Monday, December 28, 2009

2009: A Summing Up

I am not a numbers person. I've never liked math primarily because I'm not good at it. But, I do like data. For some reason, for me, expressing certain things quantitatively has a certain definitiveness to it; a certain elegance; a certain je ne sais quoi. That's why I keep track of some things by adding them up at the end of the year. For example, I know that I conducted 750 therapy sessions in 2009. I don't know how many hours I spent on paperwork or on the phone because it would be much less satisfying to tally up those kinds of things. I guess I mostly like to keep data on things that feel like accomplishments. This definitely applies to my leisure activities. I have lots of data on the things I do on my own time.

In 2009 I swam 64,475 yards. This is a somewhat pathetic amount of yardage, but I only really swam consistently for about 6 months this year, so from that perspective it's not so bad.

In 2009 I read 30 books for fun (not including professional reading). That's 12,238 pages. In this case, it may be more meaningful to list titles rather than just the data.

1.  World Without End, by Ken Follet
2.  Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama
3.  Georgiana - Duchess of Devonshire, by Amanda Foreman
4-7  The Twilight Series (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn), by Stephanie Meyer - because I work with teens ... sometimes
8.  Devil Water, by Anya Seton
9.  The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
10.  The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, by John Le Carre
11.  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John Le Carre
12.  The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa (excellent!)
13. Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks
14. People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks
15. March, by Geraldine Brooks
16. The World Over, by Julia Glass
17. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark
18. Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult (distressing)
19. "T" is for Trespass, by Sue Grafton
20. Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger (intense)
21. Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon (dark)
22. Behind the Scenes at the Museum, by Kate Atkinson (excellent)
23. Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson
24. One Good Turn, by Kate Atkinson
25. When Will There Be Good News?, by Kate Atkinson
26. 1066: The Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry, by Andrew Bridgeford
27. The Bayeux Tapestry, by Carola Hicks
28. The Needle in the Blood, by Sarah Bower
29. "U" is for Undertow, by Sue Grafton (great!)
30. Mistress of the Monarchy, by Alison Weir

 A rather motley collection, I must say. I often set literary goals for myself, but this past year I read whatever came to hand or struck me as potentially interesting. I also went on reading jags with particular authors I was enjoying at the time.

Ah, but now for the knitting. This was by far my most productive year with respect to creating knitwear. I attribute this to Ravelry. Before Ravelry (or BR) I would knit one, or possibly two, things a year. Many years went by when I didn't knit anything at all. After Ravelry (or AR), I have knit significantly more. There's something so inspiring about seeing things others have knit, accumulating patterns and yarn, queueing the projects, etc., that creates a much higher level of inspiration and productivity. So, now for the data. I knit exactly one dozen projects. "Projects" may have involved more than one item (e.g., a baby sweater, romper, and cap). When counted individually the tally was as follows: 2 sweaters for myself, 2 baby sweaters, 3 pairs of baby pants, 2 baby bonnets, 2 jumpers for my niece, 1 shrug for my niece, a smoke ring (or cowl) for my mother, a scarf (unblogged so far) for me, and a pair of socks (there were actually three) for my DH.  Okay, so I'm a slow knitter. But I had a blast doing it!

If I were more techno-savvy I would include a photo collage of these items, but alas I am clueless as to how to do this.

You may have noticed that I did not include the number of knitting books I acquired or how much yarn I purchased. Like I said, I only keep data on things that feel like accomplishments and don't involve guilt.

As for my resolutions in the New Year: No new yarn! Knit down the stash in 2010.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Images of Ancient Greece - Part 2

After knitting three of these socks, I finally had a pair to present to my husband on Christmas day. Here are some action shots of his modeling efforts.

They are close to being a matching pair apart from the fact that I was experimenting with "Judy's Magic Cast-on" and as a result the toe on the last sock was a bit longer than that on the first.

