Week Five: Quantum of Progress

This week I’ve stayed busy, but until a few minutes ago I didn’t think I was getting anything done. Then I looked at what I did today:

  • Went to knitting and drank one chai latte. (This list gets more impressive, I swear.)
  • Turned the heel on one sock.
  • Finished one blanket square.
  • Knitted one repeat on a scarf.
  • Gave away one of my typewriters.
  • Worked on calculus homework for about an hour.
  • Read one more chapter of Plato’s Republic.
  • Left some cookies on campus for friends.
  • Filled up the gas tank.
  • Thrift-bought the shirts for tomorrow’s Spirit Day.
  • Went to the bus service to look for our lost mittens.

The list really does go on and on. And if you look at the whole week, you’ll see more of the same. Had a new washing machine installed. Had the old washing machine hauled away. Baked a batch of cupcakes. Mixed a batch of frosting. Caught up on “Castle.” Applied for one job. Made a pot of chicken soup. Swapped out the rear axle on my bike. Little things that didn’t take much time to do, when considered in isolation.

In my fantasies, it would be really nice to spend the day doing one thing all day long. Like, read a whole book, reorganize the whole upstairs, give away all the clothes that need to be donated, sew up a complete quilt, write a whole short story, watch a complete trilogy. But I don’t get that kind of time, and I suspect my brain doesn’t work that way. Besides, when I do try to spend a day that way — if I don’t almost immediately get a call from somewhere, saying someone has been hurt, and I must come and get them Right Away — I can no longer see the tree I’ve gotten done through the forest of neglected tasks.

My task is to keep spinning the plates. Not even all of the plates — spinning most of them is fine as long as they are the right plates. Some of the plates deserve to crash or be replaced with new ones. And I need to forgive myself and move on when I think I’ve broken the wrong plate, or am not spinning enough of them.

  • Wrote one blog post.

Week Three: Then there were six

With Resolution #2 out of the way, and steady progress being made on Resolution #1, you’d think I would have taken care of Resolutions 3 and 4 by now.

Well…not yet. But I have been working on the reorganizations necessary for accomplishment of #3, and some votes are in as far as the particulars of #4. Unfortunately, there’s a tie, so either (a) more people need to vote [did you know you could vote for more than one item?] or (b) I will have to learn TWO new cast-ons.

Until the ballot boxes are stuffed, I can report that I have made progress on a couple of projects. The drop-stitch lace scarf has 9 repeats complete on it now, and a few minutes with a gram-sensitive kitchen scale and a wooden ruler showed me that I ought to be able to squeeze 28 total repeats from this quantity of yarn, making the finished scarf about 42 inches long.

This is the 33 percent.

This is the 33 percent.

I also cast on for another pair of cotton slippers for my grandmother. I have made several pairs for her over the last few years. She wears them out and asks for more. I meant to have started these much earlier, but. I started watching Season 2 of Downton Abbey yesterday, and decided it was the perfect time to cast on for the slippers. And so it was. I have already finished one slipper. Then I decided to take a little break by using the leftover yarn from the first ball to start a matching dishcloth. I’m more than half way done with it, then I should have enough yarn left over to make the second slipper. I’m thinking of edging the washcloth with crochet…. maybe just to see if I remember how.

The little-seen Matching Dishcloth and Slipper set.

The little-seen Matching Dishcloth and Slipper set.

Downton Abbey is perfect for garter stitch, or any other knitting you can do without checking on it constantly. And in the episode I watched today (okay one of the episodes; I’m trying to catch up so I can watch Season 3 with the rest of the world), there was the first depiction of knitting. Different sorts of needlework are constantly being mentioned and shown, but this time the red-headed Irish maid, Ethel, had a ball of green yarn she was apparently working into the panel of a sweater.

This is probably Ethel's most respectable talent.

This is probably Ethel’s most respectable talent.

