Thursday, May 31, 2007

Operation Yarn Sausage

As mentioned here, I want to knit a shawl-sized Gothic Leaf out of Euroflax sport weight linen. Online advice culled from Sivia Harding's blog and Knitter's Review said to wash the yarn first, so yesterday I did. Please join me as we walk through Operation Yarn Sausage.

1. Assembled tools - yarn, size 10 crochet cotton and nylons.

2. First I unwound the hanks and gave them a gentle shake to loosen them up. I then placed eight figure eight-shaped ties around them to keep tangling to a minimum during the washing process.

3. Yarn ready for stuffing.

4. Some online knitters recommended washing the linen in mesh bags. I, however, 1) don't have mesh bags, and 2) was concerned about tangling, so I followed Jayne and Mary's recommendation and used nylons. I folded the hanks in half, and put each one in a cut down nylon. I snugged the yarn down into the toe and cinched a knot.

5. Into the washer we go. I set my washer on the smallest load/hottest water setting, added two tablespoons of Eucalan and tossed in the sausages.

6. Thirty minutes later I pulled them out and popped them into the dryer, which was also set to the hottest setting.

7. I ran them through the dryer twice. I took them out and discovered they were still damp. At this point I got bored with the process, unwound the hanks and hung them up to dry. Twenty four hours later they're still damp, so I've just cut off the crochet thread ties, shaken the hanks out and hung them up outside in the shade to finish drying.

Thoughts: Linen is a lovely fiber, but soft isn't an adjective for it until it's well worn. Even so, based on the online comments I read, my expectation was that the washed yarn would soften up considerably. Well, it didn't. It did loosen up a little, however, and feels less slick. After washing, the yarn is shedding fuzzies, but these are easy to remove. The color remains vividly aubergine.

The process was easy and liberating in the way cutting steeks must be liberating: washing non-acrylic/superwash yarn in the washing machine on the hot setting? And drying it in the drying machine on the hot setting? Taboo busting.

Would I pre-wash linen yarn again? Sure. If/when it happens, I'll probably run through the entire process twice, to see if that elusive softness people were talking about occurs.

And as soon as this yarn dries, I'll ball her up and get cracking on my shawl. I'll let you know how the yarn works out then.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fiendish Find of the Week

She's got the beat! Melanie is hand-dying yarn in groovy music-inspired colorways. She's taking orders through her blog, Lotus Knits!, so go check 'em out there.

I'm lucky to have two of her colorways. First up is Punk Rock Girl, which I won through a contest she threw a while back.

Second is Vacation, a colorway I specifically requested. I named it as a nod to Belinda Carlisle and the Go-Gos, circa 1982.

Rock on!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Day Trippin'

Remarkably, little knitting was done this holiday weekend. Instead, Tom, who often has to work on holidays, was off, and we spent the days roaming around our neighborhood, grilling in our backyard, and seeing the dreadful mishmash of a movie that is Superman 3.

Yesterday was especially nice. First up was breakfast at Dish, then a visit with Barbara at our local Coffee Bean. After that we spent a few hours enjoying the blooms and bees at Descanso Gardens, and then came home and kicked back. Very relaxing.

On the knitting front, CPH is in time out. The sleeves are finished and blocked.

The shoulders are sewn.

The hood is a nightmare. I picked up the requisite 86 stitches. I started knitting. I dropped stitches. I miscrossed the first set of cables. I dropped more stitches. I ripped, and I knit, and I ripped some more. Then I threw it, crumpled, into my knitting bag, where it sits, waiting for the hood to be completely frogged back. The easiest knitting in the world, and it's messing with me. Bad CPH. Like Mary, my attention is wandering, my fingers itching for a new project.

On the kitty front, the taming of Fiend continues. He'll come into the house when our other cat Maggie is in the backyard, but he's still very, very skittish. We're pulling out all our kitty tricks - wet food, calm voices, soft petting, cat toys and catnip - and just being patient. None of the neighbors have claimed him, and common household things like the TV freak him out, so we're assuming he's a true stray. His feistiness is fading, and he's purring, and kneading his front paws, and rubbing up against us now. Meredith called it: He's sneaky sweet, and we're like butter on hot toast.

When I wasn't visiting with Fiend or tussling with CPH, I was downloading my first podcasts. Do I win an award for last person in knitting blogland to do so? Annette wrote up a good overview of some of her listens, and I finally downloaded the latest episodes of Cast On, Stash and Burn, and Lime and Violet. Any others you recommend?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Fiendish Find of the Week

This little guy showed up on our doorstep four days ago.

