Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008


I figured out what to make for the little kids in my life for Christmas. A lovely word that I had previously not been all that interested in: amigurumi. According to Wiki, amigurumi is "the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures."

Ravelry has tons of free crochet amigurumi patterns, all of which are little and therefore fast. Also, there's only so much difficulty that can be packed into a small toy hooked out of worsted weight yarn, so they're also very easy.

I'm going to frog the hat I was making for Riley because I was in the Knitting Black Hole anyway and the yarn is perfect for the frosting on an amigurumi cupcake and maybe a little bird. Seriously, these things are cute and can be produced in mass quantities in a small amount of time. Why didn't I think of this sooner?

Now all I have to do is decide what I'm going to do for my parents and in-laws.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A little funny

Your Daddy Is Darth Vader

What You Call Him: Daddy-o

Why You Love Him: He's the Mack Daddy

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Reacquaintance with a timeless favorite

I was sifting through my stash, wondering what I can knit for Christmas gifts, and my gaze landed on a skein of Lion Brand Wool Ease, worsted weight. Not the nicest yarn I've knit with, but a decent acrylic-wool blend that is machine washable and dryable. Ideal for gifting because it is very economical, easy to care for, and because it's worsted weight, thousands of free patterns can be had for every knittable/crochetable item.

Deciding on a men's hat, I went to Ravelry in search of a pattern. I found Turn a Square (Ravelry link), a wonderfully easy and free pattern. It calls for striping, but I decided to skip that. It's your basic stockinette hat with a ribbed hem, but it has four sets of raglan-like decreases to shape the crown that are simple enough to be mindless but aren't boring. next time I knit this hat, I'll include the stripes.

Hats are wonderful things to knit. They can be as easy or as difficult as the knitter wishes. This was a very simple pattern for my skill level, which meant it was a great "get out of the no-knitting rut" project. It was also very quick, going from cast-on to weave-in in less than 24 hours, knitted during Peanut's naps and while she was playing at Giggle Factory this morning. And because it's 80% acrylic, blocking is not necessary, just a quick trip through the wash.

I think I'll use the rest of the skein for a gift for one of my nephews. Now all I gotta do is get Peanut to hold still long enough for me to get some measurements from her hand so I can knit mittens that will fit the nephew for the whole winter.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

No will to knit

It's true. I have no will to knit lately. And that just bites. It's fall, for goodness' sake! Time for knitting scarves and hats and mittens and Christmas presents. But combining early pregnancy fatigue with a new job and chasing around a toddler makes for very little energy to do anything in my free time that doesn't involve plopping my laptop on my lap and reading an ebook.

Plus I want to participate in NaNoWriMo in November, which would basically suck up any free time at all. I probably shouldn't plan on finishing a book, but knowing I'm only one of thousands handling a busy real life in addition to writing will be nice.

So it looks like November and December will be very busy months for both knitting and writing. Should be fun. Crazy, but fun.

Now all I need to do is ferret out my will to knit.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hold My Sock

Yarn Harlot started it, knitters everywhere continue it. Having someone significant hold your sock for a picture is something that seems odd, but when you're a knitter, including your projects in such a way raises the importance of both the sock and the subject of the picture. At least, that's what I think.

Last weekend, Naomi and I drove down to West Virginia (talk about a long road trip) for Lora Leigh's Reader Appreciation Weekend, known as RAW. There, I got to hang with many people I see online all the time and with authors of such wonderful talent and imagination. I brought along stuff to finally begin the second sock to match this:
Spring Forward
Spring Forward at Knitty. I finished the first one over a month ago. Second Sock Syndrome hits me hard. I'm working on that, though.

Anyway, I cast on the second sock while I was at RAW's Friday night slumber party. Everyone (okay, most) wore pyjamas and we ate pizza and danced to the tunes of a very enthusiastic DJ. The next day, there was a private booksigning just for RAW attendees and a Masquerade Ball that evening. I got pictures of said sock along with people I know and love. Most took it in stride when I said "hold my sock," but the funniest was Lora Leigh, who looked at me suspiciously and asked "Is it contagious?", which is the exact thing she said when I told her earlier in the evening that I was pregnant. LOL

Naomi (left) and Kimberly, who was being cheeky and used her cleavage as a shelf.
Sock, Naomi, and Kimberly

Danita, who had the coolest "mask" at the ball.
Sock and Danita

Diane, who is one of the finest examples of all that is good about human beings.
Sock and Diane

Jill, who somehow withstands the blazing oven-like heat of Arizona every summer.
Sock and Jill

Author Lora Leigh, who came up with the idea of RAW originally and who also writes excellent books.
Sock and Lora

Mel, who liked the sock so much she didn't even look away from it while holding it.
Sock and Turquoise

Me and Nalini Singh, one of my favorite authors and an utter sweetheart.
Sock, Courtney, and Nalini

Me and JR Ward, an incredibly lovely and gracious woman who writes books I kind of have a thing for.
Sock, JR, and Courtney

It was a great weekend. A lot of driving to get there and back, but totally worth it. I likely won't be going next year because, assuming all goes well, I will have a four month old baby in addition to Peanut and traveling that much for so little time there seems pretty crazy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Basic Baby Socks

I've become a fan of making my own sock patterns. As an experienced knitter, it's fun and relatively easy. To the beginner, though, having a pattern is important. Even better is a basic pattern, which is often a blank canvas on which a knitter imposes his or her own creativity. Baby socks are good for that. They can also be an instant-gratification project, a way to use up leftover yarn, or a way to take a new yarn for a test drive.