I also added 12 stitches after the ankle shaping so that I would have 82 for the stranded portion of the socks. This created extra "black space" up the back of the calf area, so I added in some embellishments to reduce the long floats that needed to be carried across the back.

The entire project took nearly a month (for three socks). I mostly enjoyed the process and learned a lot about sock construction. I also discovered that I really like mosaic knitting (incorporated into this design in the three Greek keys on each sock). I also enjoyed using toe-up construction but have more to learn about how to do it properly.

Overall, the pattern was very well-written and gets big points for creativity. However, there were a couple issues that I had to grapple with that could have been solved within the pattern which, BTW, is an expensive one ($8.00). If you are thinking of knitting up this pattern, keep reading. If not, this part will be pretty boring.

First, as mentioned above, the stranded portion includes some very long float areas. For me this was exacerbated by the fact that I increased by 12 stitches after the ankle-shaping to ensure that the sock could be pulled on over the heel. I think added design elements up the back of the calf would have helped ameliorate this. Speaking of the calf portion of these socks, it is not made clear in the pattern how to position the stranded portion on the leg. It is useful to think about this before beginning that part of the pattern. I chose to center the two faces of the main characters on the shin area. Speaking of the "back of the calf" part of the design -- the chart for this is inexplicably split in half. I am not sure why it was done this way. This caused me untold grief until I got smart and physically cut and pasted the pattern so that I could read across the chart more easily. I also wondered about making the design up the back of the legs in a matching pattern, but didn't think of it until after the socks were completed.

Second, it is important to realize that the stranded portion involves counted stranding. Now I know most people will find this to be patently obvious, but it may be worth emphasizing to someone who is considering knitting this pattern. There is no memorizing of the pattern for stranding -- you have to count every stitch! That being said, it was a lot of fun to watch the figures develop slowly as I knit up the leg of each sock.

My husband was inordinately worried that the socks would slide down, so I added 3/4 " of 2x2 ribbing above the final Greek key portion. As it turned out this was unnecessary and they would have stayed up just fine without it. The mosaic knitting hugs the leg and foot and renders ribbing redundant. This is another great feature of the pattern.

Finally, on the negative side, there are a couple of typos in the pattern. In the Foot section, for the medium/large size, there should be 34 (not 43) stitches on the heel needle. Similarly, in the first half of the Turn Heel section there will be 16 (not 14) stitches left unwrapped in the middle. These are not huge problems as one will immediately recognize the mistakes.

Project Specifications:

Pattern: Theseus and the Minotaur by Gryphon Perkins of Sanguine Gryphon Fiber Arts
Yarn: Bugga! yarn was unavailable so I substituted Malbrigo sock yarn in negro and Zen Garden serenity sock yarn in gold dynasty (absolutely fabulous yarn!)
Needles: US size 1 (2.5 mm) and US size 0 (for the ribbing)
Modifications: increased from 70 to 82 stitches after ankle shaping, used doubled yarn on heel, added 3/4" of 2x2 ribbing at cuff.
Duration: One month - 11/21/09 - 12/23/09

Theseus has slain the Minotaur and this chapter can now be closed.

Kali Nikta!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Images of Ancient Greece

I lived in Athens, Greece during my early elementary school years and my mother (who had majored in art history) was fond of dragging my sister, brother and me to various art museums and ancient ruins. Given our tender years we didn't fully appreciate the experience at the time. However, the beauty of the classical images must have been absorbed at an unconscious level because I now find them to be quite compelling.

Flash forward to many, many years later when my husband and I traveled to Greece (Athens, Santorini, Crete) for our honeymoon and toured the Parthenon and the Temple of Knossos to name just a few sites.

So, when I saw these socks about a year ago on Ravelry, designed by Gryphon Perkins of the Sanguine Gryphon (,I was immediately struck by the elegance of translating a classic Greek vase design to a sock and I vowed to make them for my husband for our 9th wedding anniversary.

I was finally able to obtain the pattern a week ago and diligently knitted away on the first sock that incorporates that image of Theseus killing the Minotaur.