We think he's a stray, as he's made himself at home, sleeping on the doormat and aggressively demanding food. He's only partially socialized; he scratched Tom yesterday, and has swiped and lunged at both of us several times. But, softies that we are, we've been feeding and watering and visiting with him, and as long as we don't pet him and keep our interaction to a minimum he's okay.

It's kinda stressful. He really wants to come inside, but until we can get him to a vet that's not gonna happen. So he cries at night outside our bedroom window, and, since coyotes roam our streets at night, I worry that he'll become a tasty morsel. Tom is going to build him a little house this weekend, which we'll place behind our house. Hopefully we can get him to sleep there and be better protected while we try to socialize him.

I've got the softest heart in the world when it comes to animals, and am trying to remain unattached. I refuse to name him. Except to call him Fiend. Which, with the lunging and scratching, is appropriate. But, when I visited him to take these snaps, he rolled over and showed his cute kitty belly.

Uh oh.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

CPH: Reality or Myth?

The front pieces are blocking as of 5:42 PST.

Five more inches of sleeve action until the cap shaping. Believe me, this is amazing progress. Like seeing a buck naked Elvis drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon and riding the Loch Ness monster in Lake Erie amazing.

Amazing like Mary's heart-stopping shoulder sewing action witnessed today. She's got shoulders. She's started knitting her hood. She's smokin'.

Or Patty's scrumptious nearly finished lace sweater.

Or Annette's utter serenity as she works on her sweater sleeve, chats with us and misses nary a stitch.

That kind of amazing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ASKnitters Afternoon Social

This past Sunday I hosted a party for friends and fellow members of ASK. ASK - which stands for Anti-Social Knitters - is a loosely organized group of Southern California knitters/bloggers. Formed by La and Wen, the group meets monthly at different locales. Each month's event is hosted by a different member, and May was my month to hostess.

Now, I'd only been to one other meeting in March at La's house, so I was a little nervous if I was up to ASK snuff. I shouldn't have worried, though, because there was oodles of knitting and crocheting going on, and lots of great conversation and laughter. Tom bbq'd for all of us, and Jillian bartendered, and everyone brought scrumptious fare for our potluck lunch. And. Well. I just hope everyone else had as much fun as I did.

Zoe, Beth, Barbara, Ellen

Andria and Wen, with Mary lurking in the back

Jillian, Teresa, Mary, Andria, Wen

Ellen, MJ, Carol and Laura

What a feast!

Ellen brought me a fabulous hand crocheted coaster set. Doesn't it go perfectly with our decor? (Okay, this stand alone photo makes them look kinda Christmasy, but it totally does.)

And Barbara brought these lovely roses from her garden. They smell divine.

I can't wait until our June get together!

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Zounds! For the love of zombies, I've been tagged by Meredith.

"Each person tagged gives 7 random facts about themselves. Those tagged need to write in their blogs 7 facts, as well as the rules of the game. You need to tag seven others and list their names on your blog. You have to leave those you plan on tagging a note in their comments so they know that they have been tagged and need to read your blog. The facts:"

1. I'm a huge fan of hard boiled mysteries and crime fiction. My favorite author at the moment is Bill James, a UK author who writes a series around two policemen named Colin Harpur and Desmond Iles. The opening scene of his novel Panicking Ralph has to be one of the most darkly comic scenes I've ever had the good fortune to read.

2. I love to bake Christmas cookies. I like to try new ones, but most years I bake favorites which include Peppermint Pinwheels and Spritz from family recipes; Chocolate Crinkles, Molasses and Mary's Sugar Cookies from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book; and Amaretto Butter and Coconut Cranberry Chews from Sunset Magazine.

3. I love Catholic saints. Especially female ones. I read their biographies/herstories, and am partial to the Catherines, the Teresas and Ursula with her 10,000+ virgins.

4. If I had to pick just one color to wear, it would be black.

5. I've lived on four continents: North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

6. I have one tattoo. I got it in my mid-20s. I've always wanted more.

7. When Tom and I were courting, he impressed me with his knowledge of Sergio and Brasil 66, and I impressed him with my knowledge of friction versus anti-friction bearings.

Today's a tag free zone, but if you're feeling random, you've got my blessing. And probably St. Ursula's, too.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Reasons Why I'm Happy Today

1. Supernatural has been picked up for an entire third season. Which means that my boys will keep kicking demon ass, and I'll have at least one tv show to watch next year.

2. The CPH back is blocking. Should be dry by tomorrow. Then time for the front pieces , so I can sew the shoulders and start working on the hood. Upside is that the Black Water Abbey softened up a lot after washing. And my gauge is spot on. Even though I swatch, it always amazes me when my sweater pieces block to size. Must have gauge issues or something.

