31 December 2008

Christmas, In a Nutshell

teensy tiny saucepan
for reducing black raspberry jelly down to jam.

sheep cookies (because I can)

Then I cut out a LOT of snowflakes.

(l) black raspberry jam cookies
(r) red raspberry jam cookies

peppermint cookies

slightly blurry Christmas tree.

I sewed buttons on the Autumn Leaves Capelet:

And I cast on for Anne Hanson's Starlight Lace Wrap.

That's all for now -- see you guys next year!

19 December 2008

Zoe Sock Shawl

The Simple Yet Effective Zoe Sock Shawl is finished! Here's slightly blurry proof:

There was one minor snag (da dum dum) discovered during blocking:

Not a dropped stitch... just a pull... that somehow created a hole.
This is what you get when you let your finished objects
sit on your desk, fall on the floor, get shuffled around,
snagged on things, and be generally neglected
while you wait a couple weeks to find time to block it.

The yarn bled substantially blue during three lukewarm soaks with Eucalan. On the third bath, it was still bleeding. I figured I'd run out of patience before the dye stopped running, so I squeezed it out and blocked it. The good news is that the yarn is a super-sturdy superwash -- I did a lot the things you're not supposed to do to your woolens to see what would happen. I filled the basin with lukewarm water while the shawl was in the sink. I squeezed it and then squeezed the water out hard, before giving it a gentle wringing each time.

Three wringings later, the yarn looked no worse for the wear. Were it made into socks, it is my professional opinion that this stuff will wear and wash like... well, not like iron, that tends to get a bit rusty with washing... more like it will wear like stainless steel... that is, without the scratching and the need for polishing and the picking up fingerprints... You know what I mean. It's some tough, tough yarn for as squooshy as it is.

Overall, I'm pleased with it. The pattern shows off the hand-painted aspect of the yarn. The YOs give it a little definition. My only complaint, which I suppose is true of most triangular garter-stitch shawls, is that it's difficult to wear draped over one's shoulders. I wore it using the old Pashmina trick: put it over my shoulders take the tails under my arms and square knot the tails behind my back.

Here are some final blocking photos:

17 December 2008

Happy Late Belated Monday!

Hurrah! I have successfully rigged up a substitute computer for processing photos! We can now celebrate the Monday update only a few days late.

Update on Thing One and Thing Two... it is with a heavy heart that Coco and Bella have gone to a new home. I was about to write "Coco and Bella have gone to a better place," which is technically true, but then my friends would look at me suspiciously every time I wore my white fur hat.

No, it turns out that while I was sad to see them go, my allergies were not -- in fact, my sinuses decided to throw a party and stay open 24/7 to celebrate the cats' departure. Mom held out for a while... until she discovered that she was allergic to the kittens, too. We had no idea what to do with them -- they were rescue cats, so I couldn't very well haul them off to the pound.

I could not live with them. Mom could not live with them. Mom's housekeeper, whose beloved cat died many years ago, thought they were precious.

They are now clawing their way through my mother's housekeeper's furniture, clinging to her screened-in porch and running madly around her living room in the middle of the night, much to the delight of all. Coco and Bella are thriving; Mom's housekeeper loves them; Mom's housekeeper's home is under constant threat of imminent shredding. All's well that ends well; thanks be to God; God Save the Queen; Knees Up Mother Brown, Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Speaking of Monty Python, here's my sweater so far:

I could not be more pleased with how the torso turned out. It fits perfectly. Brava, Ms Chau, for an excellent pattern.

view from back

Now with 50% More Sleeve Action!

The lesson I have learned is to only adopt pets to which I am definitely not allergic. Fortunately, I am not allergic to alpacas. I learned a few days ago that there are rescue alpacas available for adopting, not thirty miles from where I live...

To be continued.

09 December 2008

Best Balaclava EVAR.

First, she brought us the Bokaclava (ravelry link):

Now, Anne-Marie Dunbar introduces the Cthuluclava (ravelry link) and -- my personal favorite -- the Dracoclava (ravelry link).

I love the bold, confident sculptural quality of Anne-Marie's knits, as well as her attention to detail. Note the sticky-out tongue of Bok and the finely-worked scales on the forehead of the Dracoclava.

The Bokaclava pattern is a free download, either Ravelry or website. It is also available in a child size. The Cthuluclava and Dracoclava patterns are £3.00 (GBP) apiece and available through ravelry downloads and her website.

fine print: I am not in any way affiliated with Anne-Marie Dunbar; I have no monetary interest in promoting her work. Just a fan. :-)

08 December 2008

Pardon me -- your 1337 isn't showing.

