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May 31, 2005

Please explain

Can someone please explain what's happening to me? First, I started buying yarn without a project in mind. Granted, this happened only once and it was my beloved (beeeeluuuuved) Louet, which has a wonderfully adaptable gauge and this way of morphing into projects in my mind. Okay, never mind, that's not so weird. Then it was starting new projects before finishing old ones. In fact, I'm working on three right now: the Adrienne Vittadini sweater, the lilac lace scarf, and the textured rose scarf. But considering the AV sweater is almost done, the textured rose scarf is permanently on hold (she didn't give me b-day present, so why should I knit her a scarf?), I'm almost down to one. Alright, this isn't so weird.

But trust me, there's a point to this post. The dreaded AV sleeve is.... I'm blanking on any adjectives other than "dreaded" and which won't make you blush in front of your kids. I need my mouth and my brain washed out with soap until the skin is raw. You know how Diana cut the sleeve of her sweater because it was too long ? I imagine doing that to the AV sleeve, except for no reason, in more than one place, without picking up the stitches and binding off, and then laughing the evil laugh, mwahahahaha! So, I hid all my scissors. And knives. Even the butter knives, which don't cut for shit. In the meantime, my antagonism towards the AV sleeve has been expressed in the following completely atypical behaviors:

  • I only haphazardly consult my pattern rewrite. As a result, I sometimes forget to increase when I'm supposed to.
  • When I forget to increase in the proper row, I don't frog. Instead, I make up the increases when I realize my mistake.
  • In the first sleeve, I k2tog at the right edge and SSK at the left. About 6 rows into the decrease section of the second sleeve, I realized that I'd reversed which decrease happens at which edge. I did not frog, nor did I correct myself for the remainder of the decrease section. Who the hell is going to notice?!?

Oh, and can we talk about the yarn for a second? Diana (yes, the same one who cut her sweater's sleeve) asked if I would use this yarn again. NO. Hell no. Hell-O no. For starters, I will not use the Hollyberry color for any project again because it has a wonderful tendency to bleed. (Note: the bleeding is color-specific: the Petal color (Pepto-Bismol pink) doesn't bleed, which is good) All the Merino Style yarns, however, are too soft. They would make great scarves and hats, but they are not meant to become sweaters. Frogging is absolutely impossible: the yarn comes out fuzzy, misshapen, kinked, worn, and it doesn't bounce back if washed. In fact, washing just wears out the yarn to some sort of half-fuzzy, half-disintegrated nightmare. The bottom line: this yarn is too soft to be sweater material.

And I wish I could say that there's a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, or at least some pot to appease my next-door neighbors (I may have cursed at them, but that's a story for my personal blog), but I'm afraid there isn't. I basted the first sleeve to the body of the sweater and tried it on. While I'm very happy with how it looks in my shoulder area (always a problem, I have tiny shoulders), it is very loose throughout the arm, creating unsightly wrinkles around my armpits:


I think it's meant to be all bell-shaped and blouse-like, but I'm NOT digging it. At all. DON'T EVEN POINT OUT THAT THIS IS HOW IT LOOKS ON THE MANNEQUIN. Don't.

With the magic of some more backstitch, I left the upper part of the sweater as is, and "took in" some of the lower sleeve to simulate what it would look like were it more like a sweater sleeve, and less like a blouse sleeve:


(the bell sleeves are still there, just bulked up by my backstitching an entire pattern repeat)

This would be fantabulous. This would involve knitting new sleeves and perhaps an elbow replacement. This would involve a weekly visit to the therapist and the continuation of bitching on this here blog. And most importantly, this would involve buying more yarn (as I mentioned, frogging this yarn is a total mess) and praying to all the holy things that the dye lots look similar.

@^#&%!-*@*%@*% piece of #(%!

Posted by Kathy at 01:36 AM | Comments (14)

May 30, 2005

Really, no comment

Am I the last person on the planet to notice that Knitty published the surprise patterns? Can I just say that the first should come with a warning, because I innocently opened it at work, and I really should've waited to be in the privacy of my own apartment. The second... I am not sure I have a comment.

I'm this close to taking knitty.com off my links bar.

Posted by Kathy at 03:47 PM | Comments (13)

May 28, 2005

Favorite bird?

My brain is hyper-organized today (means there are lots of things going on). I will talk about 4 things today, and I'm listing them so I don't forget:

  • Lou

  • Tahki letter

  • Trip to Grafton

  • SP5

I've been admiring Lou's Lattice Lace shawl (self-designed) for a while now. She's given instructions and charts all along, but now she's put together all the information into a pattern book I liked on the Tahki Stacy Charles website, and decided to order it. I mailed my check about a week ago, and just yesterday I saw that it had been cashed! How exciting, I joyfully rubbed my hands together in anticipation. A letter in the mail today, "We're sorry, this book has been discontinued and is unavailable. Here's a refund check." What a bummer! And it said "available" on their website. Hurrumph.

My friends Betsy and Michelle and I (and Michelle's daughter) went yarn shopping today.

As I was getting ready this morning, I saw that it was sunny outside and checked the forecast. Oh good, a high of 70 today. The only problem is that I no longer have a concept of what that feels like. We've been having highs in the 40s all week, and 70 didn't seem that much warmer. I put on a thin wool sweater and a blazer, which I realized was obviously too heavy as soon as I stepped into the gorgeous day that was happening outside. I would have come back and changed, except I was already running late because I had to put my friend's name back up on my mailbox, since the stupid self-righteous condo owner assholes keep taking it down. But that's a story for my personal blog. Anyway, I sprint to work (yes, I had to stop by work first), and the wool sweater and the blazer are making me very unhappy. I decided I would stop at the GAP and buy myself a t-shirt before heading out to go yarn shopping. And so I did: I put it on in the fitting room, ripped off the tag then and there, brought it to the cashier and used it to pay for the shirt. Thank goodness the GAP was able to rescue me from my current weather-temperature incompetence.

