Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Finished: Quicksilver Fingerless Mitts

Say, those aren't socks at all! The first of my set of 4 things
to be finished (perhaps my previous appellation of an "avalanche" of FOs may have been a slight overstatement--more like a slowish mudslide) is off the needles and on my hands! And, boy, are these babies my new best friends!

Finished: Quicksilver Fingerless Mitts
Pattern: Eunny Jang's Endpaper Mitts (sans schmancy colorwork)
Fiber: Yarn Pirate merino/tencel sock yarn in "Quicksilver" and dark gray Koigu KPM for the trim and cuffs.
Needles: sizes 0 and 1 DPNs
Date Started: February 2007
Date Completed: February 2007
Modifications: There were many minor modifications to the Endpaper Mitts, as I just used the pattern as a general template to make these mitts.

Okay, time for my few cents on merino/tencel, since it is a relatively new phenomenon in sock yarn, and several commenters asked me specifically what I thought about knitting with it. Merino/tencel has this magnetic, corporeal quality about it, definitely. The tencel added in makes wool tough and beautifully sheeny and lustrous. And soft and silky. When you see a merino/tencel blend in person, you immediately want to own as much of it as you can. And want to knit everything you can with it. Well, you do if you're anything like me (read: attracted to shiny, shiny prettiness). All the wonderful physical properties aside, however, I found knitting with it a little on the annoying side. It's significantly slipperier than 100% wool, so my gauge tended to be more loose and if I wasn't paying attention at all times, some of my stitches would become loose during transfer from left to right needle and become wonky looking. So, basically, I had to keep the yarn pulled somewhat taut as I knit. And the slight lines that are created when knitting in the round on dpns--the ever-so-slightly more loose stitches right at the "corners" where you shift from one dpn to the next are exaggerated, which I found a little bothersome (back, perfectionist, back!).

Merino/tencel is also somewhat less stretchy than pure wool, so I am not convinced that the tencel blend is best suited for knitting socks--that is, unless you compensate for the lack of stretch and make slightly bigger-fitting socks, in which case they may turn out a bit saggy. That said, the added tencel does provide wool with a great amount of added strength, which makes it seem appropriate--if not perfect--for sock knitting. Turns out, given all of its qualities, I really love the merino/tencel for mitts such as these. The added strength is perfect for taking the mitts on and off all day, for one thing. And the smoothness of the fabric is also perfectly suited to mitts. Okay, that should suffice for an opinion on merino/tencel. I feel compelled, though, to admit that I have purchased more merino/tencel and will probably be knitting socks out of it. I suspect I'll grow to love merino/tencel indefinitely with time.

I have a few more cents to throw into the bank: the Yarn Pirate yarn (When did I become such an opinionated-and long winded- knitter?!). Yarn Pirate sock yarn has this sort of surreal, über-alluring quality to it. I am not typically one of the many who are lured by the siren song of variegated yarns, but for some reason, I am drawn to the variegated Yarn Pirate sock yarns. And as much as I don't want to admit it, there is that "For a Limited Time Only, Get it While It Lasts!" appeal to Yarn Pirate as well. That stuff sells out on Etsy pretty much instantaneously. Not as instantly, perhaps, as Sundara, but you can't ponder your desires for very long, or you'll miss out. I don't fully understand the strong appeal it has for me, but the Quicksilver merino/tencel was the first Yarn Pirate yarn I have tried, despite my skepticism toward variegated yarns (pooling is one of the most horrific knitting-related things to me... if it pools, I rip. period.). And I had a helluva time getting it to not pool. Every darn sock pattern I tried pooled like a mofo. I tried many a sock pattern and many a needle size to no avail, and I finally gave up. Then I realized that if I reduced the number of stitches, the pooling disappeared... unfortunately, I had to reduce the number of stitches by too many to knit a regular sock. Enter Eunny's Endpaper Mitt pattern. Marvelous! Perfectly pool-less! Because my wrists are significantly twiggier than my calves!

