on knitting and healing and other stuff

Finishing School

Posted by Janis on March 17, 2008

In a flurry of activity over the weekend, I have some progress to share on a couple of fronts. First, the Weekend Getaway Satchel is seamed up: not finished, mind you, but the seams are done, so it is in one piece. Pretty exciting! Still quite a lot of finishing to do on it, though — sew the metal frame in the top, sew the straps on, put the feet on and the board in the bottom. Oh, and I do so want to line it. Line it AND put some kind of pockets in the lining, because the thing is so big. Have I mentioned that I have no sewing skills? I’m trying to learn to use my mom’s excellent machine (a Necchi, for those in the know), but have just had a rather humbling experience involving a needle roll I was trying to make. Such pretty fabric, too…

Anyhow – I did finish the Halfobi sweater on Saturday. Seamed it, put the crochet edging around it – even the sleeves!, and properly wet-blocked it. It dried in time for me to wear it today. Many compliments — I love that part of knitting! Here it is: halfobi.jpg

Specs: The pattern is “Halfobi” by Ivete Tecedor, available at It’s very well-written and a really fun knit. I did mine in Silk Garden, color 213, and it took nearly 8 skeins because I added an inch in length. I think you could do it up in just about any light worsted weight yarn — my gauge was 5.5 stitches to the inch on US 6’s. I used an “F” crochet hook for the edging and added it around the sleeves, too.


Posted in On the Needles | 6 Comments »

To Cut or Not to Cut?

Posted by Janis on February 28, 2008

dcirabbitscissorsblue.jpgShall I trim the pieces of the satchel tonight and try to sew them together? Do I have the guts, the nerve, the cahones to do the job — and do it right? Or shall I just knit serenely on with the newly-cast-on Halfobi cardigan, leaving to another day the bigger issues of measuring and cutting and not ruining a project that’s worth $100 of yarn and hours of my life that I’ll never get back no matter what? Maybe it would be better to cut with natural light. Maybe it’s better to do it in the light of day. Maybe I’m just not ready to cut yet. (And these aren’t even steeks, for Pete’s sake.) I’m pretty sure if I had some of these cute bunny scissors I’d be just fine…

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Late to the (Silk) Garden Party, Think I’ll Stay

Posted by Janis on February 22, 2008

I may be the last knitter in North America to actually knit with Noro Silk Garden. I’ve been hoarding had a big bunch of it for quite some time now, thanks to one of Sue’s amazing sales at, and last night I felt inspired to cast on. When I bought it, I weighed 40 pounds more than I do now and was planning on making the Bettna cardigan with it, which is a long, covers-all-sins sweater. Now that I’m healthier, I wanted a less shrouded look. So the other night when I was poking around on Ravelry (yes, I do spend entirely too much time there – do not speak of this to me again – when it is less polar, I will go outside and play) – where was I? – oh yes, I found the “Halfobi” sweater. It’s a kind of shrug/bolero hybrid that just looks fantastic knitted up in Silk Garden. I’m going to make mine a bit longer than bolero length, so it doesn’t do one of those dreaded ski slope off the chi-chi’s effects… Ick!

I had made using this lovely yarn one of my 12 goals for the “Mission Possible” group I’m in at Ravelry, and after a snow day yesterday mostly spent felting the other pieces of the satchel from hell, I was ready for a change. And what a change! From knitting doubled-up strands of scratchy ol’ Lopi (love ya, Lopi, but you know you’re scratchy, man!) – the last bit all in black heather, no less — I turn to soft and delicious Silk Garden. Every row changes color slightly and every few rows I’m in new color entirely. A perfect antidote to Lopi. Will post in-progress pix when I’m further along than 3.5″ on the right sleeve.

Posted in In the Stash, On the Needles | 3 Comments »

Special Kay

Posted by Janis on February 18, 2008

special-k.jpgToday is my oldest and dearest friend’s birthday. Kay and I have been friends for more than 30 years, having cemented our acquaintance over bleeding fingers, stuffing Kleenex flowers in chicken wire on the Latin Club float for the JCHS Homecoming Parade 1974.

I’m not even sure Kay herself knows all the ways she’s influenced my life and who I am today, but her influence has been profound. Her intellectual curiosity has always spurred me on to challenge myself to learn more, about anything really — from foreign languages to cooking to knitting to cars. Yes, cars — Kay just emailed me a blog post about a ’72 Capri, asking, “Wasn’t this Corey’s [my brother’s] car?” Kay’s father is Chinese, so hanging out at her house meant learning to eat with chopsticks way before the average Jefferson City person, not to mention yukking it up over the impossible English translations in Chinese cookbooks — Roasted Milk Egg Towers, anyone?

