OY, my aching hands!

It's official. I knit too much.

Actually, I think my problem is that I'm knitting too much in the same gauge. I have four different projects on US8 size needles (and one on US2), even though I KNOW that such behavior is just asking for carpal tunnel or a serious muscle cramp. With school out for summer and no other official activities in the works, I basically knit full time, as if it's a job. I believe it's helping me avoid the usual summer break blues, where I spiral into depression from feeling useless and lacking structure, while still side-stepping anything overtly stressful like the graduate classes I need to finish or a temp job.

Jake showed off his laptop case all over town, and apparently several people asked if they could buy one. This isn't the first time someone has asked to commission some knit work, but for the time being, I always answer no. I want my knitting hobby to be just that, a hobby, something I love that relieves stress and releases creativity. If I start ho-ing myself out for money, I'll end up treating my knitting time like a dreaded chore and pumping out known, familiar patterns over and over until I'm utterly sick of them. Stress-inducing. Anti-creativity.

However, that's not to say I don't toy with the idea. It's no secret that I've grown rather disillusioned with the profession of teaching and, at the very least, could use a break. Furthermore, I often ponder how I will balance work and family once we finally obtain the little one we so desire. I can't imagine putting myself through all of this, moving heaven and earth to have a baby, just to drop him/her off at day-care for 9 hours a day while I pretend that nothing has changed. If I fight tooth and nail for this kid, I'm going to want to spend my days enjoying him/her. On the other hand, unless we wait until Jake is out of law school, I will still need to contribute meaningfully to our financial situation, and knitting or designing or blogging or something could be my ticket to that happy medium. I'm just not sure exactly how that would work. Oh well! In the meantime, I'm content honing my craft and gifting everyone I've ever met with handknits.

Oh, and a tip to yarn lovers: my new favorite place to buy yarn is Eat Sleep Knit. They have a great selection of hand-dyed yarns, many of which have cult followings but aren't available in the Dallas area. Right now they have a Yarn Marathon contest going, where they track your mileage and give you prizes for certain achievements! So fun! Also, every order they send you arrives with a scratch-off lottery card, offering awards like gift certificates and free skeins or kits. Man, I'm a sucker for a great marketing scheme. My very first skein of Malabrigo just arrived (the Vaa colorway), and I can't stop petting and smelling it. Check out the link to the right.


Present for the Dream Boat

Pattern: "Aran Laptop Cover" by Michael del Vecchio, available in Knitting with Balls: A Hands-on Guide to Knitting for the Modern Man, or for free here
Size: 11" x 15.5"
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-ease Solids (Avocado)
Needles: US 8 14" straights (US 2 dps for the i-cord ties)
Mods: instead of backpack type clips, Jake preferred these leather covered buttons and a three stitch i-cord tie

Plus: I think this looks pretty darn impressive, and Jake is super pumped (even though he wanted it finished long, long ago). I'm also getting a lot smoother working with a cable needle and a braided cable chart (as stark contrast to my princess mitts).
Delta: I can't say I enjoyed this project. In fact, I had to force myself to work on it. Sure, it was partially out sheer stubbornness. But beyond that, the yarn sucks (squeaky acrylic), and the pattern is at once boring and difficult. It never changes or shapes in any way, and yet I can't memorize it or look up too often (i.e., not a relaxing TV watching knit). The two times I had to rip back, I thought I was going to have a heart-attack getting it back on the needles. If that wasn't bad enough, I think I found a few mistakes in the pattern (though it's possible I'm just stupid). First, the Wild Oak Braid chart can only be worked reading right to left on every row; if worked flat, the chart should read left to right, then right to left, on alternating rows. When binding off the 23 stitches from the right, it says to "Sl1 pwise" then k2, but since you already have a stitch on your right needle from the bind-off process, you don't need to slip the stitch. If you do, you'll start the chart on the wrong stitch.

Okay, okay! That's enough bitching about the pattern. Jake is happy. Laptop no longer naked. In other news, one of my nearest and dearest just tied the knot. Photos of their finished "Cuddle Quilt" to come soon. I decided to extend it by 30% at the last minute. Also working on a pair of beaded garter mitts for Becca's birthday, a cute hat for a friend's toddler, and a Cobblestone for Jake.


Total Happiness on My Shirt!

