Archive for the ‘On the needles’ Category

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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!


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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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.


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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I’m still plugging away at Lightweight Mountain Peaks. Just 17 more border repeats to go…

In the meanwhile, I’ve been working on the Lite Lopi Pullover, from The Best of Interweave Knits. This is a yoke sweater, worked in aran-weight yarn. I’m using some Araucania Yarns Nature Wool. The ball band stated that the yarn would yield a gauge of 14 st/4 in., but since I can’t get anything less than 18 st/4 in. without creating an unacceptably loose fabric, I did a little math and figured that all should be well if I knit two pattern sizes up. I’m doing the body on US 7s and probably will do the colorwork for the yoke on size 9s. Yes, it’s true: I do own needles larger then US size 4!

DSCN1133I swatched in the round with the colors I chose one way, swapped two colors and swatched again, and decided that I liked the first combo better. This is “Bohus-inspired” sweater, which means that the colorwork uses both knit and purl stitches to create different textures. It had been challenging (I’ve never needed to purl with my right hand before!) and tends to pull in a bit, which is why I’m bumping up the the US 9s for the colorwork. I’ve also added a bit of color to the cuffs, to help keep me from going insane with all of the straight stockinette-in-the-round, also also because I might cut it close on the main color of yarn. DSCN1132

I’m making a few other modifications, lengthening the sleeves, of course, and also adding linings to the hems of the body and cuffs, and to the neck a la Elizabeth Zimmermann. So far, I’ve got the body and one sleeve done (did the sleeve + swatching in 1 day!) and I’m halfway up the 2nd sleeve. I’ll join the sleeves to the body tonight and hopefully be working on the yoke this weekend.

In other news, I’m still having a blast zooming all around town on my new bike! I estimate that I’ve saved about two tanks of gasoline already. They were a bit surprised (well, snotty might be a better word) at the salon when I showed up at the front desk asking if I could bring it in to park it (nowhere out front to lock it up!) but everyone else has been really positive and encouraging. My gynecologist was particularly enthusiastic today, even after I showed up for my DSCN1136appointment slightly sweaty, wearing bike shorts, with post-exercise elevated blood pressure. I suppose that doctors will forgive just about anything if it means you’re getting plenty of exercise. Life on the bike has been much happier since I got a new saddle with a cut-out. In my opinion it looks a bit funny, but after 20 miles I don’t care what it looks like, so long as it doesn’t hurt!

I’ve also got a summer project all set to go. Last week while socializing at the yarn store, I asked Sue Ann a question about clipless pedals, and she offered me her old bike, clipless pedals and all! It’s a small Trek with a carbon frame and a few other goodies, neglected for several years. I’m planning to learn some maintenance skills this summer, so having a bike around to overhaul should be fun. First up: figuring out how the Presta valve converter on my hand pump works!


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Many thanks to the kind folks who have commented, emailed, and given me in person some good bike routes around town! I’ve been having lots of fun, zipping around without being stuck in traffic, and exploring new routes. Now, if I could only figure out how to reduce and balance the 40 lbs of stuff I haul around to 5 different schools every week…

On the knitting front, the border on the Lightweight Mountain Peaks shawl is progressing.DSCN1119 It has reached the stage where it looks a bit like a strange sea creature. I have other things in progress, of course; socks and another sweater are both well underway. However, they are not so photogenic.

There is a reason why all of my knitting is progressing so slowly this week. The reason is that last weekend, out of the clear blue sky, a spinning wheel fell on me.

DSCN1120 Ok, not really, although it feels like it. Here’s the story:

Last fall, I learned how to spin, using a drop spindle. Since then, I’ve been slowly spinning away as the mood struck. Spindling can be a very peaceful way to spend a morning while camping, or a nice activity to keep myself occupied while something cooks on the stove. I have two very nice spindles, and a very funny plying set-up that involves my dining room chandelier.

Then, last week, an email popped up in my inbox, from a knitting friend who had a question for me. Could I use a spinning wheel? she wanted to know. She had a wheel on loan from a very nice friend of hers, but no longer had need of it, so it was decided that she would pass the wheel on to another spinner – lucky me! So, instead of dutifully knitting away on my projects, I’ve been having fun on the new spinning wheel.

And now, more fun with DPNs. Since I’ve gotten the knack of anchoring a bun DSCN1131 with a size 9 bamboo DPN, I’ve been having fun trying out new hairstyles that use hairsticks. This one is an “orchid” bun. I’ve also heard it called a “cervix” bun, but I don’t see it. Anyway, it is another type of bun that really stays put – I wore it this way for about 12 hours the other day, and if barely shifted the whole day.

