Monday, April 30, 2007

A Lovely Weekend

Well, I still haven't been knitting. But I guess I could at least show you how far I've gotten on Valpuri. I'm starting the shaping on the back for the sleeves, so at least it won't be long before the back is finished. Whenever I get back to it, anyway.

In the meantime, I had a great weekend. My dad and stepmother were in town from Georgia for the NCAA championships, which just happened to be perfect timing for my retirement/birthday celebrations.

We went to the gymnastics on Friday and Saturday nights. It was great - UGA took first, and Utah took second, when neither team expected to do that well. My husband took my dad and stepmother down to Thanksgiving Point on Saturday for the end of the Tulip festival, and to see the Dinosaur museum. They really enjoyed both.

Then yesterday we went up the canyon for brunch at Silver Fork Lodge. As you can see from the photo, it's still too early to go for a walk around Silver Lake, but it was beautiful, and the weather was fantastic. (I'm not quite sure whether to be pleased about the nice weather, or concerned about yesterday's record-breaking high of 89 degrees.) For the afternoon, we took a drive out to the Kennecott Bingham Copper Mine. There's only so many times I really enjoy seeing a big hole in the ground, no matter how huge, but they wanted to go. And it was a nice drive through the valley. Then in the evening we had a lovely family-and-close-friends dinner party. A good time was had by all.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sofa, So Good

I'm afraid there's still no knitting content today. I've been busy day and night this week, and no knitting occurred. But the good news is that yesterday was my last day of full time employment [applause, loud cheering]. After a 2-week "vacation", I'll be going back to work at my office on a part-time basis for a few months in order to ease their transition. But that meant moving from my large office to a tiny cubicle. The photo of my old office doesn't really show how big it is. (And it's pretty barren, since all of my 'stuff' has been moved out'). To the right of the doorway was an area with a couch. (And by the way, please excuse the crappy cell-phone photos.)

The couch has a very long history at my office. It's been there since the office was built in 1977. There were two of them, and they were highly coveted. Whenever people left, changed offices, remodeled, etc., there was always an issue over who got the sofa. Of course, not everyone had room for one, but they'd get squeezed in wherever possible. When I took over this office, the person who had it before me had one of the sofas. He was moving to a different area of the building, and there was no way he was leaving the sofa, so even though it didn't fit very well in his new office, away it went. But as luck would have it, the OTHER sofa was currently in the hallway outside our department, in an area that was going to be enlarged to build a training room. I asked my boss if he thought I could have the couch, and he told me to just 'take it', because that's what everyone else always did with furniture they wanted. Hardly anyone ever had to give something up once they had possession. So I did, and it's been in my office ever since.

Of course, now that I was moving out of the office, everyone wanted to know what was going to happen with the couch. Well, of course, it's just going to stay there for my replacement. But having nothing better to do yesterday, I thought it would be amusing to appropriate it for my cubicle. We first stood it on end outside the cubicle door, but aside from the fact that it wasn't very stable, it wasn't really IN my cubicle. And the cushions kept falling out. So we remedied the situation. It's now "mostly" in my cube, although it does have to be on its side. Next week when the new guy moves in, they can move it back, but it's providing plenty of amusement in the meantime.

And by the way, what do you call this object? I usually call it either a couch or sofa, pretty much equally. My mother, who was born in Ohio, sometimes called it a Davenport, but I haven't heard her use that term for at least 30 years.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Amen, Sister

I hope y'all don't eat chicken nuggets. Or feed them to your kids. Stop this madness that is fast food.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sock Calculations

I definitely like having negative ease for the socks, which means I can't use the suggested number of stitches following the directions in Sensational Knitted Socks, which don't allow for any negative ease.

This is how I calculated the dimensions for my test sock, which I made from Cascade 220 Superwash (for faster results!):

My Foot:
9 3/4" long from back of heel to toe
8 3/4" foot circumference
8 1/2" ankle circumference
2 1/4" heel

I measured my foot length by standing against a wall with no floor molding and measuring from the wall to the tip of my toes. The foot circumference was while standing.