The weather right now is sunny but cold, and this weekend we go from a high of 38° on Saturday to a high of 15° on Sunday, with temperatures expected to stay frigid for several days. No snow, just bone-chilling cold. Perfect knitting weather. I’m looking forward to finishing these projects and casting on for new things in bright, cheerful colors. Maybe even wild and outrageous colors! Or maybe I will just cast on to make a pile of mittens to replace all the ones my Darling Children have LOST this year. It’s gotten so bad that I have even purchased insulated gloves from the STORE, only to have a child come home wearing only one of them on the afternoon of the first day. ::headdesk:: Perhaps I should just pick a signature color of washable wool blend (I’m considering you, Wool-Ease) and just Never. Stop. Making. Mittens. Out. Of. It. Year-round. For the rest of my days.

They don’t seem to lose the scarves. Maybe I should start making the scarves with the hand-pockets on the ends?

Published in: on January 17, 2013 at 3:08 pm  Comments (1)  


Spring is here this week, no matter what the calendar says. Tommy insists with all his might that March 22 is THE DAY THE SNOW GOES AWAY and that is that! He doesn’t seem to have noticed that the snow is already gone.

The wheel turns and the leaves emerge, the birds make nests, the ground greens up again, and the crocuses poke through and stretch up. All the aspects of spring come around again as they did last year. And the wind is blowing so strongly I am just waiting for branches to come sailing off the trees. Being surrounded as we are by middle-aged maple trees, this is a nerve-wracking prospect.

We have birds about. The usual sparrows are nesting in the garage-gutters right above the car, and the usual starlings are nesting in the broken-down brick chimney, which means the hatchlings are, or can be, inside the house at some point. They also nest inside the little roof over the unused front porch, through a break in the wainscoting. They are annoying beyond belief. I can’t think of a single positive thing to say about them, so I’ll move along now. We also have robins, chickadees, nuthatches, flickers, red-winged blackbirds, American Goldfinches, and Downy Woodpeckers. And “our” Sandhill Cranes are back in the neighborhood, looking for a place to nest. Last summer I had reason to believe that the female of our nesting pair was taken by a coyote. I don’t know if that means that Dad and Junior are back to help him look for a new sweetheart to lure back to his old nest, if the two of them are just going to hang out as bachelors, or how any of that works.

So it’s looking better and better outside — more sunshine and color — but the environment itself is still inhospitable and possibly fatal, especially if you lose your mittens. (Which I just found this morning, incidentally, after nearly getting frostbite yesterday morning delivering urgent Campus Mail with bare hands.) You certainly would be wise to wait a bit before doing anything as brave as cycling or running or even walking Out There.

I’m still viewing it askance after this mild winter. Everyone in Wisconsin my age and up shares that same spooked look that says, “We’re going to PAY for that mildness, somehow.” If we had a May blizzard we might perceive the scales to be in balance again. It’s not that we want it, it’s what we feel we have coming to us.

Spring break is coming, but it comes unequally to all. My own spring break is the last week of March, and my kids’ break is some time in April. Of course they couldn’t possibly happen at the same time. My spring break plans include revamping my work space so that I can file and track the technical manuscripts I’m going to start copy editing. I will take some Before and After pictures of my setup, just to document that I did something. I already have one manuscript I need to edit this weekend, and it’s taking everything I have to keep from putting 150 percent of my mental resources on the Office Makeover Project. Having a bunch of homework for each class of mine due on Monday is also helping.

I suppose it’s time to update my progress on my resolutions. Well, my grades are still up, I’m not exercising in any meaningful way, I’m working on my second Jayne Hat (for which I got new yellow and dusty-pink yarn yesterday), and here is a blog post.

Oh yeah — this coming Tuesday I will have a Teenaged Son. All I can say is Wow. His feet are as big as my feet, his hands are almost as big as my hands. His names are his grandfathers’ and his face is his father’s. He is half Star Wars and half Star Trek. My JC is gawky and geeky and opinionated and emotional and cool. I wouldn’t trade him for any other card in the deck.

