Saturday, February 16, 2008

some finished objects, and a cautionary tale

Christmas knits!

Let me be very clear: these are gifts for Christmas 07. Unlike some knitting blogs, which are rolling out the Christmas gifts well after, sometimes months after, they were knit and after the recipient has received, here at Elsie and Joe Deluxe we are showcasing last year's holiday gifts as they are finished, and before they are gifted.

I had an over-ambitious list of gifts to make this year, and it turns out that while I appreciate a deadline when I'm writing, a knitting deadline seems to have a slowing-down effect. When it became clear that I just wasn't going to make it in time, I stopped trying. My parents and Joe each received a ball of sock yarn on Christmas day. I finished my brother's socks on Christmas day, which did him no good at all since he lives in Hawaii, and I still had to mail them.

Fortunately my family loves me anyway.

So here are the gifts for Joe's brother and his wife, who are well-loved, I assure you. I told them that Christmas was coming in March this year, and they didn't bat an eye. Since it is actually February and not March, can I say that I'm early with these? No? Didn't think so...

Here's a hat. Joe and his brother both have big heads (this is a feature of their anatomies, not of their egos) and I cast on 112 stitches for this hat. The yarn is an alpaca blend I got in a clearance room some years ago in a very large and wonderful knitting shop somewhere in New England. Isn't that helpful? I did a deep K1P1 border, then two rows of plain stockinette for a firm fold line, then switched to K2 P2 ribbing to the crown, where I did a four point decrease. I would show you more photos, but black is just as annoying to photograph as it is to knit.

Here are Rebecca's wristlets, which are based on Fetching, from Knitty. I didn't have any suitable bulky yarn, so I cast on 60 stitches instead of the prescribed 45, and made other changes as I went along to compensate for a much skinnier yarn (Rowan Cashsoft).

These were fiddly. I don't like knitting cables very much; they tend to make my right elbow ache, and I had to rip back the thumbs a few times to get them attached without holes. I think they're really cute, and I'd love to have some for myself, but I don't think it's going to happen. I'm glad these are done.

and now, my cautionary tale

My local yarn store has a monthly email newsletter. Each issue contains info about new yarns, patterns, and classes, plus a knitting tip, the sort of trick that is often learned through experience. Customers are free to submit a tip, and a $5 credit is offered if your tip is chosen. I submitted this tip:

None of us like to rip out our knitting, but sometimes it's necessary. For me the ripping is easy, and picking the stitches back up is a pain. I've found that it's much easier and more accurate if I use a much smaller needle to pick up after I've ripped back. I'm less likely to split a stitch, and it's easier to get the stitches mounted correctly. Insert the needle from behind the work when picking up, and they will be just right for knitting when you get to them.

After I've picked up the stitches on the smaller needle, I knit them right on to the needle I'm actually using for the project. Gauge isn't affected because it's the working (right hand) needle that determines the size of the stitches.

and I got a $5 credit. I was so excited! I have been on a serious yarn diet ever since my stash has outgrown its designated storage area, and since I stopped working. The rule is, I don't get to buy yarn. Period. I've been knitting from the stash only, and that's been an interesting creative exercise, as illustrated by the wristlets above.

So to get even a small amount of credit was great, and I knew just how I'd spend it: on the current issue of Interweave Knits. I'd just gotten another email, this time from Knitting Daily, the online version of IKnits, and I'd become enamored of this pattern, in a have-to-have-it kind of way. This did not violate the rule, because it wasn't yarn. Never mind that I have enough pattern books to last me several lifetimes, and there are enough patterns available free online to last several more, I really needed this particular pattern in this particular magazine.

So the kids and I jumped into the car a few days ago and made our way across town to my LYS. I got there and talked to the lady behind the desk, and it turned out that I'd missed the small print. It was a $5 credit on a $50 purchase. Rats, rats, rats, and rats. I said to myself that I wasn't going to make a $50 purchase to get a $5 credit, but then, well... I just decided to browse a little bit. I was motivated by the fact that they were almost sold out of the all-important IK issue. I didn't want to miss out.

A careful browsing of the shop revealed a few things other than the magazine that seemed, um, useful, if not essential. I got a ball of Zitron Trekking XXL, in this color. (I know, I know, it's yarn, but I really love these space-dyed colors, and they're not so easy to find around here.)

And I, um... well, I... I also found, and it turned out that I really needed... um....