This side shows the Minotaur:

Here is a close-up of the Theseus side. I love the bird silhouette between his legs.

I was careful to get gauge and followed the pattern instructions slavishly. But, I am sad to report, the sock is not wearable. It is not possible to pull the sock on over the heel and ankle area -- a prerequisite for well-fitting socks. I think the issue is that I was so careful to weave in the floats so as not to be caught by an errant toe, that there is not enough flexibility and give in the stranded part of the sock. If it were only possible to put it on, I think it would fit okay but that's simply not possible. Here you can see it on a sock blocker (size medium).

Well, I guess it could be used as a Christmas stocking ...

Those of you who have followed my blog over the past year know by now that I don't give up easily. I have already started on the second sock which will have a number of improvements. First, I was fortunate to have purchased Wendy Johnson's sock book which includes several great toe-up cast-ons. I am delighted with the perfection of casting on in such a way so as to not have to sew up the toe. Yay! One great advance already. Second, I plan to shorten up the length of the foot, eliminate the slip stitch from the bottom of the heel area (my own misguided addition), and I plan to increase the number of stitches in the stranded leg area.

Finally, I just wanted to mention that this is not the first pair of socks I've made. Hardly! It's the SECOND pair. The first pair I made (also for my husband) a year ago were a perfect fit. Witness below. I guess it was beginner's luck and then I went and got all cocky about it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

May All Your Knits Be Both Beautiful and Interesting ...

When choosing a project to knit for myself I always experience a certain tension between a design that (I hope) will be flattering to wear but also interesting to knit.

It is often difficult to obtain both attributes in one project. My latest project, a Gedifra design (#1443 from Highlights 092), is an example of the former concern -- I am hoping for a flattering and attractive look.

However, endless rows of rib stitch is not the most fascinating thing in the world to knit. Here is the back -- all 25 inches of it.

The yarn is Samina which is a very unusual fiber. It is made of wool that is inserted into a nylon mesh sheath. It is soft to the touch and the knitted fabric holds its shape well, but it snags very easily. My hands are not as soft and smooth as they should be and my rough cuticles tend to catch on this yarn and snag it. I am hoping that these small snags will not be too noticeable in the finished garment.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How I Learn About "Cool Girl" Clothes and Realize I Don't Know How to Make Them

Well, it seems that my 6 year-old niece is enamored of "cool girl" clothes. Even though I am a child psychologist and meet with the elementary school set every day, Monday through Friday, I realize that I have no idea what "cool girl" clothes are. I suppose they are closer to what Hannah Montana might wear and not so much what Marcia Brady might have worn circa 1970.

So, herein lies the peril of knitting for others. Unless the knitee specifically picks out the style and colors, beware! The receipient may not: (a) like the style of the knitted item, or (b) wear it. I guess all dyed-in-the-wool knitters know this, but I am a slow learner. Despite having an inkling of this danger, I blithely went ahead and knit the following creation which, I am sad to say, Hannah Montana would not be caught dead wearing!

But, I had fun making it and learned a very valuable lesson. My next project is for my brother. And, yes, he did pick out the pattern and approve the colors.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Great-Grandmother's Quilt

My great-grandmother was an amazing woman. She had to flee Lebanon in the 1930's after my grandfather was killed for political reasons. She immigrated to the Pacific Northwest with four young children, the oldest of whom was my grandmother. My "Citty" (as we called her) had to figure out how to make her way and support her children in a foreign country where she didn't speak the language. Fortunately, she was very resourceful and good with her hands and was able to raise her children to be honest, hard-working, productive members of society.

She taught my grandmother to knit, who, in turn, taught me to knit. So, for that in and itself I am forever grateful. But, I also loved her for her gentle and loving nature. She seemed to be one of those people for whom adversity and sadness had distilled in her a sense of what is really important in life and she was generous in her relationships with others. One of her most obvious traits was that she could never just sit still and relax. She always needed to be doing something and so knitting and quilting became important activities for keeping her hands busy during her infrequent moments of "relaxation."

