We’re off to Korea!

Monday, we got the call of all calls that every adoptive parent waits for:  we were told we could go to Korea to get MR.  It seemed the waiting had become so never-ending that we’d kind of gone numb, and just as when we adopted YM four years ago, the call came at a time when we had truly resigned ourselves to wait and we’d really stopped talking about it much.  Now comes the mad dash to pack and prepare for the trip, and deciding what to bring and what not to bring; list, after list, after list.  Packing and preparing has been seriously set back by the worst heat wave in local history, with this week having temps running up to 109° F/43° C.  Temps are usually so mild around here, that in Western Washington state, most people don’t have air conditioning, so it’s been quite unpleasant and hard to accomplish much of anything.  This morning, however, I saw the temp had dropped down to almost half that high temp (59° F) and it’s blissful.  Now, on with the mad dash to pack and all. We are SO EXCITED to be going!

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted about much of anything.  The wait for the call was weighing me down, the high school reunion that I was on the planning committee for was keeping me a bit occupied, summer activities with my son, the long-running heat, and the list goes on.  The reunion was a big success, although we came out a little short on attendance, so we committee members have to pay an additional $25 along with our personal admission fees. I guess I’m going to keep the blog I started for my graduating class, since everyone really liked it.  The good thing is that that blog won’t keep me as busy now that reunion is over.

And now, some knitting content (sorry, no pictures)…

After having spent a good week trying to get the right gauge, I’ve cast on for Shawl Neck Cardigan, and I ended-up using US 2/2.75 mm for the pattern stitch and one US 1/2.25 mm needle and one US 2 needle together for the garter stitch parts, because the pattern calls for two different stitch gauges.  I’m using Elann’s Peruvian Quechua, which is alpaca and tencel.  I like the combination of the soft alpaca and the silkiness of the tencel, I just wish I didn’t have to knit the cardigan with such small needles. I tried knitting this earlier in the year, and realized that my gauge was off and that I messed-up on the pattern, not that I’d gotten very far on it.  I’m not sure if this is a project that will see completion this year, but it’s good for now.

I’ve also picked up Bird’s Eye Shawl, but I may end up making it into a small shawl, because it’s taking too long to finish and to knit a row on it, I need a good half hour to do that.

Also, I was recently encouraged to resume Grand Duchess, my attempt at an Medallion Square Orenburg shawl.  The encouragement came from my dental hygenist from Moldova, who after asking about it’s status, was shocked to hear me tell her that I didn’t think it was worth finishing.  She encouraged me to continue with the project, telling me that as a girl she used to watch her best friend’s mother knit Orenburg shawls, and assuring me that though they are very hard to knit, the shawl I was knitting was exactly as she remembered them. I just don’t know when I will ever find the time to figure out where I was on that project….

So that’s it for now and will probably be for a while, although I may try to squeeze in a post from Korea. We are so EXCITED!


These days of cold….

We don’t get out much these days between biting cold weather, occasional icy roads, school closures and snow.  We finally got our big snow storm early this morning and we did our sledding and made a snow angel.

We finally got a Christmas tree last weekend and we’re pretty much done decorating it.  Because it’s been so cold, we opted for a pre-cut tree from a nearby tree farm rather than trek out into the field to cut it ourselves.  I know, we’re wimps.

It's so cold the cats spend a lot of time in front of the gas heater.

I used the tree decorating as a photo opp for socks that I made 3 years ago with yarn I bought on a trip to Newport, Oregon earlier that year.

Why am I showing them now?  Because I didn’t have a blog then (although I wanted one) and I rarely wear them because they don’t fit in my everyday shoes, and if they did, they’d be a little more wild that I’d like to be seen in for normal, everyday wear.  So I was wearing them and thought I’d give them some attention.  The pattern is Whitby from Nancy Bush’s Knitting on the Road.  I don’t remember much about the yarn except that it is Socks That Rock and it’s pretty thick stuff; it may be STR’s heavyweight yarn, and don’t quote me, but I think the colorway is “Blarney Stone”.

I wound a couple more balls of the Orenburg yarn for Grand Duchess and, interestingly enough, as I suspected some of the skeins partially felted when I dyed them last August.  I say partially, because the strands of mohair had partially locked together, but I was  able to gently tease them apart.  All the skeins went into the bath together and I stirred them, but I can only imagine that what happened is that some of the skeins got stirred more than others, resulting in the partial felting.  The difference can be seen when the two skeins I wound are side-by-side.

The partially felted ball is on the right, and you can see it has more of a halo from fuzzy mohair.

