanwhile, Ribby Cardi is still languishing unseamed. Too bad, too, because yesterday's cold rainy weather in Boston made for the perfect opportunity to wear said sweater. Nevertheless, I'm continuing to evade the inevitable by starting a new sweater that will (I hope) serve the dual purpose of ushering in spring.

The pattern is Picovoli by Grumperina. I have to confess that I came close to pitching it out the window about four times this weekend. Never in my short but angst-ridden knitting career have I had so many problems casting on! Now, I admit I've never done a provisional cast-on before, but that part wasn't so bad in and of itself.

The problem was that I was apparently incapable of joining the round (the sweater is very handily knit in the round--ergo, no seaming) without twisting it. Something about that extra yarn just hanging out there really freaked me out. This happened twice, forcing me to start all the way over from the beginning because I was feeling too inept to try to salvage it.

The first time I did succesfully join the round without twisting, I then screwed up the picot round--again, back to square stitch one.

By this time, I was convinced this project was doomed. Then I headed to knitting group on Sunday afternoon. There was Shireen, who apparently hates seaming as much as I do, working on her own Tivoli (basically the Picovoli sans picots). Shireen had chosen almost the exact same color as I had, and she was raving about how fast and easy the knitting was. What's more, the results were beautiful when I saw them close up. Inspired, I headed home to make one more try:

Sorry about the shadowy picture--I'll get some better ones as I go along, I'm sure. The best news is that thanks to some concentrated knitting time on Sunday evening, I've made it past the picot round on the neckline without disaster and am ready to start the initial increases. Here's hoping that we're over the hump (or at least that I no longer have to rip all the way back to the cast-on!).

Friday, April 21, 2006


I know y'all have been waiting with bated breath to see the four rounds I've completed on my next pair of socks, but you'll just have to wait another day . . . because . . .

Ta da! Finished Sockapaloooza socks.

It was such a treat to finish these socks at this time of year, especially since I was doing much of the knitting out of doors (aside: yesterday I was pronounced "so cool" by a couple of third grade girls at the playground when they learned I was knitting an actual sock). All of a sudden, as spring has arrived in Boston with a vengeance, I started seeing these lovely shades of pink everywhere: in the fragile pink of cherry blossoms, the pale pink of tulips, the magnolias that vary from almost white to deep rose, and in the lovely deep pinks of crab apple blooms. What a perfect way to celebrate the arrival of spring!

Pattern: Baby Cable Rib from Sensational Knitted Socks

Yarn: Dani's Sunshine Yarns; Colorway: Love

Started: 3/5/06

Finished: 4/21/06

Comments: I highly recommend this book to beginning sock knitters (or anyone, really--the stitch patterns are really good for anyone who likes to knit socks). It certainly helped me finally understand how sock patterns work, how to adjust patterns for different gauges and stitch patterns, etc. And I think I finally understand what all the sock fuss is about. Socks are perfect "other" projects to have on hand for those trips to the playground, plane rides, subway trips, etc., when your sweater or what have you is just too bulky or complicated to pack along. Plus, when I tried these on (don't worry, sock pal, I'll wash them before sending them off to you) I was stunned by just how cozy handknit socks are--frankly, I didn't want to take them off!

In other news, I've joined Scout's Dye-o-rama dye swap just for fun. I've got my trusty sister on the hunt at the grocery store where she works for Kool Aid colors we just can't get here in Boston, and I'm ordering enough yarn to make enough for the swap as well as a practice skein for myself. More sock yarn=even more chances to make socks!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Five Places

In my desperate attempt to add knitting content when I'm not actually doing much knitting, here's my entry in Kat's contest to name the five strangest places I've knitted:

1. On the shores of Lake Bemidji while at Waldsee German Language Camp (actually where I learned to knit in the first place).