He’s bigger than this now…. he’s come a long way since 2007. Love you, buddy.

Meeting expectations

I always knew I was my own worst enemy. No sooner do I vow to Get This Doctor Who Scarf Done No Matter What, I decide I just have to make matching hats for the mittens.

One hat down, another hat started, two hats to go.

But tonight, I swear, I will work on The Scarf. After tonight’s Top Chef and a round of playing the home game (eight key ingredients, two cooks, one dish each, no desserts). I mean, I only have 190 rows to go before I add the tassels.

So, of course, I started on some Secret Holiday Knitting too. That shouldn’t slow me down a bit, no sirreeeeee!

But other than that, the order should probably be Doctor Who Scarf first, Adipose, Tilting TARDISes Cowl/Scarf (did I mention that one in the last list? it’s lovely lace), Gigi’s Triangle Shawl, 198 Yards of Hell, and then whatever’s left. With, of course, Hats of Hilarity and Christmas Knitting tucked in between each of those projects.

Did I mention there is a birthday and a wedding coming up? And that I thought when school started I would be able to work on some quilts when I wasn’t studying for my Apple Hardware and OS Certification? Oh crap. I might find out I’m human after all.

Time/spacewise, I started reading the introduction of my scholarly edition of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, only to discover his primary influence for the work was a book called Flatland published by Edwin Abbott in 1884. Well lo and behold, I have already bought Flatland, so after finishing the Time Machine intro I will read Flatland first. This is all because I finished Cosmos a couple of days ago, yay me.

It’s all part of the plan. Hang on tight.

Published in: on August 11, 2010 at 5:39 pm  Comments (2)  

Mittens are Old Hat

Did I mention I made a bunch of mittens (and one pair of gloves) last month? I apologize, gentle Reader, for not informing you sooner.

Eldest wanted a pair of mittens that were the same color as Harry Potter’s cabled sweater in The Sorcerer’s Stone, and I decided to throw in the mirrored cables for free. of course, since I wouldn’t see him until August, technically I didn’t have the mittens finished “on time.” But I did everything except the thumb tips before he got home, and took care of those on the second night he was back. Yes, those thumbs are ginormous, and no, I’m not sure why. But my son tried on his mittens, pronounced them perfect, and allowed as to how there was plenty of room for growth. Every once in a while, your child gives you a reason to keep him. This was one of those times.

I’ve made a couple of knitting plans since finishing the mittens. One was to see how many unfinished projects I could finish while the Formula One boys are on their annual three-week summer break. Right now this includes:
• A Doctor Who Scarf for my brother, 80 percent complete
• A leftover Adipose doll from two summers ago, 90 percent complete
• Lauren’s Wristwarmers, umm, zero percent complete (I wound off one skein of the yarn I want to use), sorry Lauren
• A blue and green scarf made with alpaca sock yarn, maybe 30 percent complete
• The ironically named 198 Yards of Heaven shawlette, on Row 37 of 76. That sounds like halfway — trust me, it’s not.
• A garter stitch triangle shawl for my grandmother, about 20 percent done?
• Tyrone. 90 percent done, three years in timeout. Enough said?

Maybe it’s time for a poll, or some groupthink for a strategy to finish as many of these as I can before Christmas knitting starts to creep onstage.

In the meantime, I started knitting ribbed hats from the leftover mitten yarn, so the kids will have matching sets and I will have less yarn. I’m halfway done with the first one now. Since I did mittens from Youngest to Eldest, I’m doing hats from Eldest to Youngest. Because I’m the boss of me, that’s why. And because once you’ve set yourself a time-based goal, there’s nothing more motivating than adding additional tasks. Or something like that. Say hello to Hat Hilarity!

School starts on September 1, so naturally I have developed three new professional goals for myself. One, to continue the library science classes, but with a math and science focus. Two, to undertake self-study and get certification in Apple operating systems and hardware so I can snag a best buy job as a Counter Intelligence Agent. (Yup, the Geek Squad.) and Three, to get some freelance work or a part time job so I can afford to qualify for the bigger jobs.

