I’ve been thinking about blogs lately. Yesterday, I was catching up at work on my reading, most of which is online articles. And, I digressed into reading a bit about blogs. I ran across this article, What’s a Blog?, on the Typepad site. I’ll metaphorically pause here for a few minutes while you read it.

Yeah, that beginning about macrame and kitchsy ’70’s crafts really threw me at first, too, but I think it makes a valid point: good blogs have their own voice.

In thinking about this and what it means to me, a neophyte blogger, I’ve come to the conclusion that I just haven’t developed my “voice” yet.

So, what’s the big deal? Nothing. There is no big deal. But that’s my point: it’s not a big deal, so there’s no reason to sweat it.

At Snb tonight, the subject of blogs came up briefly and one of the folks commented that my blog isn’t updated very often, and that when it is the entries are too long. OK, interesting point, and likely a valid one, too.

I blog when I can squeeze the time in, and unfortunately that’s not really often. Anyway, one other thought I’ve had about blogging is this: the best bloggers, those that blog every day and have interesting things to say, all have wireless Internet.

I don’t have (working) wireless Internet at home. Yeah, I have a laptop, but it might as well be a huge, clunky desktop ’cause I’m stuck at a desk in one room of my house with one loooonnnngggg cable running across the room to the router. A few months ago I gave up on trying to rouse my husband’s interest in figuring out why the wireless access point won’t work, even in the same room. A few weeks ago, I found myself obsessed with this issue and tried to figure it out for myself. Now I’m a couple phone calls away from getting it fixed.

Phone call #1 will be to Linksys tech support who will hopefully be able to tell me why the firmware won’t update. If this fails, then…

Phone call #2 will be to the Geek Squad to come over to my house and make the damn wireless work.

Then, I’ll be able to roam around and freely blog in every room of my house whenever I feel like it. Wow. Think of the possibilities…

P.S. Is this a nice, short post?

The S Word

snow on my porchYes, that is exactly what you think it is. Snow. Our first of the season.

Today was a raw and ugly day in Chicago. While I was smart enough to bundle up with the fleece hat and gloves this morning, I thought I wouldn’t need them to cross the street to pick up lunch this afternoon. Once safely back in our office building, it only took about 10 minutes for me to regain feeling in my ears. (OK, I really should have worn the hat!) But let me think about more pleasant times than today’s wickedly sharp and gusty winds.

Just last weekend we had fine, warmish weather. Perfect weather for a road trip. So, some of us SnBers went to Marengo to visit The Fold. We knew that Toni Neal would not be there, but none of us was seriously shopping for a spinning wheel. We just wanted to check the place out and get out of the city for a day. And we wanted to get some Socks that Rock, too.

Chicago SnB women at the foldL to R: Jamie (with her eyes closed…darn!), me, Rachael, and Sarah, all displaying our purchases from the Fold. This photo was kindly taken by Toni’s son, a charming, college senior for whom we never learned a name. But, he was nice and put up with us crazy women nattering on about yarn and fibers, a doctoral thesis, and why women’s feet feel the cold more than men’s feet. There was also another special guy there whom we invited to be in the photo, but he just didn’t want to join us:

eric the german shepherd dogEric the German Shepherd Dog. I’m sure if I had been holding a piece of bacon instead of a skein of Socks that Rock, Eric would have been in that photo like a shot.

So, my personal haul from the Fold was several skeins of Socks that Rock in the Red Rock Canyon and Carnelite colorways, and one XXL skein of Trekking.

Socks that Rock yarnIn the Socks that Rock, I wanted to shake things up a bit and go with a colorway that I’d normally not get. I don’t have a lot of warm bronzey-type colors, but I’m starting to branch out now. The Trekking is for a pair of fingerless gloves for myself to wear in the office next summer. (Yep, I said summer. It gets so freakin’ cold in the office where I work that my hands, fingers, and nose become numb. The Clapotis was made in fairly conservative colors so I could wear it in the office, and the fingerless gloves should be a close match, hence the blue color of the Trekking yarn.)

It didn’t take nearly as long to drive to Marengo as I thought, either. I know I’ll be going back to the Fold after the holidays to check out the spinning wheels a bit more, and I’m sure at least one of the other SnB women will come along.

Project Update

The lace bolero found a home…with Shannon! I think it looks a lot better on her that it ever would on me.

Shannon in Sweaterbabe lace boleroNow Shannon just has to “pay it forward” for someone else.

…On the needles…

I’ve got several projects on the needles right now and would just love to be able to concentrate on one.