2. In the dark at a library screening of Chicken Little.

3. On the aerial tram at the San Diego Zoo.

4. Under Boston Harbor! (on the Blue Line of the MBTA subway system)

5. During the Boston Symphony Orchestra all-Schoenberg concert.

When You're At a Loss for Bloggable Material . . .

. . . include photos of cute kids and baby animals.

Yesterday we went to a mobile petting zoo and spent close to 45 minutes with the animals. P. had a great time, although he kept alarming the animals' owners by trying to ride the lambs.

In other news, I should have photos of a new project (imagine that!) tomorrow. I'm eager to finish up these Sockapaloooza socks so that I can go back to my usual project fickleness. It's so unusual for me to have only one project on the needles--I don't know what to do with myself!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Secret Knitting

So I'm at a loss as to what to blog about, since right now I'm working on/starting a few projects whose intended recipients read my blog. Hopefully, I'll be able to update soon with pics of a) a new summer sweater for myself; b) the almost completed Sockapaloooza socks (I've reached the toe of sock #2); and c) a new pair of socks. Tried casting on for those today, and it was a disaster. Actually, the casting on wasn't so bad--it was the transferring to the other dpns that was the problem! I ended up dropping stitches like a madwoman, so I guess it's back to square one on that--at least if I'm going to encounter problems, it's better to have them when I've only invested 2 minutes of time rather than 2 weeks!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Deadline: Easter

Some of P.'s favorite books are from a British series about a boy named Harry and his bucketful of dinosaurs. Previously, we've always checked them out from the library, but now, thanks to a certain rabbit, P. now owns five Harry books in one collection:

He also has his very own bucket basketful of dinosaurs:

Yep, I finished just under the wire. A very late night on Saturday (followed by a very early morning) made for one tired bunny, but one happy little guy.

Pattern: available here

Yarn: Rowan Handknit Cotton color 316 (brontosaurus), color 209 (stegosaurus), and color 315 (triceratops), plus black embroidery thread

Started: 3/8/06 (or thereabouts)

Finished: very late on 4/15/06

Comments: My wonky gauge on the stegosaurus's spines meant that I only did six spines rather than the nine that the pattern called for, but it doesn't look so bad. This pattern would be a great introduction to knitting stuffed toys. I've made several of those felted sheep in the past, and those are quite a bit more involved than these dinosaurs are with regard to shaping, short rows, etc. If you don't mind a little bit of fiddly finishing (and these aren't really that bad--I just like to complain), these are a ridiculously fast knit and a cute gift idea.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Slow Days

Not much news here--I spent last night seaming up Bronty and finishing the knitting for Triceratops.

With any luck, I'll have photos of the whole gang by Sunday, but probably not much posting between now and then.

In answer to questions, the dinosaurs I'm making (who will be making their debut in time for Easter) are the same ones Grumperina (as well as Jofrog and Thea) has been making. Patterns are available here. I'll have all the project details once they're done. Seaming hasn't been too bad so far, although Thea's estimate of 20 minutes per dino was way off (which is more a reflection on my sewing skills than on her estimating skills)!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Have I mentioned I dislike seaming?

A lot? I love knitting, but I absolutely dread this:

What you see here is (on the left) Ribby Cardi, which has been done for a while, blocked for a week, and is now . . . just . . . sitting. Chances are I won't be touching this for a while because of Sockapaloooza and because of the oh-so-scary pile on the right.

Those are the parts (limbs, bodies, etc.) of 2.5 dinosaurs. They need to be finished by Sunday morning at the latest. Ack! For some reason, sewing these things together scares the bejeezus out of me. Maybe it's that I'm not very good at sewing, maybe it's because when I've done projects like this before, they're usually felted, which tends to forgive my less-than-stellar sewing skills. Whatever. I need to buckle down and get these things sewn up. Wish me luck!

Oh, my Woolapalooza photos are evidently gone forever. Apparently technology is only as strong as its weakest link--in this case, its user.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


No new sockapaloooza photos here today (I finished the leg on the second sock and am ready to start the heel, but that didn't seem photo-worthy), so I figured I'd blog about anotherpalooza.

