The Amazing Adventures of Tom and Bel

Thursday, March 31, 2005

March Madness

Dearest blog readers,

Your normally sensible correspondent has officially left the building. She's been consumed by this:

Invites and favors and table cards, oh my!

Yes, friends, the imminent arrival of Our Wedding Day (nine! count 'em - nine days left!!) has left no room in this girl's week for knitting. I will try to rectify that by the weekend, but it ain't looking good. Not to mention the events for work, the raging spring cold which has come down upon me like the wrath of Khan, and the need to occasionally feed and walk the pups and the fiance.
(Tense? Me?? WHAT DO YOU MEAN?? Do you realize I'm getting married in NINE DAYS??)

What little knitting news there is: my sock pal sox are done (I think they turned out great, but I wanted to surprise her, so no photos) . I enjoyed making these, but I hate deadlines (especially ones that are uncomfortably close to other deadlines I am facing -- did I mention the nine days? I did? Oh. Sorry. I repeat myself sometimes. It's congenital.)
Why did I forget that?

No substantive progress on my Delphine Along project, but check out Dani's blog for her awesome progress on "Princess De." This will be a thing of beauty, indeed.

[Edited to fix dumbass spelling errors. Oops.]

Friday, March 25, 2005

Le Mot (Ad)juste

I think I've mentioned that the Mom-O, when not making lace and lovely beaded things (some of which are for me! Whee!) , is also a knitter. She & I were emailing this morning about the new Vogue Knitting (dang - their site still isn't updated!) and the fact that many of the designs weren't necessarily ready for prime-time as given, since neither of us is a willowy fashion model.
This got me to thinking (dangerous, but I'm willing to take that chance).

I'm a notorious adapter of patterns - the instructions are just a suggestion as far as I'm concerned. I firmly believe that success is all in how you style things.
Let's take that embroidered sleeveless top that I liked so much:

It's fine as written - and even comes in a nice selection of sizes! hurrah! - but if I were to actually make it, I would likely add:
1) Cap sleeves, as I can't go sleeveless at work. This has the added bonus of hiding jiggly bits at the top of the arms, if you're worried about that sort of thing.

2) Waist shaping. I have one and I like that to be evident. I also don't want oodles and oodles of fabric on a summer top.

3) Alternatively, long bell sleeves would be an attractive look. I'd perhaps use super-large needles to make them sheer (like sweater #4 in this same issue. If knit at the same gauge as the body, one could also embroider the cuffs.

4) I might consider changing the neckline as well. I generally prefer v-necks, as I have a rather round face, but from the picture it seems a touch low. I'd check the schematic against other tops I have and like to see where my comfort level is with this.
Another option might be to use clasps along the opening. I love the fancy Norweigian ones, but since all the interest is at the neck, I'd likely just get the little hook-and-eye sets from the fabric store. That way, I could be as (im)modest as I like!

I could go on, but you get the idea. Take a second look at a design that you may have passed over - you may find that a little tweaking brings it back into the realm of the possible.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Summer of '69

I got the Spring issue of Vogue Knitting today (as I type, their site still shows the Winter issue).
Overall, the issue feels sorta retro 80s-- much like the Bryan Adams tune referenced above -- which isn't really my thing, but there were a couple of gems that I would love to have:

#1 (embroidered sleeveless top) I'm a sucker for anything inspired by the colors of India. And the beautiful embroidery might make all that damn stockinette st worth it.
#10 (Lacy cable boatneck) and #11 (Hoodie w/lace panels) This one's by Norah Gaughan (of course). I should just give in and become her bitch. It'd be faster, and I might get a sweater out of it.
#19 (cabled, cropped cardi) Damn you, Jaeger. Damn you to hell! I don't have time for needles that small.

Anyone else get this issue? And doesn't this sweater just make you wanna tango?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Thank you Sock Pal!!

I am so happy with my fabulous new socks, I never want to take them off. I'm so pleased, I don't even mind being awakened at 6:30 in the morning by the sound of my darling dog upchucking (sigh).
Okay, I do mind a little: but look at these socks!


...and flex...

The "cheesecake" shot (note the sexy exposed knee). This gorgeous color of Jo Sharp Aran Tweed (sadly discontinued) refuses to be captured on film; the lower one is closest to real life.
It is stunning and pretty. I keep putting my feet on the desk to admire it.