Once Betsy, Michelle and I were all assembled, we drove all the way to Classic Yarn of Grafton in Grafton, MA. This is out in central Mass., and with the exception of Pony Pearl needles, I wouldn't say there's anything special about the store. The Pony Pearls, which so many of you recommended, are not really my thing. The dpns would be good for socks, true, but I don't think they are that much different than the Bryspuns. The straights have tips that are much too tame for my tastes. So, I bought nothing.

On the way home we stopped by Fabric Place. This is where I took the only picture of the day:

That's right, Michelle placed a tuna sandwich on the roof of the car as she was strapping in her kid, and we drove all the way from Grafton to Woburn with the sandwich right there on the roof. That's right, 50 miles, sandwich on roof.

Fabric Place was very overwhelming for me. I like to know my way around a store, have an idea of what they carry, what's where, what I'm looking for... this was my first time to Fabric Place and they have just a ton of yarns. Yarn, yarn, yarn, yarn, and on the left, yarn, and on the right, yarn. Then they have all the other stuff, fabric and thread and beads and ribbon and sewing notions. It was my first time to a fabric store (period), and I really wanted to take a look at all the fabrics - I don't even know what's out there, what kinds of things I could get my hands on to sew stuff! (remember, I get my sewing supplies at Target and TJMaxx) By the time I was done looking through all the yarn, though, I had no more mental capacity to look at anything else. For a while I carried around some Classic Elite Provence, but I had to put it down from all the stress. I think Betsy and Michelle thought I was totally insane: I insisted on walking in an orderly fashion through all the aisles and had that deer caught in the headlights look and tone of speech. I felt totally burned out by the time we left. I took a nap when I got home. I had no warning of the yarn and the fabric and the thread. And the yarn. Someone pass me a glass of ice water, please.

Secret Pal 5 is here! Yay, the knitblog community rejoices! I am not participating, but I've seen people answer the questionnaires on their blogs, and it looks kind of interesting. I'm so picky, here's what my answers to some of the questions would be: (all in good fun, all in good fun)

1. Are you a yarn snob (do you prefer higher quality and/or natural fibers)? Do you avoid Red Heart and Lion Brand? Or is it all the same to you?
Not at all - Rowan is Rowan! I like all the Rowan yarns equally and I do not discriminate against any of them. Even if it's cheap Rowan, I'll find use for it. Just send the Rowan.

3. Do you have any allergies? (smoke, pets, fibers, perfume, etc.)
I'm allergic to mohair and angora most of all. I'm also allergic to non-Rowan fibers.

5. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
I do, but it has non-knitting stuff on there, so I'm not sharing it.

6. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)
I have no sense of smell, so perfumed things are really a waste.

7. Do you have a sweet tooth?
No, I'm allergic to food. I'm also allergic to expensive note cards - post-its are great for writing notes.

11. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
I have two dwarf hamsters; they are allergic to treats sent by Secret Pals.

12. What are your life dreams? (really stretching it here, I know)
To attain SABLE status with only Rowan yarns.

21. Are you a sock knitter?
Yes, I like all kinds of socks: Lorna's Laces Cranberry, Lorna's Laces Douglas Fir, Lorna's Laces Bold Red, etc.

24. What is your favorite animated character or a favorite animal/bird?
Favorite bird?

Posted by Kathy at 08:56 PM | Comments (13)

May 26, 2005

Welcome to my insanity

When I knit the body of my Adrienne Vittadini sweater, I changed everything. Some of the more critical changes: I am knitting a size between two sizes, my yarn knits at a different row and stitch gauge, and I changed the location of where the lace panel of the sweater starts (click the link in the previous sentence to read all about it).

The lace is made up of two elements: a column of cables, and a column of peak-shaped groups of stitches. When I reached the point of starting the lace on the body of the sweater, I rather arbitrarily decided to center a cable and work from there.

Then the Maths came for a visit. As I was starting to rework the pattern for the sleeves (which are, again, knit from a yarn with a different tension than the pattern's), I realized that I'd have to plan very far in advance if I wanted the two elements to match at the raglan sleeve. Illustration:


You see how the ridges (made by PSSOs, by the way) match up nicely? Imagine how awful it would look (at least to me) if the ridges didn't match up?

Well, in order for the cable and peak-shaped elements to end at exactly the right locations, they have to start at exactly the right locations way back down there where the cuff is.

Then things continued to get even more complicated. Let's see if I can explain this without making you woozy. Skip if you wish, I don't blame you.

The gauge changes from 23 sts in stockinette to 27 sts in the lace pattern. So in the body of the sweater I increased a number of stitches right where I switched to the lace. Now I needed to mentally and mathematically backtrack down to the start of the raglan as if it were entirely knit in lace (like the sleeves are). That's the only way I'd know how to work the sleeves to match up with the body of the sweater. This complicated math, I think, is the reason the designer switched to the lace two rows before the raglan shaping. That way the entire raglan section, body and sleeves, is worked in the same stitch at the same gauge: much simpler to do the math and make things match up.

So, did I succeed in my math calculations? Ya! It is the Grumperina way!

In case it's not immediately clear, here I mark up the cables and the peak elements:

(Colleen, I made this using Illustrator)

Such a little thing, but I just had to do it. Just point me in the direction of the loony bin, I'm ready to check myself in.

Posted by Kathy at 09:51 PM | Comments (25)

May 25, 2005

From conception to reality

It was less than a week ago that I conceived in my mind the Tivoli t-shirt. And now this little sweater is knit up and published (look at the sidebar). Thank you everyone for the positive comments and support, and enjoy the pattern :).

This is a quickie post, I hope to have something more later tonight or tomorrow.

Posted by Kathy at 11:12 AM | Comments (18)

May 23, 2005


Hello. What’s this?

The lighting in my lab is so much better than the lighting in my apartment.

If you said, “Why, it’s the sleeve to the Adrienne Vittadini sweater!” you’re WRONG! This is PAIN and BLOOD and TEARS and CURSING (so much) and HOURS of doing Pilates and YEARS of going to the chiropractor and an ARTIFICIAL ELBOW along with REPETITIVE STRESS INJURIES down the line.

Was that dramatic enough for you?