That deep red object on the left is a Katrina Rib (what I keep calling the “Cookie sweater”), then there’s a sock (since there’s only one finished…and I’ll have to redo the toe shaping on that one ’cause I’m not liking how it fits or looks on me, then it’s not a finished project), and finally there’s a slipper-to-be-felted for my nephew. I’m just not feeling organized and together these days with my projects and I don’t like it.

I will admit that one of the big reasons I knit is to feel a sense of accomplishment: to know that I’ve achieved something with my talents and time. I did finish knitting a baby sweater and hat last weekend, but I haven’t been able to truly complete it and send it off because I haven’t had a chance to go to the fabric store and pick out some stinkin’ buttons for it.

And, I really, really want to be knitting away on a lovely lace shawl to wear at my company’s holiday party next month. Yeah, like I’ll ever get the shawl done in time with all the holiday knitting I have to do. As if!

Awww, I guess I’m just cranky today. I haven’t had a cigarette since October 29 (4:48 PM Central Standard Time on October 29, to be exact) and have only today come to realize that I really do need those little nicotine patches to function well right now. I realized this more than halfway through the afternoon when I was desperately trying to resist yet another vending machine splurge and trying to figure out why I was so crabby and driven to stuff my face today. Then it hit me: I forgot to put on a new patch today. A hah!

So, I think I deserve some undisturbed knitting time for a while tonight. I guess I’ll be a trooper and work on the slippers tonight. *sigh*

Remember Me

Yes, I did disappear for a while, but there were several reasons for not being able to blog for some time.

First, there were technical problems. The last post I made was just before Yarn Harlot visited Chicago. I was really, really excited and eager to see her/hear her in person. Without going into a lot of detail, let’s just say it was a great experience and she’s a very genuine person. Some folks you like/enjoy before you meet them, then after you meet them you revise your opinion. This was definitely not the case with Yarn Harlot! She’s just as warm, funny, kind, and approachable in person as she is on her blog.

The technical problems arose when I tried to post to this blog the day after her visit. Blogger was “down for maintenance” for a few hours. I tried that evening and received the same response. I tried the next day and received the same response. After that, I gave up. By this time, it seemed that every single knitting blogger in Chicago had posted about Yarn Harlot’s visit and it would have been stale and repetitive of me to post similar impressions and photos. (Not that I think I have a large readership or anything, but I try not to write about the exact same stuff that can be read on other, better known blogs, unless it is to add new insights or something.)

We took vacation in mid-October and what with all the prepping for the vacation at work and at home, then being on the actual vacation, and, finally, catching up with all the work and home stuff after the vacation, well, a lot of time was eaten up this way and blogging was pushed to the bottom of my priority list.

We really enjoyed visiting Washington D.C., and I’ll share some impressions and photos here and there, but not in one big post that will take many, many precious minutes to load. We were away for 10 days, but 2 of those days were just for travel. We took the Amtrak train, so it wasn’t a fast trip. In fact, it was a considerably slower trip than originally scheduled due to an ever-increasing set of delays, which annoyed me in varying degrees. I think the shine is off of Amtrak trips for us now.

Anyway, we were lucky enough on the outbound (to D.C.) trip to get an upgrade to a larger sleeper compartment. We had taken an overnight train trip a few years ago, and so we were aware that the standard sleeper compartments are very small. What we didn’t know was that the configuration of the sleeper car trains and availability of certain services varied depending on the route. There was no baggage service on the outbound train. None, zippo, nada. This meant that we had to carry on everything and stow it on the train.

We really try not to pack a lot of stuff, but we’re two adults on a 10 day trip; we have several pairs of pants, shirts, etc. I thoughtfully made sure I had smaller sizes of toothpaste, etc. Mark just packed the standard size of his toiletries, such as LARGE containers of baby powder, toothpaste, contact lense solution, etc. (We agreed to use the same shampoo, but I just can’t stand the sweet Crest toothpaste he insists on and use Tom’s of Maine unsweetened products.) So, between the two of us we had one large suitcase; one “carry-on” sized suitcase; my backpack with laptop, book, and small camera (no, I couldn’t leave my laptop behind…what if there was a major screw up at work that I needed to fix?); my purse; Mark’s “man purse” (a small bag to hold his various eyeglasses, gum, etc.); and my knitting bag, of course. (For a minimum 17 hour train ride, I packed two projects: a top-down, short-sleeved sweater; and a pair of socks.)

