Sunday, November 28, 2010

I did it :)

50,156 words. The story isn't done, but I met the 50K goal with more than two days to spare. Win!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Down to the wire...

NaNoWriMo. I have 5,701 words to go. There are four days left in the month, only I'll be in Buffalo all day Sunday for the Steelers-Bills game, so that probably won't be a writing day. (I plan to not write on Sundays anyway.) Keeping with my 2,000 words per day goal, I can easily finish at the 50K mark before the end of Tuesday. Still, I'm hoping to put in some extra words tomorrow, just to be sure.

This has been a good NaNo year. I've written consistently, at least six days a week. The other two years that I "won" NaNo, I finished way early, like by Thanksgiving or before. Then I lost motivation to keep going, even though the stories themselves weren't really finished. This time, I feel like having written daily, 2,000-ish words per day, I've gotten in a good groove. I'd love to see it continue.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

There are so many YouTube clips to choose from in the spirit of wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving. My go-to is usually one of the many "Friends" clips from their Thanksgiving episodes, but I've decided to go a different route this year. Not much of a video, but the song makes me laugh.

Happy Turkey Day, everyone! Hope you're thankful wherever you are, whoever you're with. I know I am. :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday-ish Hoopla

Here we are, the day before Thanksgiving, and uncharacteristically, I am NOT manically trying to clean my house. That is because we have been abandoned by our family this year. Yep. All of 'em. Out of town. I'm trying to remind myself that there have been Thanksgivings past where I wished we could celebrate small, just the four of us at home together. Now that it's happening, I'm kind of sad about it, but I'm trying to make the most of it just the same. Guess it's one of those "careful what you wish for" things. ;)

Despite knowing it would just be the four of us for dinner tomorrow, I've had some major FAIL at down-sizing the food for our meal. A 20 pound bird and two pies are the main items over over-the-topness. At least turkey freezes well, and can you really have too many pies, ever? I think not.

 Pumpkin in the front, Chocolate Chip Pie in the back.

So, Thanksgiving plans, such as they are, are under control. Amazingly, so are my Christmas ones, at least the Christmas knitting ones. I'm mentally plotting out all other Christmas plans and really should commit them to paper in list form soon before they spin out of control. But one thing at a time.

I now have four gifts completed -- two pairs of socks, which I've posted before, a pair of mittens, and a gift that shall go unnamed until it has been given to it's recipient. The mittens may end up being reserved for a January birthday gift instead, since they are for my mother-in-law, and I'm also knitting the shawl she requested. It is coming along nicely, despite the mind-numbing whiteness of the yarn. Haruni is turning out to be an easy enough pattern to knit while also watching TV, so that's made the vast whiteness far less painful to work on. (As a side note, having finished all the back season episodes of Psych on Netflix, I've moved on to Doctor Who, which I'm finding quirkily delightful, and I have to say I find Christopher Eccleston to be rather hot, and I'm already sad to know that he's only in the first season.)

Here he is, after three of the four Chart A repeats. I'm debating adding a fifth repeat. We'll see how I'm feeling about that when the time comes. I'm using white from the Loopy Solids collection.

I've also finished a lacey beret which took only two evenings to make. Actually, it is finished except for the blocking.

This is the Beret de Printemps, knit in Malabrigo Silky Wool, Archangel colorway. Being modeled here by my swift, it looks less like a beret than the head of some colorful, bulbous mushroom. 

This morning I cast on a helmet liner, which is for my hubby. He does not need a helmet liner, as he doesn't wear a helmet, but he does work outside in the cold during winter, and he wanted something to cover his face (but not a scarf). I tried to design one on my own that came out ridiculously unwearable. This, however, is exactly what he wanted, and so I'm glad to be able to knit one for him this year that should turn out with far better results.

I'm knitting it out of Malabrigo Rios, Playa colorway. And oh-my-gosh! This is the softest, nicest superwash I've used in a long time! Aside from the fact that Malabrigo seems to employ cats to skein their yarn (argh! the tangles!), I love it!

