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January 31, 2006

Olympic Dreams

I can't count the number of times I have said the following in a job interview:

I feel I am most effective when I am given challenging tasks and the opportunity to work on a team.

So why not extend that theory into knitting?

The Challenge
The Team

I posted my first entry today on the Team Boston blog. Here's the short version: I'm knitting a sweater. Oh, and I'm writing the pattern, too.

More to come once I've found my mind... which I've clearly lost!

Posted by shannon at 2:55 PM | Comments (1) | For related posts: For Me!, Olympic Knitting

Clapotis in Morehouse Merino 2-ply variegated (colorway: Indian Summer) (watch progress here!)

Posted by shannon at 12:35 PM | For related posts: Finished Projects

January 30, 2006

And I Was Doing So Well

Just when I'd really gotten on a roll with posting regularly (every weekday for eight in a row!), I lost my posting mojo late last week.

While I search for the errant mojo, please allow me to briefly distract you wilth a picture of a baby sweater!


I'm happy to report that this second attempt at the Last-Minute Knitted Gifts plackett sweater went much more smoothly than the first. The yarn is Jaeger Baby Merino in Yo yo (best colorway name, ever). It was knit at high speed for a baby whose arrival date was estimated to be Christmas, but had remained so modest during scans that her gender (and, by extension, yarn color choice) could not be determined until early December.

Of course, the sweater arrived in time for her due date, and the little monkey didn't arrive until January 5. That meant my poor friend, a card-carrying sweet-tooth who had been forbidden to eat sweets due to gestational diabetes, suffered through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's without so much as a cookie passing her lips. I'm sure those must have been the 10 longest days of her life. I'm also sure it was totally worth it.

Now, I'm off to find the mojo. Wish me luck!

Posted by shannon at 5:25 PM | Comments (4) | For related posts: Miscellaneous Small Projects

January 25, 2006

I'm Wondering...

It's Wednesday and I'm wondering:

What's the best reference book for beginning knitters?

A few weeks ago, a colleague and friend asked me to teach her how to knit. Her request led to a few other friend/colleagues asking as well, and before we knew it we had a semi-regular Saturday afternoon lesson and stitch-and-bitch thing going. Just last week C., the original and most enthusiastic new knitter, announced that she had taken a job in California and would be leaving Boston, our firm, and -- saddest of all -- our nascent knitting group.

She's expressed concern that she's going to run into problems with her knitting when she gets to Cali -- where she doesn't know any knitters. I want to send her off with a good reference book to help her through the next few weeks until she taps into the knitting mafia community in Sacramento* for help and advice.

So let's hear it -- what's the must-have book for beginners?

*And if you know anything about the knitting scene in Sacramento -- LYSs, knitting groups, etc. -- please chime in!

Posted by shannon at 8:44 PM | Comments (12) | For related posts: Wondering Wednesday

January 24, 2006

Asked & Answered

Tubular Cast Off
A pretty and stretchy cast off -- it's a miracle!

It will come as no surprise to most of you that the answer to last week's question (what's the best way to bind off a toe-up sock?) was the tubular bind-off.

In my own defense, I had tried it on this sock before throwing myself on the mercy of the blogosphere. At the end of the sock I dutifully pulled out my Knitter's Handbook, girded myself for Montse's somewhat (*ahem*) didactic style, and gave it a shot. Verdict? Too tight.

I now know that the problem was that the book recommended doing at least two rows of tubular knitting (k1, sl1 on one row, then sl1, k1 on the next) before the bind off. In retrospect, I'm sure the bind-off itself had been plenty flexible, but all those slipped stitches made the cuff too tight. When I consulted the links that people kindly left last week, I saw no mention of the pre-cast-off tubular rows.

Last night I gave it one more shot, this time knitting the 1x1 rib normally up to the cast-off row. I used this tutorial combined with what I already knew of grafting, and it worked like a charm. Now I can finish the second sock (I've been dawdling on it until I figured out the cast off) and chase away the winter grays with this fabulous turquoise colorway. Success!

