Sunday, February 28, 2010

FO: Ravelympics re-knit

My Ravelympics effort this year has been mediocre at best. My first "event" was the Aerial Unwind, which is just frogging a project and easy-peasy, but I thought I should actually re-knit this Leaf Yoke top so that it fits. This has been done for a week, but it took a while to get a picture.

The pattern itself is written with the armholes too big, so I fixed that. Also my gauge was over-the-moon-waaaay off, so I re-calculated all the shaping. Then I figured that while I was at it, I should just do the shaping how I want, dust barts and all, instead of the simple waist shaping in the pattern. So that's what I did, and it's great! Now it's a well-fitting top I will actually wear, instead of a huge boat cover (as Tina would say) just taking up space in the wardrobe.

The second Ravelympics project was for a designer event. I was going to knit another sample for, and write up, the Akimbo top. Alas, I have been distracted by two secret projects--shhhh--and never even started it!

It's fun being a doubly secret squirrel! Hee hee hee.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

FO: Aphrodite

At long last, Aphrodite is done, and the weather cooperated for some photographic evidence! It's in the mid-50's today, which is balmy and practially tropical after weeks of snowstorms and clouds. So of course, it's totally appropriate to go out sleeveless with a summer-weight shawl.

This pattern, by Sivia Harding, was on the cover of the summer 2009 issue of Twist, and I salivated for months over the three-panel design and the beading. Oooh, beading! Clear and excellent directions for beading were included in the pattern, and alone are worth the cost of the pattern. The long beading rows near the end got pretty tedious, so it's too bad the silvery beads don't stand out against the same-color yarn. Phooey--lesson learned for next time!

I used just over a skein of Knitpicks Shimmer in Cumulus, which I also used for Mermaid. It's a dreamy-soft combo of alpaca and silk, blocks out beautifully, and is an all-round great shawl yarn. I used US 3 needles as directed in the pattern, actually 2 pairs of them, since the first pair was vandalized by airport security. Despite heavy-duty blocking, and doing an extra repeat of the main lace, the shawl still turned out a bit small. It is 10.5 inches down the back, 12 inches along the diagonals, and 14" along the front. The size works out fine since I'm a bit small too, but the taller knitters out there should be aware.

The only other change I made was leaving out a couple rows of the diagonal seam lace chart (rows 27-28) the second and third time through, to match the numbers more easily with the main panel lace. Otherwise, this pattern was very well written and just plain satisfying to knit up. Overall, a big LOVE and squee for this Aphrodite!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Failishness

A pall of failishness has fallen on the knitting these days. The honeybee cardi had to be scrapped because despite swatching, somehow my gauge is way off. My horizontal (stitch) gauge is bang-on, but my vertical (row) gauge in the honeybee pattern is crazy wrong. And for those of you about to say, no worries, it'll block out: Each 6-row repeat is supposed to be 1.5 inches, and it's only 1 inch, and if I pull super-hard and pin it out, then it's 1.125 inches. Sigh. For most of the sweater it shouldn't be an issue because it's knit straight up and I can just go as long as needed, but the sleeves are seamless set-in sleeves, and who knows what could happen if the row gauge is off by 50%? A lot of badness, that's what. So although I am loving how this yarn looks in this lace pattern, sadly it will all (including 2" of ribbing, oh tragedy) need to be frogged.

I bought lots of yarn to test-knit a darling cardi (Un peu de chance) by Marie Adeline. Lots of pretty superwash wool DK yarn. Then I read the instructions, and realized that it's knit in the round and then steeked. Oops. Superwash ≠ steeking. I guess I'd better get some new yarn.

The Aphrodite shawl, which really took forever and a day to knit, finally came off the needles, and it blocked out like a dream. I was all psyched about taking FO pictures outside today, because the beading doesn't show well indoors, and even put it on my dorky schedule/todo list. Well, here's how it looks outside.

So, there are no FO pictures today, which is sort of the risk one takes by knitting a summer shawlette  in the dead of winter.

