Thursday, November 30, 2006

Knit Unto Others

Some thoughts about knitting for charity been flipflopping around my brain for a few weeks now. This is my personal take on it, which frankly, will probably sound heartless. I'm not heartless, it rips me apart to see so many people needy and suffering, in all sorts of ways. But I also want to donate the most effective use of my time and money possible - because it helps more people that way.

I find that most organizations could care less if I hand knit something for them. There are exceptions, but truly, if you're freezing, it doesn't much matter if it's lovingly made by hand or churned out by a factory. Pragmatically, it's better for me to just give them money or spend my time with a charity doing something that really requires me to be there, such as handing out food at a soup kitchen. The Oregon Food Bank can buy $8 worth of food for every $1 I donate to them because of bulk purchasing. I give them stuff out my pantry but also a cash donation, because the money is more effective and fewer people go hungry.

So, while I am currently knitting a hat for Dulaan, it's because I have some big thick wool that I'd like to swatch. A hat makes a nice swatch. And I'd like the hat to go to someone who needs a big thick wool hat, because I've already got one. What I'll probably do is hit the after-Christmas sales at REI and buy 10 hats for the cost of yarn to make 3 or 4, and send those to Dulaan or Rabbitch or just donate them locally. This is also why I'll do charity quilting but not knit afghans, because I can quilt a blanket in a much smaller fraction of the time it would take to knit it, and the blanket will probably hold up both better and longer. Donating the money that I would have spent for another new project usually makes the money go farther than me buying the yarn and making the project, because machines make these things faster, better, and less expensively than I do.

That isn't to say that there aren't times when a personal gift of time and love and string is very meaningful. That's why I'm making socks for Audrey. I need to fit in a red scarf somewhere, and I'm doing a square for a little girl.

I'm participating in Knit Unto Others for an entirely personal reason, and that's because it's so easy for me to push the guilt and suffering aside and forget about it during this time of year. Especially when I become overwhelmed with all of the requests for help.

Knit unto Others is more of a personal meditation on my part than a significant contribution to any group. It gives me two weeks of constant reminders of just how much I have to be grateful for. It's such a lovely break from all the accumulation of STUFF that I seem to do and the stress of holiday preparation. I don't mean it in a spirit of self-flagellation or guilt, but as a constant reminder of thankfulness.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


So, this guy is going for his 15 minutes o' fame. Help him out, will you?

He wants to see how fast a meme (i.e. an idea/chain letter/All your base are belong to us) propagates through the blogs. Now I kinda disagree with his experiment, because it's got the added fact that you KNOW it's sort of a contest to see how fast it'll travel, where as a real life meme is picked up solely based on its, ahem, merits. But hopefully he'll account for that in his paper.

To pass on the letter so you don't have 7 years of bad luck and stub your big toe today, you just need to link to the post in question, then tell Technorati about it so his little program can register your link. All hail the knitbloggers!

I got it from JenLa and Imbrium and Carole (yar, it sounds like some kind of communicable disease).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I need more potatoes in my life

Thanksgiving is over and pretty much all the leftovers are gone (hooray for coworkers and their pie-consuming abililities). We spend Thursday and Friday with K's aunt and uncle at their beachhaus in Washington (state). Of course, this time of year the beach means 40-mph wind gusts, driving rain and hail, and frigid water. But it sure makes you appreciate that you've got somewhere warm and dry to stay, and a fabulous meal to eat.

Now that I've abused myself with food for days I can really appreciate the gym again. mm, yeah.

Dinner was wonderful, we made my Everything-Tastes-Better-With-More-Fat rolls (with the nutritional content of eating a stick of butter with a side of flour) and an apple pie (I discovered the perfect pie apples a couple years ago: Mutsus. A friend claims Cortlands are also very good but they're not readily available here, which is kind of a shock as there are about 5 billion varieties of apples you can get here. Seriously, we go to an apple tasting in October at the local nursery and they usually have 40 different kinds. Not including the pears and asian pears. Anyway, Mutsu apples, they make amazing pies. They don't get mushy when cooked and they have a lovely flavor between tart and sweet).

Everyone else made the turkey, stuffing, some broccoli (our one concession to non-brown food), and smashed potatoes. That's not a typo, smashed potatoes are like mashed potatoes for Type B personalities - with lots of lovely potato lumps in them. It was all good stuff and I didn't even send myself into a food coma.

We used the secret smashed potato recipe this year which is not so secret any more now that Cook's Illustrated published it a couple years ago.

One of my college roommates made fantastic mashed potatoes. They were so good you'd sneak to the refrigerator in the middle of the night, stick a spoon into the bowl, and EAT THEM COLD. They were that good. Do you want to know the secret?

Cream cheese. Yeah.

But added in moderation: said roommate always maintained that you could never add too much butter but you could overdo the cream cheese.

