Monday, February 26, 2007

Question of the Day:

Excuse me. I just went to get a cup of hot tea (Irish Breakfast, in case you are interested, Jo). My husband asked me if I had a piece of string, and I laughed so hard, I poured a full cup of tea into the sugar bowl before I realized it wasn't a cup.

"Do you have a piece of string?"

String? In this house? That's like asking Clint Eastwood if he has any guns.


What kind of string? How many wraps per inch? What color? What fiber content?

"Plain thin white string like for wrapping a package."

Oh, okay. Yes, I have that too.

Snort. Okay, I've collected myself. I have also rinsed out the sugar bowl and plonked it in the dishwasher. Good thing it didn't have much sugar in it. Hate to waste, you know.


--Mambocat

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Before we get on
to knitting:


This is what my husband wants to eat for breakfast.

Purina Clown Chow.




















Granted, Dave is old enough to know better, and it is his birthday today, so he can eat whatever he wants. But he also eats this when it is not his birthday.

And since it is his birthday, he gets birthday socks, fetchingly modeled by our eldest, Tessie ...



















Among other things, Dave's birthday adventures will include the Traditional Annual Birthday Bookstore Splurge. As a knitter, I feel privileged to be married to a Pisces man who does not fear the judicious use of color. And yes, you have seen socks very much like these on this blog recently. Dave saw mine and wanted a pair of his very own in the exact same colors. Who am I to refuse?

Y'all, it is already spring today, and while I am sure some of you folks in Toronto and Yonkers and maybe even in Patagonia might envy us, it's disturbing for me to have spring arrive before St. Patrick's Day. Not because I don't like spring. But in South Louisiana, winter is short enough already as it is, and the early arrival of spring does not herald an extended season of lovely spring weather. It merely portends the early onset of summer, when sun is the enemy.

Granted, the leaves have not unfurled on the critical trees which officially usher in spring -- not even a blush of green on the cypress and crepe myrtles -- so I can cling to the hope of another cool front or two. But the Japanese plum, redbud trees, red clover and other flowering things are starting to get busy.

Birthday socks for Dave were completed on time, but due to a screw-up on the part of the cable-internet people, I only got Mom's sweater finished up to the joining of armpits and sleeves.


Whoops! Sorry! Moms don't have armpits. Especially Southern moms. I meant to say, "lower armholes."

Mom got an IOU on the nearly done sweater and received other goodies for her birthday. She turned 39 again, by the way (it always amazes me how much younger than me my mother is). I was also tickled that my dear cousin Andrea could join us for Mom's birthday dinner. Andrea was one of the first victims ... er, I mean recipients ... of my knitterly adventures back when we were kids.

I should be able to finish Mom's sweater this weekend, allowing for the vagaries of the weather and the cable-internet people. There just might be one more cold front in store for us, so she may have a chance to wear it once or twice before next winter. We shall see.

"Wait a dadgum minute," you say. "And don't try to distract me with all that drivel about armpits and the weather. How are the cable-internet people responsible for you not finishing Mom's sweater on time? "

Simple. When I went to babysit my new office space and wait for the cable-internet guy to show up, I brought only Dave's unifinished second sock, which had only half a foot and the toe to go. I should have been wise enough to recognize the sort of Bad Cable Installation Karma that I was invoking by not taking Mom's sweater-in-progress along as well, and of course, as we all know, when the cable dude says he'll be there "sometime" between 9am and 6pm, he shows up at 5:15.

And the sock was finished by ten.

If I had brought along Mom's unfinished sweater, that would have allowed me the excuse of several uninterrupted hours of internet-less time at my office, in which I could have knitted the yoke of Mom's sweater, but no. I found myself with finished socks, and unable to run out for Mom's sweater, because if I did, of course, that would be the exact moment the cable guy chose to arrive at my door, and I would have missed him. Thus is the capricious nature of the Cable Internet Goddess as she directs her minions.

So instead of knitting the yoke of Mom's sweater, I found myself doing what work I could manage in a halfway-moved-into office: unpacking file boxes, throwing away outdated materials, that sort of thing.

Since my office has been what's distracted me from my blogly and knitterly duties for the past couple of weeks, I'll bring you up to date. I finally found some affordable office space for the purpose of grant-writing, meeting and planning for a low-cost spay and neuter clinic in our city. Our goal will be to provide at-cost spay and neuter services, caregiver education, and to create a client relationship with the caregiver of a freshly sterilized pet and the veterinarian of their choice, for the pet's ongoing health needs.

