Problems and Quests

Long ago (mid-late 90s) I gave a dinner party for all six of my friends.  One was vegan, and as I was setting out appetizers or something like that I mentioned that I’d checked a lot of labels to find crackers that were vegan.  She laughed and was appreciative, but surprised and a bit apologetic that I’d gone to the trouble.  Another friend of mine said, “Robin is a problem-solver. Of course she’d look for food that would work for you.”  I had never thought of it like that, but it’s true.

This story came to mind when I was looking through a box of yarns that are mostly 10-15 years old and wondering why I had so many of a similar color, which, while nice, isn’t really a favorite color.  And I remembered that I have a nice jacket that my mom made that I really like, and when I started knitting in 1998 or so I wanted to make myself a hat (beret) that matched it.  (I had already made coordinating beaded earrings that match it really well, that being my primary craft prior to taking up knitting.)  She’d made the jacket from, among other things, some Italian yarn she’d knitted into a fabric and then cut, and coordinating colors of woven wool fabric.  The yarn was black and grey mohair with dark magenta accents, and the jacket has a dramatic V of magenta fabric edged with the knit and then the charcoal grey forms the body of the jacket.

I had a bit of the yarn left over at one point in my life, which may not have ever overlapped with my knitting life. (I still hope to find it again someday, but it’s been 20 years.) Greys were not difficult to find. But I have SO MUCH magenta yarn that’s almost but not quite right.  I think I last purchased some around 2012.  No, the hat has never been made, and I haven’t worn the jacket in a while (though of course I still have it.)

This is less problem-solving and more of a quest.  And even when I’ve decided that I probably won’t make the hat it’s still sometimes hard to not get yarn that might work just in case.  It’s not the project that I kept buying yarn/fiber for even after mentally conceding that I won’t do it any time soon. (Another one was to make a cabled hat to match this shirt I bought my husband back in 2001, so he could wear his favorite shirt and the hat and match his Mii. Would he actually do this? No.  Yet, I have actually hand-blended fiber on my drum carder to spin yarn to match the shirt, which is cross-woven red and blue so it’s pretty much impossible to match.)  The quest never ends.

It was when I got to this point in my thinking about the yarn that I realized: I’m a NPC in my own life.  The story around me changes and I still have a (side)quest that will never end, walking in place in my house.

(That ending really calls for a wry screenshot from a game, but I don’t have one.  So here’s a cat photo.  Feel free to count them.)

cats in sun 2018-06-05 17.43.26.jpg


They Love This Project

I’ve been posting a number of pics on Ravelry of cats enjoying my current knitting project, and it finally occurred to me to post them here too.  Colors will be a bit annoyingly off for the reasons I complained about previously (not having a decent editor on this machine), but the cats are the correct colors and that’s all anyone’s really looking at, right?

Triquet taking a nap.
Triquet and copper sweater 2018-03-15 15.23.05

Quot flossing his teeth.
Quot with copper sweater 2018-03-13 23.41.45

Triquet “helping”.
Triquet on lap and copper sweater 2018-02-10 14.51.46

Moonstone napping.

Also, here’s an unimpeded view of the underarm of the sweater, just to show the colors a little better.
Rustic Copper sweater underarm 2018-03-08 14.17.28

Who, Me?

If you’d played with me like I asked, I wouldn’t have had to find my own entertainment.

In case you can’t tell, that yarn is entangled with a wire kitty toy.  And the rest of the skein was in a similar state under the couch.

Summer Days

I’m not fond of summer, because it’s too hot.  But today is just wonderful.  I went out onto the catio for a bit, and it’s just breezy enough to offset the warmth.  As a bonus I saw two deer, both with some significant antlers but differing enough in size that I think they must be two different years.  I like to think that they were the fawns we’ve seen in previous years here.

Didn’t have my phone with me at the time so no pictures this time.  I did take one of (probably) the larger-antlered of the two in the back, but it was too hard to make out even for Find the Deer.

Spouse is at a friend’s for barbecue, and I’ve been invited to drop by, but I probably will just enjoy the day with my cats, watching deer and listening to birds.  And maybe napping.