Thanks a lot, Jenifer! You made a very stressful week so much better!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Oh, Poor Sockapalooza Pal

I'm knitting as fast as I can... I will send these off on Monday, no doubt!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Mucking about

I love/hate this time of year. You can feel Spring in the air, but it's still awfully chilly and the world is just a big ball of mud. My brave, brave Boy-O gave the filthy animals what was coming to them today -- the dreaded B-A-T-H. There was much whining and crying, but he was not moved.

The entire apartment smells better. Now instead of the clinging scent of dirty dog, the fragrant aroma of wet dog and peppermint soap wafts by instead. It's an improvement, I think - which tells you just how bad they smelled.

Tom hiding under the sofa - all you can see is his little white nose...

In knitting news, last week's adventures in blocking led to an amazing discovery: the skirt I'd created was, post-blocking (and this is the old school wet block, mind you), long enough to cover me from stem to stern.

So, after a tiny bit of surgery

Ripping out the hem.

and some additional rows of knitting:

This is what happens when I try to photograph myself in a steamy bathroom. Please note: I am a Professional - do not attempt this at home...

The dress - c'est fini!

Now to whip those chubby arms into shape!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Grr. Arrgh.

(Come on - I dare you. Tell me that little bit of silliness at the end wasn't your favorite part of a BTVS episode).

But the knitting. Oh, she was a Bad Girl. Not only was La Delphine not exquisite in any way, shape or form, the most exciting (?) part of this project was my complete and utter inability to stop making Moebius strips.
(Yes, I did it again. Let's not talk about how dopey that makes me.)
(We will also not talk about my utter inability to match my swatched gauge. Oy.)

I present to you a picture entitled: Why Math Is A Good Thing, Except When It's Not:


See that giant loop of fabric over there on the right side? That's where I pinned this item after realizing I made the loop too big. In fact, I made it huge. So huge that small children could have played jump rope with it. So huge that whole countries could have relocated to vast loop of knitting that I had somehow begun and been unable to count or measure properly. I gave it to the Boy-O to rip, as I couldn't stomach the thought.

Resolving that tomorrow was, indeed, another day, on the morrow, I swatched. Repeatedly.
I checked my original swatch (Cascade's Fixation). I then swatched with the Elann Esprit, thus conclusively proving that these are Not The Same Yarn. The fiber mix is the same. Many of the colors are the same. But the way the yarns knit up? Night and day.
But I digress.
So I swatched. I swatched with different kinds of needles. I swatched with multiple needle sizes. I even swatched some lovely Australian alpaca:

The Search for Meaning.. or at least a pattern you can actually see in this yarn.

I concluded that, despite my best efforts, I was, in fact, a Dumbass. (My apologuies to the Harlot, but I'm blatantly stealing the title of Queen Dumbass from you. You may now return to your regularly scheduled knitting success.)

Dumbass notion #1: the same fiber mix = same suggested gauge = no need to swatch the actual yarn you will knit with.
Duh. I shouldn't be allowed to touch Addi Turbos for a week.

Dumbass notion #2: Drapy, irregular alpaca should be used to do a tiny brocade pattern.
This does not even bear thinking about. Alpaca tests the mettle of the best knitters on the planet; its drape and irregularity are legend. Unless I am willing to do this on 3.25 mm needles -- which I most certainly ain't -- there will be no joy in Dumbass-ville.

Dumbass notion #3: That I can, even in small measure, figure this out through sheer force of will without any help.

That's just hubris. Once I got over myself, I revisited my source materials, and some of my favorite sites, trying not to think about it. And I slept on it, more than once. This morning, just as I awoke, I remembered Theresa's fabulous Sigil cardigan. Could it be? Would that sexy Swedish pattern it be the cable of my dreams?

Voila! The open cable, she is good!

It was and it is. In honor of Theresa's inspiriation, this sweater has been rechristened. Henceforth, it shall be Le Sceau de Delphine.*
Let the rejoicing begin!

* The Sigil of Delphine.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Mad, Bad and ...

While having a SATC marathon with the Boy-O last night, we had a great giggle at the episode in which Charlotte lies about her age (technically, a lie of omission, but still). I found it slightly alarming how easily she turned into a silly 20-something - I could see myself doing the same thing. Even though I'm fine with getting older, it doesn't really feel older than 20. Y'know? Which is crazy. And foolish. I'm happy to be in my 30s and wouldn't go back for the world.