When we entered the car to board, it looked very different. The first thing I noticed is that there was no luggage rack. On the train trip we took previously, there was a luggage rack on the train where passengers could put the luggage they did not want in their compartments with them. (That trip also had a baggage car, too, so there was a great potential to carry lots of stuff!) No, all this stuff would have to be crammed into the compartment – a cubicle sized 3’6” by 6’8” – with us.

The steward asked for our compartment number and I replied something like, “Well, the one I WANT to be in is that larger one back there, but my ticket is for number X.” Smiles all around at this remark, so I hadn’t offended (thank goodness), and then Mark and I eased ourselves and our baggage into the compartment. We made it fit by stuffing things under the seats and sitting the large suitcase on top of this step/side table thing next to Mark.

It wasn’t until about 40 minutes later that I puzzled out what this thing next to Mark was. It was a toilet. Right there, in the compartment with us; right next to the seat, and now with a large suitcase sitting on top of it. I couldn’t figure out how, logistically, I was going to be able to pee in a toilet that was currently unavailable since it had a suitcase on top of it, while Mark was being adamant that he would not sleep with this head near the toilet. Mark outlined a plan that involved a precise set of steps that would allow us to use the toilet (person not needing the toilet to get up and exit compartment, move suitcase to unoccupied seat, use toilet, move suitcase back, signal other person to return, etc.). Luckily, we didn’t have to deal with this as the steward brought the conductor to talk with us about upgrading our compartment and it was worked out that the larger one I had joked about WAS free and we could use it without any additional charge. Whew!

So, here’s Mark relaxing in our “large” bedroom (6’8” by 7’1”) on the train.

Close up of train compartment

Full train compartment viewYes, this compartment did have a toilet, too, but it was placed behind a door, and because we could put the large suitcase up above it, using the toilet did not involve heavy lifting and secret signals that it was all clear to return to our little haven.

Notice my Clapotis strategically placed in the shots? I brought it with me and wore it every single day to every place we visited. That Clapotis became sort of my version of the Yarn Harlot’s sock-in-progress. Plus, it was very practical for layering: I wore it as a shawl during the cooler morning hours, then as a loose scarf around my neck during the warmer daytime hours, and finally as a shawl again during the evening hours when it cooled off again. I got a few compliments on it and questions about whether I made it myself (“Thank you. Yes I did make it myself. If you’re a knitter, it’s a free pattern you can make, too.”)

Of course, the folks in the yarn shops I visited immediately recognized it as a Clapotis and their compliments meant the most to me. Yep, I visited two yarn shops: Stitch D.C. in Georgetown, and Knit Happens in Alexandria, VA. I almost made it to the Stitch D.C. store in Capital Hill the same day I visited the one in Georgetown, but my feet were killing me after walking back and forth between Georgetown and DuPont Circle and around the Eastern Market flea market that day. I had to sit down and relax, so we snagged a table on the patio at a nearby Murky Coffee where I had what so far has been the best soy milk latte I have ever had in my entire life.

My impressions of the yarn shops were likewise favorable. I was the first customer in Stitch D.C. on a Sunday morning, so it wasn’t hopping until just before I left. But, I had a nice chat with the women working in the shop that day who helped me pick out some worsted weight yarn for a Truly Tasha’s Shawl.

I visited Knit Happens on Wednesday, their late night. I have to admit I was hoping to see/meet Wendy from Wendy Knits, but she wasn’t there. I was instantly welcomed, though, by a small group of knitters, including Carole (who described herself as “Wendy’s bitch”…whatever that means!), Laura (“the nurse”), Lara, and Holly, who was running the shop that night. Poor Holly was working away on knitting up squares to felt for a workshop with Nicky Epstein taking place two days later, but even though she had this rush project looming over her head she was funny and sweet and helped me pick out some Rowan Wool Cotton in the right color. I spent nearly two hours at Knit Happens checking our their large stock of yarns, knitting, and chatting away about the differences between Chicago and Virginia winters, the White Sox and Cubs, and knitting projects. Meanwhile, Mark prowled the Alexandria streets to check out the dining options, stopped in a bar for a drink, and chatted with his boss on the phone.

Something Stupid/Something Smart

A special section today on one of my stupid knitting errors, and one of my flashes of brilliance…that happen much too rarely.

One of the pre-vacation projects I had to wrap up was the Sweaterbabe’s Mohair Lace Bolero. I made it in Suri Dream from Knit Picks, not mohair, and wanted to bring it on the D.C. trip for a nice night out. I even went so far as to order a couple nice camisoles to wear under it from Norm Thompson. (These are fabulous camisoles with comfortable built in bras. For those of us with large chests who need real support, these are the best. You actually order them in your bra size, not some vague size like “Large” or “C-D cup.”)