Yesterday I spent the evening at my friend B’s house, with a few other friends and her daughter T.  There was this unusual hors d’oeuvres platter.

hors d'oeuvres chez B 2016-07-03 19.39.16

Various fruit and veggies one might reasonably eat raw, and… tuna.  Also raw.  (I like sushi and probably would have had some if I’d bothered to locate soy sauce, but instead I gobbled all of the watermelon.)  The tuna was apparently left over from T’s snack.  I wasn’t weirded out by this, but I did find it funny.

A few days ago I visited another friend, K, and her five-year-old daughter A.  I got to their house before they did and sat in the front yard knitting, which was actually what I was there to do.  I’ve knit A three sweaters so far, and surprisingly enough the one I made at the end of 2014 still mostly fits now, but the sleeves are a bit short.  I was there to lengthen the sleeves so she could get a little more wear out of it, because to my delight it is a favorite sweater of hers.2016-06-30 16.55.45

I also spun all the yarn myself and made pretty substantial modifications to the sweater pattern (since I don’t have a child immediately handy to measure, I’m more willing to work with other people’s patterns for A’s sweaters), so I am also especially proud of this sweater.  This makes it even better that it’s been worn frequently for a year and a half, which is a really long time for a growing child.  And again it was a perfect day to sit out there between about 5 and 6, with a bit of breeze and a bit of sun, just enough to let me appreciate the sparkle of the yarn (70% blue-face Leicester, 30% nylon sparkle) and keep me pleasantly warm.  Another summer day that’s been more than tolerable.

I took two pictures of K’s hydrangeas.

hydrangea closeup purple 2016-06-30 19.54.54

2016-06-30 19.55.44

I really love hydrangeas for their color changes in response to the soil’s acidity (I think?), but that’s not why I took these.  I was transfixed by the number and shape of petals.

hydrangea closeup 2016-06-30 19.55.44

Four large petals, in at least three sizes.  Yet, the majority of closed-up buds I see show five sections.  Why???  (This is the sort of thing my brain seizes on.  But not enough to actually research it.)  And why are there some small inner sets open (many with five little petals) without larger sets but not all of the larger sets have their small sets open?  I wonder if I’m making some critical terminology error here, petal vs sepal or something.  Maybe I will research it after all.

Sadly, I couldn’t consider hydrangeas for our backyard landscaping because they’re toxic to cats.  Oh well.  Clearly I will have to visit K more often.



Maker Faire

My parents, my spouse, and myself all went to the Maker Faire in San Mateo this past Saturday.  Despite warnings of rain, the day was actually pretty comfortably partly-cloudy, which was a relief since last time I went it was very hot and the exhibition halls were miserable.

I lucked out and found a fiber seller (Woolpops) in the bazaar.  She was spinning on a Ladybug wheel, the same kind I have (but haven’t learned to use yet).  We talked for a bit about spinning and she showed me the less-prepped fibers she had that weren’t on display, though I decided I didn’t feel like picking that much VM out of my fiber.  I got four smallish bits of rovings.

Woolpops fiber 2016-05-22 22.02.14

  1. 1.2oz Navajo churro wool, in med-dark greens (called Sea Glass, but it looks more like malachite to me).  Rather coarse.  I’m not familiar with this wool.
  2. 1.5oz California Variegated Mutant (CVM), in muddy, mossy greens.  I like the texture of this one — fairly soft and springy.  I think I have some other CVM which might blend with it.  Or not.
  3. 1.4oz generic medium wool (feels a bit like maybe Coopworth or Cotswold, which I tend to get mixed up), painted in an ivory-yellow-orange gradient (“Candy Corn”).  Called pencil roving but a bit thicker than I usually think of pencil roving to be.  I’ll likely spin this into one long singles and then ply it with, hm, something.
  4. 0.6oz merino/Cormo cross pencil roving, dyed in muted pinks and brownish grays (“Easter Egg”?).  Really nice and soft.

I’ll likely card all of these except the yellow/orange into batts with a bunch of other fibers.

Later on I found an area where people could learn how to knit and, to my delight, spin.  I didn’t stay there long, but took the time to demonstrate to my longsuffering spouse how bottom-whorl spindles work.  (I don’t actually own any myself, other than the one knocked together for the spinning class I took in 2009.)  If I hadn’t been trying to see everything I would’ve been tempted to just borrow one of the spindles there and start spinning my pencil roving.  But my feet and internal temperature were actually holding up pretty well, so I didn’t need the break.