I will be going through the 501 (C) 3 process -- for my international readers, that means I will be generating prodigious amounts of paperwork to convince the U.S. Internal Revenue Service that we are indeed operating a humane services clinic and not laundering money for the Mafia, although I could probably afford to spay a whole lot more animals if I were.

I am sub-leasing office space from a nice massage therapist who has an extra space in her suite. We share a waiting room, restroom and break/copier area. Exept for the scary peach-and-teal drapes, it's a pleasant space, centrally located, and convenient for the other people with whom I must meet over the next several months to get this project off the ground. The best part is, the rental is month-to-month, as I hope we will soon be able to move our operations into a proper vet clinic as funding and equipment manifests.

I suspect that my office space is having a bit of an identity crisis, because the landlord, who was the prior occupant of this space, was a prodigious Mary Kay distributor (she even left a pink couch in the waiting area), who recently retired. After so many years of Mary-Kay-coordinated pinkness going on in there, my room is suddenly full of file boxes and folding tables and pet supplies and a motley crew of people scurrying about in humane society T-shirts and scarcely a shred of makeup in sight.


I hope the office doesn't mind too much.

More soon. I have a birthday dinner to get ready.

--Mambocat

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Only eleventy-thousand,
three hundred and
eighty-four stitches to go.


I spent last night on the windy plains of Upper Nerdlandia, watching the SciFi Channel on cable TV and knitting away like mad on my Mom's birthday sweater. This is where I am on the body:































Bwahahahahahaha!

Oh ye of little faith. Not only do I believe in fairies, I believe in wormholes, too. Time isn't linear, or so says my soul-sis Leef. Especially on Mardi Gras weekend. I am fretting because it seems that the entire population of south Louisiana is not at their workplaces from Saturday through Wednesday morning, so I have been put on a sort of involuntary hold from getting any significant earning-money sort of work done. This situation does, however, provide ample kntting time.

I am disgruntled with the color quality in this photo. I have learned that I can get a certain amount of stitch definition and something besides glaring, blazing, neon redness if I pose red garments against this sage green blanket. But the background does something to make the red warmer, more russet in color than it actually is. This yarn is actually more of a ruby color than it looks in the picture (at least on my monitor). Someday I really, really promise to go to a digital photography class and simply ask, "RED. What the hell is going on with RED already?"

I've been absent from the blog ... and for this I apologize sincerely. I could say that I was abducted by aliens or something, but in fact I have spent the last few weeks moving into new office space and having some extra memory and a wireless card added to my notebook computer.

Please do not ask me what sort of techie stuff the darling young lad at CompUSA installed in my notebook. I am one of those people who is ever-so-politely referred to as an "end user."


Being an "end user" means I think HTML is short for, "Hate The Miserable Laptop."

It means that I need point-click-and-drag programs.

It also means that when the shiny machine offends me, I simply drag it to CompUSA, invoke my Instant Three-Year-Old Superpower and say, "Waaaaaah! Computer slow! Sob! Computer don't work at coffeehouse! Waaaah! Make computer fast!"


I am also being a three-year-old because everyone else in the world except me (and possibly Jo in West Cork) is at Stitches West.

Hi Lisa, hope you're having fun!

So since I can't quite use my new office until Wednesday, I am on a mission: Dave's socks and Mom's sweater, to be done for their respective birthdays, by Friday.

Yes, I am surrounded by Pisceans.


Oh, what did you say? What yarn is that? It's a yarn I scooped up on massive discount at Michael's awhile back. It's been marinating in my stash for awhile. The yarn is "Dublin" from their "Passports" yarn selection, which I think has been discontinued. It's a heavy worsted/light bulky 51% wool, 49% acrylic, machine washable on gentle. Works up at 3.5 st./inch on size 11 needles, which is as big as I go.

My apologies for the long absence. I'll try to make it up to y'all. I am also trying to stunt blog for Joan Hamer while she is in hospital.


--Mambocat

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Garter

On one of the knitting lists I subscribe to, there was a recent discussion of Sally Melville's Einstein Coat, its use of garter stitch, and the various results achieved by different knitters. Several people reported droopy results.

I am afraid that these were the people who did not swatch.
















The Einstein is designed specifically to counteract the effect of gravity on garter stitch -- and it holds up quite nicely in real life. The pattern also says quite clearly that it is absolutely essential to get the correct gauge. Thus, it is essential to swatch.