Just look at that thumb gusset! These mitts were my first foray into thumb gussetting, so I did a bit of experimenting with methods of increasing around the thumb gusset (though I lacked the foresight to take any comparative photos of the different methods I tried). Eunny's pattern suggests the "lifted bar" increase, which I found to be a little on the holey side (perhaps I was doing it wrong?). So, I decided to try another method--not one I had seen anywhere, just one that I totally made up as I went. I think it was a way more complicated maneuver than necessary for a thumb gusset increase, but it created a hole-less gusset, so I was satisfied with it.

Overall, I love this quick little knit, and I suspect I'll be making many more of these dumbed-down, Eunny-style fingerless mitts (though I DO plan to make some of the two-colored ones, as well). They're simple, yet functional, and I can enjoy my variegated yarns in pool-less peace. That's my "Lookie at my fantastic, shiny new mitts! I heart them!" face. Otherwise known as my whelmed face. That's about as excited as I get, y'all.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

1s and 4s.

4 works in progress, each 1 without its mate.

1 to 4, top to bottom: My Bloody Valentine; Lemongrass Pomatomus; Mossy Monkey; Quicksilver.

There's really no justification for this FO-block. Mix-n-match, anyone?

4 squishy, delectable skeins of handpainted sweetgeorgia goodness. A recent intemperate overextension of my wallie over at the Sweet Sheep. Should tide me over until Felicia returns to action.

1 to 4, left to right: Blue Steel; Black Orchid; Kissed; Snap Dragon.

How was I able to justify? Sweet, good-natured Beth provided that:

Surely you want further details about this most excellent new like-a-KAL? You can go here for that. And while you're over there, be sure to thank Beth for being the bestest knit enabler ever (besides, ahem, Anne).

Y'all go get your warmest, comfiest knits on and prepare for the impending 1st FO avalanche of 2007. And while you're all in your coziest gear, sit back, relax, and have yourselves a super weekend.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Vessel Wednesday: Soapy Goodness Edition.

In honor of Carson's most intriguing and delightful Vessel Wednesday, I give you the Soapy Goodness Edition.

The Soap Shop has been updated with three new soaps. Here they are, in my favorite handmade rice bowl.

Did I mention that they are all-natural and so very good for your skin? Your birthday suit will thank you for the treat.

Also, I would love feedback from y'all, so PLEASE let me know what you think about the soap. You can leave me a comment here or email me at megan@goodsoapworksofathens.com.

Happy Vessel Wednesday, all!
And check out some other marvelous vessels here and here.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday musings and LOOT.

It's been a relatively lazy, plain-vanilla weekend Chez Philistine. For some reason, I feel as though I've been bustling about, getting things done, knitting up a storm... but then I sit down to recount it and there's really not so much to tell or show. Except for some sweet, new LOOT!

This pile of goodness is the stash-enhancing, bed-warming result of some swaps I did with Ashley and Kirsten. Soap for amazing bedwarmer à la Ashley and delicious tweed and sock yarn à la Kirsten! And look: Edwin, despite his uncanny ability to sense and evade impending photographing, has shown up for the treats. Though he hardly looks interested in them; well, I never said he was the smartest cat ever.

Yum! Treats! Ashley's bedwarmers went like hotcakes over at her Etsy shop, so I am glad to have cajoled one out of her before she tossed the others into the vortex. And I feel lucky to have scored some Sweet Georgia yarn from Kirsten's stash, especially having heard the news that Felicia has granted herself a well-deserved hiatus from dyeing. (I *might* have also recently ransacked the Sweet Sheep and gotten a few more Sweet Georgia colorways as well, but more on that some other time). And, well, Rowan tweed is what it is: utterly amazing, and these guys will make an excellent EZ Ganomy hat, agreed? Thanks again, Kirsten and Ashley for some super swapping! Now about all of that knitting with nothing to show for it...