In another area we found a pair of people with an automated knitting machine.  One of the inventors was pointing out to me the fineness of the color pattern, at higher resolution (his term, where I would’ve said finer-gauge) than most handknitters would achieve — and I pulled out my sock in progress, knit with more stitches to the inch than their samples.  He and his co-inventor were very impressed, which made me happy. 🙂

My parents found some machine knitters elsewhere, from a guild.  I don’t know how I missed them, but that’s all right.  I’m not really that interested in machine knitting.

That’s mainly it for the knitting parts.  Another thing I really enjoyed was the dark hall, where lots of light toys were.  I had a lot of fun twirling a staff with two sets of color-changing LEDs on each end, a la drum major mace.  No one else there (when I was there) could do it as well.  It was still harder than I expected, and I think it was a combination of momentum and the grippiness of the staff, which actually made it hard to let go in time to pass it to the other hand.  I might need one of those to play with out back.  There were also neat conglomerations of lights which turned out to be clear plastic cups stapled together with Christmas lights (or similar LEDs on wires) threaded into them.  A very nice idea.



Fiber Arts in Video Games: Twilight Princess

I held off on posting this until I finished replaying the game, but nothing else in it stuck out to me.  Sorry for the glare on the top pic.

Zelda TP knitting 2 cropped 2016-03-04 23.36.46 (2)Zelda TP knitting 1 cropped 2016-03-04 23.39.58 (2)

This is the table in Colin’s house in Link’s hometown of Ordona Village.  Uli, Colin’s mother, is expecting — one of the first things to do in the game is retrieve a cradle for her, and in the end credits she’s shown with her new baby in the cradle.  Knitting is, of course, strongly associated with impending motherhood, as I was reminded frequently when I was knitting baby booties as a gift.  It’s therefore no surprise that this house is the only place where one sees knitting in progress.

It’s rather nicely done, really.  The usual symbol of knitting is single-pointed needles and a ball of yarn.  These are double-points — and disturbingly sharp ones at that — of an appropriate size for the gauge of knitting on them.  The knitting itself is adequately drawn.  What’s weird is that the same texture was used for the yarn balls, shown particularly in the second picture with their neat star shapes.  It is in fact so weird (I really don’t think it’d have been hard to draw a ball of yarn!) that I am choosing to believe that rather than conventional baby clothes and blankets — which would usually be at a much finer gauge anyway — she’s knitting balls.  Maybe little pumpkin cozies for the runts of the patch.  Or oversized toy blueberries.  Or juggling bags.  Isn’t that a more interesting explanation than laziness on the part of the graphics folks, who were so detailed in other regards?

Speaking of detailed, check out the tablecloth.  Even distorted by being a texture applied to a 3D object, it’s clearly lace with a faggoted sawtooth border.  I almost feel I could look up that exact stitch pattern.  There are several other such cloths in the house, as wall hangings or furniture covers.  Uli is evidently an accomplished knitter dating from long before this pregnancy.  At least, I couldn’t knit four or five lace tablecloths in nine months.

Cozy Sweater Cuffs

Generally I’ve been trying to keep my standards relaxed for this Learning Project.  In spite of that, or perhaps in reaction to that, the cuffs have been an excellent example of the blog subtitle.

The original pattern calls for the sleeves to be…. well, I’m not sure how long, actually, since I couldn’t quite make sense of the pattern’s sizing in that regard.  But I think probably a bit below the elbow before the cuff.  Then it directs that (after all the sewing-up) stitches be picked up around the sleeve and four inches of garter be knitted flat and then seamed.

There are many things to change here.  First, I had cast on extra stitches to lengthen the sleeves, so they were about 3/4 length after sewing up (and I wanted them longer).  Second, four inches of garter would be over twice as wide as the other edges and I thought it’d look weird, though maybe not so much with the shawl collar.  Third, the projects by other people that I saw tended to have the cuffs actually wider than the sleeves, suggesting that too many stitches were picked up (and the pattern specified the numbers to pick up, I think).  Fourth, I am even less interested in doing another garter seam than I am in knitting garter in the round.