With the cold weather I’ve found that I’ve misplaced one of my knitted hats and I thought I had some mittens I’d made around here….but I can’t seem to find them. And then, when I was rummaging around in my closet for my hat, I misplaced the other pair of socks I’d knitted (a few years ago) that I was going to wear…and, well, I guess that means I’ll be knitting at least one new hat really fast.

I have four skeins of Manos del Uruguay in solid cornflower sitting around that I still don’t know what to do with, so I’ll use one of them to make Esme from the Winter 2008/Issue 4 edition of The Inside Loop; I searched it out through Ravelry’s pattern search (what a modern miracle that is!).  I have four skeins of Manos because I had a gift certificate for Pastimes Yarns And Sitting Room in Kent, Washington, and no sooner did I get it than the store decided to close (about four years ago), causing about 100 or so yarn devotees to rush down (we had very short notice) to stand in line for hours to use up our gift certificates and store credit along with everyone else looking for a great deal.  I bought the skeins and a few other yarns with no pattern in mind, and by the time I got there, the pickings were slim. Who knows what I’ll do with the remaining skeins, but how handy to have them hanging around so that I can make a new hat!

A Painful Tale of Process Knitting

Grand Duchess is progressing about as fast as paint peels.  That means about a row a day.  Let’s see, that would put a finish date at about late 2010, after you factor in taking my current average of about 2 days a week off from it. The good news is that I think I’m finally getting into the groove with it, and I can plan on about 20-30 minutes to finish one row that has patterning in it and about 10 minutes to finish one row with stockinette for the shawl body (the border always has patterning in it). There are a few reasons why it’s coming along better:  1) dying the yarn crimson makes it easier to see what I’m doing; 2) I’m using KA Bamboo circular needles; 3) I’m using dental floss for a lifeline.

I tried using various fibers for a lifeline, but none of them were very satisfactory, mostly because other fibers drag the mohair through the stitches, which makes it really hard to rip out if necessary.  I tried using nylon fishing line, but that was hard to see and it slipped out too easily.  So for all but the last 8 cm of the 24 cm (9.5″) I’ve knitted so far, I’ve gone without lifelines. And it’s been painful.  However, one day I was listening to David Reidy’s Sticks & String podcast (highly recommend it) and he mentioned using dental floss in his knitting, and what a huge difference it makes in Grand Duchess. The dental floss is soft enough that it just lays within the stitches, it has enough drag in it to so that it doesn’t slip out, but it doesn’t have so much drag as to pull the mohair through the stitches. And it’s minty-fresh!

I am now using KA Bamboo Classic circulars, but quite by accident. One day I had to break the yarn because of a snag, and being too lazy to get scissors I actually tried breaking the with my hands. Silk doesn’t break easily and by the time the yarn broke, I also broke my KnitPicks Harmony wood 2.25 mm fixed circular needles!  Digging around my stash of needles, I came across the KAs which I’d bought at Bad Women Yarn and were packaged (by the manufacturer) as 2.0 mm but miraculously turned out to be 2.25 mm (luckily I hadn’t used them on a project yet, although it probably wouldn’t have made a huge gauge difference in this project).  These are really nice needles!  There’s the durability of bamboo, very nicely crafted needle points and excellent cable joins to the needle, which turned out to be much better than the cable joins of the Harmony fixed circular on which the fine Orenburg yarn stitches kept getting stuck.  So the needle switch turned out well and besides, I didn’t like the Harmony 2.25 mm needle tips and feel that they could be better finished, and the red yarn against the mostly red Harmony 2.25 mm made it hard to distinguish the stitches, which took me back to the beginning of the whole project when the yarn was grey and I was using light colored metal needles.

Actual Knitting
In the pattern a typical stockinette row looks like this:  border pattern (ranging in 18-22 sts in width), 273 sts of stockinette, ending the row with another 18-22 sts of border pattern.  A typical pattern row for the body has yarnovers and K2Togs throughout and requires close attention to the count of the pattern.  A typical patterning of rows for the body of the shawl has two rows of pattern, followed by two rows of stockinette, and while the stockinette provides a welcome relief from the close attention to detail that the pattern rows require, it also means that mistakes can go unnoticed until as many as three rows later.  Noticing mistakes three rows later means ripping back rows to fix the mistakes if the mistakes involved dropped stitches or, if it involves just losing a stitch, then picking-up a stitch where the body meets the border or at some other well-planned location within the pattern (not easy to do because you can’t see how the knitting is coming along because it’s so fuzzy).  Ripping back a few as one row can set me back a week or two of knitting depending on how bad the mistake is (or how hard it is to figure out where I went wrong), because as I remove stitches, other stitches come undone with it, but that should be less of a problem with the addition of the lifeline.

