Time’s up

Today is my last day of medical leave. I’ve been off for six weeks and three days and I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to get back to my job.

What a disappointing week, to say the least. I should have been back to work last Wednesday, November 9, but I asked for a couple extra days when I last saw the surgeon. I knew I’d be up late watching the election returns and I wanted to be able to sleep in. Turns out it was a smart move in more ways than one.

Being in the Pacific Time zone, I didn’t have to stay up in the wee hours to see the general direction things were going. Election Night was also a knitting group night, and since we all wanted to watch the returns I invited people to my house. We started out happily enough at about 6:30 PM. As we watched the sea of red grow on the election map on PBS we got more subdued. When the results for Pennsylvania were posted we knew it was over.

I went to bed that night with 90% certainty that HRC lost the election, but I still had some hope. The next morning all doubts were resolved.

Since then I’ve been laying low. Partly because I’m depressed and distressed by the results, and partly because I’m relishing my copious free time while it is still available.

My recuperation from surgery has been pretty smooth, but despite spending so much downtime around the house I’ve managed to injure myself. Within a single week I whacked the baby toe on my left foot hard enough that I’m sure I broke it, and then misstepped in my driveway and sprained my left ankle badly.

(My left foot and ankle have sustained more injuries than any other part of my body. I first sprained that ankle when I was 10 and have lost count of how many times I’ve done so. The last time I injured that ankle was a fibula fracture two years ago. I got a ride to the local hospital for an x-ray just to make sure I didn’t fracture it again, and was happy to find out it was just another sprain.)

Since my mobility was restricted, I’ve been rather sedentary during the past six weeks. I watched a lot of streaming media. Read a few books. Completed the knitting, blocking, and sewing up of two sweaters. Made good progress on a third sweater, and restarted knitting on a little shawl that keeps confounding me when I check the stitch count.

I’m not sure if I’m mentally ready to resume work now or not, but that doesn’t matter at this point. I think I’ll go set the alarm now so I don’t forget.

A missed connection

Sometimes I spend too much time trolling around Craigslist. It’s almost like a nervous tic or something and is one way I sort of fill in time on conference calls that are not catching my attention.

I like to look at the different categories to see what sort of stuff is available (farm+garden and free are favorites since they feature so many things I envision uses for in the garden/yard), and just to see what the “market” is like for used items. After all, I have a few odds and ends around that I just may want to sell or barter some day soon.

One of my favorite sections to scroll through just for the hell of it is “missed connections.” The Chicago Reader has had this feature for years, too, but I don’t necessarily get a print copy of the Reader every week and I feel the need to look at the Reader stuff the old-fashioned way (in other words: not online). This is obviously not the case with Craigslist which is only available online.

These “missed connections” are often very sweet and touching. Here’s one I spotted today:

You were knitting and we made eye contact and smiled at one another as I got off the redline at loyola at around 8:50 this morning. I thought you were cute.

Awwww!

I like it because it is charming and not pushy, but also because it shows that knitters can too get noticed as objects of attraction and not “grannies.” Yep, amongst us knitters there are many that are “cute.” Here’s hoping this “missed connection” works out.

Rebel and revolt!

That’s what I’ve felt like doing a good part of the day. Why do I spend so much of my energy on work? I feel like I should be able to spend more of my time enjoying my life.

I started my day with a 5 AM call with my team in India and just ended it a few minutes ago when I sent my last email for the night. I’m supposed to be taking the day off tomorrow, but I’ll have to be checking email starting bright and early just to make sure that things are getting done.

I suppose I shouldn’t whine since I make good money and I *do* have a job, which can be considered a special thing these days.

I’ve thought of a hundred things to write about today, but then I lost them as I had to concentrate on other things. All I can remember is this: I’d like to run away this summer and go to Sock Summit.

Why not?

Leisure time

It started out as another bitterly cold day. Perfect for some guilt-free indoor leisure time.

Wanna guess what this is?

Nalbinding start
Here’s a hint: it’s the beginning of a needle-arts project. Another hint: no knitting needles are involved. Final hint: this fabric-making technique pre-dates knitting by at least several hundred years.

