Friday, April 29, 2005

Bookish Copycat

I snatched this from PritKnit.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

See if you can guess what type of book is by my side ...

"4. Puree the drained vegetables in a food mill, using the fine grating disk."

Cookbook? Not only a cookbook.



Actually, there is also Knitting Without Tears by my side, but there is no page 123 ... so I chose this one.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

New Book, New Yarns, New Ideas

My Reader's Digest Knitter's Handbook arrived yesterday! I have yet to find time flipping through it. But I am very happy with it. I got it from eBay for only $10 plus cost for Media Mail ... sweet deal. There were several others available for bidding at the time I was checking. But I decided to buy this one directly as my experience was that with bidding, very often I would have to pay more to get it. Being smart this time! I checked later to find the bids for the others went up to almost $20!

Reading Ann's post yesterday, I took a trip to Target in the afternoon to have a look at the knit-pack myself. But the sweeter thing was that in the same mall, there was a Hancock Fabrics. I had never gone into this store before. Not knowing why, I went into it yesterday ... and you know what I found? Lion Brand Cotton-Ease! I know about this yarn for some time ... everybody seems to have good words to say about it. The sad news is that it is being discontinued (I guess you must have read about this zillions of times on knitters' blogs already!). But there in Hancock, I found several good colours! After much consideration, I picked up 5 balls of pink. The next question would be "What are you going to do with them?"

Some time ago, I bought several old pattern books from a used bookstore. Among them is Schachenmayr Nomotta Inspiration No.61. There are several patterns I like from this. For the Cotton-Ease, I am considering these two:



The pink top requires 2.5 balls ... but I'm going to make it longer, so let's say 3 balls. The green one requires 3.5 balls. Which one should I make? Maybe I should return one ball of pink and see if I am lucky enough to get another colour today. That way, I can make both! What would you do?

Oh yes, last night, I finished another crocheted square for the afghan:



This is Square 13 named Bushy Stitch. Isn't it pretty? I love it and I think it looks more like flowers. It was as if I had the magic touch last night ... got the right gauge the first time trying and *boom* ... before I knew, the square was done! I am working hard on the page for this afghan so that my crochet friends won't have to go through all the knitting stuff, which they may not care about, to find my crochet work. It's almost done ... almost!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Working hard on WIPs

First of all, thank you all very much for the kind words. I am not a skinny woman ... but there comes the beauty of cheung-sam - you don't have to be skinny to look good in one. My mothere always says one needs to have some flash to wear a cheung-sam well.

Back to my resolution of working on the various WIPs. I have completed 12 squares out of 30 for the blue afghan ... 40%! The latest patterns I did are the following:



So far, I like working on all the patterns except the cheerio one. But I would like to draw your attention to the middle one above. It's a cable pattern. For all the cable patterns I've worked on, they all have reverse stockinette stitch as the background pattern. However, this one is all in stockinette stitch ... and I think the effect is very good ... especially when I don't like purling too much. My gauge in purling is always more loose.

After reaching the target for the blue afghan, I turned to the crocheted afghan. Knitting always comes to me more naturally. With crocheting, I tend to get tired (physically) more easily, especially with the arm holding the hook. So, I need more will power to crochet. I managed to finish 3 squares over the weekend:



Ever since I learned the trick of adjusting the hook size for the edge, I have been going faster because I didn't have to struggle too much to achieve the exact size for the squares. Now I am 12 out of 63 squares for this afghan. A long way to go!

The Cascading Leaves Socks have turned heels and are approaching the toes!



Accroding to the pattern, these are called "Round Heel" from Nancy Bush's Folk Socks ... and I like them. They seem to fit better. It seems that this pair of socks are turning out well ... so I would send them to my mother as Mother's Day Present. That means I need to hurry up a bit.

To reward myself on working hard, I allowed myself to cast on for a new project. Recognise this?



Now it has become this:



Yeah, I backed out of Prairie and reknit it into the Cabled Vest from Vogue Knitting SS 2005. Since I have done the swatching, I went directly to the knitting. The gauge of the yarn is smaller than the one used in the pattern, so I chose a bigger size. The black top is what I use as the control piece. So far, the width is okay ... a little bit wider than the control, which is good. Keep my fingers crossed that this time it would turn out fine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Now the challenge is getting serious!