I wasn't exactly sure how to mention the heel height, I think mine might be closer to 2 1/2", but the chart in Sensational Knitted Socks said 2 1/4" for my shoe size, and socks with that heel length seem to be fine with my shoes, so that's what I'm going to call it.

Since my ankle measurement wasn't that much less than my foot circumference, I just ignored it and went with the foot dimensions.

The math:

Since I was knitting a pattern stitch on the top half of the foot, I calculated the gauge for both stockinette and the pattern, and took the average. To get the gauge for the pattern stitch, I stretched the swatch out widthwise enough to flatten out the pattern, but not enough to distort the stitches. I guess that's what they call "lightly stretched". I came up with 6 stitches per inch for stockinette, and 5 stitches per inch for the pattern.

Then I took the stitches per inch times my foot circumference and averaged the two totals:

8.75 x 6 = 52.5
8.75 x 5 = 43.7

52.5 + 43.7 = 92.2
96.2 / 2 = 48.1

This matches the 48 stitches recommended for my size in the book (no negative ease). Then I calculated two figures - one at 10% less and one at 15% less:

48.1 - 10% = 43.3
48.1 - 15% = 40.9

So I figured my number of stitches to cast on should be 41 to 44. The closest match was 40 stitches for this pattern. That was slightly under my 15% calculation, but since the pattern was a stretchy rib, and it was less than one stitch off, I figured it would work out.

Finished measurements of my test sock:

10" back of heel to toe
9 1/2" sole of foot (heel turn to toe)
2 1/4" heel flap
6" leg (I deliberately went a bit short)
6 1/2" circumference unstretched

The circumference seems small looking at the unstretched dimension, but it has a rib pattern over the instep, so it stretches quite a bit and fits well. I was actually shooting for 9 3/4 in foot length, but the toe came out slightly longer than I expected. Interestingly enough, I found that the slight extra length isn't really a problem since I have a lot of negative ease in the circumference, so I didn't bother to reknit it. But I think I'll still try to knit the next pair of socks to a total length of 9 3/4" to match my foot.

The leg length was "adequate", but I'd prefer 7". I only did 6" because I wasn't sure if there'd be enough yarn for both socks.

I'm happy with how it turned out, so I think I'll keep using this calculation. I'm sure that once I get more experienced, I'll have a pretty good idea of what number of stitches is appropriate for a certain weight of yarn, but at least I have a place to start.

My Fingers Thank You

Thanks for all your sympathy on my Raynaud's. I hate being a whiner, and almost didn't post about it, but it helped to vent. I have a few ideas of things I might try - one is that I have (or at least had) a leather thimble that I bought for quilting, and I thought maybe I could try wearing it on my index finger for padding. I haven't been able to find it yet, but I still have some boxes to dig through. Thanks, Marsha, for the idea about bandaids. I might try that, especially if I can't find the thimble, or if it's too hard to knit while wearing it. Unfortunately, I guess I won't really know whether anything's helping until next winter. I'll just try to be a bit more conscious of what I'm doing, and try to limit the pressure on my fingers.

But I'm not going to give up on the knitting, at least not unless my fingers get much worse. Knitting seems to be the perfect hobby for me, probably because I'm such a practical gal. With knitting, I can make useful items for myself and others, and there's practically no end to how much you can knit. With many other things I've tried, there's only so much you really want to do. After all, how many quilts or cross-stitched items or needlepoint items can you really use? Plus it's so portable, and it makes for a great social activity, too.

In the meantime, I've been working on "test socks" with worsted weight yarn (so they'd go faster!), trying to come up with sock dimensions that I like. I think I'm ready to translate that to some new socks in good sock yarn. But I'll go into that in a separate post.