Well, I also bought another sock book.
New Pathways for Sock Knitters, Book One, by Cat Bordhi

And what a sock book it is. I read the customer reviews on Amazon last night, and somebody said that you should try not to have anything on your needles when you order this book, because you're going to want to jump right in and try something. It's really true. This book is full of crazy-ass ways of constructing socks. There's not a single sock constructed in the usual way, but unlike some recent radical notions in sock construction, these are totally practical real-life wearable socks.

I'm so excited about these projects that I got the aforementioned fiddly wristlets done this morning just so I can get started on something new. Ordinarily I wouldn't let a project in process stop me from starting something, but the wristlets were on some of my favorite sock needles. My only complaint about the book is that its layout seems very confusing, and unnecessarily so. I want to cut the whole thing out of its binding and rearrange it. I find myself flipping back and forth, here and there, in an attempt to follow the process for a single pair from start to finish. I was hoping others felt the same, because that might result in a differently-organized second edition, and that's why I was checking the Amazon reviews. It seem that most others feel that this book is just fine the way it is, though, so I will get started on something with an open mind.

One review said that this isn't a good book for a beginning sock knitter, and I agree. It's pretty technical and detailed, and would be overwhelming for someone who hasn't already knit at least a few pairs using traditional methods. Or so I think, and I could be wrong. It is an intriguing book, to say the least.

And there are two more books coming in the series! I'll need to make room on my knitting book shelf, particularly the sock section.

On a completely different topic, I figured out why I'm so uncomfortable with acknowledging my so-called housekeeping skills. It's because having developed even a limited reputation as a someone who keeps a tidy house, I feel that I now have to keep up appearances. We have friends coming over for brunch tomorrow, and the house needs a wipe and a vacuum, but I don't feel like doing it at all. What I really want to do is sit down with my mind-blowing new sock book, yarn and needles, and work some things out. My friends won't care if I leave the dust bunnies and the grime where it is, of course, but we all know that housekeeping is rarely for other people, only for ourselves.

So I take it all back. I'm a complete slob. I love living in a messy house, and my house reflects that.


Ipo said...

how do you get a link in your post as part of the post?i would love to know this blog information...

elsie deluxe said...

Hi Ipo! When I have the window for creating a new post open, there is a toolbar at the top of the window with all kinds of choices. That's where I click when I want to add a photo, and also to add a link. My symbol for adding a link is a funny little thing with what look like horns. Check yours out; it probably has one too.

shaun said...

Believe me, when anyone comes to my house and it is not a total disaster, I get the "wow, the place looks good" comments. So setting low expectations really works. ;) My tough one is that I have a reputation as a cook -- I really feel the pressure!

I am really jealous of all your FOs and your published knitting tip -- as an experienced ripper I have also learned to pick up the loose stitches with a smaller needle. (Also good with button bands.)

I just finished my very first pair of socks (well, I have to kitchener the 2nd sock this weekend), so I am going to show off on the blog when I do!

elsie deluxe said...

Hey Shaun,
Can't wait to see those socks.

I was excited about "publishing" a knitting tip too, but it seems that really I was just participating in a marketing strategy. So it goes...

Rebecca said...

Ooooh....can't wait to get my wristlets! I'd love to return the favor, but since I still have Joe's brother's hat in the form of a ball of lovely yarn in my knitting basket, perhaps I'll send you the yarn instead.

Granna Judy said...

I think Rebecca's wristlets are beautiful but I'm puzzled by them. When it's cold enough to need to cover your wrists, don't you need to cover your fingers also?

Sandy said...

Next time you buy a sock book (and I suspect there will be another), you should shout it out in bold capitals. People who cook have lots of cook books, why shouldn't you have a dozen sock books?

Granna Judy said...

Oh I like your attitude, Sandy -- come sit by me!

elsie deluxe said...

I thought the same thing about wristlets when they first came into vogue, and they do seem to be the sort of voguish thing the cool girls are knitting... but I knit a pair to help a newbie knitter friend figure some things out, and both T and I find them quite cozy. We mostly wear them inside when it's chilly, but I suspect they will be just right in Rebecca's climate.

And thanks, Sandy. I do believe you're right. HEY EVERYBODY! I JUST GOT A NEW SOCK BOOK.

I'm feeling pretty good about the purchase now, because I've knit my way through two tiny class socks, and it's been really interesting. The directions are clear, and the book seems less disorganized than I'd thought at first.