Okay ... this is the result of my own wedding gown challenge at home yesterday. First of all, background. I didn't really have a wedding gown. We got married 3 years ago in a civilian ceremony in the city hall (or something like that). I wore a cheung-sam I bought with me from Hong Kong. I love this dress because it is elegant and understated. To wear a cheung-sam well, one needs to wear a really fit corset underneath. So, to complete the challenge, I need to fit into that same corset first, then the cheung-sam.

This is the best shot of me in my "wedding gown" on my wedding day:



These are the 2 shots of me in the same dress yesterday:



It seems I'm doing not too bad, huh? At least, I can still squeeze into the corset and then the gown. Yes, the word "squeeze" is just right for the occasion. If you examine the picture on the right, you'll see a lump of flesh hiding on my back ... right under the arm in the picture. That's the result of trying to squeeze into the corset!

So, I was fooling around with the camera, trying to take pictures of myself, in this outfit yesterday afternoon. After about 15 minutes, I started to feel short of breath. If you have watched Pirates of the Carribean, you'll immediately know that this is a sign - one telling me that the clothes I was wearing were too tight! Without a Captain Sparrow to rescue me in case I fainted, I took the cheung-sam and corset off without hesitation!

It is undeniable that I have put on weight since I got married. So, I give myself a challenge. Between now and August 2005, I will do my best to get back in shape. I am not a health freak and I don't go on any diet. What I do will just be exercise. By the time the Wedding Gown Challenge is held in New York, I will also fit into my cheung-sam again ... this time hoping that I can last, maybe, half an hour!

Note on Knitting:
I've made quite a lot of progress on the various WIPs and will post on that tomorrow with pictures.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Are You Up for a Challenge?

I discovered this blog challenge while browsing the blogsville. Interesting! Though I am not living in New York, I decide to take the challenge ... in my own apartment ... this afternoon ... mmm ... feeling a bit anxious already! What if I couldn't fit into it anymore?!
Will keep you posted.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Let's get organized, shall we?

A while ago, Jody kindly shared with us how she organized her yarn stash. While I still refuse to admit I have a yarn stash problem, I have no way to deny the fact that the knitting magazines in the house are taking up precious space. Sometimes I even think that magazine stash might even be the greater evil: yarn stash can be reduced theoretically while magazine stash will just get bigger and bigger! So, I took a look at the template I downloaded from Jody's blog and I thought ... I could use that for my magazines!

If you are like me who don't have MS Office, MS Works (which I think comes with your Widnows XP) will work just fine. Open a new Spreadsheet using MS Works. Then organize the columns like this:



Unlike Jody, I am not able to let you download the Spreadsheet file itself as Blogger doesn't allow this. I tried my GeoCities account too ... but in vain. But you can click on the picture to have a larger image which you can see more clearly. I organize the patterns in the following categories:
1. Sweaters/Cardigans
2. Socks/Hats/Mittens
3. Scarves/Wraps
4. Bags
5. Afghans/Dishcloths etc
This is indeed highly personal. I'm just showing you the way I did it as an example. I went through the magazines one by one, chose the patterns that I like and put them into the appropriate categories. Different magazines have different ways of presenting their patterns. Interweave Knits presents the photos with the patterns side by side, so I just put down the page references for the appropriate patterns. Vogue Knitting numbers the patterns and puts all the details at the last section of the magazines, so I just put down the numbers of the patterns. Again, this is personal choice. If you like, you can even grade your liking for the patterns, say, one star, two stars and etc, for later reference.

Besides project ideas, magazines are also valuable sources for techniques. Therefore, I have a column for this:



In this way, I have an inventory list of all the magazines I have and the project ideas they contain. You can do the same thing with your knitting books too. (Actually, I am going to use this for my cooking magazines too!) Now, do you feel that something is missing? Something which is very important to almost all of us knitters ... yeah, the visual elements. We are attracted to a particular pattern because of the way it looks. So, I tried to see if I could import image files into MS Works Spreadsheet. Disappointed. If you are using MS Office Excel, you should see if you can do so. Excel seems to me to be more versatile and powerful. I had to find a solution. This is what I came up with:



Until now, I didn't know MS Works Portfolio even existed. This is a very useful database tool. I started by taking pictures of the patterns I like. Since it is only for my own reference, the resolution doesn't have to be very high. Then I put all the pictures into one folder. Open MS Works Portfolio, click on "Tasks" and then "New Collection". You can name the collection the way you do in your Spreadsheet inventory. Then just drag the pictues in the folder into the Portfolio workspace. In the Comments box, you can put down the name of the pattern and where it is located. Voila! Now you can pack your magazines away in boxes and browse your Portfolio Collections for inspiration instead.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

It's all about books ... and a confession to make!