Seriously, knitting this was hell, and I have another one to do. But wait, before I cast on, there’s more DRAMA. Remember how I wondered whether I’d have enough yarn for a second sleeve? The Maths spoke to me and told me that since I needed 2 and 3/4 skeins for the first sleeve, the second would need just as much, plus I’d need a little extra for seaming and a neckband. That Maths, she’s so smart.

I have two whole skeins and a few partial skeins, so there was only one way to really address the situation. Behold the lab balance:

The first sleeve weighs 135.2 grams.

This is all the yarn I have left:

Boo-hoo-hoo, 116.7 grams. Definitely not enough for a second sleeve and a neckband. Now I need to order another skein or two from KnitPicks and hope that the dye lots look similar enough. I don’t really have hopes for actually matching the dye lots because I bought this yarn back in February.

But wait! Check out what I saw when I weighed the full “50 gram” skeins individually:


Shock and awe! SHOCK AND AWE! KnitPicks has been shortchanging me! It is the Grumperina way to call and complain, so I did. Guess who’s getting 2 more hollyberry skeins to compensate for this? (they will also check whether they have any more of the same dye lot) Mhhmmmm.

I’m weighing all my yarn from now on.

Next: I take you into my world of insanity as I illustrate how the pattern matches at the raglan seam, because really I don’t have anything better to do than to weigh my wool and do the Maths. Stay tuned!

Posted by Kathy at 08:45 PM | Comments (26)

May 22, 2005

The yarn is total crap!

My friend Diana just got a new blog called Bestitched. I’m so excited about this because she’s very prolific and has knit some gorgeous sweaters. Finally, a blog – it’s about time!

Tivoli t-shirt – my quickest FO ever (as long as we don’t count that pot holder I made using shadow knitting). I think it had something to do with writing a pattern and a rush of anxiety to see if it would actually work… hehe.

Before you say anything, I’m aware of how bad that shag on my head looks (compare with pretty VPC hair): I’m getting a haircut on Wednesday.

Yarn: Crapolistic by Classic Junk (see discussion below), 93 yds/ball, 6 balls
Needles: US 7, 20” and 29” circulars
Gauge: 19 sts and 32 rows per 4” square knit in st st
Size: bust 36”, waist 33”, hips 36” (I modified the hips measurement from my original sketch)
Time to finish: 5 days
Pattern: This is my own pattern, and… can I say it? It’s awesome.

Here are the details of the raglan and waist shaping:


I’m pretty excited about this top, and I hope you don’t take it as boasting. It was an uncertainty from the beginning: this is the first pattern I wrote by myself, for myself, rather than modified someone else’s pattern to fit my body. I photographed and wore the top even before blocking because I wanted to share right now as opposed to two days from now when the cotton would dry. This is a pattern from which I can imagine knitting lots of tops from different yarns for many years to come. I’m very happy with this FO.

Now that the cheery section of this post is done, let the Grumperina come out. The Tivoli Santos Aran (no website) yarn I used for knitting my appropriately named Tivoli t-shirt is total crap. For whatever reason, I didn’t realize that this is like Lion Brand Kitchen Cotton or Sugar ‘n Cream. The yarn is decently soft, but has color irregularities, especially at the ends of the skein, and also texture irregularities, like sections where one ply is fluffy (not spun). Also, 5 out of the 6 skeins I used had at least 2 knots or slubs in them (1 skein had zero imperfections). All this is fine for a yarn one uses to make dishcloths, except it’s hand wash only. Hello? [insert favorite expletive here] So, I was royally pissed off about all the knots and weaving in way too many ends for a seamless sweater. I would not recommend this yarn to anyone for any project.

Which brings us to point #2. I am so happy many of you liked my sketch for this t-shirt, and I’ve been receiving some comments and e-mails with suggestions (maybe even hints of pressure) for writing up this pattern for multiple sizes and submitting it to a knitting magazine. I do not plan on doing this for two main reasons: (1) I would have to knit an entire new top from a different yarn because this yarn is total crap; (2) I would rather be knitting than figuring out the directions for this top in a multitude of sizes. If you have the same oddly shaped body as I do, bless you and your curves! If you have an interest in modifying patterns to fit your own body, ditto! I’ll make the directions for knitting this specific top available some time soon so, please, feel free to give it a go! :)

Posted by Kathy at 09:36 PM | Comments (36)

May 20, 2005

No exceptions for pretty yarn

I'm so excited! Look what I got in a swap with Judy:

Thank you so much, Judy! I absolutely love the rosewood needles, and they are in a smaller size (US 4) that I'm sure to use. You know how I am about needles - one of each kind because I like to try different ones for different projects to maximize speed and comfort. And do you see that yarn? It's called Feza Kid Mohair, and there's a ball of a deep, dark, hot pink (love!), and one of a variegated pink to white to pink (love, love, love!). If I were to walk into a yarn shop, colors like this would definitely catch my eye.

Now, I love this yarn so much that I want to cast on for something right now. However, I'm sadly afflicted with an allergy to mohair, and there are no exceptions for pretty yarn. Boo hoo hoo, what do I do? I am asking everyone: how do I cleverly use this yarn in a way that doesn't itch? I appreciate your suggestions for items knit out of mohair which will not directly touch my body :).

I'm progressing nicely on the Tivoli t-shirt. Here's what I've got:

If I bind off now, it will be perfect for Knitty, don't you think?

Posted by Kathy at 09:00 PM | Comments (14)

May 19, 2005

I'm losing self-control

When I consider a knitting pattern, there are some red flags, if you will, which immediately cause me to raise an eyebrow and turn the page of the knitting mag or pattern book. For example, if a knitted garment is described as a "stretchy, sheer, large-needle knit," I say a resounding, "No thanks." My dislike for such a pattern can only be intensified if the designer takes the time to state, "Note that the fabric is very stretchy when choosing size," and then makes choosing a size impossible by writing the pattern to have finished chest dimensions of 25 1/2" or 28 3/4". Exactly how stretchy would this top have to be if 28" is the chest measurement of a 10-year-old?

Of course I'm not making up this hypothetical scenario. The pattern in question is the ballet t-shirt by Teva Durham, which is available on her website, and in her new book Loop-d-Loop currently available at stores near you and on Amazon.com.

