Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Green apple mints?!

OK... this is ridiculous, but I couldn't help but buy one. Knitting Girl mint tins. I can't bring myself to try them yet though ... green apple mints. Sounds terrible doesn't it? Talk about a marketing ploy though. They sure know how to pull us in. I got this at Jo Ann's Fabrics and they had Sewing Girl, Knitting Girl, and (I think) the third was Scrapbooking Girl. Ridiculous way to hike up the price of mints. [laugh]

In other positive news, I ran Week 2 of my podcasts this morning and (yeah me!!) I got through the whole run successfully! No lung cramp, no side stitch ... ran the whole time I was supposed to run. It's hard for me to believe but I'm so happy with it. Yeah... day 3 of week 2 day after tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Trekking along

So I need to start today by raving a bit more about bloglines. Seriously folks... use a feed aggregator like bloglines to track new postings for your favorite blogs. What an amazing tool! So much more time to actually read what's new rather than just looking for new things.

So what have I been doing other than reading blog posts (well honestly not much... I feel so much free-er to add losts of blogs to my list now knowing I won't have to visit them unless there is something new to see)?

OK... I guess I have done a small bit of knitting. My trekking sock is through the heel turn and I'm now working on the gusset decreases. I like the color of this sock and the finished fabric feels pretty good. Quite honestly I'm not really sold on Trekking XXL though. I find that it's not well balanced (meaning that the yarn wants to curl back up on itself while I knit). This does not seem ideal to me. So far this hasn't been too big a deal though and I'm cruising right along on sock one.

Yeah I know the photo is a bit crazy, but how do you take a picture of a partially finished sock other than just laying it on the ground. My solution, stick a needle into the dirt so it stands up straight. Good idea ... bad idea... I'm not really sure which. [laugh]

My other activity... I've kept up my couch to 5K running program using Robert Ullrey's podcasts... yeah me! I decided to run one extra run in week one (in part to get Sterling up to speed so he can run with me and in part because I wasn't sure I was ready to run more). Yesterday I did my first run in the week two part of the program. Wow... that extra time in run mode did not treat me well. The good news is that my legs held up just fine... the bad new, my lungs, not so much. You know how you can get a stitch in your side when you run... sort of a cramp at the bottom of your lung. That's what I got about half way through the run.

It was a beautiful time for a run .. I came home from work a little early and managed to fit the run in between rain showers.

I'm proud of myself that I did make it through the whole run (although I did switch to walking about 20 seconds early during two of the segments). I even ran the whole last segment. And do you know what? Mother nature rewarded me for my efforts at the end, I think to encourage me not to give up, with a lovely rainbow.

I'll be back out there again tomorrow. I might go back to the week one podcast though. Or maybe if I'm really brave/crazy I'll try week two again!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Who knew?! No really, who knew?

Did you know about Bloglines? Why didn't you tell me? [laugh]

I know I've seen people say "I'm behind in reading my bloglines" and I've seen the little subscribe icons on a few pages, but it never really registered for me what this might be.

Over the last two days or so I've seen a few posts, most notably the recent post and comments by Chris at Stumbling over Chaos. This post, and the one that provoked it, are all about how people respond to comments (do you email the poster or post into your own comments yourself).

(As an aside I only discovered in the past month that blogger will now send you email notification when you have a comment so that you can email the poster back -- thought that you could only do this with typepad or when you hosted your own blog -- again, who knew!).

In the context of this (sometimes not so pleasant) conversation, people kept mentioning that they read so many blogs they couldn't even keep up with the posts without bloglines, let alone subsequent comments. [This I did know, but on many posts you can now get emails sent to you with every follow up comment -- I did this once on one post and decided I didn't wasn't really interested enough to get all that follow up.]

So why use bloglines... what can you see? Somehow I had this vision that it wouldn't be as good as looking at blogs. OMG... it's fabulous! Up until now, I've just been using my bookmarks in my internet browser and visiting every site with the hope that the writer had posted since the last time I visited (and many times I was disappointed). With bloglines, you can see when there has been a new post and then by clicking on a link it takes your right to the new post! Score!

No more repeat visits with no new content. I can now be happy about "watching" a number of blogs I like that I know post relatively infrequently because now I can visit them when, and only when, they have new posts.

