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Archive for October, 2010

I’m currently taking a break from my selfish phase of knitting to help out with the church fair. Every year my church throws a big ol’ craft/bake/jewelry/stuff from the attic fair to raise money for our programs. One area of the fair, the boutique, focuses on hand-made items, many of which are made out of yarn.

Ever since I made my iPod sock the head of the boutique has been on me to make something of the sort for her to sell. This was, of course, somewhere around January. I am just now, less than two weeks from the fair, starting. Thankfully, they go quickly.

I am using leftover yarn from a couple of sock projects to make these very simple cell-phone socks that will fit most standard cell-phones (iPhones excluded…they’re freakishly wide compared to the average stupidphone). I figure if Apple charges $29 for six of their made-in-China iPod socks, I can easily earn the church $5 per sock for mine.

But here’s the rub. When they’re on a cell phone they look great. I used 2×2 ribbing, so the socks expand quite far and look fabulous. But when they’re not on anything they sadly look like very ineffective knitted prophylactic devices. Condoms, for those who speak common English. They seriously look like a bad Victorian-era birth control idea (ribbed for her pleasure). These socks are meant to provide protection from scratches and scrapes while your phone is in your pocket, rather than protection from…well…other things.

What to do? Well, this is a Unitarian Universalist church, where folks are largely pretty open-minded, so I’ll make a bunch of these cell-phone condoms and see if they sell. I can crank out about one per day, and it’s a great way to use my leftover sock yarn. You know, that nagging small amount left when you’ve finished the sock (because, like me,  you’re not wise enough or haven’t learned the cast-on to go toe-up).

Here are my directions for the basic ribbed (for her pleasure) cell phone (condom) sock.

Needed: 6g fingering weight yarn, 32″ size 2 circular needles (this can be done on dpns, but I don’t like dpns, so there!)

CO 36 stitches and divide for magic loop (CO 48 if making this for an iPhone or other obnoxiously wide smartphone)

*k2, p2* repeat ad nauseum until the work reaches about 5″ in length.

Pull circular needles so that stitches are back together on the cable and turn inside-out.

Bring needles back out through the opening and re-divide stitches 18 (24) stitches per needle  and do a 3-needle bind-off.

Sew in ends and you’re done.

It’s that easy. It’s great rehearsal/TV/meeting knitting. Enjoy. And remember, this cell-phone sock is not effective as birth control or for prevention of STDs.

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In earlier posts I’ve mentioned the easiest sock heel I’ve come across, the Strong heel (named after the lady who devised it, not because of its innate strength). I’ve always loved this heel because of its simplicity in only needing to do increases and decreases. I even taught others about it last year at Fiber Camp Boston. But I’ve not been faithful. I’ve been seeing other heels.

From the very beginning of my knitting career I’ve made an effort to learn something new on each project, and this has remained true with the very simple sock I’m currently knitting. This time I decided the mindless sock needed the Short Row heel and I gotta say that I am in love with it.

The short row heel, with instructions well-described in this blog post, involves wrapping and turning stitches back and forth on half the needles, then knitting those wraps and the stitches they’re wrapped around in reverse order of how you first wrapped, so you eventually get back to some kind of normal and move on. I won’t describe the details here, because I can’t as well as the above-mentioned blogger already did. Just click the link. But I will say that the resulting heel looks closer to the store-bought sock heel than any other one I’ve encountered, so if you’re into that, give it a try.

There are several reasons that I am so smitten by this sock heel, not the least of which is the ease of it all. I fully expected picking up the wraps to be a real pain in the ass, and it really wasn’t. I suspect (though I have no hard evidence) and have read rumour that the short row heel also uses less yarn, something important for a sock that I ripped out and switched needle size because I was afraid of running out of yarn before the toe. This could very well be an important step in making me try toe up socks next; then I won’t have to worry about running out before the end. And the short-row heel lends itself well to toe-up socks.

I think my favorite feature is just how cool it looks. There’s really cool stripeitude (yes, it’s a word ’cause I say it’s a word) on this heel when I use groovy variegated yarn. Yeah, I know nobody will see the heel, but I will and I like it! It kinda’ reminds me of the mouth of a sock monkey for some reason.

If you’re a sock knitter and haven’t tried the short row heel, I do encourage you to give it a try, at least for the sake of building your repertoire of knitting skills. You never know, you might actually like it.

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Just felt the need to post a few random thoughts today.

1. Ever think about the sad lot of an impatient cop? They can’t even go the speed limit without their lights on, because everyone in front of them slows to 5 mph below. Hopefully most are patient enough to deal with this.

2. Cheese with an ‘s’ is real. Cheez with a ‘z’ is fake.

3. Does anyone know what’s in scrapple? Or hot dogs? Or cheez?

4. I would happily swim naked in a pool of Casade Eco Alpaca.

5. Cargo pants are the best damn pants on the face of the earth. They’re comfortable AND they have like a million pockets.