This weekend P. and I went to Woolapalooza at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, Mass. It's basically a sheepshearing festival, but with more educational components. They have the "sheep to sweater" trail, which (as the name would suggest) follows the path of wool from sheepshearing through cleaning, carding, spinning, and felting, knitting or weaving. They had some "learn to knit" tutorials, as well as a very few vendors. I was sorely tempted by the reclaimed cashmere yarn one woman was selling, but I managed to resist. They also had sheepdog herding demonstrations and some other fiber-related exhibits and activities (linen, angora rabbits, etc.)

The variety of activities (which were spread throughout the farm) made for a fun morning, even though it was really cold. It's no coincidence that the place to be was in the kitchen, which was serving up chili and hot coffee. P. enjoyed the day (even though it was windy), although he was seriously traumatized by watching the sheepshearing. He got right up to the gate to watch the process, and got very serious as he did so. As we walked away from the sheepshearing area, he looked up at me very seriously and said, "Mama, they killed the sheep!" I thought I had explained that they were just cutting the sheep's fleece, but apparently I didn't do a good enough job. We went back to the sheepshearing shed so that he could see the newly shorn sheep alive and kicking, which seemed to reassure him.

In my technical ineptitude I can no longer find the Woolapalooza photos I uploaded yesterday--if I can track them down later today, I'll add them to this post . . .

Monday, April 10, 2006

Last Vacation Post (I Swear)

I promise this will be it. Really. After today, it's back to all knitting all the time. Actually, it's a good thing that I do have all this vacation blogging, because I've been so busy with work that I have been doing very little knitting outside of Knitsmiths. I didn't even pick up my Sockapaloooza sock (other than to take a picture of it) between last Sunday's Knitsmiths meeting and this one!

OK, so for our last day of vacation, we left Portland fairly early. It was finally a clear day in Portland, and on the drive out of the city, we were able to see Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, and several other mountains (yes, I know they have names--I just can't remember what they are). What a spectacular view with which to leave the city!

We drove straight up to Seattle, parked the car in downtown, and then walked all around. We strolled through the Pikes Place Market, visited the original Starbucks (much less crowded than I would have anticipated--apparently not everyone is a coffee tourist like me). We ate a light lunch in a cute little pub called the Virginia Inn. Nice microbrews on tap, and an eclectic mix of pub food. It was a nice place to relax for an hour or so over a couple of pints.

After our late lunch, we did some shopping, mostly of the window variety, although I did end up buying some slacks from the Gap, of all places. We also went on a wild goose chase for the huge REI store, which we never did find until we drove by it much later in the day.

We had dinner reservations at the Sky City restaurant at the top of the Space Needle. We got there a little early for our 8:30 reservation, so we were able to snag a window seat. The restaurant revolves, and we stayed long enough for two full revolutions. The view was spectacular, even after dark. The food was also good, even if it was hideously overpriced. I guess you're paying for the view as much as for the food. The service was actually better than I had anticipated, and the whole meal made for a perfect ending to our vacation. After dinner, we were able to go up one floor to the observation deck, which was useful only inasmuch as we got to identify (on the maps) the various buildings and bodies of water we had noticed during our dinner.

After returning our rental car, we headed back to the airport and had a pretty lengthy wait before our redeye flight, which was delayed even further. Apparently we made up some time during the flight, since we landed only about 5 minutes late.

Our vacation was really close to perfect. Beautiful weather, great company, a good combination of active pursuits and more relaxing, laid back times. We saw a lot, but never felt stressed or pressured to see everything. We can't wait to go back!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

No Knitting Content . . . again

On our last day in Portland, we spent time with my brother, who is there attending law school at Lewis & Clark. He picked us up in the morning and then showed us around the campus. The law school is right at the edge of this park, so the buildings are all designed to show off these great views of the trees right outside the windows. There are also plenty of walking paths, outdoor seating areas, etc. One of the buildings is also made entirely of recycled materials!