The week after school starts, I’m also throwing that little party for a few fiber friends. I think we have about 50 UNWIND registrations so far, and are expecting a lot more in the next few weeks. It’s time to start working on the fine details of that one, and I’m glad it’s not a solo job any more.

Have to scoot now — need to work on a Scarf (or a hat), get some registrations processed, ice my hip (thank you bursitis, therapy starts Thursday morning), and get all the kids ready for a trip to take two of them to karate.

Published in: on August 9, 2010 at 1:59 pm  Comments (1)  

A wrench in sheep’s clothing

Leave it to my dear daughter to bring my mitten momentum to a screeching halt.

Well, anyway, I cast on July 17 and got a good start on the cuffs. This is much nicer yarn than I used for the last pair of mittens, and it’s much thicker, so it didn’t take long to make three inches of ribbing. By the evening of July 18 I had done everything except the thumb! See????

Click to biggify; the bright green line of yarn is a provisional area that allows you to pick up stitches later and knit the thumb, like so:

And here I sit, trying to figure out how best to pick up stitches on the “sides” of the thumb better than I did on the fingers, where I have some gaping holes to deal with. But there are plenty of more experienced and highly skilled knitters at my local group, and surely someone (BONNIE! JAN! LOIS! SHARON!) might be able to give me some suggestions.

Of course, with that tiny problem solved, the bigger problem will have the opportunity to emerge. YOU know what it is.

All together now —

“Creating an exact copy in a mirror image.”

Yup. But we’ll cast on those stitches when we get to ’em.

In less knitterly and more spinnerly news, UNWIND registrations have hit 10 percent of the goal. Yes, that means 20 people have signed up. But keeping in mind that would have been 20 percent of last year’s attendance, and 50 percent of the 2008 attendance — that’s pretty good. The publicity machine is still being oiled, so watch out once it gets going! And don’t feel shy about becoming part of the publicity machine. (It won’t bark, bite, or even prick your finger with a spindle.) If you’re going, spread the word. Tell your friends. Rave to your LYS owner. Enlighten the poor clerk at the chain craft store.

And if you’re still planning to go but haven’t registered yet, don’t put it off! Knowing accurate numbers as we get closer to the party date will help everything go more smoothly. (And there’s still that Early Bird drawing if you register before July 31.)

Published in: on July 19, 2010 at 7:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Four of Ten

After I stared at the red mittens for a few days, I finally got my act together and knitted their thumbs. After the sad experiences of my previous mitten-making stints, in which the second mitten invariably emerged from the needles as a 10 percent reduction of the first one, I wanted to be able to concentrate on what I was doing, keep careful track of my rows, and make sure the two mittens were as darn close to identical as I could make them.

So, I packed them off to Late Night Knitting at the Sow’s Ear last Friday and went forward. With the help of just a touch of Chocovine and some bites of panko chocolate. (Seriously, a dark chocolate bar with panko bread crumbs and sea salt. It’s hard to express just how yum this is.)

In the end, I was pleased with my efforts.

So, I went on to finish knitting Zoom, a swiffer cover made from dishcloth cotton. I haven’t seamed it up yet, but the Actual Knitting ended about 15 minutes before Late Night did. I was pleased with how that turned out, too.

The impetus for knitting Zoom is that last month the thin carpeting in our rented farmhouse was replaced with laminate flooring in the kitchen and dining room. And while I’m no longer obsessed with the thought of a rotten carpet, pad, and subfloor every time one of the kids spills a Capri Sun, I did quickly realize I was going to have to make something to help me keep it clean and dry. I’ve had a Swiffer broom for years, but I hated having to spend so much money on the little wipes. And they always dried out in their packages before I got to use them all. A reusable cotton cover made so much sense to me. Now, I almost have one. There are several patterns for this kind of thing; I selected Zoom because it had a little texture to it.