I finished knitting the torso of the Noro and alpaca top-down raglan cardi. I'm super-pleased with it so far. The fit is just right -- yay, Laura, for an excellent pattern! I took pictures of it this morning. Normally, it takes me a little time to sit down, download the pics from the camera, fuss with them in Photoshop to get them color-corrected (that's why you often see a grey card in my pictures - that's a Neutral Gray 5 card). Things might take a leeeetle bit longer this time:

My lappy says something like this:

Actually, my particular BSOD tells me that it has something to do with the memory. I ran diagnostics and my lappy failed March A, March B, March X, and March Y tests. I don't know enough about computers to know exactly what this means, but past experience tells me that this probably isn't good for the files I haven't backed up.

Alternatively, I can pop out the keyboard and start jabbing at my computer's innards with a #17 straight needle and see what happens.

I went into Eleganza yesterday because, despite my calculations that ensured perfect fit, I messed up the yarn requirements for my Top-Down Raglan Cardi. I need more Noro Silk Garden #47 (yarndex closeup), lot P. I was hoping that Kristi might have a ball or two leftover, but no such luck. I looked for another yarn that I could use as a substitute, but no luck with that, either. I checked Ravelry stashes but no one had any listed for sale/trade. So last night I bought two skeins of #47, lot V on Ebay. Even if the dye lots are not exactly right, I am confident that I'll be able to tweak them to make them work.

My main tweak so far for this sweater: I took the remnants of my last skein of #47 and divided them into sections by color. There were 5 distinct color changes in all. I then cut each color section exactly in half and wound each piece into a little ball, so I have 2 equal sets of 5 colors in little bitty balls. This way, I can knit each sleeve with one set, so the sleeves have the same colors/equal stripes.

While I didn't get what I originally wanted, my trip to Eleganza was not entirely without success. I bought a bag full of yarn to make another top-down raglan cardi:
  • 3 sk Noro Silk Garden #226 (grey - blue - purple) (yarndex link)
  • 1 sk Manos Wool #04 (turquoise) (yarndex link)
  • 1 sk Cascade Lana d'Oro 1066 (blueberry)
  • 1 sk Cascade Lana d'Oro 1069 (purple)
  • 2 sk Noro Cash Iroha #108 (chocolate brown)
Arrrgh, I want so badly to show you guys pictures of these yarns together! I'm very excited to play with them and make them into a jewel-toned sweater! Here's a quick collage to show you roughly what they look like together, until I can get a proper picture:

The Silk Garden #226 has little bits of the robin's egg blue in it (picked up by the Manos #04), along with a larger portion of blues that go beautifully with the Lana D'Oro #1066. The Cash Iroha (background of the picture) picks up the deep chocolate/coffee colors in the Silk Garden.

That's all for now; keep your fingers crossed that I'll either get the lappy sorted out or rig up another computer for transferring/editing my pictures.

04 December 2008

Bed isn't made; needles are crying.

I haven't knitted in four days.

My knitting bag goes everywhere with me, following my purse with a persistent optimism I thought only belonged to dogs. I don't have the heart to tell it, "not today."

My wheel sits idle. It accepts the dust that slowly settles on it, patient as the tree and maker that birthed it.

Bags of roving slouch together, wondering whether they'll ever be predrafted.

The brown sweater is locked in a holding cell, awaiting judgment. Any day now, it may find that there is not enough Noro to knit the sleeves. Conversely, it might get 3/4-length sleeves. If by some miracle, I find another skein of Silk Garden in the same color and lot, it will get a reprieve and receive full-length sleeves. Or, it may be sent to the frog pond (not likely, it has a good lawyer knitter on its case).

I've started drinking caffeine again.

And it isn't even tax season yet.

I fear I may be going insane insaner.

24 November 2008


As much as I would like the title to be a clever pun referencing upcoming holidays and time spent with family, it is not. This post has to do with -- surprise! -- relativity.

(N.b. physicists should abandon this post immediately before they start cringing)

I first learned about relativity in elementary school. I used to sometimes go to a local college library and read books in the Children and Young Adult sections (since it was a small college library, these sections were actually two facing shelves). One day I picked up an illustrated book about Einstein's Theory of Relativity (actually, it was about special relativity, aka SR or STR) and sat engrossed for some time. The book illustrated, literally, the train example. It made sense.

At the other end of the spectrum is this wikipedia article, which is full of scary math. I define scary math as that which has abandoned all use of numbers. Oh, I can do it... but there's a reason I wasn't a math major in undergrad.