She never worked off a recipe, just adding approximate amounts. I'd say start with a softened 1/4 pack (2 oz? I forget) per pound of potatoes, and proceed from there. Shell out for the name brand stuff too, it's worth the money. And of course massive amounts of butter. Come on, I only do this once a year. More butter!

In a rare disappointment, the Cooks Illustrated recipe used not nearly enough of all ingredients but potatoes. I'd say, double the cream cheese, butter, and salt amounts, at LEAST, unless mashed potatoes are merely a convenient gravy delivery mechanism for you. However, the fact that you
a) use non-russett potatoes, and
b) don't chop up the potatoes before boiling so you don't lose all the good stuff to the boiling water,
is brilliant. I recommend Caribe potatoes (they're a lovely red) for the most fabulous mashed potatoes you've ever had. Awwww, yeah.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Today's Sense of Humor: Sick

Although today it's pissing down rain and everything is soggy and grey, it was actually sunny a little bit this week.

This is the start to some Conwy socks (Nancy Bush, Knitting on the Road), that I'm doing for Audrey. This was the 2nd cast-on, and I've already ripped this out.

She's got somewhat larger feet like me (though not my enormous size 11s), so I can kind of use my foot as a model... sort of. I want them to fit but I also want them to have enough room to stretch if her ankles and feet start swelling from the chemo.

  1. I tried casting on and working Conwy as writting, and got down into the cabling before getting obsessed with worry that they would not be stretchy enough. They fit just about right NOW based on her measurements.

  2. I ripped them out and cast on again, this time adding 8 more stitches for an additional K2P2 rib on each side (there's already 1 on each side, running down to the heel). Now they feel way too loose. They're just about right.. on me and my ginormo feet (my ankles are 9" around and my legs get bigger quickly. Hey, I love my calves. They are the most defined muscles on my body. But they are substantial).

  3. So I am ripping AGAIN to go back to the original. I'd rather have them fit now. And make a bigger pair later if necessary.

I'm using RYC Cashsoft DK in pink, her favorite color. It's lovely soft, which probably means these socks are going to hold up like tissue paper, but the point is not practicality. It's Soft and Pink.

I also decided to splurge (this was actually selfish, as I've never worked with cashmere before) and cast on a pair of bed socks in cashmere yarn. Woo boy is that stuff soft. And totally inelastic. Those socks have now gone through about 3 cast-ons and needle changes as well (can you tell i had an oh-so-productive weekend?), and I finally threw it down in a pique. We'll try going down another needle size I suppose. Grump. Anyone ever made cashmere socks before? How to deal with the inelasticity?

I'm a horrible person for laughing at this cartoon. And I adore the muppets. (Warning, NOT CHILD SAFE. But not for the usual reasons)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Rabbitch's meme

Aww, look, my very first meme.

I'm doing this because she's posting every single day this month. It exhausts me even thinking about it. And I'm getting over a sickness nor do I have a 5 year old daughter. So I could at least play along.



1. Yourself: yo
2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend (spouse): funny
3. Your hair: long
4. Your mother: giving
5. Your Father: conservative
6. Your Favorite Item: love
7. Your dream last night: disturbing
8. Your Favorite drink: cider
9. Your Dream Car: wings
10. The room you are in: office
11. Your Ex: none
12. Your fear: inadequate
13. What you want to be in 10 years? defined
14. Who you hung out with last night? K
15. What You're Not? impulsive
16. Muffins: blueberry
17. One of Your Wish List Items: peace
18. Time: quickly
19. The Last Thing You Did: Windows
20. What You Are Wearing: polarfleece
21. Your Favorite Weather: sunny
22. Your Favorite Book: Hobbit
23. The Last Thing You Ate: cookie
24. Your Life: unknown
25. Your Mood: expectant
26. Your best friend: K
27. What are you thinking about right now? Friday!
28. Your car: runs
29. What are you doing at the moment? avoidance
30. Your summer: grand
31. Your relationship status: newlyweds!
32. What is on your TV? nothing
33. What is the weather like? transitive
34. When is the last time you laughed? today

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I'm all in a listy lusty mood right now. Make! Lots! of! (useless) Lists!