It is because of the latter that these socks came about. I had seen On Your Toes Bamboo (Ravelry link) at my LYS months ago, but whenever I stopped in after that they were sold out. I don't like special ordering yarn (for some reason I feel like premeditated spending is worse than impulse buys--I have no idea why), so I just kept an eye out. Last week while I get getting some Cascade 220 for a sweater, I noticed that they had it in. It's a pretty salmon pink, plenty girly without being run-of-the-mill pastel.

Basic Baby Socks

The gauge on the ball band calls for US 3 (3.25mm) needles, so that's what I used. I like the fabric it produced despite the fact that many Ravelers used US 1 or 2 needles. Also, it went faster. At this gauge, they should fit babies up to about 12 months old or so. Changing yarn may change either stitch or row gauge and will therefore affect the size of the finished sock.

So here's the pattern. As always, get creative. Longer cuffs, ribbing down the foot, it's all good. :) Unlike my Little Feet pattern, this has been written for the begging sock knitter with detailed instructions for the turned heel, gusset, and wedge toe. Grafting/Kitchener instructions for the toe can be found in a multitude of places, so you're on your own there. Happy knitting!

Yarn: On Your Toes Bamboo, 75% Bamboo 25% Nylon
Needles: US size 3
Gauge: 7.5 sts/in

CO 32

Knit 10 rows of 2x2 ribbing

After completing the tenth round, knit 16 stitches onto one needle for the heel flap. Work 12 rows in total (including the first knit row) for the heel flap, ending with a purl row.

Turn Heel:
Row 1: sl 1, k 9, ssk, k 1, turn
Row 2: sl 1, p5, p2tog, p 1, turn
Row 3: sl 1, k 6, ssk, k 1, turn
Row 4: sl 1, p 7, p2tog, p 1, turn
Row 5: sl 1, k 8, ssk, turn
Row 6: sl 1, p 9, p2tog, turn. 10 sts remain

Knit 5 of the heel stitches onto one needle and the second five onto another needle, now Needle 1. With Needle 1, pick up 8 stitches along the side of the heel flap. Knit across the top of the sock to the other side of the flap (needles 2 and 3). Pick up 8 stitches with a new needle (needle 4) and knit the five remaining heel stitches. Needles 1 and 4 each have 14 stitches. Needles 2 and 3 each have 8. The center of the heel is the new beginning of the round.

Row 1: Knit even.
Row 2: Knit to the last three stitches of needle 1, k2tog, k1. Knit even across needles 2 and 3. When you get to needle 4, k1, ssk, knit to end.

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until all needles have 8 stitches.

Work 12 rows even

Row 1: Knit to last 3 sts of needle 1, k2tog. K1, ssk at the beginning of needle 2. Knit to last 3 sts of needle 3, k2tog. K1, ssk at the beginning of needle 4. Knit to end of round.
Row 2: knit even

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until each needle has 4 stitches. Graft two sets of 8 and weave in ends.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Knitting, knitting, knitting...

I have been pretty productive over the last month or so. Among other things, I've been turning out dishcloths and lace bookmarks like nuts. Thanks, Liz, for all those wonderful sock yarn scraps for the bookmarks.

I knit a pair of socks in one week by working them at the same time on two sets of DPNs. It was great. Now I just hope they fit the intended recipient, but that's the risk you take when you make socks for feet you don't have access to.

I started a pair of baby socks for my favorite author's best friend's baby girl. A little weird, I know, but I wanted to test drive this new sock yarn (Ravelry link) I got and get a really accurate gauge and baby socks seemed like a good idea. Plus I have baby fever and I'm hoping to ingratiate myself with this particular author to that perhaps she will send me books early or something. Pathetic, yes. But I've made peace with that. :)

I've been plowing through my kitchen cotton. In fact, even my husband noticed that my giant yarn box (what he calls my stash) was getting lighter. Maybe if I fill it up again with lighter fibers like wool, he won't notice that it took a lot more yarn to do it. LOL

I've put my raglan (Ravelry link) on hold until the drive to West Virginia. I need to swatch it a lot better; there won't be much ease in this thing, so I want to really avoid making it too small. I need to figure out what cable I want to put down the sleeves and swatch that as well. Also, I think I will knit it in the round and steek it for a zipper.

The idea of steeking is daunting, scary, and thrilling. It's a big risk, cutting your knitted fabric. One of the things I like about knitting is that it's very forgiving: if you don't like it or have made a mistake, you can rip it out. We've all done it. I've frogged an entire sweater before. Steeking, on the other hand, is an irreversible committment.

But hey--what is knitting if not an opportunity to constantly challenge myself? I keep telling beginning knitters that knitting is not hard, it's just a bunch of small building blocks. Steeking will be yet another block added to Courtney's House of Knitting Skills. The time has come to leave my comfort zone. I did it with socks. I can do it with steeking.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Aaah, September

I'm a fan of September. I loved school and by the time September rolled around, I was so ready to go back. Now, I have something else to look forward to.

This year's Reader Appreciation Weekend is at the Pullman Plaza in Huntington, West Virginia. Naomi and I are driving down and rooming together. Sadly, Maggie will not be there, but I get to see a bunch of other friends, including Lami and Kat. I can't wait.

I have been knitting for this event for months. Mostly washcloths, but a few really nice things, too. JR is getting something decadent that didn't even cost that much. I'm knitting a pair of socks for someone who singlehandedly saved my holiday. My favorite sheep-chasing Kiwi author is getting something with a sheep on it.

The other authors I've read are getting pretty lace bookmarks, assuming I can get them done. I may have to knit them on the way and block them when we get there. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hostage Situations

Knitting is only my second love. My first is romance novels. It's unfortunate that I have chosen two hobbies so misunderstood by society, but the reward I get from both outweighs the occaisional negative feedback.

