Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Random Monday ... uh, Tuesday

Long weekend is disorientating to my sense of time ... especially when the weekend started when it was Thursday evening! As of this moment, I am still wondering if it is Monday or Tuesday.
Since I like how the garter stitch background of the Sampler Stole worked out, I started Birch in the garter stitch version. After 4 pattern repeats, I finally decided that garter stitch just didn't make the pattern 'pop'. So I frogged and started again. Therefore, now I can tell you that Feza Kid Mohair is a lot easier to frog than Rowan KSH. :)
Which one of these two do you like better?
What is that, you may ask. Do you really want to know? Lookie here then.
This is a serious problem ... I think if I want to get anything else done, I had better stop casting on for socks! LOL!
I need more inspirations for easy fast meals ... and I found this beautiful book from the library. I already tried one recipe (steak with balsamic mushroom sauce) from it which could be considered a success.
Can you believe it? I am on the 59th day of my Yarn Focus Challenge already! Almost 2 months ... just buying yarns on one day each month ... and I actually don't really lack yarns to work on my projects! I have been knitting socks non-stop and there isn't even a significant dent in my sock yarn stash! So what does that say?
Rebekah is organizing a charity drive (named after her lovely birdie Basil and doggie Abner) for animals. If you want to help, follow the link and you can read about the details. And ... there are prizes! Specifically, knitting book and yarns! So, go!
I can't understand how Husband can manage to finish reading Da Vinci Code and the paperback is still looking as if it were just bought from the bookstore! He took a look at the copy of Deception Point I just finished and asked if it was a library copy ... and it is NOT! :x

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Amazing Lace - Tale of the Tape*

I am not even sure if I would be travelling this summer, but the moment I knew about this knitalong, I just knew that I wanted to join ... badly. It would be great fun, no?

So, meet the Amazing Lace team à la Knitting in the Valley:
This is me, Rowan 34 and 3 balls of Feza Kid Mohair. To suit the spirit of the knitalong, I went to the central park for an outdoor sunny photo shot. It was a pity that I couldn't get the fountain at the back into the frame.

Though I have already completed 3 serious lace projects (River Stole, Kiri, Sampler Stole), the first lace project that I had really been dying to make is Birch. Why? Just go and take a look at this. I first learned about Birch reading Claudia's progress on hers. Since then, I have been wanting my Birch. :) So, naturally, she is my major Amazing Lace teammate.

*Obviously I watched too much HBO Boxing and Ultimate Fighting Championship with Husband. Before every fight, the introductions of the fighters are called "tale of the tape". When I learned of Challenge #1, the phrase just stuck in my mind and wouldn't go away. ;)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Are you tired yet?

Of socks, I mean. If so, I'm sorry, this post would further tire you out. The enabler of this latest pair is brooklyn tweed. I was working on the Embossed Leaves Socks when I read his post on his Log Cabin Socks ... which I always think are cosy and handsome (!) and I thought the elastic cotton yarns would make a nice pair.

So, here they are:
Surprise! No short-row heels this time! One lovely feature of this pattern is the extension of the cables into the heel flaps. I think I may still be able to do that with short-row heels, but I just love having the whole heel flaps with cables:
See the World Cup class legs of mine? Genetic inheritance ... no amount of exercise can get rid of that! :D I haven't put the socked feet into shoes yet, so I am not sure if the cables would cause discomfort ... but I doubt it since my feet are not ultra-sensitive. As I haven't done heel flaps for ages, I almost forgot how to do that. I can get rid of holes at the turns with short-row heels easily, but not so with heel flaps. Yet, to be honest, no one really pays any attention to those little holes which are inside the shoes most of the time. So, I don't even bother to sew them close!

Pattern and Modifications: Log Cabin Socks by Anne Woodbury from Handknit Holidays
I used a thinner yarn. So the extra stitches went into extra ribbings between the pattern repeats. Since I like how the toes of the Embossed Leaves Socks fit, I used that on this pair too. I believe they are similar to the Pointed Toes (p.21) in Knitting Vintage Socks. Otherwise, I followed the pattern closely.