I love the simple look of this top. Wide neck, wide straps, not quite cap-sleeved, which can be unflattering on some bodies.

That's where the love stops.

The shaping down the center of the sweater body is questionable - I'm just not sure what that will look like on a curvy-figured woman like me. The big, loose, stretchy stitches over any semblance of a bust are a huge no-no. The sweater's length is for women with perfect abs, but that's easy enough to fix.... the length of the sweater, that is, not the imperfect abs, hehe.

The bug hit me, though, the cuteness and simplicity were deeply implanted into my soul, so there was no choice but to fix this puppy up and call it my own.

Inspiration #1: Stash

When I was a young and naïve knitter, I bought some aran-weight cotton on a whim. I didn't buy enough for a sweater, and it's been lingering in my stash ever since.

Warning! Warning! Do not adjust your computer monitors! The yarn depicted is not red or burgundy or pink! In fact, it's baby blue (with a tiny hint of green). The yarn is called Tivoli Santos Aran, and it knits at 19-20 sts/4 inches on my US 7 needles. You know how I feel about short-sleeved tops knit from heavy* yarns - 'not happy' is an understatement. Still, this is much more reasonable than the 10 sts/4 inches called for in the pattern. I don't know what I'm thinking, but I want to use up this yarn, and I have enough for a top like this and not much more (*heavy, as far as summer knits are concerned, is anything heavier than thin t-shirt material).

This takes care of the "large needle knit" issue.

Inspiration #2:

Hey, look at the clever darts on this sweater:

(I know Colleen "loves" this picture)

Making two columns of darts like this instead of one column down the center of the sweater would make it quite slimming and probably better-fitting.

This takes care of the funny shaping issue.

Inspiration #3:

My wardrobe! I took measurements of a sweater knit in cotton of the same gauge, a ballet-top sweater, and a top shaped with two darts just like the Katia sweater. This allowed me to put some numbers to this insanity and took care of the "knit the 28" chest size and hope it fits" issue.

Here's what I'm thinking:



  • wide neck and wide straps, reminiscent of Teva Durham's original design
  • knit in the round from the top down: no seaming, and ability to try on as you go!
  • 2 bust and 2 back darts
  • length appropriate for a real-sized woman
  • a top that doesn't have to stretch some unknown amount in order to fit
  • Stash busting!

What do you think? Considering that this should be a quick knit, should I make it as soon as I'm done with the AV sweater, or should I make Fibo first? Maybe I should start even before the AV sweater is done because, man, AV has a way of disabling me for days.

Wait, don't answer.

Certifiably insane. I have lost all self-control and have become one of those knitters who has 1,400 WIPs at any given time.

P.S. Today's entry is brought to you by my fabulous new scanner, because using the camera to photograph doodles/writing sucks big time.

Posted by Kathy at 06:40 PM | Comments (28)

May 16, 2005

What makes *a* LYS *my* LYS?

I’m picky.

That’s like saying fire is hot – completely obvious and very understated.

There are many, many local yarn shops in the Boston area, but I do not give the distinction of *my* local yarn shop to a single one. They all have their pluses and minuses, I guess. What about a yarn shop makes it deserve the possessive *my*? For me, it is tons of yarns to see and touch, an extensive pattern and knitting book library, a sense of organization and open space, ability to browse without feeling like I’m being watched, and friendly employees.

I suspect other knitters want more, but not me: a place to sit and knit (I have a very time-consuming job and a great Stitch ‘n Bitch on Sundays), good prices and large quantities of yarn in stock (I am very comfortable buying yarn online, as long as I’ve seen the color and felt it, so I just need to see and feel one ball), helpful advice (I have received some awful advice at LYSs before… besides, I have the Internets and Blogland for advice)… anything else?

One store is creeping up on my list of favorite LYSs even though I don’t think it quite qualifies to receive the *my* tag yet. The name of the store is Windsor Button, and they are really gearing up to be a great yarn shop. In my memory they have always carried yarn, but I understand it is a fairly new development. As all yarn shops, there are pluses and minuses. For me, the minuses are small: the warehouse feel of the store, they’re closed on Sundays, scarce and disorganized knitting library, and I can’t just walk there. I can think of some more serious minuses if I were to describe a store to another knitter, but they don't affect me (for starters, it's not really a yarn store in the classic sense). The pluses increase every time I visit.

During my latest visit, I noticed significant additions to Windsor Button’s yarn stash: they now carry a ton of Rowan yarns and Merino worsted weight Malabrigo. These yarns are housed in brand-new shelving units, too, it’s not like they’re cramming more yarn into the same amount of space! For the Lion Brand Cotton Ease junkies out there, yes, they have it. These are welcome additions to their other brands: Noro, Manos, Brown Sheep, Berroco, Debbie Bliss, Jaeger, Mountain Colors, KFI, Mango Moon, and Cascade, just to name a few. A complete selection of knitting and crocheting notions rounds out the yarn shop portion – heaven!

It’s a little odd to call Windsor Button a local yarn shop because, well, it’s a sewing store. And I love that about it! It’s one-stop shopping for me, I can get yarn and all my sewing supplies in one trip: buttons (of course), thread, needles, snaps, Velcro, fabric chalk and markers, rulers, zippers, ribbons, polyester for stuffed animals (batting?), beads, sewing machine goodies, fabric dye and glue… makes my head spin!

Enough blabber, how about a picture? Here’s what I got at Windsor Button today:

The balls of yarn are in there for no other purpose than to amuse a new blogger friend; you know who you are.

For my lace, I got a pair of Susan Bates straights and wafer-thin stitch markers, both of which promptly made their way inside the lace; I have no idea how that happened so quickly. The tips of the SB straights are as un-pointy as my Boyes, but they are a bit more tapered and the needles are lighter, so I like them better – yay! I also got a row counter for knitting in the round, locking stitch markers, tapestry needles with the big eyes, and a chalk wheel.

Why no yarn? Well, I have perfected saying “no” to myself if (1) I don’t have a project to shop for or (2) I haven’t compared prices online yet. I can say “no” especially easily if the situation is both (1) and (2).