It’s my start to learning the ancient art of nålbinding. Today, the Windy City Knitting Guild sponsored a nålbinding workshop with Nancy Bush. There’s more fun to come this weekend as I return for sessions on Nordic Color, Estonian Traveling Stitches, and Vintage Socks.

Nancy has made it her personal mission to pass on these historical, ethnic knitting techniques that are in danger of disappearing. She’s also helping women in Estonia earn a living through their knitting by selling some of their handmade knitwear here in the U.S. for them, where they can get much better prices than in Estonia. I bought some of those items today, and will show them off when I get enough sunlight to take some good photos.

By the time I’m done with my workshops this weekend, the weather should be improved at least. I think we’re going to get temps in the 40s by Monday. Ah, it can be so interesting to live in the Midwest!

Focus, focus

I'm not exactly in the knitting blahs, but I am having trouble focusing considering all the projects swirling through my head. Here's a sampling:

Socks for Mark; socks for me. I typically only work on socks while commuting, with the exception of the tricky bits (turning the heel, setting up the gusset, or starting the toe), which I do at home. So, I've had this pair of socks for Mark on my needles since November. I'm finally on the second sock and working on the leg of this toe-up pattern. But, since my total knitting time per day on this sock is only about 40 minutes max, it's still going slowly. I can't wait until they're done, so I can start on another pair of socks for me!

Pillow covers. I really need some throw pillows in my living room. I bought pillow forms about a year ago and have some yarn in my stash that would make great pillow covers (a washable, wool-hemp blend, a superwash wool, and a washable cotton blend). I want them badly, but I'm not sure if I want them badly enough to bump them up higher on the project list.

Baby sweater. A guy I work with will be welcoming in his second child in just a few weeks. If I'm going to gift him with a sweater, I gotta get a move on.

Hat. Lillian (my MIL) saw my warm earflap hat and suggested that if I was thinking of doing a hat anytime soon, she'd love something that covered her ears. Winter will be over in just a couple months, so practically speaking, this needs to start soon, too.

Lampshade. Yeah, this sounds like a weird project, but it's one I'm trying out now. We have these table lamps we picked up at Ikea in the living room, and the cat went postal on one. The shade was just paper and it was totally wasted. However, it looked like it would be an easy knit to replace it. A simple tube, knit in the round in a combination of garter stitch and purse stitch. I started it last weekend before I had sorted out all the rest of these projects. Now I feel compelled to finish it. After all, the naked lamp is ugly at this point, and I hate letting things sit on the needles.

Sweater finishing. As I just said, I really hate to leave things unfinished, and I've had this one sweater sitting around awaiting final finishing for many months now. Now that I have a new "owner" lined up, I need to pick it back up and finish it.

Sweater starting. I so want to knit myself another sweater. There are several tempting patterns, and I've got plenty of nice yarn to play with. This is at the bottom of the list 'cause I'm sure it's not going to happen any time soon. But I can dream, right?

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Focus, focus

I’m not exactly in the knitting blahs, but I am having trouble focusing considering all the projects swirling through my head. Here’s a sampling:

Socks for Mark; socks for me. I typically only work on socks while commuting, with the exception of the tricky bits (turning the heel, setting up the gusset, or starting the toe), which I do at home. So, I’ve had this pair of socks for Mark on my needles since November. I’m finally on the second sock and working on the leg of this toe-up pattern. But, since my total knitting time per day on this sock is only about 40 minutes max, it’s still going slowly. I can’t wait until they’re done, so I can start on another pair of socks for me!

Pillow covers. I really need some throw pillows in my living room. I bought pillow forms about a year ago and have some yarn in my stash that would make great pillow covers (a washable, wool-hemp blend, a superwash wool, and a washable cotton blend). I want them badly, but I’m not sure if I want them badly enough to bump them up higher on the project list.

Baby sweater. A guy I work with will be welcoming in his second child in just a few weeks. If I’m going to gift him with a sweater, I gotta get a move on.

Hat. Lillian (my MIL) saw my warm earflap hat and suggested that if I was thinking of doing a hat anytime soon, she’d love something that covered her ears. Winter will be over in just a couple months, so practically speaking, this needs to start soon, too.