Which reminds me...


In the midst of my sock-related euphoria, I signed up for Sockapaloooza -- my first sock exchange and my second knitalong in as many weeks. It's gonna be a busy February!

Posted by shannon at 10:56 AM | Comments (3) | For related posts: Sockapaloooza, Socks, Wondering Wednesday

January 23, 2006

Everybody Blog Now

And now for something totally different!

As I've mentioned before, my mother-in-law is an amazing quilter. I don't think that I've mentioned that in the last few years she's also picked up sketching and watercolors, too. Around the time that she was making our huppah, she joined the Everyday Matters Group. The group, which grew out of this weblog, has a weekly drawing challenge. It wasn't long before Shirley started asking Jason how hard it would be to create a blog where she could post her sketches and watercolors, and participate in the weekly challenges. The result was Paper and Threads, Shirley's very own weblog!

One of Shirley's sketches - click to go to the corresponding entry in her blog!

She's taken to the format like a natural, and routinely gets a number of very positive comments on her sketches, paintings, and fabric endeavors from fellow members of the Everyday Matters Group. So go check her blog out -- even if you're not into drawing, painting, or quilting, I think fiber lovers of all stripes will join me in admiring Shirley's amazing fabric room!

Posted by shannon at 4:30 PM | Comments (0) | For related posts:

January 19, 2006

Still Not a Race

I've been spending most of this week on Pam, and just doing a row or two on Zippy at the end of the evening. Last night, I took it off the needles and wrapped it around Jason's mid-section -- things look pretty good size-wise. This weekend, I'll be spending some time with the old calculator, since the raglan shaping and sleeves are coming up soon and my row gauge is -- as always -- a bit off from the pattern. I'm going to look at the instructions for the collar, too, since I've read that it looks a bit oversized for a guy when it's not standing up. Gotta get hubby's first handknit sweater right!

See those stripes? Good thing I'm alternating skeins!

There's a lot of theories about family size and birth order and their effects on personalities, but there is one thing that I now know for sure: only children crave the rivalry they don't get from siblings. How do I know this? Because despite being grown women reasonably resistant to childish impulses, when it came to knitting the Zip-Up Cardigans Alison and I -- both only children -- were off to the races faster than you could say "cast on 172 stitches". Like Alison's son B., we're both guilty of uttering the words "it's not a race!" when we're feeling like we might be a bit behind.

Repeat after me: it's not a race

Speaking of competition, I'm going to be an Olympian! (Holy Harlot that's a big knitalong. How big? There are SIX SEVEN Shannons on that list -- and I'm not on there yet!) I haven't decided what to knit -- I'm having trouble coming up with something that is both challenging and appealing. Maybe some more lace? A design of my own? Suggestions from the peanut gallery are encouraged!

Have a great weekend!

Posted by shannon at 5:22 PM | Comments (2) | For related posts: For Jason, Olympic Knitting, Zippy

Helping Hands

To those who offered suggestions on how how to bind-off my toe-up sock -- thank you! I'm going to try your suggestions this weekend, and I'll report back on the results next week.

There's been a lot of protesting from Alison regarding my progess on the zip-up cardigan race project coordination we're having. And since she's got smaller gauge, is planning the sure-to-be massive Sockapaloooza, is under the weather, and just scrapped an entire project... I figured I'd take it easy on her this week and focus on something(s) else.

One day while wondering the knitblog world, I stumbled upon this post over at Pepper Knits. She had knit Pam from Rowan 30 -- a pattern that calls for Rowan Wool Cotton -- in Debbie Bliss Wool Cotton. It just so happened that I'd been holding on to a bag of Debbie Bliss Wool Cotton for over six months waiting for the perfect project. Sometimes waiting pays off.