Randomness #1

Hey everyone, look at the goodies my friend CatBookMom (an avid blog reader, but herself blogless) got for me:

Pink jeweled stitch markers in the shape of flip-flops, and a hot pink notions case from Stitch Café. In the pink card, she writes, “This may be just a bit of pink overload.” CBM, cows will fly on the day that pink overload becomes possible. Thank you for the goodies, you are very thoughtful and I’ve already started using the notions case!

Randomness #2


Some folks from my knitting group got me this set of plastic vintage straights from the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool festival. Thank you guys! If you’re one of the three, close your browser window now and do not read any further. Really, do it. Do it now. Close… Alt + F4 on PC, Apple + W on Mac.

Because one of the needle tips is a little broken, I figured these would be the perfect candidates to try sanding down plastic needle tips. I know it works for wood needles, but let’s see if it will work for plastic ones. I got out my sand paper (Of course I have some, did you even have to ask? I go to Home Depot, too), and got to work.


Before, during, after.

Yarn-splittingly sharp! Now I need a lace project to knit on US 2s to test them out; that sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Posted by Kathy at 11:17 PM | Comments (10)

May 14, 2005

Helper monkey

The reality is this: the Adrienne Vittadini sweater is killing me. I can work maybe 4-10 rows before my left arm says, “stop, in the name of love!” I have worked one sleeve to the elbow in the past week, so at this speed it will take me a good 5-6 weeks to finish the sleeves. Also, I’m afraid I’ll be a bit short on yarn. The entire body, front and back, took less than 6 skeins; each sleeve will probably take close to 3. I bought 11 skeins total. The Maths tell me I’m likely to be 1 skein short. Shit.

The reality is this: I decided to give the intended recipient of the textured scarf something else for her birthday, so I’m no longer in a rush to complete it. I still want to finish it up (someday), and this scarf is the perfect “going-out, carry-along” project. But I’m not in a rush anymore.

The reality is this: I would love to get started on the Fibo, but I think it will be too overwhelming to work two sweaters at once because I’m completely re-working the pattern for each one.

The reality is this: it’s time to start a new project.

If you’re a knit blogger, your pajamas will eventually make their appearance in your blog. That’s just the way the world works. This is what I was dealing with this morning:

What is up with that? Can you tell from the picture that the individual strands of wool are slightly felted together? So, when I tried to wind the yarn into a ball, the strands stuck to each other and formed a hellishly-annoying cute-looking mesh. Huh, never knew this could happen to wool just sitting in a drawer.

This is lace weight yarn from handpaintedyarn.com, also known as Malabrigo, which I purchased at Circles, one of my LYSs. The original intent was to use this yarn for this shawl-like thing that I’m sure you’ve never heard of; I’ll just call it Crapotee. But, alas, I’ve decided to wind this yarn and use it for something else.

Lately I’ve been terribly disenchanted with using center-pull skeins, so eventually the slightly-felted mess became this:

And now it is looking like this:

The pattern is Crest of the Wave by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer, and I think especially in its current unblocked state you can see how its based on the Feather and Fan motif.

This isn’t my first venture into lace knitting, but to date I’ve given up after a few inches every time. The really interesting part is that I’m really good at lace knitting. Huh? Okay, let me explain. I’m really good at reading charts, or making charts if they aren’t provided (like this pattern), and I’m really good at not losing nor gaining stitches, and I have a good sense of where I should put stitch markers and when I should thread a lifeline, and I’m good at reading my stitches and spotting mistakes early on, and you know I can do the knitting and the purling and the yarn overs… but lace knitting kills my body.

Let’s try this exercise. Imagine: some stitches, YO three times, some other stitches. Next row: some stitches, p first YO, p second YO, p third YO through the back loop, some other stitches. Well, shit, are you surprised that my body is in pain after this? The only surprise here is that (1) I haven’t yet figured out how to get my big toe involved in helping with these crazy stitch manipulations and (2) that I haven’t yet purchased and trained a helper monkey to give me a third arm when trying to purl the third yarn over through the back loop.

P.S. I’m looking for some non-wood straight needles with ultra super duper pointy tips. I’ve tried the Boye, Susan Bates, and Bryspun, and they aren’t pointy enough. Suggestions?

Posted by Kathy at 06:08 PM | Comments (19)

May 13, 2005


Pattern: Pretty Comfy Sock by Debbi Young
Yarn: Sock It to Me Collection Esprit, cotton/elastic, color: Wine, 1.5 balls
Needles: US 3 double-pointed straights
Time: 7 weeks (but you know this was only my going-out project)

More pictures!

Interweave Knits pose:

Hey, one of these is not like the others!

Do you spot the mistake? (You can see it in the top picture, too) I see it, and guess what? I don’t care! Lalala, lalala! Since when have I become so lax and un-perfectionist? It’s either the calming smell of Murphy Oil Soap as I knit, or too many other WIP to divert my attention.

Ideas, suggestions, comments: I love this yarn! Love it! It’s so much fun to knit with, although it definitely needs slippery, buttered-up needles because the elastic yarn hugs them. I would definitely work with it again (and I will, because I have 2 skeins of white, and 2 skeins of mauve). In my opinion, solid-colored yarn really showcases this pattern, while highly variegated yarn hides it. I don’t think this pattern (as it’s currently written) is good for a first-time sock knitter. The short-row heel instructions are atrocious, and the transition between the ribbing and the pattern is not centered. Otherwise, well, it’s quite cute and very comfy!

One more thing: did I mention that my feet are always hot? Well, I wore these socks for a bit today while taking the pictures, and I think this cotton will be too hot for my footsies until we’re well into the fall. For now they’ll reside in my sock drawer :).

Posted by Kathy at 10:13 PM | Comments (14)

May 12, 2005

Wanna see grime? I'll give you grime!

So, you know I'm a scientist and can't resist a good experiment. Even while I was finishing up things at work, I was dreaming about taking out all my cleaning products and testing them out in a "crap of all craps" removal test once I got home.

I set up shop, and went to work:

On the plus side, I wasn't imagining the gunk that was coating my bamboo and wood needles. On the minus side, it's still not immediately obvious where this gunk is coming from.