A little peek at what I've been working on. While it may not look like much, to me it looks like nothing less than a small miracle! I have had an exceedingly antagonistic relationship with my skein of Yarn Pirate merino/tencel sock yarn. Despite it being the nonpareil colorway for this month's Project Spectrum, it hasn't exactly been at all cooperative on the non-pooling front. After many attempts and MANY patterns, I was *this* close to giving up on it and relieving myself of the pooling horror by letting it fend for itself over at Good Yarn Karma (this new site is ingenious, by the way... unwanted yarn FREE to good homes?! It certainly DOES seem to be the year of the clean and tidy stashes, indeed!). And then... I tried ONE. LAST. THING. And so far, so good.

And, finally, I really must send out BIG HUGS to Ashley and Kirsten, for the raving reviews of my soap! And, of course, BIG THANK YOUs to all of those who've decided to try some for themselves. Anyone who ordered soap this weekend: your soap is packed up and on its way to you! I updated the SOAP shop this afternoon, so there are a few new treats in there ready for new homes in YOUR shower! Go check them out!

Now, it's off to Tria for some delicious and cheap Abbey Dubbel-style Belgian ale.

Have a wonderful Sunday night, all!

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Literary Spectrum: Blues, Grays, Whites Edition.

Project Spectrum has inspired me to share a few glimpses of M's and my library. Libraries, like food selections in shopping carts, have this uncanny ability to divulge so much about a person. That said, I'll let you all conjecture what you will from the peeks above.

Have a sunny Friday, all, and do your darnedest to stay warm!


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Bloody Valentine.

The first My Bloody Valentine sock is finished. This sock began as the Saccharine sock, but it was apparent when the red gashes, er, outré cerise idiosyncrasies appeared that that name was no longer appropriate. Ashley suggested Valentine's Day Massacre socks, which is absolutely brilliant, but in the end I named them My Bloody Valentine socks, because, well, who doesn't like a little post-punk in their socks (and ears!) now and again?

On another note, I'm intrigued by this short-row toe. Most people, as I have discovered, do a short-row toe if they are doing toe-up socks. However, Adrian's Simple Socks are top down socks, with a short-row heel and a short-row toe. She suggests binding off the toe with a zig zag bind off, as, like me, and many people, I suspect, she finds the Kitchner bind off super-annoying and hard to remember. The zig zag bind off is easy, but the resulting stitches are raised. Despite my initial "Huh? This can't be right, OR comfortable," I like the zig zag. It adds a bit of character. I don't think I'll do it on all of my socks, but I like it enough on these to leave it.

Happy My Bloody Valentine's Day Massacre, everyone!

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Monday, February 12, 2007

A moment of shameless self-promotion.

Finally! My handmade soap is now available on Etsy!

Have a warm and cheery Monday, all!


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Moral superiority in the pink.

To the guileless eye, that might look like me hard at work mixing up a delicious birthday cake for M, but it is, in fact, me concocting an antidote for hubristic blunders. At least I am aware that I'll need nothing less than a ton of sugar for that. You see, I feel as though I am something of a semi-vegan cake baking master. I have an impeccable record for creating the most amazing semi-vegan birthday cakes ever. The past two years I have amazed M with my delectable 3-layer birthday cakes, though I suppose I should give a teensy bit of credit to the Grit, for having published their superlative semi-vegan cake recipes in the beloved-by-me Grit Cookbook. This year, however, my moral superiority got the best of me. I decided that semi-vegan just wasn't going to cut it. I wanted total vegan. Total vegan, it turns out, means no cream cheese or butter--the two offending ingredients in the Grit's frosting recipe. So I did a few minutes' worth of research and came up with an all new, all vegan birthday cake recipe--one that called for such replacements for cream cheese and butter as agar and arrowroot. Uh, okay. That *seems* like it might be... delicious?