Next week, there's a book releasing that I've been chomping at the bit for. Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series is one of the best new paranormal series out there right now. She's taken basic shapeshifter lore and the possibility of psychic ability and combined them in an alternate near-future reality. The fifth book, Hostage to Pleasure, will be landing in stores in seven days.


In this book we will get to know Dorian better, a leopard changeling who was born a latent--he's a leopard in every way except he doesn't have the ability to shift. Everyone I've talked to who has already read this book has loved it--not that I'd expect anything less than that from one of my favorite new writers.

Nalini Singh is not only a great author, but an utter sweetheart. I get to meet her in a few weeks. She's getting a sheep-related knitted gift to honor her Kiwi-ness. LOL She's running a contest on her blog that sounds fun because it gives us readers an excuse to ruminate on all the delicious men we encounter in the land of romance fiction. The question involves hostages, both having one and being one.

Which fictional hero would I like to hold hostage? It's a tie between Baran Arvid from Angela Knight's Jane's Warlord and Judd Lauren from Nalini's books. Baran Arvid is a genetically engineered warrior from about three hundred years in the future. He has super strength, a tattoo on his face, and uses a restraint cable quite creatively. Judd Lauren was featured in Caressed by Ice, the third Psy-Changeling book I was lucky enough to win an ARC of a couple months before it's official release.

Who would I want to hold me hostage? Also a tie. I don't think Zsadist could hold anyone against their will given his past, but I'd love for him to make that particular bit of personal growth with me. I'd also want Roarke from JD Robb's In Death series. Rich Irish bad boy with a well-hidden soft side? Sign me up. Roarke may be my favorite fictional hero of all time.

Nalini's last question is which fictional world would I want to be held hostage in. Assuming I'd get a change to explore it, I'd have to say the world she created with the Psy, Changelings, and humans living semiharmoniously together. Aside from the fascinating people, there's a lot of fun technology to explore. I'd want to be a changeling, though. Or a Psy after they break Silence. Unless I'd be a Psy who got a changeling male's assistance in breaking out of that pesky emotionless automaton thing....but I digress.

If you like paranormal romance and haven't gotten to this series yet, you should get out from under that rock and start Slave to Sensation. Nalini's style and imagination is fresh and brilliant and you will enjoy it.

We now go back to our irregularly scheduled knitting blog. :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Little Feet Baby Socks

My first original sock pattern! As socks are not exactly rocket science, it may not be a very impressive feat, but something so simple and lovely has got to be magical, so I am very proud of myself. So, without further ado, here's how you can make your own Little Feet:

Little Feet Baby Socks
blue baby socks-Jelly Bean

I love the k2p1 ribbing. It gives a close fit without distorting the smoothness of the fabric like k2p2 can do. This pattern is written for someone who is familiar with the basic construction of a top-down sock and knows how to turn a heel, decrease a gusset, and decrease a wedge toe.

0-3 months (by working more instep rows, you can knit these socks to fit up to 6 months or so)

Fingering weight sock yarn (leftovers from adult socks knit from 100g of yarn will be plenty)
US Size 1 (2.25 mm) DPNs, set of 5
Tapestry needle

9 sts per inch in stockinette stitch
**This is a little flexible. For baby socks, err on the side of caution and keep in mind that a little bigger is always better than too small.**


CO 36 sts, 9 on each needle

Work k2, p1 ribbing for 10 rows (or however long you want the cuff to be)

Heel Flap
After the end of the tenth/last round, k18 and turn to purl back for a plain stockinette flap. Work fourteen rows in total, ending with a purl row.

Turn Heel
Row 1: k11, ssk, k1, turn
Row 2: sl1, p7, p2tog, p1, turn
Row 3: sl1, knit to 1 st before gap, ssk over gap, k1, turn
Row 4: sl1, purl to 1 st before gap, p2tog over gap, p1, turn
Continue in this fashion until all heel stitches have been worked. 12 sts remain.

Knit across all heel sts, then pick up 9 sts along heel flap for gusset. Work ribbing across instep. Pick up 9 sts along flap and knit 6 sts from the heel to place the center of the heel between needles. Knit the first round even, then alternate decrease and even rows until all needles have 9 sts.

Instep and Toe
Work 12 rounds even, then alternate decrease and even rows for toe until 16 sts remain. Graft two sets of 8 and weave in ends.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Baby Socks!

I will be posting the pattern for these later because it's an original by me and I want to publish it and put it on Ravelry, but I just had to share:

blue baby socks-Jelly Bean

I also finished the pink pair for my new niece:
pink baby socks-Peyton

I love baby socks. They are fast, easy, and totally fun to give away.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

More Lolcats!

I just can't get enough of these things. This time we have:

Make like a human and stand
funny pictures
more cat pictures

Vampire kitteh
funny pictures
more cat pictures

Existential kitteh
funny pictures
more cat pictures

Star Wars kitteh
funny pictures
more cat pictures

MC Kitteh
funny pictures
more cat pictures

Death Star hamster
funny pictures
more cat pictures

Romantic kittehs
funny pictures
more cat pictures

MLK kittehs
Funny Pictures
more cat pictures

Kittehs in space
Humorous Pictures
more cat pictures

Monty Python kitteh
Humorous Pictures
more cat pictures

Darth Kitteh
Humorous Pictures
more cat pictures

Soul-eating kitteh
more cat pictures

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Because nothing makes me laugh harder than cute animals and fantastic captions.

more cat pictures

more cat pictures

more cat pictures

more cat pictures

more cat pictures

more cat pictures

more cat pictures

humorous pictures
more cat pictures

humorous pictures
more cat pictures

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What should you have in your notions bag?

While I was yarn shopping with Naomi on Thursday and she asked me what she needed besides needles and yarn, it got me thinking: what are the truly essential items that should never leave your knitting bag? What is just nice to have? Are some notions a waste of money?