When I was knitting "Tie One On", it suddenly struck me that I didn't have any knitting reference books. Pattern books, yes, I have a few. Magazines, numerous. But I just don't have any technique-teaching reference books. I don't even have a knitting stitches book. I have always relied on the internet whenever a question arises. But suddenly I felt that perhaps it was time to get a reference book.

So I took a trip to B&N. After browsing through the craft books section, I had an idea what knitting reference books are available. Then I went to various knitting groups and forums to see what the knitters think. Finally, I bought this on ebay. Actually I have checked out the Vogue Knitting handbook from the library. I think it is pretty good too.

While browsing in B&N, I picked up this:



With this, I can save the trouble of looking for sweater patterns for Husband. He just likes plain stockinette stitch. I am also thinking I can try my hand on designing sweater patterns for myself ... and this book will be of great help.

Talking about books, Yarn Harlot's book is a hot item among knitters recently. I have a confession to make. I still don't have At Knit's End. Mmm ... actually I have two confessions to make. The other one is that yesterday I went to Border's and saw several copies of Yarn Harlot's book. But instead of buying it, I bought this. I didn't mean any disrepect for Yarn Harlot, I did read a few pages of her book and thought it was good ... but I didn't have the motivation to buy it yet. And I think many of you would understand when you see an Alice Starmore book in the bookstore sold for a MSRP price, you just don't have to think, right?

P.S. For those of you living in Silicon Valley and are still looking for a copy of At Knit's End, you can go to the Border's in Sunnyvale. There were about 10 copies yesterday. Good luck.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Surprise! Surprise!

See what I got from the brown guy yesterday:


He missed me once and left me a note on Friday. I couldn't figure out what it could be. And as usual, he was late again yesterday. I almost had to go to bed with the mystery unsolved! It was a big big presents from the thoughtful Karen.

Last week was her birthday, so I sent her some simple stitch markers that I made. Never did I think she should send me presents in return! But I must admit these wonderful gifts made my day! I love all of them: a box of kitty gift cards, a flower bath gel in lavender scent, a pack of tissues in daisy pattern and two balls of Regia sock yarns! Thank you so much, Karen.

Update: It turned out Karen sent me the package even before she knew I was sending her mine! Isn't she just wonderful?

Monday, April 18, 2005

No more casting on!

Why? Because I suddenly discovered that my knitting basket for WIPs has been overflowing! I was a bit annoyed by this. I always say to myself that the afghans are "long-term" projects. Okay, but this won't transform them into organic plants which would grow on their own! They are of the exact same size I left them there in the basket, say, 2 months ago? So, this is the decision, I have to work on the long-term projects consistantly so that they would become shorter term ones. These include:

1) Rhapsody in Blue afghan
2) Old Tile Jacket
3) 63-easy-to-crochet afghan

I have kept to my decision. I am now in the 4th square of the second stripe of the blue afghan:



So, you see the white square in the pic? It is a very simple double seed stitch (I made this name up) but the result is surprisingly pleasing. I hope you can see it clearly despite the fact that it is white. The plan is when I finish the 6-square second stripe, I would pick up the crochet afghan.

On the other hand, I would always have a pair of socks on the needles ... these are for the need of faster gratification ... very important indeed. This is my current sock project:



It is a project from the Townsend Socks Knit-a-long. The original pattern has 5 repeats of the falling leaves pattern. I would like the socks to be shorter in the leg, so I just made 4. I used Elann's Esprit Print in Summer Sky. At first I was afraid the variegated colour would compromise the pattern, but it seems that it turns out fine. What do you think?

As you can see from the picture that I am knitting both socks using 2 sets of DPNs. I don't really have "second sock syndrome". Instead, I have the paranoid fear of two socks of different sizes. Recently, I invested in a bunch of Crystal Palace DPNs, 2 sets for each size. So, no matter what yarn I use, I can knit both socks at the same time. With this investment, however, I have another problem - my knitting notion pouch is not enough for all these DPNs. One leading to another, I made another investment:



I think it is very cute!