There are other gift knitting ideas in my mental queue, but I'll save them for when (and if) they actually materialize.

My one other recent FO isn't a gift, but it's the hand spun sweater I finished, ripped out, and reknit on needles two sizes smaller. It's finally done and I do love it. I'm so glad I reknit it, because it fits wonderfully now. The designer hasn't released the pattern yet, but when she does, I'll be sure to link it here.

On the writing front, I've done a remarkably good job of keeping up with my word count goals for NaNoWriMo this month. What's even better is that at nearly 40K words in, I like the story I'm writing. That's not always a given. I'm no where near even a quarter of the way done with it though, so here's hoping I can maintain the daily writing groove even once I pass the 50K goal of NaNo.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What to do next?

So, I've restarted the hand spun test knit. Getting much more consistent gauge this time using needles 1 1/2 sizes smaller. And tonight, I finished a pair of Christmas gift socks...

Spring Wind pattern by Laura Linneman; yarn by Enchanted Knoll Farm, sport weight, Red Dirt Girl colorway.

(I'd add Rav links, but Rav is crapping out on me right now, so I'll come back and add them later.)

So that leaves me only three active projects now: the test knit sweater, the Caldavos cardi, (which I really want to work on, but I want to finish the test knit one first) and the Christmas gift shawl, which I really should dedicate my time to at this point if I want it to be done for Christmas.

But I feel the need to add another project to my mix, something I can carry around with me. I'm getting tired of socks right now, and my hands would agree. I desperately want to make Cupcake Mittens for a certain somebody for Christmas, but again, those are small needles, and I'd need to work on them only when certain people are in bed at night. Sigh. Maybe a heavier weight shawl? Hm...

Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I started my day off today by frogging the too-big test knit sweater that I shared glimpses of yesterday...

There you have it, all neatly wound into cakes, waiting to be reknit. I may cast on for Take Two later today.

I really don't frog finished garments very often. The test knit I did because it was handspun that I want to be able to wear, and I want to do justice to the designer's pattern. Plus, it's a fast enough project that it doesn't pain me to think of reknitting it as a lot of other projects might.

When I lost all that weight a couple years ago and found that most of my handknit sweaters no longer fit me, I  ended up giving most of them away. Kevin asked why I didn't just rip them out and reknit them. That was overwhelming to me in a way a non-knitterly guy could not begin to imagine! By and large, I am usually a project knitter. I like to see a finished project. And while I enjoy the process of working a new and/or challenging pattern, after I've done it once, I rarely feel compelled to want to knit it again. I'm ready to move on to something else. Plus, it's my contention that most yarns are really only exciting to work with the first time. Knitting something new with the same old yarn just isn't my cuppa tea. (That could be directly related to the fact that I've got a stash that definitely fits SABLE proportions.)
I did, however, hold on to a couple of items that I'd knit pre-weight loss, one of which was a ponchette made out of the bulky Noro Transitions yarn. I sized mine up when I made it because, well, there was a lot more of me at the time. I decided to keep it because I figured a ponchette really isn't a fitted garment, so maybe I could still wear it. The truth was, though, that even unfitted, it was huge on me. I could have slipped it over my shoulders and down over my entire body. But I loved the colors and textures in the yarn, so I hung onto it.

Today it dawned on me that I should just frog it and use the yarn for something else. Since I was in frogging mode this morning, I did just that, which yielded this...

The colors look more amazing in the ponchette picture linked above, and I love how there are some rather sizable tufts of angora in spots throughout. It is truly a lovely yarn, and that's saying something because I'm really not a fan of bulky weight yarn. But it is also Noro yarn, which means you get knots. And holy knots, Batman. That ball in the middle? There must have been about five sections where I'd spliced ends together! (They came apart in the frogging process, which begs the question of how I spliced them to begin with.)