Some of the gunk you see here is from needles that have been stained by excess dye from yarn, but some of the gunk is from needles that appear to be unstained by dye. Pretty gross, eh? It's okay if you think this is gross, I won't be offended.

I found that in gunk removal, rubbing alcohol seemed to work really well. I wet a paper towel with it, then rubbed off whatever was sticking to the needles. The other cleaners (fantastik, Windex, Sun & Earth) removed the gunk, but left the needles feeling a bit sticky. To restore my needles back to their pre-gunk state, I rubbed them with Murphy Oil Soap, then wiped the excess off with a paper towel. Smooth as butter! Buuuuuteeeeerrrrr... at least for now. And if the smoothness wears off, I know what to do!

So, if you ever run into a knitter who's stinkin' like Murphy Oil Soap, it must be me! But I have to tell you, I love it! The smell of that stuff reminds me of my parents' house and mom and grandma. Now, why I like the smell of microscope oil at work is up to interpretation (it smells like new furniture).

With all the smoothness, I finished up Pretty Comfy Socks! Buuuuuteeeeerrrrr! I mean, coooomfyyyyyy!

Posted by Kathy at 11:11 PM | Comments (16)

It is!

Surprised! For two reasons. First, I so confidently posted about my grubby bamboo and wood needles because I figured everyone had this problem! And why shouldn't I think that? My wood and bamboo needles get coated with the crap of all craps no matter the yarn, the pattern, the needle brand, the size... And it has so far happened to each and every set. But, wow, now I'm shocked because clearly I'm the only one! I'm going to take the pointing finger and move it from the yarn manufacturers to my own self. It is my grubby little hands.

To answer many of the comments, I hardly ever use hand lotion, and never use it while I'm knitting. I use a more or less harsh soap - Softsoap - that leaves my hands totally clean and uncoated, as far as I can tell. I do have very sensitive skin. If you look through the many pictures of my hands on this blog, you'll notice I never have any rings or bracelets on; at best, I have my watch on, although typically I take it off as soon as I get home. Reason being that even precious metals can cause my skin to bubble up in a reaction. So it could be some kind of gunk my body is producing in response to the yarn and/or needles. A second reason could be that my hands are always very warm and... sweaty isn't the right word... moist? Never dry? A third reason is that I work in a lab, wear and change gloves very often, and wash my hands very often as well. Years of this may have conditioned my hands to produce extra gunk, promptly deposited on the needles. Where are my fellow science knitters? What are your experiences?

Whatever the reason(s), my body is gunking up my needles, and I need to clean them off. I'm not sure how to proceed from here. I got tons of ideas from all of you - thank you so much! But no method has been recommended that's been previously tested. I think it's innocent enough to start with baby wipes - they don't have lint problems, and I have them in my house, mwahaha! I love Murphy's Oil Soap, I have very sensory-rich memories associated with it, so hey, might as well use it for something! Because you know with these needle dilemmas the floors aren't getting washed any time soon :). So far I've done nothing other than to switch back to metal needles, which clink-clank when I knit and come in sets of four, but don't have any other drawbacks as far as I can tell.

Other comments:

  • I'm not a fan of two circs or magic loop, thanks to those of you who suggested these methods.

  • Because I can knit very quickly with the right needles, I am also developing a high preference for non-wood needles in all situation. This is a bit different from the gunk problem, because even brand new bamboos retard my optimal speed. In lieu of this, here are some great ideas for me:

  • Inox makes plastic, aluminum, and steel dpns. They come in sets of five! In fact, I already have a set of the aluminum ones, but they are the wrong size for this project.

  • Bryspun double-pointed needles also come in sets of five! Again, I already have a set, but they are the wrong size.

Really, there's no reason I should ever have to use bamboo or wood needles ever again. Maybe I shouldn't even bother cleaning them!

The second reason I'm surprised is that, wow, my entry got so many responses! There are two possible interpretations: (1) you think (correctly) that I'm a freak of nature and are intrigued by the weird gunk and/or (2) you understand my dilemma and are genuinely trying to help me.

Thank you :).

Because no blog entry is complete without a picture, here are the suspects.

Posted by Kathy at 01:05 PM | Comments (9)

Grubby little hands

If you're knitting with wood or bamboo needles, how many sets do you go through before completing your project? For me it's definitely more than one set.

Now, I want to be perfectly clear, I'm not talking about the points of the needles getting dull or the needles bending out of shape, and I'm not talking about the excess dye rubbing off on the needles and turning them colors, although all those things are highly annoying. I'm talking about the needles getting covered with gunky sticky crap of all craps that makes stitches impossible to move from one needle to the next.

What is the source of this gunkiness? I wish I could blame my grubby little hands, but I am borderline obsessive-compulsive and probably go through more handsoap than any human ever should. Leave it to Grumperina to point the finger to yarn manufacturers - yep, I think it's the gunk left on the yarn after the manufacturing process. But what to do? What to do? Washing yarn before knitting with it is not my idea of fun. Especially if you're knitting something sizeable like a sweater. Can I wash my needles?

The inquiry comes about because I'm on my fourth set of needles for the Pretty Comfy Socks.
1: Some Clover bamboo dpns which weren't brand new and therefore are already coated with crap of all craps. They lasted... maybe two inches worth of knitting.
2: Metal dpns. These were fantabulous, except they come in a set of four and I like to knit socks with five needles. I improvised by using four metal dpns and one Clover dpn. I grunted every time I would have to use the bamboo one, and naturally became too irritated to continue in this manner.
3: Brittany Birch dpns. These were so wonderful to knit with, that I almost blogged about it. And the gunk stayed off for a long while! But I say were wonderful because, yes, they're now coated with the crap of all crap.
4: I'm back to four metal dpns and one Brittany dpn.

I want to rescue my gunky wood and bamboo needles. What do I do?

Speaking of Japanese things like Clover needles, do any of you read and understand Japanese? I was checking out my website stats, and notices that a whole lot of hits came from this website. If only I knew what it said!