Anyway, then I pulled my 198 Yards of Heaven project out of the bag. It stared me in the face. It taunted me. You don’t have time to work on me properly, just enough time to start a row and thoroughly screw it up. What’s the matter, can’t you count? I put it back in the bag. There were more mittens to do.

Sort of. When I asked my daughter if she still wanted brown mittens, she said no. She had wanted brown woolen mittens with decorated backs that looked like either horseshoes, or initials made from yarn that looked like a cowboy’s rope. I don’t remember exactly. It sounded pretty complex to me, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. I was relieved to hear that she had changed her mind.

“What kind of mittens do you want, then?”
“Ones with fingers.”
Oh crap. “Gloves?”
“Yes! Gloves! In purple.”

Now, the closest I’ve come to knitting gloves would have been…. oh, let’s see. The red mittens in the picture in this post. Well, I did want to please, and it was time to stretch and challenge myself a little bit, so I looked through my pattern files.

What I ended up doing was combining the measurements I’d taken for Jack’s hands (Colleen is older but slight, and Jack is younger but robust, and most times they measure identically) for the Fittin’ Mittens pattern with the recipe given in a Winter 2003 article from Interweave Knits called “Progressive Gloves.” There will be plenty of new things for me to learn, including the way the thumb is allowed for (you knit several stitches with waste yarn to create a provisional cast on you’ll pick up later).

I picked a pretty variegated purple yarn from the stash (Rhapsody from Dark Horse Yarns, a Merino Wool from Turkey of all places, an orphan skein I adopted from the Sow’s Ear last year), cast on last night, and immediately modified the pattern so her gloves would have ribbed cuffs. That I already know how to do.

I’ll need to measure her hand this morning to determine how far to knit before I put in the thumb stitches, and I need to know where her “finger line” is, but so far it’s been good knitting. The yarn measures out at 205 yards for 100 grams, so it’s big fluffy Merino. So nice to knit with after the Bernat sock-weight nylon/acrylic blend I just wrestled into a pair of mittens.

In other news, UNWIND registrations are starting to roll in. By the time I log in the new ones there should be about 15 out of 200. It’s all more real every day. Please, if you’re planning to come, do help me out by registering as early as you can so we’ll know better how much we’re planning for.

And, oh. Top Chef. See ya, Tim!

Published in: on July 18, 2010 at 6:03 am  Comments (2)  

Drop it!

Mitten Four got stalled out for a while. I thought I was making great progress yesterday, then I looked a little more closely and saw some problems about an inch below where I was.


It was about twelve rows down and looked like a dropped stitch. Should I tink five rounds of stockinette, then an increase round in 2×2 rib, then goodnessknowshowmany rounds of 2×2 rib before I found the problem?

Or….. since I did know where the problem was….. on the last stitch of the round….. wouldn’t it make more sense to just drop it and ladder it back up with a small crochet hook?

I put it off as long as possible carefully considered my options for about twelve hours. Which ticked me off, frankly, because I had to put a different project in my bag when I went out. Not that I would have time to knit anyway, since I would be driving and shopping with two little boys and wouldn’t have a spare moment anyway, but still. I wanted to be primarily monogamous with Mitten Madness, and this little dilemma was, clearly, Getting In The Way Of Progress.

I shopped, I returned, I mulled things over a little more. Finally I had a beer and felt emboldened to drop the stitch. Then I let the naughty thing think about what it had done, and took my time getting out the crochet hook.

And you know what? It took me less than a minute to fix the sucker. Since the dropped stitch was in the purl section of the 2×2 rib, all I had to do was turn the cuff inside out and — presto! — it was on the knit side, where I knew just what to do to bring the stitch back up. When I got to the stockinette section, I turned the cuff right side out again, brought the loose stitch to the outside, and kept bringing it up.

Then I had a few extra seconds to stare at my project with doubt that I had truly fixed it in that short of a time.

But it looks as if I have. Whaddaya know.

You know what that means — Photo Shoot!

Next step, the thumb gusset.