Anyway, I'll eventually re-skein those balls, give them a soak and then wait for a new project to reveal itself. In the mean time, I've got Christmas gifts and a test (re)knit to work on.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Technology vs. Fibery Goodness

I'm coming to you live(ish), from my new desktop, which I took my good old time setting up this past week. Seriously? It used to be that when I got a new computer, I HAD to set it up RIGHT NOW, and get all of the software loaded onto it RIGHT NOW, and get all of my old files transferred to it RIGHT NOW and it had to do everything I wanted it to do the way I wanted it to do it RIGHT NOW. This time? I just didn't have the energy for it. Technology has beaten me down enough lately that I knew this was going to be a long, tedious process, and that if I tried to hurry it, it was just going to be ugly. So I took my time. I didn't even open the box of the new machine for a day. Then I plugged things in, and set up the basics. I added some extra software the next day. I transferred files a little here and a little there. After a bit of arguing with our wireless router, which had suddenly decided that high speed Internet was optional and would be dispensed according to its whims, we are mostly good to go. I'm still not done transferring files, but at least the computer is functioning and I don't need to do a special dance involving the sacrifice of a small bird or animal in order for the monitor to work.

That concludes the technology oriented section of our blog post. Let's move on to something far more fun, albeit not always less frustrating. First, some spinning...

I finished spinning and plying my mystery fiber. It's so fun and candy colored. I really wish I remembered where I got it, and I wish I knew what it was! (My hunch, based on the feel and how it spun up, is that it is at least partly Shetland.) I ended up with about 300 yards of a worsted weight (seems after all that test knit spinning, I'm having trouble going back down to a lighter gauge...argh...) Not sure what it will become, but I enjoyed the colors while I spun it. It was great therapy, and sometimes that's enough.

Also, I finished the first of my Spring Wind socks in Enchanted Knoll Farm sportweight yarn, Red Dirt Girl colorway...

This is going to be a Christmas gift, so I'm busily working on sock #2.

I also finished up my test knit sweater this week, and while I would love to show you a picture, I haven't taken any yet. Plus, I think I'm going to frog it and knit it over. Gauge and I ended up not being on friendly terms on this project. I think my WPI was off, because I got a different number every time I tried to figure it out. And my stitch count was wonky, thanks to my yarn being less than consistently spun. Anyway, it's way, way too big for me to wear comfortably, but I love the yarn soooo much, that I can't bear to leave it as it is. I mean, look at that yarn...

...I loved it as I was spinning it and knitting it, but then I took it outside into the sunshine, and it was like magic, it just warmed up and got all beautiful on me. It deserves to be knitted better than I knit it. So, we'll check back in with that sweater a little later on.

I've been on a bit of a book buying binge lately. I finally finished reading Brave New Knits, which I bought in Kindle version because I was mainly interested in the designer bios rather than the patterns. It was fun to read about all these designers, many of whom I've followed for a while now. I kind of hope the author does a Volume 2 with some of the many other knit bloggers out there who design who I think are more than worthy to be featured in such a book.

Additionally, I've picked up...

Warm Knits, Cool Gifts by Sally Melville and her daughter Caddy Melville Ledbetter. I haven't had a chance to read through this one completely yet, but on first glance, it's got a lot of great projects.

The Red Collection by ZigZagStitch's Mandy Powers . Ohmygosh! The red/white/black/gray color schemes of the projects in this book just thrill me to no end. Clearly, you could knit them in any colors you wanted, but...why would you WANT to? (OK, maybe that's just me. But still. They're perfect!) The Drifty and Holly Jean hats and mittens? MUST. HAVE. THESE. I love them! I don't even wear hats and I want to make them. I am particularly smitten by Drifty. The design just makes me completely and utterly happy to look at. I bought the digital pattern pack of The Red Collection, which gets you the print book but also the ability to download all of the patterns immediately in digital form as they are stored in your Ravelry library. Awesomeness. You can also just buy the print book, or you can buy single pattern downloads.

New England Knits by Cecily Glowick MacDonald. I've been eyeing this book for a while and finally gave in and bought it. I love New England, and this book has fabulous photography, which will make me buy a book nearly every time, even if the patterns don't excite me. Thankfully, there are a lot of patterns in this book that make me happy, so, bonus!