Monday, April 23, 2007

It's All in the Fingers

I've mentioned before on my blog that I have Raynaud's Syndrome, where the tips of my fingers turn white when cold. Up until a couple of years ago, I'd only had a few episodes ever. Last winter I had probably 6 to 10 episodes. This winter it was several per week - a very dramatic increase. I had an ANA blood test a year ago after telling my doctor about the Raynaud's episodes I'd had, and the test came back positive. A positive ANA test doesn't definitely mean anything, but certainly it increases the likelihood that I have an autoimmune disorder (which Raynaud's is). My mother has it too, so while I wasn't really alarmed to find out that I have it, I was very concerned that the episodes were so frequent this year.

Then a few weeks ago while I was working on Icarus, I noticed that my right index finger was white right above the pressure point of the knitting needle - which wasn't such an unusual thing in itself, until I realized that the knitting needle marked the exact line where my finger normally turns white. It was just like looking at my finger during a Raynaud's episode. The light came on in my head. The problems with my fingers are very strongly related to the pressure on them while knitting. My right index finger is by far the worst, with the demarcation line being right where the knitting needle sits. My thumb and middle finger are also affected, though not quite as much - and while knitting, they get some pressure, but not as much as the index finger. My left hand is rarely affected, but if it is, it's the thumb and index finger, not the middle finger. That also corresponds with how I hold the needles and where the pressure is.

Hmmm... last winter was the first winter when I was knitting, and the first time I really started getting symptoms. Now I'm knitting even more, and the symptoms are far worse.

I did some searching on the Internet, and discovered that there's such a thing as "hand-arm vibration syndrome" or "vibration white finger". This syndrome is where the fingers turn white due to repetitive stress injury. It's usually associated with working with vibrating tools such as drills, but I did see mention of handcrafts such as knitting also being associated with it. Evidently the blood vessels and/or nerves are slightly damaged by the vibration or pressure, which leads to the dreaded "white fingers". Even worse, this damage can be permanent.

I also found a few knitting blogs where some knitters with Raynaud's have even worse symptoms - their fingers (especially the right index finger) turn blue. Fortunately I've never gone past the white stage.

SHIT. While I don't think that knitting is the underlying cause of my Raynaud's, I strongly suspect that it's aggravating the condition.

So what to do? I don't want to give up knitting, and I'd been hoping to do even more of it now that I'm retiring. But I don't want to be stupid about it, either, and end up causing permanent damage to my fingers (if it isn't already too late).

I've been trying to keep my hands more relaxed when I knit to limit the pressure on the fingers, and am paying more attention to how I hold the needles. I try changing my grip a bit so that I'm not holding the needle in the same spot all the time. There's also quite a difference in how I hold different needles. I hold DPN's a bit differently than circular, and larger needles differently than smaller. The stitch pattern can also make a difference. Unfortunately, the worst "offender" I've found seems to be the size 3 circulars I'm using to knit Icarus. Or perhaps it's the needles plus the lace pattern. But at any rate, that's why my progress on Icarus has been so slow. I'm limiting myself to no more than 2 rows per day, and I only work on it a few days per week. Will that be enough to make a difference? Well, I guess I won't know until next winter.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Green Orange

For years, I've had a Meyer Lemon tree that I've schlepped in and out of the house each spring and fall. Usually I'm rewarded with several nice juicy lemons each winter. A few years ago I decided to add a Valencia orange tree to my collection. I'd get flowers, but no fruit. Finally, last summer, I noticed a single orange on the tree. For months I watched it grow. After bringing in the trees last fall, I waited anxiously for it to ripen. The lemons ripened and were eaten, but the orange still sat there unchanged. I've been looking at the tree recently, thinking that it was odd that the fruit was still there. Today my husband noticed that it had fallen off the tree. Still as green as ever. Well, of course, we had to cut it open. Voilà - presenting the green orange. I was surprised to see it look so ripe and juicy on the inside. So of course, I had to eat it. Slightly on the tart side, but not bad. It was certainly edible.