So I made a list and took a picture of what is in my notions bag, which has all my essentials plus a few nice-to-have items.


Scissors. Just because the phrase "break yarn" is common knitting jargon doesn't mean you have to actually break it. My scissors are small embroidery snippers. Anything that cuts yarn will do, from scissors of all sizes to pendants that have protected blades. Those are nice for getting thorugh airport security.
Darning/tapestry needles for weaving in ends. I recommend a variety of sizes to accomodate a variety of yarn weights. Clover has a nice set that comes with a screw-top case. Mine is tied to my scissors.
Measuring tape. A regular ribbon-style tape is fine, but having a little retractable one is better when you don't want a three foot long measuring tape uncoiled and causing chaos in your notions bag.

You can get by on having just those, but I strongly recommend also having these:

Stitch markers. These come in handy for lots of things. I carry both ring and split-ring markers. Even if you don't need to keep a marker on for a pattern, casting on lots (50+) of stitches usually means counting to see how many you've done so far. Put a marker after a certain number of stitches and you don't have to count as much. Plain plastic and fancy beaded will perform the same function, so getting fancy markers is purely a matter of personal preference.
Pen/pencil. Making notations on patterns is great. Writing down your gauge on a yarn's ball band is better. I also like to keep track of row counts/pattern repeats with hash marks.
Crochet hook. Even the most experienced knitters drop stitches now and again. You can technically do it with a knitting needle, but it's a pain in the rear, especially if the stitch has dropped several rows. Hooking up the ladder makes a frustrating process a little easier.

I'd say those are the things you should really have. Now the extras.

Nice to Have:

Stitch holders. Many projects have times where you need to keep stitches live. You can have holders that are designed for this purpose or you can use a spare needle or other object that will work just fine. I like to use either holders or a double pointed need with point protectors at the ends.
Cable needles. Cables are fun. Like with stitch holders, you can use something other than a needle designed for this specific purpose, like a double pointed needle. You can also learn how to cable without using anything to hold those stitches.
Point protectors. You can stick some on the ends of dpns to use them as straight needles, cap your needles to keep your work from falling off, or cap both ends of a single dpn to use it as a stitch holder. The possibilites are vast.
Safety pins. Not only are these good to have all the time, they are extremely useful for knitting. They can be stitch or row markers, hold together edges of pieces for fitting or seaming, anything you can think of. If you can find them, get the ones with no coil because those can snag yarn. Come to think of it, safety pins could easily go under "essentials."
Bobbins. If you dabble in intarsia or other colorwork that requires you to work with several small amounts of yarn simultaneously, bobbins are nice. You can make little center-pull bundles that make bobbins unnecessary, but until one has mastered that, plastic or heavy cardboard bobbins are the ticket.
Graph paper. Sometimes you want to chart out written instructions or make your own design. Maybe you just want something to write on. Regular paper is fine for that, but because a knitted item is composed of a grid of stitches, graph paper is handy.

In my opinion, everything else is optional. Sure, some people might not be able to live without their Norwegian knitting thimble, but I doubt the majority of us need one. Having a needle sizer, a metal/plastic plate with holes of specific sizes, is nice for some things, but most of us use one so infrequently that we just use a friend's. On top of notions that are optional, there are the fancy versions of the basics: stitch holders that look more like jewelry, decorative tip protectors, bags that have various pockets and zippered compartments.

The sky is the limit when it comes to knitting accessories. Start with the basics, then start personalizing. A knitter's notions bag often reflects his or her personality. Practical but fun? Utilitarian and efficient? Colorful and pretty? As with all things knitting, the variety of notions available turns our art into expression and adds to the enjoyment we feel as we knit.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cute baby sweater!

little ribs 1

Isn't it lovely? In terms of technique, I feel that this is one of my best projects. I established my gauge well and made stitch count alterations accordingly to a pattern I found on Lion Brand called Glamour-Baby's First Cardigan. I chose this pattern because, due to the fact that it is composed of rectangles, it is very easy to alter the gauge.

The original pattern was five rectangles knit separately in garter stitch and sewn together. UGH. Too much seaming, too much garter stitch, too much boring knitting. I changed the construction of the garment to be knit in basically one piece. I used stockinette with ribs on the botton, cuffs, where the shoulder seams would have been, and along the front edges. I picked up three stitches where I wanted the ties and made I-cords. I think the ribbon makes it look cheap girly.

So I guess the only features of the pattern I kept were the overall dimensions, the tacked-down lapel, and the location of the ties. According to my knitting group, I have changed enough to consider it my own pattern and I should publish it. I'll have to go over my notes, but I think that may work. If you arrived at this blog entry from Ravelry or are otherwise knitterly inclined, please let me know in the comments if you'd like me to post my specific modifications and/or write a whole new pattern.

Next up: a matching pair of pants, then matching booties and maybe a matching hat.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Simple Blanket

I designed a blanket for a friend based on one I saw at a local yarn shop. It's easy enough for a beginner but isn't boring garter stitch. All you need to know to make this blanket are the basics: cast on, knit, purl, and bind off. It also requires making a swatch to determine gauge, which is a good habit to foster with beginning knitters. I know a few experienced folks who should swatch more. *raises hand guiltily*

Anyway, here it is.


Ribbed Blanket

This blanket can be made in any size: baby, lap, throw, etc. Any yarn can be used, but the pattern was written with a bulky yarn in mind so that the blanket does not take forever to knit. Because gauge determines the number of stitches to cast on, knit a swatch as follows:

CO 24
Row 1: *k4, p4**, repeat from * to ** twice more
Repeat Row 1 until swatch measures 3” long
Bind off in pattern

Block swatch as the finished blanket will be blocked. Measure across and divide 24 by that number. This is your number of stitches per inch.