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You’re not imagining things: it’s been a few weeks since I posted anything here. What can I say? Holy Week is always a bit busy for me!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that the Lightweight Mountain Peaks (LMP) shawl had turned into the Black Hole of Knitting. I knit, and knit, and knit, but nothing ever seemed to come out… the Black Hole just kept swallowing stitches and yarn without producing any results.

I did finally break free of the Black Hole, and then whipped through the inside border with speed and ease. Now, I’m on the outside border, which is a knitted-on border. (For my non-knitting readers, this means that the body of the shawl is knit in one piece, and then the border is knit as a separate piece, but attached to the body row by row as it is knit perpendicular to the previous work. Yes, this is just as difficult and confusing as it sounds.)

The only knitted-on borders I’ve done before were on shawls out of Victorian Lace Today, which directs the knitter to break yarn at the end of the body, and then rejoin at a different point to begin the border, working back and forth on DPNs. LMP’s instructions, however, had me knit the body, and then on the same needle cast on 17 additional stitches to begin the border. The border is then worked back and forth on those 17 stitches, using a very simple and easy K2tog at the end of each purl row to attach to the body, which is still on the same needle.

This has been one of those slap-myself-on-the-forehead, “Why didn’t I think of that?” deals.


Here, I’m starting a border purl row. It’s not so clear in the photo, but the border is hanging under my hand (I’m about 60 rows in) and then the shawl body flows out from the border to the left.







Now I’m one stitch from the end of the purl row. I have one more border stitch on the left needle, and then the next stitch is the first stitch of the edge of the body.







I knit those two stitches together…








… and turn, ready to start the next border row. You can see how everything’s arranged a bit better now.

This is probably one of those things that has been obvious to everyone but me for ages. Right now, however, for me, this is still new to me and exciting. It’s always fun to figure things out.

I’m very ready to be done with LMP. I’ve already swatched for my next shawl, the first skein of yarn, a cobweb weight bamboo silk, is wound, and I’m all ready to start. I just have to finish the current shawl first!

In other news: Partially spurred by the ever-rising gasoline prices, I finally went and bought a new bicycle!

bike phone pic

It has been a lot of fun zipping around Austin without being stuck in traffic. I am almost up to running all of my errands by bike. The only place on my regular visiting/errand list that I can’t figure out how to get to by bike is my favorite yarn shop! It is within riding distance, but I would have to go a long, long way up Parmer lane, which is a bit fast and busy for me. I’ve been doing OK so far on Loop 360, which is another fast, busy road, but 360 has nice wide shoulder and, more importantly, lots of other bicyclists. Anyone who drives up 360 with any degree of regularity knows to watch for bikes. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen another cyclist on Parmer (not that I drive up it all that often) and the portion I would be on runs through Round Rock/Williamson County, where alternative transportation isn’t quite as common as it is down in Austin. This should be remedied when the light rail goes through that area later this year; until then, I’ll keep driving up to the LYS but maybe cut back on the number of trips.

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Almost there.

Before I cut the steeks last night, I snapped a photo of the Venezia pullover, just because it had such a funny shape.


After cutting the steeks open, it immediately assumed a more sweater-like shape.


I’m altering the neckline to a more conventional (I hope!) boatneck shape. I’ve got this idea that the shoulder line will lay flatter this way – when I look at photos of other knitters’ finished Venezias on the internet, I never like how the shoulder line and top of the sleeve look. If this doesn’t work, there’s going to be a lot of cursing and cutting out and ripping back, because I don’t anticipate blocked Shetland wool as being anything easy or fun to rip out.

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I have ordered, and am waiting ever-so-patiently, for the extra ball of yarn for that @#$! sweater. In the meantime, I am at least getting lots of other stuff done!


The photos of the alpacas are from last Saturday, when I went with a group of friends to three yarn shops south of here. The primary purpose of our visit was to visit the Yarn Barn in San Antonio, which will be closing soon. We also visited Yarnivore, up near the SA airport, and returned to Old Oaks Ranch, home of the alpacas. Nicki and Sally have already blogged about the trip, so I’ll skip the commentary.


I’ve gotten lots done on the Lightweight Mountain Peaks Shawl, although it isn’t very evident from the photo. Lace never looks like anything until it is blocked.


Also in progress is “Arch-Shaped Stockings,” a pattern I discovered on Ravelry. Users of that service can look up the patter there. The first stocking is going surprisingly fast, although this photo was taken after I decided that I did not like how my decreases were going and ripped out several inches of work.

Also in progress is a new sock, the Coriolis from Cat Bordhi’s New Pathways in Sock Knitting, and a felted cover for my long-overdue, shiny new cellphone.

Now, if that yarn could only magically arrive here overnight – I want to finish that sweater!

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