Thursday, October 30, 2008

Surprise prezzie

I got a surprise package from my in-laws yesterday! I usually dislike surprises, but this was a really good one. It's The Joy of Knitting, by Lisa R Myers. She combines academic analysis of various knitting-related topics, knitting advice, and patterns. I'm only a little bit into the book, but it's so fun already!

The book is even autographed by the author, in 2003. My father-in-law found the book in a used-book store while traveling. I guess my used-book and knitting obsessions have been broadcast enough that other people look for used-knitting books for me!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Almost there!

Is there some sort of curse on knit-bloggers? It seems every day at least one of the knit bloggers I follow gets sick, has pain (especially in the wrists, no duh), or is complaining of some other chronic ailment. Well it's my turn today. Feeling under the weather, I felt justified in taking it easy today on work, and finishing up the torso of my Lush and Lacy cardi.

There was a lot of picking up stitches and ends to be woven in (I'm halfway done with the weaving, I just couldn't stand it anymore), but it's done! As you all know, I detest seaming, so I did the torso in one section, then closed the shoulders with 3-needle bind-off. Now I'm almost out of yarn, so the sleeves will have to wait until I make it to the yarn store. I'm planning to pick up stitches for the sleeves and knit them top-down, so I can try on the cardigan as I go. This will hopefully prevent the 3/4 sleeves from being regular sleeves on me. Hah! This is the smartest idea my foggy brain has thought all day.

I love the little pockets! I'm not sure what they can hold--maybe chapstick and and ipod, but they are so adorable just on their own! How fun would it be to carry around a little Korknisse in each pocket?
Correction: this is the smartest idea I've had all day.

The gauge is just a touch smaller than it's supposed to be, and I'm afraid that the sweater will gape in front if I just do the buttons at the top (see bottom pic of this post). I'm not a huge fan of the "cold-belly" look anyway. A zipper might be nice to hold everything together, but then I think of toggles and frog closures, and they sound way more fun. I dunno. What should I use to close this cardi?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm such a Lush!

Thanks to everyone for your comments and suggestions on choosing a snuggly cardi/coat! This really is the best knitting time in the year, and almost makes up for the dreariness of winter. With a long list in hand, I went to Knitty Couture.

For the Lush and Lacy Cardigan, I bought this Blue tweedy alpaca.

It's Alpaca with a Twist Highlander. In general, I'm not a huge fiber/yarn fiend--as long as the color is nice, the weight is right, and it's not itchy, I'm fine. I'm more of a techniques and finished objects kind of person. Until I knitted up this yarn. Holy smokes! This is the coziest yarn ever!

The fabric is very thick and sturdy, but still super soft. After swatching, I realized that this yarn is too heavy for the Lush, which needs more drape at this gauge.

Thankfully, I had bought some Dream in Color Classy to make another St James Top. I love this yarn, after making quite a few projects with it. It's definitely non-itchy, machine washable, and the colors are vibrant without being tacky. The color variegation is just right, so that plain stockinette stitch looks nubbly and interesting, without any weird blobs and bits of colors. (I do stick to the less variegated colorways though, so I can't speak for the wilder colorways).

Fortuitously, the gauge worked out, and so I got going with this yarn. I decided to knit Lush all in one piece up to the armholes, and I'm already halfway done with the torso! Check out the sweet little peplum and waistband on the back! Squee!

Even lace looks warm and cuddly in this yarn!

Now I just have to figure out which pattern I'll use for the alpaca, and go back for heaps more of it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Brrrr

It's a gray, rainy, dreary day today. Suddenly, I don't want to work on a silk lace shawl anymore. I want some nice thick snuggly yarn to knit a nice thick snuggly cardigan! It's been over a year since I knit a long-sleeved anything for myself (the Mrs Darcy Cardigan), and I've worn it twice, because there's such a boobage problem with the deep V-neck and narrow side panels. Both times I wore it, I sat hunched over and uncomfortable, and end up changing. It's time for a new cardi!