Determine how wide you want the blanket to be in inches, then multiply that by your gauge to get your total number of stitches to get that length. Round this number down to the nearest multiple of 8.

Blanket pattern:

CO predetermined number of stitches (multiple of 8)

Rows 1-5: knit

Row 6: k4, *k4, p4**, repeat from * to ** until four stitches remain, k4

Repeat row 6 until blanket measures five rows shorter than desired.

Last 5 rows: knit

Bind of loosely and block.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I love knitting baby clothes

Yesterday morning I found the pattern I wanted for a baby sweater and made some changes to it: gauge, stitch pattern, things like that. I cast it on when Peanut went down for her nap an hour or two after I did the math for the new gauge.

Today, about 24 hours later, I am working on the second sleeve. This sweater will be done completely fewer than 48 hours after it was started. The only reason it will take that long is because I decided to block it flat before sewing the seams so I'll have to let it dry overnight. But tomorrow morning I will have a cute blue baby sweater and I'll blog all about it with pictures.

Baby clothes: perfect for knitters with a need for instant gratification!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Why can't you block acrylic?

I actually didn't think of the answer to this question for months, which is enough to disgrace my biochemistry professor, really. The reason is so simple, so beautiful, that it really should have popped into my head long ago. Alas, it did not. But yesterday it finally did, so on the off chance you want to know why you can't block synthetics, keep reading. I don't get really technical.

First, a bare-bones lesson on proteins. Proteins are long chains of amino acids curled up on themselves. The the twenty-plus amino acids all have different things attatched to them. Some of those things can be very attracted to each other, which makes them stick together and affect the shape of the protein depending on where amino acids are on the chain. That's important because, from human hair to merino wool to fuzzy angora, fur is just a bunch of proteins strung together.

Now, a little about synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers are polymers, or long chains of molecules. Like proteins, actually, and many other things both natural and manmade. Chemically, they are both organic, or carbon-based. To look at the molecular structures or even just their molecular formula, there isn't much difference between some proteins and certain ploymers. That's why acrylic is so widespread in garment making: it resembles wool on a very tiny level.

The differences that are there, though, have a large impact on blocking. The molecules hanging on a protein can bond to each other in a couple different ways. These ways can be affected easily by heat and water. Ever curled your hair? If you've done it without resorting to getting it wrapped painfully on uncomfortable plastic rollers and doused in smelly chemicals, you probably used a curling iron or rolled it when it was wet and let it dry like that. Both methods temporarily alter the chemical bonds along the protein strings of your hair, which then alters their shape.

The same happens when you block natural fibers. Wet blocking and steam blocking do the exact same thing to the fur your item is made of that it would do to your hair: it forces the temporary rearrngement of bonds. Acrylic, on the other hand, no matter how much it feels like wool, does not have the specific chemical structure to form bonds with itself along the polymer string. It just slides.

So that's why you can't block acrylic. And why you have to reblock things after they get wet. Now here's the question I have: has anyone ever tried to give a wool garment a perm to set the blocking for all time? If they did, I bet it was really smelly. Wet wool + perming chemicals = YUCK!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Knitting ADD

I have decided that I have knitting ADD. I see a project or yarn that interests me and I take steps to start something. In April, I did lots of washcloths, socks, scarves, and cotton scrubbies. I have five projects on needles right now: two pairs of socks, two lace scarves, and a shrug.

Projects I am planning to start soon are more baby socks, baby pants, a baby blanket, a pair of wrist warmers, and the gifts for people at RAW. That doesn't even count the things I'd like to make for myself: another pair of socks and a mini Clapotis. I want to start all of them at one time! Alas, knitting ADD.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Easy to learn, difficult to master

Knitting is many things, but the title of this post is probably going to become my response to the question "Is that hard?" that I am inevitably asked when I knit in public alone. I found this little gem of a description in an article in the Summer 2005 issue of Knitty called Knit Like a Man by David Demchuk. He has an article in the Spring 2008 issue, too, about what males a male knitter hardcore. (In case you are wondering, it's knitting baby clothes in public.)

Today, I taught a friend how to knit. I talk about knitting all the time and apparently the joy I get from it comes through because Naomi expressed interest. We went to Knit'n and I told her all about fibers and yarn weights and we had much fun fondling yarn. She even mentioned afterward that she wanted to go back in the store just to feel everything again. Oh yeah. I SO converted her.

Then we went to Panera across the parking lot (they have free wifi) to have coffee, pastry, and knitting. Naomi picked up both knitting and purling very quickly, much quicker than anyone else I've taught. It's probably because she learned how to knit a long time ago and her muscle memory kicked in. But that is really the easy part, you know? Making stitches is quite simple; even most techniques seen as "advanced" are simple in practice. Using double pointed needles, increases and decreases other than yarnover and knit two together, cabling, reading a chart, and seaming are all straightforward and uncomplicated.

But what I told Naomi was this: basics like casting on, knitting, purling, and binding off are the foundation. Increases and decreases add on, and finishing techniques add on. It all adds up to a whole house.

What really separates knitters from people who know how to knit is how built-up that house is. Some people are happy sitting on the foundation and knitting squares and rectangles in the form of scarves, blankets, and dishcloths. Others build up a bit more and make hats and maybe a sweater. Then you get into gloves and mittens, socks, and colorwork like stranding and intarsia. Have you ever cut a steek on a traditionally knit Fair Isle toddler sweater? If you have, you are the little pig who built a brick house and no amount of breath blown by non-knitters will bring your abode crashing down.

