Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Revisions and invasions

After my guests left town, I buckled down and finally finished the sample sock pair for the new self-published edition of Willow Tea Room. They're knit in Simply Socks Yarn Company SSY Solids in Lavender. As a result of switching to a thinner yarn, the pattern has been re-gauged, re-sized, and (of course!) re-edited; the new edition has three sock circumferences to choose from, and instructions for altering the foot length.

By the way, this is an absolutely terrific yarn. It's got three plies (and you know how I love a round yarn!), comes in an extensive color selection, and is put up in 50 g hanks so you can buy only what you need. And in spite of the name, they're not entirely solid-colored; there's just the tiniest bit of variation to add interest.

You only get this lame laid-flat photo for the moment because I need to find a model. For whatever reason, most of my local friends either have really small or really large feet. The socks fit me, actually, but there is not enough Photoshoppery in the world to make my legs presentable right now, what with the blackberry scratches, the insect bites, and the accompanying ankle swelling.

See, we live on a seven-acre plot, six acres of which is wooded. And I've declared war on some invasive species that have moved into it. Just for example, we have large canopies of Japanese honeysuckle vines on top of thirty-plus years of thorny old blackberry canes. For the last few months, I've been hacking down Bad Plants and piling them up to burn. Earlier this year, I had a glorious time setting fire to a giant stickery pile of brush in my driveway.

However, there's been a temporary ban on open burning here for weeks due to extremely dry conditions. (In case you didn't know, the lower midwestern United States is having a serious drought.) So now there are numerous piles like this one, waiting for rain.

By the way, I'm a disturbingly good firebug; this gray spot is all that's left of a pile twice the size of the one above, and I didn't use any accelerants except the match.

Oddly enough, the Honeysuckle Wars have turned out to be related to knitting. The large-motion, non-repetitive upper body exercise has been really good for preventing the return of my knitting-related shoulder pain. (Disclaimer: this is my personal experience only and should not be taken as medical advice. Consult a doctor before reading this blog.) And the fresh air, the improvement of the view out the windows from my workspace, and the satisfaction of doing something good for the ecology have all been great for my mental health.

Today, though, I'm taking the day off from playing Junior Forester to get ready for a short vacation, which will include meeting up with some Awesome Knitting People. I'll be taking along the stockinette sock project for social knitting. It's coming along much better this time around, although I may yet rip back and try a sockitecture experiment. (The yarn is Schoppel Wolle Wunderkleckse; isn't it pretty?)

And no, of course it isn't the only project I'm packing. Don't be silly. Time to wind some yarn.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wining + winding = whining

This is going to have to be brief because my in-laws have been in town until this morning, and I'm leaving for a trip this afternoon (for which I haven't finished the laundry yet). Let me be clear that a visit from my in-laws is a good thing (and I'm not just saying that because my father-in-law has been known to read my blog on occasion!).

My mother-in-law, in fact, is a knitter. She's not a rabid one, but she works on interesting projects and likes to learn new things, and she has wonderful taste. She's been fascinated by my knitting socks on two circs, and this time I handed her one in progress to knit on for herself, which she did with great success. Turns out we even have similar gauges!

Meanwhile, a large pile of Wollmeise grab bags arrived while they were here. She'd never seen Wollmeise before, and was really impressed with the saturated colors. I got two skeins of Birkenrinde, which she particularly admired, so I sent her home with one as a gift.

I took having company as a justified opportunity to knit a stockinette sock. I was going to show it to you because the yarn was knitting up in a particularly interesting way, but it'll have to wait. I had to rip it back from the beginning of the heel flap to the end of the toe last night, because I failed to count before beginning the straight section of the foot. Likewise, we went to hang some new curtains in the process of fluffing our house before company arrived, and I discovered I had only ordered half as many as I should have. (I do know what order the natural numbers come in, I swear!)

Also, here's the result of winding yarn after your dinner party of five consumes two bottles of wine. I didn't have the heart (or the lighting) to take a photo of the loops wrapped around the gears before I admitted defeat and got out the scissors.

On a (mostly) positive note, early last week, I did finish the shawl I was crocheting at the car dealership. And yes, there's a pattern in progress, although the stitch diagrams are giving me fits.

Monday, July 16, 2012

So about that ballwinder

I caved. I got tired of having to impose on my LYS to wind giant balls (like the Wollmeise Lace-Garn I mentioned in my last post, which comes in 1740 yd / 300 g hanks). And I'm a real big fan of using The Right Tool for the Job. So I ordered the Nancy's Knit Knacks heavy duty ball winder.

It took me a while to figure out where to put it (no, I didn't clamp it to the back seat armrest in my Subaru). It has much nicer clamps than my old Royal, so I wasn't worried about marring the surface of a good table; but most of the tables in the house have either a very shallow lip extending over a vertical panel, or a routed edge. And of course there has to be somewhere nearby to mount a swift. The kitchen island countertop worked great, but my family assured me that I couldn't leave it set up there.

I finally settled on a little bookshelf in my living room. Here's the whole yarn-winding setup, ready to go. The swift has to be taken down between uses because it's clamped to the table where we usually eat. That's my laptop in the background; this is also the table where I usually do any extended computer usage this time of year, since it has great light and a nice view.