Of course, the devil is in the details. Ravelry has made it too easy to see everything that's out there, how every iteration of each pattern turned out, which yarns people used, and ooh, look at this other pattern the designer made! Ohh, a hoodie! Or pockets! Or a shawl collar!

Suffice it to say not much actual knitting has been accomplished. Here are the runners-up:

Feeling cold, I immediately thought of hoodies. The Central Park Hoodie, although I think is nice, is just too popular. This Yoga Branch Hoodie by Kirsten Hipsky (via WEBS Valley Yarns) is lovely, except the length, which is just the right length to make short legs look shorter. And the cable pattern, although nice on someone else, seems too celtic or something.

A Cardigan for Arwen by Kate Gilbert, is very popular, but it is just too un-shaped, and I'm having a hard time thinking of how it can be closed in the front. I love the two-sided cables though.

I've had Mariah, by Jodi Green, on my faves for a while, and it looks nice and toasty. But for some reason even the thin people who've made it look chunky around the middle.
Then I got to thinking that it's really cold and I should make a coat coat. I've had this Cozy Wrappy Sweater by christinabeena faved forever. Sadly, no pattern :(
Very similar in sillhouette is the ever popular Tilted Duster by the venerable Norah Gaughn. It looks so super on the model, but then when I look at the ones on real people on Ravelry, it looks slightly dishevelled and stretched, especially at the top.
I absolutely adore this Audrey coat, from Blue Sky Alpacas (Cheryl Nelson), but I don't think I could tolerate knitting that much for one project, especially since I already have a red fitted knee-length coat.

This (103-1 by DROPS design -- what a sexy name!) is something different and the tall neck looks so warm. Sadly, it's a bit boxy-looking, although I suppose waist shaping wouldn't be too hard. I really detest it when people wear long sleeves under a shorter sleeved thing though.
I LOVE the tall neck and yoke on this Eva Raglan Pull (Katya Blanchard), and despite the long-sleeve-under-short-sleeve problem, I thought it'd be the one, except with long sleeves. Then I found out it takes 3mm needles. Sigh. This project is not for the impatient.The Mod Squad Jacket, from the Toronto Knit Cafe has a nice tall neck too, but folds over to be more demure. Again, it's too boxy, and maybe a bit matronly. And the fabric looks suspiciously like all moss stitch, in which case I'd shoot myself.
Then I got obsessed with the 3/4 length sleeve options. Usually when I try on 3/4 length sleeve tops, they're regular length on me (same goes for capri pants), but the things that are truly 3/4 length make me feel so willowy-limbed. I've had my eye on Flair by Wendy Bernard (Knit & Tonic) for a while. It's just a little too flared (?flaired) though. I like stuff that goes in at the waist, if you haven't noticed yet.
Holly Jacket, by Theresa Shabes, from Interweave Knits, is similar, but with more shaping. But this doesn't seem particularly warm. I dunno, maybe I should do separate projects for a 3/4 sleeve cardi, and for a sturdy coat? I probably can't have my cake and eat it too, at least all at once.

Which made me eventually make my way back to the only cardi on my Ravelry queue: Lush and Lacy Cardigan, by Sweaterbabe.

How cute is this! I love all the details, including the cute little pockets! Then I saw that the gauge is four stitches per inch. SOLD!

So this is going to be my indoor cardi, but I still need to figure out what my outdoor cardi/coat is going to be. What should I knit?

Monday, October 20, 2008

FO: Flower scarf


I finally got the hang of knitting (and purling) continental (continentally?), and this scarf was done in a jiffy. My gauge started out normal when I was knitting regular/English for the first few rows, then when I switched to continental it was really loose, then got tighter and tighter, so by the end it was almost the same as the beginning. The whole thing is a bit wonky, but since the ends are gathered and squished, it's hard to tell.

The yarn is Jojoland melody superwash, leftover from these Knotty or Knice socks. I like this yarn much more knitted loosely like this--the different colored plies are actually visible, and the color changes are much nicer.