Pattern: "Clapotis" by Kate Gilbert, available free here
Yarn: Fiesta Ballet (Cosmopolitan)
Needles: US 7 Circular (worked flat)

Plus: This is really lovely and versatile! I think I will have to purchase a shawl pin to accentuate its awesomeness and further enable me to wear it at all times. It is the sort of design that looks equally fitting worn open and drapey as a shawl, or bunched and tossed around the neck like a scarf. The pattern is nothing short of elegant and was a pleasure to knit (even if it was not always riveting). If you take a look at the pattern and think it's too hard for you, think again. She goes overboard in the explanations just to be safe, but the pattern is very intuitive and easy to memorize once you get started. This is NOT like working lace.
Delta: I wish it were a bit bigger. I know that a lot of people block the living daylights out of this thing, but I prefer it curvy au naturale. "Clapotis" in French means something akin to a lapping or ripple of water. If you stretch it flat, no ripples. However, being a giant, I have a wingspan greater than most, and probably would prefer one with a little more surface area. Maybe this is one I'll do again.

Pattern: "Baby Surprise Jacket," by Elizabeth Zimmerman, available many places, nowhere free. I got mine from The Opinionated Knitter.
Yarn: Rowan Calmer (Vintage, Freesia, and Drift)
Needles: US 9 Circular (worked flat)
Mods: 3 buttons instead of 5

Plus: So fascinating! You have to knit it to believe it. You just trust Elizabeth and keep going. Reading ahead in the pattern to try to figure it out just won't work. She's so much smarter than you. Furthermore, GOLLY GEE, Rowan Calmer is so dreamy to work with. Sure, it splits every now and then, but for the most part, it's soft and smooshy and stretchy and so cuddly. I found myself constantly pinching and mashing this tiny jacket absent-mindedly between my fingers because it feels so yummy. It's sad Woolie Ewe won't carry it now.
Delta: There's an awful lot of stitch counting in this pattern, which makes it both addictive (since you know where you are NOW and are afraid you won't when you pick it back up) and a tad tedious. Also, I went ahead and practiced my backward loop M1, and I still don't like it as well as a k1fb as an increase. It makes tiny holes! Sure, the holes are decorative when punctuating the angle of a mitred square, but across the back for subtle ease? No way.


WIP it good!

Sorry, kids! All I've got are some lame-o work-in-progress(s).

My "Clapotis" is dangerously close to completion. Pretty, huh? When it is symmetrical, I'm finished. Don't touch. MINE.

Started "Branching Out" for Amber. See the lifeline (purple thread at the top)? Smarter than I look.

"Baby Surprise Jacket" for Marin. What's that you say? This blob doesn't look like a jacket? THAT'S THE SURPRISE!

"Buncha Squares Log Cabin Quilt" for Temple and Dustin needs seaming. I hate seaming. Ergo, the blanket will look just like this for a while.

This purse has been reincarnated from a tube top. It needs to be lined. I hate sewing. Ergo, the purse will look like this for a while.

The braided cable laptop cover is still in process, but since Jake has been anxiously asking for it...and I resent everything I'm supposed to do....it is not progressing much.

I hope this post has inspired you to do much and accomplish little in your life today.


Why Knit?

I recently enjoyed the extreme pleasure and honor of teaching a dear friend to knit. You could say that I've been recruiting her for months now, constantly gifting her with handknit items for her entire family and bragging about how happy and relaxed the hobby makes me. When she sent me a pattern she liked (100% garter stitch blanket), I assured her she could make it herself, and a date was set for a lesson. Being a clever gal, she picked it up very quickly and is clicking along with a practice doll-sized blanket. In a recent email, she bemoaned her lack of speed and wondered how long it will take to create a blanket large enough to cover an entire child. Ever since, I've been pondering how I could best encourage her...you know...without lying.

Knitting is slow. You may pick up speed and you may not (just like reading, some people just indulge in a slower pace no matter how adept they are), but you will never be FAST. It is not a practical way to avoid shopping for clothes or linens, nor is it a way to save money. Yarn is expensive, and if you truly love fiber as most knitters do, yarn can be very expensive. Using comparable fibers, a store-bought sweater or blanket is, in most cases, both faster and cheaper. So why torture yourself with these pointy sticks?