So, I did finish knitting the bolero in time, and was even able to block the pieces and sew it up the weekend before we left. But…this was a knitting failure. Sure, it’s pretty:

Sweaterbabe bolero

But it doesn’t fit right. Yes, I checked gauge. Yes, I had to make a few adjustments to the pattern since I never can achieve row and stitch gauge at the same time. But, what I didn’t do was check the measurements in the pattern schematic against my body first!

It does fit, but if I want to move while wearing it, well, then the bottom edge creeps up my chest and now the bottom of my bolero is about mid-breast and looks really crappy. In order to NOT have this happen to me, the bolero should be about 3 inches longer. Well, I said I didn’t really think it was a good pattern, and now I’m sure of it. Who would need a bolero that’s nearly 40” around the bust, and not need it to be at least 14” long? I put on my most supportive bra to see if that made any difference, and it didn’t. Now I’m not sure if I’ll wear it at all. If I don’t use a nice brooch to hold it closed and wear it open instead, the bolero could work for me. But, I like the look of it when it’s closed because the lace edging is more visible. *sigh*

Now, let’s move on to a solid success: the Faroese Style shawl. I made this for Lillian; it will be her birthday gift this year (and her birthday is coming up very soon).

Faroese Style ShawlThe pattern is from the Spring 2004 Cast On. The yarn called for was Lion Brand Homespun, but I really don’t care for that yarn, so I used Knit Picks Sierra in Cinnamon. I think she’ll love it. This is not a large shawl, but it works well for a smaller woman. After blocking, it came out to 25 ½” deep, and 58” wide.

Finally, we move into the flash of brilliance project, which isn’t a knitting project necessarily, but supports my knitting projects.

I have a long list of holiday gifts to make, some of which are small felted items. I also have a nice stash of Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool. This yarn is not very soft, but it reputably felts and dyes very well, so I bought some last year when I had a JoAnn coupon. Instead of buying more wool yarn for my felting projects, I’ve decided to use the Fisherman’s Wool. (It is necessary to use stuff from the stash occasionally, right?)

No, that’s that my flash of brilliance, this is:

my rube goldberg deviceSee, I’ll need X yards of yarn for a project that will be dyed Y color. So, I need to portion out one of those giant skeins (over 400 yds) into smaller batches for dyeing. One of the gifts I’m making is some felted flowers, and I need a bit of yarn in yellow, another bit in green, and a final bit in red, understand? I don’t need 400+ yards of yarn in yellow, another 400+ yards in green, etc. To measure, I now have the above set up.

On the left, is my swift. On the right is my ball winder. In the middle is my flash of brilliance. I admit, I borrowed the idea, but I’m still the one who found a way to make it work for me.

The key is this device.

fishing line meter

That’s a fishing line meter. If you look in a yarn catalog, like Patternworks for example, you’ll see a yarn meter gauge sold for about $50. It is a device exactly like this one that you run your yarn through, and it measures the “line” run through it in feet. Then, just convert to yards, easy peasy! The fishing line meter above cost me about $12 at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Rachael from my SnB actually came up with the idea. Well, technically her stepfather did, I guess, but good ideas get passed on, right? However, I’m the first one in the SnB to test this out, which is how I discovered that having the fishing line meter is all well and good, but if you don’t have something just right to clamp it to, the idea won’t execute easily.

The device in Patternworks catalog comes with a small wooden stand that you clamp to a table, then clamp the measuring device on. I dug around in my basement and found the tall wooden stand above that I had rescued from a neighbor’s trash last year thinking, “Gee, this looks like it will be useful one day.” That day is here, my friends. (BTW, I really had no idea what it was originally until visiting my sister one day and noticing something exactly like it in her dining room. When I asked, she responded that it was the stand for the TV trays in such a way that it was clear I was a total idiot for not knowing, and also pretty weird to be excited about learning the answer.)

My final “gear” acquisition is a cool, old-fashioned kitchen scale.

kitchen scaleNo, I didn’t get this in the alley, but it was on clearance at Bed, Bath and Beyond. It’s displaying 100 grams of Cascade 220 (to be used for felted slippers) that I wound and measured at the same time to test out my new equipment. The meter read 599 feet (just shy of 200 yards), but it could have been my faulty set up. Anyway, the scale is necessary for know how much my X yards of yarn weigh so I use the appropriate amount of dye.

I have some Kool-Aid and I have some Wilton icing dyes. This weekend, I dye…