Turns out that while agar is capable of transforming cocoa powder and a select other vegan ingredients into a really interesting gelatinous texture, it is not palatable at all. Especially once it is pureed into a spreadable, frosting-like consistency (I spared you photos of this mess). It doesn't come anywhere CLOSE to successfully imitating frosting. And, so, despite my initial consideration of perhaps moving one step closer to transitioning from vegetarianism to veganism, before I knew what was happening, I had replaced the crap vegan cake with this:

Mmmm... glorious, glorious 3-layer Dark Chocolate (vegan) Cake with Cream Cheese (semi-vegan) Frosting. Cream! Cheese! Butter! Get in my cake! And so, in the end, M had another happy semi-vegan birthday, and I will continue for the time being to be content with being a vegetarian, who, on occasion, consumes animal by-products.

Now, about my continued fascination and attraction to pink... I continue to maintain that it has nothing to do with any holidays that might begin with a "V" and end with "-alintine's Day". I'd rather like to believe, instead, that it has to do with being inspired by--

--the best movie ever.

And, speaking of sugary pink things, did you think I'd make you suffer through another one of my pontifications without including at least a little bit of knitting?

It seems that my happy, sugary-sweet sock has acquired a new, not-so-happy demeanor in the form of a huge, red, angry gash--

--wait, make that TWO angry gashes! Even my "happy on the needles" socks refuse to be cooperatively happy! Despite the pooling, though, I still really love these socks. And, look, I have successfully maneuvered the short-row heel! Now that's what I call sweet success! (or, just a really, REALLY bad pun).

Have a great Sunday, all!

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Bizarro Eye Candy: Now, with 100% more agar!

It's M's birthday today (a whole 26! What a baby!), and I am in the kitchen baking up a big ol' fancy birthday cake for the occasion. This year, I've gone all vegan, baby! A big, chocolaty birthday cake with no butter or eggs! (You're thinking: "Wow, um, lucky him...) And the frosting comprises the delectable agar as one of its primary ingredients (again, I hear the collective: "Uh, yeah, that sounds... delicious?). I'm excited. I can't wait to taste this baby.

And, because, really, if I am going to take the time to post a Bizarro Eye Candy shot, shouldn't it be sun-dappled? Come On!

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

In which Bitter McAngry knits something sweet.

Acting upon the sage advice of many of those that left me such helpful and appreciated comments on my debacle-ridden week (y'all know who you are, :::thanks!!:::), I laid the problem knit aside and found myself a good, cheerful distraction. I am still wrestling with whether to rip, leave, or ladder down to the mistake on my rib and cable deal. I am leaning toward just leaving it. I tried to ladder down a few rows and experiment with trying to fix just that rib, but, well, a combination of being a relatively unsavvy amateur knitter and being full of rage at the world at the moment, the experimenting didn't result in any miraculous fixes. I could definitely perform the appropriate surgery if I were fixing dropped stitches or plain knit or purl stitches, but backtracking from plain rib to twisted rib is a wee bit more than a mind full of pressing academic concerns can take at the moment. Thus, a new project has appeared in the place of the ornery one.

Enter this fantastic little bundle. I bought this on a whim from Hello Yarn not too long ago, with some bizzarro predilection for the sweet-and-cheery. It doesn't happen often. If it ain't gray or muted, it ain't going on my needles. I don't know what inspired me to want this particular handpainted beauty... I am firmly and categorically refuting any admission that it might be because I've been inspired by some upcoming holiday that I happen to find entirely fatuous. Perhaps I just needed a little happy on my needles. And, really, I feel like this has done the trick.

And what's more, I have learned a new skill! The picot edge. Wow, these socks are dripping saccharine. How entirely out of character for me, but so delightful! I'm using Adrian's Simple Sock pattern that came free with the yarn. This pattern is great for me, because not only have I had to learn how to do a picot edge, but I'll also be introduced to the short-row heel, which I've not yet attempted. One question: are the sweet little picot teeth supposed to look that much like coffee beans?

I'm also enjoying the irony of the pattern title. Simple Sock. The picot edge wasn't exactly the most simple thing I've done, and I'll definitely need more practice to perfect my method. This first try of mine isn't exactly of the unflared, streamlined variety, but it'll do for a first try.