(I may be obsessing about the age issue because of the freaky pregnancy dream I had last night. Note to the Mom-O: we're not. It was just a very real-feeling dream. ButI was very disoriented when I awoke this morning, and had to check my non-swollen tummy a couple of times for reassurance.)

And, getting back to the knitting content, La Delphine non est exquise at the moment. There is no photo because it refused to behave last night. I, who have always managed to avoid circular knitting sins, discovered halfway through my comedy marathon that I had managed to join the round with a twist. This produced a Moebius strip which, while technically interesting, is really inappropriate for the type of top I intend to produce. So rip rip rip I went. She is back at the point of yesterday's photograph (i.e., barely started).

Although, now that I think about it, wouldn't that be an interesting top to knit? Make a circular twisted strip, and then pick up sts from the edge? There'd be a tiny gap where the twist was, but still... an interesting possibillity. Hmmm. That sounds like another project to add to the list...

Monday, March 07, 2005

Knit Picky

AS promised, I did accomplish my weekend goal list. The FBSes are complete, the Delphine along has begun:

La Delphine Exquise est arrive!

I went on a great long walk on Sunday (the weather cooperated marvelously - 65F!) and my sweetie has been thoroughly kissed. Which leaves one thing on the weekend agenda: my KnitPicks yarn reviews.

I ordered samples of Merino Style, Alpaca Silk and Wool of the Andes. I knitted up stockinette stitch swatches of each to discover their merits. My thoughts are as follows:

Knit Picks swatches after Eucalan and blocking.

Orange = Wool of the Andes, Green = Alpaca Silk, and Blue = Merino Style.

Wool of the Andes: (100% wool, 110 yds) Recommended gauge: 4.5-5 sts/in on US7s or 8s.
This yarn has a sturdy, crisp hand. It reminded me of Plymouth's Outback or Araucania Nature Wool. I worked this up on 4.5mm needles with an unblocked gauge of 4.75 sts/in (19 sts = 4").
Depending on how firmly one blocks, it could go to 18.5 sts =4" or remain at 19 sts.
(I blocked these lightly, without pins).
I am considering working it up on 5mm needles as well, since it gave me a fairly solid fabric on the 4.5mm. It surprised me by being more skin-friendly than its sturdiness would indicate. I'd definitely prefer to have a layer of fabric between it and me, but I could probably survive a day of wearing it solo.

Alpaca Silk: (55% alpaca, 22% silk, 23% wool, 96 yds) Recommended gauge: 4.5-5 sts/in on US7s or 8s.
My unblocked gauge with this yarn was 4.625 sts/in on 4.5mm needles (18.5 sts = 4").
Post blocking, it bloomed to exactly 18 sts = 4".
I used this yarn to finish off the edges of one of the Flower Basket Shawls, since I ran short. It's got the slickness and drape to be expected from the alpaca and silk content, but the wool seems to give it more resilience and ability to even out one's gauge. The Boy-O loves this fabric best, as it was the softest of the three. Though I didn't love knitting with it (the yarn needed to be handled firmly and I did encounter a snaggy bit or two), the resulting fabric is beautiful, with a bit of the characteristic alpaca haze. Good for a casual sweater with a sophisticated feel.
(This is a great one for a man's sweater.)

Merino Style: (100% merino wool) Recommended gauge: 5.5 sts/in on US5s or 6s.
What a pleasure this is to knit. It practically leaps onto one's needles and makes lusciously even stitches and gorgeous smoth stockinette fabric. (Sigh.)
Unblocked gauge of 5.25 st/inch on 4.0mm needles (21 sts = 4") for me, and blocked gauge was the same.

While perhaps not quite as soft as more expensive merinos I have known (there is merino and then there is Merino, if you know what I'm saying), this is a darn fine product and a steal at this price. Perfect for a cozy, next-to-the skin garment. I will be ordering more soon.

The colors were fairly accurate on my LCD monitor, though I found them to be somewhat warmer in person than on screen. I found the delivery time was slow (about 10 working days), and others in the Midwest region have posted similar comments (I'm used to Elann's speedy service, but then again, I pay for that).