By happenstance I inherited a quilt top she made in the 1930's out of scraps of fabric from various items of clothing she'd made for her children and herself. She pieced this Star of Bethlehem together by hand but never finished it and it was found among her personal belongings when she died at age 92.

I was honored to inherit it, and since I am not a quilter I had a professional quilter finish it for me. It now hangs in my therapy office and I hope it brings a sense of comfort to my patients. I know it does to me. Thank you Citty!

The backing is a reproduction fabric from the 1930s. It depicts little girls in long dresses serving tea to little boys with waistcoats.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


"It surely is a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions."

- Ted Berrigan, poet

Clearly, this is not a calamity from which I suffer.

Over the Labor Day weekend I went into an organizing frenzy. The label gun was out and the dust was flying. Eventually when the dust settled, here is what became evident.

First, the knitting books.

Then, the (partial) yarn stash.

This is an embarrassment of riches. If I sat down and knit for the rest of my life, I wouldn't run out of yarn or inspiration. On the one hand, this gives me a great sense of comfort (as in, "Phew - I'm glad I don't need to worry about having nothing to knit."). On the other hand, I feel more than a little embarrassed and somewhat baffled. How did this happen?! Have I been in a fiber-induced fugue for the past 18 months? And, most importantly, how will I work my way through this?

To wit, here is my knitting queue (in no particular order, because the latest project in which I've fallen in love always jumps to the top of the queue:

1. Gedifra Moments #1443

2. Narvik by Dale of Norway (for my bro)

3. Ivel by Evi T'Bolt

4. Ginny by Kim Hargreaves

5. Autumn Rose by Eunny Jang

6. Ingeborg Jacket #12614 by Dale of Norway

7. Military Jacket by Veronika Avery

8. some stealth gift knitting ...

... and many other projects for which I either have patterns but no yarn, or the yarn but no plan.

But, in closing, I must admit that I am not looking for a cure. It's my therapy. It keeps me sane. When things become overwhelming or stressful, I can always lose myself in the Zen of knitting.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Emma Peel: The School Jumper

Before I share my latest FO, I feel moved to digress a bit. It's about blogging. I am a blogging neophyte. I've only had my blog for a little over a year and I only post about once a month or so -- whenever I finish making a knitted item. But I greatly admire many other bloggers (mostly knitters) who write amusing and interesting blogs on a regular basis about a wide range of topics. With these inspirational folks in mind I've been musing a little about broadening the scope of my blog to share my latest read or talk about the amount of yardage I've swum that week. Stuff like that. But then I think to myself, who would really care? And, isn't that the fabric of my private life so why would I splash it all over the Internet? And then, finally, I think to myself, no one ever comments on my blog anyway so I know that I really have very few readers. (Sometimes I even feel a little bit sorry for myself about that last point.) But then I read the Yarn Harlot's recent blog about all of the hate mail she's been getting lately (mostly from one particular offender), and I think maybe I'm lucky that my blog seems to stay under the radar. Mostly I feel saddened that there are a few people out there who have to ruin the fun for the rest of us who would like to trustingly share a little bit of our lives with the world and spread the joy of a well-cut steek or a well-turned heel. Sigh. Okay, digression over. On to the knitting ...

This FO is the second of two knitted jumpers (i.e., sleeveless dresses for all you Brits) I made for my six year-old niece who begins first grade in a month.

She is a very active, athletic little girl who much prefers leggings and jeans to dresses despite the attempts of my sister, my sister's MIL, and me to dress her in girly-girl clothes. So when I saw Emma Peel which is described as a dress that school-age girls will appreciate more than a "frou-frou" knit with ruffles and bows, I thought I'd give it a try.

Okay, I couldn't resist some embellishment, so I embroidered a heart on the breast. I found this particular heart in libbyguillard's Flickr photostream, but I'm not sure if she made it up or used a pattern. Anyway, it was the perfect outline of a heart for this little dress. Sort of like the alligator on Izod shirts.