How cute is the little flower! The little ball on the other end wraps around and becomes the "pollen" in the flower, and holds the scarf together. I was hoping to be on a different color of the yarn by the time I got to the ball, but I had gone full circle through all of the colors and was back to the same color as the flower. Har! The ball is stuffed with half a cotton ball, and the white unfortunately shows through. Next time I'd change to small needles for the ball part.







The scarf is really warm, and since it's so little, I can carry it around more easily than a regular bulky scarf. The pattern is Flower Scarf (free Ravelry pattern), by Robyn Diliberto (MakeOne in Ravelry). The only mods I made were 1) using US size 4 needles instead of size 5, since I knew I'd be a loose, continental woman, and 2) knitting the ball continuously with the main scarf, instead of sewing it on separately. Otherwise, it's an easy, well-written, cute, instantly-gratifying pattern, and I'm totally up for making another one! The designer is from the St Louis and shops at the same LYS (Kirkwood Knittery), so maybe I'll run into her one day!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Continental ribbing

Ribbing is the absolute pits. In fact, it's my least favorite thing about knitting. It's such a PITA to move the yarn back and forth every stitch! For years, I've grumbled along, doing the minimum ribbing possible, and avoiding seed/moss/basketweave stitch and anything that even remotely sounds like ribbing. Which is why it's time to grow up and learn "continental" knitting. Since the yarn is held on the left in continental, the yarn doesn't have to be moved back and forth between every stitch, it's just "picked" from either direction. I've known how to knit continental for years, but never could get the purl correct, and I couldn't figure out how to keep tension in the yarn. (Unlike most knitters, I don't wrap the yarn around my fingers to control the tension, I just grip it in my hand).

Well enough is enough, and I decided I'd force myself to learn continental, not just for the ribbing, but also so that I can start fair isle and double knitting. Flower Scarf (free Ravelry pattern, by Robyn Diliberto) is a sweet little pattern that looks very forgiving, since it's in fishermans' rib and any aberrations in tension will be hard to spot in such a "squishy" stitch. Then I watched the knittinghelp video on Youtube--so awesome! I had been wrapping the yarn around my pinky and index fingers in the same direction, which is actually pretty stupid because the yarn just gets tighter and tighter until the blood circulation gets cut off. Oh, and I'd been twisting all of my purl stitches. So the video was a nice enlightening smack on the head, and I fixed the two problems, and--presto--look how much I've done already!

Unfortunately my gauge is a LOT looser in continental (I had started a few rows in regular knitting, before switching, and you can see where the gauge changes even in the picture), but otherwise this is like magic! I'll never give up regular/English knitting for the bulk of my knitting, but this whole continental ribbing thing is super!

In other news, it's officially cold in St Louis. I even wore my toe socks today, hee!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Taos shawl

I have been writing for the past couple weeks. It's not blog writing, email writing, or patients' chart writing, which is all I've done for the past few years. I'm applying for a research grant, which means I have to write in full sentences, make sense, and avoid exclamation points. Holy mole! The good part is, all of this constant concentrating has turned me into an incredibly deep sleeper, and who knew how refreshing sleep could be?

Meanwhile, some knitting has been accomplished. The presidential debates are long and kind of boring enough that I can pretend to be an informed citizen, but really just get some knitting done. After this hot tranny mess of a shawl attempt:

I started the North Roe Shawl (free pattern via Ravelry), by Dodile. Since this yarn is my souvenir from Taos, this will be my Taos Shawl.

The leaves will become more open, and eventually become a very hole-y border. There's no picking up stitches or anything nasty like that, thankfully. I'm using my wonderful double decrease method, and I'm loving how all the stitches in each leaf "stem" are different colors.

Perhaps this isn't the most autumnal project, but it's never a bad time for a silk lace shawl!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

FO: Green Gauntlets

These were really fast! I have not been knitting much for the past week or two, but these really flew off the needles.