From there, we were off to Jacob's neighborhood on the other side of Portland. I got to see a totally different side of the city--much more funky, with cool little cafes and bars, tons of second-run movie theaters, thrift shops, ethnic restaurants, etc. It was cool to see a very different, less upscale part of the city that still had so much character. After seeing Jacob's house, we walked around a bit, stopping at the Laughing Planet Cafe for terrific veggie burritos and lemonade.

After lunch, we tried heading up Mt. Tabor, but the road was closed, so we walked most of the way up and got some nice views of the city anyway.

We also, at my request, headed to Klickitat Street. Can you guess who this is?

The previous day, I had been so proud of myself by walking by the world-famous Powell's Books several times without going in. Well, for our last day in Portland, I succumbed to temptation. Armed with our store maps, we spent more than two hours happily browsing the stacks. I love this store, and could easily have spent another two hours without seeing everything. It reminds me somewhat of some of my favorite bookstores by the University of Chicago. The thing I love is that if you just let yourself get lost, you can find the most amazing, unexpected things. Serendipity is sorely lacking in chain bookstores, which are all so uniform that it's almost impossible to make unexpected discoveries.

After Jacob's afternoon class, he and his girlfriend Andrea picked us up for dinner. We headed to Montage, a quirky little bistro tucked under an overpass. They serve Cajun-style comfort food (their specialty is mac 'n' cheese). The atmosphere was a lot of fun (you share tables with strangers), the company was excellent (Jacob's girlfriend is super cute, friendly, and smart), and the best part is that you get your leftovers wrapped up in crazy aluminum foil shapes (Jacob got a He-Man sword; Andrea got a squirrel).

Next time, a whirlwind tour of Seattle, and then home.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Photos--Just in Time

Hopefully not too late for today's Sockapaloooza update.

First, the loot I picked up on my trip:

Second, the completed first Sockapaloooza sock (with proof that I have not entirely succumbed to the dreaded second sock syndrome)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Portland, Socks, and Lots O' Yarn

For our first full day in Portland, we got up and headed to Multnomah Falls, along the Columbia River Gorge east of the city. There we did a hefty loop hike past not only Multnomah Falls but also up to Wahkeena Falls, which is part of the same system but much less well known. Not only did we see some lovely waterfalls and do some pretty strenuous hill hiking, I finally got to test out the waterproof qualities of my new jacket, purchased specially for the so-called rainy Northwest. Finally, the area lived up to its reputation, since it was drizzling during much of the hike. Not to mention, anyone will get a little damp standing this close to a 620 foot waterfall!

Of course, the Sockapaloooza sock (which had by now been to its third state) needed to emerge to see the sights as well.

Our long hikes generally end in the same way: we spend about the last hour talking about what kind of food we will want to eat when we're done hiking. Usually it's cheeseburgers (I get this bizarre craving for red meat when I've been out in nature--maybe its the hunter/gatherer thing kicking in), but at Multnomah Falls, hiking through the cool, damp greenery, we both wanted soup. French onion soup, to be specific. So what are the chances that the Multnomah Falls Lodge at the base of the waterfall would have exactly what we ordered? Pretty good, it turns out. We had a wonderful lunch (by the fireplace, which dried out our clothes quite nicely), with a bowl of soup, a basket of bread, and a terrific pint of Walking Stick Stout. Yum.

By this point, I was thoroughly ready to return to civilization, in the form of yarn shopping. For a city of its size, Portland has a really large number of good yarn shops, and Stephanie had given me a pretty good idea of which ones to go to and how to get to them. We drove downtown and spent the afternoon perusing shops.