I love the trompe l'oiel effect of the belt. The skirt design is created using a slip stitch pattern. I added in a third color (the white) to give it a plaid look.

I used Rowan handknit cotton yarn, because my niece lives in Southern California and I thought wool would be too hot for her. But, I have to admit, although cotton yarn has its uses it's like knitting with string in my mind. I muuuuuuch prefer wool!
Anyway, I hope she likes it.
Design: Emma Peel
From: Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines by Kay Gardiner & Ann Shayne
Yarn: Rowan handknit cotton
Needles: US3

If you have something nice to say and you'd like to leave a comment, please do!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Twenty-eight pansies

My dear niece begins first grade in September, so I decided to knit her a couple of jumpers to get her started off on the right foot. (Not that she needs it, mostly I just thought it would be fun).

I finished the first of the two. It's actually a baby design by Kari Haugen published in the Dale of Norway Baby Collection Nr. 114. I modified it to fit a 6 year-old and added the colored stripes at the bottom of the bodice.

I purled the yellow centers of the pansies to add texture to the design and while I was knitting it the fabric was somewhat puckered. However, a good blocking seems to have taken care of 99% of the problem. There is still a small amount of pulling just below the yellow centers where I wove in the floats. I got lots of support and ideas about how to prevent this in the future from Mary Ann of and the Two Strands group on Ravelry. Many thanks!

I was watching "An Affair to Remember" when I picked up the stitches on the left armhole which is clearly not beneficial to my knitting technique. The right sleeve stitch pick-up looks much more professional thanks to the fact that I gave it my full attention!

I thought these pansy buttons were perfect! I found them on Etsy at

Here are the specs:
Design: Kari Haugen for Dale of Norway, Baby Collection Nr. 114
Yarn: Baby Ull (natch) - light green (9013), deep lavendar (5135), deep blue (5545), pastel lavender (5303), and yellow (2015).
Needles: US0 and US2
Gauge: 28 stitches and 38 rounds in 4" x 4"

Saturday, June 20, 2009

With apologies to Marion Foale

Last Fall I was thumbing through a back issue of Rowan magazine, Rowan 36 to be exact, and came across this beautiful cardigan.

Apparently, this was a Marion Foale design named "Betty" that was available in UK retail shops in the 1990's for about 250 pounds. I despaired of being able to "reverse-engineer" the design until I found this Marion Foale pattern published in Woman's Weekly (11/4/2008 issue) on eBay.

I decided to try and modify the pattern to approximate the "Betty." Six months later, here is my best attempt:

Overall, I am pleased with the outcome but it is now clear to me why Marion Foale is a talented knitwear designer and I am not.

First, I misplaced the pockets.

Rather than frog the whole thing (to which a collar was already attached) I decided to camouflage them with pocket-flaps (one of which I think is sewn on a little crooked).

Second, I had absolutely no idea how to turn a Revere collar into a shawl collar and, as it turns out, moss stitch does not look the same when turned on its side.

Third, I added a vent to the back just to be fancy.

After six months of slaving away at this, I have to admit it was not my best effort. Sigh.

Although I think I will be able to happily wear it to work, it does not warm my perfectionist heart. But, the great thing about knitting is there is always the next project!


Pattern: Modified "Neat Knit," by Marion Foale
Yarn: Rowan 4-ply soft in ecru (doubled throughout) - 20 balls
Needles: US0 and US1
Completed: January - June 20, 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What I Learned about Moss Stitch

I like using moss (or seed) stitch in knitted garments. I like the nubby texture. I like it as an edge to stockinette stitch, and I like how it adds warmth without adding a lot of bulk.

What I don't like about moss stitch is that it takes so looooong to knit up. I think these sleeves are like Penelope's shroud...I knit them during the day and then they unravel at night (all on their own).

Here they are in March:

And here they are in April.