What I'd rather be:

  • eating

    • red vines! Not the stale ones, either.
    • fudge
    • or, a really good chocolate chip cookie. Not one of those crappy bakery ones either, but a REALLY GOOD COOKIE. With nuts and milk chocolate + semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • a good Cabernet
    • Scotch

  • doing

    • walking along the river in the current miracle of Sun!Shine!
    • knitting. duh.
    • just general yarn fondling
    • preparing dinner. So we don't have to play that "what're we having for dinner?" "I dunno" game again.
    • dyeing. watch the 'e', dahlink.
    • snuggled with the cat & K
    • playing Katamari Damacy or variants

  • reading

    • Anything but this technical documentation
    • The last 4 pages of my book-for-workouts, which is strictly to be Read At the Gym so now I'm dying to know the ending. (I need motivation wherever I can get it. Only reading page-turners at the gym is one way)

  • wish I were

    • creative
    • thin
    • graceful
    • clever
    • not so easily bored

Sigh. Better get back to work.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dark of Winter

I haven't posted in awhile; I haven't really had anything to say (and because I'm lazy). On November 1st Nature flipped a switch and it's suddenly Winter here. Days and days of grey raininess. There are some trees still with leaves but most of them are gone. Today, luckily, it is NOT RAINING and I am so grateful for not having to suit up in the full hazmat rain gear: pants, jacket with hood, all of it waterproof vinyl with taped seams (hooray for technology). I look like a dork and my legs go swish when I move, but at least I don't have wet pants all day. I walk about 3/4 mile each way to get to work.

And it's dark, all the time. ARGGH. I've been sleeping 10 hours a night, and I don't know why. It's been difficult getting up in the morning and so my gym routine has suffered. I do not need any more excuse to let the Winter Hibernation Fat take over.

Work has been a weeks-long nightmare of trying to figure out a solution to what appears to be an intractable problem. It's always a great sign when your software produces an error log containing "Windows Fault" and dumps the contents of the registers. NOT. (This would be equivalent to a Blue Screen o' Death in Windows 95/98, but XP is a little nicer about protecting its innards).

I finally admitted defeat to my shredding jeans the other day and gritted my teeth and Went Shopping. I DETEST clothes shopping. Hate hate hate hate. Normally that little voice in the back of the head, the one going "Nah nah, hey fatty! You're disgusting!" is mostly ignorable, but when I have to try things on, it shouts louder than the musak. Everything makes me look lumpy bumpy squishy FAT.

To pants manufacturers, all I can say, have you ever heard of the concept of a WAIST? Hello, if I wanted straight hip-to-waist pants, I'd buy men's. At least THOSE are labeled by waist size and length. For women, I guess you think we prefer spending hours trying things on because 14, 16, 18 are all meaningless sizes because they're ALL DIFFERENT ACTUAL SIZES FOR DIFFERENT MANUFACTURERS. And, hello, this waist thing? I kind of like having my pants FIT ME instead of sagging at the waist and being unbearably tight at the hips. And I'm not even trying on your "hiphugger" or "lowrise" versions. These are the "classic natural" version. Whatever that means. Would it really be SO HARD to just label pants by waist, hip, and length sizes for women? Really? Any clothier started doing that and I'd probably start shopping there exclusively. (Yeah yeah, or else I could get all my clothing tailored.)

Tops? Forget it. See, I have (biggish) breasts, so nothing fits. I poke out in all sorts of uncomfortable places. I don't wish all my clothing to proclaim "HI, I HAVE BOOBS!"

Clothes shopping is a long exercise in embarassment, frustration, time and money-wasting. I once had a shopgirl at a mall suggest I start going to the gym. Screw you too (as I have previously mentioned, I GO TO THE GYM. REGULARLY. PLUS WALKING A MILE AND HALF A DAY. Would you like fries with that coke, Ms. Super-Metabolism?)

I'm not even going into shoes (hi, I have big feet!). There's a reason I now shop almost entirely at Zappo's.

I just want some clothes that cover and fit and don't make me look like marshmallow peeps crammed into jeans. But I know that really the only thing that'll make me look and feel good is about 40 pounds less fat. And that's a lot of mornings waking in the dark and cold so that I can go spend an hour running in place.

Blah blah blah I see it's Channel-Your-Inner-Bitch-onto-your-blog day for me.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Can't sleep Spock will eat me

I don't know what to say about this.

Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, as performed by Leonard Nimoy and the Hobitettes.


Monday, November 06, 2006


Random story:
When I was at college, I volunteered to be the official vote tally person for student elections. I'd count up the paper ballot vote, (and recount, and recount again) and post the results publicly and inform the winner and losers.

One election, for senior class president, was very close. There were a couple on-ballot candidates and one popular write-in. It was not really very fun tabulating the results for that election, as the election was extremely close.

The day after the election I had a chemistry lab. A senior that happened to be in the same lab as I was talking offhandedly. She hadn't seen the results yet, and realized "oh, the election was yesterday. Whoops, I forgot to vote." And then she said "I don't really care about the results, except I really don't want Write-in-Candidate to win."

I told her, whoops, well, sorry you didn't bother to officially express your preference, because Write-in-Candidate had won by ONE vote. Yes, one single vote. If she'd bother to fill out a little slip of paper that was EASILY accessible to her living quarters, she could have at least caused a run-off between the leaders.