Orenburg Yarn
Containing 80% mohair and 20% silk, Orenburg yarn is a sneaky little minx. Don’t be misled, the yarn is very slick to deal with so  that even the stockinette rows require fairly close attention. In fact, the yarn is so slick, I’ll rest my hands in my lap for a few seconds to look at something else or answer someone’s question, and pick the knitting up to find 20 stitches have conveniently slipped themselves off the needles, with a few of the stitches coming undone in the process.  Getting them all back in place is like creeping-up on our wiley formerly feral cat Zephyr when we have to take him to the vetrinarian:  “Shh, be very quiet.  Close the doors to the room he’s in.  Don’t breathe. Don’t move a muscle. Okay, get him!”  One false move, and I’ll be darned if more stitches come undone in the process of putting them back on the needles.  If I were to use a simple merino wool or similar low-fuzz fiber, this project would move along much faster for a few reasons: 1) it would be easier to see my mistakes before I get too far along, since the way the pattern works, I do not to know that I’ve made a mistake until three rows later when the pattern count is off; 2) I would be more able to fix mistakes without having to rip back rows by using a crochet hook; 3) I would be able to rip back rows easily without fighting the mohair to give up a stitch, causing me to damage the mohair in the process; 4) the unspun nature of the silk (there is no twist in the silk, so it’s just strands of silk lying together, loosely-wrapped with lots of fuzzy mohair) makes it easy to split the silk strands and the silk slips off the needles suprisingly easily; 5) the fuzzy nature of the high percentage of mohair makes it hard to see the fine silk strands, and if I don’t catch the silk strands, then I inadvertantly lose stitches because the mohair will not hold the stitches, and I often have not realized it until 1-3 rows later; 6) I have to knit the stitches in an exagerated manner, because if I knit in method and at the speed I normally do, I don’t catch all of the yarn with the needle or yarnovers simply slip of the needle without my even noticing it until, you guessed it, 1-3 rows later.  As a yarn, I don’t like the way it is spun, or lack there of, and the mohair makes the yarn slubby, so it’ll be smooth for a 3 inches and then there will be this fat bump of mohair (which later forms a ball of mohair when stitches are undone), so it doesn’t produce the fine shawl I’d envisioned. Finally, Orenburg really doesn’t like to be undone, and the more times it gets undone, the more the yarn develops lovely clumps of mohair along the silk thread, that require stretching and smoothing it out with my fingers just before it gets knitted.

What do I think about this project?
I can’t quite make my mind up about the project yet, and maybe I’ll know better when I’m done. I can visualize making another one of these, but only without Orenburg yarn. Would I try it again with Orenburg? Maybe, but check with me in 2010 when this project is all done. Would I recommend Orenburg yarn to other knitters? Not enthusiastically.

Grand Duchess in the Red

I did it! I dyed all of the Orenburg yarn for Medallion Shawl, a.k.a., “Grand Duchess”. It was a bit scary, and yet it was very satisfying. I didn’t really realize just how much I didn’t like the way the original colorway knitted-up until I watched it change to deep red and a feeling of happiness overcame me. The words “good riddance” kept coming to mind. The result is a beautiful shade of deep crimson to burgundy yarn that is a delight to look at.

The project was not without its perilous moments, though. Early on when I was trying to determine the right combination of crimson and jet black dyes, I was using an old soup pan I had lying around as a decor item to mix the dyes in, and I lifted it off the stove and discovered it had a crack in it: red dye across the kitchen floor and on a white cupboard. Luckily, I acted quickly and cleaned it up fast enough, leaving just a very faint hint of pink in the floor boards closest to the sink. Lesson #1: never use an 150-year old soup pot, and if you do, check really well for cracks before you start. It makes sense to check first, I know, but common sense just seems to elude me at times. I went to the thrift store and bought a stock pot for the project. Also, it’s hard to really know, but it seemed like the mohair portion of a couple of the skeins were just a bit too close to felting. I am a very inexperienced dyer, and probably should stay away from it altogether because I get impatient and lose my cool, so if the yarn started to felt, it is of little surprise to me because I had a few moments of panic in the process. I suppose mohair is a fairly sticky yarn to work with when dying, and either some yarn within the skeins started to felt together or they just stuck together because mohair acts like that. I don’t know, but I was able to loosen the strands that might have just come close to felting.

Preparing the original yarn in water prior to dying.

Dying the yarn.

One skein after dying, washing, and squeezing water out.