Yarn: Elann Sock It To Me Esprit Col: 8176 Ecru
I used this yarn to knit the Socktoberfest socks last year. Maybe because I knitted too tightly or because I machine washed and dried the socks, they became very stiff and hard. With this in mind, I consciously remembered not to stretch the yarn too tightly ... and maybe I won't put them into the dryer. I'll tell you how it goes later.

Gauge and Needles: The gauge should be the same as the Embossed Leaves Socks. Using US1.5, I cast on 64 stitches.

Starte date: 05-17-2006
Finish date: 05-23-2006

More happy news over the weekend. The pot of roses Husband bought me for my birthday started blooming last week. Over the weekend, at least 3 roses showed their faces ... and there are more coming:
During the winter months, I thought it was going to die. Maybe it was the winter rain that kept it going. After I changed for a larger pot, rose buds started coming out. The flowers really made a difference in the backyard!

Friday, May 19, 2006

R.I.P. - Pretty Comfy Socks

After one year's washer and dryer abuse (yeah, the first time was a mistake ... and then afterwards, what the hack, I keep putting them into the machines!), my first pair of hand-knitted socks finally succumbed:
Skill-wise, these socks have much room for improvement ... the short-row heels are heinous indeed! But I do have sentimental attachment to them. And to be honest, the lace pattern is pretty. So, though they won't be able to keep my feet comfy, I think I'll keep them in my sock closet for some time before throwing them out (can you tell I'm a pack rat? ;))

But I am not sad at all! I have a new favourite. It's a bit of cliche knitting a lace leaf pattern in green ... but if it comes out lovely, why not? :)

Pattern and Modifications: Embossed Leaves Socks designed by Mona Schmidt (IK Winter 2005)
I kept seeing this lovely pattern around the knitting blogisphere and finally, I have to make myself a pair.
As I told you before, the twisted rib cuff is not very stretchy and doesn't look good, so I just did a simple k1p1 ribbing with German twist cast on.
I think the pattern would come out best with solid or near solid colour yarns, though I've seen gorgeous ones with multicoloured yarns too. I especially like the toe decrease which was done in a way that the leaves' shapes were kept:
Bonus, no need for grafting ... just thread through the last 8 stitches ... ta-da and it's done!

Yarn: Cascade Fixation (98.3% Cotton, 1.7% Elastic) Col: 5606
I love this elastic cotton yarn. You'll get very comfortable cushy socks ... though they tend to be a bit thick. If you avoid washing them in machine, the socks would keep their softness. I think I did better with keeping the yarn not too stretched nor too relaxed while knitting this time.

Gauge and Needles: Not sure about the gauge. I used US1.5 DPNs and cast on 64 stitches.

Start date: 05-10-2006
Finish date: 05-17-2006

A quick update on the Leftover Tank. I am not a very good judge in colour combination ... so I am really not sure if the way I mix the colours would come out well ... but no matter what, I am going to wear this tank when it is finished. :) One day while knitting it, I suddenly had a case of panic attack ... fearing that it would be too small! So, I had to measure it against the smallest top I have in the closet:
Seems okay [phew!] Since I grew up with the conventional wisdom that horizontal stripes would make one put on pounds visually, I added some slight waist shaping ... can you see it?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Now I look like an impatient jerk!

Because I received my socks today! Lookie here:
I should have waited a few more days before whining here! But first thing I did after trying on the socks and taking photos was to email an apology to Kristy of Simple Elegance (I like the name of her blog), who made these beauties for me.

If you've been reading my blog since last year, you may remember I made a pair of New England for myself. But I have to confess that I only wear them when all the socks are in the hamper waiting for laundry day ... I didn't do very well with adjusting the size for myself ... and they are actually a bit big. For some time, I have been considering making another pair because the pattern is a very beautiful one. Now, I have my custom made Koigu (in sumptuous orchid) New England! The fit is just perfect:
Notice I have been playing with the camera again? :) We don't have air-conditioning here, otherwise, I would put it in full force (just for the day) so that I could wear them the whole day! I think the socks would go very well with my Sampler Stole ... the colours match so well! :D

Once again, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, Kristy! I love them!