I stepped outside this morning, and the air smelled like Bath & Body Works (From a few blocks away, of course. Because I know you know how overwhelming it smells inside that store). Yes, spring is here, and it's quickly turning into summer. Look what I spotted in my neighbor's garden:

It's just like the one on my needle cases!

Posted by Kathy at 12:02 AM | Comments (24)

May 09, 2005

Idiot. Alternatively, savant.

First things first. I'm in so much pain from working on the Adrienne Vittadini sweater's sleeve. More pain than I have ever experienced from knitting. In particular, my shoulders are killing me. The hours and hours I will spend crouched over a microscope at work this week will not help the situation. Also hurting: my left palm and my left middle finger, which I use to control where the stitches sit in relation to the tip of the needle.

Working on my friend's scarf and my Pretty Comfy socks is a welcome relief. Today while at work, I turned the heel of the second Pretty Comfy sock. And let me tell you, I'm an idiot.

Remember when I discovered and noted that I had been wrapping my short rows differently all this time? Well, before turning the short-row heel of the second Pretty Comfy sock, I actually took the time to read up on short rows and figure out the "correct" way. How much difference could it possibly make? Well, let me show you. Here's my first SRH, done incorrectly:

Notice the stitches hanging perpendicular to the direction of knitting. Compare this to the second SRH, done correctly:

None of that funny perpendicular business.

Why am I an idiot? Well, I'm such a technique-oriented knitter, and a perfectionist. When I mattress stitch the front and back of a sweater, believe you me, and do it and redo it until all the V's line up perfectly. My gauge on the AV sweater is 26.6 sts/4 inches. That's right, I keep track of fractions. So how could I possibly miss that I've been doing my short rows incorrectly? Even when I worked the shoulders of the VPC, I did the wraps incorrectly. And that's a sweater, not a silly little sock. Shame on me.

On the other hand, did you see my second short-row heel? Didja? (this is called palatalization in linguistic terms) Now that I know what's going on, I feel like I've taken the perfectionism of SRHs to a new level! Grumperina perfectionism! And this makes me feel like a savant!

Posted by Kathy at 10:24 PM | Comments (9)

May 07, 2005

Other people

I have a love-hate relationship with the Secret Pal programs: sometimes I love the idea of surprising another knitter with goodies, and being surprised in return, and other times the Grumperina chimes in to rant, "I know what projects I want to knit, and I want to chose the yarn for them. No one knows my taste better than I do. I would want my surprises to be 100% yarn: no lotions, no candles, no candies, I have enough of that crap, it's a waste of money. I wouldn't want Grumperina as a secret pal, that's for sure, she's too particular." While I carry out this internal debate (and I would love to hear your opinions), I take the opportunity to do intentional swaps with other knitters as I find them. For example, look what I got in the mail today!

Why, it's an oddly-shaped package from Karma! I knew what I was getting, but I still ripped open the package with the zest of a two-year old on Christmas:

And inside, some vintage straight needles! These are in the larger sizes, which is great because I don't have any in my stash.

Thanks, Karma! I will be returning this good karma (hehe) by mailing you something early next week.

Hey, look at this!

Oh my goodness, this is what it must be like to be an aunt! my pattern. Wow, it looks great and I'm sure the recipient will appreciate this gift. Great job, and I'm so happy the pattern worked out for someone other than just myself!

Posted by Kathy at 04:05 PM | Comments (11)

May 06, 2005

The bleeder

And now the bleeder has also ruined the towel on which it was drying:

To answer Colleen's question, it will not bleed this much every time. I rinsed and rinsed, and by the time my arms got really tired, and my back started to hurt from hovering over the bathtub and it was about 2 a.m., the water was a light peach color. The spots of very saturated color on the towel is a physical phenomenon - the water drains into the towel non-uniformly, in specific spots. The dye doesn't go through the towel, it is trapped on the surface, which is why there are a few pronounced, dark spots rather than an outline of the culprit in a light peach color.

I thought there might be more speculation about the bleeder, but I'm guessing (correct me if I'm wrong) none of you could have predicted that this is the culprit:

I put the move on, guys and gals!

So far, so good. The lace and cable patterning is physically demanding. It's a simple, easy to memorize repeat, but it's a nice workout for the hands. In retrospect, when I was frustrated with knitting the stockinette stitch body of the sweater, I should have just started a sleeve!

I didn't change the dimensions of the sweater that much: just shortened the body 1", made the chest circumference just 1" wider than the smallest size, and knit the smallest size otherwise. (By the way, the smallest AV size for this pattern and many others is 35"! That's a size large for many British designers! Oh yes, if you have a knitting blog, you'll have to reveal your dimensions eventually, it's true).

However, I'm substituting the yarn (written for Adrienne Vittadini Martina, 19 sts/24 rows, I'm using KnitPicks' Merino Style in Hollyberry, 23 sts/33 rows) and have had to do major Maths to accommodate both the change in the stitch gauge and in the row gauge:

Some other little details:

  • The fabric stretched after washing. Not happy about it. Before you tell me to wash the swatch before measuring gauge, I did that. It stretched about 1" vertically and 1" horizontally over the entire body of the sweater: this is not something I would have been able to notice in a 4" x 4" swatch. I think it still has a chance for a good fit, though.
  • I swatched with the identical yarn in a different color, which is why I didn't know how much the burgundy yarn would bleed. I knew it would bleed some amount, though, because my stitch markers (pieces of yellow yarn) had all turned a dark peach after a while. I did not expect the process to produce punch :).
  • I started the cables & lace pattern section much later than what the pattern instructs (about 2.5" higher). If you remember, the sweater has the lace & cables start at nipple level (here come the weird Google hits!), which I think is ridiculous.
  • I took the time to center a pattern repeat right at the center of the sweater. In my opinion, this is what separates poor-quality clothes from well-made clothes - the centering of all patterns and seams.

  • Now I will be doing more Maths to make sure the patterning on the raglan sleeves matches the patterning on the body of the sweater where the two are seamed together.

Posted by Kathy at 11:35 AM | Comments (11)

Punch, anyone?

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a bleeder!

I think I can see my reflection!

Posted by Kathy at 02:11 AM | Comments (5)

May 04, 2005

I'm floored!