This is dreamy!

Get an account, if not Bloglines one of the other aggregators. You'll never look back.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Liquid sunshine

It's been very rainy here in Southern California for the last two days and we expect rain all through the weekend.

Most amazing, we have received our full annual rainfall in the last two weeks alone. Looks like it's going to be a good rain year.

This should be an excellent weekend to work on wool socks!

Gotta love living in a place where you get your fruit from the neighbors' backyards rather than from the grocery store.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I'm going to share something that anyone who knows me will totally not believe.

Are you ready?

I've started running... and I'm enjoying it!!

A couple of weeks ago, Rachel at Yarn-a-Go-Go mentioned Robert Ullrey's podcasts for the Couch to 5K plan. Now I've already committed to walk at least 540 miles this year, following up from my run-a-go-go plan last year. So what possessed me to move from walking to running? I don't really know.

For whatever reason, it just spoke to me. I thought about it for about a week and then asked S to load the podcasts onto his IPod. I did the first run and, wow amazing, I survived. After that I was a girl possessed.

Of course once I decided to run, I had to get some equipment (laugh... yep you see where this is going). I already needed new shoes ... last year's 500 miles took it out of my last pairs. Visit to our local running store... shoes and socks: check. Clothes to wear (running makes you sweat alot more than walking you know?): check. A way to listen to the podcasts when S has taken his IPod off to class: check.

So let me talk about my little mp3 player (that's it in the picture above) ... I love it! It's a 1 GB Sansa Clip MP3 Player and it is tinyyyyyy! 2 inches tall, 1 1/4 inches across... tiny! I love it. It has all my podcasts on it plus a bunch of music. I can clip it to the top of my pants and off I go. The best thing... $40. Yep... there's not a digit missing there... 4, o, dollars (I think it's even on sale this week at one of the big boxes for $35). I'm totally enamoured of it and it's keeping me committed to running. After all you can't buy such great stuff and then let it go unused!! Thanks mom for the gift that made this little splurge possible!

Another positive bonus... S is running too! So far we are running separately but one of these days I could see us going out together.... fun!

All this inspiration seems to be spilling into my knitting life too. Once I finished Jean's scarf I had to decide what to do next. You know what called to me this time? It was those trekking socks that I cast on way back in ... well I don't even really remember. I know I swatched, cast on, and knit no more than about 5-10 rows, then... well let's say the sock went into a long slumber. This week, well the sock called to me. Warm, cozy, wool socks.

In between all my running about, I've been working away. I'm using Charlene Schurch's four stitch ribbing pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks and using a rotating rib pattern (ala the Harlot): regular 2x2 ribbing, but moving the ribbing over one stitch every 10 rounds. This is the pattern I used to make my first pair of socks and I'm looking foward to finishing this pair (which will be number 3).

I've also decided to consider this my official casting on time... I figure all those months of not being worked on shouldn't count against these little guys. Happy birthday little sock!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ask and you shall receive

Before the holidays I knit my mom a little gift. I was very pleased when Garden Genie -- S's mom -- saw the pic and asked for one for herself. I'm very happy when someone likes something I've made and wants one for themselves -- the best form of compliment.

I took me a little time to finish off other things and get to the task at hand, but I'm pleased to say that the neckwarmer is finished and will be winging its way through the mail to warm your neck during that 0 (yes that is zero) degree weather very soon!

I used Kim's basic pattern for the neckwarmer -- it's a winner for use with a bulky yarn I think. The fabric is quite interesting to look at and, importantly, it's nice and warm.

S and I also picked out a pretty cool button for the scarf. It's handmade of ironwood. Picked this up at Closeknit, one of the LYS in Riverside we visited over the holidays.

Hope this keeps you warm Jean... hand wash in cold water and lay it out flat to dry (and don't be afraid to stretch it back into shape after you wash it).

Neckwarmer by Kim
Lamb's Pride Bulky (85% wool, 15% mohair) (less than 1 ball)
Ruby Red, dyelot 086
started January 3, 2008
finished January 18, 2008
US 10.5 circulars

Friday, January 18, 2008

Jane would be proud

Roughly three months ago, I began the journey towards Elizabeth (the Elizabeth Bennet cabled cardigan from Fitted Knits). I'm pleased to say that as of this morning, Ms. Bennet is now complete!