Gifted: Lovely Little Things to Knit and Crochet by Mags Kandis. I love this kind of book. I've used my copies of Last-Minute Knitted Gifts and Handknit Holidays a ton, for inspiration if not for the actual patterns in them. I think this book will make a nice addition to that little collection.

Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant. I bought the first two One-Skein Wonders books (the first of which I used a LOT). I skipped the Luxury OSWs book, but this one I couldn't pass up. I have more sock yarn than I will EVER use to knit socks, so I'm always looking for new ideas and projects to make use of my stash. I haven't had time to go through this book completely yet, but I have high hopes for its usefulness to me.

Lastly, magazines. While I'm eagerly awaiting the winter issue of Interweave Knits to make it's way to bookstores, I've picked up these two to keep me occupied...

Neither of these magazines are ones I've ever bought before, but these issues are both chock full of color work. Debbie Bliss in particular leaves me speechless with the collection it's featuring of ridiculously fabulous fair isle designs by Anna Wilkinson. I don't know if I'll ever actually knit any of them, but I will continue to stare at them for weeks to come. In fact, the thought occurred to me to frame the pictures and hang them in my yarn room. And that model with the red hair and porcelain skin? Is she not STUNNING? (I admit to Googling to try and figure out who she is because I was curious to see some of her other modeling work. I know she's been in DB before, but I really want to know who she is. LOL Anyone know? I came up with nothing.)

So, yep...that's it. Been a crazy week in a lot of other ways, technology withstanding, but I won't bore you. Oh! I am doing well with NaNoWriMo though! I crossed the halfway mark of 25K words tonight. The story continues to be choppy and probably makes no sense, but I'm having fun writing it.

I love books. :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Little things make me laugh... looking at my the search history in the drop down menu of my Google tool bar. Today's contained such an amusing assortment of searches...

1. In order to blog this with the above image, I had to Google how to do a screen capture on my Mac because I do them so infrequently that I never remember how.

2. I think I'd like to take a family trip to Philly sometime next year. We live in the same state, but we've never been there. And I know there's at least one good yarn shop to be visited, as well as all that historical stuff.

3. I had a momentary vision of whisking my family up to Cook Forest for a short little getaway over Thanksgiving, since most of the rest of our family is abandoning us this year. But considering current budget issues thanks to the recent floor project, the unexpected new fridge, and -- as of today -- the unexpected new desktop (don't get me started), I think we'll just have a low-key, stay-at-home Thanksgiving as usual.

4. I was recommending a recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits to someone today on Facebook, and I couldn't remember where I'd seen the recipe originally. It was here.

5. and 6. I love doing different things with my hair. Most recently, I went darker and got deep purple highlights. The other night, though, as I was watching a fourth season episode of Psych (love streaming from Netflix!), there was a character named Willow Gimbley who was very, very goth, and she had the most WONDERFUL hair! It was shortish and very dark, with what looked like deep red swaths painted on segments down the one side. I LOVE that hair! I WANT that hair. Or something like it. I was trying to find a picture of the character online, to no avail. Perhaps a screen capture from the streaming video? Hm.

7. I have a bag fetish. My roomie at Spring Fling last year and a Tom Bihn bag that I thought was awesome, but pricey. Still, every so often, I go to the site and lust after it.

8. I wanted to see what day of the week January 1 falls on next year. I was hoping for a Monday. Alas, it's a Saturday.

9. I've often wondered at the purpose of dyers reskeining yarn after they've dyed it, as I've seen several of them mention it in blog entries. Honestly, after reading several of the pages Google returned to me on that search, I'm still not entirely sure. It seems to have something to do with providing a better representation of what the colors will look like, particularly in hand-painted yarns. Anyone know another reason?