Monday, May 15, 2006

But I don't have neighbours to hate!

After reading Kathy's post this morning, I had a very strong urge to post immediately since what she wrote were exactly my sentiments the past week ... "Or maybe I am… I don’t know, you guys, what’s the etiquette? When do I get worried? Should I be concerned that my pal has never contacted me from an anonymous e-mail address?" But I decided to wait ... until 15 minutes ago when the postman came ... and there is still no trace of any news from my sock pal. I am at a loss ... what can I do? Unlike Kathy, I can't even hate my neighbours as Mr Postman puts our packages in front of our respective doors! No mixing up! :( Well, there is always tomorrow ... this is how I comfort myself.

On to something better. Thanks everyone for your concerns. Despite the scary experience on Friday, we had a really good time the past weekend. First, it was the first autocross this season. I was Husband's co-pilot and this was the view from the car when we were waiting for his turn:
I think I was a co-pilot who, instead of helping to guide the driver, could only laugh (due to extreme excitement of the high speed) like a mad woman! When we were not in the car, we had to work on the field under the sun. Therefore, by the end of the day, I was completely wasted!

Then to compensate last week's terrible dining out experience, we went to a reputable restaurant for Sunday brunch. If you ever come to the area, I highly recommend this restaurant ... you won't be disappointed. Since the afternoon temperature was really high, we then stayed home and had a nap until around 5 p.m. before we went for a drive in the mountains. We took a new route and went to a beautiful reservoir area where people were fishing and camping:
Some sections of the route were really narrow. We would get into trouble if there were a big truck coming in the opposite direction:
Also, we came across numerous places where there had been mudslides and rockslides during the record-breaking rain season 2 months ago. Though the road conditions were basically restored, there is always the possibility that the hill slopes are still soaked and prone to moving. But all these risks were worth it when you could see sheep and horses:
And even alpaca (which I was not fast enough to capture)! But the real surprise was the sunset at Pescadera State Beach:
Are you wondering why I am telling you all these? LOL! Just to prepare you for the fact that I haven't knitted a stitch the whole weekend! :D

Friday, May 12, 2006

How we almost got killed today and sock update

We had to make a trip to the bank during lunch ... and we did so in this car. There was this big black Lincoln Navigator in front of us. 30 feet before bearing right into the ramp for the highway, this big car changed into the left lane ... supposed to be going straight. Then all of a sudden, the genius driver changed his mind ... no, he didn't want to go straight ... he wanted to take the highway too! So, this big black hearse-looking car merged into our lane ... luckily Husband stepped on the brake quickly and our car's brake responded extremely well ... if it were 1 second late in response, I might not be able to post anymore.

Husband said most probably that genius driver didn't see us at all ... since his car was so high and ours so low. Both of us were a little bit shaken by the incident ... what a good way to start the weekend! If so happens that you drive a big car like that, I mean no offense here. But very often, drivers in big cars feel that they are safe in their own vehicles but forget about others' safety. We often regard them as living hazards (and we call them a different name not very suitable to be put here!) on the road. This was also the reason that Husband insisted buying an SUV instead of a smaller car (which I much prefer) when I first got my license. In an SUV, he said, at least I would be more visible to others.

Better news with the Embossed Leaves Sock. The one knitted with US1.5 fits:
Really love the leaves pattern. Love it even more when it is knitted up so fast!

I got to prepare for tomorrow's autocross trip. Wish everyone a wonderful weekend ... and stay safe, drive safe.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Let's play a game

The game is called "Now you see it":

"Now you don't":
The pattern (Embossed Leaves Socks IK Winter 2005) is a lovely one and it is very easy to remember. I started yesterday and turned heel this morning. Then why can't you see it anymore?

1. I hate the Susan Bates Silvalume DPNs. I can't tell you how many times the stitches slipped silently off the needles! I used them just because I couldn't find the bamboo needles of the size.

2. I followed the pattern and knitted a twisted rib ... and I think it is ugly ... at least with Fixation. And it is not elastic at all.