I strongly suspected (and this was confirmed by some individual correspondences) that the disappointed knitters either chose an incompatbile yarn or failed to get exact gauge, or both.

Among those who admitted not bothering to get precise gauge, the most common argument was, "but it's only garter stitch."

There is no such thing as "only garter stitch."

When I went to Stitches West last year, I wore a simple serape to the classes and yarn market one day, and I received what most people would have thought to be an exceedingly odd compliment from a number of hard-core knitting people, including both Rick Mondragon and the Xenakises:

"You do very good garter stitch."

I did not think this odd.

In fact, I was delighted to get such a fine compliment from the sponsors of Stitches and some of my other knitting gurus, like Lily Chin. The same people had also commented on my cables and lace the previous days, but I figured that they were mostly being gracious, and that they fussed over everyone's work to be supportive and encouraging. But having such people notice your garter stitch is something else entirely.

I suspect that most people would think this is an uremarkable thing to get excited about being complimented on, because garter is the first thing we learn, and so we may assume it is the easiest thing to do, and not worth giving serious consideration. Surely we must be on, and quickly, to the business of knitting a beaded Orenberg shawl, or a show-stopping cape with intarsia cables using Bohus techniques, with shadow-knitting in the background panels and enough colors to make even Kaffee Fasset run out of crayons, shouldn't we?

But good garter stitch is the basic. Garter is to knitting what breathing is to yoga.

Garter stitch is the first and most basic thing taught a new knitter, but, contrary to popular belief, "basic" does not mean "simplest."

"Basic" means "essential."

The base of any object is its foundation.

Garter stitch follows all the rules of texture knitting. Just as you would ordinarily choose a firmly twisted, robust yarn to showcase textures, you often need a similar yarn to make garter stitch sing.

You also need to store garter (and all other knitted items) in the folded state, not using hangers for storage, and not even leaving your garment hanging off the back of a chair overnight.

Garter stitch can be glorious if you choose the right yarn (an elastic, firmly plied yarn in most cases) and if you pay attention to both the yarn manufacturer's recommended gauge and the gauge called for in the pattern.

If the yarn manufacturer recommends that paricular yarn to be knitted at five stitches to the inch, and it's worsted weight ... and your pattern calls for worsted weight at four stitches to the inch, do not knit that yarn at 4 stitches to the inch in garter st. and expect good results -- you will not get them.

You will, however, get droopy garter stitch.

How many of you faithfully compare the recommended gauge of the yarn manufacturer to the gauge in the pattern, or do you just look at "worsted weight" on the label and figure that one worsted will do as well as another?

Hmmm .... (squinting toward the rear of the auditorium...) I don't see too many hands.

What about swatching? Do you swatch to make sure you are getting the correct gauge?

What's that I hear? "I don't need to swatch ... it's only garter stitch?"

I have a lovely Brie to go with that whine.

Sorry, but you still are best advised to swatch, and hang it up from a skirt hanger overnight, and regard it in the morning, and then wash and block it, and then let that hang overnight, and measure and regard that. Compare your results. Repeat until desired result is achieved.

I know washing the swatch sounds like a pain the the tookas, and it is. But you do want to know how your yarn will wash, and you do want to know how the resulting fabric will look, and behave, after washing.

You do not want to knit an entire garment and discover, far too late in the game, that the yarn runs and the fabric grows after washing.

Nobody can force you to swatch. It's not a law. But it is best practice. And it is knitting.

You do like knitting don't you? Then don't think of the swatch as an obstacle to remove before you begin your main project.


Just think of it as more to knit.

If you still want to use that yarn in your pattern, you may need to go down a needle size or two, and make your pattern adjustments accordingly, or simply knit the next size up, after you have swatched and measured and calculated and compared results.

On the yarn itself: in any given pattern, you are usually best advised to use either the recommended yarn or another yarn very much like it, that is, a subsitute yarn with very similar construction (number of plies, number of wraps per inch, firmness of twist) and similar behavioral attributes (weight, fiber content, drape). Don't expect comparable results if you substitute Icelandic unspun roving for a four-ply heavy worsted.

The trick is knowing your yarn, swatching, and otherwise respecting your garter stitch. Go down a needle size (or more) if you need to, especially if you wish to use a loosely spun or un-spun yarn. But do your homework. I know this sounds a tad preachy ... but .... um .... well ... it is.

But not in a bad way.

--Mambocat

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