Her sense of humor is keen and her memory practically photographic, so she’s the perfect person to riff on Monty Python sketches with — or Mel Brooks movies or “Fawlty Towers” — or the most recent selection from Netflix. Kay’s not all retro, oh no — the girl keeps up.

A few years ago, we went to “Sing-along Sound of Music” together, and who else could have created costumes that won us 3rd place against such tough competition as a couple dressed as a mountain range (as in “Climb Ev’ry”) and a plethora of cross-dressing nuns? Only Kay would have thought of AND created a series of “Favorite Things” costume pieces: the schnitzel with noodles necklace made of Fimo schnitzels and strung with real noodles I still have and treasure.

We took up pipe-smoking for a brief moment one summer, trying to be as cool as a French AFS student I was enamoured of at the time. Our mothers put the kabosh on that little activity, once they realized we were seriously shopping for pipes at the K-Mart. We double-pierced our ears way before it was really popular, but we did it with self-piercers. (Now that’s like having a blood pact in and of itself.) Kay came to rescue me when a relationship blew up in my face when I was living and acting in Omaha, Nebraska. I was her maid of honor and she was mine. She named her second daughter after me, which is about the coolest thing that has ever happened to me. In recent years we have supported each other through some pretty horrific times, and though I wish we hadn’t had to, I don’t know what would have become of me if she hadn’t been there.

Happy Birthday, Kay — you are the specialest Kay there could ever be. Lots of X’s and O’s to you…

(In the photo above, Kay is on the right, I’m on the left. I know, I know — the eyebrows! The perm! It was 1979 or something… One of my favorite things is when people think we’re sisters (Kay’s just the sister with better taste in eyebrows and hair).

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

And then, things got hairy…

Posted by Janis on February 17, 2008

What have I done?!! My creation is now a very hairy, wavy mess. I’ve read that people shave felted items, but I’ll need to take this to the groomer we take our Newfie to, and take the electric clippers to it. I think the color stuff turned out OK, pretty much like the IK picture, if I could only see it for the shag… I am worried about the puckery aspects, however. Maybe I can steam it flatter when it dries? And finally — it is still really BIG, and to trim it, I’ll probably have to cut off some of the colorwork that took me 5,000 hours to do. Gak. I need to go lie down for awhile, until I regain my equililbrium…felted1.jpgfeltedcu.jpg

Posted in On the Needles | 7 Comments »

Felting Today…

Posted by Janis on February 17, 2008

Wish me luck — I’m taking the plunge today. Well, the front of the Weekend Getaway Satchel is taking the plunge — I’m felting it today. Here’s a couple of “before” pictures:satchel-prefelt-front.jpgsatchel-pre-felt.jpg

And before you faint at the sight of a piece of knitting clipped to a skirt hanger — I would never do that if I weren’t felting it. It’s gonna be agitated within an inch of its woolly little life anyway. And I only clipped it up to photo it. I’m having second thoughts about felting it — I haven’t finished the back panel yet, maybe I’ll just keep it this way and wear it as a skirt…

Anyway — I’m very nervous about felting this, not because of the knitting, but because of the interminable EMBROIDERY. If it looks like hell, there’s no going back after felting. And I know I will not be willing to reknit another front. EVER. Under any circumstances. No. Not an option. Nuh-uh. No how, no way. What I’m trying to say here is that I did not enjoy taking up the embroidery needle after a 30-year absence. I was quite a prolific embroiderer in my youth (60’s-70’s, what can I say? Well, “embroidered work shirt” would just about sum it up, I think. And “embroidered overalls,” “embroidered jeans,” and the unfortunate memory of a gauze Western shirt that my uncle wanted embroidered with the Eagles’ logo skull… Oh dear…) My dear friend Kay is really wonderful at the stuff and I considered asking her if she would do the embroidery for this bag for me, in exchange for a lifetime supply of moon cakes or winter melon cakes from the Chinese bakery here, or whatever she likes… But then I got all muley on it — “I must do it myself! It is myyyyyyy CRREATION! (think Gene Wilder in “Young Frankenstein” here).