Reinforced with the knowledge that somebody else had done it before me, I charged ahead with the finer-gauge yarn. Halfway up the back, I started to really worry about running out. So I e-mailed Minty Fresh -- with whom I have had no previous contact, mind you -- and she responded quickly and cheerfully with some very good information, not to mention an offer to swap me some balls of yarn if she had the color I needed (unfortunately, I don't think she does). How helpful is she?!

I'm still pretty worried about running out of yarn, but I'm going to knit a sleeve next -- which will give me a good idea of whether it's doable or not. I'll be sad if it's a no-go, but I've been thinking about what fabulous knit I can make with the yarn if Pam doesn't work out. Having a good fall-back pattern is always a soothing salve for the wounded knitter!

Posted by shannon at 12:04 PM | Comments (9) | For related posts: For Me!, Pam

January 18, 2006

I'm Wondering...

It's Wednesday and I'm wondering:

What's the best way to bind off a toe-up sock?

I've been knitting more socks lately, and have had a few mishaps with estimating how long to make the leg before turning the heel. (I usually make the leg too short because I worry -- needlessly -- about running out of yarn; in the end I have a bunch of leftover yarn and a too-short sock.) These frustrations led me to try my first toe-up sock using Wendy's pattern. I loved knowing that I could maximize my yarn without scrimping on the leg length, but once I got to the end I was stumped: how was I going to bind this thing off without making it too tight to wear?

I tried a number of methods, and got the stretchiest result from the double crochet bind-off. The only problem was the floppiness of the bind-off edge. Look:

Artyarns Supermerino #132

Any words of the wise from committed toe-uppers?

Posted by shannon at 9:40 AM | Comments (5) | For related posts: Wondering Wednesday

January 17, 2006

Big Boomerang

I love this part.

Boomerang #1

Here we have Ceci, adorable in her Lottie sweater a little while back.


It looks a bit big in the picture, which is a good thing; last week T. (Ceci's mama) referred to Ceci as "my linebacker of a daughter".

Boomerang #2

In order to motivate myself a few months back, I took some finishing to Knitsmiths and announced that I wasn't going to knit a stitch until I seamed and buttoned the baby sweaters you see here. The top sweater in that picture (same pattern as Ceci's pictured above) was meant to be for my cousin's baby girl, but I was so behind that by the time I took it to Knitsmiths it was already going to be too small for her. In an effort to atone for my slacking-ness, I decided I would finish it up and donate it to Goodwill. While I was working on it, Knitsmith Claire persuaded me to let her take it to a craft show where she was going to be selling her scarves. I balked at first, but she promised me that if it didn't sell that she'd see it got to Goodwill. That sounded good to me.

A few weeks later I missed Knitsmiths because we were out of town. Mid-week, Alison told me she had something for me from Claire. I assure you that nobody was more surprised than me when she handed me this:

The fist time anybody's paid for something I knit! *sniff*

Posted by shannon at 9:19 AM | Comments (1) | For related posts: For Ceci, Miscellaneous Small Projects

January 16, 2006

We Dream On

"I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day out in the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interpostion and nullification; that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope.

This is the faith that I will go back to the South with.

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvacious slopes of California.
But not only that, let freedom, ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi and every mountainside.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, 'Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.'"

--Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
August 28, 1963
Washington, DC
(full text)

Posted by shannon at 11:55 PM | Comments (0) | For related posts:

All that Glitters

Last week was the kickoff of the annual Wild & Woolly sale, and this time I went prepared. I made a list ahead of time so that I wouldn't come home with WTF? yarn, and I would come home with yarn that matched my knitting plans.

At the head of the list: scarf yarn. Remember the fabulous variegated, sparkly, large gauge Gedifra Byzanz I picked up in Madrid? I've swatched, knit and ripped this yarn so many times I've nearly lost count. I know that I want to make a scarf out of it, but when I knit it at its proscribed gauge I just don't have enough yardage to make one. My current plan is to use some coordinating yarn to either stripe, hold together, or some combination therein.