First up was Knit Purl, a good sized yarn shop just outside of downtown. Lots of windows, bright displays, and a good selection of interesting yarns, some of which I hadn't seen in person before. The Alchemy yarns on display, particularly their silk yarns, were breathtaking. The store also had a great selection of sock yarns--I bought some Lorna's Laces, Koigu (the Koigu selection was really broad) and some Socks that Rock. Apparently I am now committed to being a sock knitter! The store was having a great sale on Addi Turbos, but of course I didn't have my needle inventory with me, so I passed on those. The salesperson at Knit Purl was really friendly and helpful, and there were lots of chairs for sitting and perusing their fairly extensive book selection. I could see why this was one of Stephanie's favorite shops!

We tried heading next to Knit Knot Studio in the Pearl District, but at that time the owner was taking a break and had closed the store. At first I was hesitant to return, but I'm glad I did take time to come back later in the afternoon. The owner was so nice and helpful when I explained that I was from out of town. She pointed out some of the unique yarns that I might not be able to find so easily back home. I ended up buying some gorgeous variegated 100% alpaca worsted weight in really subtle autumn colors--it'll end up being a hat for next fall and winter. I also picked up some Trekking XXL sock yarn in almost the same colors. The store itself is very small--it reminded me a lot of Circles yarn store outside Boston--but still pleasant, well organized, and easy to browse.

Also in the Pearl District was the brand-new Dublin Bay Knitting Company, which had just opened in January. I hate to say anything negative about the store, since it is so new, but the whole time I was there, I was asking myself how the store will survive. The yarn shop scene in Portland already seems like it's nearing saturation, and this new store seems like it's at a competitive disadvantage. It's right on the very edge of the Pearl District, not really near anything else, so people would have to make a special trip to go there. It's also got a huge square footage, but compared to the other yarn stores in the area, it's very dark--dark woods, not great lighting (also not good for really getting a good sense of yarn colors), and even though there were huge windows, the awnings in front didn't let in much natural light. The owner was also not very friendly--she just sat behind the counter and knitted the whole time I was there, not offering much help or asking questions even when I volunteered that I was out of town. What a huge contrast to Knit Knot Studio! Since Darren was already carrying bags from several yarn shops, it should have been evident that I (or he) was in the mood to spend money on yarn, but she didn't go out of her way to show me any of the special or unique yarns in stock. That being said, the store did have some lovely things. More Alchemy (drool, drool), some Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn. I was tempted, but I managed to leave without buying anything.

Finally, I made it to Lint. It's definitely the hippest shop we visited, with cool seating (great for browsing their pretty extensive book selection), really neat displays (they use things like old armoires and library card catalogs for storage and display), and a pretty eclectic mix of yarns. I almost picked up the Blue Sky cotton I wanted for a sweater for my sister, but by now I was seriously worried about the space in my luggage, so I resisted. Instead, I picked up two back issues of Interweave Knits and a Sushi Wallet kit from Pick Up Sticks. I confess, though, that I was a little disappointed by the customer service here as well. One of the salespeople was relatively friendly, but the store had a very cliquey feel. There were several young women (including the staff) sitting right near the register gossiping loudly and talking about who got drunkest at whose birthday party, etc. I guess if you're in the "in group," it's probably a fun place to go, hang out, and knit. But the atmosphere is certainly not very welcoming to outsiders! Plus they didn't have a very good sock yarn selection . . .

I was hoping to make it over to Stephanie's favorite yarn shop, the Yarn Garden in SE Portland (across the river), but by now our hosts were already waiting for us to go out to dinner, so I guess I'll have to save that for the next trip to Portland! Tomorrow I'll hopefully have a photo of all my new loot.

We did make it out to dinner, back in the Pearl District. The restaurant was very cool: a nuevo Peruvian restaurant called Andina. Since we didn't have reservations, we had to sit in the bar, but we weren't complaining; we still got a booth, we got to listen to live guitar music, and both the food and the service were outstanding. I also highly recommend the Pisco Sour, made with the traditional Peruvian grape brandy. Yummy. Can you tell that the food was one of the highlights of our trip?