3. There is a freaking knot on the yarn just after I finished 2.5 pattern repeats!

4. According to the pattern, each needle should start with 2 purl stitches and end with 1 ... these purl stitches are the background stitches separating the leaves. My last purl stitches on the needles all turned out uglily looser than the other two:

5. Most importantly, the sock I got using size 1 needles was too small! LOL!

So, I ribbed the half sock and switched to size 1.5 bamboo needles, normal k1p1 ribbing cuff, and moved all the purl stitches to the beginning of the needles. And I am hoping I would have enough for a sock with one ball of Fixation minus 2.5 pattern repeats of yarn!

Monday, May 08, 2006

New socks! New socks!

How was everyone's weekend? Mine was not too bad except for the dinner last night. We went to try a restaurant new to us and I can tell you we are not ever going back! LOL! For Husband, eating is 10% for survival and 90% for pleasure. So, when the dish was really not good to his taste, he just left almost the whole thing intact. I felt a little bit sorry for the chef ... but again, honestly, the food there was indeed not really up to par.

I was quite productive during the weekend. Since I was still undecided on what to make next, I pretty much spent the weekend working on the 8.5-stitch sweater, which I ignored in the last few weeks ... regardless of the pledge of 2" a week! ;) Now I am 2" away from armhole shaping ... woo hoo! When there is a significant change in the shape of the rectangular piece I'm knitting, I'll show you picture of it.

The Mason-Dixon washcloth sparked my interest in knitting dishcloth ... so much that I joined the Yahoo! Group. Every month, there is a knitalong in which pattern for a dishcloth is offered over a few days. I started working on the May KAL ... and here it is:
Cute, isn't it?

Then I have new summer socks! The Lizzy's Lacy Rib Socks are finished ... actually, I worn them on Saturday and now have to figure out if the yarns are machine washable.

Pattern: Lizzy's Lacy Rib Socks by Debi who kindly offers it for free
Even with the high cotton content of my yarns, the legs of the socks stay clinging to my legs without being saggy. I think this pattern would work even better with wool/cotton blend such as Sockatta. Besides, it works well with both solid and variegated colours. I think mine look good despite the busy colourway.

Yarn: Schoeller Esslinger Fortissima Cotton Colori Col: Water Park
I used 1 ball for each sock with TONS of leftovers! Sooner or later, I'll start a pair of leftover socks. As I said before, this is a fingering weight yarn, so the socks are a lot thinner that those made from Fixation. They are pretty comfortable too. Due to the lack of elasticity of the yarns, I used very small needles to make sure that the socks would be able to last longer. How does the yarn perform with wear and wash? That you have to wait a bit.

Gauge and Needles: 10 sts per inch using US0
One word about the needles ... they are Inox 6" DPNs. I'd have prefer Crystal Palace bamboo needles ... but my main concern is with the really small size, I may break them in no time.

Start Date: 04-11-2006
Finish Date: 05-06-2006

Before I say goodbye, let me show you my new project:
I cast on for my Leftovers Tank last night. I am knitting it in the round and the colour change would be random ... the aim is to use up all the Cotton Glace leftovers. In case I don't have enough, then I'd use the Sonata leftovers from the same project.

Friday, May 05, 2006

What next?

Wow! Thank you so very much for all the lovely comments you left on the stole. I enjoyed reading each and every one of them! For me, one of the reasons I love people leaving comments is that through them I get to discover blogs of new friends ... which would eventually go into my Bloglines subscription. ;)

After the Sampler Stole, I have been rather aimless and sans focus these days. It is always like this after the completion of an important project. It seems I have a lot of projects I'd like to start ... but exactly, which one do I really want? Pattern books were spread on the floor ... yarns were taken out and being swatched ... and still I haven't made up my mind yet. This is why I am always amazed at Bron's prolific knitting and crocheting productivity. She always has several projects on hand ... which she is able to finish in lightning speed. Not only this, she seems to have an endless stream of inspirations for what to make. She doesn't only talk about these ideas ... she really gets her hand on them. Simply amazing! And how I envy you, Bron! ;)

Well, this is not to say that I have nothing on the needles. When I lose my focus, the best thing to do is to work on a pair of socks. I actually started this in early April:
It is time to start knitting some cotton socks for summer. A perfect pattern for cotton (inelastic) sock yarns came knocking on my door ... if you don't know it yet, go over to Debi's place and get the pattern (Lizzy's Lacy Rib Socks). I am using a 75% cotton 25% nylon yarn (Fortissima Cotton Colori) and the lacy rib pattern gives the leg a lot of elasticity ... which is just awesome! Unlike Fixation, this is a fingering sock yarn which gives a much thinner sock.