Friday, April 20, 2007

On the Money

Just had a couple of moments this morning for a quick Dollar-and-a-Half snapshot. My husband says he prefers the cardi without the t-shirt underneath. I don't think I'll be sharing that photo with you, though.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dollar Done!

My Dollar and a Half cardigan is done, and I'm quite happy with it. Even though I reduced the sleeve length by only doing 2" of ribbing instead of 4", they're still quite long - down to my knuckles like in the pattern photos. When I blocked the body of the sweater, I pulled it out more widthwise (reducing the overall length), which I wouldn't do with the sleeves because I wouldn't want them any wider than they are. So they ended up being about the same length as the pattern, when I'd planned on them being a bit shorter. But it's actually okay - I can wear them as is, or turn up the cuffs at the ribbing if I want them a more standard length. I actually like the sleeves both ways.

Sorry I don't have a photo of me wearing it yet - my photographer is out of town until late tonight.

I even found some buttons that are a perfect match - almost exactly the same color pink, with a lighter pink swirl in them, so they really match the yarn's highlights and shadows. They're 3/4" instead of 1" as called for in the pattern, but the buttonholes didn't really seem large enough for 1" buttons anyway.

Pattern: "Dollar and a Half Cardigan" from Interweave Knits Spring 2007, designed by Véronik Avery

Size: 36-1/4"

Yarn: Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece in "Pinkaboo", 6 skeins (I had about 1.6 ounces left of the last skein.)

Needles: US 7

Modifications: Made two cable fronts, with the cables mirrored, and knitted only 2" of ribbing on the sleeve cuffs instead of 4". The sleeves stretched a lot, so I could probably have reduced the total length by 4" instead of only 2". Also, when I picked up the stitches for the neckband, I picked up about 2 stitches for every 3 rows, which ended up being the same stitch count as the pattern indicates to pick up for the smaller size. So I just followed the pattern for that size instead, and it worked out just right.

Tips: The increases and decreases in the lace were tricky, but it helped to realize that there should never be a YO right next to the first or last stitch in a row. I found it very useful to keep a list of what round the decreases should be on, and the number of stitches I should have after each decrease. When decreases for the lace fall on one of the PSSO rows, the easiest way to deal with it is to knit that row normally, and omit the last YO on the next row.


Knitting is now complete on the Dollar and a Half Cardi, but it still needs buttons and to have all the ends woven in, so stay tuned.

Go-backs on previous blogs:

The strawberries at Costco this week were delicious (and gigantic). Much improved over the wretchedness of the last ones. BTW, the Red Papayas have also been excellent, but they need to sit out for several days until the skin is mottled yellow and green. I'm not sure how much longer they be in season, though.

To whomever found my blog by Googling "what kind of chocolate chips are used in Paradise Bakery cookes", the answer is Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips. Just so you know.

And... drum roll please... I'm now in the single-digit countdown. Only 9 more days left until the end of full-time employment. Yes, I know my countdown timer says 13, but that's until my official retirement date of May 1st. My official last day of work is April 27th. Yippee!!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Valpuri Begins

The sleeves of my Dollar and a Half are finished and blocking. Now hopefully it will all go together OK. I hope it's dry by tonight so I can work on it.

In the meantime, I decided to start another project. I was in the mood to make some sort of top, and I wanted it to be a fairly quick project. Berroco's Valpuri seemed to fit the bill. It's made from a heavy worsted yarn (I'm substituting Rowan's All-Seasons Cotton for the recommended yarn) - it's the first time I've used it. I'm not quite sure what to think of it yet - it's kind of chenille-like in texture. And I wonder if it will be too warm to wear in the summer, but I guess I'll just have to wait and find out. At least my gauge seems to be just right with it. The color I'm using is very similar to the color in the photo.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