As for the crapademics fiasco, while things have not been definitively resolved, it is looking like I'll be able to reschedule my exams for the last few weeks of August and my orals for the first week in September. Now, if I can just shake off this sense of failure... wait... wait... looking at my sweet saccharine socks... done!

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Monday, February 05, 2007

In which I must add "crapademics" and "when knitting goes awry" as blog post labels.

Hrmph. Ever have a day when you wish you had just stayed in the safe, comfortable, and WARM confines of your bed? Okay, that's a rhetorical opener, because I know that you have. Everyone has, and I have, too. Today, in fact.

The universe appeared to be in proper working order upon my exiting the bed this morning, despite the freezing cold that is my apartment. I forged the cold, which was expected, albeit unpleasant, and since it was expected, it was handled with a long, hot shower and wrapping myself in a suitable number of clothing layers. I was looking forward to a day of working at home in the blissfully quiet confines of my apartment. In reasonable comfort, considering my layers of clothes. Before settling into a long day of productive work on studying for my imminently approaching preliminary exams (that qualify me to begin my PhD), I sat down for a small bit of knitting. Just a little. Just to give my fingers a little taste, finish off the back panel of my cable and rib jacket, and then get down to the business of boring-but-necessary school work.

As you may glean from the above photo (not the most stunning of photographs, but suitably so, as you shall see), I came oh-so very close to finishing the back panel of row after row after row of ribbing. Now, if that above photo appears to you as if I might have succeeded in my pre-work task, you might want to take a careful, close look at it again. Focus your attention to the left side of it, particularly the last few vertical ribs...

Yes, there it is. Right there. A HUGE mistake. A twisted rib that should, in fact, continue in twisted rib all the way up the back. Not stop half-way and become regular rib, as it, in fact, does. Right. Well. The options are obvious. 1) Rip out half of the back panel and re-knit it. Um... no, thanks. Do you know how much I hate knitting ribbing? Let's just say that it's enough that thus far I have only managed to knit two pairs of socks. Because I hate the monotony of ribbing. (Don't ask me why this sweater seemed like a good idea to me, because I have absolutely no logical response). 2) Subscribe to the "Aw, fuck it" school of knitting and move on with my life. And continue the cable and rib jacket, without any re-knitting. Just a little forgetting and being glad that the mistake rib is on the back and on the edge, likely to be mostly unseen. Too bad I'm an insufferable perfectionist. Who, it will surely be the case, will obsess over this mistake. Though I do like to blurt out a good, aw fuck! every now and again. And as impressive and joyful as Cara's miraculous cable-fix was, I'm afraid that kind of fix just doesn't apply here.

At this point, the back panel remains unripped.

And so, I resigned myself to doing my work. As part of said work, I contacted the appropriate persons in my department in an attempt to schedule my preliminary exams for late April (ack, ack!). I soon after received an email from the department secretary stating that I was not eligible to take my prelim exams this semester. Huh? (Can you sense the impending disaster-of-the-day part deux?) I quickly responded, asking for more information, unable to fathom what the bloody hold-up could possibly be. The response to my response was, well, disaster part deux. I had, it seems, missed the deadline to apply for PhD candidacy, a small bit of paperwork that is required in order to take the preliminary exams. Aw, FUCK. How this small but über-important detail slipped my mind is beyond me. I have not yet related this little development to my prelim advisors yet, but it would seem that my prelim exams will not be taking place at the end of April. They will, instead, be happening, I am supposing, sometime at the end of summer or next fall...

So, tell me, do I rip or leave it as is and just live with the mistake? The cable and rib jacket, that is. The prelim fiasco, unfortunately, cannot be ripped, and I will, indeed, have to just live with the mistake.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

(Silent) Poetry Reading: In which I proffer a few favored words courtesy of Rilke.


Here was the wondrous mine of souls.
Like silent silver ore they moved
in veins though its darkness. Among roots
the blood welled up that flows to the humans,
seeming as heavy as porphyry in the dark.
Nothing else was red.