So I decided to add a few inches to the sleeve by knitting a piece in the same direction as the sleeve (that is, lengthwise) and including a garter border like that on the fronts, then mattress-stitching the whole thing to the sleeve.  The garter border would pull in a bit because of the shorter row gauge (and, unlike the fronts, wouldn’t have the weight to pull it into the same row gauge as the stockinette) and I could knit most of it before sewing it on (using the tail unpicked from the cast-on) and then see exactly how much more to knit.  Then I’d graft beginning and end together.

I cast on 16 stitches (6 for border, 10 for sleeve extension) and did exactly that — up to the point where I realized I had knitted it in the wrong direction (with the garter edging on the right side) for minimal seam bulk.  Specifically, I had intended to seam it half a stitch in on the new piece and either half a stitch or a full stitch on the sleeve (because half of it is off by half a stitch due to the two halves having been knit in the same direction).  But when I seamed half a stitch in I ended up with an extra half-stitch in the middle of the knitting, as the picture in the Doing It Wrong post illustrated.  I could fix this by seaming a full stitch in but then the seam was much bulkier than I wanted.  I did give it a try for a bit, but ultimately took it back out and ripped the whole thing.  So that was cuff #1, frogged.

For the next attempt, I cast on the same number of stitches but put the garter border on the left side of the work.  This one did work as planned, except that I found that the non-garter part was a little puffier than I wanted, so I ripped back a couple rows and then unpicked the seam a bit further back and re-sewed it with a couple of the mattress stitches only grabbing one bar from the new piece instead of two.  This, cuff #2, came out OK.  But I felt that maybe it was a little long and I might’ve wanted to just  cast on 15 sts instead of 16.  More importantly, the garter stitch, while slightly pulled in, was still looser around my wrist than I wanted.  I realized I wanted it fairly snug against my wrist.  By pinching the cuff I determined that I wanted about 25% fewer garter ridges.

So for cuff #3, I cast on 15 sts, and worked a short row every 7th/8th row — which is to say, I omitted every fourth garter ridge.  I did the first short row after the first full row, so the graft at the end would land between short rows and not involve them, and knit a total of 63 rows with the 64th row (and 24th ridge) being formed by the graft.  I also figured that since I knew that was approximately the right number of rows (uncharacteristically, I had not calculated this in advance, even though I could just count rows on the sleeves), I could knit it and graft it first, then sew it on.  And I did.

As it happened, this was the right cuff, the left one having been the one that was already sewn on.  And I much preferred it.  I still felt that the cuff could use maybe one fewer ridge (and I think the sleeve itself also ended up about 62 rows rather than 64), though.  Also, it seemed too short — because my right sleeve ends up hiked up a bit when I’m carrying a shoulder bag, especially with this kimono-style sleeve.  So using the stitch count I started with seemed like a good idea.  However, this length seemed like it’d work for the left sleeve.  I could just unpick the seam, unpick the graft, remove two rows, redo the graft, and sew it to the other sleeve.

Yes, I really did this.

Of course, first I had to remove cuff #2 from the left sleeve.  I frogged it (pausing to re-sew it incorrectly for the “wrong” seam pics, twice because the first one was even more off) and then had a ball of yarn that was slightly fuzzy from having been knit and raveled twice, but still the right length (or just a bit longer) to become the fourth and presumably final cuff.  I did get rid of the first yard or so that had been several seams by then.

Cuff #4a.  I cast on 15 stitches, worked about three inches, then realized I was using US 10.5 (6.5mm) needles instead of US 11 (8mm) needles.  Frogged.

Cuff #4b. I cast on 15 stitches, worked about two inches, then realized I’d forgotten the first short row turning.  Frogged.

Cuff #4c. I cast on 15 stitches, worked about 4 inches, then remembered that I’d intended this cuff to be 16 stitches.  Frogged.

Cuff #4d is now waiting for me to graft it together and sew on to the right sleeve.  Have I mentioned that grafting garter selvages is a pain?  Not the garter itself, which I could Kitchener in my sleep, but the selvage edge.  I might not care quite so much about it except that it’ll be something I’ll see rather often, being at my right wrist, and it’ll bug me if I can visually pick out every time where it is.

Okay, the graft is done and I should post this rather than waiting until I get the thing sewn on to the sleeve, since it might be a few hours.