3. Gothic Leaf is cast on. I'm doing a scarf-sized version first. The yarn is a delightful sludgy color. Yeah, I'm a big fan of the sludge. In the right context, of course.

4. I also have plans to do a full-sized shawl version of Gothic Leaf using some Euroflax linen in a lovely eggplant for my Mom. I've never knit with linen before, but have heard that it's difficult (i.e dry, fibrous, splitty, rough) to manipulate. So, I did some online recon to see if there are ways to make it easier to knit, and discovered that lots of people recommend washing and drying my yarn before I knit it. In the washer and dryer. Now, this is the kind of laundry I like to do.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fiendish Find of the Week

Yarn Pirate

Most of you are familiar with Georgia's great hand-dyed sock yarn, but did you know that she now has her very own store? It went live on May 2nd, and stock flew outta there. Very exciting! Also exciting is the fact that she's offering a unique to the store colorway, Pretty Pirate. Isn't it delish?

She recently began selling hand-dyed roving, too, and will continue to have occasional etsy stock ups. She's very good about announcing updates on her website, so keep an eye out for what's she's up to.

Congratulations, Georgia, on the successful launch of the Yarn Pirate Shop!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Look, Ma - a FO!

Knitting does occur around these here parts. I know, I almost don't believe it myself, but I have proof: May I present to you my sister's Flower Basket shawl, graciously modeled by Mary.

Pattern: Flower Basket Shawl by Evelyn A. Clark
Yarn: Koigu KPM - I've lost the bands, so let's go with red, shall we? - 2 skeins
Needles: Bryspun US 5 29" circs
Mods: Went down a needle size
Final dimensions: 47" x 21"
Rating: A+

Knitting this pattern a second time was just as enjoyable as the first. Y'all know about my mad Koigu crush, and this semi-solid shade did nothing but reinforce it. I prefer tonal shading much more than variegation in my yarn when knitting lace, and this yarn runs from pinkish in spots to scarlet. I like this hand-dyed aspect of the shawl, and hope that my sister does, too.

I've yet to swatch for lace (does anyone swatch for lace?), so jumped right in on this one as usual. I went down a needle size, though, as I knit lace loosey goosey. While knitting, I felt like I was knitting very tightly, but the stitches really opened up after washing, and the next time I use Koigu I'll probably go down one more needle size. Wanting to squeeze as much as I could out of the yarn, I knit eight main repeats, and had just the right amount of yarn left over. You know that amount, don't you? I call it the Three Bears' amount: not too little that you're stressing over if you'll run out, and not too much that you're resentful that you had to dive into another skein to finish just a little bit. Ahh, just right.

Taking a trick I learned from my red Diamond Fantasy shawl, I first soaked the shawl in cool water with a big glug of vinegar. I didn't want the red to bleed and fade, and this set the color nicely. I then soaked the shawl in Soak. I have about a ten-year supply of Eucalan, but Soak samples have shown up now and then with yarn orders, so I gave one a try. I used the Celebration scent, and it worked fine. Much lighter fragrance than Eucalan, at least to my nose.

In other knitting news, CPH has officially entered the when will it be over? stage. I'm too lazy to check, but I think the sleeves are about halfway finished. I suck at speed knitting, and have resigned myself to last place in our mini-competition. Marie is on the cap shaping of her second sleeve, other Marie is on vacation (but her sleeves are close to being done, I think), and Mary is making fast work of hers. I'd like to have mine done by next week, but they're going on the back burner because today Carolyn and I start our Gothic Leaf mini-KAL. Kristine is making one, too. Time to go cast on for my scarf-sized version right now, so I'll have something to show you later this week!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sock Yarn Clubs

As the postman delivered yet another Priority Mail box to my doorstep today, I realized that 2007 is the Year of the Sock Club. Somehow or other - for, as you know, I've yet to finish knitting a wearable pair...though I am very close...really - I've signed up for five sock yarn clubs. Ironic? And, more pressing, how did it happen? I put it down to the following reasons:

1. I love hand-dyed yarn.
2. I love getting stuff in the mail. Especially hand-dyed yarn.
3. I love a good theme.
4. Some day soon the mischievous Sockie shall sprinkle me with pixie dust, and I shall be the stuff of sock knitting legend.
5. I can, from time to time, be somewhat delusional.