Lampshade. Yeah, this sounds like a weird project, but it’s one I’m trying out now. We have these table lamps we picked up at Ikea in the living room, and the cat went postal on one. The shade was just paper and it was totally wasted. However, it looked like it would be an easy knit to replace it. A simple tube, knit in the round in a combination of garter stitch and purse stitch. I started it last weekend before I had sorted out all the rest of these projects. Now I feel compelled to finish it. After all, the naked lamp is ugly at this point, and I hate letting things sit on the needles.

Sweater finishing. As I just said, I really hate to leave things unfinished, and I’ve had this one sweater sitting around awaiting final finishing for many months now. Now that I have a new “owner” lined up, I need to pick it back up and finish it.

Sweater starting. I so want to knit myself another sweater. There are several tempting patterns, and I’ve got plenty of nice yarn to play with. This is at the bottom of the list ’cause I’m sure it’s not going to happen any time soon. But I can dream, right?

Behold

I have finished the sweater!

Neckdown Wrap Sweater 

Neckdown Wrap Cardigan (#263) from Knitting Pure & Simple. Yarn used: Dream in Color Classy in color Good Luck Jade.

It seems like I’ve been working on this thing FOREVER. And I still need to block it (I think) in order to make the neck edging lay down completely flat.

Where do I start with explaining the challenges I had with this seemingly simple pattern?

I wanted to add waist shaping, but apparenly made this decision a bit late in the pattern. So, I ended up ripping back several inches in order to start at the right place (just after the underarm). Then I had to rip it back again when I realized I miscalculated when to start the increases again.

At this point, the “frog count” was 2.

After I finished the bottom garter stitch edging and cast off very loosely (using a loose cast off often used for lace: K1, slip stitch back to left needle, K2tog, repeat endlessly), I realized that the cast off was TOO lose. The bottom was sort of wavy. Hmmm…I’d fix that later.

Next, I picked up stitches for the first arm. Once I had finished all the decrease rounds, I tried it on. Hmmm…the arm seems kind of tight. I ripped it back.

The frog count is now 3.

My stitch gauge was spot on, so I decided to alter the decrease rounds a bit. Instead of knitting one round plain between the decrease round while do the initial decreases, I knit 2 rounds plain. I also decreased every 6th row, instead of every 5th row as called for in the pattern. The arm still seemed sort of tight at the top, but I was done with ripping on this sweater, so I just hoped it would feel a bit looser after wearing and/or blocking. If I made this again, I’d adjust the decreases again to be further apart, and I wouldn’t decrease as many stitches, either. 

I don’t have large upper arms, so this issue with the sleeve width stumps me. Anyone else have the same problem with this pattern?

I would have knit the sleeves about 1/2 inch longer if did this pattern again. Even though I tried it on, because the sleeves were so tight at the top of the arm it was hard to determine the best length very accurately.

After the sleeves, I made the i-cord ties. The pattern calls for very long i-cord ties. I made them the length called for, then I tried the sweaer on. They were way too long for my comfort, so I ripped them back several inches.

Now the frog count is 4.

Finally, I undid the bind off on the bottom, tinked back the garter stitch border, and re-knit it on the smaller needles (US 7). I bound off in my usual fashion: Lucy Neatby’s ingenious bind-off, which makes a decently stretchy bind-off for everything but toe-up socks.

Total frog count = 5

Is that bad for a hand-knit, custom fit sweater?

The fit is close and it accentuates my curves quite well, I think. However, I wish there was a bit more coverage on the back of the neck. Some short rows would have really helped there.

My final problem with this pattern was the yarn calculations. Even though the pattern said I only needed 1120 yards of yarn, I used a bit over 1250 yards on the sweater. I ordered a last minute skein from The Loopy Ewe so I could knit the i-cord in the same weight of yarn.

IF I had used my yarn extremely frugally (e.g. carefully left only the bare minimum length of tails needed to weave in ends) I may have been able to use only the original 1250 yards.

I guess that color name — Good Luck Jade — didn’t work it’s magic for me, eh?

But it looks great, doesn’t it? 🙂