Because knitting is slow. The act of knitting is a rebellion. It is as diametrically opposed to values and vices of modern culture as one can achieve in a matter of seconds. You will NOT be instantly gratified, as you've come to expect. You will NOT achieve perfection, no matter how smart or rich you've made yourself. You will NOT outsmart your competitors and save a buck. You will NOT consolidate tasks to get ahead. You will NOT one-up the Jones' or ride the crest of technology ahead of your peers. Knitting is demurely hostile in every way.

But knitting is not just antagonistic behavior for me. Knitting is warm. Warm with human hands, animal fibers, wooden sticks. Warm with imperfection and sighs and self-deprecating giggles. Warm with tiny prayers folded into each stitch, a wooley kiss, an whispered I-love-you to the recepient. Warm with the now melted tensions of afternoon traffic or the unraveled sting of some bad news. When I hand over to a friend a pair of handknit mittens or a baby blanket for their soon-to-be, I give an bundle of love and warmth to which no store-bought gift can compare, and I give a generous slice of my life.

There is another reason. Sliding a stitch into place: a single movement now in my hand, the soft "sshh" of the needle rubbing against its mate through the loop, "wwhh" as I whip the strand through the air and around the needle; with a "sshh thm tick" it sidles under the loop toward me, lifting the higher needle ever so slightly and letting it crack quietly back down, "then more swift woodeny whispers as the needle deftly peeks through it's new window, leans across the other like a violin bow, and then whisks the stitch off in a brisk movement that resembles sharpening a knife. It calls to me. This complex ballet of my fingers doesn't even ask my brain for permission or guidance anymore. The yarn dances back and forth before my startled eyes as if performing for me after months of exultant rehearsal. My fingers itch when they're not swathed in yarn, cradling bamboo, sshhing and wwhhiring away. I concede, this part may be some genetic predisposition, the joy that comes with working with your hands. It finally found me.

Whatever your reason, embrace all the hand-knitting is. The rewards are rich, indeed.

On the needles: Temple and Dustin's wedding blanket; my Clapotis; Jake's lap-top cover; EZ's Baby Surprise Jacket (whee!)


Bachelorette Bash

Pattern: "Happy Easter" by Marij Stolp (chart available for free on Ravelry)
Yarn: Lion Brand Cupcake (lemon drop, blueberry, and pistachio)
Needles: US 6 Circular (worked flat)
Mods: This was a stash-busting project, so after completing the chart, I worked in two row st st stripes until I ran out of one of the colors. This became the flap of the bag. I then picked up stitches along the bottom of the chart in a contrasting color, and worked in st st until, when folded, it reached the point where the stripes begin. After that, I worked a few garter rows to prevent curling, bound off, and sewed up the sides with a simple whipstitch. Neither the flap nor the inner panel would lay flat, so my friend Danielle helped me sew velcro on so it would close nicely. The bag was used to store a dazzling array of flavored condoms at my dear friend Temple's bachelorette party last night.

Plus: Following a color intarsia chart is a lot easier than I imagined.
It's also addictive. Once I got started, I had to finish the whole thing before I did anything else, neglecting chores, spouses, social events, and bodily functions. Also, this got some great laughs at the shower. And let's face it; it's all about the praise.
Delta: Well, no beginner attempt should be pitch perfect. Hence, the top bunny has a platypus tail and a rat face. No idea. Also, I forgot how much I hate this yarn. It's squeaky in the hands, turns to whisps of cotton candy after trimming, and it looks sloppy and cheap knitted up. The great colors look so adorable in the skein, though! Tricksy Lion!

Pattern: "Phallic Chapstick Cozy" by Crystal Shadrick, available free here
Yarn: Hobby Lobby I Love This Cotton! (tan)
Needles: US 4 dps (worked in the round)

Plus: I giggled the entire time I made this, which only took about 2 hours. Totally worth it, even if it's never, never actually used. This was obviously another gag gift for Temple, who promptly applied the chapstick while cupping the balls like a pro. Way to go, Tempey!
Delta: The pattern is very laid back, which is cool, but I could have used some guidance on how to best attach and position the balls. (Hehe. She said, 'position the balls.')


