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Archive for May, 2008

Phone photos 006

We’re pretty much into what I would call summer here. The current temperature is 96, thankfully not too humid. I took a photo this morning while out on my bike ride of some wildflowers, at the top of the trail that cuts from Shoal Creek Boulevard to the Far West/MoPac bridge. From the photo you wouldn’t think this was a densely populated area at all!

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The linen shell that I cast on last week is progressing well. I’ve always heard lots of complaints about how hard linen is on the hands, but I’m doing OK with it. This could be because my hands are already well accustomed to working with fine gauges, or because I tend to get bored and switch off between projects frequently, but I haven’t had any trouble with it. My swatch has been getting the usual swatch treatment: I like to throw my swatches into the bottom of my bag and let them rattle around for a few days to see how the finished garment will hold up. It felt DSCN1197a bit stiff at first, even after laundering, but no different than how my other linen garments feel after being line-dried. Now, after a week of being buffeted around, it has developed that classic, much-beloved drape and hand that linen is so famous for. Good stuff.

As you can see, I swatched with the pattern colors one way, and then switched their placements in the pattern. I had a hard time choosing which was to knit the garment; as you can see, I decided to stick with green for the main color and blue for the contrast. Maybe I should have done it the other way? I doubt I’ll ever know.

I’m still having fun riding all around town. Last week I went to Spec’s to get a bottle of wine for the potpie we made this weekend, and found yet another bike rack that was obviously constructed without thought to how a ladies’ bike frame should fit. You can see from the photo (which is a bit out of focus because I forgot that my cell phone camera doesn’t have macro capability) how the designer thought the bike should fit on the rack:

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I’m not real sure why the rear wheel is supposed to be suspended like that. It would make it easier to do certain types of maintenance work, but I don’t really plan to oil my chain out in front of the liquor store or JoAnn’s anytime soon, y’know?

Fortunately, securing my bike to this type of rack isn’t so problematic as the swing-arm rack at Costco was.

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(In answer to the question, “Whatever could you buy at Costco that you could take home on a bike?” my answer is: prescriptions! They have a good pharmacy. You don’t even need to be a member to use the pharmacy there, and it’s cheap.)

One last photo, just to laugh at the whole “pedestrian and bicycle friendly environment” the developers are supposed to be creating in the Gateway/Arbor Walk/Domain area:

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Gotta love the wheelchair-accessible highway access road! Um, could I get a sidewalk to go with that?

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While my husband meditates on his prospective sweater swatches and the meaning of the question, “Which do you prefer?” I’ve cast on the Roped Shell from the Summer 08 issue of Interweave Knits.

The navy blue yarn is Louet Euroflax in sport weight. The green yarn is Claudia’s Handpainted 100% linen. These are produced from the same base yarn, which is spun by Louet (this means that Claudia’s buys the yarn from them, and they dyes it to their colors, which are superb).

I haven’t worked with linen before. It almost feels waxy – like a giant strand of dental floss, with about at much stretch. Right now I’m switching back and forth between this and another project using Jaggerspun Zephyr, which is a 50/50 silk and wool blend. The Zephyr feels spongy by contrast! The linen yarn is 4 ply. I took a waste bit, separated out the plies, and tried unsuccessfully to break a single ply with my hands. Strong stuff. My swatch, however, washed up great. It looks fabulous and handles like all of the rest of the linen in my closet… which is not a small amount of linen. Good stuff, linen.

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I’m totally happy with the Louet skein. The skein from Claudia’s, however, has some problems. It was skeined and tied very poorly, which meant that I had a difficult time winding it into a ball. Then, less than 10 yards into the skein, I found 3 knots! I can understand 1 knot… sometimes… but not in a premium yarn. Given what I paid for this yarn, I think that it is totally reasonable to take issue with this many knots. The markup on the yarn is almost 2x what the Louet-brand is selling for, but the quality is not as high. I really like the color, and I’m far enough into the project that I’ll just deal with it, but it might be a while before I buy anything from Claudia’s again.

(Yes, I did email the company. No, I haven’t heard anything back. I don’t really want a replacement, but an apology and/or a partial refund would be nice.)