Hopefully Ravelympics, nerdy name and all, can save me from all this knitting failishness. I signed up for 2 events, even though I don't have TV and won't actually be watching the olympics, heh. The first event is the Aerial Unwind event, which is pretty easy--all it is is frogging a prior project. Since the Ravelympics are supposed to be for a challenging project, I thought I'd then knit up the frogged yarn too. I've been meaning to frog and re-knit a few things, including this Leaf Yoke top, which is a great design but the armholes are too big.

Also, my gauge changed mid-project, and the whole thing ended up huge. I pinned it to see how much I'd have to alter it. It's 4-6" too wide throughout, sags too low in the bust shaping, but then the whole top is too short. It was not happy in this incarnation.

So I frogged--whee!!--down to the circular yoke. This yarn (Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Cotton) frogged well without fuzzing everywhere.

It was so much fun I was inspired to recalculate all the shaping, and actually knit back down past the waist!

Hopefully this will be a quick Ravelympics medal for Team Buttercream (organized by Julie of Knitted Bliss)!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

yoel in yucatan

Forgive me, not many things start with Y and it's so much fun to alliterate! The weather may be nasty here in the states, but our neighboring country is balmy and pleasant, even when it rains. The bulk of the recent trip was in Tulum, which is about a 2 hour bus ride south of Cancun. A quick aside about Mexican buses. Holy mole are they nice! You can purchase an actual numbered seat on a bus, which arrives and departs on time, is clean, comfy, and offers coffee on board! And plays fun movies which are double extra fun because they're dubbed in Spanish. It was such an unexpected and efficient (among my highest praises) treat, and it put the greyhound/public-transportation-in-general in the US to utter shame. Oh, and it was super-cheap, even for the "first class" ADO bus. I'd move to Mexico for the buses alone.

We stayed in the town of Tulum, rather than Tulum beach, because the beach places are either all-inclusive dealios where you don't leave the Compound (plus all-inclusive is a big ole rip-off for vegetarians), or "eco-friendly" (cough cough) cabanas on the beach with 'squitos and vagrants a-hovering. The big draw of the town are the Mayan ruins, which are built right on the beach (see last post for pic too).

These are very well-maintained, but unfortunately one can't go inside the buildings. Unless one is an iguana.

You can walk straight down from the ruins down some steps to the beach. We decided to walk 5-10 minutes south to a less crowded beach. The beach in Tulum is wonderful. There are no crowds, no icky seaweed/crustaceans (there is a reef closeby), no rocks--just lots of clean sand and shallow warm water for a long wade out. Random games of football (soccer) pop up between apparently semi-professional players on the beach. I don't know who made this gigantic sand city, but isn't it awesome? It's like 6 feet tall!

Just kidding, it's a foot or so. Heh heh.

There weren't any knitting stores or indie bookshops (usually top priorities on vacation), so the bulk of the focus was on food. I heart breakfast, if it's like this, and eaten at brunchtime! Yummy huevos rancheros.

The food was surprisingly unspicy, but apparently that is the Yucatec style. Lunch was always bread and fruit. It's all nonorganic-white-bread-with-refined-sugar crapola, but man oh man that was some good stuff at the bakery (The dollar sign is pesos, not dollars, btw).

The fruit was excellent too, although I forgot to take a picture of all the sweet little fruit/veggie shops. The juices are freshly-squeezed, and the jugos and various juice-based beverages were all fab. The only exception is margaritas, which are made out of hideous bottled mix, except at one place called Balche. The bartender squeezed 4-5 limes in front of me for this one (margarita on the left; mojito on the right).

We took a day trip (by bus of course) to Coba, which are more Mayan ruins, but in the jungle. It's actually dozens of settlements spread through a huge jungly area. The highlight was El Castillo, which is the highest Mayan building in the Yucatan (including Chichen Itza). People look like little ants climbing up.

Here I am almost at the top.

Hopefully this video of the view from the top will play. It got kinda blurry in compression, but if you look carefully you can see random other Mayan buildings peeking through the jungle canopy. Do NOT play if you are afraid of heights.


It's cool happening upon ancient buildings hidden amongst crazy jungle trees.

We didn't have enough time to go to the Sian Kaan biosphere reserve, which one enters by boat along canals dug by the Mayans, or to Cenotes, which are freshwater springs/lakes inside caves. That's for next time!