I will let you know if my creation is worthy in a little while. Or if it is so evil that it must be destroyed…

Posted in On the Needles | 6 Comments »

Socks Need to Get Gauge, Too

Posted by Janis on February 7, 2008

Though this little sock gauge epiphany thing dawned on me a while ago, it’s taken a little time and healing to be able to speak of it publicly. It is so amazingly idiotic that it’s hard to admit. Let me preface the story by saying that I am a swatching kind of knitter. I may not do a very big swatch, but I do swatch. Always. Except for socks. Because, you know, I knit socks on #1 Addi’s, 2 circ’s, and that’s that. I’ve made 7 pair of socks that way, in different sock yarns, for different people, and they’ve all fit just fine, thank you very much. Because when I knit socks, I do ’em on #1 Addi’s, 2 circ’s, and it works. Period. End of story. (OK, OK, I confess: I’ve never even CONSIDERED swatching for socks once my first two pair fit. The thought never even crossed my mind.)

So two Christmases ago (’06), I was knitting Trillian’s brilliant “Capt. Jack Sparrow’s Favorite Socks” for Orestes. Pirate socks, how great is that? Stranded colorwork – OK, it’s for the center of my universe, I’ll do it. And it was fun watching the little skulls appear and seeing how nice and even my stitches looked. When I got to the heel turn, I had him try the first one on, being a little nervous about the floats being loose enough. He struggled and pulled and yanked and finally got it over his heel. Obviously it was too tight. So I thought, well, I’ll just turn it into a wristband or something. He can wear it when he plays music. And I’ll start all over again, this time using the yarn recommended in the pattern instead of the basic striped stuff I’d used the first time.

Fast forward to Christmas ’07. I have the Lorna’s Laces Black Purl, I’m ready to go. These are gonna be AWESOME! Orestes helps me wind the yarn in the Denver airport (I forgot to wind it at home before we left) and I get half the pirate pattern done the first day. They look fantastic – I’m using both hands, one with each color, and it’s getting a little smoother, and the stitches look so nice and even. I check obsessively for signs of puckering or pulling – none! The next day I finish the pattern part and am ready to start the heel. I blithely offer the sock top to Orestes to try on. He’s delighted with the new improved colorway and can’t wait to try it on. Except — it won’t GO on. Waaay too tight. Too tight?! But my floats are PERFECT, there’s no puckering, the little skulls look amazing – how could this be??? I immediately accuse my love of having swollen feet from all the air travel. No, he assures me, they’re really fine. What the hell?! What the —-

pirate-socks-gauge.jpgAnd slowly, sickeningly, the truth begins to dawn on me. In slow motion, I reach for my measuring tape. I lay it on the new, perfect, pirate sock top. The gauge is 8.5 stitches to the inch. Frantic now, I grab the pattern and read, “Gauge: 7 st to the inch, on size 2 needles.” 7 to 1″ on a 2. Not 8.5 to 1″ on a 1. But I’m a loose knitter! I NEVER use the size needles in the pattern! I ALWAYS go down at least one size!!! Until now…

When we got home from the in-laws, I put the first sock top to the same test. 8 stitches to the inch. Still waaay off. Fortunately, Orestes is half-full kind of person, so he immediately stated that he’d rather have pirate fingerless mitts than socks anyway. He’d use them a lot more, he said. (Now you know why our marriage has lasted happily for nearly 13 years.)

And because I’m a half-full kind of person, too, and an incurable Pollyanna to boot — I took comfort in at least knowing that it wasn’t bad technique on the stranding, just plain stupidity. It’s also kind of a thrill to know that if I decide to knit these ever again – or to make the 2nd mitt – that it’ll go a helluva lot faster at 7 stitches to the inch, rather than 8.5. Ahhhh, nothin’ beats making some lemonade…

Posted in On the Needles | 8 Comments »

Knitterly Things

Posted by Janis on January 27, 2008

My reward for a busy day yesterday (striking a show and rehearsing another show) was an evening of knit-minded things. Not just knitting, per se, but ball-winding (6 skeins – whee!), end-weaving, AND four rows of (*&^%$!) intarsia. All of this kicked off by a stop at a LYS, where I bought the needles I THOUGHT I needed for the next project (and why would a LYS not have a copy of the current IK so I could check??). Of course, I bought the wrong size – too short on the cables, the diameter is fine. They don’t allow returns on needles, so I’m kinda screwed. What will I do with 12″ Addi’s in sizes 1 & 2? Anybody out there – speak up if you need these needles! I suppose I could use them to make fine-gauge baby hats, but I don’t really do much baby knitting. I’m going to call them today and see if maybe just once they’ll let me swap for the 16″ ones. (I really did think those needles seemed very short, but I was determined… and wrong.)