6. Grape Nuts contains neither grapes nor (I think) nuts. Ponder this.

7. Fall leaves are crunchy. I love crunchy fall leaves. They make walking home from work so much more beautiful.

8. Stop-motion Lite Brite animation is amazing. Check out this video:

9. The David Crowder *Band is also amazing.

10. My fingers would hurt something fierce if I’d done that much Lite Brite. Ouch.

11. Facebook is currently possessed by creepy Chat-Demons from the Bowels of the Internets. Stay away for a while.

12. Yo’ Momma!!

Hope you all enjoy your Friday and have a fantabulous weekend. I love anyone who actually reads my silly ramblings, and THAT MEANS YOU!

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Sweater of Doom

I am about to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to give up on and get rid of a knitting project.

I started a sweater of my own design two summers ago. It’s a really cool design involving checkerboard textures in seed stitch and stockinette squares with a garter stitch border. I love everything about this design and I have been excited about it since it was first conceived.

What I have not been in love with is the yarn. I have been working with Lion Brand Fishermen’s wool and while it may work well for some people, I am pretty sure I’m allergic to it. I’ve noticed for a while that whenever I knit it I seem to get the sniffles and the sneezes. Sometimes my throat even starts to do weird things, feeling as if it’s lined with cotton balls. I wrote this off for a while as normal seasonal sinus issues, but I don’t think I can justify that defense anymore.

I’m allergic to my sweater.

If just holding the thing makes my sinuses run for cover and my face start to itch, I can’t imagine having this garment surrounding my upper body. This would indeed become the Sweater of Doom (thanks, Hoxton Handmade for that terminology).

I know that some people have knit with this yarn and had no problems, so if anyone out there would like to try finishing a 3/4-completed sweater project and hope they’re not allergic to it, let me know. I’d be glad to hand it over. Otherwise I think it’s just going to be tossed.

Sad, but true.

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After four months of knitting, learning, cursing, and experimenting, I have finally completed the much-blogged-about Bex Gauntlets!! Based on a sock pattern by that legendary innovatively wonderful torturous mathematician of a sock designer Cookie A, Bex is cables. Loads of cables. Probably thousands of cables. This is why it took me all stinking summer and part of the fall to finish the things.

I completed the knitting at about 2:00 Sunday morning, and sewed in the ends during church (because my church is just that cool!), which normally would’ve been insane, but since I had Columbus Day off (still think it’s a stupid holiday) I knew I could catch up on sleep (got 10 hours last night). I just wanted to finish them. I was too close to the end to set them down at a reasonable time Saturday night. I am very happy with the product, and more importantly, Megan loves them! She didn’t take them off until bedtime last night, and even then she hung them over her headboard so she can put them on first thing today. I know this is one gift project that will be worn. Happy daddy.

So here are the specs on the project in case any of you may be insane enough to try this same project:

Needed: Size 1 dpns or long circular for magic loop (I tried on dpns; too damn many needles); 2 cable needles, unless you learn how to cable without a cable needle, then you only need 1; 2 50g skeins of mini mochi sock yarn or your sock yarn of choice; 1 copy of Cookie A’s “Sock Innovation” (p. 97); alcohol, which should only be consumed AFTER a stint of knitting–you need to be able to concentrate.

I highly recommend learning to cable without a cable needle, or all those little one-stitch cables will take forever. Even so, the big cable that she calls for two cable needles on will still require one.

For the cuff, follow the directions exactly as written, then move on to knit 2 full repeats of the pattern. Complete a 3rd pattern repeat only through row 28.

Next row: knit row 22 of the pattern for half of the stitches. pm, m1 (purlwise), pm. Complete row 22. This is the first increase of the thumb gusset.

Knit rows 23-24 of pattern, purling on the extra stitch that you made on 22.

Knit row 25 for half of the stitches, slip marker, m1(knitwise)tbl, p, m1tbl, slip marker, complete row 25.

Knit rows 26-27, continuing on the gusset to ktbl, p, ktbl.

Knit row 28 for half of the stitches, slip marker, m1(purlwise), ktbl, p, ktbl, m1(purlwise)

Continue repeating rows 22-28, increasing every third row alternating between knitwise and purlwise increases (we’re going for a raised rib on the thumb) until gusset reaches 23 stitches.

Next row: knit half of pattern stitches according to pattern; remove markers and place gusset stitches on waste yarn to be dealt with later.

Knit 13 rows according to pattern, still repeating rows 22-28.

**IMPORTANT NOTE: When getting to the fingers, we are working toward a raised rib on the fingers. As such, as you get to the end of those 13 rows, you need to switch the first and last stitches of the rib/cable pattern to ktbl, and switch the first stitch of the diagonal traveling stitch to a purl, working your way to a raised rib (p, ktbl, p, ktbl, etc.) as you complete each row of the traveler. It will make sense once you’re there.**

On row 14 after thumb gusset, knit (according to pattern) until last 11 stitches. Transfer last 11 stitches and first 11 stitches of next row to waste yarn to be picked up later for pinky finger.

