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MacGyvering Saves Fiber Weekend

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently went to Fiber Weekend up at my Mother-in-Law’s house.  I don’t know where she came up with the idea, but this was apparently the second annual iteration of it, and I gotta say…

…it was awesome.

I’ve been craving some spinning time for months, since last year’s Stitch & Pitch, actually.  I apparently didn’t reveal this at the time, but when I was at the game I may have walked away from the Serial Knitters booth with this:

It’s been burning a hole in my stash since I got it, but I’ve been a good little knitter and worked on the Wedding Blankets rather than indulging.  But, Fiber Weekend!  What better time to indulge, really?  If you can’t play with fiber during Fiber Weekend, something is very, very wrong with the world indeed.

Of course, it’s been so long since I spun that I didn’t even think to check if I had all the parts to my wheel before I trucked the whole box I keep it in up to Canada, only to discover…

…that the screw to hold on the flyer was not there.  In fact, as soon as I started to put it together I thought to myself, “Wait a minute, there was something about this that I was supposed to remember next time I spun, something about being in the Office…on my desk…oh crap.

But I was not going to be deterred by so simple a piece of hardware.  After scouring my Mother-in-Law’s garage for the right screw (she didn’t have it, of course), I decided to embrace Fiber Weekend a little more completely and solved the problem in the most appropriate manner possible…

…with fiber.  I used some kitchen twine to weave through the two pieces and then around them both a bunch of times, tying at each crossing for stability.  It took a few tries, but once I had it up it lasted all weekend, which is saying something because I spun a lot that weekend.

I split the 4 oz of fiber into three roughly equal sections along the length, then split each into smaller, mostly random sections and started each bobbin at a different point in the color repeat.  The goal was to have a fully marled yarn with lots of color shifts, similar to Trekking XXL.

The plies were gorgeous, the colors perfectly suited for each other.  I had the first bobbin filled by the end of the first night (I might have stayed up late to make that happen, but it was totally worth it).

The second day saw the completion of the second bobbin, which I also might have stayed up late for, but which was also totally, completely worth it.

The third bobbin took a bit more time, so it wasn’t until I was back home on my own couch that I managed to get to the plying stage – but I was so excited to see what the yarn would actually look like that the bobbins didn’t stay like that for long, and soon:

They were totally empty.  The best part was that there was almost zero waste – two bobbins were done within a foot of each other, and the third only had enough to create a few yards of two ply yarn:

And the actual yarn?  It’s some amazing amount of marled three-ply goodness.

I haven’t wound it off to set it and figure out how many yards I have yet, but I’m already dreaming of what this is going to end up being.  I’m thinking maybe a scarf, some pattern that would use up every last drop of this gorgeousness I have created.  Any ideas?

Also, in related news, I apparently seem to have slipped on the whole keeping-yarn-away-from-Monkey-Kitty thing.  I looked away from the leftover mini-bobbin of yarn on the table for about 2 minutes, and next thing I know…

…Monkey Kitty has dragged it into the corner and is pretending to be ready to defend his kill.  Luckily, he’s actually a complete pansy, so he ran when I went after him and left the yarn behind for me to return to its high shelf safely out of reach.

I Am My Own Stash Weasel

Sometimes, I quite outsmart myself.  And, actually, if I’m quite honest with myself, I outsmart myself with surprising regularity.

Take, for example, the issue I was having with the Wedding Blanket II, where I was apparently missing a square.  I was sure I’d knit sixteen blocks, but only had fifteen in the shelf where the blocks were supposed to be, and I didn’t have enough yarn left in any of my “kits” to create another one.  Still, I couldn’t find the missing block, and I’d finally decided to give up and risk knitting an extra block just so I could continue making forward progress on the blanket.

Even after I’d made another “kit”, though, something was nagging at me.  I was sure I’d knitted another block, and I really, really didn’t want to knit an extra (after all, what would I do with it?).  But days passed, and I didn’t find it (not, mind you, that I was really looking – I think I expected it to fall out of the ceiling on my head or something).  Plus, it seemed like the universe didn’t want me to start it – any time I had some free knitting time to start it, I would manage to do something to damage my hands, preventing me from knitting at all.  Once it was sticks of wood left over from my massive home improvement project slicing my fingers open when I went to get the yarn from the bookshelf.

A person should listen to messages like that.

Last week, I was grabbing some yarn and fiber for Fiber Weekend at my Mother-in-Law’s house (details on that forthcoming in the next post), and without warning, I found the missing block!

As soon as my fingers touched it, it all came flooding back to me.  I’d decided to try blocking one of the squares to make sure nothing bad would happen and determine if blocking was either strictly necessary or just kind of a good idea for the rest of the blanket.  Once the square was dry, I’d wrapped it up in the normal package structure and put it on top of a pile of yarn, thinking that I’d soon be cleaning the office and would move the block when I put the yarn away.