You think this is some one-off event? The latest governer's race in Washington state was decided by 129 votes, out of about 2.8 million ballots cast.

So look, go and vote. If your military can bother to go off and die for you, you can be bothered to participate in your own government at least once a year. Every single vote counts. Every one.

(ha, all votes count at least in a still-paper-balloted state such as Oregon. OK, not going there for now).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Lily of the Valley Stole

Hey, is that a Lily of the Valley stole or are you just happy to see me?
Lily's been done and blocked for a while now, but I just haven't got around to doing her photo shoot and posting pictures.

Pattern: Lily of the Valley Stole from Fiddlesticks Knitting

Yarn: Jaggerspun Zephyr Wool-Silk in Vanilla. I knit from a cone so I don't know the total amount of yarn used.

Time: started mid-June 2006, finished September 2006. This was meant to be a wedding shawl but I decided a) it was going to be too warm, b) the color wasn't quite right, and c) it was very much not worth killing myself just to have this done in time for the wedding. On average, one repeat of the pattern (14 rows) took me about 1.5 hours.

Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo circulars, 3.5 mm/US 4. I dislike the Crystal Palace cables but I like the pointy points for lace. This yarn (and the nupps) were too slippery for me to use metal needles. Be sure to have pointy needles for this design. You will need them for the nupps.

Modifications: I did work the edging with a double strand of yarn, as suggested, but I cast off using the knit 2 together castoff instead of the suggested: castoff. My castoff: K2tog, slip the stitch back onto the left needle, repeat - doing this very loosely. I started off with the suggested cast-off, but because of the way I knit, this method was causing the plies of yarn to separate and look untidy. K2tog castoff fixed this problem.

I did not block out the lengthwise sides in a wavy pattern (I didn't even remember that from the pattern until i just looked at the website again just now).

Comparing my blocking to the website pictures, I also see that I made the YO rows, separating the middle from the top and bottom borders, straight and not undulating. I'm anal like that.

I worked 4 extra repeats to make the stole longer.

Comments: Yes, the nupps are a pain in the ass.

Actually, they really aren't so bad. I though I had consigned myself to Nupp Hell when I did the swatch and the first edging, but it became routine after a pattern repeat or so. My key to the nupps was to loop the yarn loosely but not TOO loosely around the needle on the row before. You needed to be able to put the needle through all 7 stitches and purl them all together. At the same time, if it's too loose, the nupp looks awkward and messy.

It's a pain at first but becomes routine after your fingers figure out just the right amount of extra yarn to do in the loops. I developed a little method where I'd hold the yarn-overs made onto the right needle with my right index finger, to make sure they were loose enough. Yes, they slow you down. This was a long knit (I averaged about 1.5 hours per 14-row repeat.) There are 25 repeats written, although I did 29.

The #1 thing I'd suggest for success with this pattern is when purling the 7 loops into nupps, count the strands you are purling. For Every. Single. Nupp. All my mistakes were in missing loops or knitting an extra stitch into the nupp. It's really easy to do when they're followed by yarn overs and preceded by plain knit stitches. If you miss a nupp loop and it gets loose, you are screwed and you'll have to sew it together. If you knit in an extra stitch, the whole pattern will look wonky.

Fortunately the pattern is VERY repetitive and it's easy to tell if you've wonked up a nupp on the previous row by purling in an extra stitch by accident. This pattern is repetitve enough I didn't to look at the chart by the end of the 2nd repeat. The nupps are entirely the most complex part of the pattern.

The charts are very well written and accompanied with enough text so I could work out anything that was confusing me. Make the swatch, you'll really want to practice those nupps a bit. But don't give up too quickly on them - they do get faster. It's a great pattern.

Note that the pattern does NOT reverse in the middle (such as in Eunny Jang's Print o' the Wave stole) so if you have a problem with the lily sprays looking upside-down on one side, maybe this pattern is not for you.

I am unhappy about how the decreases (K2tog and SKP) kind of gap after blocking. I prefer the clean line of the middle spine. I tried keeping my tension quite tight after each decrease, but you can still see the gapping. I don't know how to solve this one.

The blocking on this stole was a bitch. I fed a crochet thread up the left edge, up the right edge, and through the YO rows at the bottom and top. It took hours to get it threaded and all straight. I had to be sure that the side didn't bunch up in any one place and that the center spine lay straight. Pinning was simple, but getting the sides straight was the hardest part.

I found that the pattern expanded quite a bit with wet blocking (immersed in water). I'm still happy with it but I'm almost regretting those extra 4 repeats. Almost.

All in all, a fun knit (although long) and a great pattern. The nupps were slow and awkward at first but I got over it. Easy enough for me to knit while traveling but not when talking. Your mileage may vary, of course. It's a gorgeous stole (although I am now solidifying my belief that I look hella dorky in lace shawls. Ah well.)