Published in: on July 9, 2010 at 8:01 pm  Comments (3)  

Two-point-nine of Ten

I’m still on track with Mitten Madness…. just need to finish a thumb at some point (later), and cast on for a mate (sooner).

What do you think, add the pawprints with duplicate stitch (which I’ve never done before) or a fabric marker?

The red yarn is Bernat Sox yarn, an acrylic/nylon blend with no wool at all. I got two balls of it for 99 cents each a couple of years ago and have been waiting to figure out what they wanted to be. I’m a little disappointed that it’s not wool, but it is machine washable and dryable.

In other news, it’s been terribly hot and humid lately. Only today has there been the arrival of some random thunderstorms that break things up a little bit. The main thing the rain is accomplishing is not allowing anybody to mow their lawns with any frequency. By the time the grass is dry again, we might be able to cut it for some very nice hay bales.

I’ve been working out again — found a new exercise plan which seems eminently sensible. I’m on the third week of the first six weeks and so far I’m losing weight, fitting into my clothes better, and feeling stronger and with more stamina. I’m trying to take walks for part of the cardio I need to do, and recently lengthened my standard walk from 2.8 miles to 3.6 miles. (I use www.mapmyride.com for this; check it out.) If I finish the six weeks well, I might feel brave enough to share the name of it. It’s nothing kooky like an all-cotton-candy diet; I just don’t want to jinx myself.

I’m also enrolled in an online course on Records Management, as a precursor to doing a Master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences. Not only is it a confusing course, I’ve been offline for part of it, and unable to access some of the reading materials for a larger part of it. Catching up is going to be tricky. I did acquire a brand new PC laptop to help out with this overall process, but right now that’s like trying to learn French on top of everything else. (Can I just say that Windows SUCKS and Steve Jobs was right? Ah, I feel better now.) I’m trying to do a reboot to my inner geek so all this can smooth itself out.

Whew! Time to make dinner for the two little boys (the other kids are out of state at the moment; long story) and cast on for Jack Mitten Two so I don’t lose my knitting mojo. I can do both thumbs in the same session.

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 5:36 pm  Comments (1)  

Mittens ahoy

Mitten Madness got off to a great start this weekend.

July 1: Locate pattern, needles, and yarn.
July 2: Knit first mitten and start second mitten.
July 3: Finish second mitten and start third mitten.
July 4: Continue third mitten, realizing that I am working with fingering weight acrylic/nylon instead of worsted weight wool, adjust gauge accordingly, and keep plugging away.

I said it was a great start, not a perfect ending. But it feels good to know that I’m already into the second pair of mittens. They really are very quick projects, and if I can keep the momentum going I can start on some wristwarmers I’m planning as Christmas presents.

Psst! Here’s the honest trust about Mitten One.

No issues until it was time to add 4 stitches at the end of the ribbing. For some reason I decided to add M1’s in purl sections. They made holes, but I was so thrilled at being able to knit plain for four rounds with big needles that that’s what I did. Then I tinked four plain rounds and the last ribbing round, did kf&b increases in the knit sections the way I should have in the first place, and all was well.

Anyway, the pattern I’m using for the plain mittens is Fittin’ Mittens by Nancy Lindberg. It cost me about five dollars and since I can’t even remember how many pairs of mittens I’ve already made from it, I surely have gotten my money’s worth out of it. It’s a gauge-based pattern, so you can use it to make any size mittens out of any size yarn. I have slightly modified the thumb gusset instructions because I like my kf&b’s much better than my M1’s. As with anything in knitting, your mileage may vary.

Here are Tommy’s mittens for this winter. He wants them to be Blue’s Clues mittens, so I will be duplicate stitching a pawprint onto the back of each one. It might be cuter to do them on the palm side, though.

Eagle-eyed readers will notice something very special about this pair of mittens — they are the same size. I even counted the rows (since it seems to make a difference). Who knew?

Published in: on July 4, 2010 at 10:01 pm  Comments (4)