At Wild & Woolly, I found some baby blue Zarella that matched the lighter sections of the variegattion perfectly. Excited to finally be making this scarf, I put aside Jason's cardigan and cast on. The verdict?


Don't like it. While the baby blue matches parts of the yarn perfectly, it's far too light when held next to the rest of the colorway. The longer I knit with them together, the more the baby blue started to look white next to the deep jeweltones of the Byzanz.

I ripped out the few rows I'd done, rewound the Byzanz into a ball, and set it aside. Looks like I'll be in the market for some darker yarn to make this scarf with.

But wait, what's that?

Sitting next to the Manos for Jason's sweater

Turns out the answer was right in front of me. Keep your fingers crossed that I'll have enough Manos left over to finally make myself this scarf!

Posted by shannon at 11:39 AM | Comments (2) | For related posts: For Me!, Miscellaneous Small Projects

January 12, 2006

Con Mis Propias Manos*

The rumors are true, Zippy has been resurrected! I knew I wanted to knit Jason this sweater, but even as the weather grew cold I just could not bring myself to go back to the Smart Superwash I started with last year. It felt too scratchy to me, and doubling it made for too stiff a fabric. Once I allowed myself to start considering other yarns, the solution was clear: Manos. It's the yarn the pattern calls for, the color selection is awesome, and -- to be honest -- Jason deserves fabulous yarn. Especially for his first hand-knit sweater!

Yarn for Jason's Sweater
Manos de Uruguay in Pewter (#64)

I dragged Jason to Wild & Woolly in Lexington, MA on New Year's Eve to pick out his color. He walked in, looked at the wall of Manos and almost instantaneously said "That one." Ah, to be a guy and decisive about garment colors.

Now I know that people in the Boston area -- including me! -- have mixed feelings about Wild & Woolly, but I went there because I knew they had a particularly wide selection of Manos. (And there is a limit to number of stores I can drag Jason to in one day.) They didn't have enough of the color he picked, so I ordered it. This is when I learned the real advantage to getting Manos at W&W: the Manos distributor is in Lexington, so I got a call the next day that my yarn was already in! Hurrah!

Yarn for Jason's Sweater
It's a super-skein! An uber-hank!

Has anybody ever received their Manos like this? It's 10 skeins, lashed together with three pieces of yarn. I wish I'd put something in that picture for scale, because it's an enormity of yarn. I was actually a little sad to take skeins out to start knitting. (A very little. It is Manos after all.) My only complaints? It catches and splits very occasionally on my needles, and the thick-and-thin took a bit of getting used to. But the color variation and general squooshiness of the yarn more than makes up for it. Yum.

Oh, and one more thing! Alison made me out to be some kind of knitting over-achiever, having arrived with four inches of work before she even started. What she graciously did not mention, however, is that on that very same night (after a long conversation on what "lightly blocked" means) I re-measured my work both with a measuring tape and around Jason's waist only to find that I had no choice but to rip it all out and start again with smaller needles (9s this time). I've done that, and am on the right track now gauge-wise... but I'm sure I've got some catching up to do!

*With My Own Hands

Posted by shannon at 12:04 PM | Comments (7) | For related posts: For Jason, Zippy

January 5, 2006

Christmas 2005: My One and Only

Isn't the variation between hanks amazing?

These socks were the one and only handknit gift I gave on Christmas Day. They're for Jason, made in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport in the Black Watch colorway. Black Watch plaid* has a special place in our family's Christmas tradition. Many years ago, my mother gave the family Black Watch plaid flannel pajamas as Christmas Eve gifts -- naturally, we all wore them that very night. Ever since, everybody wears their Black Watch flannel pjs for Christmas morning.