Obviously, I did not end up cleaning the office like I thought – instead, I apparently ended up adding more yarn to the pile (where the new yarn came from is unclear, as I’ve generally been good about sticking to the yarn diet) and covering up the square entirely.

Monkey Kitty immediately investigated the new discovery, and there were some flashes of teeth before I scooped it up again and put it safely with its breathren.

Meanwhile, I decided to use the “kit” I’d made to start swatching a border, since that’s coming up next.  I tried a slip stitch thing first, but…

…well, I really just wasn’t thrilled with it.  It looked kind of odd, and it didn’t match the character of the blanket either.  Unfortunately, that was the only border in the whole Knitting On the Edge book that I thought was even close to right.

Then I remembered an article I’d read once about mathematical series of stripes being pleasing to humans, so I thought I’d try out a border of stripes built on Fibonacci numbers.

Bingo.  Plus, added bonus, it can be knitted on to the blanket instead of needing to be seamed.  It’s win-win.  The only question that’s left to answer is: should it be grey-blue-grey-blue-grey, or blue-grey-blue-grey-blue?

Thoughts?

Bucket List #247: Check!

I can’t remember when the first time I went to Third Place Books to see the Yarn Harlot when she came to Seattle was, but I’ve gone for every single book tour since.  The first time I’d just started reading her blog, and for some reason in my head I pictured her as a tall woman with a high soprano voice.  I was expecting to have fun at the book reading, but really I was going to get a book signed, because really, when you can get a book signed why wouldn’t you go for that?

In reality, the Yarn Harlot was not tall and sported an amazingly rich and lovely alto voice.  She was also so hilariously funny that I nearly fell out of my seat laughing, and I was simply charmed when I finally got to meet her in the signing portion of the evening.  I walked out that evening with stars in my eyes and haven’t missed a Yarn Harlot book signing in Seattle since.

That night, I also made it my mission to get myself onto the Yarn Harlot’s blog.  I figured if I could do that I would really be a knitter.  (Yes, this is after I started seriously knitting at twelve years old.  I might have a bit of hero worship going on.  This is one of the reasons why I consciously don’t follow celebrity gossip – I would take it way too seriously if I ever started.)

It took a few iterations.  I tried bringing baked goods, but they weren’t very special.  I was somewhat hampered by the lack of free time and lack of advance planning that always cripples me for important events like this.

In 2007, I thought I had it made.  I’d picked out a couple balls of a lovely mottled blue sock yarn made in Italy, and presented them to her as if she were my queen (because she really is knitting royalty).

There’s no yarn in that picture because she snatched it out of my hands and secreted it away before the shutter snapped.  I think that means she liked it.  I also got a nice picture with Stephanie, but…

…I made one fatal error.  I brought with me my friend Jimmy, who was currently working on his second knitting project – a fair isle scarf for the binary code for a computer virus.

It was really no contest which of us would be mentioned in her blog post for that visit to Seattle.

The next visit, I brought an in-progress wedding ring shawl which frankly looked like a gooey pile of yarn while it was being worked on.  Stephanie was still vocally appreciative, and mentioned that when I finished I should let her know so she could feature it on her blog.

I, of course, completely forgot to do so when I finished the shawl, but hearing about her latest book tour jiggled the memory in my head and I managed to get it together enough to bring not only the usual baked good (this time peanut butter cookies baked around a peanut butter cup center) but the shawl as well.

And this time, I am in fact on the Yarn Harlot’s blog!  Scroll down past all the other knitters and babies, and find the picture of two girls holding up a shawl that is way to0 big to be useful for anything, and that’s me on the left!  With my massive shawl that still somehow manages to pass through a (large) wedding ring!

I must be a knitter now, I’ve been mentioned by the Yarn Harlot.  I can cross that one off my bucket list.

Dear Past Me: What Were You Thinking?

Every now and then, I put down a knitting project only to come back to it weeks or months later and realize that I have no idea what my past self was thinking when I was knitting on it earlier.  Generally, it’s obvious that I had a plan and that I had every reason to believe that it would go well, but when I come back to it I have absolutely zero recollection of what’s going on anymore.

It’s at times like that where I wish I could go back in time and just ask myself, “What were you thinking?”  Mind you, in these circumstances it’s not in the smack-myself-in-the-face, what-were-you-thinking way, but a calm, interested hrm-didn’t-quite-follow-you-there, could-you-explain kind of way.

For example, I started a pair of socks while The Blanket Thief and I were in Europe.  I wanted something relatively simple, but not so simple that I was bored, so I decided to make up a two-cable traveling pattern that’s inspired by a couple kids playing tag.  The idea was that one cable would chase the other back and forth across the socks, bouncing off of the “walls” and going through a round of tagbacks whenever they crossed.