I wonder if anyone really masters knitting. I could name several designers and even friends who are very experienced and know a helluva lot more than I do about knitting. But then I can't help but wonder if they know more than I do or have they simply had more time to apply their knowledge? As I took Naomi around my LYS, I realized that I had a great deal of knitting/fiber knowledge in my own head. How using different fibers affects the drape, elasticity, softness, and tension. The importance of tension and how that can impact everything from fit to durability.

Why different stitch patterns are appropriate to certain projects and not to others. Little tricks like avoiding ladders while using DPNs and making nice edge stitches. Why skipping a gauge swatch is not a good idea and how basic math is your friend. I can cable, pick up stitches, cast on in a variety of ways, knit three dimensional objects, and have designed a purse, blankets, and scarves. The list goes on.

But have I mastered knitting? That would be a resounding NO. I doubt that I ever will, but I'll have a great time trying. There will always be things that I haven't done yet or have only done a few times. It was very easy to learn how to knit and I've pretty much got it down by now, but I'll always have a ways to go to master the art of knitting.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

From Lisa's Blog

My knitting buddy Lisa has this on her blog and it looked cool.

Empire Magazine has revealed its list of the "50 Greatest TV Shows" ever.
Below is the list and here be the rules:

1. Bold the shows you've watched every episode of
2. Italic the shows you've seen at least one episode of
3. Post your answers

50. Quantum Leap
49. Prison Break
48. Veronica Mars
47. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
46. Sex & The City
45. Farscape
44. Cracker
43. Star Trek
42. Only Fools and Horses
41. Band of Brothers

40. Life on Mars
39. Monty Python's Flying Circus
38. Curb Your Enthusiasm
37. Star Trek: The Next Generation
36. Father Ted
35. Alias
34. Frasier
33. CSI: Las Vegas
32. Babylon 5
31. Deadwood

30. Dexter
29. ER
28. Fawlty Towers
27. Six Feet Under
26. Red Dwarf
25. Futurama
24. Twin Peaks
23. The Office UK
22. The Shield
21. Angel

20. Blackadder
19. Scrubs
18. Arrested Development
17. South Park
16. Doctor Who
15. Heroes
14. Firefly
13. Battlestar Galactica
12. Family Guy
11. Seinfeld

10. Spaced
09. The X-Files
08. The Wire
07. Friends
06. 24
05. Lost
04. The West Wing
03. The Sopranos
02. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
01. The Simpsons

Most of the shows I had heard of but not seen and a couple of the shows I'm not sure I've even heard of. Combine that with the fact that the only shows I emboldened are scifi and this blog entry tells you that I am a geek and I actively avoid watching the "hot" shows that "everyone" talks about. Maybe I should branch out, ut I'm not going to. Why not? Because this is what I envision when I go to heaven:

1. The complete DVD sets of all seasons of Star Trek, Farscape, Babylon 5, and Firefly along with the entire broadcast history of Jeopardy.
2. Any yarn I want in any fiber, weight, and colorway.
3. Any knitting needle I want in any material and length.
4. Every romance novel in existence, written or to-be-written.

An eternity of knitting, excellent TV, and my reading genre of choice? Utter perfection! Except for the fact that I'd be dead. But I'm mortal, so that's okay.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I need to borrow a Zombie Survival Guide, please


Things to do to up my score: get a gun and learn how to use it, detatch myself from loved ones when they become zombies so I can shoot them without hesitation, and stock up on non-perishable food.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Warning: slightly risque content to follow. Requires a good sense of humor.

Yes, yarngasms. Like a footgasm when you wear a new handknit sock, but better. Why is a yarngasm bettern than a footgasm? Oh, let me count the ways.

1. You experience a yarnagsm in three different stages: buying, knitting/crocheting, and wearing and/or giving.

2. They boggle your entire mind, not just your feet.

3. Your hands are the chief interface with the yarn. Fingers have one of the highest concentrations of nerve endings on your body.

4. They can be experienced at the same time and/or overlapped with other 'gasms like footgasms (socks), handgasms (gloves), neckgasms (scarves) and the lovely total body gasm (sweaters). Double your pleasure, double your fun, right?

I have been having yarngasms here and there today whenever I pick up the scarf I'm making out of Misti Baby Alpaca Suri & Silk. My hands sing as it threads through my finders. My needles sigh at the feeling of being draped in this gorgeous stuff. I must make sure the recipient of this wonderful item knows how wonderful it is. I'm sure she'll take one feel and fall in love just like I did.

Another yarngasm that got started on Thursday when I bought the Misti was the purchase of my first hank of sock yarn that will be for socks. The skein of Trekking I got a while ago is turning into a lace scarf. Anyway, I am the proud holder of a lovely 100 grams of Araucania Ranco, 75% wool, 25% nylon/polyamide. The label says polyamide, Ravelry says it's nylon. Either way, it feels great and I'm looking ofrward to making my first pair of socks with it.

I will have pictures of these yarngasm-inducing items later. I have to go feel them up again before I let the public into our little private world. ;)

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I decided to take a break from Coachella to knit a few dishcloths. Dishcloths tend to be easy and fast, which are both in the recipe for instant knitter's gratification. Sometimes, you just need to finish something.

I found a pattern for a Star Trek dishcloth that I fiddled with a bit to give me this:
trek cloth 1

I also hatched an idea for a new cloth that was based on a pattern called Grandmother's Favorite. It's one of the simplest dishcloth patterns out there, but it is very boring to knit. Thinking that a horizontal rib would be fun, I started knitting and voila:
horizontal rib washcloth

I'll get a better picture in later. Here's the modified pattern:

Cast on 4
row 1: k4
row 2: k2, yo, k to end
rows 3 and 4: k2, yo, p to last 2 sts, k2
row 5: k2, yo, k to end

repeat rows 2-5 until the cloth is big enough for you, then decrease like so:
row 6: k1, k2tog, yo, k2tog, k to end
rows 7 and 8: k1, k2tog, yo, p2tog, p to last 2 sts, k2
row 9: k1, k2tog, yo, k2tog, k to end

repeat rows 6-9 until there are 4 sts on needle. Bind off.