There were rocks
and spectral forests. Bridges across emptiness
and that broad gray blind pond
suspended above its distant bottom
like a rainy sky above a landscape.
And between gentle, forbearing meadows,
appeared the pale strip of the single path,
laid out like a long bleaching place.

And up this one path they came.

In front, the slender man in the blue cloak,
who gazed out ahead, silent, impatient.
His steps devoured the path in giant bites,
not bothering to chew; from the folds of his cloak,
his hands hung down heavy and locked shut,
oblivious to the now weightless lyre
which had grown into his left arm
as tendrils of a rosebush into an olive bough.
His senses were as if split in two:
while his gaze, like a dog, ran out ahead,
turned, came back, and again and again, far
and waiting, stood at the next bend,--
his hearing lagged behind like a smell.
At times it seemed to him to reach
back to the sounds of walking of the two others
supposed to be following him this whole ascent.
And then again, it was only his own steps' echoes
and the wind stirring his cloak that were behind him.
But he told himself they were still coming;
said it aloud and heard his tones die away.
They were still coming, it was just that they
walked so terribly quietly. If only he
could turn around just once (if looking back
wouldn't subvert the whole undertaking,
not yet completed), he would have seen them,
those two soft walkers following without a word:

The god of the way and of tidings from afar,
a wide brim above his bright eyes,
his slender wand held out in front,
beating wings at his ankles;
and, entrusted to his left hand: she.

The one so loved that a single lyre
raised more lament than lamenting women ever did;
and that from the lament a world arose in which
everything was there again: woods and valley
and path and village, field and river and animal;
and around this lament-world, just as
around the other earth, a sun
and starry silent heaven turned,
a lament-heaven of disordered stars--:
This one so loved.

But now she walked at this god's hand,
her steps impeded by long winding-sheets,
unsure, slowly, without impatience.
She was within herself, great with expectation,
and gave no thought to the man going on ahead
or to the path leading up to life.
She was within herself. And her being dead
filled her like great plenitude.
Like a fruit, with its sweetness and darkness,
was she full with her great death,
so new to her she understood nothing.

She had come into another virginity
and wasn't to be touched; her sex was closed
like a young flower toward evening,
and her hands were by now so unused
to being wed that even the gentle god's
infinitely soft, light, guiding touch
offended her as too intimate.

She was no more the woman of flaxen hair
who sometimes resonated in the poet's songs,
no more the odor and island of the wide bed,
and that man's possession no more.

She was already loosened like long hair
and surrendered like fallen rain
and meted out like a hundred-fold supply.

Already she was root.

And when suddenly, abruptly,
the god stopped her and in a pained voice
said: "He's turned around,"
she did not understand and quietly answered: "Who?"

In the distance, dark before the bright exit,
stood someone whose face
could not be recognized. He stood and saw
how on a strip of the meadow path
what mournful look the god of tidings
silently turned to follow the figure
who already had started back down,
her steps impeded by long winding-sheets,
unsure, slowly, without impatience.

Ranier Maria Rilke, Selected Poems

[translation from Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann's The Essential Rilke, Harper Collins, 1999]

N.B. Rilke's poetry is commonly lauded for its elusiveness and depth, and while this poem is, perhaps, neither elusive or deep, it is in this girl's opinion simply beautiful and tender -- and well worth a moment's reflection. Enjoy.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

February Gray-Blues.

February chills are upon us here in Philly, and the February blues are as well. The blustery days are gray and cloudy and frigid. I am finding it particularly hard these days to gear myself up to make the commute into school. It seems to make so much more sense, morning after morning, to just stay in. Keep that ol' cold at bay. Have some stolid brick walls between me and the gray-blue elements. Work, however, is not so forthcoming in said confines. But access to coffee and knitting is. And, thus, my days are filled with half-read articles, half-drunk mugs of coffee, and half-knit cable-and-rib jacket back panels.

Project Spectrum has arrived. Mother Nature, it seems, is ready to participate. Grays, blues, and whites? She's all over that action.

I am ready, too.

Are you?

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