The pattern is Swirling Gauntlets, by Susanna IC. It's a very easy pattern, that is written to be knitted in the round or flat. The cabling is symmetric, and there is a whole chart for each gauntlet. The cable pattern is nicer when worn/stretched out.

The yarn is Rowan Bamboo Soft, which is a very soft and cuddly 100% bamboo DK weight yarn. It was part of the Yoga Swap package I got from LittleMii (She blogs at Let's Knit, a UK knitting mag, which has some super cute patterns!). Needles were US size 4.

Each gauntlet used about half of a 50g ball, but I can't be sure because my awesome futuristic scale is broken! The battery died, and since it's one of those funky quarter-shaped ones, I had to go to a few stores before I found a new one. Last night I put it in the scale, and the scale won't turn on! My usual fix-it scheme (remove battery, blow to remove imaginary dust, replace battery) did not work. And yes, I checked that I put in the NEW battery, and that it is placed in the right direction. All of the accessible parts seem to be working ok. This is a new scale (less than a year old), and it has been used exclusively for weighing yarn, so it's hard to believe it's broken already! If I can track down the manufacturer I'll try to get a replacement or refund.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Award!

Yay! Mooncalf sent me this blog award. This is my first blog award ever! So I'm really excited, although I'm not quite sure what it's for. (The original blog is in Spanish, and the only Spanish I know is gracias, mundo, chica, and mano).

Here are the rules

1.) Show the award. Link back to the blog that gave you the award.

2) Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award because of creativity, design, interesting material, and contributions to the blogger community, no matter of language, and link to them.

3) Leave comments on the blogs to let them know you've given them an award.

4) Show the link to the Arte y Pico blog , so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) Show these rules.

Here are my picks, in no particular order:

Knitting Contessa (Tina) is one of the few knit bloggers I know in real life. Not only does she knit and quilt some amazing objets, she's a hoot to have around! I have finagled her into sewing me a work bag, and I'm so excited!

Love, Granny knits lots of lovely things, and pays attention to fashion for the rest of us. She has a really cute dog Frankie, and her photos are fabulous.

Feather and Fan (Orata) is incredibly prolific, in knitting and writing. She always has something gorgeous on the needles!

Green Apples does amazing things with color, in knitting and interior design. I'm going to hire her to paint my next house.

Yarn Over (Rachel) has the blog name (yo) that I wanted. More importantly, she does a ton of knitting and housekeeping (she grows and cans her own produce!) with aplomb, despite what seems to be a few dozen kids swarming around. :)

Gracias Mooncalf! I wave to you chica across the mundo with my mano!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

You should be in pictures

I've been working and studying hard, and have not had time to knit very much. But I was so inspired by Canaryknits' Swirling Gauntlets (pattern by Susanna IC), that I had to start on a pair. Thankfully today I had a long wait in the dentist's waiting room, and was able to bind off one of them. I thought the color really popped on my neurology book:

My sis tells me my blog photography leaves much to be desired. Maybe my little point-and-shoot Olympus FE-230 isn't quite up to snuff. I'm considering getting a "real" camera, but I have no idea where to start.

VeganYumYum posted this fantastic overview of blog photography--she blogs about (very good-looking) food, but I figure a lot of it applies to knitting, since it is all about close-up yummy stuff. It would be nice to be able to, oh, focus on certain parts of the picture, instead of having the camera guess what I'm doing. I'm considering taking a class. Alicia Paulson/Posie gets Cozy has been blogging about her photography class (which I don't really get because her photos were just fine to start with), and I guess there is a lot to learn!

So, dear readers, any good suggestions for a starter camera? Something that's small, but can be built up as I figure out what I'm doing?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fishy FAIL

Thanks everyone for all the lovely comments on my socks! But I think no more socks for a while, as I've had my fill. Even DH, who is slightly embarrassed about my knitting, told me I shouldn't knit socks anymore, "because no one can see them!" So I cast on for a shawl, with the Quail yarn (Yarns Handpainted in Sedona by Mary Gavan--talk about a concise name) from my New Mexico trip.