I’m still having fun bicycling all over Austin. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at 0512081416how many bike racks there are in town, especially at places like Costco. However, the racks at Costco leave a little something to be desired – namely, the ability to lock my bike to them! This type of lock has an arm that swings away from the rack. The arm has three spikes that are meant to go through the front wheel, the frame, and the back wheel, thus securing the most easily-stolen components in one fell swoop. You then use your own padlock to lock the swing arm in place. Nice idea. I can tell you, however, that a man thought this up.

How do I know that it was a man and not a woman who designed this thing? 0512081416bBecause it won’t hold a woman’s bike! The swing arm won’t go through my frame at any angle. As you can see, I had to lock up with a cable lock – I can’t use my good U-bolt lock on this one when the swing arm isn’t fully engaged. Since my bike was still there when I got back, I suppose it’s the though that counts (and I am appreciative that they put in racks at all!). If anyone has any tips for securing a ladies’ bicycle to this style rack, I’d love to hear them.

Enough complaining for today. I’m going to take a nap.

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I have an odd fondness for swatching. It’s so much fun, when I am nearing the end of one project, to pull out the yarn for my next project and get just a little taste of what knitting with it will be like. It’s always a great time to try new stitches, try using my needles and tools in different ways, and continue my constant experimentation with directional decreases.

Most of my knitting friends seem to dislike knitting swatches. I can’t count how many times someone has asked either myself or a group of knitters at large for advice on a garment, but when asked, “How did your swatch come out,” she confessed to not knitting one. Although I can understand, in an academic sense, how they are excited and impatient to cast on the actual project, I don’t really “get” it.

(It’s like stashing – something else that I neither enjoy nor really comprehend. Having extra yarn at home feels to me like having homework left undone: it hangs over my head and makes me feel guilty and lazy. Yet many of my fellow knitters cheerfully discuss and constantly add to their stashes, using phrases like, “She who dies with the most yarn, wins!” One of them is even gleefully using a random number generator to select new projects from her stash. Whereas I attempt – and sometimes fail – to have yarn on hand for my next round of projects. Maybe I’m in the wrong hobby.)

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I knit up a swatch for my next Fair Isle project, a pullover for my husband. We picked out the colors while on a trip to Wisconsin, where they actually stock yarns suitable for Fair Isle, and had the yarn shipped to our house.

As is usual with Fair Isle, the colors didn’t quite do what I expected, so I put the yarn back into its box and thought about it for a while. Yesterday I pulled it all back out and played around some more.

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I always think that it is neat to see how mixing up the colors can totally change what I see in a pattern. These are two of the better swatches. I suspect that I’ll be knitting the sweater with the colors from the bottom swatch. I like how the top swatch showcases the motif, but I can’t see putting that much yellow on Jim!

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Home Again

 

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It’s always good to get away, and good to come home.

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Everything was blooming in Boston. The trees were just starting to leaf out. We missed the crocuses and snowdrops, of course, and the daffodils were almost-but-not-quite done, but most of the tulips were in full bloom. It was nice to see tulips again; they don’t really grow here in Austin (it doesn’t get cold enough). I have missed tulips. I took this photo in the North End, where we went one night for yummy Italian food, and another night for fabulous pizza. I have also missed good pizza. Texas has many great culinary traditions, but pizza isn’t one of them.

0502081622I took this photo from the top of the Bunker Hill monument, after climbing all 294 steps. I was a bit sweaty by the time I reached the top. Now, I’ve never been all that athletic, so it was quite validating to realize that I was in better shape than any of the teenagers who did the climb! Most of their classmates didn’t even try and stayed on the ground.

The only bad part of the trip was that Jim spent the first few days sick with a bad cold. Then, the day he felt better, my throat started to hurt. So, we spent perhaps a bit more time than usual relaxing in our nice hotel room (am I ever glad that we shelled out for a good hotel!) and didn’t walk quite as much as we usually do on vacations. Still, it was a nice trip, and I’ve come home feeling like my mental batteries got a needed recharge.

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