Recently, I dragged these out of the basket and started working on them again, only to pause and realize that the back cable crossings (above), didn’t match the front cable crossings (below).  Namely, while on the backs I’d apparently decided to stop moving one (but only one) of the cables, on the front I’d kept at the full pattern as established.

I spent a good amount of time trying to figure that one out.  The back was going to turn into the heel, so was I planning to have the one cable travel to the other side of the sock and mirror the placement of the first, stopped cable?  Had I intended the first cable to double back and meet the other one, to kind of check on why it hadn’t started?  Was it even possible that this had just been an accident, and I somehow hadn’t managed to pick up on it for four rows?

Eventually, I decided that, barring time travel, I was never going to figure out what the plan had been, and without a plan it was just silly to continue with a deviated pattern.  With that decision, it was time to engage the Knitting Surgery.  I picked back the four rows of the affected stitches, making a neat-but-really-confusing section.

Then I knit it all back up in the original pattern to match the front.  I’ve got a new plan for how it’s all going to go now, and I’m sure it’s much better than my original plan.

At this point, though, I really hope I never do run into my past self to ask her what the original plan was.  I don’t want to find out that I’m wrong, and really her plan was much better than mine if I could have just remembered it.

It’s Done!

I never thought I’d actually see this day.  Okay, to be fair, when I started the Wedding Blanket I had every intention of being done in time for my friend’s wedding on Sept 17th, 2010, and I’m only 13 months late (not counting however long it will take to get plane tickets to visit her and give it to her in person), but once I’d started the project and realized how much of a shrink hole it was, I’d despaired of ever seeing the end of it.

But, my lovelies, it is well and truly done.

All the ends are woven in, all the seams are done, all the pieces are blocked, all the parts are knitted – there is nothing at all left to do on this blanket.

Nothing, that is, but marvel at its beauty.  I’m not sure exactly where it all came from, but there is some absolutely gorgeous stuff in this blanket.  Such as the mitered corners on the border (which were in no small part responsible for my need to do corrective surgery on it).  Totally worth the hassle now, though.

Or the sheer elegance of cables and traditional stitch patterns worked at scale.

Or what a lovely package it makes, all folded up and ready to be gifted to a not-quite-newly married couple.

Now that it’s all done, I’m starting to wonder…

…what if I kept it for myself and told her I’d lost it?  That would be wrong, right?  Sigh.  Maybe I’ll just have to knit a second one for myself.

4×4=15?!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had counting problems in the past.  I’d like to say that usually I can make it to at least twenty without an issue, but experience would say otherwise.  For the Wedding Blanket II, though, I’m not sure if what I’m experiencing is a counting problem or negligence.

Remember when I started this thing, and I mentioned that putting the yarn together to knit from was like knitting from a kit?

So…each kit made four squares.  And I’ve gone through four kits.

However, I only have fifteen squares on the pile.

I really do not know how this happened.  I’ve got a few theories, though:

  1. Gnomes and/or stash weasels
  2. I didn’t finish one of the kits for some reason
  3. I did knit a sixteenth square, but put it somewhere it wasn’t supposed to be

Now, if theory 1 or 2 is correct, I should cast on another square and just get it finished.  On the other hand, if theory 3 turns out to be right then I’ll end up with seventeen squares (because you just know I’ll find the missing square as soon as I finish the replacement), and since seventeen is a prime number that would make a pretty odd-shaped blanket.

For now, I’m somewhat ignoring the issue by doing everything else that needs to be done, like sewing up a small seam in the middle of each square and weaving in the ends in the center.  I’m not going to tell you how many ends that will end up being, but if you want a bit of a hint…

…it’s a lot.

Also, I really do have to figure out what I’m going to do about the border at some point.  Let me know if you have any suggestions…

I’m Alive!

Sorry for the massive gap in posting!  The home improvement project ended up dragging on for a couple weeks longer than it should have, so I’m only now getting back to my laptop for the first time since I started this whole fiasco.  I think pictures say it better than words, so how about a photo-essay explaining what happened?

It all started with a big hate-on that I had for the downstairs carpet.  When I got this place, the carpet was horribly, horribly dark with grime, and even renting an industrial carpet cleaner didn’t get all the stains out (it was, however, effective in getting a good portion of the grime out, so that you could tell where my passes didn’t quite line up because there was a dark line between them).  In the picture, the rug is covering up the giant stain from the previous owner’s feet when sitting on the couch.

So, in short, the carpet had to go.

Getting the carpet and pad off was actually pretty easy…except I had to play a game moving the furniture around to different sections of the room as I cleared off different areas.  It was kind of like that game where you have to move the yellow blocks out of the way to get the red block out of the cage…no?  Okay, just me playing that game then.  Never mind.

Pretty soon, all the carpet was out and it was time to remove tiles, at which point I learned that my kitchen’s subfloor had been raised half an inch in a way that was hard-at-best to remove.