Knit 2 rows according to pattern. On 3rd row after pinky, knit according to pattern until last 11 stitches. Transfer last 11 stitches and first 11 stitches of next row to waste yarn for ring finger.

Knit according to pattern next 11 stitches. Transfer next 22 stitches to waste yarn for index finger. At this point all you should have left is the middle finger.

Knit raised rib (gradually working diagonal traveler to raised rib) for 7 rows. Bind off loosely.

Transfer index finger stitches to needles, plus pick up one stitch at beginning and one stitch at end of the row from the base of the middle finger. Knit raised rib (gradually working diagonal traveler to raised rib) for 7 rows. Bind off loosely.

Repeat index finger instructions on both the ring finger and the pinky finger.

Transfer thumb stitches to needles, plus pick up one stitch at the beginning and TWO stitches at the end of the row from the main part of the hand. Knit raised rib for 7 rows. Bind off loosely.

Turn inside-out and sew in all ends.

** A couple of final notes:

1. The pattern really does get easier once you’ve spent a little time on it. Though it is a time-consuming project, there does come a point when you don’t have to be glued to the pattern and you get into a bit of a groove.

2. Variegated yarn: you must be very careful where you are in the yarn patterning when you pick up the finger stitches, in order to keep color consistency. I had to hunt through the yarn to find just the right shades of color in this self-striping yarn for each finger.

3. Pattern is the same for both gauntlets. No need to do it differently for left or right.

4. Be prepared for lots of people who see this to request a pair for themselves. Get good at saying “no.”

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The past several days have been insanely busy for me. I’ve barely gotten any knitting done, making me think that Bex is NEVER going to be finished. But never fear! I’m taking the night off from other things! We’re having leftovers and I’m skipping my knitting group (sorry, girls!) to just chill at home, and possibly finish those cursed gauntlets.

So here are a few of the finer points of the past few days:

1. Band Day 2010: Our school district has a tradition that all 7th and 8th grade band students play at a football game with the high school marching band (though the young’uns don’t march). This year it got rained out, but they still rehearsed together and did a really cool performance of The Star-Spangled Banner and some classic football stand tunes in the high school auditorium. 330 7th-12th graders with sonic weapons of destruction. Oh, and my kid was one of them. And yes, she totally geeked out over the experience.

 

I believe I can fly!

 

2. Ropes course with the Coming-Of-Age (COA) class at my church. COA is kinda’ like a Catholic confirmation class, Unitarian Universalist-style: instead of learning what good Catholics believe, you explore and discover what your personal beliefs are. I’m a mentor for this group of insanely cool 9th graders and we had a fantabulous time with some good ol’ fashioned group-building and flying through the air on a rope. Oh, and I learned how to play a game called Ninja.

3. Walk to Defeat ALS was this past Sunday and there was a nice turnout. Our team, “Walk for Cheryl”,

 

Walking for Mrs. Peach

 

in honor of an ALS patient and former kitchen manager at my school, Cheryl Peach, consisted of about 120 walkers, somewhere around half of them from the school. We took a full busload of students and teachers, and still had some parents and students meet us there. Our team also raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 to benefit the ALS Association of Massachusetts, around 78% of which will go directly toward helping patients with ALS. It was a fun and beautiful day. Oh, and I met an incredibly cool new knitting buddy known to the Ravelry world as tanyakitty. Check her out…she’s amazing.

 

Some of the Curtains cast at the historic Colonial Theatre

 

4. The show I’m currently in rehearsals for, Kander and Ebb’s Curtains, is a comedy about murder and mayhem during a pre-broadway tryout of a new musical (Robbin’ Hood of the Old West) at the historic Colonial Theatre in Boston. A couple of days ago I had the wonderful opportunity to join other members of our cast in a tour of the Colonial. We briefly stood on the stage that we will be pretending to inhabit in November. We hung out in the balcony, toured the dressing rooms, learned a ton of history, and had  a photo taken on the same staircase that has provided the setting for many more famous cast photos. By the way, if you’d like to see our production of Curtains, it opens on November 5th, 2010 at the Parker Middle School in Reading, MA. Tickets are on sale now and can be ordered by clicking here.

5. Brewed a batch of Killer Pumpkin Imperial Ale. It is happily farting out of the airlock in the fermentation bucket right now. Can’t wait to try it, but I must. It’ll be at least a month.

6. I got sick. Yuck. Slept ’til noon. Got no knitting done. Yucky blucky.

So that’s my past few days. Feeling better now, by the way, but my kid was home today with the same yucky bluck. Thank you for reading, and now that you know why I haven’t finished Bex yet, I must go try to do just that. I have a sick 12-year-old who needs soft, squishy therapy.

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