007 Snap a Dozen Days - April

APRIL! March teases us with a beginning peek at Spring, but in April, it's in full bloom. Tulips are my favorite flower, and April is when they start showing their beautiful colors. There's something about the simple lines of tulips, both flowers and leaves, that really appeals to me. I would absolutely love to take a trip to Holland one day during tulip season. How glorious that must be! Acres and acres of beautiful swatches of colors, shimmering like jewels.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Matching Collar and Cuffs*

Well, not quite. A long time ago I bought a bunch of Moda Dea Sassy Stripes yarn, thinking that it would be cute for some baby clothes. But then I ended up making a scarf for myself, which I really like, especially with blue jeans. A couple of weeks ago I found two more skeins of the yarn in my stash, and I thought it would be fun to make matching socks. I got the socks finished, and although I'm not wild about the acrylic yarn for socks, they're the best-fitting pair I've made so far, so I'm happy with them. But then I got out my scarf, and it turns out that they're NOT a match after all. These two skeins were a different colorway from what I used for the scarf. But that's OK, I think they'll still be fine separately or together.

*For those who don't know, this is a slang term indicating that the color of a woman's hair on her head matches the color of her hair... um... "down dere".** I had a good laugh recently when watching "Diamonds Are Forever". Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) asks James Bond (Sean Connery) whether he prefers blonds. He responds: "Oh, providing the collars and cuffs match...", and shrugs. All I can say is that although my scarf and socks don't match, at least my collars and cuffs do.

**My husband informs me that Jews have about 50 words for a man's genitals, but only one for a woman's: "down dere".



Thursday, April 12, 2007

Not Too Abnormal

I'm especially proud of the last one.

You Are 12% Abnormal

You are at low risk for being a psychopath. It is unlikely that you have no soul.

You are at low risk for having a borderline personality. It is unlikely that you are a chaotic mess.

You are at low risk for having a narcissistic personality. It is unlikely that you are in love with your own reflection.

You are at medium risk for having a social phobia. It is somewhat likely that you feel most comfortable in your mom's basement.

You are at low risk for obsessive compulsive disorder. It is unlikely that you are addicted to hand sanitizer.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Cancer-Free Pink

A couple of weeks ago, Heather had a little cancer scare which fortunately turned out to be nothing. After being told she didn't have cancer, she headed over to our LYS to purchase some sock yarn. Pink sock yarn. Was it a subliminal choice of color? Who knows.

But this week I had my own breast cancer scare. I had my annual mammogram on Monday. Yesterday the hospital called to tell me the doctor wanted more films, so today I had my re-do. The technician showed me the spot on Monday's films that looked suspicious, and said they'd do more x-rays zoomed in on that spot. The doctor would review them and decide what needed to be done after that. She said sometimes spots like that are just from how the tissue compresses, but that the results looked different from my last tests. So we did more squishing and filming. Of course, then I had to wait about 20 minutes for the radiologist to finish up some other procedure before he could look at my films. It was a long wait, let me tell you. But finally the technician came in and said that everything was OK, and I'm good for another year. Whew! So there I was, only blocks from the LYS. What choice did I have but to celebrate being told I didn't have cancer by getting some pink sock yarn?

I think this should be a tradition. Mammogram results OK = buy pink yarn.

Is He, or Isn't He?

No knitting has been done in the past few days, because my sister has been visiting from Massachusetts. Last night we were sitting around talking at my mother's house, and I was looking at the titles of some books on her shelf that were from the Better Homes and Gardens "All About Your House" series, published in the mid 80's. (You know the type - decorating tips on window treatments, storage space, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.) Anyway, I grabbed the book "Working at Home", and was thumbing through it, laughing at the old PCs. (The original IBM PC with two floppy disk drives.) Then I saw this photo. WHOA. Is that Michael Douglas? I showed it around, and everyone agreed. It must be. We are convinced. Remember, this book was published in 1985, which would be the "Romancing the Stone" era, though the photo could be a couple of years older than that.

What do YOU think? (Click on the photos for larger views)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The soil in the main garden area was finally ready for work, and what a beautiful day for it - sunny and 68. I dug up the gardens to loosen the soil, then tilled in some fertilizer and raked everything out.