This variation makes this cloth less boring to knit, but still very effective for scrubbing. Now I have two new dishcloths and no progress on Coachella. Oh, well. :)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Auntie Courtney!

Not yet, but it is coming.

Here's a picture of the little one at 12 weeks gestation:
Angel Baby

It's a pretty good shot for only 12 weeks. My sister is so excited. She's had some morning sickness, but she and her husband are thrilled at their impending addition. This is their first baby.

I think I'll really enjoy the second one more. The love will be the same, of course, but there will be no fear of the unknown. That will be nice.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


The bag is felted! A scant 10 minutes in the washer and it shrunk up just beautifully. It isn't as tall as I'd planned, but that is so okay with me. My last felting project ended a bit disastrously, so this is a treat. I have no place to hang it, so I draped it over the computer chair.

Its shape is fine and it's nice and deep. The straps are longer than I thought they'd be, which is great because I got really sick of knitting them and bound off before I thought they'd be long enough for what I wanted. The color is lovely, blue with lighter flecks throughout. Paton's Classic Merino Wool in Denim Marl is nice for felting.

I'm tickled pink! After drying, all I gotta do is attatch the D rings for the adjustable strap and flap closure. Drying will take a while, though. I did let it spin a bit in the washer to get most of the water out, which seems to not have affected the shaping at all. Who said you shouldn't spin felted things? They were a little off. *wink*

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I see the light! I'm almost out of the tunnel!

The blue felted bag was an endless sea of knitting stockinette in the round. Endless, that is, until Sunday. I finally finished the body of the bag while Peanut and I were hanging at Sarah's house. I started binding off while I was there, but when I got home I decided to undo that and knit two rounds of k2 p2 ribbing except where I was going to continue knitting the flap.

The flap, I decided, would be shaped just like the bag's bottom, then tapered to a long ribbon that will be used in one of those double D-ring closure things. Or something. I also knit a four stitch seed stitch border to prevent curling. It worked out nicely.

The strap took some thinking. Sarah suggested I check out the way the strap was done on the Slingshot at Knitty. I considered this, then decided on something different that serves two purposes. I'm knitting a strap with two strands of the wool held together on size 10 needles. Purpose 1: produces a thick strap that, when felted, will be nice and cushy on my shoulder. Purpose 2: knits up quick so I can finish this %$#@ing bag-that-never-ends.

I suppose it hasn't been that bad, though. Incredibly boring, but that was nice in it's own way. I was able to knit and make eye contact at the same time. And I knit while getting cavities filled at the dentist. Most people at the office there got a kick out of me knitting blind.

I cast on the leggings that I will KAL with some of my knitting buddies. We all have to make changes to the pattern because it's written for an anemic supermodel and we are real females with actual flesh on our calves. They will be a challenge and a fun KAL, but I also want to cast on baby socks so I can finally knit a pair of socks. Since they're itty bitty, they will go fast. Also, I will write up the pattern for the bag and post it here. I doubt anyone will use the pattern, but publishing it will be a good idea for posterity.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

How Cool is That?

knitPro. My new favorite tool.

One of the things I want to do for a few people I'll be seeing in September at RAW is knit or crochet custom dishcloths. I want to add words and/or images, but I had no idea how to go about getting custom charts online.

Ravelry to the rescue! I browsed their forums thinking that I'm certainly not the only person with this kind of thing in mind. That's how I found the link to knitPro. It only accepts picture formats (gif, jpeg, png), but that was okay because I just opened Paint under my computer's Accessories menu and used the text function. Saved that to my comp, then browsed it with knitPro's web app and voila! A chart just for me.

With knitPro, you can customize the chart for your project. For example, cross stitch and tapestry crochet (which is basically intarsia for hookers) use 1:1 ratio graphs for stitches that are completely square. But knitting charts are different because knit stitches are taller than they are wide. If you want to make a chart for knitting, knitPro lets you choose either a 5:7 ratio for portrait or 7:5 for landscape. It's groovy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Felted Purse: By the Numbers

I'm making a felted purse. The body of it is knit in the round. (I'll post the pattern after I finish it.) The thing about felting is that it shrinks a lot vertically but not so much horizontally. This means that if I want my bag to be roughly 13 inches deep, I have to knit 19.5 inches of unfelted stockinette. The math works out to 18,720 stitches total. That's assuming I don't make it deeper. That does not include the two-strand I-Cord straps I have planned or the flap I want to make if I have enough yarn.

And since it's in the round, all the stitches are knit. No sweet purls to break up the monotony. The perk is that I don't have to actually be looking at it constantly to do it. I wonder what the dentist will think tomorrow when I take my mind off the sound of that evil drill by closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, and knitting.

I crunched some more numbers. I timed myself the other day and it takes me six minutes to knit one row. This includes shifting stitches along the circular needle, pulling lengths of yarn from the skein, and the slow-during-the-show, faster-during-the-commercials rhythm of knitting while watching a show on the History channel. Not a speed-knitting trial, just a real-life situation.

At six minutes a row for 117 rows (six rows per inch), the total knitting time for JUST THE BODY of the bag, not counting the bottom, straps, or flap, is eleven and a half hours. Add in about two hours for swatching, three hours for the bottom, four hours for the flap (I'm planning some cables for it), two for the straps (I'll be using size 9 dpns and holding two strands of wool together), an hour for felting and shaping, and two hours for pattern planning and writing, and I will have a one-of-a-kind hand-knit fulled purse for 25.5 hours of work.