I was really keen on using this stitch in a shawl:


It's Shower Stitch in Barbara Walker's First Treasury. I started a shawl at the neck, growing down and out (sort of like all those triangular shawls, except without the line in the midle), with the hope that it would end up a big half-moon, and the pattern would look like fish scales or roof tiles (since the pattern would be upside-down).

A brief digression on the fish scales thing. Does everyone hate that Betty Page wannabe on Project Runway or what? "It's supposed to look like fish scales." Ugh. I think the producers keep her around because she's easy on the eyes, and makes for juicy tv in this, the worst season of PR ever. And I'm so glad I got rid of all but basic cable, because there's no way in hell I'd follow this shite to Lifetime! End digression.

I charted out the pattern, with increases on both sides, and got going. I've done 3 repeats, and it looks atrocious:

I thought maybe it was me, and asked DH if he saw a pattern. To his credit, after some consideration, he said, "Well, some parts have big holes and other parts are denser." I asked whether he saw any rounded shapes. "Um, no, just the holes." Oh lordy, it looks like a pile of Emmentaler! (Which, appropriately enough, smells like poo.) I think this yarn and lace pattern need a much smaller needle size, and at this gauge it's just a big holey net all tangled and yucked up by a catch of, erm, fish.

However, there is no optimist like the knitter surfing around on Ravelry for patterns, and now I'm going to make this fantastic North Roe shawl, by Dodile! Let someone else do the math! No seriously, more people need to write patterns that don't require seaming, picking up stitches, and other such nonsense...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

FO: Knotty or knice socks


Done at last! Well, actually, they are a bit short but I couldn't bear to do another repeat of this very tedious pattern. There was lots of cabling, on every row of the "knots" part of the pattern, with all the knit stitches being twisted. Then I'd get confused and twist some of the plain knit stitches in the "columns" between the cables, aak! I'm happy with how they turned out, but wasn't too happy with the process.

The pattern is Knotty or Knice, by Chrissy Gardiner, from the Interweave Knits Fall 2008 issue (Ravelry link). Modifications included 1) Making the toe part in my own stumpy way, 2) continuing at 68 stitches past the heel, 3) stopping after 3 pattern repeats past the heel, and 4) doing 1x1 rib and suspended bind-off at the end. The pattern calls for just binding off without any ribbing, with a yarn-over-bind-off that was new to me. It just seemed like the socks wouldn't stay up, so despite my hatred of 1x1 rib, I did eight whole rows.

The yarn is Jojoland Melody Superwash, which has three variegated strands twisted together. I love the colorway, and I was kind of bummed that the three different strands are hard to see when the yarn is knitted up. You have to get really close:


I used US size 1 needles (thanks, Tina!) magic-looped, both socks at the same time. I have plenty of yarn leftover, probably about half of each ball, but since my scale battery died it's hard to tell. This yarn is very soft and non-itchy, so maybe the remainders will be turned into a hat. My only complaint about this yarn is that excess fuzz collects in a ring around the yarn, and has to be cut off once in a while. Other than that, this yarn is a delight, especially how the colors gradually change--very cool!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

New Mexico

I should tell you about my New Mexico trip before it's too late. We started in Albuquerque, visiting DH's old haunts. We stayed one night at the Montery Non-smokers Motel, to get into the Route-66-driving-tourist kind of mood. The best part was the neon sign, which is retro-cool.

Well that, and the fact that things did not stink like cigarette smoke! (Ask me another day about the time I mistakenly stayed about Congress Airport Inn in St Louis, quite possibly the Most Disgusting Place On Earth. By "congress," they are not referring to the branch of government.) There was also a cute lil daschound named Gustav, who was too squirmy for me to get a picture.

The shopping in Albuquerque was rather dull--if you can believe it, lots of turquoise--except for this fake sheep/goat/churro lineup. Very expensive and strange.