I started with the clearly stated intention to not feel under time pressure to complete this project. This was a resolution fairly easily followed it turns out. I took a whole month off knitting this sweater while I worked on other small projects. Once I got going again, I tried to stay fairly monogamous so I could finish.

When I first saw this pattern I thought it would be very challenging and wasn't sure I could do it. I purchased yarn and sat it aside for "some day." Now that I'm done with the cardigan, I for the life of me can't figure out what seemed challenging about it. Basic top down sweater with some cables at the peplum and sleeves. Now it was certainly a long project... there are a lot of stitches there (and at fairly small gauge too) ... but nothing too complicated. I found the pattern to be very straight forward (with the exception of one "error" which I talk about below).

I've knit several projects from Fitted Knits now (the book from which this sweater springs) and I've learned that Stephanie and I have way different gauge. For example, she recommends US 6s for this pattern... I used 4s. My gauge has been even further off with other projects. I did learn the importance of swatching with those other projects though so this sweater should be in good shape. The sweater fits ok right now, but should bloom a bit when washing. She's soaking right now. Post wet, I'll do some sweater-on-person photos for you.

Another lesson learned with this sweater... how to really seam. After my last blog post I was appalled to see how terrible my first seam looked. (Nothing like a stark photo to show up flaws, hmm?)

This morning I pulled out my knitting books, found some instructions, and tried, tried again. I'm far more pleased with the results.

This seam (which will be under the arm) has become nearly invisible, blending into the reverse stockinette background of the cables.

The other thing I learned is the impact open cables can have on the flair of a sleeve. Looking at other finished elizabeth's I knew that she had flaired sleeves. Now the book doesn't show this, so I didn't know exactly what it would look like. Just the very idea didn't really appeal to me though. To address this I decided to keep the bottom of the sleeve straight (and left out some increases at the end of the sleeve called for by the pattern). Having made this adjustment, I thought I'd be set. Not so much, after finishing up the first sleeve, there she was, a lovely bell. Foolish me I didn't even take a photo, just ripped it right back out I was so upset.

What I learned was that having an open cable at the end of a sleeve creates a flair. The photo below gives you a sense of this (unless I'm the only one who wouldn't just know this, I thought that showing an image might help others avoid the flair, unless they wanted the bell shape).

This just gives you a sense of what occurs, but keep in mind I've already made my sleeve a bit narrower than the pattern, so the sleeve, if knit as written, would flair even more than this (this is the second sleeve I knit, not the first one with the full effect).

To help address this issue, in addition to decreasing more stitches near the end of the sleeve I also went ahead and did one extra cable at the end (after the end of the chart). That pulled the sleeve back in a little tighter so there's only a hint of flair which I think will dissappear when I block out the sweater after her bath. See...

(there's that lovely seam again too!)

All in all, a pretty nice knit. The fabric is beautiful to look at (the angora/merino blend makes for a very fluffy, soft material). That actually is probably the most impressive part of the knit.. well that and maybe the cables along the sleeves which I love. Of course, angora is fluffy; fluffy means floaty, and I think I'll be leaving a bit of fluff everywhere I go when I wear this sweater. We'll have updates once she's been taken for a trial run.

For now, I'll bask in the joy of knowing she's finished (well except that I'll probably put some invisible snaps in between the pearl buttons to keep the sweater closed really well).

Elizabeth Bennet cabled cardigan by Stephanie Japel from Fitted Knits
10 balls of Cloud 9 from Cascade Yarns (significantly less than called for by the pattern!!)
50% merino wool
50% angora
Color: 114 lavendar
US size 4 (3.5 mm) and US size 2 (2.75 mm) circulars
Pearl style buttons from JoAnn's
cast on October 10, 2007
finished January 18, 2008

On Ravelry here

Modifications: I could find no way to get from the 8 stitches on row 20 of the body cable chart to the 10 stitches on row 21. Given this, I purled into the front and back on the two center stitches in row 20. Right now, the sweater fits me a little tight across the hips (and I've seen that in the photos of others cardigans too) so I think getting a little more yardage into this area was probably a good idea. Doing this meant that the cables on 21 and 31 didn't make sense so I just left them off. The only thing I can think of here is that the pattern intends for you to pull stitches into the cable from the purl filler stitches, but I didn't want to do this because of the fit factor.