All in all, these are going to be great additions to my stable of yarns. I would like the ability to order color cards, am hoping for a greatly expanded color range and look forward to seeing what else they add to their list of offerings.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Love and Basket Shawls

The Flower Basket Shawls are complete! Huzzah! Huzzah! There is much rejoicing in the land of Ice and Snow.

But how, you may ask, does one go from this:

to this?

Well, grasshopper, the process is quite simple. Once the knitting is complete,
start with a good soak in tepid waters:

Eucalan is the Coolest Thing Ever for your knits. It makes them soft and luscious. No lie.

Add one dose of pinning and stretching across any large surface:

These could have been stretched much more intensely - this is only a semi hard block as I can't find most of my pins.

This is greatly helped by turning on the electric blanket underneath the covers and adding a high dose of the fan.

Now, we wait. This part of the process demands sustenance:

Artfully prepared collard green & mushroom salad with Boy-O. I'm so glad I taught him to chiffonade!

Then we wait a little more. But finally, the lovely shawls emerge, ready to hit the wedding runway:

For scale. (Yes, I know it looks scary on my bright red couch. Ignore that.)

I may have a new obsession coming on - I'd forgotten how much I adore lace.
However, this resurgent desire will have to wait, because here I am publicly committing to a project once again. I got this in my in box the other day:

The adorable Jaden Johnson. Everybody now: Awww.

A friend of mine sent me many many adorable shots of his son: this is a tiny portion of the cuteness that is Jaden (I wonder how long til he starts calling him J-Dog?).
Anyway, when I'm done with my wedding stuff, this little sweetie pie will definitely receive something handknit, as will baby Will. I am perusing my Debbie Bliss collection now.

But next up: Delphine Along action! Stay Tuned!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Random Revelations

Things I have learned in the past couple of weeks:
  • There is a fabulous new search engine for those of us who need a little gansta in our day.
    (Giggle. Snort. Or should that be Gizzigle?)
  • The above was discovered via Superstarra-ville, hosted by the charming Christie (scroll down to check out her lovely Clapotis).
  • Grooming epiphany: palm-rolling one's dreadlocks is exactly the same procedure as spit splicing. (Who knew?)
  • Dropping a pair of 10 lb weights on your foot is likely to make you a) limp and b) use langauge of which your mother would not approve.
  • The Boy-O, lover of all things geek, has found a craft project for someone even crazier than I am.
  • I am obsessed with all things wedding. This is probably good, since mine is coming up in 36 days (insert frantic scream here). Right now, Im stuck on cake. After seeing the Harlot's Wool Pigs, I considered asking my Mom to make a yarn textured cake, but am refraining. Today, at least.
I am taking off both weekend days, though I will probably end up working on the spring newsletter from home (it's too noisy to even think at my desk). But since public promises have a way of coming true (or shaming one into action), during this weekend, I hereby promise to:
  • finish the second FBS,
  • start the next wedding project (36 days!! - this will also be my entry into the Delphine along)
  • swatch my KnitPicks yarn,
  • go outside at least once, despite the weather,
  • and kiss my sweetie repeatedly.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

It's alive!

I feel as if I haven't been here in ages. I know that's ridiculous, since it was only last Friday that I blogged about my birthday/winter malaise, but I had made a promise to myself not to come back here til I had something good to show you.
Thus I present the first of my two Flower Basket Shawls:


This adorable (IMNSHO) little scarflet is just the thing for the best ladies. Instead of the edging pattern as given, I did a garter st bind off which took forever.

To do it, all I did was cast on two sts at the beginning of the row, then K1, K2 tog (the last cast on stitch joins with the st on the needle. Next row: K2. Repeat til completely, utterly bored, then continue until the thing is actually bound off.
It looks a bit ruffly at the moment, but should block out just fine as it is stretching round the sloped sides of the triangle.

This pattern is wonderful. It's an easy lace (a patient beginner could handle it), the charts are well done, and the result is far more beautiful than the effort indicate.

In other news, the birthday goodies continue:

Adorable handmade stitch markers. The green ones have little charms of eggs, pots and kitchen utensils (because culinary school is still in my plans). The larger yellow & amber ones are just beautiful (plus she knows how goofy I am about the dogs, so there's one of those in there too. Heh.)
What I can say? The Mom-O rocks. (And no, you can't have her for your MIL. She's mine.)