10. Emma and I are both doing NaNoWriMo, which we usually refer to as "NaNo," as in, "How many more words do you need to write on your NaNo today?" The kids are doing chemistry this year, so Emma started referring to NaNo as "sodium nitrogen oxide" but she wasn't sure if that was really what "No" stood for. So I Googled it. Turns out that "NO" would be nitric oxide (or nitrogen monoxide), but "No" is actually the chemical symbol for Nobelium (atomic number 102 on the Periodic Table of Elements). So now we can more correctly ask things like, "How's your sodium nobelium going?" Um...yeah. ;)

And as a bonus, I'll share with you that -- had my screen capture search not kicked it off the bottom of the list -- the last item would have said, "Dell enter power save mode," because that is the message my desktop monitor has been giving me regularly lately. The monitor is new, so I knew it wasn't likely the source of the problem. After testing several theories that the Google search offered, I finally came to the conclusion that my video card is on it's way to being toast. I checked that theory with Kevin, and he agreed. My desktop is going on five years old, so it's not completely a surprise that it was going to need replaced sometime, but seriously? Now?

Granted, we could just replace the video card, but since there are other things that don't work well, or at all anymore on the old desktop (i.e. the media slots for the camera cards, the one CD drive, as well as several software compatibility issues), it seemed more prudent to spend the money on a new machine. So that's what I did today. I've got a brand new HP tower sitting in my office. Still in it's box. I'm trying to build up my motivation and stamina for the dreaded task of backing up the old machine before it dies all together, and then setting up the new one. I hate doing this with a bloody passion, but I'll be darned if I'm going to pay the Geek Squad a couple hundred to do it for me.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


We've been having some dreary weather this week. It seems the start of the gray days of a Pittsburgh winter are quickly moving in, and that means I have to find my sunshine from places other than the sky. Enter the joy of colorful yarn and fiber! Yeay!

Having my yarn and fiber stash in plain view has been having the effect I hoped it would when I bought those cubbies a while back: it's encouraging me to use more of what I have since it's now easier to see what is at my disposal. (It is not, I regret to report, discouraging me from buying more to add to the stash. I'm not sure what might have that effect. :})

After spending several weeks spinning over a pound of gold and rust BFL for a test knitting project I'd agreed to do, I really started to crave some color! So this week, I pulled this out of a cubbie and started spinning it up:

I think I bought this at the Homespun Yarn Party in Maryland back in 2009. (ETA: Nope...just looked at the pictures of what I got there, and this fiber wasn't among them. Not in my Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet pictures or Maryland Sheep & Wool pictures either. Mystery! Hm. I'm not really sure where it came from now! LOL) I was pretty new to spinning at that time, and my main criteria for buying fiber was color. If the colors grabbed me, it was good. That said, I have no idea what kind of fiber this is, because the only tag on it was a handwritten job that said "5 oz." and the price. is 5 ounces of some miscellaneous wool (or maybe a random wool blend) in the most yummy candy colors! (The picture isn't doing justice to the colors. I'll get a better one in non-dreary daylight soon.) It's not the nicest fiber I've ever worked with, nor is it the worst. It's not super soft, but it isn't uncomfortably scratchy, either. I'm guessing I'm going to end up with maybe 300 yards of a DK or light worsted weight two ply when I'm done. Stay tuned!

In addition to craving color on my wheel, I've enjoying a tiny fair isle project that I'm designing as a gift. These three sock yarns aren't overly bright -- they actually fall more into the autumnal color scheme I've worked with a lot the past couple months -- but it's the process of colorwork knitting that I'm finding myself enjoying more and more lately. I've gotten better at it, but it still offers a decent challenge to me, so that is good.

Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Select, Cabin Fever colorway; Sanguine Gryphon Bugga!, an unnamed brown colorway and Yellow Dung Fly.

I'll post a picture of my finished project after it's in the hands of its recipient.

In a non-fiber related topic, I've been keeping up with my 2,000 words per day NaNoWriMo goal so far! I'm not an advanced plotter, so I often have no idea where my story is going until I'm sitting down and watching it appear on the screen before me. This is a good, freeing way to write, but it also has, historically, caused me to back track and edit and change things as I go, which definitely bogs me down. This year, I've decided to take Anne Lamott's sentiment of a "shitty first draft" to heart and just not worry about it making too much sense. Thus, there is discontinuity galore. There some parts of the story written a couple different ways and I'll figure out later which way works best.