The highlight of the driving portion of the vacatino was the Turquoise Trail, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The sky is ten times bigger out there!

We made our way to Santa Fe, where we stayed at the best B&B ever, the Madeleine Inn.

The food (afteroon wine hour and breakfast) is marvellous, the rooms are gorgeous, the location is fantastic (walkable to everything), and the service is impeccable. The innkeeper giving us the tour apologized when he had to excuse himself to take freshly-baked cookies out of the oven! Seriously, some people... The gardens are absolutely amazing, especially considering that this is the desert.

They are also very eco-friendly, with their custom-made toiletries in dispensers (rather than little plastic bottles), recycling bins (seriously, how hard is it for other hotels/B&B's to do this?), gray-water-fed gardens, and so on. Unfortunately we didn't have the time to take advantage of their world-renowned spa (Absolute Nirvana Spa).

The BEST part of Santa Fe was the Nicholas Potter Bookseller, which is one of the best bookshops EVER (and believe me, I've looked.)

Such bliss! I did look for some knitterly books to show off here, and while there were many books on weaving, only one was really about yarn/knitting.

Since I don't spin or dye yarn--not because I don't want to, but because I'd have to give up my doctorly day job--I didn't get it, but I did get a whole lot of books. Suffice it to say that we bought enough books that 1) they had to be shipped, and 2) the proprietor volunteered to ship them for free!

We also went to The Needle's Eye yarn store in Santa Fe. Then we made our way to Taos. On the way, we passed Camel Rock. Then a few minutes later, a very camel-rock-like cloud appeared. Cool, eh?











Taos was stunning. We stayed at the Old Taos Guesthouse, which is a lovely B&B on a large property. There are happy chickens who produce the eggs for breakfast,

and spectacular sunsets.

It is a little bit out of town, very quiet, and exactly what I needed.

After the most peaceful sleep I'd had in years, and then a lovely visit to The Yarn Shop, we made our way south again. The drive to Los Alamos

was a lot more fun than the actual town. Granted, we didn't actually go to the National Laboratories (which would have been overwhelmingly fun for our dorky sciency hearts), but the rest of the town was so disturbingly bland, like it could be in Vermont, Indiana, California, or a movie set for for the movie Boring Town. I was pleased to find that the shop for the Bradbury museum had a surprisingly large knitting book selection.

During the drive, I had lost my cable needle while knitting/driving-from-the-passenger-seat more than once, so I bought a magnetic rock, onto which I could stick my cable needle. Of course, I foolishly didn't realize that my aluminum cable needle is not ferromagnetic. Ha!

We passed this fantastic sign painted on the side of a building on the way back:
Obamanos!! No matter your political inclination, you've got to admit that sign is awesome!

Back in Albuquerque, we stayed at the Hotel Blue, which is this super-adorable-chic art deco hotel! They have cookies and free wi-fi too!

We rushed back for the first presidential debate, hoping there would be a TV in the room. So we were very excited to find two! I guess they are in the middle of switching regular TVs for flat-screens.

During this entire trip, we had been trying all sorts of restaurants, trying to find some good New Mexican food. We went to the 1) local-recommended, 2) too-expensive, 3) best rank on tripadvisor, ) best on urbanspon, 5) hole in the wall which surely has good burritos (not), 6) one with the long line, and so on and on and on. All very disappointing. Granted, my love of spicy food is a bit extreme, but my opinion is that if you're going to hang bunches of chiles for decoration, you'd better make sure the food has some mofo flavor! Finally, the night before we left, we hit the jackpot (at my in-laws' suggestion). Cervantes, in Albuquerque, has the BEST food. It was heavenly.

This is my already-half-eaten burrito. I apologize for the terrible picture, but believe me, it is worth the strip-search at the airport, airsickness, white-knuckled driving, gas $, surviving-other eateries'-shite-food, etc, just to eat here!

It's amazing what a few days away will do for one's psyche. I feel like a new woman!