Concerning Heather's request for tips on using Rowan KSH, well, it was my first time using this yarn too, so yes, it was indeed a bit scary as the yarn was, in Husband's words, so fragile. However, you would find that it is in no way fragile when you have to frog it! I used Denise plastic needles as it would be less slippery. Perhaps bamboo needles would even be better if you have any. I used the 52" long cord that Lu RAOKed me even before I was a member of the group. I would be forever grateful to her for that as with the extra long cord, I have enough room to spread the wrap out to see the pattern.

Another important thing I learned during the process of using KSH is how to frog mohair. This is no ripping with abandon ... the mohair would just get more tightly tangled if you rip it like wool. You have to go one stitch at a time, though sometimes that would mean tears gathering in your eyes due to fatigue! The combination of mistake and teary eyes means that it's time to put the mohair project down for some time. Besides, you may want to read Claudia's comment in my April 12 post to know how to change for a new ball of yarns and weave in loose ends. I think these are pretty much what I think are important in using KSH. So, don't worry, Heather, go ahead with your mohair project ... I'm quite sure you would love it as I do!

Friday, April 15, 2005

I wish I had it earlier ...

It is a beautiful 75F sunny afternoon ... good enough to wear a sleeveless tank ... to let your bare arms breathe in the early summer air. Yet, when you enter the grocery stores, you inevitably feel a chilly breeze enveloping you all over. I always wish I had brought something to keep me warm at moments like this, something light and handy enough to be put inside my carry-all and yet not be a burden. Now, I have it:


I thought "Tie one on" would be a real quick project, but it took me a whole week to finish. I was progressing like a snail when I came to the front ties. Maybe it was because of the 1x1 rib stitches ... which I don't particularly enjoy. I have to say Rowan Kidsilk Haze is an evil yarn ... it is definitely not easy to work with, and yet I can't help loving the silky soft and hazy feeling of the knitted piece.


I have chosen a very subtle grey colour, which always made me think of Trevor and Igor. Lovely!


If I had this with me when we went watching the Maverick's Surf, I wouldn't have felt like Medusa on the beach of Half Moon Bay because I could have worn it like this and kept my hair tidy on my head:


Now I am greatly tempted to use this yarn again for this.

Note: Special thanks to Claudia on advising how to weave in ends of KSH. I should have asked her earlier ... when I changed for a new ball of yarn. As she said, weaving in the ends is not really a problem. But I stupidly chose to tie a knot when changing to a new ball.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

April is the cruellest month ...

and yet, I have to disagree with Mr. Eliot. April has been bringing me good news ever since I came to the States. I got my driver's license in April 2 years ago; Husband and I got our green cards in April last year. This year, we are able to bring Elise home in April. We have been busying ourselves over the last weekend getting ready for her arrival. Who is Elise? This is:



The 48 hours before we got the car was terrible. Husband felt restless all the time ... couldn't concentrate doing anything ... and having dreams about the car. Finally, all these are over. Elise is now safely sitting inside the freshly cleaned and tidied garage. Hopefully, the weather will continue to be gorgeous in the coming weekend ... then we can get a ride in the mountains! Yay!

A lot have beening happening on the knitting front. First of all, I have join a number of knit-alongs. Yet, most of them don't have a deadline for FO. I really can't stand the pressure of rushing through projects because I have joined a knit-along. On the other hand, though there is no real serious consequence if I fail to meet the deadline, I think it is just meaningless if one joins a knit-along and then forgets about it. Among the knit-alongs I've joined, I think ReKAL is worth mentioning. The slogan of ReKAL is "Recyle, Reuse, Renew" and I think it is very meaningful. With careful selection, we don't always have to spend a fortune on buying yarns for knitting ... and I just got these from the thrift store for ReKAL projects:



I am still in the process of unravelling the sweaters, and there is still a lot to be done before I can decide what projects I can use them for.

Talking about knit-alongs, it seems so far there is no knit-along for "Tie one on" ... which I think is not a bad thing. I cast on for the wrap on Friday and thought it would be a really quick project. However, with the car occupying much of my time and attention, I still don't have an FO yet. Hopefully, I would be able to finish tonight and post on it. Keep my fingers crossed.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Change of heart

Everybody is talking about the new Knitty. While I may not be as grumpy as Kathy, I certainly am not too thrilled with most of the patterns. However one of them does manage to change my heart.