The last night was spent in Cancun, which was embarrassingly touristy and tacky, and just like Vegas except on the beach. DH ordered coffee with dinner here which unexpectedly came with a whole fire-pouring extravaganza, which, despite my usual desire to avoid anything of the sort, was actually pretty enjoyable.

I am not a morning person, and never get to see the sunrise, particularly over the ocean from a hotel room balcony, unless I have to catch a flight (and get my knitting needles ravaged in the process). Yay for vacations.

Friday, February 5, 2010

$%^&*

What a dreary day, coming from this

to a sleety, soggy St Louis. I took the subway instead of a cab, and walked another 5 blocks in the sleet home. Of course, on the way to Mexico, it seemed like a great idea not to wear/pack/have to lug a winter coat. So it was a little shawl, a 3/4 length top, and gumption, that got me home. But really, it was not all that bad compared to the process of coming home.

Act 1: Weary traveler (WT) in front of me and Security lady (SL) in Cancun have an exchange after WT's purse goes through the xray...
SL: You have scissors in your bag. Show me.
WT: [baffled] I don't have any scissors
SL: [starts digging through purse] You have scissors?
WT: I don't have any scissors
SL: [more digging] Show me the scissors?
WT: I don't have any scissors!
SL: [more digging in other pockets--how many pockets are in this purse OMG!!?!] You have scissors in your bag
WT: I really don't have any scissors!!
SL: You have scissors
WT: I don't have scissors. You can just dump it all out, really, I don't have any scissors.
ad nauseum, with more digging around in a Mary Poppins'-level complex purse with multiple pockets and zippered compartments and tunnels...
At last, SL finds something that looks like it has scissor handles but is clearly NOT scissors.
SL: [smugly] You have scissors!
WT: [blushing] Oh, I forgot about those, those are toenail clippers, for my cat
SL: You can't take scissors on the plane
WT: They're not scissors! They're tonail clippers.
SL: You have scissors!
WT: Fine, I don't want them anyway, you can take them.
SL super-smugly throws "scissors" into trash bin. WT walks away, crying silently inside about her cat's untrimmed toenails.

Act 2: The plastic bin with my purse has also been set aside for extra scrutiny.
SL: You have knitting needles?
Me: Yes! [Why am I so stupid thinking that she is expressing interest in hobbies and not about to do a horrible, heart-wrenching thing?]
SL: Ok, show me. [Btw, this lady needs to move to Missouri, with all her "show me's"]
Me: [Pulling out an almost-finished Aphrodite in ziploc bag] Here it is, see?
SL: You can't take knitting needles.
Me: [On the inside yelling "$%^&*()(*&^%$%^&!!!!!" but on the outside very calm and cooperative] Really?
SL: [Pulling the shawl out, dragging the yarn everywhere, and pulling out the impossible-to-find teeny-tiny crochet hook too] You can't take knitting needles.
Me: [Scared shitless because I don't want to go to Guantanamo or some mexican prison because of knitting. Thank god the last row was an all-knit row, so the loose stitches will be easy to pick up.] Ok. I can take it off the needles. [I start sliding the stitches off the very nice Addi circs that are supposed to last a lifetime if you take good care of them. Still cursing up a storm inside, I sense this is not an appropriate time to instruct someone about the difference between knitting and crochet needles.]
SL: [decides this is going to be too slow, or is just not awful enough] Wait...
Me: [with hope--stupid stupid!] What? Ok.
SL: [Walks over to giant trash bin, retrieves cat-toe-nail clippers, walks back, and makes two quick snips.] You can't take knitting needles. [Takes the two cut-off Addis, teeny crochet hook, a now-very-useful toenail-clipper, and tosses them all into the trash.]

I don't think I said anything after that. Poor needles:

Act 3: We use up remaining pesos at the duty-free shop to buy 2 wee bottles of hot sauce. We are livin' wiiiiild! Flight #1 into Texas is uneventful. We are given suspicious looks because apparently DH doesn't look enough like his passport photo, then we are waved through. Then we get all nervous because hot sauce might be "plant materials" that are contraband. With thudding hearts, we declare our purchases. Whew! Hooray! Hot sauce is a-ok!