Yarn cost for 4 skeins of Paton's Classic Merino was $12. They were on sale. Oh, and the size seven bamboo circular needle I used was $8.99.

Knitting is a learned skill. It takes time to learn how, of course, but even more time to truly get a feel for the art. I've just barely scratched the surface. I know enough to make a purse, sure, but that is basically a big box. But even for that, I had to have a little more than the basic knowledge of how to knit to write a pattern that works out well.

But let's say that it's a minumum wage job. At Wisconsin minimun wage, $6.50, the labor cost would be $165.75. Add in yarn and needle cost and the total cost of the purse is (rounded to the nearest dollar) $187.

Of course, I don't knit as fast as a "professional" would or someone who has been knitting for years and years. And designing, knitting, felting, and using this bag will give me hours of thinking, relaxing, anticipation, and satisfaction (in that order). Knitting is a social thing for me, so I don't often knit alone. Knitting with my group slows my speed because it's not just about the knitting, it's about the hanging out and chatting.

So while the monetary worth of this purse is close to two hundred dollars, keeping it for my own and having the knowledge and satifation that I designed it, made it, and am enjoying the fruits of my labor is (prepare for cheesy sentiment):


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Maori Haka

The Maori are the native people of New Zealand. They are a proud and fierce culture and are very well known for their extensive traditional tattoos. Something else they are known for is the haka, a form of dancing that most people recognize as the war dance and chant performed by Maori warriors before a battle to intimidate their enemies and invoke their god of war.

Today, most people know the haka as made famous by the All Blacks, New Zealand's rugby union team, who perform it before all international matches. Here are some cool videos of the hunky rugby players:

This last one is utterly adorable. I showed it to one of my favorite authors, Nalini Singh, and she loved it so much she posted it on her blog.

Here's a translation of the All Blacks' traditional haka chant.

Pretty neat, huh?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Wet Wool Stinks

I felted a swatch of Paton's Merino and it's STINKY. I was going to do it in the sink, but it stunk too much. I ended up putting it in a plastic container with hot water and some soap and just shook it for a while. It worked like a charm, didn't make the house smell like wet wool, and I didn't have to worry about burning my hands with hot water splashing during agitation.

I got four skeins of Paton's Classic Merino in Denim on clearance at Michael's for three dollars a skein:
I'm still not quite sure what I'm going to do with it, but it will be felted. Some sort of purse. Messenger bag, maybe.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Care Packages to Soldiers

I haven't done this yet. I was going to do the 6x9 rectangle thing, but that was so...detatched. It wasn't really personal, you know?

Well, I was chatting on the message board I'm constantly at and someone told us about a wonderful website:

AnySoldier is not a middleman where you send stuff and they send it on. It is a place that brings together many military "contacts", men and women who are stationed overseas. These contacts provide their mailing address and a list of what to send. When they get a package with the line "Attn: AnySoldier" below the contact's name on the mailing label, they give the package to one of their men/women who does not receive or infrequently receives mail.

I think this is a fantastic idea. I can send things directly to specific people who will see that the useful and fun things I sent will be recieved by someone whose day will be brightened in an otherwise gloomy situation. I am SO doing this!

Monday, February 4, 2008


I figure here is as good a place as any to keep track of my knitting and crochet projects. It's easy to access, stored in internet space instead of my harddrive, and is in a format my computer-challenged brain can understand.

Yes, ladies, I am avoiding Ravelry. It will become another form of online crack. I already have enough of those. *wink*

Anyway, I am actually going to post pictures this time around. My biggest current WIP (work in progress for all you non-knitters) is a hooded poncho for Peanut. It is one of the few patterns on Lion Brand's free pattern index that is truly worth knitting.
I'm knitting it in bulky purple cotton that I had tons of. Well, I no longer have tons of it. The poncho ate it up. All I have left to knit on this is the hood and the pocket, then can seam the aforementioned hood and block the whole thing. I'm skipping the pocket because it would be one more place for Peanut to hide things like food pieces. I figure this will be nice for the summer when it is cool enough for a sweater or when we're in a place that's a littel chilly, like a store or something.

Another WIP is a crochet log cabin baby blanket for my sister. It was a "good fertility vibes" project because she and her husband were trying to get pregnant and it must have worked because she is indeed pregnant! I'm looking forward to being an auntie. She's already calling me for advice and info. It's awesome. The blanket is made out of a bulky called Stylecraft Charleston, a yarn I got when Three Kittens changed owners and had a big sale.
It's not my favorite project, but I'm determined. It's soft and fuzzy and machine washable, so it's nice for a baby project. Also, the nice thing about crocheting a log cabin as opposed to knitting one is that it is completely reversible.

WIP #3 is a crocheted shawl using a lovely dark blue Trekking that has light blue in it every once in a while. I'm enjoying working with it. Here's a picture of the shawl I found online:
As soon as I finish the shawl, which is a gift for a dear friend, the remainder of the Trekking will be used for baby socks. If I'm gonna finally knit socks, I want to spoil myself from the get-go with nice yarn.

Me = FiberSnob. And I've made peace with that.

An ongoing thing I'm doing is cotton things to sell in June. Long story. I decided to do some Swiffer covers:
My colors are different, but that's the basic pattern I'm using. The Ball band pattern from Sugar N Cream cotton is simple enough to memorize and be easy but not so boring as to be a drag to knit. I'm enjoying these, especially since I finally got buttons.

I have some projects in mind to cut down on my stash. Said stash is organized, but I need to really consider what to do with it all. Because of my new status as an expecting auntie, I of course have tons of baby projects in mind, like this one:
Is that not the cutest little bathmitt ever? Peanut needs one, too. So two of these are in my personal queue.