The Tragic Flaw(s)

Pattern: "Spring Beret" by Natalie Larson (available for free download on Ravelry)
Yarn: Sirdar Juicy DK (429)
Needles: US 8 Circular (worked in the round)
Size: more slouchy
Mods: never switched to US9 because I don't have a circ in that size and the gauge seemed way too floppy as it was

Plus: The lace pattern is really pretty. The yarn is sooooper soft and shiny.
Delta: Where do I begin? Let's just say I learned a lot. First of all, follow directions, dude! If it asks for worsted weight, USE WORSTED WEIGHT! If it says change needles size.....uh...do it. However, if the directions say to do the crown decreases using Magic Loop method rather than dpns....kindly ignore. Maybe I don't know how to do this correctly, but once I got the crazy thing off the needles and saw the HUGE ladders caused by the magic loop, I almost cried. I think I rigged it closed with lots of darning, but I lost several "slouch" inches in the process. Speaking of slouch, this obviously does not, which means it looks stupid on me (blame wrong yarn weight, wrong needles, and ladder darning). Speaking of stupid, I should have used a lace lifeline....but didn't because I wasn't sure how (not that I tried to learn). Last night, I decided it was a fantastic idea to work on a lace project at 2am and (GASP) screwed up. Ah, hubris. After I cursed my lack of lifeline so I could rip back, I finally looked up how I SHOULD have done it. *HEAD SMACK* It is SO simple and would have saved me a ton of heartache and head-scratching.

The yarn only cost me about $12, so I'm not gonna cry over split milk here. Besides, I can, in fact, tuck my worst cases of bed-head in this baby. I tried it out this afternoon when I went shopping in my pajamas for coffee, ice cream, and uppers.

I plan to start "Branching Out" soon for Amber and will have the ability to redeem myself then in the wonderful world of lace.


The good, the bad, and the ugly....in reverse order

The Ugly
Pattern: "Fake Isle Hat" by Amy King, available for free here
Yarn: Cascade 220 (Royal Blue) and Noro Silk Garden (284)
Needles: US 6 Circular and dpns (worked in the round)
Size: M/L
Mods: reversed variegated yarn for CC instead of MC since I had less of it than the solid

Plus: I think this is a pretty impressive first attempt at stranded fair isle. I won't say it's easy, but it's far from impossible. I can see really enjoying this once my hands get the hang of it.
Delta: Woo-boy! This color combo turned out pretty dismal. Oh well. That wasn't really the point. Also, the stranded technique makes the hat double think, making it way warmer than anyone would need in Dallas. Finally, my gauge started out okay, but the stranding got tighter and tighter as I worked my way up the crown, making it too small for an adult, as well as kind of puckered around the top decreases. I think it will serve a noble purpose with Warm Woolies.

The Bad

We met with a fertility specialist today, and he basically shot me through the heart. Essentially, he predicted only a .25% chance of conceiving on our own each month, and 3.5% chance using Clomid, IUI, and donor sperm (per attempt). Around and around we went, with him continually pulling us back to the conclusion: IVF is the only way, unless, of course, you're idiots. Before the meeting, we had decided that IVF is out of the question due to the exorbitant price, so this consultation essentially boiled down to telling me I would never have a child of my own.

The Good
I took a few naps, ate some Mexican food, did some reading and thinking, and I'm less despondent. He reduced our chances of conceiving from the get-go by 95%, just based on the news that I had endo, even though it's extremely mild at this point. The truth is, doctors still have no earthly idea what the link between endo and infertility is, beyond a sheer tendency. Many women with endo conceive without intervention; there's every reason to believe that I could be one of those women.

He further reduced our chances by half because of the chromotubation results, saying that it's probably blocked with endo and useless (although he appreciated that my doctor was being "optimistic" when she explained that it could have been a harmless spasm). There's every chance that she's correct, and I plan to follow up with an HSG next month to verify.

Lots of other things he said didn't make sense (such as a Varicocele being responsible for Jake's poor motility and morphology). I realize that he has a vested interest in selling me IVF and that his doctor-y tendency is to trust the controlled and precise over the mysterious and unpredictable. I realize that pretty much all fertility specialists consider IUI the caveman's solution, but it still improves our chances above the present situation. I want to try it for a few cycles before moving on to adoption.

I am not giving up.