Even so -- even without using impressive multivariable whatsits and exhausting the greek alphabet -- I understand relativity.

Yesterday, I stayed home. I took care of the dogs, I did massive amounts of laundry, I prepped appetizers for Thursday (American Thanksgiving, which is the day on which we celebrate obesity and honor ourselves by ingesting improbable amounts of food, stressing our insulin production to the breaking point, and prepare ourselves for a winter of bitching about how we don't know how we gained ten pounds since October) and I cleaned the house. My family also has a tradition of Wednesday Night Dinner -- a large meal for immediate family the night before Thanksgiving -- so that means even more food preparation. Yesterday dragged on. I went from finished task to finished task -- and still, the clock seemed not to move. Around 9pm last night, I flopped down on the sofa to finished knitting the Simple Yet Effective Shawl. I did a tubular bind off, which felt remarkably like moving the sea one teaspoon at a time, and went to bed.

This morning, I woke up late. I did all my usual morning routine things -- but somehow, it seemed as though the clock had sped up. Time was outpacing me. Breakfast, shower, hair-drying -- the clock ticked by faster and faster. Each time I blinked the clock jumped forward five minutes. Even as I sit here at my desk, feeling as though I just woke up, it's already afternoon.

There are a few conclusions one can draw from my experiences of the past two days: One, I suppose time has to balance out from yesterday. Two, I don't have any pictures of knitted things to show you. Three, if you figure out a way that I can wash and re-block my Firmaments Shawl without it taking an entire afternoon to pin out, please let me know*.

*I will accept calculations IFF they lead to a successful and reproducible time-warp phenomenon.

21 November 2008

17 November 2008

Show and Tell

It's Monday, and that means it's Show and Tell Day here at courtneyknits!

First up, the Simple Yet Effective Shawl by Laura Chau.

The name says it all. Knit in alternating sections of garter and stockinette stitch, with stitch markers to remind me where the YOs go. Mindless knitting at its best. I plowed through this thing last night while watching the Redskins game. Towards the end of the game, which was so totally exciting, I found myself knitting with my eyes closed. Turns out that's a pretty effective way to get some rest without actually falling asleep. The knitting was just enough to keep me marginally awake -- this is important when you're at someone else's house and snoring might not be the best way to show you're having a good time.

Speaking of good times, I knitted while I was out at tea yesterday with Anne and Angela! There were a few people who couldn't make it, and we missed them, but we still had fun. Three knitters with sandwiches and scones and sweets and a bottomless teapot -- hurrah!

After tea, I went shopping and bought two new sweaters and a smashing new red felt hat at Sky's the Limit in Frederick, MD. It's a really cute boutique with a fun collection of trendy clothing (such as Tulle and Kersh) with a smattering of hippie thrown in. I will try to remember to post pictures of the hat -- it's my new winter love. Apologies to DBF -- I'm afraid hats will always come first.

I was so busy knitting on my shawl yesterday that I neglected my other pet project...

Next, we have the Top Down Raglan Cardigan by Laura Chau. Hmmm... apparently it is not only Show and Tell day, but also Knit Things By Laura Chau Month! That's right! I'm declaring it official. Now go to her site, clicky on the patterns and cast on, brave knitters (and chicken knitters! her patterns are super-easy! You will love them!)!

Top-Down Raglan Cardi by Laura Chau
Knit using Noro Silk Garden and Adrienne Vittadini Donata.

I'm knitting the 36-38" size so I can wear it as a layer over another shirt.

Quick change of subject: if you haven't seen it yet, the new Twist Collective is out and there are some gorgeous, fun things in there. Vivian and Ice Fantasia caught my eye.

10 November 2008

Do You, Yarn, Take This Pattern...?

So I started knitting up this yummy Zoe sock yarn (ravelry link). While discussing it with DBF (a definite muggle), I had a mini-revelation. I held up this swatch to him and complained, "I love the color, but I can't see the pattern for the colors."

He said, "I see the pattern. The colors are secondary."

DBF, for as wonderful as he is, is not a color person. I, with my freakish color sensitivity, am. This solved a question for me. There were times that I saw beautifully knitted shawls, in gorgeous colorways, but I couldn't see the pattern at first because the color shifts leapt out at me first. I couldn't understand why the knitter chose that yarn for the shawl, when it wasn't (to me) a good match. After DBF's comment above, I realized that maybe to the person who knitted it, the color and pattern and everything worked together perfectly.

Well, that hadn't happened for me with this yarn... at least, it hasn't happened yet.

But I've seen it in another's project! Laura K knit a pair of socks using Zoe Sock in the same colorway, Acadia. They are a perfect marriage of yarn and pattern (link to her Ravelry project page).