Now it just needs to sit a few more weeks before planting, and I still have to figure out what I'm going to plant. I had fun with the corn last year, but fresh local corn is so widely available and cheap, that it wasn't really worth the time and space to grow it myself. But I'm glad I tried it once. I'll definitely do spaghetti squash again, but only one plant this time.

Meanwhile, the Princess played dead and tried to camouflage herself in the shade of the patio chair, hoping I wouldn't notice her. I knew her little feline brain was really plotting against me and was waiting for the chance to get her little kitty paws in that nice, soft dirt. HA! No chance of that. I quickly covered all of the beautifully prepared beds with landscape fabric to keep out the weeds and sneaky little cats.

No Surrender

Dollar tried to kill me last night, or at least drive me insane. I was working on the decreases on the fronts (neck and arm). The decreases at the armhole weren't bad, but the neckline was driving me crazy. I knit, unknit, reknit, and re-unknit until I was ready to scream. I think overall I spent more time doing the top part of the fronts than I did on the whole back piece. The designer did say you have to fake it improvise with the decreases in the lace. I've never been that great at faking it. Ahem. But back to knitting. Numerous times I'd decrease a stitch, only to discover a few rows later that I now had 2 more stitches in that section than before the decrease. Sigh.

Part of the trouble was that I was knitting both fronts at the same time. That worked great up until I started doing the decreases. Then it got really complicated trying to keep track of the increases on both sides of both pieces (and decreasing on the right side of one, and the wrong side of the other), plus keeping track of the cable pattern. I finally gave up and put one side on a stitch holder, and worked each side separately. That went much better. Unless you're a really good knitter, I'd highly recommend doing that, even if you want to knit both sides together up to where the decreases start.

One thing that finally clicked for me and made things easier was that when decreasing on row 3 or 5 of the lace pattern (the rows with the PSSO), the way to do it is to just follow the pattern for that row without any changes. Instead, you'll really make the decrease on the next row by omitting the last YO in the pattern. Veronik mentions that in her tutorial, but I really didn't "get" what she meant for a while. (I really tried following her explanations for the decreases, but I just couldn't quite follow it, so I just faked improvised my own way. You will occasionally end up with 4 stockinette stitches together at the neck edge for a row or two, but it works out okay.

Because I'm incredibly stubborn, I refused to let the decreases defeat me. I ended up staying up 3 hours later than usual, until I had the fronts done. My adrenaline was pumping, and I knew if I went to bed, I wouldn't be able to sleep because I was so worked up about it. So I kept at it until I finally emerged victorious. (Good thing I could sleep in this morning!)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Mine grows (hopefully) under plastic. I'm a big fan of "Square Foot Gardening". These are my blocks of rainbow-colored carrots (Purple carrots? Who knew!) hopefully germinating under their little plastic covers. Peas, spinach, lettuce, arugula, and chard are also tucked into their beds nearby. Thank goodness for raised beds - the rest of the garden is still too wet for digging.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Moving Right Along

I'm making good progress on the fronts of the Dollar and a Half cardi. I'm doing the cable pattern for both sides, but I've flipped the cable twist on one side to be a mirror image. I'm doing both sides at once because I figured it would be easier to keep track of the decreases for the arm and neck. Even though this is a pretty quick knit, I'm afraid there's not much chance of me having it done before Easter. Maybe if I had another week...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

More Icarus Progress

This isn't the greatest photo, but I'm nearing the end of chart 2 of Icarus, and it's exciting to see the shaping that's starting to take place.

I love how Miriam has designed the pattern so that it isn't just a border pattern attached to the main pattern. Instead, the lace grows naturally from the body into the border, like seedlings growing and stretching and eventually forming into beautiful flowers. (Or in this case, feathers.) It does make knitting the lace a little more challenging since every row is different as the pattern evolves, but yet it's easy to see the logic in it, and keep on track.