The other major changes I did were to the sleeves to reduce the flair. Beginning with row 53 of the sleeve charts, I didn't increase up to 10 stitches, I stayed with 8. That meant that I left out the cabling on rows 53, 65, 69, 81, and 85 (these cables are the same type as I described above... I think they pull more stitches into the cable from the purl fillers, but I just kept the pattern to 8 cable stitches and 4 purl fillers ... my final cables look just like the photos in the book, just a little narrower). I worked to the end of the chart and then for (my new) row 92 followed the established pattern except knit together two of the filler stitches inside the cable chart. Row 93 I included C7R and C7L cables. Row 94 I just followed the established pattern of stitches and then for Row 95 I purled together the two middle stitches of the purl filler (outside the cable section). For my final trim I knit a row, purled three rows, knit a row, and then bound of in purl stitch. My final sleeve trim looks more like the other trim areas of the sweater this way, just a bit narrower. I was very happy with this modification.

If I were going to start again, I'd use the smaller needle for the collar (which is the first thing you knit). You could then switch to the larger needle when you begin with the first trim rows (the purl and knit rows before the yoke).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

She is so close!

I can just feel the end.

Any one else getting a bit tired of pictures of lavendar cables though? Monogamy certainly doesn't make for very good blog posts.

I'm committed though... elizabeth will be my first FO for 2008!

Monday, January 14, 2008


This weekend my mom, dad, and sister came for a visit -- sort of a late holiday visit since we didn't get together during December. We had a great time, hanging out, chatting, and doing a little site seeing.

One of the places we visited was the Getty Art Museum (in LA). S and I love the grounds of this place (probably even more than we like their art ... but don't tell people we said that). The museum is up on the top of a mountain and you can see all the way to the ocean on one side and toward home (for us) on the other. The photo above was a magnificient view of the mountains that are "ours." The San Gabriels are only a 15 minute drive for us from home (it's where I've taken all the photos previously) and they were putting on quite the show for LA -- we were proud.

We spent some time in the museum at the exhibits but spent more time outside. Gotta love the succulents.

S and I, of course, think that no trip to the west coast is complete without a visit to the ocean -- you have to admire mother nature's art you know -- so we had to do a bit of that as well. What a perfect day for it too!! Mid 70s, cool breeze, blue skies, brilliant sun.

This photo may give you a sense of just how bright it was ... the camera was just overwhealmed.

We decided to go to Venice to gawk at people. This is definitely a sight to see you know. The quintessential "people on roller blades zipping along the boardwalk while the tarot card and palm readers set up shop right next door" type of place.

It was really an amazing day.

There were many, many people out on the beach and just enjoying the out of doors. And there were almost as many little birds as well. I was excited to get the shot above.

I like this photo too because you can see the mist coming off the ocean. It always seems to be like that no matter how beautiful the day. It makes for a magical view (and it's nice to see the Santa Monica pier in the background too).

Hope everyone else had such a good weekend too. Enjoyed your company family... come to visit again soon!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Una manga!

Ah Elizabeth, she has a sleeve! Once blocked, the sleeve should be equal width all the way down... no bell bottom for me!

Even more impressive, one of our orchid is reblooming. This is a plant we purchased in Santa Barbara over a year ago. When I lived in Oklahoma, I was able to reliably get orchids to rebloom... I had the perfect south facing window for them. Here my luck has been more variable. This time though... success!

Company's coming this weekend... there probably won't be much knitting for a few days so I hope you like the picture above... you may be seeing it for some time!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

El gato es hermoso.

Who couldn't love a face like this?

[Issac lounging on my stomach over the break]

And this face is even after S had already taken several shots... he was amazingly tolerant of the flash. He doesn't look quite as restful as he did in some of the earlier.. red eyed ... shots though.

Things around here are good but busy, but at least not the crazy busy, just steady busy.