Hat Lady

The Spring Beret is coming along quite well, and it looks like even though I'm using a DK rather than worsted weight, the gauge will be on target. This bamboo/cotton blend (Sirdar Juicy) is ultra silky and luxurious, but it splits so much, one can hardly call this a "yarn." It's like trying to knit a hat out of a hank of someone's hair. But, MAN does this thing have lovely drape! Unfortunately, it's on hiatus until the yarn stores open up again, and I can get a second ball.

I'm teaching myself stranded fair isle technique. This is where you knit English style with your right hand and German style with your left, holding a different color yarn in each. Then, you follow a color chart to make designs by alternating from hand to hand. I'll need to have it down for one of the squares of Becca's blanket. For now, I'm practicing with some leftovers and the "Fake Isle Hat" pattern. Since I normally knit English style, my left hand is basically going through knitting boot camp and is quite awkward right now. It'll get easier with time. Meanwhile, the hands ACHE.


110th reason I'm keeping this husband

Me: "That was the best decision I've made in a long time. By the way, I decided to do a manicure, too."

Him: "Great. Let me see."

Me: "It was the best manicure/pedicure I've ever had...in my LIFE!"

Him: "Great. How much?"

Me: Pause. "They did a warm stone massage on all four limbs!"

Him: "Kat, how much?"

Me: Pause. "And before the hot stone massage, they did a mask on my hands and feet and then wrapped them in warm towels. And the chair was the best massage chair I've ever tried. It felt like a real person!"

Him: "Doll, I don't care how much it cost. I just want to make sure they were adequately compensated. I know those girls don't make much."

Me: "With tip, $60."

Him: "Good. You should go back more often."


Scrap-busters incorporated!

Pattern: "Scooped" by Marcie Nishioka, available as a free download on Ravelry
Yarn: Hobby Lobby I Love This Cotton (tan and cream)
Needles: US 5 dpns (worked in the round)
Mods: followed instructions to create in one piece (I hate seaming) and altered both halves to accomodate and use up the scraps I had left of both yarns. Fastened the top i-cord to the side of the "scoop" to look like a curl.

Plus: The cone looks so darn cute! This was very simple to do in one piece. I would definitely recommend doing that if you're not adding embellishments like sprinkles or nuts.
Delta: I'm not thrilled with the shaping of the ice cream. It doesn't look as curvy and realistic as the one pictured in the pattern. I've noticed that no one else's on Ravelry looks like that either, except for one woman who rigged it with a running stitch along the decrease rows. Hmmm...

Pattern: "Knit Strawberries" by Pezdiva (available free here)
Yarn: Classic Elite Yarns Princess (red); Lion Brand Cupcake (pistacio)
Needles: US 5 dpns (worked in the round)
Mods: none

Plus: This pattern is simple, beautiful, and easy to follow. I will make several more with the leftovers of each yarn.
Delta: I wish there were instructions for making berries of different sizes. I would just change the needle size, but the stuffing would start to show if I went any bigger.

Pattern: Bunny Blanket Buddy by Lion Brand Yarn (available free here)
Yarn: Yarn Bee Frosting (hot berries)
Needles: US10.5 and US 8 straights (worked flat)
Mods: I screwed up a lot

Plus: This is sort of soft and cuddly
Delta: I hate this yarn! I hate this pattern! I hate this yarn! I hate this pattern! A pox on both their houses! I can't see a damn stitch in the whole thing, so lose count or drop a stitch and say goodbye! The yarn is so self-loathing, it doesn't want to knit or purl. It just wants to stick to itself and the needle, taunting you. I hate this yarn! I hate this pattern!

Also recently finished scrap-busting projects: two dirrrrty bachelorette party gifts, which I cannot yet reveal. It feels so good to hit the "delete" button on my Ravelry stash for all these seemingly useless odds and ends. Also feels good to give them a good home. The food will go to Micah Moon and her play kitchen. The bunny will likely go to the newest family baby, Marin White.

I've had a hard couple of days, health-wise. My first post-op period arrived, and brought with it some bone-shattering cramps. Day 1 I spent connected to my heating pad and alternating Vicodin with prescription strength Motrin...and STILL felt a lot of pain. Day 2, I felt like I had run a marathon, sore chest and arms and thighs, and I slept 18 hours. Apparently, this is normal for the first one. I wish someone had warned me. Now, I don't hurt so badly, but I'm in an awful mood and am tempted to just shred the above pink rabbit in my teeth like some rabid, starving doberman.