So that meant I had to raise the rest of the floor half an inch to make it all match.  That alone added days to the work required.

But after all of that, I finally got to place the first board!  I really thought I was almost done at this point, which…well, that feels kind of laughable now.  But still, I’d finally moved beyond prep to actual doing.

Laying in the actual boards was pretty quick, actually.  In no time I had a measurable amount of floor done.

And then I got to the kitchen, where my plan was to work backward to fill in so that I didn’t have to measure something exactly to make it all match up.

That would have worked great, except for the last board – it had to fit under the trim for the door, and no matter what I did it was absolutely not physically possible to slide it in.  I tried to use The Force to make it work for about 10 minutes before I gave up and went to plan B.

Plan B was basically a do-over – take all of the kitchen floor back up, and start from the end that I should have started from in the first place if I hadn’t been trying to be so darn clever.

Luckily, putting the wood down was super quick once it was cut to shape, so it was less than an hour to get it all back to where it had been before (plus the one extra f*&%ing piece on the end, of course).

The next challenge was removing the tile that had been cemented to the floor in front of the fireplace.  I wouldn’t have had to do this, except the idiot who flipped my house at some point cemented the tiles over the carpet, so…yeah.  Three hours of my life were spent hunched over this 5 square foot section chipping cement off the wood floor.

And then there was a bunch of trim work that I didn’t take pictures of because I was in The Zone™, and some caulking to make the trim look perfect, and some painting to cover the caulk, and…yeah.  It took a long time.

But then?  When it was all said and done, at the end I had this:

Beautiful, gorgeous, glowing hardwood.  I’m so in love with this floor that if I wasn’t already married I’d consider marrying it.  I have favorite pieces that I’ve picked out.  I even catch myself staring at it and thinking, “Oh, goodness, it’s so lovely.  I could just look at it for days.”

Even the closet has hardwood now – there’s something so utterly decadent about having a hardwood floored closet, isn’t there?

Of course, the closet doesn’t have a door anymore, but that’s a detail I can fix later…

Actually, Pictures Will Come Later

Apparently despite an update that seemed very promising, the WordPress app for Windows Phone is still practically useless and will not upload pictures with posts. Once I’ve got my computer out from under the rubble, I’ll post some pics.

In Which I Destroy My House…Again

Tonight’s regularly scheduled knitting post will not be happening, as I’ve one again destroyed my house in an effort to improve it. Unfortunately, the improvement is taking much longer than I expected: the current state of the house is…

Never Underestimate the Importance of Counting

When I was in first grade, we had a unit on learning to count.  We’re not talking just one through ten, either – oh no, we were graded on whether we could recite, in front of the entire class, the numbers from one to one hundred.

It doesn’t sound so hard now, but at the time…terrifying.  I was a shy little Asian girl in a really, really white elementary school with a racist teacher who thought I had Down’s Syndrome (and then yelled at me when I did better than the other kids).  Getting up in front of everyone scared the living snot out of me.

Also, I had trouble with the eighties.  To this day, I’m always a little cautious about counting past seventy-nine.  I’ll pause for a moment, think really hard, and cautiously go with, “eighty? Eighty-one…”

The other day, one of my friends and I were arguing about counting in base-ten vs. base-two, and he commented that “No one has trouble counting!  It’s an inherent human trait!  Who could possibly have trouble counting?!”

At which point I raised my hand, and I swear I lost like three whole Respect Points™ in that moment.

Anyway, all of that was a really long way of explaining why when I suddenly realized that I’d recently finished knitting a few more squares for Wedding Blanket II, and was well into yet another, but I hadn’t actually counted my progress in a long time, I felt a moment of panic.  In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d counted my progress.

I’m sure if I went back in the archives, it would be on this blog, but…er…I’m inefficiently lazy.

Anyway, I dug out all the squares for the blanket, starting with the most recent additions.

I…er…might have a habit of making small little bundles as I finish each one.  It serves absolutely no purpose, but it tends to make me happy and that’s all that matters, right?

Anyway, I unfolded those and laid them out on the stack with the rest of them and started counting.

That, my friends, is thirteen whole blocks for this blanket.  I think that means that if I’d wanted to bail at a 3×4 block blanket, I missed.

However, luckily, I was planning to knit a 4×4 block blanket, so I’m still good to go.  I mean, sure, in the back of my head was the thought that I had an escape route planned if it became too much, and the recipients would never know… (Except now they would, and I think I’ve mentioned the plan for 16 blocks before, so that was really more of a fairy tale I told myself.)  Just three more squares, and I can start the border for this thing.

Anyone have a good idea for a border to go with this one?  You know, without me showing you what the blanket actually looks like, because I have to somewhat hide it from the newly created husband-and-wife duo it’s intended for?