Rockin' Sock Club from Blue Moon Fiber Arts

Cost: $210 for six installments ($35/installment)
Reason for joining: Being part of the STR experience.
Pros: The STR experience is amazing. The club-centric yarn colorways and the patterns written expressly for the sock club yarns by known designers make this club a class act. Throw in the binder you receive with your first yarn, along with the obligatory swag (a bumper sticker and a 10% off coupon and a website for club members), and you're not only a satisfied customer, you're part of a community.
Cons: The website. It's tricky to navigate. Plus, chicken humor? Not my scene.
Personal thoughts: Yep, I'm satisfied. I'm also hoping for less shtick, brighter colorways in the months to come.
Would I join again? Maybe, but probably not.

Mama E's C*Eye*ber Fiber Project Spectrum Sock Club

Cost: $110 for four installments ($27.50/installment)
Reason for joining: Project Spectrum
Pros: Groovy PS colorways in different Mama E sock yarns

Cons: The first yarn arrived very late; late enough that I felt that disappointment you have when you're eagerly anticipating something and it doesn't happen...for a month and a half. It took Erin a long time to answer my e-mail inquiries, too, but she finally did, and the yarn finally arrived, and I finally shut up about it. And my second colorway arrived just fine.
Personal thoughts: Bare bones. It's a hand-dyed experience, but not really much of a club per se, as you receive only yarn.
Would I join again? Once is enough.

Yarntini Sock Club from Pure Knits

Cost: $175 for three installments ($58.33/installment)
Reason for joining: Yarntini
Pros: Yarntini
Cons: I knew going into this one that the high price tag was problematical - at this cost my expectations were decidedly high - but I went ahead and did it anyway. And, upon receiving my first package, I'm kinda sorry I did .
Personal thoughts: I feel like such a grouch, as other friends are really happy with their packages. But honestly, I feel gypped. Though the color coordinated package looks nice altogether, the colorway is a total snore compared to (most of) Jessie's other colorways. The accompanying stitch markers are cheap. My Misocrafty bag came with a dirty brown smear on it. (what's up with that? especially since there wasn't chocolate in the box...ewww) I was hoping for a hip and trendy unique pattern or two (Cookie!), and instead got a four-year old book I already have. See, grouchy and grossed out over unknown stainage.
Would I join again? Unless the two remaining installments make up for it in a big way, nope.

Seasonal Sock Club from the Loopy Ewe

Cost: Billed quarterly for four installments; $37.05/summer
Reason for joining: Sheri rocks
Pros: Great yarn, great swag - score!
Cons: None
Personal thoughts: I received my first package today, and it made me jump up and down in glee. Fun summery theme? Check. Cool yarn? Sock weight All Things Heather in superwash merino/bamboo/nylon in a kicky colorway. Check. Swag? An awesome Loopy Ewe project tote, a unique sock pattern from Wildhorse Farm Designs, a bar of lemon scented soap from the Soap Plantation shaped like a sheep (baaaa), a silly poem and some lemonade (Kool-Aid hee) and Hershey's Kisses. Check. All in all great fun, and I'm looking forward to my fall package already.
Would I join again? In a red hot second.

A Sock for All Seasons Yarn Club from Yarn Tree
Cost: $250 for six installments ($42/installment)
Reason for joining: Amazing dyers on the roster
Personal thoughts: This club doesn't start until October, but I'm salivating already over the hand-dyers they have lined up: Cheryl Schaefer from Schaefer Yarn; Darlene Hayes from Hand Jive; Nancy Finn from Chasing Rainbows; Lori Lawson from Capistrano Fibert Arts; and Katey Plymesser from Thirteen Mile Lamb and Wool Co. Amazing, eh? AND registration is open until June 15th, if you care to join, too! You, me, Sockie...what could be better?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Catching Up

The Santa Ana winds blew into town a few days ago, and I immediately succumbed to a sinus infection. Feeling crummy, I resorted to comfort knitting all weekend long; I knit up my May Yarn of the Month swatches, and yesterday I feverishly knit on my sister's Flower Basket shawl.

Flower Basket is coming along swimmingly. After knitting on CPH, the Koigu is wonderfully oh so soft sliding through my fingers. Aaahhh. I'm planning on doing eight repeats, and am currently in the middle of the sixth, as you can see from my handy dandy chart keeper. Tom bought it for me for Yule, and it's been in use from the moment I unwrapped it. Definitely on my top 1o tools of the trade list.

And notice the pretty brooch on my bag? It's a handmade lovely from Kristie. Doesn't it look smashing on my Baddanna bag?

As for CPH, well. Here she is.

Sitting at the bottom of her bag, enjoying a little rest. Not a stitch knit since the last time I posted about my sleeves. I don't feel so bad, though; at least I haven't been in the Bermuda Triangle of rippage where Marie was over the weekend. My heart goes out to ya, M.