So here’s the clean-up, woven-in bag beginning: tidy-endings.jpg I feel better about it now that I can see what the hell is going on back there, but what a pain and I didn’t even weave them in very much, just the bare minimum for the felting. Next, fun with the swift and ballwinder. Here’s the Harrisville New England Shetland, ready to begin the Ivy League Vest, when the bag is finished: harrisville-new-england-shetland.jpgDo you hear me — I said “finished” — even though I swatched a bit last night for the vest… It will take me the rest of my adult life to do that vest — but I’m sure I will learn many truths about Fair Isle knitting in the process. I already know I like it so much more than (*&^%!) intarsia, so it’ll seem like a breath of fresh air, I’m sure. And I’ve been practicing the two-handed method of carrying the 2 colors, so that’s getting a little less clumsy.

Finally, this morning I decided that the pile of knitting books and magazines on my nightstand and the nearby bookshelf in our bedroom was getting a little out of hand. I piled everything up (except the Yarn Harlot – those stay) and carried them downstairs, where I took this picture. knitbooks.jpg
Even Harry Houdini is astonished at the pile. The knitting bookshelves are groaning again under the weight of their returned comrades, and I feel like a new woman. (But I gotta get rid of some of these books — like the ones I know I’ll NEVER make anything from, for instance…)

Posted in On the Needles, On the Nightstand | 6 Comments »

Intarsia Insanity

Posted by Janis on January 25, 2008


Does this look like fun? I ask you — please, reply honestly. Would you relish weaving in all these *&^%$ ends? Put another way: how badly do I really want this bag?

Answer: I REALLY want this bag, which is the Weekend Getaway Satchel (IK Fall ’05). It’s been on my list for ages, last summer one of my LYS’s was clearing out their Lite Lopi so I got most of the yarn on sale, and here I am… knitting INTARSIA that will then be felted AND have a whole host of finishing items required, some of which require POWER TOOLS. The base requires a piece of masonite which will need to be sawed to fit, and I presume I’ll have to attach the soigné little handbag feet with a drill. A DRILL. At which point this project will no longer have anything to do with knitting, but will be some sort of perverse combination of home ec. and shop class, neither of which I bothered to take in high school.

In a slightly more optimistic view of things, here’s a pic of the finished pieces (base and one strap – 8’+ of glorious stockinette) and the intarsia front in progress:

My big plan is to weave in the ends every 20 rows or so, to avoid losing my mind completely at the end. I’m glad that I generally don’t leave projects languishing, because this one would likely get shoved in a bin and forgotten forever. I am determined, however — I will finish this bag. And like it.

Posted in On the Needles | 6 Comments »

First FO’s of ’08

Posted by Janis on January 25, 2008


Spurred on by the Ravelry Stash Knit-down Group and its “Knit A Mile in January” Challenge, I’ve finished my first projects of the year (short trumpet fanfare here). I did the Fairly Easy Fair Isle from “Stitch n’ Bitch Nation” that’s been hanging around for a year and a half (yarn & everything – I had the pattern in mind for a year before that). It was a quick and easy knit in the Lamb’s Pride Bulky and I’m pretty pleased with it — after tidying up my crummy-looking buttonholes, that is. I decided to be really thorough and knit up the end of the black LPB by making a matching hat, and ended up going through the end of some Valley Berkshire (doubled) I had around, AND some Patons Classic Merino (doubled) in order to finish the thing. Luckily, the blacks match very well and it’s not too obvious where one yarn stops and the second begins – or the third, in this case. Best of all, I have lightened my stashload of about 900 yards of yarn — woo hooo!

While working on the sweater, I also started the base for the Weekend Getaway Satchel, for a little mindless knitting I can do while supervising rehearsals. I’ll finish up that piece today and start on the fun part — the intarsia front of the bag. If I can finish this project this winter, I’ll have all sorts of room in my yarn bins. That sucker takes almost 2 miles of yarn! (Ahhh, nothing like felting for eating up yarn.)

All this bulky-gauge knitting makes me yearn to get back to lace knitting or to start a finer gauge sweater. I love the speed of bulky, but am less and less enamored of the look…

Posted in In the Stash, On the Needles | 3 Comments »