Tuesday night I started spanish classes again (notice how I'm practicing already?). I also registered for a college Spanish 101 class. Wow... me in an undergrad class again -- that should be interesting. Hopefully this will be the trick to get me to buckle down and actually learn some things! I figure the fear of looking stupid and not passing quizzes and exams should be pretty good motivation.

On the knitting front I'm very, very close to finishing a sleeve on elizabeth. In fact, I've already finished it once. I should have taken a picture but didn't (darn). I thought I was making modifications to reduce the bell shape that I had read others talk about at the end of the sleeve. Turns out I didn't do enough so rip, rip, rip... I'm trying again. I have about 8 rows to go and we'll see if I've been successful this time. Wish me luck. Maybe we'll have pictures soon!

Monday, January 07, 2008

We have sleeves

The weekend was very rainy here in Southern California ... 6 inches in 3 days. That's about half our annual rain fall -- for the year!

With it cold, dark, and rainy outside, I had lots of motivation to stay inside where it was warm and to cozy up with my friend Elizabeth.

You can see from the photo that we now have sleevage! I ran into the same cable roadblock on the sleeve as I had with the body and just faked it again. I've also decided that I want to keep the sleeves straight (rather than flairing into a bell at the bottom). My improvisation will allow that to happen easily (or at least I think so, laugh).

This is my first long sleeve sweater and I am beginning to appreciate others' comments about sleeve deserts/hell/infinity. I'm not quite over it yet, but the sleeves do seem to take quite some time. I realize that part of it is the greater number of cables per inch with this part of the pattern, but I also think that I just expect it to go much faster when a sleeve is so much narrower! Those expectations will get you every time.

All in all, she is coming along. I am proving to myself once again that I am not a fast knitter though. I have finished 87 rows of one sleeve (out of about 128) after 2 pretty full days of knitting. I'm not sure that I'm going to be able to hold out long enough for this to be my first FO of 2008. I may have to sneak in some small projects first... I have my eye on these for example after seeing them over at Tienne's. After all, I do have that leftover alpaca from S's fingerless mitts ... hehehe.

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Knitting with friends

Last night was one of our local SnB meetups. Boy did we have fun!

This was just a portion of the people who came and everyone brought interesting projects with them.

Of course, Price Charming was the center of attention all night (seen here keeping watch over Diane's mighty ball of mohair!)

And here during a moment of repose.

I love knitting with friends! It is so fun to hang out, compare notes, and just see what others are doing. And this group of women... very entertaining! If you're in the San Dimas/western Inland Empire area... you should join us!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Off to a good start

There is nothing like a little time off work to get one back into the knitting is there? After finishing up a few smaller projects, I'm back to working on Elizabeth Bennet (from the book Fitted Knits) now. As you can see she is coming along quite well.

The last time I worked on Elizabeth was way back last year... November 11th to be exact. That's over a month's vacation from this knit. I'm not even really sure why. I had finished the stockinette stitch part of the sweater and was just ready to start the cables. This should have been the fun part?! Regardless, for whatever reason, I let it sit until the holiday vacation and my escape from work madness.

When I began I had to rediscover how the chart worked, but then was off and running (wow... how many cliches can I get into one post?). That is until I got to about row 20 of the chart... I still don't know if it was me or the pattern, but one of the two had a mistake in it. After emailing several people on ravelry, I forged ahead, did a bit of improvisation, and was back on track. Patterns really are just suggestions after all, arent' they!!

As of last night, the body is finished with the exception of sewing on buttons. I've selected out little pearl-like buttons (you can see one on the left top button band in the picture). While the button bands came out nicely, I'm not sure I'm going to like where the buttons are placed. I'll have to try it out and, worse come to worse, rip and reknit the button hole side.

So far, so good with this project. As long as the swatch didn't lie and the yarn with grow a bit with a bath, the sweater should be good to go.

Sleeves here I come!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A new year & new ideas

As we look back over the last year, it's also time for me to look forward. What are my goals and ambitions for this year -- 2008?

Well let's start with our resolutions from last year shall we?

1. Start saving money again. Well let's just say that I'm not off to a very good start with my list. S and I did come up with a budget last year (a week by week budget) and I think we stuck to it for about 7-8 weeks before we just fell off the wagon. This one will have to stay on the list for 2008!