Laura's Acadia Socks
Socks knitted with Shalimar Yarns
Zoe Sock, colorway "Acadia"
on US 1.5 / 2.5mm

And I wanted to create something like that -- where the yarn worked with the pattern, and the pattern worked with the yarn. I did not want one fighting for dominance over the other. It occurred to me that the finest projects often take the yarn and show it off to its best advantage.

With that in mind, I dove down into my stash and started rummaging. I pulled out four skeins of Noro Silk Garden, color 47. One ball of this I had frogged from an enthusiastic attempt at an entrelac pillow cover, conceived without regard to whether I'd actually want either said pillow cover or anything in those colors. In another Rubbermaid container, I found three balls of Adrienne Vittadini Donata (70% alpaca, 30% acrylic) in brown, smushed together with several balls of brown Jaeger Fur. The latter is possibly one of the most expensive fun-fur style yarns ever. I purchased it while in the throes of knitting and fulling stuffed toy hedgehogs. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it. But let's leave the Fur for now...

The Silk Garden and the Donata looked pretty good together (no, really, they do)... and using both of them, I might actually have enough to knit a cardigan. I did a Ravelry search for cardigans using Silk Garden. The first to come up was Laura Chau's Top-Down Raglan Cardigan. I read the pattern; I estimated yarn amounts; I printed out the pattern and cast on.

Pictures coming soon.

While I was browsing Laura Chau's site, I also saw the simple yet effective shawl. This is knit using fingering weight/sock yarn. It may the the solution for the Zoe Sock... stay tuned.

05 November 2008

Shalimar Yarns Zoe Superwash Merino Sock Yarn

Shalimar Yarns has come out with a new 100% Superwash Australian Merino sock yarn, called Zoe Sock (ravelry link). It's 450 yards per skein and available at Eleganza Yarns. Kristi has dyed it up in some gorgeous colorways, and sent me a skein to take for a test drive. I'm going to knit it up into something awesome!

Shalimar Yarns Zoe Sock (ravelry link), colorway, "Acadia,"
100% Superwash Australian Merino

Sock/Fingering Weight, 450 yards
handpainted, available at Eleganza Yarns.

wound into a cake.

LOOKS: Visually, I can't say enough good things about the colorway. The colors are vivid and in great combinations. I saw some of Kristi's other colorways and they are equally beautiful.

TOUCH: So far, I've swatched it. While it is not the absolute softest merino yarn I've worked with, it is pleasing to handle and plenty soft. It strikes the right balance between softness and durability, especially for a sock yarn. I have no problems with having it next to my skin. It has a great squoosh factor. From a purely tactile perspective, it would make a pair of socks that are pleasing to knit and a pleasure to wear.

The thing is, I don't knit socks. I like wearing hand-knitted socks, but not so much making them. I've tried, and I much prefer knitting lace. So... what can we do with this sock yarn?

Ideas for knitting this yarn:

Diamond Fantasy Shawl by Sivia Harding (sivia)

The Crocus Pocus by Susan Pandorf (pandosu)

Rivolo scarf by Anne Hanson (knitspot)

Tiger Eyes Lace Scarf by Toni M. Maddox (bockstarkknits)

03 November 2008

Now with 300% MORE YARN PR0N!

It's Monday, and you need to look at pretty yarn.

First, let's take a trip to Kiparoo Farm, in Adamstown, MD.

Kiparoo Moonlight, in dark purples

Kiparoo Moonlight in red-purples

Kiparoo Glitter in indigo

Next, we'll review results from Steph's awesome Halloween Destash party. Thankfully, I took less yarn (I think) than I brought.

mystery yarn, oatmeal color, 3.7 oz
looks like mostly wool wrapped with nylon.

purchased at MD Sheep & Wool.

mystery wool, 100% wool.
laceweight, on a BIG cone.
weight, including plastic cone, is 1lb, 4.4oz

blue loopy mohair boucle, 3.6 oz

knitted roses! I can't wait to use these, maybe on a black
cardigan or wrap. Nicky Epstein would be proud!

Back to Kiparoo for a bit, to show you Silk Road, a 50/50 wool/silk. It's heavenly to touch, next-to-the-skin soft (even for me, the itch-a-holic).

Kiparoo Silk Road, 50/50 wool/silk
264.0 yards (241.4 m), 150g.

Knitted up, it looks like this:

Huckleberry Ascot,
Interweave Knits Holiday 2007.

Coming up next: I'm test-knitting and reviewing Shalimar Yarn's Superwash Merino Sock yarn!