But lo and behold--we get to go through security again! Thank goodness we didn't check bags, because it would take forever to retrieve and re-check them. Or so we think. Apparently, not checking bags makes one get singled out for a security nightmare. The fact that I am a tiny female goody two shoes with no interest in violence, drugs, or breaking any rules at all (except using dangerous pointy sticks, such as knitting needles and pencils), doesn't outweigh the giant neon sign on my forehead saying "GUILTY" visible only to airport security people. My backpack sets off some sort of chemical voodoo alert, and we are taken aside for questioning and search. The Texan security guard takes every single item out and wipes everything and the inside of the bag with several wet-nap sort of things. All the wet naps go into a special machine, sort of like a fancy diaper genie thing, and it beeps. So now he really starts digging through, making quasi-jokes about explosives, asking if we have been near pesticide. Um...no. We walked through jungly areas at Mayan ruins, but hopefully there wasn't any pesticide there, 'cause that would be sad. A banana did get squashed in the bag, and we faithfully report this, but he tells us that wouldn't cause the chemical smackdown alert. He keeps asking about pesticide, as though if he asks one more time we'll remember how the other day we went on the excursion to coca fields, along with this exact backpack.

We foolishly, foolishly bought a coffee mug, which was wrapped by the shopkeeper with newspaper and a ton of tape. This is a source of much suspicion. He unwraps the whole thing, inspects the mug, the newspaper, the tape, while looking at us like evil pesticide-explosive-smugglers. He has obviously never sold tchotkes, because he can't re-wrap the cup. We helpfully say that he can throw out the newspaper-tape bundle, to which he replies that he can't because it might be explosive, as well as the cup. (Apparently it is ok to take the possibly-explosive cup/wrapping onto the plane!) And I jokingly observe aloud the ridiculousness of the notion of my learning to pot, so I can make a single explosive coffee mug. ^&*^%$^&%!! I kick myself inside, because I used the word "pot," and now he is looking at all the other contents of the bag with even more vigor. He opens the DVD case for Dewey Cox. He unfurls the inflatable travel neck pillow. He flips through the 2 books borrowed from the St Louis library. He looks at the bajillion power cords and cables we brought, and wipes each one again with the magical wet-nap of doom. He feels up the backpack and every layer of fabric within it. I start to make a joke about this but then decide there has been enough joking for the day, and just silently thank the stars that I'm not transporting pesticide or explosive mugs, or dirty underwear. Then there is a pat-down for each of us because the machine beeped earlier. Human contact is great and all, but a pat-down at the airport is not very nice. Finally, at last, we are cleared of suspicion of transporting pesticides or bombs (and why would they set off the same alarm anyway? I am so going organic all the way now), and run to catch flight #2.

Flight #2 was boring, because one can't knit without needles. As the plane descends, the clouds reach all the way to the ground, and wet snow swirls everywhere, but it all doesn't seem so bad to have to trudge through the shittiness, after almost going to jail twice today. So until the next trip...I'm never traveling again!

That's the long story about why Aphrodite isn't done yet. Next time, happy pictures from Mexico!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tulum

The week before vacation is always the busiest, hence the unintended blog silence. Thank you to everyone who has downloaded Bougainvillea so far!!

I'm in Tulum, Mexico, for the annual seasonal-affective-disorder-prophylaxis February trip. Of course, as planned, it is raining. Thankfully, it is warm and colorful.

Packing at 1am, it was way too hard deciding which knitting to bring. I'm a wee bit into the Honeybee cardi by Laura Chau (cosmicpluto knits), and while I was sorely tempted to bring it, I decided that bringing 5 balls of yarn is antithetical to packing light, even if they are fingering weight.

So Aphrodite came along instead. It was rather complicated knitting with an open tube of beads and crochet hook on the plane/bus, but it all worked out and quite a bit more of the shawl has been knitted up. Only 5-6 beads absconded for the floor/seat crevices, so we'll doing well so far. Maybe I'll even finish and block here!