While going through the stash for ideas, I found these:
Recognize the colours? Yes, these are the leftovers from Old Tiles! I am not sure if it was my problem or the pattern's problem, I have 3 whole balls plus lots of partial balls of Cotton Glace left! I like this cotton yarn ... so I think I should do something with them. I don't think there is enough to make a Peppermint Twist (Stitch 'n Bitch) ... but what about a sport weight Leftovers made as a tank top? Sounds good.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

One more Mission Accomplished! (Picture heavy post)

The colour of Alpaca Cloud I used for the Sampler Stole has been very difficult to capture in pictures. Yesterday, I asked Husband to take pictures for me under the sunlight. He was just after work; he is not always a patient person; and he is not a professional photograher. All these added up and we had this:
Not really too bad, but it seemed not able to show the intricate lace patterns too well, don't you think? The blocking-in-action shot can serve this purpose much better:
But the colour was more like grey than the purple iris in real life.

When I was getting ready to post this morning, Blogger didn't upload my pictures. No big deal ... used to that already. All I needed to do is to wait a bit ... during which I played around with the camera again. The colour is better during the day even indoors:
When I love playing around with the camera so much, you know I love what I have done! :) I think this stole is just plain gorgeous! So, what some of you said before was right ... it is really worth all the troubles trying to knit it right.

Pattern and Modification: The Sampler Stole designed by Hazel Carter from A Gathering of Lace
The pattern is not too difficult and there are various lace patterns (sampler!) for beginners to try on. I personally enjoyed knitting the 2 borders most. Not too much modification except skipping one central panel repeat.
When knitting the edging on the side, at first I followed the pattern and knitted the edging together with the stole every row. Obviously I had problem identifying rows in lace because I ended up with an edging that was crowded with too many repeats. So, I examined the picture of the stole in the book and counted 8 repeats along one border. Using stitch markers to evenly distribute the 8 repeats along the side, I got something more decent. There are 162 rows in the border ... some calculation led me to another 14 repeats along the central panel. This was why I said math was good for you, knitters!

Blocking: I followed Yarn Harlot's advice on blocking lace and used some invisible cord to thread through the 4 sides of the stole before putting it into the bath. This really made opening out the wet stole on the blocking towel a lot easier. However, I still had to use blocking wires in the real blocking since they are much more sturdy.

Yarn: Alpaca Cloud in Iris
This is a lovely yarn which is really soft. However, after some intense knitting, I discovered that I might be allergic to alpaca ... at least my fingers are! During the last 2 weeks, I almost worked solely on this project and now my thumbs and index fingers are all dry. They were also itchy and red and even a little bit swollen before I finished. Yet, the good news is that I seem to be able to wear the stole without much irritation.

Gauge and Needle: US2 and unknown gauge
I used US2 DPNs to knit the edging ... much more convenient.

Final measurements: 65" x 21"

Start date: 03-1-2006
Finish date: 05-1-2006

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mission Accomplished!

Sock Mom Alison has done a very good job in reminding us of the deadline. But I didn't trust myself ... as you may remember I have a tendency of procrastinate going to the post office. So, I set my own deadline a day earlier and my package is already on its way to its destination:
Isn't the package beautiful? I recycled the whole kpixie package I received last week. The girls there always send lovely packed orders ... and I think it is just too wasteful to throw them into the trash. Originally, I planned to have a new priority mailbox. But the post office man said I could use the original box ... so why not? Just hope that my sock pal doesn't mind.

I just realized that I forgot to write down my email address and blog address for her ... but I am the only Agnes in the whole group, it shouldn't be too hard to find. :)