2. Live healthier (eating healthier foods, exercising). Here at least we get a mixed report card. In January I joined rachel's (yarn-a-go-go) run-a-go-go (100 miles by April 1st). This solidified my commitment to walking daily and helped push me a little further. Every three months I set my goal a little higher and I'm please to say that I finished 2007 having walked 526.7 miles (those are extra, exercise miles, not part of my daily getting from here to there steps)! This I feel good about.

The less than A+ part, well the healthy meals of course. While I wouldn't say that what we eat is terrible, we still eat out way too much, which means we overeat. We have had waves where we've cooked at home more, but work always seems to get in the way. When you work until 6, who wants to cook? I'm not sure how we'll actually fix this one but it does need to be addressed (it ties into goal 1 above). S came up with the idea of using "eating out coupons" -- we use up the coupons for a week, no more eating out. We'll see how that goes.

3. Continue to study Spanish. Wow... another area that I didn't do so well in... sigh. I'm still no further along in my quest. After the progress I made in 2006 with classes, I never managed to get back in 2007. Another goal to keep on the list.

4. Continue to knit and blog. I will finish my first pair of socks and maybe start my first sweater. Wew... another one where I made some progress! In fact, I suspect there may be an inverse relationship between the amount of blogging and knitting I did and my completion of my other resolutions [laugh].

As I summarized over the last two days, my knitting was quite successful this year. Not only did I finish that first sock (I finished two pairs), I also managed to knock off several sweaters, shrugs, and cardigans. I managed to finish my first shawl, learned to knit continental, and generally became more confident as a knitter.

Blogging was quite fun for me this year too. I managed to post fairly regularly (with the exception of December when I lost my mind at work) and read lots and lots of blogs. Lot's of inspiration there!

5. Increase my research productivity at work. I would say that I did OK with this goal. I did get several research projects done this year... it could have been more, but it certainly could have been far worse.

6. And on the personal front, I commit to being more present and positive with people at work. Changing personality... that's always tough isn't it? I think I made reasonable progress here. Always room for improvement, but for the most part I do think I managed to be a more pleasant person at work.

So having taken stock, what are our goals for this year? Let's start with the parts that most of you are probably the most interested in -- fiber related goals.

1. More quality knitting.

Having evaluated my finished projects over the last year, I've realized that the things I'm happiest with are things that are warm and cuddly -- things made out of quality fibers. I, like many Americans I think, am frequently called by the sirien of cheap yarn. The bad thing of course is that cheap yarn is just that -- cheap. I think one of my important goals for this year is to focus on knitting higher quality items, even if I knit fewer of them.

Second, I think I'd really like to knit more socks.

Third, I could be wrong about this, but I think I'll get the most use out of knitted long sleeve cartigans. My office is really cold (both in winter and summer). The short sleeve things I've knit are cute, but I find myself needing to cover them up with more clothing. One goal I have for this year is to try knitting a long sleeve cabled cartigan to see how much use I'd get out of that.

2. Higher quality blogging.

One thing I have really come to realize over the last month or two is that I could really improve the visuals in my blog postings. As I posted in the meme, I've been overwealmed by the great imagery in a number of blogs I've found recently. One goal I have for the next year therefore is to improve the quality of my posts.

Maybe consistent with this goal, or maybe not, I'd also like to try to get more of me into the blog. Lots of my posts are very short. Maybe more of my thoughts and ideas should be shared here.

3. Spinning.

This year I took two spinning classes and purchased a wheel. My goal for this coming year is to take more classes and begin to spin in serious. I look forward to taking my first project from fiber to finished project.

And my other, non knitting, non fiber related resolutions... very similar to last year.

1. Live within a budget and save money.

2. Live healthier (eating healthier foods, exercising). I finished 2007 having walked 526.7 miles -- my mileage goal for 2008? 540 miles (135 miles every 3 months)!

3. Learn Spanish.

4. Increase my research productivity at work.

5. Commit to being more present and positive with people at work.

6. Work on being more outgoing, less introverted, with others.

7. Continue to do the things that are being done right: appreciating what I have, being mindful, managing my work-related stress, enjoying nature.