And here is one of them as of today:

Not much progress, huh? What I discovered on page 23 of that wonderful knitting reference book, The Principles of Knitting, by June Hemmons Hiatt, is that "Seed stitch is 30% shorter than stockinette and 18% wider." Aha! I knew something was up. I knit and knit and knit and have only an inch to show for it. I've also noticed that it tends to become somewhat misshapen. The sleeves I knit in stockinette stitch never look this "wonky." I hope the pieces even out with a good blocking.

Well, I have to admit that I'm being a little bit melodramatic because the delay is largely due to several other knitting projects that have intervened during the past several months. Projects that have been much more interesting to work on, so I've abandoned these poor sleeves time and time again.

One of my other projects is the Military Jacket by Veronika Avery.

I swatched in a WW Khroma from the Fibre Company in Plum, but it was too dark. Then I swatched in a DK Khroma in Aegean, but the yarn was too thin. Finally, I cannabalized my stash of Cascade 220 Tweed set aside for Stefanie Japel's texturized tweed jacket (which would never have flattered me anyway), and that was just right the right yarn.

I've started on the right sleeve (you may remember my vow to work the sleeves of my next garment first), and added a ruffled border as I felt strongly it needed an edging.

Here is a close-up of the ruffled edge.

I guess I'd better go knit some more on Penelope's sleeves ... ;-)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

... And One To Grow On.

So, as promised, I immediately went to work on a 6-month size of "Blu" because I simply could not believe that an actual human being could fit into the newborn size. This is most likely due to my own lack of experience with newborns. There were other reasons too: (a) I'm compulsive; (b) I had so much fun the first time around I wanted to have another go at it; (c) I am a perfectionist wannabe and thought I could do better the second time around; and (d) did I mention I'm compulsive?

I did make a few modifications that I would recommend. I cast off the top edges instead of keeping the stitches live because it was much less of a hassle during the pre-shrinking phase (and I don't think it made the elastic casing too inflexible). I also followed beppesgirl's lead and cast off three stitches at each edge of the elastic casing to enable the placement of a button on the inside for use with a special type of elastic with buttonholes every inch. This way the elastic can be lengthened or shortened depending upon the baby's girth.

So, that's it. I'm closing the chapter on the Baby Blues ... until the next time I hear that someone's expecting that is.

On to other knitting news. I found this nifty expanding file folder thingy today at an office supply chain store for $10.99. I have been keeping my circular needles in a bag which is a very inefficient way to manage them.

Now, I have a separate pocket for each size and can easily put my hands on the needles I need. I know there is no such thing as a knitting emergency, but should one ever arise I will be prepared to rapidly equip myself with the proper knitting tool.

Did I mention that I am somewhat compulsive?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I Got the Baby Blues!

These may be the smallest jeans ever! I knit the newborn size and I'm thinking these will fit Baby S. for about 5 minutes. The pincushion was placed in the photo to indicate the size of the FO. Are newborn babies really this tiny?

The button is wooden and is painted with an orange slice design. The embroidery was done with Rowan handknit cotton in "canteloupe." The jeans themselves were knit with Rowan demin and pre-shrunk in the washer in hot (!) water and thrown in the dryer before sewing up. (I know!)

The label was made with faux leather in butterscotch purchased online from Leisure Arts. (I can't take credit for thinking this up, I took my inspiration from "beppesgirl" on Ravelry.)

The entire project was completed within a weekend -- a first for me! And I also had time to do 5 loads of laundry, play a game of tennis, read a book and watch two movies. So I'd say all in all this is about an 8-hour project.
Design: BLU by Cristina Bernard Shiffman and Kay Gardiner
Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines
Yarn: Rowan Denim in Nashville and Tennessee
Rowan Handknit Cotton in shade 337
Size: 0-3 months
Mods: None to speak of -- substituted faux leather tag for felt tag
Problems: The crotch is a little wonky due to an irregular cast off on my part.
While I have some momentum with this I plan to start the 6-12 month old size right away so the little guy can wear them for a little while.