It's one thing to appear in the Somerville News with someone else's name below my picture, and it's a completely different level of knitter-ness to be mentioned on a real knit designer's blogwho concludes her entry with GREAT JOB KATHY!

Holy smokes, can someone assure me that this is for real?

Wow. So Annie Modesitt is my hero, my inspiration, the reason I still knit, and now she refers dozens, hundreds of knitters who read her blog to my Combination Knitting page and to my knitting videos! Thank you, Annie! If not for you, my purl rows would still be 50% bigger than my knit rows! I love to purl because of you! Those fan letters I write you, where I gush about your patterns and your awesome knitting mentality and how I want to take all your classes are 100% genuine, I admire you so much! I hope you make it out to Boston very soon :). I'm thinking of knitting that cabled bag in your book, too cute for words :).

Since I have my own domain, I get to be the ultimate stalker and view all my web stats. Annie's post earlier in the day generated 106 hits to my website (okay, some of those might have been me, just making sure that this whole thing is real), and 163 downloads of my knitting videos! It's eating up my monthly bandwidth, but not an ounce of complaining from me - you're welcome to it, download all you want!

Readers, do you forgive me for this very self-centered post? I just had to share my two seconds of fame :).

Posted by Kathy at 12:21 AM | Comments (14)

May 03, 2005

Little miracle

Blogging in the middle of the day? Day off today! No experiments to do, so I'm staying home and TCB - taking care of business.

I really want to blog about my plant, and I feel it's most appropriate to do so in this blog. For those of you strictly interested in knitting content, scroll down.

My little palm-tree plant came into my life in the summer of 2001 when a friend brought it to me from Hawaii. I don't remember the name of the plant, unfortunately. It looked like a dried up ginger root, and the instructions (and photo) claimed that if you stick it into some soil (vertically) and water regularly, leaves would sprout and even a flower might appear. And so it happened within a few months. It was a happy palm tree-like plant for several years until I brought it to my lab and left it there for some time (1.5 years... time flies!) while moving from one apartment to another. Then all the leaves dried up and started falling off while the stem kept elongating, making the whole thing very cumbersome, crooked, and phallic-looking. A few months ago I confiscated my plant and brought it back home. This is what it looked like:

Pathetic. Pretty much dead, I thought. Not even worth my trouble. But hey, if it's going to die anyway, let me try something drastic. Remembering that the leaves sprouted just from a shriveled up stem, I thought I could repeat this miracle by cutting the stem and placing it back into soil. I got out my gardening gloves (Martha Stewart brand) (Did you even have to ask?), took a pair of old scissors, and cut the plant here:

I stuck the top part of the stem into a new pot with some fresh soil. For a while things weren't looking so good - all the leaves had fallen off. But look at my baby plant now:


It's a miracle! I think I'll have a little palm-tree plant in no time!

I've been working on my friend's scarf, the one with the most interesting texture. I got a lot of feedback from you (thank you!) and decided to bind off when I had worked a few inches without cutting the yarn, block that segment, and think about what to do next. The blocked texture of the scarf is very different from the unblocked (no surprise):


Blocked: open, lacy, drapey (CatBookMom made this word up).
Unblocked: spongy, thick, nubby, textured, earthy.

I'm going with the blocked version for a few reasons: first, even in its unblocked form this scarf won't be warm enough for Pennsylvania winters; I think this yarn is meant for a fall or spring scarf. Second, blocking increases scarf length by 36% and scarf width by 24%. I'm working with fingering weight yarn, and as much as I love the pattern, I don't want this scarf to become a Christmas present. Third, I just think it looks better, and so did everyone at my Sunday Stitch 'n Bitch. After blocking and taking measurements, I undid the temporary bind-off and continued knitting. Here's my progress:

Working on this scarf has proved to be a lifesaver. It gives my fingers the dexterous exercises they crave, and it has allowed me to forgive my Adrienne Vittadini stockinette-in-the-round sweater. Yes, it's seen the light of day once again. I'm starting to think that this working on more than one project at the same time isn't a bad idea!

P.S. Happy birthday, Mom! Mom didn't teach me to knit, but she taught me everything else in life.

Posted by Kathy at 01:14 PM | Comments (12)

May 01, 2005


Harlotize (v.) - to meet in person and gain admiration for one Ms. Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

I was Harlotized on Friday when I went to see the Yarn Harlot at Circles! No big surprise because Stephanie is one of my absolute favorite knit bloggers. Because I like to pretend that I know what you, my readers, want to know, I won't bore you with details of the occasion but rather will share these interesting Yarn Harlot facts:

  • Stephanie is as funny, witty, quick, and sharp in real life as she is on her blog.
  • Stephanie was wearing handknit socks and a handknit cardigan.
  • Stephanie was knitting a sock, on four double-pointed needles (3 in the sock, 1 in the hand). She holds her yarn in her right hand and knits in the most unusual way I've ever seen! Her hand is on top of the working needle so you hardly see it; instead you just see her wrist and the yarn flicker, very very quickly.
  • Stephanie wanted the title of her bookicon to be At Knit's End: Meditations for those who knit too much. The people in charge objected, so instead Stephanie used "he" and "she" to refer to knitters throughout the book.
  • Stephanie's thebook2thebook2thebook2 (I don't know if that's how she's going to refer to it, so don't quote me) will be coming out in September.
  • Stephanie signs the books with "Knit On!", which the Elizabeth Zimmermann fan in me absolutely loves!

In addition to meeting Stephanie, which was fabulous enough, I met many knitters. First, I ran into the president of my University's Alumni Club (had not idea that she knit). Then, I finally met everyone's favorite subway knitter, Colleen - we've been reading each other's blogs and exchanging e-mails for a while now. She was wearing her Spring Fling Tank - pretty and a very unique texture. Many other bloggers were there, and I will just point you to this entry on Colleen's blog for links and pictures.

If the Yarn Harlot is coming to your neck of the woods, I urge you to go to the event. She is funny, knitters are great, and you will have a fantastic time. I promise :).

Posted by Kathy at 01:03 AM | Comments (10)