Some time ago, I bought 2 balls of Rowan Kid Silk Haze for this:

VictoriaScarf

Lovely, isn't it? However, after knitting New England, I have a better understanding of my skills at lace knitting. I like it ... I am just not good at it, yet. So, I don't think I am going to start this lace scarf very soon. Frogging mohair is not an enjoyable task. Then came nona's beautiful wrap:

tieoneon

To be honest with you, the simpler style of "Tie one on" is actually more suitable for me. Now I just pray that "Tie one on" wouldn't become another Clapotis.

Monday, April 04, 2005

New England is here

Knitting like there is no tomorrow ... I managed to finish New England last night. This pair is the most complicated pattern I have knitted so far ... and I am happy with the result. The leg part is longer than ordinary sock pattern. The lace pattern at the cuff makes it good for short boots. I like the cast-on method for this pattern. It is called "Double-start Cast-on" which creates a simple but pretty cuff edge. The toe-shaping is different from the usual method I learned from the previous patterns. For this one, you k2tog at the end of each needle. I'm not sure if I like it much. I used Elann's house brand Sock It To Me Essential 4 ply. It may not be the softest sock yarn you can find, but you can't beat the price for the quality. Besides, I really don't need some ultra warm socks right now.

I've seen a lot of sock knitters using sock blockers. I wonder what the advantages are. So, I asked. They told me they are just for good pictures! Well, for me, what is the best way to picture socks other than wearing them?

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Sneak Peek of New England

No, I am not planning a trip to the East Coast. New England is the name of the socks I am knitting. The pattern is from Nancy Bush's Knitting on the Road. I have completed one already. I planned to post photo only when I finish the pair. However, there must have been a really big log blocking my eyes when I worked on the second one. You see:


How in the world is it possible that I didn't see the mistake until after 4" into the leg? Without wasting time on self-pity, I immediately sent it to the frog pond. Now I am almost to the heel. Some new FO is on the way!

I have learned something though. Many fellow knitters seem to loathe working on cables. For me, lace pattern is a great challenge. I make much more mistakes knitting lace than cables. New England is a pattern with heavy lace pattern. I need to have very good concentration and memorizing the pattern seems to be impossible for me. But I can tell you it's worth the effort - it is beautiful.

Goodbye!


Pope John Paul II 1920-2005

Friday, April 01, 2005

Ready for a competition?

I just received an email about Stitch Diva Studio's Crochet Flower Competition. I really like their products ... even the buttons are awesome! Click on the flower button to get more info:

beauty

April Fool's Day ... Flash Your Stash!

Have you become an "April Fish" today? When I was a high-school teacher in Hong Kong, I was always a bit wary when April 1 came. I couldn't really be mad at the kids if they played tricks on me ... but who really wants to become a fool, honestly? So, I didn't really care to find out the origin. It turns out there is some interesting history behind:

April Fool's Day Has Serious Origins
"Fools" ignored the new calendar

by David Johnson

April Fool's Day is one of the most light hearted days of the year, yet it stems from a serious subject—the adoption of a new calendar.

A Traditional New Year's
Ancient cultures, including those as varied as the Romans and the Hindus, celebrated New Year's Day on April 1. It closely follows the vernal equinox (March 20th or March 21st.) In medieval times, much of Europe celebrated March 25, the Feast of Annunciation, as the beginning of the new year.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar (the Gregorian Calendar) to replace the old Julian Calendar. The new calendar called for New Year's Day to be celebrated Jan. 1. Many countries, however, resisted the change. In fact, some European countries held out for centuries (Scotland until 1660; Germany, Denmark, and Norway until 1700; and England until 1752).

Many French Refuse
In 1564 France adopted the reformed calendar and shifted New Year's day to Jan. 1. However, many people either refused to accept the new date, or did not learn about it, and continued to celebrate New Year's Day April 1.
Other people began to make fun of these traditionalists, sending them on "fool's errands" or trying to trick them into believing something false.

April Fish
The French came to call April 1 Poisson d'Avril, or "April Fish." French children sometimes tape a picture of a fish on the back of their schoolmates, crying "Poisson d'Avril" when the prank is discovered.

Great Britain Accepts the Calendar
In 1752, Great Britain finally changed over to the Gregorian Calendar, and April Fool's Day began to be celebrated in England and in the American colonies.

Pranks and jokes are of course still popular on this day—not to mention the rest of the year.

Information taken from infoplease

Here is an April's Fool challenge for you ... see how many you can get right! And of course, don't forget to treat yourself with pictures of yummy yarns by checking out the participants of

flashyourstash

Don't worry, it's just yarns ... you can definitely read together with your teenage kids!