Portion of the shawl that has been knitted so far sporting the new color.

For reference, here's what the orignal colorway looked as a skein and knitted.

I had hoped to dye the shawl with its current skein attached, but the yarn is too delicate, so I had to cut the skein off and will re-attach it when I resume knitting it.

I’m quite pleased with the new color, and it’s quite vibrant and with the silk in it, it has a luscious luster to it. Because the original colorway had bands of different colors in it, the resultant color has bands of different shades of red, but I’m okay with that.  The best part is that I will be able to actually see the yarn better as I knit it.

Rib Knitted Shrug Revisited

I know, it’s been a long time since you’ve heard about Rib Knitted Shell, hasn’t it? Now that I’ve finished my on-the-go project, Okay-Shokay Scarf, I needed another one, and it just seemed to make sense to dig up the unfinished shrug from the bottom of the knitting bag and see what I could to do with it.

I’d messed-up on what I’d done so far on the right front, so I ended-up frogging down to the sleeve. I corrected my silly mistake, and set about knitting, and – whoa – What’s that? Yeesh, that looks bad (hint: there are not yarnovers in this pattern):

I guess this yarn doesn’t take kindly to frogging and re-knitting, but hopefully the stitches will straighten-out once it’s washed. Scary, though.

During the better part of the past week, the time normally dedicated to knitting Grand Duchess has been spent frogging Grand Duchess, because somewhere I went wrong on the yarnovers and it set the whole pattern on a snowball of errors, so I frogged 25 rows. It was painful to do. There was hair-pulling involved, both mine and the mohair. Here’s a picture before I frogged it:

I don’t have an after picture, but I took out about half of the above work.

With so many mistakes happening, either I am too distracted to knit, or I need more cappuccino.

Thank goodness for my new automatic espresso machine: the chance of operator error is minimal (some of you may recall the morning I poured milk into the water tank of my old manual machine).

And in keeping with things to drink, I got this great mug for my husband for Father’s Day:

(The picture isn’t mine, but is from the merchant I bought the mug from, Charles & Marie.)

It was just the right thing for him because he loves to have a cookie or two with his milk or coffee. Oh, and I got one for me too, since I knew he wouldn’t want to drink alone, only mine is left-handed.

Update: the way the mug works, is that the cookies stay in the pocket when as you drink from it, so in the instance of the above photo, that would be a right-handed mug and the cookies will stay in the mug ready for snacking as needed. I have to credit for Mariko at Super Eggplant for bringing this great find to light, so if you must blame someone for your being tempted to buy one of these mugs, I’ll share the credit with her. 😉

Dyeing to know.

Okay, so a friend of ours who lives in Russia stopped by for a chat the other day with his Russian wife and, of course I just had mention my Orenburg shawl to her. Blank stare. And then she realized that I was talking about the shawls of Oh-rrhen-boorrg, and we proceeded from there. It’s funny how you learn to say a foreign word in you’re own native language, and then someone who speaks the language associated with that word corrects you, and you just realize, “Well, duh! How stupid of me to pronounce it with American English pronunciation!” I know, if you don’t speak that language, how are you to really know how it is properly pronounced? But then, one of my favorite obsessions throughout my life has been linguistics (I guess I should’ve majored in that in college). Okay, back to the shawl.

After we got my pronunciation of Orenburg closer to what it should sound like, I showed her my shawl. Her reaction was immediate: “But this is not the traditional color!”

“I know.” I wailed, and went on to explain how it is that I ended-up with that color.

So this brings me to the title of this post, because I’m thinking I should dye the shawl: what I’ve done so far and the other hanks of Orenburg. Is that crazy? Probably. I think of crazy things like this often. I suppose it’s possible, but I’ve never done anything that crazy. Well, maybe.

I’ve found that the Orenburg (a.k.a., Grand Duchess) is just too challenging for me at the end of the day when my attention span is less, my eyes are tired and my patience is greatly lacking, so Cabled Coat has become my evening project, and as bonus, when I make a mistake the yarn is a lot more forgiving. But Grand Duchess is the primary project I’d work on if I had more time.

Cabled Coat is coming along…slowly. I really would like to finish it; the design is so interesting. This is one side panel, and it would’ve been further along, but I frogged most of it a week ago when I realized I’d misinterpreted the instructions, once again. I hope I’m doing it right. I think it’s right….

Below is Matcha Market Bag. Not much to say about it, except that I like the stitch pattern:

Bird’s Eye (not pictured) is sitting at the bottom of my bag; a jealous child thinking it’s been forgotten. I’m letting her cool her jets.