My ultimate goal for NaNoWriMo this time is to just write. This story may never see the light of day after NaNoWriMo is over, and for once, I'm OK with that! I realized this year that I think its been the expectation I've always put on myself to do more with my writing that just writing that has taken much of the joy out of it for me. Having been so immersed in writing communities for so long, where publication is at the forefront of everyone's minds, it's reasonable that that was where my mind was too. Now that I've been away from those communities for several years, I'm actually rediscovering the fun in the process again.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

From socks to novels...

So, you already know that October was Socktoberfest, and I was big into the sock knitting. Not only did I finish a pair I'd started in September as well as started AND finished the Socktoberfest Mystery Sock pair all in the self-same month, but I also started a pair of Halloween Riffs, which I finished just under the wire on Sunday night:

Woolen Mill St. Yarns, Superwash Merino, "Jack the Pumpkin King" colorway.

Sadly, they ended up being a bit too big for me, mostly in the heel (which is not snug like a normal slipped stitch heel, as they zigzag pattern is worked on the heel itself as well). But, as it turns out, they fit Emma perfectly, so she got an "accidental" new pair of socks!

I not only finished the month with three pair of socks, but the kids threw a wonderful Halloween party Saturday night for a bunch of their friends. It was great. My kids' friends are a really nice bunch, and though it was L-O-U-D here for several hours, they had a terrific time! So did I, because I dressed up, too.

My punk rocker look. ;) (And, yo, the purple highlights in the hair? F'real. I got them the day before because I've always wanted purple highlights and I figured if not now, when? LOL I love them!)

And I made cookies! I think decorating cookies for Halloween may be even more fun than my usual Christmas cookies.

And so now we usher in November, going from manically knitting socks to manically writing words. It is National Novel Writing Month, after all. This is the fifth time I've given NaNoWriMo a try. The goal is to complete a 50,000 word rough draft of a novel in a month. I've succeeded twice before. We'll see how I fare this year. Emma is doing it again this year too, so we're encouraging each along. Happily, I report that as of the end of Day 2, we are both on track with our words per day goals. (I've got my little word count calendar up at the top of the blog can follow along and see how I'm doing. As long as no red days show up, any other color means I'm doing well!)

In addition to writing, though, I'm going to be in full on gift knitting mode this month. I started a new pair of gift socks yesterday...

This is the Spring Wind pattern, by Laura Linneman. It's written for a sport weight yarn, which means it is going to be a fairly quick knit. I'm using Enchanted Knoll Farms sport weight in the "Red Dirt Girl" colorway.

I'm also working away at my hand spun test knit sweater. It's going well, except for the fact that it is being knit on US 10.5 needles, which feel like tree trunks in my hands. But it should go fairly quickly since it is such a large gauge. So far, I'm happy with how my handspun is looking. Still crossing my fingers and hoping I have enough to finish it!

I haven't had time to work on my Caldavos anymore, and the other pair of socks I have on the needles were supposed to be for Emma, but since she just got those Riffs, I told her she was going to wait a bit for the purple ones. I'm going to focus on Christmas knitting for now. I really need to make a list of what all I need to knit for gifts. I know what they all are in my head, but somehow seeing them on paper always works out better.

And just for fun, let me share some recent yarn-y goodness I've gotten...

Some limited edition Briar Rose Fibers 100% cashmere, colorway #101. Oh my...this is so, so soft and yummy. It is going to be something pretty for me as soon as I have time to knit for myself. Probably a cowl, I'm thinking.

And here is something fun...

...some Twisted Limone Spicy self-striping sock yarn in the Sizzle colorway. Laura and Leslie -- The Knitgirllls -- have turned me on to this yarn. It's become one of those hard-to-get yarns that a lot of people are stalking. I'm happy to have snagged this ball at all, and check it out... comes all the way from the UK! How fun is that to get a delivery with a "Royal Mail" postage mark on it??