The ballwinder is every bit as good a tool as I had hoped. Better, in fact, since it's much more versatile in terms of, mounting position than I realized. It came fully assembled except for the handle and even included the necessary nut driver in case I ever have to open the case to adjust or lubricate the inner works. It's well-designed for its function and well-crafted with a nice finish, so I'm happy to have it sitting out in my living room. The photo above is pretty much the last non-word on its usefulness.

Unfortunately, my swift doesn't work nearly as well. The screw that holds the clamp below the umbrella to the vertical post is wooden, including the screw threads, and some of the threads broke off. So it doesn't hold very well, and the umbrella has a nasty tendency to collapse mid-winding if I encounter a resistant spot. And of course, once a skein falls off the first time, it tends to have a lot of resistant spots.

Today I got fed up and consulted my household engineer. A woodworking clamp under the umbrella is pretty clunky, and orange, but very effective. And next time I go to the hardware store, I'll see if I can find a smaller, round clamp (perhaps in the plumbing department?) that will do the job.

By the way, speaking of using the right tool for the job: if you need to give your long-haired cat a lion cut, don't use your husband's beard trimmer. Just sayin.'

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

If I could just replace that cupholder with a ballwinder...

I had this idea in my head: "Mondays! I shall blog on Mondays, nothing ever happens on Monday." So of course yesterday I got to drop everything and drive to the far side of Indianapolis (about two hours away). But I came home with this:
I've been shopping since February to replace the old beater my husband totaled by driving it over a curb and down a hill into a tree ("But at least not into the creek, honey!"). He was actually still driving it, but the air conditioning went out on it last week, so the project became just a leetle more urgent.

Since I didn't drive on the way over, and the dealership insisted on making me wait while they washed my new used car (in spite of it being already cleaner than any car I'd driven in at least ten years), I also came home with this:

I got several rather long rows added to this shawl, which I'm crocheting from The Verdant Gryphon's Mithril. It's one of my very favorite laceweight yarns for crochet. In fact, here are some closeup shots of three I love. It's hot outside, so you get indoor shots, but they're in natural light, albeit from the skylight over my stovetop, with a cutting board for a backdrop.

Here's the Mithril; it's the only one of the three that hasn't been blocked, since I'm still working on the project, so cut it some slack.

This is Wollmeise Lace-Garn. It's a little heavier than Mithril. It's challenging to get your hands on this stuff, but it's worth the trouble. I've gotten most of mine from other Ravelers' destashes, actually, although once in a great while The Loopy Ewe gets some (it usually sells out within about twenty minutes), or sometimes I'm still awake at 2 a.m. here for the German website updates.

The lightest of the three is Lana Grossa Merino Lace. Lana Grossa isn't all that common in U.S. yarn stores, but not impossible to find either. I bought mine at a LYS in Indianapolis. And right now, with the exchange rate, it's possible to order it from Europe for about the same cost, even including shipping, as buying it at home. (That reminds me, I wanted to order some green...)

So what's so great about these yarns? The thing they all have in common is that they all have three or more plies, which makes them "round." With fingering weight yarns, there are a lot of round choices, but lace yarns are frequently two-ply. Sometimes the structure of two-ply yarn obscures the structure of the crochet stitch. This can be a good thing with very simple stitch patterns, but if I'm going to the trouble of designing complex new edgings (which I am), I jolly well want every detail to show up.

Monday, July 02, 2012


I know I haven't blogged in a long time, but as you can now see at the top of the page, I do tweet regularly, and have been for over a year. Apparently I have an attention span of about 140 characters. So if you don't yet follow me on Twitter, please do!

Meanwhile, I've spent the last year or so concentratedly acquiring useful skills for self-publishing. I've been fortunate to work with some of the very best publishers in the business, but what can I say, I'm a control freak. And I've discovered I really enjoy typography, graphic design, and layout.

I've attended two of Cat Bordhi's Visionary Authors retreats now, and yup, I've got a book project in the works. But since I plan to do my own book design and layout, I've been learning Adobe InDesign by developing a new single-pattern template. (You can see some of the design elements in my refreshed blog template, as well.) So here's what you can expect in the short term:

  • I'll be releasing a second edition of Oblique using the new template. Hopefully, if testing goes well, it will include a new, larger size. For those of you who've already bought this pattern through Ravelry, you'll get the update free. Having recently made a couple more pairs of these myself, I can happily report that the new template is also quite usable on an iPhone, for your paper-free mobile knitting.

  • I've got a new crocheted shawl pattern ready to publish except for the photography. Here's a teaser photo of Cremona (a.k.a. "Epic Flounce").

    I injured my shoulder from repetitive strain pretty badly late last fall, and couldn't knit for several months, but I could crochet. So you can expect quite a few more crocheted shawl patterns in the coming months. And after an ergonomic consultation with Carson Demers and weeks of physical therapy, I'm happy to report I also have two new sock patterns prototyped.

    Oh, and by the way, I discovered I haven't been receiving your comment notifications in a long time. My ISP got bought out by another ISP, and they changed my email address, and the comment notifications have been going to the former, now defunct address. So I promise I haven't been ignoring you.

    But right now, there is something very important I must go look at on the internet.