Jason and I were already engaged last Christmas, so my mother bestowed upon him his very own pair of Black Watch flannel pajama bottoms. Since this was his first Christmas as an official member of the family, I wanted to add something else. I managed to knit these socks without him knowing (thanks to the Knitsmiths, my office's cafeteria, and an unusually long hair appointment the day before we left town for Christmas!), so he was really surprised.

Unfortunately, they turned out a bit big so they are currently being reworked. No matter. I've got a year before it's Black Watch time again!

*Here I shall digress. My family is Scottish and I spent a semester there in college, so I've accumulated some general knowledge about tartans and clans and the like. While I was knitting these socks at Knitsmiths, lots of people were curious about the term Black Watch and the more I explained the more questions they asked. So here's my general primer on the Black Watch and its plaid (tartan).
The traditional blue, green and black tartan of the Black Watch.

The last great Scottish revolt against England was in 1745. After the Scots were defeated, the English took steps to pacify the wild Scottish Highlands, where both tartans and rebellion were most prevelant. Highlanders were forbidden to bear arms or to wear tartans or kilts, though Scottish military units loyal to the crown were exempt from these laws. The Black Watch was just such a force; made up of local clansmen to police the Highlands on behalf of the British. A popular theory claims that the regimental name comes from the darkness of its tartan, but nobody's really sure.

It wasn't a good time to be a Scottish Highlander -- "pacification" efforts by the British were brutal and many were pushed off their land. It's a bit ironic that Black Watch plaid is so popular among Americans (LL Bean, Lands End), some of whom are Americans only because their Scottish ancestors fled the brutal repression and starvation of the post-1745 Highlands for the New World. (Not to mention that the Black Watch fought on the "wrong" side in the American Revolution!) In any event, I'd bet it's the easiest tartan to find these days -- certainly easier to find than my own family tartan (seen here as a part of our wedding decorations). And today's Black Watch, now formally known as the 3rd Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Scotland, is very different from its 18th century ancestor. It has distinguished itself fighting in both World Wars and keeping the peace in places like the Balkans. From what I can tell, they are currently either back in the UK or doing a six-month tour with the UN peacekeepers in Cyprus after two tours in Iraq. And that's the current state of my knowledge on the Black Watch!

Posted by shannon at 1:33 PM | Comments (1) | For related posts: Christmas Knitting 2005, For Jason, Socks

January 3, 2006

Christmas 2005: Last Things First, Vol. IV

When I said I would be done the Christmas wrap-up by January 1, I failed to anticipate that we would be so unplugged this weekend that I would scarcely think about blogging. So I've given myself a wee extension, and hope to be done by tomorrow. Speaking of wee...

What a Difference a Year Makes

Christmas 2004
Christmas 2005

You might remember that last year's Christmas knitting had an last-minute addition when baby Sydney arrived a little bit early and a lot bit tiny. This Christmas she's a rambunctious chunk of a girl who is in the 95th percentile for height. Oh, and she started walking at 11 months. But that doesn't mean she's too big to get a hand-knit sweater from Auntie Gringa!

This year Syd's mom, Rachel, put in a request for a brown sweater with a pink heart for Christmas. I took it on the honeymoon, and finished it with time and yarn to spare. I've always thought this sweater would look adorable with a little denim skirt, so when I was trying to think of an appropriate accessory to make with the extra yarn the answer was obvious...

...Leg Warmers

The leg warmers were easy-cheesy, I basically used a sleeve pattern and added some ribbing at the top and bottom. And they came out so dang cute that I had to make sure that she had the full outfit. It just so happened the BabyGap had a denim skirt on sale in her size.

Syd's Outfit.jpg
I can't wait to see pictures of her in this!

Posted by shannon at 1:17 PM | Comments (3) | For related posts: Christmas Knitting 2005, For Sydney, Roll-Neck Heart Sweater

January 1, 2006

Pam from Rowan 30 in Debbie Bliss Wool Cotton (follow progress here) [Project retired]

Posted by shannon at 12:05 PM | Comments (0) | For related posts: